The Alumni Fund 2018
A thought exercise by Vinay Swamy
Dear Brockwood Park Alumni,
Let’s engage in a thought exercise. In your mind’s eye, imagine walking up the Drive from the Lodge, till the house comes into view. You cross the cattle grid and your footsteps crunch on the gravel on your way to the front door. You walk into the lobby, to be greeted by a familiar face or two, perhaps seated, strumming guitars. You turn left and head past the dark panelled walls by the study, down the all-too-familiar corridor to head into the conservatory, lush green, with the sound of trickling water and hushed voices. You walk through the servery, push open the wooden door to look around the sitting room, warmed by the wood stove in the fireplace. Who do you see seated on the settees? Are they studying? Reading? Deep in conversation, or playing the piano? You hear light chatter, punctuated by squeals of laughter. You feel right at home. And by the bay window? Friends that you have known for a year? A decade? Looking over their heads, you take in the freshly mown expanse of green that is the south lawn as it disappears into the field beyond where the sheep are grazing. They look like they just might wander over towards the erstwhile manor, perhaps attracted by the grass that grows by the iconic cedar or the unruly wisteria that frames the door to the house. But they won’t. They can’t. You know that. That clever illusion—revealed to you on your first day at teatime—still works today, thanks to the ha-ha, that 18th century sunken fence, invented in the eternal quest for the pastoral.
Now, I suspect that you had no trouble following me through this spatiotemporal mind travel. After all, Brockwood has welcomed with open arms each of us, for almost 50 years now. Although changing through time, over the five decades, the school-community has developed its own language, history and culture, which we have come to recognise. The people I first met in that sitting room are now literally dispersed across five continents. Yet, a certain intensity—independent of individual experience—is still rooted in a sense of place (and space), and lives on within me. I realise afresh that those years—peppered with long discussions, deep thought, laughter, walks in the Grove, workparties, care for the land—have deeply marked my life in innumerable ways.
Vital connections over the last three decades—weekly phone calls between New York and Los Angeles that magically collapse transcontinental distance, heartfelt transatlantic conversations and visits with friends in Belgium, France, the UK or elsewhere, not to mention the umbilical links to loved ones even further away, deep in South Asia—all connect me to a past that has mind-bogglingly enmeshed with the present, my present. This maze of relationships that has become my life owes much to those intense, insouciant years of youth spent tussling with trying to live that way, as the Eighties turned into the Nineties. Traversing time and space from the then of that community through to the now of my current one—academic, cultural, urban, professional, intimate or not—I have come to rely on the lessons gleaned from those years at Brockwood: the challenge of independence of thought, the call for an inquisitive mind and the firm conviction to lead an ethical life.
Perhaps the faces in your sitting room are different from the ones in my mind’s eye. Perhaps, your trajectories through the Brockwood land(mind)scape vary from my own. The permutations are as endless as the pathless land that we all strove to map for ourselves—Brockwoodians that we became, that we are, and perhaps will forever be.
In 2019, the school turns 50. I wonder what would become of the legacy of the man who touched us all, were it not for the dedication of those who strive to continue to educate for another 50 years or more. The challenge of nurturing young minds and bodies has not changed much—they need the support just as you and I did.
So, as Brockwood enters into its sixth decade, I reach out to ask that you contribute in any way you can. As you make your own transcontinental calls, bring up the question of the Alumni Fund. When you meet in the park or over a meal in that city, far from the rolling hills of Hampshire, ask your long-time Brockwood friend(s) to consider making a gift. Write (a paper letter!) to that long-lost buddy. Do what you can to gather your work-party to reconnect with your community, our community. Together we can help a new generation of students access the education that so shaped our own lives.
You deserved it then, they deserve our help now.
With warm regards,
The Alumni Fund provides bursaries for deserving students to attend Brockwood Park School, with 25% of the money raised earmarked to give bursaries to the children of alumni.
Donations can be made online at brockwood.org.uk/alumni