September signals the end of the silly season of summer frivolity but my kids are not going down without a fight. They are convinced that only a truly heartless bitch would insist they return to full time education while it is so hot, humid, rainy or while a replacement for Second Born’s exploded fountain pen has not been procured. Well flying fish, it’s been a long, fraught, nine weeks and they can either go safely back to school or risk commencement of adoption proceedings.
And I will lead by example. Yup. Even though First Born considers me one step away from a Zimmer frame, I’m going back to school. I’ve been hanging out at one educational establishment or another since the age of three and the fact that I now live on this small rock is no reason to radically change the habit of a lifetime. And there is something about September that says it is time to take stock and maybe make amends. Whatever resolutions were made in January have long since evaporated into the ether. But September is a time of second chances. New battle cries can be heard on the buses to take classes, join gyms, or finally knit that teacosy you always dreamed of, your whole life.
But going back to school when the glow of youth has dimmed is not easy. So you want to learn, but what? Is this the right time in life to finally get beyond ‘hola’ en español? Or maybe since I live in the ‘bread basket’ of Barbados I should read for a Diploma in Inspection in Meat and Other foods. Having already engineered one career switch, good sense dictates I stay focused on my current subject matter. This of course is when the constraints of small island life slap you round the face. The particular research degree I want to pursue is not offered in paradise. Sigh. I need the sunshine but I also need the space to think through the making of art. You never know what you’ll find. Monteverdi in the seventeenth century founded a style of music (stile concitato) after reading medical treatises. How cool is that. Mummy will just have to be educated through some juggling act involving airline food, thermal underwear and missing Jack (the unbiddible Jack Russell).
While we negotiate the pursuit of knowledge I have found another way of sneaking back into a place of learning. Teaching. The Community College is the only game in town offering a degree in fine art so I begged them to have me.
‘You know we only pay the absolute minimum we can get away with and not be called slave traders?’ said The Boss looking down at me.
‘Yes!’ I enthused. ‘I won’t dream of asking for a cent above the cost of giving the children a little salt bread pon ah morning.’
‘Excellent. You’re hired.’ said She Who Must Be Worshiped.
‘Thank you so much.’ I gushed. ‘I won’t disappoint you, I promise.’
‘Yeah. Whatever. Close the door on your way out.’
'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.’ I said, all the while bowing as I walked backwards out of The Giver of Contracts office.
Anyway, I’m thinking that now they have officially hired me they’ll want me to stick around – thus saving themselves the hassle of finding another deranged artist willing to be institutionalized for minimum wage. So I might as well create havoc. Today was the first day and it was more fun than I have had in ages. The second year students on the bachelor of fine arts programme are now my very part-time responsibility.
We met and I was utterly smitten. They are naïve, self-assured and full of life. I had so much fun trampling over the safe, little paths they had projected for the term ahead. They looked less happy. Okay, so I may have accused one of confusing art with therapy and told another she was in a space of ideas not dogma. But I did encourage them to consider their relationship to the other and to question the gaze through which they filtered the world. Artists should have to struggle to find what their practice means and its relationship to the quotidian – and if not, they should be forced to. I can hardly wait for the next class.