Thursday, 28 May 2015

Soho Stories

The Observer had an article this Sunday celebrating Soho as they knew it. Its an area that while I don't feel I 'lived' in I certainly had an affinity for. An art student in London has to frequent the areas that seem to be on the seedy, arty, trendy, hidden and naughty side of life. Reading the article I was reminded persistently of time spent there.

My Pops tells stories of meeting my mother, invited to make up a party of 6, at dinner while he was on a business trip from America. They were dining at a restraurant on Rupert Street with  Irma Kurtz (who is writing about her search for bohemia in the 1960s in soho). I'm not doing his story any justice but the crux of it is that they met in May at this dinner and four weeks later got married and she went to join him in Chicago. Without this meeting there would be no me, so I guess I am indebted.

My mother always went back there on and off but I didn't realise its significance until very recently (new man asking questions about the love at first sight thing elicited much information from my father - very interesting how we don't question our parents enough when we have the opportunity).  She used to take me to Maison Bertaux when we went shopping in Oxford Street. Very good french patisserie. Looks like it hasn't been renovated since the 1950s - still cream shiny satin paint on the walls, uplighters, glass shelves in the windows and marble tops to keep the cream cakes cool. We would have a coffee and a chocolate eclair (long been my favourite) and squeeze in somewhere upstairs ususally. My sister hated it - feeling it was too pretentious for its own good (bah humbug her). Michele Wade writing about her cafe in the observer is always there, and always was as I remember. Posh but not rich seeming, eccentric, hairdo from a bygone era. It's quiet, cramped and slightly uncomfortable but worth it for the eclair. When I was at college I used to go there with Georgia. Lately I haven't been.

Georgia and I used to spend an in ordinate amount of time in the Spice of Life pub (Cambridge Circus). Having recently met at Middlesex Poly's art foundation I bumped into her properly in the Spice of Life one Saturday (can't remember who brought me there). She was wearing tortoise shell glasses with no glass and was with a friend called Tracey. We hit it off from then. Drawn to its fantastic punk juke box downstairs. Liked the fact that it was in the Sex Pistol's film. We played Pretty Vacant, White Riot and I've got a silver machine (forgotten the name) and sang along at the tops of our lungs (always thought they were singing we're so pretty, oh so pretty, vain cunts until I realised one day it was pretty vacant). I only drank coke but seemed to be drunk on sugar. Georgia drank as much beer as she could get. There was a barman who served in the basement who gave me free drinks. He was a film student and gave me his number on the same day as I met my first boyfriend, sadly I never rang him.  We also used to go to the Dive Bar under the The King's Head on Gerrard Street until it shut down. And when they renovated the Spice of Life, sucking all its great old history out of it we moved on to the Intrepid Fox where we fitted in just fine because we had started dying our hair pink and orange and felt an affinity with the old punks that hung out there. Once Georgia went to Brighton to a degree and I stayed on at Middlesex Uni I brought my next great buddy Bails there and we continued hanging and revelling in the dark music.

Bails and I also came to Berrick Street a lot - I liked buying cloth - the Cloth House being one of the greatest for unusual and exciting fabric - a shop on Royal College Street in Camden (that my mother first took me to) and on Berrick Street. We would get a box of food at Beetroot - vegetarian, wholesome, cheap, stuffed! And then go do whatever it was Saturday held for us (watching arthouse dirty movies often - In the Realm of the Senses in a cinema near the Trocodero - sitting next to a businessman who couldn't quite get over the film all the way through, "she's not going to do that, oh my god she is", watching through his fingers). Eating supper at Garlic and Shot (roasted garlic - yum, breath - deadly).

There was the great Going Out Fridays of Lewisham College (staff reliving our youths) where more than once I ended up after a long night of alcohol and dancing in dodgy underground nightclubs drinking coffee outside all night cafes on Old Compton Street with Martin watching the gays and the drag queens waiting for the tube to open so we could go our separate ways. Wet Saturday mornings 6am.

More recently I do less of that but do like to go to the Algerian Coffee Company for ground beans in a mild roast, and buy violet tea. Sometimes join the drunk and disorderlies for a Sunday drink in Rupert Street, visit Fopp on the way to Seven Dials. Its an area like no other and a criminal shame to shape it into something like everywhere else, with chains and all the uniqueness kicked out of it.

Save Soho

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Happy birthday to me

And to Harvey Keitel, Stevie Wonder, Zoe Wannamaker, Yaya Toure, Dennis Rodman and Ravi Shanker. 

It's been lovely. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Kite

Having constructed kites (with instruction from my dad's Brazilian lodgers - long tradition of fighting kites on the beaches of Brazil) out of bamboo, tissue paper, sellotape and plastic bags we flew them over Finsbury Park as we recovered from partying over the weekend. 

Part of the joy is that an object made from household materials can fly as high and for as long as they did (baring some snapping of line when one of them was so high you could barely see it - twice ending up across the canal down the hill and in the softball game in the old cricket field). 



These are simple joyous kites - none of the seriousness that my last kite-flying experience had - all professional store bought fancy flexifoils with double strings and too much fancy-pantsing around. These went up with a slight gust and went as high as the line would let it. 


Friday, 8 May 2015

Into Opposition

So the fun of Election Day at seven sisters station is over. Damp, dreary and swarming with Socialist Workers in overdrive warning of cuts and fightback. I've not been aware of the Socialist Workers Party since the long long slog through the Thatcher Tory years and beyond. Back in opposition proper.

Tube

There's a woman on the tube wearing a pair of socks with multilayered hamburgers on them and a vampire-teeth necklace. Short hair. Slashed knee jeans. Sunglasses on her head on a rainy day. This would be contemporary vampire. If they existed. 

Aftermath

And now it's all gone a bit blue. Swaths of faces wiped off the political landscape. I never really remember I care that much until the blues get in and then I really remember that it matters a lot. Tired of all these old Etonians. How about more women, more working-backgrounds, more people of colour. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vote

All the hoopla of the vote all over Facebook. Colleagues gearing up for The Count (morning work, afternoon off, counting expecting to complete at 4.30am-ish). David Lammy is pressing palms with the undecided outside Seven Sisters station surrounded by a typical gaggle of leftie electioneers. We wait in an-tici-pation (to quote an old unrelated movie). 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Medical emergency

A man suddenly fell from the seat and started having a fit on the concrete platform of Tottenham Hale station. Waiting passengers rushed to help - put him in recovery position and covering him with a jacket. A train pulled in and I'm guessing they kept space around the man - I was seeing this from the platform opposite. When the train left he seemed to be fitting less. One of the passengers was still on the phone to the emergency services and station staff sauntered up. Two things - fantastic support of strangers and the hopelessness of the staffing at the station - despite being told at the gate immediately nobody rushed to assist. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Election


So on Tooley Street (very touristy at this time of day) this dark blue old Rolls Royce passed me at the lights. I thought it must be advertising a new "loony" party to vote for in our upcoming elections. Vote National Bird emblazened on its old (looked original) paintwork, with little round pictures all over it with birds in them. Sitting here in Borough with a coffe, chill out music playing and the sun shining I decided to look them up. 

It transpires that Vote National Bird is a campaign to elect a new national bird (potentially). Coinciding with that other big election taking place. In the mid-60s the robin was voted Britian's favourite bird. This campaign is giving you the opportunity to vote again. So if you think another bird ought to be our national bird you should place your vote. 

There are a few to choose from. Barn owl, blackbird, blue tit, hen harrier, kingfisher, mute swan, puffin, red kite, robin and wren. 

I don't know why but I'm drawn to the common ones we see all the time as the ones that ought to be our national bird. So none of these sleek birds of prey, nor the flashy (gorgeous though) fisher or puffin, nor the aristocrats that belong to the queen. So it's between the blackbird, blue tit, robin and the wren. I see them all in our Tottenham garden. Wrens being the shyest. Blue tits are cute. And between the blackbird and the robin I'd still probably pick the robin for its nosiness and neighbourly behaviour. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Journey

Early. Day is bright. Sky blue. Coat open. Bus was in good time. Down into the underground. Big crowd being held in the ticket hall. Somebody was taken ill further down the line and the platforms are now over crowded. Eventually we are let through. Our escalator is being refurbished so we have to use the stairs. A kid in front of me isn't slow but does keep stopping and starting. The flow of walking is interrupted. Somehow in the bottom on flat ground I suddenly find myself flung flat on the floor. I have no idea what happened and feel a bit of shock. A man leans down, "are you ok?" I think I am. But I don't think I said anything. He asks again. I say yes and look at him. He offers a hand and picks me up. Passes me my paper and bag. Checks one more time I'm ok and rushes off down the corridor in a blur of beige. An older black woman smiles sympathetically and says she hopes my day improves. I would be embarrassed except that it all happened so fast I'm not sure it was real.

Sesame Street

Walking through an estate in the way to visit with an aunt. It's one of those that is in the middle of being redeveloped - there is one tower left in a sea of low rise buildings and a huge fence blocking off the scar left by a previous tower and the most direct routes. We pass a heap of rubbish. Lots of cardboard. A bicycle handle bar is sticking through one piece its wheels just visible below. "Look at that", says the Panther, "a bike dumped here". We stop to look at it. It's scuffed up. And tied to the wall by an inner tube. It doesn't dawn on us quickly enough.  BAM! A flap of cardboard snaps open and a head and torso fall out of the wall shouting, "LEAVE MY GODDAM BIKE ALONE". We jump out of our skins. A real life Groucho living in a hole in a derelict wall. The Panther apologises and assures the man we weren't trying to take his bike. The head and torso are not having it. The Panther reasons that he is with his girl, why would he be trying to take the bike. The head and torso still isn't having it. We walk away apologising all the way. Once round the corner we laugh out our shock. The Panther is amazed by what just happened - he says all he is thinking through the whole altercation is OMG look how the man is living.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Long Lost Film

I watched a film once. A cowboy film. It was shown on TV (in the days when that sometimes happened). It was hilarious, I remember (we are talking maybe 30 years ago). I remember nothing much about it apart from I laughed out loud and there was a character called Handsome Stranger in it who wouldn't notice the leading lady's blatent attempts to get him in the sack. Anyone i ever asked thought it must be Blazing Saddles (it wasn't). 

So today for some reason I typed "Handsome Stranger" into Google and do you know what? The oracle (otherwise known as Deja Reviewer) told me the name of this long lost movie - The Villain, a 1979 movie staring Kirk Douglas chasing Charming Jones and Handsome Stranger (played by Arnold Swartzenegger would you believe) in an attempt to get their money. It's really a real live action version of Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote cartoons (which might be why it appealed to my 14 year old self).

See it on uTube. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Crazy laughing

It's the morning rush hour. Walking fast along the platform and jumping into the tube train as far towards where I need to alight as I can get before the doors close. A man gets on behind me. Slightly odd look about him. A tooth sticks out beyond his closed lips. Boggly eyes. As the tube train doors shut something tickles him and he begins to laugh heartily. He laughs long enough for the other passengers to go from staring in vague disbelief to some catching the infectious laugh finding themselves tittering to themselves and others burying themselves in their papers or music. Then he stops. The momentary reconnection to each other evaporates. At the next station people crowd on shoving and standing like rocks holding  space like their lives depend on it. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ode to City and Islington College Thursday Evening (and one yearofWednesday evenings) Ceramics Class

So the news is bad. Despite over 3500 petition signatures (some of whom are huge in art and ceramics circles including but not limited to: Grayson Perry, Edmund de Waal, Carol McNicoll, Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, plus thousands of outraged and supportive fellow not-such-big-names), a decent protest and lots of social media & old media rabble rousing, meetings with local councillors, letters to MPs, management, the Principal and the Governing Body, the college has pushed ahead with it's planned closure following the end of its brief and swiftly organised (non)consultation.

We have one week left of term. And then that is the end of it. RIP.

I have attended this class since academic year 2006/07 which is an astonishing 9 years (I always think its more like 6).

The first term I attended there was an influx of us - a couple working in regeneration, an architect, a couple of secondary school teachers. Large personalities, talkative. The class was lively, friendly, we learned from each other as well as from our tutor.

The second term had quite a few of us returning but also some other new people. It kind of reverted back to what a traditional pottery class is like - lots of people into their individual endeavour, rarely looking up from the clay, little interaction. We practised our skill. I missed the camaraderie of the previous term. With the tutor we invented the "5 minute exercise" - a short slot in the middle of the class where we did a group activity which was designed like 30 second life drawing exercises to loosen us up, meet one another and do something less navel gazing for the briefest period of time. Some of them gave me ideas that I expanded - make 10 things in 10 minutes, coil as high as you can in 5 minutes - others were just silly but fun - throw a pot with a partner - one hand each, in a group without looking at each other, one makes a head, one makes a torso and the other makes the legs, then join it all together. We even made a minute version of Antony Gormley's field using the instructions he gave for making the little gorms. We also started a blog - first a flickr page, later a blogger blog when the college system banned flickr. It grew into a valuable community of practice where each member of the class could load up their own pictures, describe the making and glazing process (if they chose to) and get feedback. These additional activities brought back the fun of the first term and made the class less cliquey. The blog also charts the progress and achievement made by the individuals in the class (if they chose to upload their work) over time.

In the last term I decided to round off the work by going back to where I began to truly like ceramics. The first pot I thought was pretty successful was the first naked lady pot. I used life drawings from the previous class I did to make motifs for pots - I used them over and over refining across a number of different objects. This term I made a naked man pot. A full circle.


Naked Lady Pot

Giant Pot
Naked Man Pot


And in between I have channelled the frozen planet, things that live under the sea, desire to join different types of clay together, urge to build tall things, big things, things with handles, go small again. 
Wavy Urn


Wavy Stalked Urn
Frozen Planet Pot


Hour - 60 things made in 60 minutes
Waterjug
Cracked pot
After Jamon
Zebra pot
salt firing - pinch pots
And experimented with firing techniques.
Raku pot
Norfolk beach smoke firing
And more than the creative outlet of making things in clay, there is a core group of people who have attended alongside me for all or quite a lot of the time I have been attending. I can't remember when exactly that we began going for a drink after class. Several years, it felt like, going for a beer at the Arsenal Tavern after class - a non-busy pub on non-match days, who would cook chips for us before they closed the kitchen at 10. Became known as the mouse pub due to the pests that lived in the saloon bar - often to be seen scarpering across the back edge of the room late in the evening. When new cohorts joined the drinking fraternity we would say we are going to the Mouse, and nobody ever knew of The Mouse on Blackstock Road - we had to revert back to its real name. After a time we discovered a neighbourhood pizzeria where we could get a slightly more hearty meal. 

This is the thing about the class - it has given me a creative focus with personal development and great friends. I'm going to miss it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Reservoir Dogs


We are having a bit of a problem with a gang of black and white cats. They seem to congregate around our house - here they are on the shed roof. Originally this was the favoured spot for the small one in the front, let's call him Mr Blue, to sleep, curled round the solar panel for the shed light (until it fell off). He clearly made friends with, or was initiated, cajoled into joining up with, the two ugly bruisers in the back (Mr Brown and Mr White) - both of whom seem to be stray, large, toms, wary. And then they are followed around by the most friendly Mr Pink, who is actually a girl, recently lost her collar and really really just wants to be in the gang. 

Yesterday evening returning home from Mothers Day visit we found Mr Pink I sitting in the rose bush by our front door, then saw Mr Brown and Mr Blue eyeing us from the porch roof, turned round and saw Mr White sleeping on our neighbours porch roof. I stroked Mr Pink's foot and she couldn't help herself but purr. Then all the others got nervy and ran off over the garden fences followed by Mr Pink. 

We know Mr Blue belongs to our neighbours (along with the blond Alsatian who would like to join but finds himself the wrong species). But why the others have all clubbed together I don't know. 

This morning they had a face off with a ginger cat. Clearly the wrong colour. Wouldn't want to mess with the twotone by inviting other colours to the gang (now I'm imagining ska music as their favourite).

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Milestones

I went to sleep thinking about firsts - all the little firsts that add up to the building of a relationship. The first sighting. The first kiss. The first time to say "I love you". These milestones have been gobbled up at a rate of knots.

Then there are the ones which signify an actual significant relationship - first meeting of the family, for instance (although I don't make it such a big deal with my own father). But the first meal cooked for the panther's mother seemed like a pretty significant milestone (it went well - lovely afternoon and evening).  Living together. (This has always seemed like a massive step with much deliberation required - strangely this time we just did it because we really seemed to not want to sleep apart from the other - to which there was a simple solution - don't).  I used to feel possessive of my space but find I'm not with the panther. 

Last  week we passed the one that is about nursing one another through illness - I was struck down by food poisoning (vomiting, diahrea, and sometimes, sadly, both at the same time), once I felt just about back in the land of the living he came down with it. So we now have experience and knowledge of how to care for the other (neither of us is a hibernator who takes themselves off until they are well again). 

Monday, 23 February 2015

50 Shades of Rubbish

Worth avoiding at a cinema near you now: Fifty Shades of Grey. This trilogy should stop believing its own hype.

So I read the first book. It was on the shelf of a lovely house in France where I was staying and we laid by the pool sunbathing for hours and I read all my books before the end of the holiday. So I read this just to see what it was like. I thought the writing was poor, the sex scenes were pretty repetitive and used some irritating terminology over and over. And in essence it was a love story where a virgin falls for a man and they eventually get it together. With some lightweight sado-mascicism thrown in - all be it in a female clichéd fantasy of red velvet 'play-rooms', leather horses and mechanical winching devices. I had no desire to find out what happened next.

We went to see the film. Out of interest. On a recommendation from some much younger people. The panther was the only man in the cinema. I found it somewhat boring. For a film classified as an 18 I didn't expect all the sex scenes to be truncated (never saw below his waist). I'm sure I've seen films with male full frontal before (I'm thinking of Room with a View and a party of naked men running round a bathing pond, or Eyes Wide Shut). I believe there has been female genital on film also (remember the hoopla of Sharon Stone's leg crossing in Basic Instinct). The film purportedly about sex with many sex scenes, turned out to be decidedly untitilating in any way. 

Little on screen chemistry, a totally unbelievable leading man (far too young, not half good looking or striking enough, unconvincing in the extreme) and a sort if rag doll of a leading lady who had little of the vulnerability of a supposed virgin. She was sort of just awkward. 

This had neither sex appeal, titilation (I'm not turned on by yuppy banker sorts and their steel and glass minimalist penthouses), nor the trappings of any fantasy. It reminded me too much of American Pyscho. 

Later in discussion with the youths who recommended it I realised that having seen much more film than them I have too many to compare it to that were more sexually appealing to me. I'm thinking perhaps of the French film The Hairdresser's Husband, scenes from Betty Blue, Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being or indeed in My Beautiful Launderette, parts of Room with a View. Even the fantasy of Moulin Rouge. I'm forgetting where the real sex appeal in film is perhaps but these come to mind as films that whetted the appetite. 

Too linear. Too little fantasy. No on-screen chemistry.

I'm upset that women are falling into this trap of thinking that its such a risqué fantasy to play a submissive to this powerful rich man. Isn't that just an old rehashed 1950s female desire (marry a man who will look after you, have children, be chained to the kitchen sink). Aren't there any more exciting, nay modern female fantasies we could explore?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Electric shock


I just got an electric shock from my cooker - I had to clean it after our mammoth marmalade making session yesterday. Marmalade is very sticky and it's hard not to get it places it shouldn't be when you are putting it in jars - I washed the cooker buttons and the hob. After this the igniter seemed to be stuck down because all the rings were sparking continuously even when lit. I foolishly pressed the ignighter button to see if I could flick it back out. It wasn't stuck in but I got an electric shock through my finger. In the best "don't know what to do" response that I have I'm going to turn of the cooker and leave it, hoping it will stop that silliness by tomorrow having dried thoroughly...

It turns out that this is indeed one of the perils of cleaning the cooker. Normality restored by morning when it had dried.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

One of those days

Its one of those days, packed into a crowded commuter train with view only of the details of those around you. And I want to advise them and neaten them up. Polish your shoes - they won't give you away then. Cream your hands. Get some cuticle cream and try not to chew them off. Mints will help your smoker's breath. Don't cuddle your cat with your coat on. Look at your face after you have shaved and towelled it dry - get rid of the towel flint. But I keep it to myself. Like the rest of the travelling hoards. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Transit

Crushed onto the Victoria line, front side crammed against a huge man's back - he is canoodling with his partner and being her rock, back side is providing support for a short stocky woman with a bag with very sharp corners. I'm holding the pole in the centre of the standing space for no particular purpose since I'm wedged in securely. Listening to the upper notes of a young man's music - he's enjoying it, me not so much. The train lurches to a stop, everyone jiggles about a bit, and big sigh, I can breathe again and stand on my own two legs.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Save Ceramics Department Petition

Please sign this petition to the City and Islington College Government and managers asking them to stop the closure of the ceramics department. 


See this link about why I have signed it. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Lips

It's all about the lips this morning on the tube. The man reading silently but moving his lips. The pale pink high gloss pouty lips with lipstick over the edges in an attempt to even up the scale of the top with the bottom. And the incredibly bright pinky red slightly unevenly applied so that one edge is thinner than the other. It reminds me of my life drawing tutor telling me that all parts of the body should be drawn in equal density so nothing particularly draws the eye (we were talking penis at the time) - makeup should be the same I reckon - don't really want lips to blare out over eyes.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Ceramics class

I have been attending a class at City and Islington College for the last seven years. It's a ceramics class. We have always paid full-fees and not been subsidised by the government quango the Skills Funding Agency and therefore not subject to the same rules as that provision (unlike the vast majority of provision in the college).

This week we found out that the college intends to close the department and turn the studios into additional classroom space that can be used to align more closely to the college vision, and provide more space for short qualifications and their exams. This they justify because of the way they have aligned their overall vision to the funding they draw from the Skills Funding Agency. So in a cold business sense they are considering their unique selling point as a place where young people can gain skills that lead them directly into employment and that their main resource is the space they have which therefore means it can be better utilised to meet that vision.

They also made an argument that the ceramics department is costly to run, doesn't have enough measurable achievement in terms of qualifications gained and progression to higher levels or further study in more "useful" curriculum areas. And has too many persistent repeat learners (clearly a sign that the students are not  learning anything - so the report claimed). I know this argument  from where I work - we can only claim funding for a learner for one 10 week course in any one academic year, if they do another course we get nothing for them. However we could deliver non-subsidised courses if we had learners who were willing to pay for them.

I wanted to answer to some of these assumptions. Starting with the one about achievement and progress.

Ceramics is a skill-based course which means that in a mixed ability class (as ours is) the students who are starting benefit from the experience of the ones who have been studying longer. We are not on an accredited course so nobody is taking an exam at the end. And we set targets and goals through an individual learning plan that is commonly used in the sector to measure achievement and on-course progression. 

My personal achievement and progression can be seen clearly when you look at the first pots I made and the ones I am making now. 

  
These are my first pinch pot, first coil pot and first slab pot, in that order.Compare this to my last pinchpots and a few of my latest coil pots.  




We started a class blog way back at the beginning of the time that I have been studying there. As a blogger I thought it would be a great forum to show a chronological and pictorial record of the students' development over time and provide a vehicle for a 'community of practice' where we could share what we made and how we made it - successes and failures - for the benefit of all the students in the class and for reference outside of class time. Thursday Evening Class Blog. This record clearly shows the achievement and progression within class that individually and collectively we have made. Its not a common way of recording and it isn't measurable in the way that the bean-counters of Whitehall recognise.

But personally I believe I have progressed in terms of skill, knowledge and artistic merit when it comes to the practice of ceramics. This I have gained from coming to successive courses and continuing with my own personal development within the confines of a mixed ability class. I now have experince of making glazes and using them in a variety of experimental ways, knowledge about different clay bodies and how they behave, how to combine them. Much better making ability. And a much stronger sense of what I am trying to achieve artistically. The college has always been proud of the work of the ceramics class and has displayed our work in the main entrance of the building. One such display piqued the interest of a passer by so much that he came into the college to find out how much the pot was selling for - it was my pot, we had a conversation, and eventually it didn't work out but with the right setting I also believe there is a market for my pots. This is both progression and achievement. There may not be a job called "ceramicist" that I can take this skill and go and work as, but as a pathway to a potential new type of work this is exactly the way many craftspeople and artists journey to professionalism.  

This class is in the long tradition that we have in Britain of liberal arts education and provision for people, outside of their working lives, to learn skills and subjects for both their own pleasure and for betterment of themselves. We remember fondly the days of the Inner London Education Authority when adults could study all over the capital doing a huge range of courses from foreign languages, reading and writing to photography, fine arts and all kinds of health and fitness. I know many people who are currently working in fields that they got into after attending evening classes, finding a passion and following it through to professional qualification. This includes the tutor of my ceramics class - she started as a student in the provision which she now manages, gradually working up through the department. But I also know massage therapists, counsellors, muscicians, burlesque performers, accountants, social workers, amongst others who have begun their career change with an evening course at a college which didn't specifically lead to a qualification.

The next thing I find I want to answer to is that the only types of courses that are about "employability" are either about reading and writing and maths, or are vocationally driven (accounting, business studies, brick laying, motor mechanics, hairdressing, for example). I am a contracts manager, I work in adult learning. I got a degree in three dimensional design from a good art college. This degree did not prepare me to be a contracts manager, or to know anything about adult learning. But it did provide me with a problem solving type of brain, practical, able to transfer skill from one task to another, to research, write at length and be curious about process.We also had to take part in crits weekly which meant that we were able to stand up in the group present and defend our work. Often in the face of severe criticism. All of which has made me a valuable member of any team I have ever worked in. And no workplace wants a team made up of people with exactly the same aptitudes, skills and experience - different people bring different talents, where would we be without a balance between the plants, implementers, completers and shapers (amoungst others if we are to believe Belbin). The most depressing thing about the state of further education is the total disregard for the value of any type of liberal arts education, or anything that doesn't sound exactly like a job out there in the market today.

We let art education, or music education or craft or any of those types of knowledge disintegrate entirely and we will be left without the ability to be able to teach these skills to the next generation. A dismantled pottery studio, with kilns, wheels, equipment and knowledgable staff can not be easily reinstated without a large investment. When its gone, its gone.

I worry for our large further education institutions. They are both chasing funding and narrowing their scope of delivery. What happens to them when the next funding fad happens? Wouldn't it be better to have a vision that is about education and not about what the main funder wants? Isn't that the better way to cement yourself in your business? I could see a dual purpose college - full of people studying short qualification courses by day so that they quickly achieve a qualification that helps them progress into or within work and full of working people wanting to learn skills in evening courses who can afford to pay full fees for the provision. There, surely, is space for both visions. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Seven Sisters to Highbury

There's a beautiful woman, perfect cat eyes with a black eye-lined flick from each corner and full kissy lips like Angelina Jolie having morning canoodles on the train with her red haired beardy partner. Her hair is fine and she is wearing it with one of those matty hair-knots caused by pillow-rub in the back - clearly out of bed fast and no time to put a brush through the back of her head.

A Spanish quartet, two girls, two guys, one of whom is leaning against the central pole not realising that people may want to hang on. I place my hand on the pole in the gap where the small of his back is and raise many suspicious glances from the one I assume is his girlfriend. It's just uncomfortable to hang off the overhead bar so this seems a better option. 

A man, a serious man, in work attire gets on at Finsbury Park, topping his outer wear with a blue fake fur hat with plaits coming off the end of the ear flaps and two eyes on the front with those black pupils that shake about with any motion. I find I can't take my eyes off them. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Transportation

The misery of the transportation system brought it's load to bear today. Started with continuing traumas at London Bridge station from the reduction in platforms during their refurbishment. Actually took 40 minutes for a train to my destination to actually leave - 5 services should have departed in that time. We were tantalised with trains, even sat on one only to be told it was being cancelled after all. All the platforms had trains on them. Most left without becoming an advertised service, empty. Nobody knew anything. 

Tried the alternative route this evening. Standing outside stations in the dark waiting to be able to draw up to the platform. 

Listening to two precocious 8 year old girls chatter about their day incessantly in loud voices. Watching this geeky kid on a rubic's cube. I forget about them. I was never good at them. This kid was spinning the sections around in the speedy way the puzzle genii used to, as blocks of colour built on each side. A physical fidget tool. Dextrous fingers flying around the puzzle, stopping only briefly to consider the moves that needed to be made. He then swapped to a smaller 4x4 version. Its kind if nice to see something physical rather than nose deep in a phone. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Working

First day back to work after the new year was welcomed in. Can't quite remember what we go to that place for. There are tasks, on a computer, which were thankfully written down before we left for the winter holiday. Now I'm used to talking and socialising. You can do a bit of that at work. Catch up on each other's festivities. Mostly, at my work, that's about weight gain. And then about 4 o'clock the back and eyes give out - unused to being upright for such an extended period of time under harsh lighting. Pain in the back of the ribcage and tiredness of eyes. 

Travelling back on the tube I find my body sinking into a stupor brought on by the gently rocking London Overground train. Eyes shut, brain off, hopefully not dribbling...

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014

Roller coaster year. Began with the start of a realisation that what I thought it was, wasn't, which led eventually to a heartbreak, not epic, but in part about why and how I'd let myself get to that. I was 44. Not a youthful age. I should know better by now. 

In the middle was a brief dalliance with online dating. Many men contacted me. There were dates. There was the expectation of phone sex. There were photos of people that rendered them unrecognisable in the flesh. There was shock that I looked exactly like my picture. There was possessiveness after good conversation. There were slights. And relief at not having to carry dates through. And there was exhaustion in a very short time of demanding texts and messages from men half my age or with over-egged egos who don't know how to measure in feet and inches. And then there was getting off back to the reality of real life.

And finally when least expecting it, after a night at the opera there was a flash of love that became a compelling and urgent desire that drove the end of the year. And I sit here now on the 31 December 2014 awaiting the imminent arrival of the panther with the last of his things and will begin 2015 living with the love of my life. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas one and all



From the mouths of innocents

At dinner today my nephew asked me if K (the current man) was a replacement of  B (previous man), and was B a replacement of E (man before B). Um, yes, I mumbled embarrassedly thinking how this easy-replacing of men in life must look to him. Since we see each other only once every six months or so he has short experience of any of the potential 'uncles' so far. If only the reality of it was as easy as 'replacement' makes it seem, like swapping batteries when they wear out or something. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Dismantled

Gradually all these gasometers are being dismantled. When I was an art student I took lots of pictures of them - they were structures which you could see through, and I had a mild infatuation with them and scaffolding (in the days before they covered scaffolding always). 



Monday, 22 December 2014

Winter holiday

Today I am on leave. Until January 5th. Leaving work on Friday didn't really feel like anything. Weekend was great. But it was a weekend. Get those at the end of every week. 

But today I'm popping to the shops and left home at 12, coming through my local high street everyone is at work and at their regular duties (queuing in the post office, elders and their shopping trollies fighting to be on the bus first to bag the best seat, estate agents bored in their windows, banks open). 

And me, I'm feeling like, Yeah! I'm on holiday... It's been some time since I had 2 weeks off together. 


Friday, 5 December 2014

Open Plan Hot-Desking

I’ve always known open plan hot-desking is bad for me because I can clearly recognise the impact it has on concentration and increased irritation. Other people’s phonecalls at the top of their lungs, desk-side meetings, talking (well, sort of talking – not quite shouting) to colleagues across the space rather than going over to them, uncontrollable temperatures – blasting air conditioning or way too hot, and the need of the window-seat-hoggers to close the blinds on a sunny day to the detriment of those working further inside the building (if they don’t like the light why do they insist on sitting by the window?).

http://stevemaslin.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/place-working-vs-open-plan/ - interesting article by an architect and access consultant (access consultant – no idea what that means) which says

“Our needs vary – but are significantly influenced by:

·         Physical comfort,

·         Our ability (or not) to cut out extraneous noise,

·         Preferences for access to daylight

·         Our commonly held preference for access to views of the natural world, and…

Our need to:

·         Adjust artificial lighting intensity, position and colour,

·         Adjust what is in our visual field and to reinforce a sense of familiarity and recollection to aid our memory”

 

Its not so much the need for privacy I don’t think but I had never considered that in addition the reduction in concentration there might be an impact on recollection, memory and productivity due to not being able to see a view that includes vegetation or have natural daylight. Our office rules include not eating at the desk (you are allowed a drink and maximum two biscuits, otherwise you are supposed to eat in the designated areas), no plants, no clutter, nothing left on the desk overnight,  no fixed positions, no storing things on top of the lockers. This makes it look nice and clean, reduces likelihood of mice infestation (although we have had visits coming up the cabling of the computers from the floor to have a peek at the working desk situation, but not regularly), and enables people to sit wherever is available when they get in.

 

On top of which I found a marvellous quote from Einstein (and who can argue with him…) which is a fantastic retort to the clear-desk police (to which we had to convert when we started open plan hot-desking), “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Touche.


From The Evening Standard, 4/11/2014.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gary Numan

So Friday night was gig night - invited to come by Bails and her fella - joining the Numanoids for a special one off at the Hammersmith Apollo. These days the Numanoids are largely ageing ex-punks or those sorts that used to wear black jeans and old men's overcoats or greatcoats from second hand stores in the late 80s and early 90s. Some attempts to still wear gel-spiked-up hair (hair permitting) but quite a lot of baldies unable to do the style of their youth. One or two brought their kids. Lots of leather jackets and the occasional denim. I'm glad I've left that all behind. I used to wear a floor length black skirt all the time. Wore it until it had holes that needed patching, then patched them and wore it until the patches needed patching. Absolutely no idea why I thought that was a good idea. My mother's friend taught fashion and wanted it off me for her project in distressed fabric. Distressed didn't really begin to describe this rag that I wore. Tortured, would be closer.

The music was good. Reminded me a lot of that time. I don't listen to a lot of punk music anymore... Numan was late on stage - he had a sore throat and had an injection in his ass a course of hours earlier to try to make it better. He apologised if his voice was croaky but did a full gig none the less. The singing only occasionally getting the better of him. 

I like being in a crowd listening to music, people singing along, joining in, doing the arm movements. It's why football crowds are exciting. I love watching when people are really getting into something. And the crowd were friendly. Only a couple of irritating drunks, and one man who went to the bar a lot and could never remember where his mates were standing. Spent ages squeezing in and out of the crowd looking for them each time. So maybe next time it would be more appropriate to dress a la the 90s and take a proper Numanoid standpoint!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Early Saturday mornings

Not a usual time for me to be abroad, most usually tucked up in a sleep worthy of a poisoned princess at 8am on a Saturday. But by 9 the high street is awash with shoppers, busy getting their chores done. Workmen are in the street holes which usually just look like traffic obstacles placed there for more interesting driving. And there is a traffic jam just like a work-day morning. So this Saturday is an extra ceramics class. I'm late already but  as I said, it's before getting up time on a Saturday!