DE’S New Year Message

This year’s Christmas tree is from the foyer of the Museum of London, on the Barbican estate. The MoL is one of my favourite places in the city, ever since I first went there in the early 80s on a school trip from Suffolk. We combined the museum with a look at the brand new Barbican Centre next door. My classmates, who would have been about twelve, soon discovered that if you rubbed your shoes a few times on the Barbican’s fuzzy carpeted staircases, and then used your finger to touch a metal bannister, or better still the face of a fellow child, you could produce a large and slightly painful spark of static. This design fault, much like the Wobbly Bridge opposite the Tate Modern, has since been fixed by those in charge, but I suspect it lives on in the memories of bored children.  

Moving into the year 2020 invites reflections on the decade just gone. I spent most of it returning to education at Birkbeck, University of London. The original plan was to just get a degree, mainly out of sheer curiosity, as I’d never taken one at the traditional age. When I found out I was good at the subject, being English literature, and indeed was good enough to be awarded grants to pay the fees, I stayed on to do an MA, and then a PhD. I ended 2019 as the recipient of a full maintenance grant, something that I thought only happened to other people – the success rate is one in five.

The stipend is set at the Living Wage, which may not be many people’s idea of material success in one’s 40s: I still have to live in a rented room in a shared house. But to be paid a full-time income for something I enjoy is something that I’ve not had since the mid-90s, when I had a major label record deal. I am grateful. In 2020, I hope to pay this good fortune forward: to produce work of use to others, to pass on advice and give talks, and, above all, to show that if a weirdo like me can find a role in the current world, anything really is possible. Here’s to Weirdo Visibility.

And yes, I am in the process of updating my diary.

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