Reply To: Den monthly competition September 2018


Summer 1999

I told myself, at my age, I didn’t need to be nervous. But knew what I could do well was conscientious.
‘Bring portfolio’ the letter said, so I went out and bought a huge one. Filled it, with two years of one-day a week class-work plus evening Life Drawing. Plus the watercolours I was especially pleased with.
Appointed day, I parked in the college’s near empty car-park –first interview of the day. Lugged portfolio two-handed, somehow aware I was being watched. Regretting – yet again – at fifty-two I’d still not learned how to do elegant.
Man appears, smiling a tricky smile (I later learn that’s just how he is) and I wonder Caretaker? or what, because he doesn’t say but leads me into a high-ceilinged room, glass-partitioned and a smell reminding me of childhood crayons and maybe twirly red Sunday School candles.
And another man, longer, thinner, check shirt, torn jeans and more honest smile.
Stood between the two of them I heave portfolio onto cleared workspace beneath green-painted aluminium window. Unzip and open to reveal what I’d intended as evidence of my … what? Talent? Application? Eagerness?
Feel a fool, aware of exchanged glances, me pig ignorant in the middle.
Then nicer man seizes one, examines, asks question I am able to answer. Give me confidence to apologise: ‘Had the bag not been so big I’d’ not have felt it necessary to fill it!’
They lift pieces out, look and murmur. I excuse. Become conscious of time passing. Of another would-be student arriving. Despondent, I begin shuffling sheets of paper, fingers pastel- and graphite-stained, preparatory to zipping up. To lifting and lugging out.
Then tricksy man says ‘We look forward to welcoming you in October.’
‘Really?’ I beam, amazed and delighted. But wait until I receive official letter before believing.
Accept immediately, before they change their mind.
Unaware just how much the next six years of self-discovery will improve my life.

(321 words)