Happy New Year! 

I would like to take this opportunity, if I have not done so already, of wishing you a very happy and peaceful 2017. I'm not sure for how long in January it remains polite to continue greeting people with, "Happy New Year!" but there it is, nonetheless. We had a very relaxing Christmas holiday, although I have always found it mildly disconcerting living on-site when the children aren't here; empty schools are soulless places and I always feel better when the domestic, grounds, matronal and teaching staff start to return and the school begins to come to life again.

We have been joined this term by three new 'gappers' - Sam Bloor, Laura Broad and Lilly Evans and one of their first tasks (or should that be initiations?) was to accompany the boarders on their outing to Wet 'n' Wild in Newcastle. Mr. and Mrs. Gale and Mr. Lovatt were also press-ganged into service; unfortunately, I didn't get the nod for this trip and was left to hold the fort. Judging by the look on the children's faces when they returned, an excellent time was had by all. Apparently they spent the afternoon throwing themselves down water slides with names such as: "Verruca Vortex", "Toenail Typhoon", 'Dead Skin Drop" and "Athlete's Foot Falls" - another trip is planned for next year; I really must try and find those swimming trunks....

The netball season got underway on the first Saturday of term with some really tight matches against Ardvreck, played in the Sports Hall at Belhaven due to a sudden cold snap further north. The boys got the chance to play their first hockey matches, and there was more netball, against Craigclowan on Wednesday with the Under 9s taking on St. Mary's at football - match reports in the usual place. I was utterly mesmerised by the netball, not so much by the spectacle but rather by the spectators - I've heard more vociferous support in the Long Room at Lord's on the rain-affected Friday of a Test match. I had absolutely no idea that you are not supposed to vocalise your enthusiasm for the team but rather to simply show your appreciation of the skills involved with measured applause. You live and learn....

The skiing season has also got under way with the time trials for the upcoming IAPS ski races at Glenshee. Unfortunately, the initial date has had to be cancelled due to a lack of snow but we are all hopeful that the first reserve day, Thursday 9th February, will go ahead as planned. In the meantime, the skiers are all honing their skills on the dry slopes at Hillend each Wednesday afternoon.

I have spent much of this term so far finalising applications and references for the potential scholars who will be heading off around the country to sit their various scholarships over the coming weeks. I have every confidence that they will all do brilliantly, but I would like to publicly congratulate them on reaching this point. There is no pass mark at scholarship; there are a finite number of awards given out to the top few candidates. If they do not quite make it into this select band, they have not 'failed' - rather, they have just been unlucky in that they have come up against someone better. This is not their fault, and whilst it is a valuable lesson for life, no one will think the worse of them because of it. I very much hope that we will continue with the successes of last term and that many of these children will be offered awards but, if not, they have my utmost repect and heartfelt congratulations for being good enough to sit for a scholarship in the first place. The first academic scholar heads off tomorrow and the last must wait until May - I shall endeavour to keep you informed on all of their progress, over the coming months.

Finally, we have four new residents this term. On Monday, Miss Graham, accompanied by Miss Kidd, headed off to collect four Indian Runner ducks from Stirling, of all places. After a couple of nights in one of the sheds to acclimatise and a daring bid for freedom by one of them (she was retrieved, literally, by Mr. Townshend's beautifully trained dog, Thula), they are now safely ensconced in their pen at the bottom of the front lawn. As they belong to the Girls' House, the girls have chosen names for them - Puddle, Demelza, Matilda and Tumble. I am reliably informed that they will lay about 200 eggs each this year! We also have 8 quail arriving before the end of the month and some pigs in the Summer.

My apologies that this post does not contain any photographs. This is the first time that I have attempted to post the 'blog' myself rather than get someone more proficient to do it. It may seem that this sort of trivial nonsense can be banged out in just a few minutes but the first draft of this took me a good hour. As I navigated around the site to find a suitable photograph or two, the session 'timed out' and when I returned to it my 'blog had competely disappeared, forever. I'm afraid that I rather lost my cool - it turns out that there are times when being in an empty school has its benefits! I have rewittien the whole thing as best I can, regained my composure and eagerly await the return of the boarders in a few minutes' time.

That is all.

Henry Knight, 22/01/2017