Monday, September 24, 2007


I began two adult education classes today, dear reader, courtesy of Edinburgh City Council. They're a kind bunch of people.

The morning commenced, for me at any rate, at five minutes to eight. The radio-alarm kicked in, right on cue, with the ugly voice of a Today presenter. I was immediately flustered. I continued to be flustered while getting washed, dressed and ready for my day of erudition.

Where's my flask? Have I got a spare pen in case my favourite runs out? Which apron shall I sacrifice to clay?

I suppose I should be grateful for a hurried morning of agitation. With time on my hands, I'd have been able to think and to ponder. Thinking is no good for a stressed Minge. No. I usually end up in a right state. The best way to avoid turmoil is to be swamped; a full plate.

I could feel my heartbeat getting harder and louder once I was ready at my front door, though. For the first time in a long time, I thought of a cigarette. But it was only a brief thought after rubbing my tongue over my teeth.

I hate meeting people. I hate to be the centre of attention. I hate introductions.

Meeting people and introductions were surely the order of the day and with my camera still in the hands of its manufacturer for repair, I would surely be the centre of attention turning up to a photography class without a camera. I think Ian could see all this flooding through my tiny mind so did his best throughout the car journey to keep me chatting about our ongoing detox. Yes, I had a headache. Yes, I was hungry. Yes, I needed a coffee.

Scared, sweating like a paedophile in a schoolyard, I entered the South Bridge Resource Centre and immediately made my way for the toilets. I was desperate for a waz and to wipe my face. I managed to do both rather quickly and then returned to the main reception area to find out where to go and how, if the need came, to escape as quickly and as easily as possible.

Hurrah! Only a few metres away: Computer suite 1. And two old women and a very old man entering before me.

Old people. I'm not scared of old people. I quite like old people, actually. I suppose, in that respect, I'm ageist. I can't help it. It's just the way I am, my lamb. Old people have never been a threat to me. And in circumstances where I have been threatened, there were old people
coming to the rescue. One could even argue, actually, that a very old person saved my life. Thursday. Pension day in a post office I once worked at. An armed robbery. But lets not go there. It was a long time ago.

My first class of the day. Digital photography. A daytime class, so I expected middle aged housewives and pensioners. I was right to do so. I was the youngest person there. Two other women in their forties or fifties. The rest (one man and a handful of women) were very old. The tutor, Neil, was nearer my age than any other member of the class, though the distance was still considerable.

I was immediately at ease. As much as I hate clichés, I often use them, and I wonder now what all the fuss was about.

It was a fabulous class. My worry over not having my camera soon vanished once that wee matter was aired. The tutor had enough to deal with. Many of my fellow students had never taken a single photograph with their digital cameras. One woman didn't even know how to switch it on.

What fun.

Yes, my fears were allayed with the presence of the elderly but my heart skipped a beat on realising I was surrounded by the middle classes and one or two people who thought they were or would like to be! I adore middle class people. I find them exciting and interesting. I was not disappointed. The first hour of the two hour class was basically a question and answer session; a free-for-all. Hilarious. Sentences began with my very expensive camera or my husband and I or mine is much bigger than that. In the room, I was smiling, in my mind, I was giggling.

So with no camera, I had to team up with someone else once we were invited to used the computers to experiment with editing software. This was doubly hilarious for me. The tutor, who seemed an open, honest and broad-minded man, didn't consider that a bunch of people who, in most circumstances, hadn't moved on from inserting batteries into their cameras, might know how to switch a computer on. I added naïvety to my list of Neil's attributes.

My team mate was a middle aged lady with a strong French accent though for whom, it seemed, English had become her first language. As luck would have it, the computers we were using were Apple Macs. eMacs, to be precise. We were busy uploading photographs of her very Morningside (and very beautiful)
garden. On changing seats to enable my new found friend better access to the mouse, we noticed no-one else had proceeded beyond the login screen. Oops. Were we going to be branded the class swots? It seemed not. What I love about the middle classes is their observance of all things polite. They may hate you, dear reader, but they will smile at you and tell you how well you're doing. But take them too far and it will all come spilling out.

Should I worry? Will it all come spilling out? Or can these people stand me for ten hours over five weeks?

My lunch break lasted an hour, during which I ended my detox. The headache was just too much. Some people might like the feeling of having their head in a vice. I do not. At the top of Infirmary Street, I found Caffé Nero and indulged in a double espresso. Within moments, my headache was nothing but a memory.

And so to the afternoon. And pottery.

Still slightly anxious and nervous, yes, but by now I'm feeling relatively buoyed up by my matin confidence boost.

I was the second person to arrive at the pottery room. Waiting for me was a lady in her mid to late fifties. I was delighted in finding her, also to be middle class. Though my delight was short lived. She was not the stereotypical middle class person I'd come to love. She told me how she remembered coming to the building we were in when she was a child to wash for it had formerly been a public bath. No, not a swimming pool, dear reader, but a place for people to come to take a bath and wash themselves when such facilities were not present in their own homes.

Throughout the pottery class, my new friend continued to feed me more morsels from her very interesting life story as we built coil pots. She'd lived all over the world and seen many different changes to her life. Just as Ian had earlier kept me from having a panic attack, my pottery partner kept me calm with her fabulous stories.

So, I suppose she was middle class. She bought her knickers in Marks and Spencer, went to a salon to have her hair coloured and owned neither a screwdriver, spanner nor hammer. But there was no air of snootiness about her. She did not read the Daily Mail. She did not choose her friends on the basis of their age, race, religion or nationality.

Opposite me, though, once the class had begun, was a bored middle class wannabe who'd come along with her hen-pecked husband. I could tell, quite early on, that they'd bought their council house, went on holiday to Egypt and liked to be seen in Sainsbury's. Her dress jewellery was large and ostentatious. Her sulphurous perfume filled the room in seconds.

But they were harmless. And dull.

Other potters were a mentally and physically disabled man in a wheel chair with his carer, a young single woman, an older man (and a possible mary) and continuing from last year: a Japanese girl who was obsessed with the potter's wheel and an Earth Mother who was warm and talkative.

Our tutor, Sheena, reminded me of an art teacher I'd once had in senior (comprehensive) school. She was flamboyant, attentive, interesting and interested in her pupils. Her hair was tied back with a cheap clip, she wore a man's shirt and had embroidered flowers on the back pocket of her black denim jeans.

I ache for my classes to continue. Sadly, they may not. We've not crossed a threshold in either class for an acceptable number of students. Unless another photographer and three potters turn up next week, it's over for all over us.

I've my art class/gallery tours and Photograph editing for Macintosh classes starting on Thursday. The good news is that my camera is fixed and is now on it's way back to me. The bad news is that I fear my Thursday classes might be under subscribed, too and my confidence boost will be all too brief.

On my return home from the city, I met up with Ian on the bus. He told me he'd been asked to start working for yet another consultancy. To celebrate, we ordered a take-away from Rick Shaw's and drank the champagne which Robin so kindly gave us while he was here in August.

I went to bed in a drunken stupor.


Brian said...

You lead a fabulous life, my dearest Minge. I'm jealous of the pottery class. I've always considered something like that.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the products of your digital photography class here on the blog. You've always done such wonderful work before.

Old Cheeser said...

Good luck with the classes! That sucks that there may not be enough students for them to continue. I was in a similar situation a while back for a course I signed up for. Got cancelled in the end as not enough uptake. Although this turned out to be fortuitous as the course I ended up doing instead was better. Perhaps you could find something similar if yours get cancelled...

I know what you mean about the nervousness thing, I'm a 38 year old man and when I start a new class it feels like first day at school.

And great anecdotes about your fellow students.

Krafty Bitch said...

I knew you would love the pottery. I hope you get to continue!

gab said...

hope u get to do the whole course wish i cold do something like that

Broken Chalk said...

Nice to see you're getting a proper education, Mr Minge.

My new blog ties in perfectly:

(Psst... it's me. But don't tell anyone. You know... your musical partner...)

RIC said...

I'm truly sorry, dear Minge, that I couldn't read the whole post to the end: you're using a very tiny lettering and my eyes don't allow that too long.
Anyway, I'm really very happy for you! I too would like to see a few results of those «seminars». I'm sure they're quite amusing, bearing in mind the pupils' ages.
I must find myself something similar in languages or computational skills... Great idea!
Hope you'll enjoy it! :-)

japanesewhispers said...

I always thought you thought of me when you ran your tounge over your teeth!

Kapitano said...

Will you be able to make a pot in the pottery class and the photograph it in the photography class?

Or even take some photos of the pottery class and make a clay camera for use in the photography class? Or would that be just a bit silly?

Ah well. I've been to a few middle-class-infected evening classes in my time. It seems to be a way for them to get the education they like to think everyone else thinks they have but they secretly fear they lack.

And someday when I'm feeling cruel I'll give that sentence to my students to interpret.

Happy snapping and throwing.

Salty Sailor said...

photography AND pottery in one day? How fabulous, hen!

Just a Girl said...

The interesting people really are the reason to take the classes. I get the pre-new class angst but do enjoy the observing once I get there.

I generally sit in the back in silence.