May 25, 2019

I love tomorrow (Conrad Roberts, ‘Inamorata’).

7.30 am: I’m a weak and inconstant man. But I have it; it doesn’t have me. (‘Keep telling yourself that, buddy!’, my ‘muse’ whispered.):

8.15 am: A little house work. 8.30 pm: A little email catch-up. Bank Holiday weekends don’t stem the flow of incoming mail. 9.00 am: On, then, with postgraduate marking. One of the great joys of teaching at any level is to witness the success of students who never thought that it was possible. They may have had an appalling educational experience, learning difficulties, a dysfunctional home life, and teachers who put them down, tore them to shreds and just walked away. To overcome other people’s, as well as your own, expectations, as well as crippling unconfidence, and to hold your own among your peers (some of whom left school with straight A+s), takes balls. In some respects, it’s a greater achievement than walking out of the School of Art with an exemplary degree.

I’ve been impressed by the conscientiousness with which the MA Vocational Practice students’ response to the teaching delivery and assessment observation projects. They’ve expressed a maturity that’s beyond, if not their years then, their experience. They’ve been to a woman and man, empathetic listeners and judicious advisors. The future of art education – in this corner of the garden, at least – is in safe hands.

I’ve never tried to reinvent myself. I’m not even sure that it’s possible, authentically. No one can suddenly become a different version of themselves, other than cosmetically. I could dye my salt and pepper hair black, shave off the beard, wear contact lenses, and inject some chromacy into my wardrobe, but I’d remain the same person, essentially. Which isn’t the same as saying that a person can’t or shouldn’t try to change. Some types of change are inevitable; they come whether or not we summon them. For example, ageing alters us not only externally (which is the least of it) but also inwardly, at the very core of personhood. However, our development is not always towards betterment. Bad habits and attitudes, and inappropriate ways of thinking, tend to become more entrenched as the years roll on. (Therefore, deal them a death blow while you’re young.)

If this fresh-faced young boy had known then what lay before him, he’d have been utterly crushed and astonished in equal measure. If I could’ve intervened in his life, I’d not change the smallest part. For both the best and the worst of it shaped his character. ‘Behind [each] frowning providence’ the smile of grace, purpose, and beneficence is now discernible:

The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r (William Cowper (1731–1800)).

1.28 pm: An extraordinary example of synchronicity. A social-media correspondent and I, without foreknowledge or declaration of intent, at exactly the same time, posted to one another photographs of a bar of raspberry-flavoured dark chocolate:

(I’d reflected upon the nature of coincidences in my entry for March 14, 2019.) Prior to the post, we weren’t talking about chocolate. The exchange came out-of-the-blue.

3.00 pm: The sound died on my iMac. I rebooted the machine; it decided up install a major IOS upgrade, which took over an hour to complete. In the interim … a little more housework. I prepared a mountain of ironing that would be scaled tomorrow.

5.00 pm: Closure. I was looking forward to watching again Charles Laughton’s remarkable The Night of the Hunter (1955) on the weekend. It’s formally and cinematographically astonishing. One of the finest black and white films that has ever been made:

Scene from The Night of the Hunter (Dir. Charles Laughton) (Courtesy of Wikimedia)
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