So much has happened in the last three or so months that I don’t know where to begin. After I was offered the job at Edinburgh College of Art, everything became about my impending move and getting out of Oxford. I no longer had to pretend or try to like Oxford anymore. It was an almighty relief and very exciting – but I was still struggling just to got on with things as work in the final few weeks at Oxford Brookes continued to be relentless. Oxford Brookes is such an anonymous place and the University certainly did nothing to make staff felt wanted or part of any bigger picture. Fortunately on the art foundation we were a great tight knit team who just got on with it. I will miss them and the students.
In January 2005, I moved to Oxford full of expectancy of a lively and engaging place. I am sure it is for many, but somehow, my particular characteristics never seemed to work there. The art community was very literary and serious in a way I never felt I could adjust to. Values were so far removed from me. Of course I have had to adjust a few times having also lived in Aberdeen, Chichester and Hastings over the last ten years. Clearly Oxford was a move too far for me. I don’t regret it though; I made some good progress with the painting, met the wonderful Claire and Richard whom without my time in Oxford would have been utterly unbearable. And of course I met Catharine, who I now have been seeing for a year, and despite lots of ups and some downs, we are now in a great place. No, I would not have missed my Oxford adventure, but I did know instinctively almost from my first week there two years ago that this was not the place for me.
So in my last few weeks before Christmas, I simply survived and lived out my time. I was not in the best spirits to socialise or have leaving parties and the like. So, I would like to formally apologise here to those I never had the chance to say goodbye to.
Just before Christmas, Catharine and I went up to Edinburgh for a few days. Catharine had never been before and this was to be her chance to see if this was a place she could see herself moving to. Edinburgh was wonderfully Christmassy and we had a lovely time, staying in a rented apartment off the Grassmarket. It is clearly a big step for Catharine but I think she saw enough to make her less daunted by the whole move. We went over the Ballymena In N. Ireland for Christmas to visit Catharine’s dad. A peaceful but drunken time was had.
In January, I had to move out of my flat in Oxford before I took my Brookes students to Madrid for my last study trip with them. Funny my first and last work at Brookes was taking students to a study trip (Berlin in January 2005). In many ways, Madrid has been my favourite of all the trips with students I have been on. Apart from the wonders of the museums and galleries, it is just an amazing chilled out city with life in front of your eyes. This particular group of students were a great bunch and they gave me a great send off at the end of the week.
So then it was time to move to Edinburgh. I had hired a transit van to take me and all my stuff up to Scotland. How many times have I moved all my stuff around in a transit? But this felt like the last big move to me; like at last I was returning home. Even though I had only lived in Edinburgh for around 8 years before, it is the place in my head that I think of as home, despite all my time in Aberdeen. I had a week or so to wait before I could move into the flat I was to rent, so I stayed in at Donald and Duncan’s very wonderful but cold flat in Leith. All my stuff went into storage once again, including all my art. But it felt great to be back amongst familiar territory and smiling faces. I have male friends here – the type that I have never been able to find in England, except perhaps Hastings. So my job has now started, and while it is once again an onerous and complex admin workload – for now I want to do it. Perhaps not a job I would have taken somewhere else but just being back at Edinburgh College of Art and seeing lots of old faces has already been wonderful. Edinburgh of course has changed since I lived here in the 80s. It is a much wealthier place, with lots of new building development. It has the Scottish Parliament, but not been down to see that yet. I have even had a night out going to a couple of big exhibition openings and ending up in a famous spit and sawdust pub called ‘The Oxford’.
Don’t expect any new art on the site for a while, as I don’t even have a studio as yet.. But already I am thinking of work which just feels right to do here..