general · leadership

Lessons from history – part two (the conclusion)

Rainy Singapore

In my previous post I related the story of my history teacher Peter Sibley, who we suspected was not exactly reading every (any?) word of our essays, over 30 years ago.

15 years pass. I am now a teacher myself, in far flung Singapore, and have helped organise a cricket tour back in the old country, including a game against the MCC (no, not them, but the Monkton Combe Cavaliers), a team of teachers and friends, played at my old school pitch. Picture the scene – a tricking stream running past a thatched pavilion, proud chestnut trees waving in the breeze, a viaduct tramping across the valley, and (typical for England) the threat of rain. We batted first, were in trouble, and somehow managed a half decent score. Which was immaterial as the threatened rain duly arrived and we repaired to the nearest pub.

Over a few pints, Peter then asked me if I might make contact with a visiting hockey tour he was organising for a nearby school. ‘They’re a bit high maintenance,’ he said, ‘but if you could maybe meet them or say ‘Hi’ it will allay their fears. Everything – hotels, games, flights, transport, meals… – is organised, so there’s nothing to do.’ Sure, I’d be happy to, I said.

And so it was a few weeks later, back in the tropics, I got a call from one of their teachers, and said I would be happy to meet them for a drink in a local pub to see how they were travelling. ‘Oh, you’re just an ex teacher of Pete’s then?’ they said, ‘we thought you were his ‘man on the ground’, a member of his staff over here …’.

‘Err, not exactly’ I said, ‘but if I can help in any way, do let me know.’

‘Well, there is something you can help us with – we have to get from our hotel to the railway station on Saturday evening because we are taking the night train up to Malaysia for our game on Sunday afternoon.’

‘I can arrange that, I’ll get permission for our school bus company to drop you guys off,’ I said. By amazing coincidence, our deputy head had taught with one of their teachers many years ago, so he was happy to oblige.

That Saturday evening, I am sitting down for a drink on the balcony with my parents, who are out for a visit, watching the evening tropical downpur. I receive an agitated call from the school’s teacher, ‘The bus never arrived! So we have now missed our train, and now have nowhere to stay the night. We’re stuck! Peter Sibley better pull something out of his hat right now, or there will be hell to pay.’

Hardly Peter’s fault I thought; what on earth had happened? I rang the bus company. No reply. I had to get the team into a hotel somehow (not easy on a rainy Saturday night in Singapore, when you are talking about 30 staff and students). On about the 12th attempt I find somewhere that will take them; they pile into taxis and get the train in the next morning. I contact the place they are going to saying they will be half a day later than planned. I find out our bus company had got the timing wrong, had turned up at 8am in the morning, not the evening as it should have been, found no hockey team and thought they were not needed. Huge apologies all round on Monday when I went into school.

Karma for Mr Sibley not reading my essays? You be the judge.

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