By: Louise North – Principal and Head of The Senior School, Framlingham College

The reading you have just heard from Rob talks of the importance of putting others before ourselves, and not looking to our own interests but to the interests of the others, in essence, having humility, being humble.

On the other hand, Mohammad Ali once said:  “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am”.

I read the other day, that Great is one of the most common words used in the English language. That’s great, What a great story! They’re great, The book’s great, Mrs North’s great…and so on.

How often do we find ourselves discussing who we think is a great singer or a great artist or a great actor, sportsperson, designer, or which celebrity has the greatest chance of winning Strictly, which Bake Off contestant has the greatest chance of receiving the Hollywood handshake, which crazy person on Special forces: Ultimate Hell Week has the greatest chance of surviving until the end?

Well, having looked at a few Greatest polls at the weekend, where I disagree with most of them, it is obvious, I think, that the Greatest anything is very much a matter of personal opinion.

The only exception to this, I suppose, are the Olympians whose performances (drug free of course) are hard to argue with. Even though when I run, with my 80s music blasting in my ears (Madonna, Duran Duran, Wham, Dexys Midnight Runners, Tears for Fears…..), wearing my go-faster-glow-in-the-dark lycra and my light-as-air trainers, I may feel like Mo Farah, I accept that I am not in fact Mo Farah and that his 5k in 13 minutes is suitably GREAT.

But other than this, I feel that what or who is the greatest is definitely a matter of personal opinion…so I thought I would share some of my greats with you.

So first of all, my greatest movie

I could say Avengers End Game or Rocket Man but that would be wrong because they’re too recent; to be the greatest movie it has to be a movie that stands the test of time. So…The 39 Steps, The Fugitive, The Conversation, The Good, The bad and the Ugly, The Bourne Identity, …maybe, but for me it’s a movie from a legend of the cinema screen, a brilliant, quick witted, self-deprecating director and actor who makes me laugh and cry in equal measure, and sometimes at the same time…my Greatest movie is one many of you will probably not have heard of, but one that all of you should make a point of watching…Hannah and her Sisters is a movie from Woody Allen with a cast that is full of greats, Michael Caine, Carrie Fisher, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne West, Max Von Sydow. As someone with two sisters and a brother, it hits the spot for me, with its observations on human nature, relationships, fears, jealousies and insecurities.

My second great, is my greatest Bad Guy

Now this comes from someone who has had an education in bad guys from watching too many Marvel and DC films, Bond films, Die Hard films and thrillers so I could pick anyone of The Joker, The Scarecrow, Blofeld, Le Chiffre, Hans Gruber but my all time nasty, wicked, twisted and sick bad guy would have to be Buffalo Bill from the Silence of the Lambs. Definitely not one to watch…

My third great is my greatest song lyrics.

I can’t give you my greatest song because I wouldn’t know where to start, there are many and each one is a great depending on what I am doing, where I am, who I’m with… I love Top Loader’s Dancing in the Moonlight when I am driving in my car with my mum; I love Van Morrison’s Queen of the Slipstream when I want to relax;  I love ABBA’s Dancing Queen when I am with my best friend; I love Eye of the Tiger when dancing in the kitchen using a wooden spoon as a microphone;  I love Bruce Springsteen, the Carpenters, the Bee Gees, James Taylor, Tom Petty, Leonard Cohen, The Band….

But, the greatest lyricist – or Poet – for me is Bob Dylan, and of his many, many tracks that I could listen to endlessly, my favourite lyrics can be found in Forever Young. Have a look on Youtube..

Fourthly, my greatest book is a tricky one because this is often what I am reading at the moment, otherwise why would I read it? So right now my greatest book is both William Boyd’s Love is Blind and also Ron Suskind’s Life Animated. The first is a story of love, jealousy and revenge entangled in a tale about the making, tuning and playing of grand pianos.  The other is the story of a boy with severe autism who simply stops talking around the age of three. The book tells the story of how he begins to communicate with his family again through the words in Disney Movies. It’s a true story and an inspirational one.

Fifthly is my greatest sporting moment – not mine personally you understand. This came in the 2005 Ashes series that England ultimately won for the first time since 1987. During the test at Edgbaston, the Australians had moved to within two runs of winning but they lost due to some superb English bowling. It isn’t the victory that is my greatest sporting moment though. What stands out is the way in which Freddie Flintoff did not follow his teammates in their elated celebrations, back-slapping, high fiving. Instead, he left them and ran over to a devastated Brett Lee, one of the Australian batsmen, and consoled him. The picture of him bending down with his arm around Brett Lee’s shoulders for me speaks volumes of him as a sportsperson, putting the feelings of his opponent before his own. The photo is something I have in my house and I have left it outside Chapel for you to look at if you would like to see it.


A few final quick greatests:

Greatest word: discombobulate

Greatest food: chocolate

Greatest sound: waves crashing onto rocks

Greatest smell: bacon (and I’m a vegetarian)

Greatest chat up line I’ve ever received: Is your Dad an art thief cos you’re a masterpiece

Greatest one-liner joke: Velcro, what a rip off!

To be serious for a moment. Let’s go back to Mohammed Ali’s quote: “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” Surely all of us, regardless of our achievements, can still be humble, can still put the interests of others before ourselves. Like Freddie Flintoff in fact, who put the devastation that Brett Lee was experiencing ahead of any elation he felt having won.

Martin Luther King once said that everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service. Here at Framlingham, we all have the opportunity to serve others in our everyday lives, be that through helping someone with their prep, offering to organize something in House, showing someone the way if they are lost, smiling and saying good morning as you cross paths in the corridor, holding the door for the person behind you, or taking the time to listen when someone needs to talk. Giving of our time and our energy to help or benefit others without seeking recognition or reward, is in itself hugely rewarding and is fundamental to this community.

There is much to talk about as we start this new academic year and this new term …I want you to be ambitious in all that you do, I want you to be keen and eager to challenge yourselves and to step beyond your comfort zone, I want to feel the corridors and the classrooms buzzing with energy and engagement. But above all, I want us to be good human beings and to remember Martin Luther King’s words: everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service to others.


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