Thursday, 7 January 2010
Snow and Cambridge
Wysing Arts Centre, on another (sunnier) day
No more than about 3" of snow first thing this morning but deep enough, crisp enough and even enough to make a smooth sweet layer. No cars either so a pure muffled silence. No strong wind to freeze and pound the ears and stab into the temple so the walk to the station over partly gritted surfaces was, if you shut your eyes, like walking on an imagined moon. Once at the station - arriving early - the odd gust pinched and bit in sharply but then, when it was still, the temperature immediately seemed to climb.
At Cambridge met artist Phyllida Barlow and we got in a taxi together to see artists Caroline Wright and Helen Rousseau for a project. It was at Caroline's studio at the Wysing Arts Centre, well outside Cambridge, working home to some 30 artists. Big high-ceilinged studios with tall windows.
The project is a kind of conversation starting with the visual art but moving into and out of writing, generating more visual work and writing, and maybe sound work too. It will come with its own blog and website, and will work with libraries and galleries. I was willing but ginger at the outset. Art writing often bores me solid and I fear there is a part of me that is capable of producing some of it, but having talked things through - and listened to something Phyllida wrote - it suddenly sounded substantial and exciting, and maybe there will be the core of a book in it too. Once I have the web address of the blog I'll put it here, and provide a permanent link in the sidebar.
Enough about that for now.
On the way back, the train was as crowded as I expected and the marking I had intended to do (and had done on the way to Cambridge) became impossible. Opposite me, a young bearded man was about to work on his laptop and glanced over at the papers I had brought out to mark. He asked me if they were UEA papers? He said he recognised them. He himself had been a student at UEA, finished last summer. History and Economics. Father a theologian - Hebrew and Old Testament, just taken up a position at Perth, Australia. Young man was at boarding schools in Indonesia and Malaysia. Off to Vancouver to work and see his girlfriend, then an MA and then, possibly, to do field work in some good cause in Africa.
That's pretty well the world covered in one conversation. Never asked each other's names, will probably never meet again. Talked all the way to W, me asking most of the questions until I feared I must sound as though I were quizzing him. But he was happy to talk. Like most Brits he himself does not ask questions. Nobody here does which explains why English conversation can be slow. Manners. Lack of curiosity. Maybe even a certain dullness sometimes. This wasn't dull. Better than cramped marking.
Walking back from the station was colder than walking there. Air enters the mouth like small blocks of ice. The streets almost deserted. A police car with flashing light was blocking the end of our street. Couldn't see why, but something must have happened further down. We shall find out.