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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas dinner speech

Good evening everybody! Are you enjoying yourselves?
Of course we couldn’t do this without a huge amount of work from the kitchen staff and all the
residents who gave up their time today. Let’s say a big thank you to them.
Well done: we’ve all survived our first term together!
I hope you have found Connaught Hall to be welcoming and friendly, and that you have now
fully settled in and are calling this place “home”. I hope you have found this Hall has a real sense of community. I know many of you have made friendships here already that will endure long beyond your time at University.
We have enjoyed lots of freshers’ events together, a great Hallowe’en party, a really fun and festive night of decorating the Christmas tree last week, and a sophisticated night out at Senate House on Foundation Day. We’ve hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and a German night, and the Residents’ Club have organised lots of sports activities, a pub quiz, pool and table football tournaments, and trips out for fireworks and a carol service.
I hope events like all these help you to meet people you otherwise would never get to know and reinforce your sense that this place is your home and our community is your family here in London.
Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. So I would urge everyone once again to remember that this Hall community can only be what we collectively make it.
Nice sofas, quiet nights, clean toilets, and fridges where you can safely leave your food can only be products of us all working together towards those things. It’s up to all of us to think what kind of environment – both physical and social – we want to live in and make our own positive contributions towards making that happen.
This is a good time of year to reflect, repair, and renew.

We’re at the end of term 1 already. That’s the hardest bit of university out of the way. For let’s not underestimate the massive upheaval of moving home, making new friends, settling into a new way of studying, and finding your way around a new city. But you’ve done it.

It perhaps doesn’t seem impressive until you stop and look back – then you realise how much you’ve been through in the last 2.5 months. It’s definitely an achievement to be proud of.
Almost every civilisation in history has recognised the need to stop at this time of year and celebrate the fact that we are halfway out of the dark. As we approach midwinter and the shortest day of the year, we can be cheered by the knowledge that soon the days will start getting longer
For centuries before Christianity came to the British Isles, we put evergreen plants and trees inside our homes as symbols of life and continual rebirth in the bleakness of midwinter. And of course, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ – who Christians call the light of the world.
Whatever your beliefs, this season is all about hope, light, and life amid the cold and the dark.

None of us is immune from sadness, disappointment, stress, or loneliness. Yet all of these things are temporary – they really are. Just as we know winter will turn into spring, just as we know the days will get longer after the solstice and the darkness must give way to light: so should we be assured that hard times will always give way to new good times.
And here in this Hall community, I believe we can all draw strength, support, and encouragement from those around us – our London family. That’s something else that maybe doesn’t seem impressive until you look back and realise none of us knew each other 3 months ago. Yet now we are all bound up together in so many ways. After 14 years of living in this Hall, I still find that incredibly exciting.
Now, let’s get on with pudding. I’m sorry that our singers who were scheduled to perform in-between courses tonight have been unwell and are not able to perform for us. Let’s hope
they are feeling better soon.

After dinner, please help us to clear things away. Remember to come up to the tree to have your photograph taken and then stick around for carol singing. Afterwards, we can all put on our masks and go to the Christmas ball from 8 o clock. I hope you enjoy all of that.
Some of you are leaving the Hall tomorrow, others are here for another week; some, I know, are staying in London throughout Christmas. If you are travelling during the holidays, I wish you a safe journey and look forward to seeing you back relaxed and refreshed next year.

And I wish all of you a wonderful, joyful Christmas, and a happy, successful new year.