Back when it all began ....
All that stands between me and finally getting a degree is one FYP, one rationale and a four thousand word portfolio. I can’t quite believe it. But then what? Back when it all began all I cared about was getting the degree, I didn’t think about the whys and wherefores. Still, that’s a problem for another day (a day that’s coming up fast, I know that). To start off this blog off I’m going to turn the clock back to that first day back at school - I've given up my job and it's twenty odd years since I last gave in an essay. It's hard to describe how I feel. Scared? Lost? Like I'm making a big mistake? What’s worse, I’m starting in Year 2, so not only have I taken a massive leap of faith, I have to hit the ground running.
I ask anyone and everyone for advice. ‘Consider a pathway’ Im told, then you’ll have a clear idea of where you’re going. Ok.
Steep and thorny?
Or perhaps the one less travelled?
Turns out to be none of the above. More like, do I fancy myself as a screenwriter? A poet? A novelist? I mull over the options and come up with this: Anything In The Morning Avoiding Poetry (1. Because I have to pick the kids up from school and; 2. because I only know two poems, one is Three Cheers for Pooh and the other title I’ve forgotten). ‘Mornings Avoiding Poetry’ is not a pathway many people opt for, but it works for me.
And so this is how come I find myself on my first day in a screenwriting class. I sit at the back and hope no one notices me. It’s not long before I realise everyone else has already done a first year module on screenwriting. Oh dear. I start to wish I’d started in year one. Then I wish I knew just one other person in the room. But, more than anything else, I wish I wasn’t old enough to be everyone’s mum. I bet they wonder what I’ doing here. But things take a turn for the better. We watch a film called Gare du Nord and I relax a bit and think, this is okay. I get the story. I imagine myself on a university version of ScreenTest (!) and note down a few observations for good measure.
When the movie’s over its discussion time. Here is where I hope to fade into the background, but Nick has other ideas. He runs a finger down the register and picks a name at random. He picks on me. First day. First lesson. First victim.
Can you tell me how many scenes were in that piece of film?’
Er... well now .... let’s see. About twenty, may be twenty five?
Okay, so I’m not probably not going to be the next Nora Ephron.
Next up is Textual Intervention II. Now if this means trying to read a book while someone calls ‘mum’ at you every five minutes, then we’re in business. It doesn’t. But things aren’t too bad. Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Wuthering Heights. Hey, I know those. I can do this. For homework I write an intervention on Jekyll and Hyde that I’m pretty pleased with. All week I keep going back – adding bits, editing, taking bits out.
At the next session it sits proudly on the desk in front of me. Volunteers to read? Well... I wouldn’t like to be too bold. No one says anything. Looking round the room, I get the idea that may be not everyone has written something. I get twitchy. I want to, but I don’t. I want to be part of the class, but I don’t want anyone to notice me.
You go – says the girl next to me, spying my page of beautifully typed prose. She has all the confidence of not only being half my age, but having lovely, long curly blonde hair and arms shielded in swathes of silver bangles that jangle as she points at the paper in front of me. Dare I say she reminds me of myself at that age? Or, rather, how, in my fantasies, I have come to think I looked when I was her age.
Go on, she says.
I go for it.
I stand up and I read my piece. My hands are shaking and I’m sure everyone can hear the paper rustling. It comes out okay and I get some positive comments. I also get a few suggestions for improvement, but that’s fine too.
But then I get one comment that sets me up for the rest of the degree. Something that sustains me through my darkest hours. Something I will never, ever forget. It comes from the girl with the silver bangles and lovely, curly hair.
Can I ask you something? She says when I sit down.
Sure. Ask away. What was my inspiration? How did I manage to interweave extracts from the original so seamlessly? Where did I do my additional research?
Where did you get your cardigan?
Your cardigan. I’d love one like that.
I’m glowing. I’m on cloud nine. Nothing else matters. It’s going to be alright.