Amidst the pressure of exams and dismal weather, it was good to see so many Southies in the Plaza (socially distanced, of course) to welcome the animals to college. Having grown up in Peeblesshire - where sheep outnumber human beings - I am familiar with their capacity to consume grass. In fact, they do it with such quiet and docile efficiency that I think we should employ a small flock every exam term. They are a lot less noisy than a lawn mower.
I'm less certain about goats. Our visitors were certainly amicable, but goats will eat anything. Dorothy (Mrs Principal) recalls looking after children whose parents owned a flock of goats in Stirlingshire in the summer between school and her first term at St Andrews. Their milk tasted of whatever they had eaten, and they ate indiscriminately. I understand that cabbage flavoured goat's milk is less than lovely. One should also take great care not to allow them near a washing line. To a hungry goat, clothes are edible too. The visitors to The Plaza appear to have consumed most of one of our trees. It was a small price to pay for their company, and I make no complaint. Goats will be goats. We should, however, resist any temptation to allow any future caprine visitors anywhere near Oswald. Sheep have much less diverse dietary habits and are generally easier to manage.
I have had a very busy few days digesting and analysing Lord Dyson's report on the process whereby Martin Bashir of the BBC's Panorama programme obtained his now infamous 1995 interview with Princess Diana. I did so initially because I knew I would be asked to comment on it by broadcasters and newspapers. However, my interest was personal too. I was a BBC editor in 1995 and, though I did not know Martin Bashir, many other individuals concerned were colleagues. Suffice it to say that the BBC is, truly, one of Britain's most valuable cultural exports and an example of soft power at its most effective. However, its reputation depends on accuracy and honesty. It is beyond depressing to read evidence that demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the corporation for which I remain proud to have worked fell very far below that standard. In the world of Netflix and Amazon, the BBC faces intense competitive pressure. It cannot afford to alienate viewers, listeners, and readers. I hope and believe it can recover our trust. At its best, the BBC remains a source of excellence in journalism and a vital supporter of creative talent
This weekend, I will get my second vaccination against Covid-19. It feels like a very significant moment. I know I am lucky. Many of you still have exams to complete. I wish you the very best of luck and I promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel. At some point it will stop raining and you will complete your final assessment. We will enjoy a good end to Easter Term. There will be Formals in the Hub, a first ever College Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving in the Hub to begin our College Day, and sufficient champagne to give our Summer Ball a sparkling start. There is not too long to wait.