It is very nice to be back speaking to you all.
Most of you know, I think, that my 16-year-old daughter was hurt in a car accident ten days ago. She is still in hospital, but improving, and thank you for your kind messages and for asking after her. Today’s talk has something to do with the aftermath of that incident.
Are you a glass half full person, or a glass half empty? Well I belong to the first category and so I want to let you know about all the wonderful things that have happened to me and my family in the last ten days: the things we have learnt and the positives that have arisen directly out of difficulty. Here are six things I did not know, that I have discovered, all as a result of my daughter’s accident and all of which have added positively to our lives:
- The NHS
Addenbrooke’s Neuroscience Critical Care Unit in Cambridge is the biggest such unit in Europe. The people who work there are quite simply amazing. It has 1 to 1, 24 hour, nursing care, with some of the best neurosurgeons in the world always within a minute of your bed. The specialist who looked after us was a man called Evangelos Boultakis; I was relieved to hear this, as anyone who knows any Ancient Greek will instantly know that the name Evangelos means messenger of good news! To those of you who wish to be doctors, listen to this: Dr Boultakis displayed an amazing array of skills. He had to be empathetic enough to deliver very bad news quite beautifully; knowledgeable enough to inspire confidence; decisive enough to act quickly and hard working and dedicated enough to do 15 hour days when he was feeling ill. He sets incredibly high standards. A very difficult job and a wonderful man.
The second discovery was Saki’s short stories. It was a fluke. An Old Bedfordian had just sent to school a copy of Saki’s short stories, which were written just over 100 years ago. Saki, of course, is his nom de plume; in fact, they are written by another Old Bedfordian whose real name was Hector Hugh Munro. They are a revelation; beautifully crafted, very short stories and they make you laugh. They are perfect for sitting at a bedside – only two or three pages long per story; they stand alone; but they develop characters. I can heartily recommend them – remember the name Saki – and especially if you wish to add your own name one day to the long list of Old Bedfordian authors.
- Cardinal Wolsey was the first Master of the Post in 1516
The past week has enforced a lot of driving between here and Cambridge, which in turn has meant I have listened to the radio more often than ever before. Here are two things I have learnt from the radio in the last week, which I would not otherwise have known. Firstly, it is the 500th year since the birth of our postal service, the Royal Mail. It was Henry VII who appointed Cardinal Wolsey as the first “Master of the Post” in 1516. His job required the setting up of a chain of postmasters across the whole country. Nowadays, and loosely connected, the Post Office Ltd is run (expertly, I might say) by a mother of a boy in the school and a current governor! So an interesting link. The other surprise for me was hearing a decent new comedy show on Radio 4. John Finnemore’s Souvenir programme on Thursday evenings is definitely worth a try.
- The air ambulance service
These men are amazing. Hugely knowledgeable and utterly professional. It is thanks to them that Juliet is getting better, as they realised immediately that there could be head injury issues. Interestingly, those who saw the helicopter last week saw the one which Prince William flies when he is at work; that also acted as a reminder of how hard he works, too, alongside all of his other duties.
- Power of community
The last week has served a good reminder of the power of communities. I have been lucky to live in a few, and this one is right up there with the best. It is quite a common trait amongst the British to keep a distance and to let the family have time and space when something bad happens. This is, in fact, an error. Getting in touch; saying a few words; offering help – this is all wonderfully helpful to recovery generally – and the Bedford community has been terrific. Please bear that in mind when a friend needs you.
- Importance of sport
Lastly, the week has reminded me of the importance of sport – in my own case, cricket. Now in fact, you can draw this analogy across anything you love and know well, but for me growing up with a passion for cricket has taught me that one day you can score 100 and the next you can get 0. The difference between the two can be as small as the gully fielder dropping a catch on the first day, but catching it on the next. The lesson, which I learnt at a young age, is that you must enjoy the 100 when you can, but do not get too carried away with success; and similarly, do not get too upset by a 0, as you live to fight another day tomorrow. The same can be said of life. You do your best, and you need to take the good fortune with the bad.
I tell you all this because you have faced and will face difficulties: they may be as simple as losing a hockey match; or as intense as losing a family member; or as worrying as imminent exams. However, there are always two ways to look at things – the positive and the negative – and you have the power to pick which you choose. Personally, I always like to look at the positives and to see the joy in life itself; and I hope you find a way to do so too.