Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Head Dog signing off

My first official function, with Him:
Wynberg's Rugby Festival in 2007
It has been a challenging few months. He has tried to be a stoic, but he can't fool an old dog like me - I have been round the block a few times and can easily see through a flimsy facade like that. In contrast, She wears her heart on her sleeve and clearly has found the various farewells hard going. As Head Dog, it was only right that I attended many of these farewell functions as I would be the one providing the necessary emotional support.

The Farewell from the Ladies of Wynberg one Saturday morning back in November is a case in point. The crowd of Mothers and Teachers from various eras spilled over onto the stoep of the Bill Bowden and even I could feel the emotion. The WBHS pipers, standing on the field with Table Mountain as their backdrop, didn't help and there was hardly a dry eye while they were playing. There must have been something stuck in his throat because He kept swallowing over and over. We were all very proud of Her because She even managed to deliver a speech - albeit with the aid of innumerable tissues. That was her maiden speech at Wynberg having taken her 17 years to pluck up the courage.

I was, of course, right by her side offering her moral and physical support which, considering my position at the school, was not only appropriate but expected. 'Noblesse oblige' was how I heard Him once express it which made his subsequent rejection of me even harder to bear.

This betrayal was when they were getting dressed for the official farewell which would be attended by Old Boys, Parents and Colleagues from over the years. Judging by his comments, He did not have a clue what to expect, but I knew exactly what was coming. People think that I am sleeping in the corridors of the school but I hear everything - even when I am lying on my back. I knew that it was going to be a 'Roast' of note and I was delighted to hear that He would receive a deserved comeuppance. Quite often of late on the grounds of the Campus, I had been seeing Chloe, a spaniel friend of mine. I took great delight in telling her of the great event coming up. The person she looks after, Judy, was also attending and I could see the envious look in Chloe's eyes.

'Only for Head Dogs, I am afraid, Chloe,' I told her rather self-importantly as I didn't want her to feel too left out.

Overseeing the bathroom renovations
at Littlewood House - never any rest
for a Head Dog
When He was ready to leave for the function, I dutifully followed the obligatory two paces behind and couldn't believe my ears when I heard Him say, 'No, you are not coming.' What had I done to deserve this humiliation? What price loyal service over the years? Who tirelessly twice a day after breaks had gone hoovering round the tuckshop area after the boys? Who ceaselessly offered a friendly face and wagging tail to every visitor who came in the foyer? Who cleared the campus of those pesky hadidas?

I suspect that He was still ratty with me for coming on stage during the Prefects' Inauguration in 2013. Rather a long time to bear a grudge if you ask me.

'You were just showing off,' He said to me afterwards. 'It was not your show.'

Ouch. That hurt. Surely every formal occasion at school is the Head Dog's show? I was under the natural expectation that all events fell under the auspices of the Head Dog.

In spite of my absence, the 'Roast' clearly went well as they returned very late and talked long into the night. I decided that the usual 'welcome home' from me was not warranted on this occasion. Some rebuffs are just too hard to bear.

The final humiliation came after weeks of watching Koos strutting around campus where I heard that he was referring to himself as the incoming Head Dog. Doesn't he realize that he has to earn this moniker? In any event, who calls a Head Dog 'Koos'? Doesn't he know that he is laying himself open to constant spoonerisms from the boys? I fear that with that name and with the fact that he looks like a newly skinned meercat, it will lead to the title of 'Head Dog' becoming a laughing stock. I strongly maintain that there surely should be a certain dignity and gravitas associated with the role of Head Dog.
Lost Sandwich Patrol: one must keep this Campus hoovered ..

Koos announced his arrival at Wynberg in spectacular fashion some weeks back by disgracing himself in the middle of the school foyer. The boys gave the deposit a wide berth with no-one being prepared to pick it up. Finally our front of house secretary, Christelle Lefson, sensibly placed a box over it. I was just relieved no-one blamed me - but then some Head Dogs clearly have breeding.

Jan de Waal was then phoned 'to come and collect a parcel...'

He is the first Headmaster in the history of Wynberg to receive a 'Sorry' Award in the staff room before even taking up office!

To be fair, I once did something similar, but it was in my back garden - a totally different scenario from the school foyer - as I maintain that I have every right to regard the Hawthornden field as my back garden. How was I to know that Bishops were about to play the opening game of our annual rugby festival in a few minutes time?

'You had to choose the centre spot, didn't you?' He hissed at me in an aggrieved whisper when He dragged me off.

'I hoped you picked it up,' I heard Her say to Him later.

'Well, I had no choice - there was the crowd on the bank where everyone of them obviously knew who Sandy was, plus a grinning Basil Bey, who was with the Bishops side!'

Apparently to this day, Basil reminds Him of this memorable start to the 2010 WBHS rugby festival!

All was forgiven, when both Storm and I were allowed to attend the assembly where the boys said farewell at the end of term. Storm, of course, was far too immature to realize the significance of the occasion and ran around generally making a nuisance of herself. Naturally, I was far more dignified and lay in leonine fashion at the front of the stage surveying my fiefdom and listening to the Question and Answer Session which He was holding with the boys about his time at the school. The boys sang the hymn which they had been practicing all year 'I Vow to Thee my Country' and I heard Him say afterwards that it was the best that He had heard them sing it.

Um, this bowl is empty?
The highlight of the assembly came when Storm and I were presented with our own bowls and some canine biltong sticks. Now THAT is what I call a proper present. Storm promptly went all coy and refused to come a on stage so I felt that it was only appropriate that all the biltong should come to me. They made us share it in the corridor later and Storm certainly wasn't shy then!

The assembly finished with the Wynberg Pipers playing 'Men of Wynberg' while the two of them emotionally exited down the centre of the hall. Unfortunately I could not be part of that as I was sidetracked with some urgent hoovering round the Fish Bowl area. A Head Dog's work is never done!

I also later attended a farewell braai laid on at the Bill Bowden by the Old Boys Committee. I have traditionally taken my duties of upholding barbecue culinary quality testing control very seriously, so I am pleased to report that the Old Boys did the family proud. So did the speeches and the very generous gifts to which Old Boys around the world contributed. I note with pride that She made her second public speech - She is now becoming a seasoned speaker on the cocktail circuit!

I have spent virtually my whole life on the Wynberg Campus. It is now time to move on. I will miss Chloe and all our friends. I will miss the energy of the boys. I will miss our Mountain.

But, hey, all is not doom and gloom. Rolling in the sand at Fish Hoek beach and chasing those irritating noisy seagulls poses the next enjoyable challenge!
My final public duty as Head Dog: a last check on my Hawthornden Field with Him and Deputy, Storm