Happy New Year to you all and I hope you were all able to gain a break of some sort. The College goes into the new year in great shape I think.
As the College enters its 510th year, I have looked back at other notable years ending in ‘9’ in the College’s fifty-one decades. In 1679, the Duchess of Somerset gave her generous benefaction and was later honoured with a portrait which is displayed in Hall. 1839 saw us achieve Head of the River in Summer Eights. In 1909, the wonderful tradition of Ale Verses was renewed after a twenty year break and, in the same year, the first edition of The Brazen Nose, was published. And, just ten years ago, The Queen visited to mark our quincentenary; in honour of which we began Project Q – our fantastic renovation of the kitchen, dining and hospitality spaces of the College which we greatly enjoy today.
I am keen to meet alumni in all parts of the UK. We have so far visited Edinburgh, Manchester, and Guernsey for College events and this year was the turn of Newcastle. We got a very warm welcome as is to be expected in the North East. Sixteen alumni attended a dinner at the excellent Café 21. They were of all ages and the conversation was terrific. Many had come from many miles away. There was a consensus that we should do the same next year. Next stop in April is Cardiff.
Congratulations to members of the College community who were honoured in the New Year’s Honours List 2019. Michael Palin (1962, Modern History) received a knighthood for services to travel, culture and geography; Tim Harford (1992, PPE) was honoured with an OBE for services to improving economic understanding; and Peter Acheson (1957, Modern History) gained the MBE for services to the voluntary and community sector.
The new year welcomed a new student JCR Committee headed by Sarah Berwick, the incoming President. An induction away day took place to introduce the students to the organisational side of Brasenose attended by College officers. This was followed by an afternoon team building exercise taking the form of an escape room challenge. The JCR did manage to escape and we look forward to working with them over the next three terms.
The chapel community is thriving and I attended on the Sunday of Week One. The Chaplain preached on epiphany and used the Michelle Obama book Becoming as an example of why we need momentoes and memories; Michelle says in the book that without such treasures from their time in the White House the Obamas would have had to pinch themselves as to what had happened to them during their period of office. It would have seemed to be a dream. I think I will have the same experience when I demit office here (not for many years!)
I was delighted to note that we had Ben Parker as prop in the Male Blues rugby team and Hatty Wigginton in the women’s game. One team won and one lost; I forget which! Talking of losing I think our University Challenge alumni team battled manfully and womanfully in the face of very difficult questions from Jeremy Paxman. One of that team was Jessie Burton and she was this month’s guest on Radio 4’s book club talking about her best selling book The Miniaturist.
I have just finished the latest version of Alistair Campbell’s Diaries which cover 2005-7; interestingly he describes an evening on High Table at Brasenose although not in wholly complimentary terms. I also enjoyed as holiday reading: The Big Four about the global accountancy industry by Ian Gow & Stuart Kells; Crashed by Adam Tooze about the financial crash and the British General Election 2018 and Winners also by Alistair Campbell. I would recommend them all.
You should all find the discussion by Prof Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience and our Kurti Senior Fellow interesting in explaining the effects of poor quality sleep on our health.