Ford Madox Ford

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I bought my first copy of ‘The Good Soldier’ in my first year at Bristol Uni., from a second-hand bookshop, and it was well-thumbed.  I remember reading the following lines, which really resonated with me: ” We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist”. I was living in a modern block within a student hall of residence, in a coffin-shaped room, with just a bed, desk and wardrobe for my two dresses and single pair of jeans. There was no en suite in 1976. I was the first female in my immediate family to go to university and there was no-one with whom to compare notes. I did not know the rules of achievement or behaviour, only that I should work hard and make my parents proud. I would spend two solid weeks in the library for each history essay, synthesizing the considered opinions of august scholars, and I habitually achieved a B+ for my considerable efforts. Then, for one essay I found – through oversight or illness – that I had less than twenty-four hours to write all about the artist Duccio, and I had no chance to read the library books, only to study a few poor quality pictures in my own meagre assemblage of art history books. I studied through the evening and wrote into the night. It was a shorter essay than usual and I was full of trepidation when I handed it in. And yet I achieved an A-, a higher mark than ever before, and was praised for my ‘original thought’. Serious lesson learned. Have some self-belief, rely on your instincts, and don’t just regurgitate accepted wisdom. I actually enjoyed that period of studying the imagery, and learnt also that, as Van Gogh said, if you have art at your side,  you are never truly alone.

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