The interview was not going well. He didn't need to look at their faces to realise that. He didn't even need to catch the glances that passed between them. He could have felt the vibes with his eyes shut and without a word being spoken. It hadn't gone well at the beginning, it hadn't gone well later and it wasn't going well now. This last small episode was the crowning humiliation: he had been given a card on which had been printed a story. They had given him as long as he needed to read the story silently and inwardly digest. It had told of an immigrant family celebrating their first Christmas in this country, and of the excitement of the children at their first encounter with real snow. Of course, there had been much more than that to the story, but those were the salient points, the points that would haunt him for the rest of his life. They had not, however, seemed so salient when he had replaced the card on the big mahogany desk and the head had asked, kindly enough, had he read it thoroughly. He had nodded his reply. For starters they asked him a few questions about the make-up of the family and about the family dynamics. He had been happy with those and replied, as he thought, well enough. But then, what should have been two much simpler questions:
Had they come from a warmer country than England, this family, or a colder one? followed by;
And how do we know that?
He had dealt with the first one easily enough: no hesitation at all: Warmer.
But the follow-through had stymied him. He had known why well enough reading the story. Obviously there was something in the story that had made the answer to their question quite evident. And obviously his brain had registered that something, but just as obviously, the wretched something had been noted by that part of the brain that operates below the level of consciousness. And it was patently evident that that part of his brain wasn't talking to the rest of it.
Later, in fact the moment he got outside the door, the two parts would connect and he would know what he should have said, but for now... blotto.
I don't know... he had mumbled.
They had smiled and assured him that it was fine. Fine? If that had been fine, he had silently hoped never to encounter a disaster. Now, though, the priority was to put it all behind him. Damage limitation. Try to salvage whatever might remain of the interview.
What do you want to be when you leave school?
The question cut in above his thoughts. Almost an intrusion. He felt a little spurt of confidence. He had considered the possibility - certainty almost - of this question and had decided that it would be best not to say artist, for he reasoned that they would be hoping for an aspiration rather more academic than that. He had decided to raid the family fantasy rather than reveal his own. The family had long decided that, with his interest in drawing, he was going to design the houses that his younger brother (more practical and "good with his hands") would build.
He had said it with a touch of pride, as though it was a done thing, something already accomplished.
Murmurs of approval greeted the answer. The first such that he had heard.
Interesting... the world could certainly do with a few more good ones... and if you were to be asked to design a school like this, what would you put in it to benefit both pupils and staff?
He had expected something more technical, perhaps. Less mundane. Something to get excited about, maybe a question about styles of architecture or what he thought of all the new materials now coming on stream. Town planning, inner-city regeneration, modernism, the big picture... but how could he reply to such a boring question while still demonstrating something of his knowledge and his passions?
Good heating, lighting and air-conditioning...
And where had that come from? Must have been from that part of the mind that had been holding out on him earlier. It took a few seconds for him to realise that he was home and dried. He was in. Job done. There could be no doubt. The atmosphere in that small room had changed dramatically. There were a few more questions still to come, but the attitudes now indicated that there were no more that mattered. Everything now was a formality. And then the final pleasantries and the show was over.
Even so... radiators and ventilation grills? It was a disappointment. He had never given such things a moment's thought, his knowledge of them was zero, his interest in them less than zero, so from where had that blinding flash of inspiration come? It had seemed to come out of the ether, but he suspected - and suspected very strongly - that it had something to do with the brain, the brain that was beyond his power to control, a dark, mysterious level of thought. Something almost magical, but something more trustworthy, it seemed, than the upper reaches and their rational, academic machinations. When the interview finished he was out of that room like a shot, telling his dad, who had been sitting in the corridor the while, that not only had he found his way into that school, but, six or seven years down the line, his place in art school had also been assured.
I sincerely hope neither will be offended when I say that I made the decision some time ago not to place awards permanently on my blog. In fact, I decided at one point not to show them at all, but have since thought that I should show them as a post or as part of a post. The decision not to show them permanently is no reflection of my feelings on being given such an award or my gratitude towards those making it. It stems in part from a desire to slim down the blog and thereby decrease the time it takes to load. My most earnest hope is that no one will take this personally. I am so appreciative of all those who follow my blog, who give helpful comments and advice - and, naturally, who make awards. The awards that I have accepted in the past and are still to be seen on the blog will be removed in due course. I had meant to do it earlier but have been obsessed by other things of late. Again, it will be due to no negative feelings towards them or their givers. My grateful thanks to all who have supported me. I have created a label for the awards so that it will be possible to access them.