Dear 2018 Leavers

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Bristol Airport is a strange place for a revelation. A terminal, not because it’s where our journeys end, but because it’s a portal into the void, the dislocation, that is flight. Only at the airport that welcomes you back onto solid ground does space once again move past at an appreciable rate, and do clocks and watch faces no longer jump five or eight hours forward and backwards. To leave Bristol Airport for the gangway of the plane is to terminate our span on a solid world, and head for one where gravity and lift keep us in suspension, and plastic cutlery and vacuum toilets mediate our comfort.

For all this strangeness, and despite my hurrying from departure lounge to gate, one of countless back-lit adverts managed to catch my eye. The advert in question was produced by the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Patek Phillippe, and depicted a father and son engrossed in a chess match. It was captioned by this piece of advertising genius: “You never actually own a Patek Phillippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” It struck me that running Berkeley Squares is not dissimilar: you never actually own Berkeley Squares. One’s tenure in the management team is all about best preparing it for the next generation, so they can take it to bigger and better places. And, like purchasing a £25,000 timepiece, investing hours of work into a school magazine is a decision vulnerable to derision, not least because the potential consumer / writer in question is most likely a cash-strapped / chronically over-worked sixth former.

So why do it? Because the committed Berkeley Square, in their symmetrical prudence and perpendicular determination, recognises how remarkable this whole endeavour really is. And you’ve acted upon that recognition. The management team this year has not only safeguarded and changed the battery of the BS watch; you have oiled its cogs, polished its surfaces, buffed the casing, cleaned the leather and smoothed the crowns, all whilst keeping its accompanying Correspondent with plenty of ink and a fine pen. From one cohort of editors to another, thank you. Investment well spent.

The said-advert encouraged us holiday-makers to “Begin your own tradition.” Evidently, their clientele is not content with simply inheriting them. Trailblazing will secure their legacy. But what pressure! To not only maintain the customs of your great-aunt, second cousin and shady uncle, but also to forge your own and thereby secure your reputation for time immemorial. Among such distinguished gentlemen as Berkeley Squares alumni, establishing new traditions as well as passing on the old can seem an equally overwhelming task.

To complicate matters further, traditions are determined by the generations that inherit them. If you take it upon yourself to personally raise the Christmas turkey every year, that’s not a tradition – it’s an eccentricity. Only when your offspring do the same is a family tradition born. In other words, the tradition-maker can only be recognised as such retrospectively, and in establishing new traditions, there is always a risk that posterity will simply record them as bizarre idiosyncrasies. To even attempt a new tradition is to invest its success or failure within the hands of others. And that requires an admirable degree of daring. If your heir-to-be rejects your offer of a Patek Phillippe, a hefty investment becomes nothing more than a self-indulgent farce.

As the third generation of Berkeley Squares, you inherited a tradition by that point established. But of course, you wanted to take a chance, to do something new, and risk its failure. And how successful that effort has proved. You made BS into a sixth form-wide project. There are 15 BS leavers this year which is three times as many as the year before.  Equally large numbers of Year 12s have answered the summons of the pen. Our meeting room can hardly contain the sheer number of prospective writers that weekly converge on it. Never before have our articles been more varied in content and tone, and never before has the absence of irony been less sorely missed.

In the true spirit of a proud horologist, mere inheritance wasn’t good enough for you. Innovation was in your blood, and it couldn’t be ignored.