March 2021 Blog
An Artist that I feel empathy towards, but not the ear bit…
They say you can run but never hide. This is also true about your past. I found this out and will be discussing my experience in this blog.
As briefly discussed in a previous blog, I was all ‘assessed out’ after completing, and gaining, a degree in Architectural Studies, BA Honours, in September 1993. I had been given an extension to my final term project over the summer, as part of the polytechnic responding to my Cerebral Palsy needs. It took me longer than others to complete the drawings etc., due to my poor hand-eye coordination. The tutors said they would give me an extra bit of time, but I still had to reach the same standards as everyone else, to pass each project. I had been doing exams and assessments each summer since 1984, from when I undertook my CSEs and a couple of O’ levels. As much as I had enjoyed my time studying, and being a student, it was time for a change.
Those who have undertaken any kind of creative course, will, no doubt, testify that at times it can be quite stifling. I guess, especially in further and higher education, with most subjects there is always interpretation and difference of opinion but there are no right or wrong ways of working through a problem. One of my tutors used to say, ’if you can justify what you do, then it is valid’. This was where I struggled; maybe it was a lack of confidence to really argue the case behind my creative ideas, methods, and outcomes. I was always thinking ‘what do the tutors want me to do?’, rather than having faith in my own abilities.
When I finished my degree, it was a case of ‘what now?’ My plan of action was to gain the degree before looking at the next step. To become an architect, the Full Monty is a minimum of a seven year RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architecture) course, in three parts. The first part was a three year degree, studying in college full-time. The second was a year on placement in an architect’s practice, then a further two years study back in college. The final phase was another year on placement, after which you could then call yourself an architect. In theory, you could earn loads of money designing landmark buildings across the world, like the great Sir Norman Foster. This was my objective as soon as I could put pencil to paper. However, as we all know, life is never straightforward…unless you are born into wealth and can buy success. Although, I am sure, most work hard to achieve their dreams…
Although I achieved the degree (despite my ‘careers’ advisor from school having had no faith in me), some further work needed adding in order to pass the RIBA course Part One. I still wanted to become an architect, so, in 1994, I had a few one-to-one sessions with one of the tutors to try and reach the required standard. However, after a short while, we both agreed that this was not going to work out. Architecture is a blend of many different disciplines from the creative to the technical. My strength and heart were very much the former; and being honest, if I had continued down this path, it would have been a huge struggle. Probably more than it was worth. When I made this decision it was a relief, it meant I could pursue my own creative ideas and projects.
At the end of the degree, my intention was to remain living in Oxton, in my lovely top floor apartment with views across to Liverpool. However, this was not to be. I found this out one Friday evening in the summer term 1993, when the landlord brought a couple to look round my flat. I was somewhat taken aback. I asked him politely what the **** he was doing, as he had not consulted me first. The contract lease was for a year so I knew that staying here was not a done deal but I had assumed I would be asked if I wanted to stay. The landlord thought that as this was my final year at the Poly, I would be moving back ‘home’ to Winchester. I explained that this was not the case, so he kindly found me another flat in a house just around the corner. They do say that everything happens for a reason…
Those of you familiar with the sitcoms ‘Rising Damp’ and ‘The Young Ones’, will know the type of houses I am talking about. Let us just say they had lots of character and were somewhat chilly during the winter. To be fair, in Oxton, the first house I had lived in was relatively okay for what it was. The bedsit the landlord found me next was somewhat on the dingier side. However, for what I was paying, it was very good value for money; two decent sized ground floor rooms, kitchen, and a bathroom for forty pounds a week. However, it was not self-contained and had the main communal hallway passing through it. To be fair, I had no real issues with anyone in the house; although the lad above me was the local drug dealer! At times it felt like Piccadilly Circus with all his customers coming and going. Also, I ended up acting as his personal secretary as he rarely answered the communal public phone right next to his self-contained flat. I did not have to answer it but I am someone who finds ringing phones irritating. One day, as I knew he was up to all sorts swindling the dole, I left him a fake message to phone the DSS (Department of Social Security). I knew this would freak him out and it did. He knocked on my door saying this prank was not funny and not clever!
As I had no job at the time, it was a case of signing on and claiming Unemployment Benefit (the equivalent of Job Seekers Allowance) and Housing Benefit to survive. Little did I know this would be for eight and a half years, but that is a story for another blog. A few months later, the landlord asked if I wanted to downsize to one room to reduce the rent as I was not able to claim Housing Benefit for two rooms. I decided this was a good idea and took up his suggestion. It now left the opposite room vacant for a new tenant. I was a little apprehensive as to what kind of person they would be. After a few weeks, a young woman moved in. Little did I know that she would change my life in a very positive way.
In April’s Blog, I shall tell the story to how my new flatmate would help me deal with a difficult time in my life.
Jarmin Apple, March 2021