Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A marquee and an acid bath

With magisterial slowness I reverse into an empty stationary car, stopping when I hear the splintering of its number plate. This prepares me for the atmosphere of fresh litigiousness on the following day: a matchmaking fair for law students looking to give their skills to charities, held at The College of Law in Bloomsbury.

When I was a student there were trailing rain-sodden skirts, foetid Afghan coats, grants, an assumption of employment. The students in this steamy marquee are sharp-eyed: experience from volunteering will help them get a job.

I'm on the fringe of Z2K, which guides vulnerable people who fall into debt and campaigns for changes to benefits law. Maev, a Z2K trustee, is running the stand with energy and grace. When she needs sandwiches or photocopies she fails to pull rank, so I make her sit down again before I go and get them.

Maev won international distinction as a telecoms lawyer - a very serious player indeed - until the sky changed: 'After I had a brain haemorrhage in 2004, I asked how much money I really needed to live on.' She now spends her time on charities, including Trinity Hospice.

After the incident with the car I am not in the best frame of mind to start a print-making course in the evening. Naked flames, nitric acid, rollers you can scrunch finger bones in. I throw a tantrum and refuse to file metal until I am given a mask and goggles. Then I fall downstairs.

Come up and see my etching - the head of a woman scribbled in the marquee today.

By the art school acid bath I note that my eye has changed while I've been drawing under the Westway: I see Rasta colours everywhere.

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