Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tribute from Pauline Latham, School Administrator, Stoke Mandeville Combined School

Tribute delivered by Pauline at the special school service on 27th November 2009

Graham Hollows was a man I enjoyed working with. As part of the office team I was grateful to him for his trust in our ability to do the job without constant supervision or intervention. He was always ready to praise those who he felt repaid that trust and was grateful for a job well done.

He was excited by his vision for the school and what could be achieved there, always striving to provide the best for the children, and aware of the staff’s devotion to their tasks and their willingness to give their time and expertise beyond contractual obligation.

In the School Office, we knew Graham as a caring, professional Headteacher, who, whilst always being careful that the decisions he made were in line with governor and county policies, also considered the effect of those decisions on the staff and children in his care.

Although Graham had been Head of the school for such a short time, we came to know his sense of humour (with quite regular outbursts of giggles!), we experienced his kindness and compassion, his down-to-earth approach to problems,his love of Strictly Coming Dancing (and the regular discussions on Monday mornings about the latest couple to be “ejected”) and his very obvious devotion to Towe, Aila and Leiva. He was so excited about the forthcoming addition to their family.

We miss him very much.

Tribute from Kim Price, Head of Hearing Impairment Department, Stoke Mandeville Combined School

Tribute delivered by Kim at the special school service for Graham on 27th November 2009.

Graham was a man of vision and purpose. He enabled the staff to develop and grow – to bring out the best in us. There are those of us who, without his care and guidance, would not have truly seen our worth or even valued skills that Graham could see within us. For that I will always be deeply grateful.

Graham valued the things that we felt were important to our school – music and singing were as important to him as they are to us. His pride in the children performing at the Albert Hall was tangible.

Graham’s sense of purpose had a lighter side – his lunch box assembly, us not knowing where he was and finding him outside eating his lunch with the children and his Bruce Forsyth “Strictly Come Dancing” routine.
These are the memories he has left with the children – for me it is the privilege to have worked with such a gentle-souled man with vision and purpose.

Tribute from Jackie Crook, Deputy Head, Stoke Mandeville Combined School

Tribute delivered by Jackie at a special school service in Graham's memory on 27th November, 2009

When I first met Graham I was impressed by how he conveyed his vision for the school. He mentioned the library, play ground, mini bus, entrance hall, nursery ... the list went on and I became excited at the prospect of working with him to achieve his ideal and was delighted to be appointed his deputy. I am grateful to have benefitted from his wisdom and knowledge.

He was calm – and kept me calm. When I was anxious about things he would ask – how tough is your skin? And then, is it any tougher yet Jackie?

Graham was an excellent head but, moreover, a real family man - he shared his obvious pride and love for Towe, Aila and Leiva with us all, talking about them often. He kept the sense of proportion real – work to live, not live to work.

He cared how we all felt and knew all our strengths, which he encouraged, alongside giving us all enough challenge to grow within our job.

I for one learnt so much in the short time we worked together and he gave me opportunities and the confidence to undertake challenges which made coming to work exciting. Friends asked what my new head was like – I always replied that he was a really nice man, a real gentleman and that is how I will remember him – a really nice man who it was a real privilege to know. I miss you Graham.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chris's tribute to Graham

The text of Chris Saunders' tribute to Graham delivered at his Memorial Service on 7th December 2009

Take care.

Those were the words that Graham used to sign off our telephone conversations. And that one word - care - just sums up the Graham I knew. He was a lovely mixture of the careful and the carefree, he cared deeply about other people, and he loved caring.

The Graham that I first met in the late 90s was definitely a careful man. Anyone who helped him shift furniture around his house (which seemed to happen with astonishing regularity) would know that his garage was stuffed to the brim with things that he just could not throw away. His house – particularly for a single man – was tidy and clean and DIY projects were planned and delivered with painstaking perfection. Above all, he was careful in what he said. Our first conversation was actually a rather awkward one about seat belts in school buses, but he defused my passion with calm and grace. Serious conversations with Graham weren’t short, because he thought so deeply about issues from many perspectives, thought about what he would say and was then gentle and diplomatic in how he said it. His support, his counsel and his generous willingness to give time helped me through some difficult days and I am sure I am only one of many.

Serious decisions required time. When the newly-qualified Towe arrived at John Hampden School, and mentoring turned to friendship, friendship became romance, romance became love, it was clear that there was a serious decision to be made. He considered matters carefully and when he’d decided, that was a decision. The careful bachelor became the carefree betrothed. He showered her with his love and care, be it small notes left for her when he went away, a weekend retreat, far-flung trips abroad, a bottle of their favourite Veuve, the daily phone call that showed that she was uppermost in his thoughts, or just being there. He made her feel safe, allowed her to be herself; similarly she released in him a deeply romantic love, as well as ambition and purpose. They complemented each other perfectly and to us will always be just G&T.

He enjoyed being slightly and quietly different, embracing the Anglo-Swedish lifestyle with a Swedish wedding, Swedish holidays and frequent trips to Ikea at all times of day and night. He steadily became proficient in another language so he could have a private conversation with his family in a public place, or share a little joke. And he had a great sense of humour, giving fun at work and at home – playing Bruce Forsyth in the children’s talent show in school, hiding notices from colleagues for a bit of harmless fun. No pupil of his will forget Graham eating jelly babies – head first, with sound effects. One week he anonymously left two bottles of something different on our doorstep for us to find each morning – one day milk, the next wine, on the third shampoo. It was just fun, all positive fun.

And finally to Graham as a father. Given the number of children who had passed through his professional care, it is not surprising that he would make a wonderful daddy for Aila and Leiva. For them he attended every medical appointment and ante-natal scan; he sang to them before they were born (and after), he reconstructed their home in anticipation. Whenever there was a gathering, Graham was the one who went outside to play with the children; his party puppet shows – entirely impromptu – were legendary among the children of Thame. And who makes the best pancakes? Daddy. He was no reluctant provider – he loved them unconditionally and loved caring for them, while at the same time teaching them - to read, to swim, to ride a bike. We joked about the fact that the silver fox - as we called him - was a little older and greyer than the average daddy, that his retirement plans had changed somewhat, that his life had taken an unexpected turn, but the truth was he would not have swapped his new family for anything.

I sometimes wonder how much of Graham I really knew. Not because he was particularly secretive or personal, but because his selflessness meant that he focused on you first. And not just me but you, whoever you were, all of you. He put others at the centre of his life, made time for everybody, made us feel better about ourselves, made us better people. A teacher of all of us, young and old, he was the finest of men, truly a gentle man, humble, selfless, generous and, above all, caring.

Now Graham you are receiving the offer of care in another place. Take that care.

Take care.

memorial service tribute...

the text of si smith's tribute to graham, from his memorial service at st. mary's, thame, december 7th.

[with apologies for the strange punctuation]

Friday, December 4, 2009

warrior camp posting

back in the nineties graham was a leader on camps organised by WEC international.there's a small piece about his death here on the warrior camp website.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

wedding speech

the best men's speech from graham and towe's wedding day...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

john denver

way back when i'd only just met bodge i did that thing that blokes do - going through each others record/tape/cd collections and being very judgemental about what you find in there.

bodge's collection was weird and eclectic, with choral music sitting alongside the pogues and the sex pistols.

the greatest discovery in bodge's cassette drawer though was his john denver tape.
i'm not the biggest fan of john denver's music, and so i took every available opportunity to remind him of that fact and to deride him for owning it. bodge being bodge, he just laughed and played the tape anyway.

now, twenty years on, i'm putting together an audio-visual thing for his memorial...

and one of the tunes that's been chosen for this is of course, a john denver tune...

bodge would be laughing his head off, knowing that i've had to endure 'sunshine on my shoulders' playing over and over - maybe thirty or forty times already - as i try to fit the photos to the soundtrack...