Launching into retirement……..

September 1st, 2008

Retirement beckoned. Although I’d just enjoyed a long summer break (something members of the teaching profession are well used to), the summer of 2008 was a little different. Having cleared away all the debris from the last academic year, instead of doing the necessary groundwork to prepare for the coming year, I actually packed all my personal effects into boxes and took them home with me. There was a certain finality about it. I had just completed 28 years of my 32 year teaching career at Kimbolton School, the last 20 years of which my department had been situated on the top floor of the north-east wing of Kimbolton Castle, with the best views over landscaped parkland that any teacher could hope for. In fact, my department (Spanish) had been located in the two most important bedrooms of the castle, formerly belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. (You must understand that having separate bedrooms used to be a sign of social status amongst English nobility, but most would have had their own private connecting doors, as these two rooms did, to permit the honouring of conjugal duties. But say no more!). Not only did the Spanish Department occupy the two principal bedrooms of the Castle, but we also made use of the Manchester’s own private bathroom (not quite en-suite, since they had to share!), converting it into an audio-visual library suitable for conversation classes. What is more, it never ceased to amaze me that I would end up teaching Spanish in the very building where the first wife of Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragón, had died (and a natural death at that!) after a 20 month period of house arrest. Whether this was serendipitous or not, I went on to do a one-year teaching exchange in the town of Teruel in Aragón, thus igniting over ten years of pupil exchanges in that same area.

Belize called. But back to the business of retirement. Retirement celebrations and farewells over, I began planning a three month visit to the tiny Commonwealth Republic of Belize, in Central America (formerly known as British Honduras) to help a small team of Claretian Missionaries based in the coastal town of Dangriga (Claretians in Belize). To date, we had raised over £55,000 to support them in their humanitarian work, principally in the building and equipping of primary schools. But the time had come to “don boots and gloves” and go out there to be an extra pair of hands. What follows in the next several posts are the weekly illustrated letters that I sent back to the UK during my three month visit. As you will see, they embody capsules of experience and reflections on the huge variety of people, situations and events that touched me personally. But on arrival, I was very happy to be able to hand over a cheque for £11,000, representing the amount raised in the last of our series of Kimbolton Charity Cycle Rides, which had been running for the previous seven years.

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on September 1, 2008, in Letters from Belize and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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