In Stories from the Hill

Apologies, but I am feeling in a very reflective and somewhat sombre mood this week as I remember the 2nd anniversary of the passing of my father, this week-end.  I was at his hospital bedside at 6am on the day he died having arrived just a few minutes before he woke that morning for the very last time. He reached out and clutched my index finger and held on to it for a very long time. Dad was old school and didn’t care much for public displays of affection –  or affirmation, come to that. So this time alone together in Odstock Hospital was ultra special.

Robert John came from humble working class stock. His father was a plumber-cum- handyman and managed to survive both world wars as an airman, with medals to show for it. My dad left Lyme Regis Grammar School at 15 without any qualifications and started his working life as a ticket collector at Axminster station. He subsequently went on to work in local government. However, work was only ever a means to an end. Dad  lived for  three things: his family, his football (a lifelong fan of Exeter City and Southampton FC) and his faith (he served as a long-time church secretary at Lyme Regis and Salisbury Baptist Churches).

So this week I am missing him more than ever. No doubt I will get out the video interview I did with him back in 2006, where he spent over an hour reflecting on his life to camera for me. It is such a precious thing to have in my possession – a truly visual and audio reminder of him. It is just so wonderful. I did a similar video with my mother in 2003 and my grandfather (the “war hero”) in 1984. The scene below will appeal in particular to steam railway buffs.


Have a look at the rest of this website of mine sometime if the concept of a Video Biography has stirred an interest in you.


There’s an old saying, “live each new day as if it were to be your last”, and I think that there is some truth in this. Certainly losing both of my parents since retiring as a teacher, two and a half years ago, has caused me to reflect on my own mortality. It has caused me to take a fresh look at my own priorities and lifestyle choices. One of them is reading. I am just about to start the Folio edition of Graham Greene’s “Travels With My Aunt” (1969), which I picked up in a second hand bookshop in Truro last week-end. In the introduction, John Mortimer writes the following poignant paragraph:

This is a book about the need to live life to the full and fill it with events. ‘My dear Henry,’ Aunt Augusta tells the narrator, a man not accustomed to taking risks, ‘you won’t be edging day by day across to any last wall. The wall will find you of its own accord without your help, and every day you live will seem to you a kind of victory.’”


I like “events” and many of them I  try and capture with one of my video cameras or, in the case of my Kingham Hill School alumni work, with my iPhone X. Every other weekend I am to be found up a gantry or at the back of a stand filming the Vanarama National League South side Truro City FC. These games are not only one-off, competitive events but mini life stories themselves; which is why I employ the services of commentator and summariser.

Every time I catch a train and meet up with some of you alumni, it is an exciting event for me.

A couple of weeks ago I made a flying visit to the Hill to attend the Orb concert in Oxford. Duncan (Alex) Paterson (Sheffield House 1973-77) is one half of the outfit. His ambient house music is growing on me. Earlier in the day I  filmed an interview with my  esteemed former colleague David Shepherd, who I used to look up to when I taught briefly on the hill. Nanci and I afterwards headed over to a local gym where we met up with one of the old girls, Jemma (nee Smith) King who went on to become only the second Head Girl of the school.


So this week’s short video is montage of my 24 hour visit to Kingham and Oxford. In it I also feature part of a lower sixth form pupil’s talk in chapel; I also trail excerpts from the two interviews and include some footage from the Orb’s 30th Anniversary Tour.

I hope you like it. I must now sort out those flights and hotels for my “Travels with my Son”  to Patagonia in November.

Video of Mark Huckle’s Visit

Next video: Stories From The Hill 12: The Warden

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