I will never do another course again. That’s it, I really don’t need another course.
My new resolution has been received with enthusiastic agreement by friends and family. Suddenly, the tsunami of truths:
“Really.. you must know more than the teachers, by now,” sighed my older sister, with great relief.
“Fantastic, this is so good, I mean, honestly, I think these courses were just a fear of doing the real thing, you know you were hiding behind them,” said my best friend.
My brother in law...very tentatively, “I mean maybe you could advise people which course they should do, you know as a kind of job, I mean you must know so much about courses now, it could be your job….. Well, I mean ‘cos you do sort of need a job……..really…um …… don’t you?”
I think the problem - which gripped me even in Argentina, where I was sent to escape the habit - can be traced back to childhood and some very bad ballet and Brownie experiences. My best friend (the very same as above) went to every Notting Hill extra curricula activity on offer in the 1970s. I was intrigued by the organisation and paraphernalia her classes would involve; Brownie outfit, Oboe, Recorder, Ballet Shoes, fairy tutu dress, swim suits and plastic bits, tennis racket and even extra snacks to bridge the gap between classes. It seemed like a whole exciting world that I was excluded from.
I begged my recently separated and working Mum to send me to ballet. she agreed. I awaited with eagerness the anticipated shopping trip for Ballet shoes and fairy dress. ‘No’ she said, emphatically “You have to try it first, if you go more than once then I will buy the stuff.” This was shocking news. I was deposited at Ballet Rambert and shoved into the beginners class. I scanned the room. All the girls in pink fairy tutus, pink shoes and little pink wrap-a-round cardigans with pink silky ties and all with their hair up in pink net bun things. They tared at me, some giggled. I had my blue zip-up nylon tracksuit on and Woolworths baseball boots - more ‘Kes’ than perfect ballet girl.
The perfect girls carried on staring at me in a ‘Village of the Dammed’ kind of way as the music started and the teacher scattered them with her shouted instructions. They raced away, a moments pause - I tried to fathom what I was supposed to be doing – then, a beat later, they returned each of them with a doll, hastily pulled from their bags. They began to leap from side to side holding the doll, saying shush in unison to an invisible audience. I feebly tried to follow, but wanted to cry.
I never went back, never got the outfit and still want it.
Brownies was no better, again no outfit. My first class was the night of a performance for the parents. We all stood in a semi-circle - the others in brown shirts adorning badges of symbols representing the key to life and all in it (or so it seemed) - holding an instrument. I was given a triangle ( even at seven I knew this was low status) but the triangle was the least of my problems; I not help but stand out in my electric blue corduroy shorts with stripy socks all from ‘Kids in Gear’ in Carnaby Street - my mum’s favourite shop of the time.
And since then, my belonging-rejection complex (as my therapist calls it) quest has involved: Canooing in France; Rock Climbing at the Sobell Centre, Comtemporary dance classes at The Place (one class only due to abusive teacher - ‘what are you doing?! Yes you!” followed by nasty but very likely accurate physical impression); Mosaics at City Lit (bought all kinds of expensive stuff including tiles and special clippers from the spgecialist shop on Holloway Road, did two lessons, result looked like a quadratic dog’s dinner and I nearly cut off the top of my finger); Tap at Pineapple (couldn’t get past ‘shuffle over the buffalo’), Photoshop at The Working Men’s College, Flamenco in Kilburn, Final Cut Editing at Apple; Impro for Directors and Actors at City Lit (I ended up being a Lizard which I didn’t choose); Buddhism for Beginners in Streatham (still can’t get the hang of loving people who do awful things), Latin American Spanish in Elephant and Castle; Writing for Beginners at Skyros (got carried away as everyone does at Skyros and ended the final night by doing a perfomance poem about sex); Novel Writing at Mary Ward College, Directing for the Theatre at Kensington and Chelsea (tried to direct a scene from ‘The Thee Sisters’ but couldn’t control obnoxious Russian Actor who did completely his own thing on the night which included throwing a book into the audience for no apparent reason) Assertiveness for Women on the White City Estate – was really good realized everyone else a bit insecure too. Tennis at The Harbour Club – despite the high calibre tuition I found myself terrified of the ball and always running away (another thing I had to talk to the therapist about); Water Colour at Hammersmith and Fulham College, Basic Maths at Morley College, Tefol training (somewhere I can’t remember but when I passed my father said “Congratulations I’ll tell everyone we’ve passed’ because basically he had to write all the essays for me with his mates in the pub.)
The Tefol course, which was supposed to send me away only, alas, led to a series of foreign encounters with the habit; Film Making in Buenos Aires, Tango in Barcelona, How to get rid of Negative Feelings at Cortijo Romero and many more classes, courses and themed holidays I can’t even remember or maybe it’s that were so traumatic I have blanked them out.
So, now, as my head rings with sensible advice and praise I face...emptiness. A big black cloud - landing on my soul kind of way – like all my hopes and dreams, my identity, being taken away from me, even though I had made the decision myself. Infact, now I think of it, all these comments, so well meaning make me feel....slightly indignant...rebellious, in a want-to-promptly-reverse-my-decision kind of way.
I wait until I am alone in the house, slowly pick up the phone and ring up a Spanish school, just to enquire you know. As the very attractive foreign accent on the other end (that’s the accent I want) suggests a level test, I feel the colour return to my cheeks. A whoosh of happiness and adrenalin shoots through my body.
I mean, my brother-in-law is right, all this course experience, shouldn’t go to waste right? I know the good ones, the bad ones, I can smell the stinkers and the phonies on entering the classroom, and I know a bloody good teacher when I get one. There is no doubt that I am a veritable course expert. So join me on my journey of no particular direction, useful information, and a lots and lots of laughs. Let my diversion become your direction.