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Educate the Heart

Dalai Lama Centre // Educate the Heart from Giant Ant on Vimeo.

07.10 Walk to School

The butcher sets out red flesh on stainless steel trays
I notice he has grown a beard.
It’s too early for the delivery lorry
with its pig carcasses,
split lengthways.
The bookseller has cleared out his van
I can see the wheelchair hoist
Once covered in cardboard boxes.
Strange that he walks everywhere –
Without a dog
In school the parent grills the Maths teacher
In gentle Canadian
They both wear jeans
A carer lets himself into the one-legged woman’s house
His wrist is strapped up
An industrial injury?
Someone is missing their b&w cat, Mouse
A one hundred pound reward
Look in your sheds

The way home from school

An old woman, skinny in a patterned dress. I’m no patternist, but this is not a dress I’d choose. It falls into the category of one that I might see, somewhere, on a charity shop clothes rail, by accident, and think:

What kind of a mind designed that?

Just like all those twisted patterns that foul municipal upholstery and carpeting…

She wears the dress, she sits in her wheelchair. It’s at the threshold of her front door. Any further and she’d take a tumble down the step, perhaps crash into the gate, onto the pavement in a heap. But for now, the brakes must be on, and she’s fagging it.

A window cleaner is up the ladder, pot belly pressed against the glass. He chats to another woman, she’s bright red hair. Not ginger, but blood-red. Although I happen to know that sometimes blood is not at all red. In fact, it can be orange. I saw that once from an old lady’s cracked head outside Boots the Chemist, where she’d fallen. The thin skin had broken and the thinner orange blood trickled onto the pavement. There was no ambulance.

Back to the fag. She’s not listening to the blood-red-head, or the pot-bellied-cleaner who is squeegeeing. I’ve seen this wheelchair woman before. I look at her, to check.

Still no leg.

Breaking the Fast

One of the kids has no compunction about this first thing, the other is a bit more tricky.  Not unlike me, she likes to come to a bit before stuffing her face (coming to is a bit aspirational for me actually) and an 8 am start at school rather precludes this luxury for her.  Nonetheless, I persist with the expectation that she will eat some breakfast, even a mouthful, before we head off.  Not much luck this week I must say.  She agreed to nuke one small pitta bread in the microwave on Tuesday rendering it fossil like and then tried to set about it with some butter and on Thursday was gracious enough to take a packet of mini cheddars in her bag.

I am not too worried as they get fruit at the first break (about 9.15) but I do fret about how a little brain will function on no carbs.  This is what has been on the rejected menu this week:

Eggs – anyway you want them but not poached or scrambled due to technical demands and time constraints, Weetabix, Cheerios, Yoghurt, Waffles, Toast, Cornflakes, Porridge and Fruit – all of which have been rejected.

This morning she consented to eat a pancake which I have duly made.  I feel like Mrs Pepperpot and I think the situation may be unsustainable, not least because at some point I am going to shrink and fall into the frying pan.  Now where’s my ekologiskt bryggkaffe mellanrost (organic Scandinavian coffee)?

Back to School: you can’t sell it to me

I don’t think my children are related to me, they have both declared themselves “excited” to return to school after six weeks of summer holidays.
I never once remember feeling like that, not even in primary school as they are. I do remember, aged about 9, standing at the top of the stairs at home shortly before the September return weighing up the odds on breaking my leg, breaking my neck or merely looking like a tit if I threw myself down them (the first mentioned being the most desired outcome). I NEVER wanted to go back to school.

I am most careful not to mention this to the children though. I am glad they are happy to be going back, long may it continue. So what if I am afflicted with the end of the summer doom I always have, why spoil their fun? But, still, are they quite right in the head…

That was last night, this morning having Gone Back to School, I am thinking harder about this.  Obviously I didn’t always hate being at school, but I hated the imposition of the rigidity of an institution into my life.  Now I can see we all need a little bit of that to make any progress: free love, free time and free will all day long being not much good for anybody. And yet still I think it is the abrupt interface with the formal world on these September mornings that strokes me the wrong way.  As a kid it spelled the curtailment of sunny days and as a parent it marks out the passing of time in my children’s lives.  No longer in Years 3 & 1 they now sit in classes 2SS (!) and 4J.  Do they need me a little bit less in years 2 & 4?  Did I know I wanted to be needed in the first place?  Not for me the sobbing in the playground, nor yet the catapulting of offspring back to school with glee.  I’m somewhere in the middle, in that grey area, hoping that I can keep up with the never-endingness of Back to School.

I have been rude

To a young poet. Not about her work, but about her reported experience of University where she conducted study of all things cultural. She said: most of it went over my head. I said: education is wasted on youth.

Oh dear. But it is, to some extent true. Actually, I think it has a lot to do with how concepts and texts are presented and is hopefully less of a indictment on young people, who are actually completely fascinating and good to have around (sometimes).

I am thinking back to my “art education”. This is what I remember. High School art teacher who seemed quite nice, but thinking back must have been one inept teacher, if not artist. We started with the primary colour wheel and worked up to a secondary colour wheel round the first. Then somehow, it seemed to be time for a self-portrait. There may have been some intermediate stages, but I don’t remember them.

For a self-portrait we needed a mirror. Well I didn’t have a mirror. I was not a girly 11 or 12 year old with such accoutrements. I could hardly have removed the bathroom mirror from home without being skinned alive, so what was I meant to do. I had no money to buy a mirror. I didn’t bring in a mirror. Maybe I painted or drew something from memory. It wouldn’t have been very “good” as a piece. But, more importantly, the process of the production was painful and not a little humiliating “Wot no mirror you bad girl?”. The whole uncomfortable memory was topped off by the bitch teacher having nothing to say about me at the parents’ evening other than I had wilfully and with pure evil intent never brought in a mirror to facilitate my masterpiece.

Ok, she may not have exactly said that, but the message was clear. My response was of equal force: I hate “art” and I won’t be going near it again. And I didn’t.

When I moved to London I found I had quite a lot of time on my hands on weekends, so I would take myself to the theatre and to art galleries and musuems. And I discovered stories, the story of the piece or the person and that, to me, is what makes sense of what you see and respond to. It seems practically criminal now to show kids great paintings without putting them in their own contexts. Not exactly meaningless, but a real missed opportunity.

It is for this reason I have been enjoying the Modern Masters programmes on the BBC. The presenter needs a bit of a whack at times, but the positive side of his enthusiasm is that it engages kids. The eldest spent a little while yesterday watching with me; enjoying photos of Matisse in his taxi-bed cutting and sticking with giant shears. She was drawn in and she responded to what she saw. To be the kind of parent that as a bare minimum does not crush creativity like that fucking art teacher is my aspiration.

I am also thinking of doing some oil painting. I have warned the art tutor at college that I will a) be late most likely b) attempt to eat the paints c) be looking to emulate Van Gogh. Poor man. At least he won’t be able to grass me up to my mum.

Loving a hat

Like mother…

The eldest (7) reported back in detail yesterday about her day at school, which was a nice change and a distinctly different mood from the morning when she had stomped into school without a backward glance. My crime had been to point out – when she was refusing to get dressed whilst yelling at me to “Get out!” – that this was in fact my room and I needed to get dressed.

At school there was written work to be done, Romans and “The Selfish Crocodile”. Elodie cannot concentrate in ruckus and ruckus there was, given that the teacher was away and the teaching assistant was left in charge (temporarily). My daughter got upset/stressed/angst-ridden and was invited to the Deputy Head’s office to complete her work. There she found peace and some classical music to soothe her soul. I (being an inquisitive mother that’s more like the Spanish mob more than a feeble parliamentary one) asked if she recognised the tune. I was told it was “probably Beethoven”.

Then I enquired as to how the other children coped with working in a noisy classroom and she said

“Well, technically, they were the ones making the noise”.