On Keeping Penguins

Published: Friday January 27, 2017

 I have no knowledge of penguins, let alone keeping one, and I’m never really quite sure which ‘arctic’ they come from.  For me they had always been the stuff of Life on Earth, comedy films and cartoons.

But a book I was given for Christmas (and which all my family and friends are now receiving – fair warning all!) has made me think about the possibility of ‘keeping a penguin’ or, in the context of my world, what happens when you take on the challenge of the moment with little or no consideration of the consequences.

‘The Penguin Lessons’ by Tom Michell is a heartwarming true story about how as a young English teacher in the 1970s he rescued a penguin from an oil slick on a beach in Uruguay where hundreds of penguins had already perished.  The rescue comes in a spontaneous moment of compassion and with no thought for what might come next.  But the hilarity, the poignancy, and the drama of what comes next is precisely what the book is about. I couldn’t put it down.

It tells of how the little penguin was saved, fed and cared for, and came to live with Tom Michell at the boarding school in Argentina where he taught for a year, and of the lasting impact that Juan Salvador Pingüino had on the children and staff there.

It is a delight to read and, of course, you learn quite a bit about penguins, the environment and natural history.

But for me, all the way through, I kept asking myself, “What would I have done?”  Would I have had the nerve, the care, the determination to see it through?  In my very different contexts when needs be, would I have the courage to take action or speak out?

So, this year my new year’s resolution is to try and look at each new situation as if I’m meeting my very own bright beady eyed Juan Salvador Pingüino!


By Judith Knight, Head of HR and Safeguarding

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