7.45 am: Once again, sleep was sporadic. When I dreamt, it was of black, fuzzy geometries on a white background within a grid that was itself slipping out of focus. I awoke in a semi stupor. 9.00 am: ‘Wake up, John!’ (I need to get back to a routine of jogging.) A register of the new MA students was compiled, so that the process of studio space allocation could begin this afternoon. This will be a challenge like no other for Mr Garrett and myself. (In the background, some David Bowie – to humanise the task and elevate the heart. Am I a blackstar too?)
10.30 am: Off to school to attend the First Year Induction session in the main lecture theatre. They add up to a mighty number. Representatives of the Students’ Union and Library gave ‘cool’ introductions to their patch in a manner that works for 18+ year olds. The young have an advantage when talking to their peers. They share instincts. There’s a texture to contemporary ‘teenageness’ that I can’t touch. My teens felt otherwise. These days, the students are younger than my own children; and I’m now older than most of their parents. (Obsolescence looms.) I’m conscious that my interests in, and approach to, art practice and its teaching may lose its relevance eventually. It’s said that painting is an ‘old man’s’ game; but art teaching is for the middle aged and younger. There’ll come a time when a day will be called:
Today, universities are multi-faceted, ‘thrusting’, and competitive. HE is big business. But, students do get so much more for their money than did I. And they spend themselves far further too.
Before lunch, I held a group Personal Tutorial with my first-year contingent. During the course of the next three years, a few of them will face some of the greatest challenges of their lives. There’ll be heartache, dreadful losses, failure, confusion and despair, and loneliness. As Personal Tutors, we must be prepared to walk with them through the very worst.
At lunch, my new PhD Fine Art tutee and I met for lunch and a discussion about the beginnings of the endeavour. It’s a fearful time for both student and supervisor – launching into the unknown without either a map, or much sense of the journey, or a knowledge of the destination. Which is why mutual trust is so necessary. We’ll walk into the dark, hand in hand.
2.30 pm: Mr Garrett and I took the bull by the horns and assigned the new MA students to their studio spaces, both at the School and Old College. It was like completing a jig-saw puzzle, and then finding that you’ve one piece left over. ‘Aaah!’:
4.00 pm: Back at the mothership, I processed admin related to the morning’s and afternoon’s business, and continued my rumination on where to place the outstanding jigsaw piece. 5.25 pm: Homeward. The mothership had well and truly left space dock:
7.00 pm: The administrations resumed and would be absorb my energies into the early hours of the morning. I needed to finalise student-staff allocations, the student-space situations, and tables of staff supervision figures, and also to distribute module outlines to the new MA students. If I could clear my desk of this before I hit the pillow, tomorrow would be mine alone. 1.15 am: A promised letter to a ‘stranger’ was written and, then: ‘No more!’