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Studio Day then today.

What is really great is, I don’t have a list of tasks to complete by a deadline, one set by me or anyone else. I’m not naive enough to think this will always be the case, but a large chunk of me hopes it will.

The place, the space, the time, the alone-ness of today.

I have a sketchbook, materials to use in it. I have a small heap of fabric. I have scissors, needles and thread. I have a large layered drawing on the wall. I have absolutely no idea where that is going, except I wanted to celebrate the space by doing a drawing that involved me using my arms and legs, not just my arms from the elbows down.

I might tackle any of these things. Or none. I might start something new. Or as there is no one about to be disturbed or disturbed by my wailing, I might do some messing about with my song.

After the last few days, I am aiming for the empty head. No expectations of myself. I am treating myself kindly. I am sleeping well (Sleep! Eight hours at a time!) I am eating well, and trying to get myself moving a bit more. I had become a sloth.

I attempt repair. It’s going pretty well.


I have a pile of ironing. Not clothes, but table linens, old, embroidered, loved but abandoned. Crunchy, creased, wrinkled and worn. They have old faded stains here and there.

They have piled up over months. I use them, then discard them after laundering.

Ignored. Uncared for.

Today I will tend to them as the sun blazes through the windows.

Dampen them to relieve the crunchiness, relax the fibres, ease the stresses.

Sprayed to feed them, smoothed with hands and warmth.

Folded, re-piled in size and colour order.

I shall choose my favourite and lay it across my table.

I will pick primroses, and tiny daffodils to decorate it, draw attention to its beauty.

Agnes Obel listens to the hiss of the steam as I listen to her fingers on the piano keys.



When NOT TO blog, and when TO blog, became an internal argument with myself about HOW to blog…

I was accused of copping out after my last post.

So while this streaming cold I have ensures my sporadic insomnia becomes total, I lie awake at 5am, thinking about how I can blog what I am currently feeling. How I can be more open about it.

I have an amazing job. At least it was amazing up until Christmas. In January, everything changed.

I teach art, and just art, in a primary school. It is the school my own children went to. My eldest son is 29 this year, so for almost 25 yrs, I have felt part of this place, hugely proud of this place the people in it, and what they did for my children – both of whom now teach. They are a testament to its ethos. The school’s mission statement, a thing bolted onto many establishments, was a tenet we lived by: Bringing out the best in everyone, for the benefit of all, in the spirit of Christ. Whether you believe in the last bit or not, bringing out the best in everyone, for the benefit of all is a pretty good thing.

I have worked there for exactly ten years next month. I hold the belief that getting best from everyone happens through valuing the whole person, their talents, preferences, personalities. I felt as a member of staff, those things were valued, in me and those around me, from dinner ladies who were there for an hour or so in the middle of the day, to the head teacher, who seemed to be there from dawn to dusk and beyond, to the wonderful teachers and classroom assistants, to the knowledgeable secretary, to the cleaners, who took such pride in their work, they were frequently awarded 100% by the council inspection team. Of course the children were assessed, of course data was collected, but it never seemed to be the driving force. Professional trust was the thing. It was assumed. And consequently given. In this atmosphere I blossomed. I finished my long-abandoned BA, and completed my MA in Arts Practice and Education. My experience, specialism and skill were respected, and used, my opinion sought.

In this atmosphere of respect and valuing of all, the children flourish too. We thought so, and Ofsted thought so too. We are an outstanding school. We are an outstanding school because of all the reasons above. Our individual differences and weirdnesses not just tolerated, but seen as part of life’s rich pattern and celebrated. I have visited and worked in dozens of schools in my time, and none of them feel like this one did. Past tense.

Since January, it seems to me it is only the scores that count. I have been asked to do less art, and to support maths and English. This is not what I am good at. Being asked to do this has felt like a personal attack. But it has also felt like an attack on my subject, that I have repeatedly tried to defend. It has felt like an attack on the children who excel in the arts, but perhaps struggle in the more formal areas of the curriculum. I felt I had to defend them too. I tried to manage the change of leadership. I tried to understand the other person’s point of view. I tried to minimise the effects. I have found it increasingly difficult to do so. I feel undermined, belittled, unappreciated, disregarded. I have been asked to be a square peg in a round hole. I believe that some of the children are being asked the same.

My philosophy of education had grown through being in this school. I didn’t even realise I had one until it came under attack.

This week, the requests upon my time became concrete, time related, deadline driven. I couldn’t take any more. Having been given a deadline, I panicked. I feel grief-stricken. I now find myself signed off work. I need time away to think how I can cope with this, or even, perhaps, if I can cope with this.


I’ve had a rubbish week.

And unusually for me, I’m not going to tell you why, as this isn’t really the right place for such discussion. One day I might, but not now.


What I will say is, when one person makes life difficult, there are loads of other people who make life wonderful. So I will write about the wonderful instead.

Songwriting Circle continues to be an evening of such joy. It requires such concentration, it absorbs and delights me every Monday. It has provided a means of dealing with my emotional state, with structure, discipline and certain formal conventions, but also allows for a little madness and imagination. The people I meet there are talented and generous with that talent.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I spend much of my time in my studio. This is great, feeds my soul and brings me strength and fortitude to deal with some of the crap.

On Fridays, I draw. Life drawing, for any of you that haven’t done it, or don’t do it, is a marvellous thing. We have a fantastic model, (Briony Lewis, If any of you need her can be found at http://www.lifemodellife.co.uk ) who challenges us and is as much part of the group as any of the artists. We are fuelled by tea, biscuits and chatter, not a group to everyone’s taste, but it is great. We are a weird bunch, but curiously loyal to each other.

Saturdays I am now spending my time in the gallery workshop at ArtSpace Dudley, where my studio is. I love the idea that it is an Art Space for everyone from toddlers to pensioners, beginners, amateurs and professional artists and craftspeople, all greeted with equal respect and no art bollocks.

Sundays, at home, now curiously art free, home centred. I’ve been making things… cushion covers, cakes. I’ve been cleaning the bathroom, even ironing.

I have around me a lovely, patient, calm but probably confused husband who in times of stress, brings me tea and gluten-free crumpets in bed. I have friends who drive me into the countryside to picturesque tea shops and listen to me rant and shout till the bacon sandwich arrives and I eventually shut up. I have other friends who respond supportively, and teasingly, laughing at the absurdity of my posturing, ensuring I retain a sense of perspective.

I list these wonderful things in order to get the crap in proportion, and find a way of dealing with it.