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A picture of the grounds of South College from a height

Lee, Lynn, Steven and I had been in our offices for a week and tremendously well supported by our wonderful receptionists, Polly and Poppy and by Bill Close and the superb South College Porters and cleaners. It was a delight simply to be here and to meet such excellent new colleagues.

That said, our first truly authentic week as a college community could not begin without the Pioneer Scholars. The baleful backdrop of the pandemic did nothing to depress spirits as this intrepid bunch moved into their rooms and, under Richard’s brilliant leadership, breathed vibrant life into Gillard and Centaurus. Within hours the Pitcairn Building felt full of joy and excitement. Oswald, who can be a little timid when confronted with crowds, rapidly regained his poise and positively glowed from his talons to the tip of his beak when Steven kindly immersed him in Scandinavian wood oil. The excellent Dr Beckett is nothing if not dedicated, diligent and adaptable.

On Wednesday, the Vice Chancellor hosted the formal opening of the Mount Oswald site. The launch event brought the team who devised, designed and constructed South College together and made plain to all present the colossal work that has brought our College into being. I had the intriguing experience of showing Tim Abram, one of the architects who designed South, around the college he and his colleagues conjured from imagination to drawing board and beyond. It was particularly good to welcome Darren Hannar, the site manager who ensured the architects’ vision was made real.

The pandemic will challenge us in many ways. Michaelmas Term 2020 will not always be easy. It is already clear to me that it will be tremendous fun and that South has soul as well as outstanding physical majesty and a wooden owl.