Tuesday night, 6:40 p.m., and fortunately it had been clear, sunny and dry all day. I was standing up on the wall around our deck at Reynolds House. I had already laid my grey pinstripe suit jacket, my Blackberry and my pen on the deck below me. Realizing my tie might get in the way, I tucked it inside my shirt a couple of buttons below the collar. Attached to the deck is some fairly sturdy (thankfully) lattice work, with a flat top, about 3 feet higher than the deck wall. In a minute or so, I was standing with one foot on top of that lattice, my hands gripping tightly onto the eaves trough (because of the age of the house, a sturdier eaves trough than you normally find now), and my one knee actually getting some purchase in the eaves trough itself. So far, my suit was unblemished. The slope of the roof was manageable, a judgement I had already made, but now I realized nearly every shingle had a clump of moss on it – the consequence of years, perhaps decades, of Victoria weather. But I was committed at that point. Gingerly at first, then with very slightly increasing confidence, I made my way up the angle of the roof, trying not to imagine what an onlooker might think, seeing an overdressed figure clambering up a roof in broad daylight, without a ladder. I reached my target, which was the open window of the upstairs bathroom, a small window, but big enough to squeeze through. Holding on tight, turning around and contorting myself into position I compressed, grunted, pushed and bounced my way through the window. When I landed on the bathroom floor, I was relieved to discover that the scuff marks my dress shoes had made on the tile came off with a wet tissue. In less than a minute, I had picked up my house keys, car keys, my suit jacket, Blackberry and pen, and I was on my way to University of Victoria. It was now 6:50, and I was due on stage at 7 to introduce our Senior School Concerto Concert. I found a miraculous parking space, said my piece, the only lingering consequence a piece of grit that I spent 10 or 15 minutes in the darkness trying to dig out of my palm.
You see, Tuesday afternoon and evening were pretty packed, and when I came home at about 6:15 from school I had gotten myself organized to make a quick getaway, have some dinner, lock the doors and find a parking place. Except that I was so complacent about my preparations that several steps out of the back door I realized I had locked my keys inside the house. Hence my escapade on the roof. I hope that explains it, in case anyone did happen to see me up there and is repeating the story about the Headmaster’s eccentric behaviour.
The Concerto Concert is not held every year, but we do mount it in years when there is a particular blend of talented soloists and orchestra. This is such a year. It is one of my favourite concerts, for sure. When I introduced the concert, I mentioned how one of the most important purposes of the school is to create opportunities for excellence, and to do so for all students. This was the perfect illustration of that principle: a few students who because of the accidents of their particular gifts, their choices about training, and the richness of our music programme, were able to perform with their fellow students in the orchestra (and some of the soloists switched back and forth from the orchestra as the night unfolded). The students in the orchestras were also excellent – the programme was challenging: a Grieg piano concerto, Brahms double concerto for cello and violin, trombone selection, Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto, and the Elgar cello concerto. The whole evening was outstanding. My climb on the roof is a paltry thing, by comparison.
The next morning as I arrived at the Junior School along with the students, I ran into Patti Gray, one of the convenors of the Spring Fair who was there with another couple of parents collecting items for the used goods sale. I commented on the concert the night before, and then talked to her about the tremendous positive spirit that has gathered around the Spring Fair this year. The connection is that the Spring Fair, this wonderful community event, is one of numerous activities, large and small, that people undertake here – parents in this case – to create these opportunities for excellence. The opportunities occur in so many ways, which is important, for our students are excellent in so many ways, some obvious, some not. The efforts of the Spring Fair team, of our students in the orchestra – it’s all worth it. I wouldn’t advise climbing on your roof, but for such a cause, it’s worth it.