School Reports

They’re doing a repeat on Radio 4 extra featuring celebrities talking about their old school reports. It was the turn of Wendy Cope this morning. She wasn’t good at lacrosse, apparently, nor indeed any sports, she liked music but found Wordsworth boring. All that judgement at such a young age. Could do better, might amount to something. How can they know? Those dried-up women at my boarding school, spinsters a lot of them, virtually a cloistered life for them. I can have empathy. It can’t have been easy, all those high-spirits to curtail. Judgement, it is a stone in my heart.

You should do a PhD. a friend said over lunch. I was tempted for a while, for an hour, for a day and then I thought no. Not again. Why would I do it? What for? God knows I don’t need another qualification. And I don’t want to teach in academia. And all that money, for what? Would it stimulate my creativity? Perhaps, it would depend on my supervisors I suppose. But then there is the writing. So cold. So severe. I think of, no I see them in my mind’s eye, all those judges. They are men mostly, vague figures, unsmiling, cold, harsh, logical. I love to write but not in that way. I write to clarify not obfuscate. And I did start one. I loved going to Dartington. I loved its wildness. I loved its wackiness. I loved walking along its roads. That sweep of countryside. I did make some good work but having to then contextualise it, box it up, contain it, I struggled with that. To be fair her suggestion was a result of my bemoaning the fact that I had nowhere to place my current work. And that’s true but maybe that is where my investigation, my research should be begin.

The question is do I really need to exhibit, to show what I do whether it is my writing or my making? It is all a question of changing my point of view. I’ve been shown a particular way of approaching creating, that’s all. You make you show, you write you publish. It is always for the consumption and judgement of others. Else it is not valid. I went to art school, university to validate my creativity. Do I need to keep repeating this process. Might I just make and write for myself. Why just? Isn’t that the most important thing. Can I finally let go of the sense that I am not good enough? Can I?

We were fractious again yesterday. A phone call. I struggle with them. I struggle to be myself. I feel fraudulent. He sees my difficulties and snaps. They are not kind to you.

Rain this morning. I walk under the canopy of my umbrella, it is nice. Nice to hear the rain.

I’m wearing my second-hand dress. It reminds me of one from childhood. It has a beautiful covered button at the back.

Listened to the second part of Bernard MacClaverty’s novel. I want to write it out word for word. Sublime.

The boom boom of a car stereo followed me round town as a walked. Ghostly. Two lads in baseball caps. A small car.

Work has just called. Have to go. Tomorrow. A bientot.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.