Harriet took out her phone and dialled a number.
“Mr Chow? It’s Harriet again, Harriet Board. I saw you earlier to…
“Yes, thank you, I am well…
“I was wondering if I could have another look at the workshop and maybe discuss what you would like me to do there, if it is still available?
“Half four? Yes I can do that. Thank you, that’s great. I will see you there.”
Harriet had no intention of not taking the workshop now, if she could, but it was important to check what the terms would be just in case. What Marie had insinuated burned in Harriet’s mind, and she needed to be sure that she could exorcise that thought process. There weren’t any other affordable workshop options anyway but still, it wouldn’t be right to take on something risky, or potentially dodgy.
In the meantime, while Harriet waited for the appointment, she had other things to sort out. The way she was feeling going home wasn’t appealing, even though all her stuff was there. There were more phone calls to have to make, to see if there was a friend who might be able to put her up for a while so that she could consider her options further. She felt so humiliated needing to do that, a worthless failure, already ostracised by so many friends.
As Harriet scrolled down the list of contacts in her phone, mentally ruling out the friends that had been lost since things became difficult with Marie, the friends that were actually Marie’s friends, the friends who were really not friends at all, she began to realise how little of her own life remained. There was her Mum, but they hadn’t spoken for years, and besides which she wasn’t even in the same country. Harriet wasn’t even sure which country at the moment.
Harriet tapped a contact on her phone and waited for an answer. She felt her cheeks flush with shame.
“Adam, it’s Harriet!
“Oh, fine, fine. No, not fine. I was wondering, if it was not too much trouble. Can I come and stay for a few days? Please?
“Yes, we had another fight…
“Oh, I’m ok, I’m not hurt, not physically, but I… I don’t want to go back, yet…
“If you don’t mind, that would be lovely of you, thank you.
“I do have an appointment at four-thirty, maybe for half an hour or so, so after that I can meet you…
“No, not at the café, you know the old library? I could meet you there, outside the front, about quarter past five?
“Thank you so much, Adam, really, thank you.”
Adam was a very old friend, from school days. Harriet knew that Adam probably wouldn’t turn her down, and also felt guilty for taking advantage of that. But there really wasn’t anyone else at short notice.
They had been best of friends when girls and boys were supposed to shun each other, they had ignored each other when girls and boys should have been going out with each other, they had been there for the relationship break ups, they had a massive argument about something or nothing and vowed never to see each other again, and then apologised and carried on as if nothing had happened, not a lot came between Harriet and Adam, except maybe music. Harriet could never stand or understand heavy metal, nor why someone with early onset male pattern baldness would still have long hair! Maybe his wife liked it.
Daisy found herself, for the first time in twenty years, sitting at a table facing a teacher. Suddenly she remembered being seventeen again, and being told for the umteenth time how she needed to buck her ideas up and focus on her studies. But this time she wasn’t being told off. The woman before her was the head of humanities, stern looking but friendly, and they were discussing history, or what little history Daisy could remember. Kings and Queens, the Second World War, Romans, Daisy could see as little use for that in her life now as she saw when she was back in school. It was all people and dates, wars and dates, empires and dates.
She wasn’t sure this was going to go anywhere useful but with a foot in the door of education she had to try, and history was her own suggestion after all.
The chat was informal, and pleasant, probably more so given they were about the same age and there wasn’t a parent/child feeling about it.
“So why history?”
“Umm, beats plastering?” Daisy looks at her hands, “Construction work isn’t my forte. It was the first thing I thought of that even appealed to me when I came in to be honest. I’m sorry if I am wasting your time.”
“I take it you actually want to study? That is what brought you here. It is a big step to take, returning to education in later life.”
‘In later life’, Oh crumbs! That made Daisy feel old. “Yes, I want to study. I wasn’t very good at it back when I was at school, and I dropped out of college without even trying for exams. But I did pass everything at school, just, so I can’t be that bad, I guess.”
“Well, as a mature student, I don’t think we’re as concerned about CSEs and O’ levels as much as genuine interest in studying. What areas of history are you interested in?”
“I don’t really know. I do know I don’t care much for wars, royal families, empires, and stuff like that. I do like old things though. Not like being an antiques experts like they have on the telly, but I do like looking at old stuff. I’ve been inside quite a few old buildings and wondered about how long they have been there, who built them, and how they were used, how they changed over time. I dunno, they interest me and I notice things like old and new bricks that don’t match and where there used to be a door or a window, and how some houses have different, newer bits built on and others don’t. Is that a thing?”
“Well, it is a ‘thing’. Usually studied at a much higher level, as part of an Architecture course and related to the restoration of historic buildings. But, maybe a History of Art, Architecture, and Design might be more suitable. It is Degree level, and you will have to demonstrate an ability to research and write essays…”
“I did like writing, not so keen on maths beyond keeping my accounts in order, and I am happy to learn to research, that’s reading a lot of books isn’t it?”
“Yes, there will be a lot of reading of books, but more so reading critically and working out what information is important, and checking the facts are correct. And also first hand research looking at something and working it out for yourself, finding the information. Do you feel up to that?”
“I think so, but a Degree… that sounds quite daunting…”
“There could be ways around that. Some Universities will run distance learning courses, one module at a time, it might not seem so daunting that way. What you can do is bring in some evidence of any sort of research and writing that you have done, preferably stuff you have done since school, maybe at work, or something you have done as a hobby…?”
“Oh, umm, I don’t think I have anything like that, I did school projects and stuff, but I don’t think I still have those, well, my Mum might still have them in the loft but I doubt it. Maybe this isn’t for me, not yet. Could I do some research into something and maybe some writing and come back for another go?”
“That would be a good idea. If you don’t have any evidence of your ability it would be difficult, though not impossible, for us to offer you a place on a course. We’d need to have some confidence that the work load wouldn’t be beyond you.”
“Yes, I see. If I drop out or fail the course it wouldn’t look very good for the college.”
“I wouldn’t put it quite like that…”
“But it is true, you want people to pass at the end, and if you are not sure I could then I need to prove to you, and myself mainly, that I can, before I commit to it. Thank you for your time, I have a lot to think about.”
With that Daisy excused herself and left. She needed to decide if she was up to this, regardless of her want. If she wasn’t up to academic study, whether for fun or for a future career, then she needed to know early. Anyway, what sort of career was she thinking of? Certainly not renovating historic buildings, but maybe just knowing about them for some purpose yet to be decided.
Her first bit of research would be the college prospectus, and the prospects and career opportunities that might come with a degree in ‘The History of Art, Architecture, and Design’.