Back to university next year. Aaaaarrrrggghhh! I’m old enough to be those fresh-faced acne-pocked hormone-raddled infants’ mother! My student ID number begins with 90! Campus is all fancy, with no foul $1 Lower Caff polystyrene coffee and squeezy-cheese nachos!
With a distinct sense of having had my bluff called, I get notification that I’ve been accepted into the 2014 MCW course at the University of Auckland, and begin the laborious, logic-defying process of trying to enrol via the labyrinthine website. I finally acquire login credentials and find myself, alarmingly, confronted by a 1996 mug shot of me with inch-long hair, scanned presumably during the noughties digital changeover by some distant Student Job Search lackey, now probably all grown up with kids of their own. (Enrolment was always a headfucking, degree-worthy mission, and taking it online seems only to have added an additional dimension of complication in the form of endlessly circular link paths and gratuitously duplicated information architecture.)
Anyway, the cherry on the cupcake of next year’s daunting re-entry into city life is that I’ll now be ‘studying’, working and managing a family and a social life, all on a shoestring minus fees. The wonderful thing is that at least some creative writing time will be forcibly ringfenced, and now that it’s been formally approved by the Department of English, I’ll actually have to write a novel.
As if in rehearsal, I take on the first substantial piece of paid work this year, to pay for Christmas. It starts out ominously smoothly: advance warning, early brief, plenty of time for turnaround. I get the finished work back to the client with days to spare. But, of course, the morning of the (overseas government’s) immovable deadline, a radical rewrite is suddenly required, and there I am, at 7.30 in the morning, in my dressing gown, yelling at the kids to be quiet so I can get the urgent email exchange underway, reminding them about library books and lunchboxes and finding shoes and separating them in the bathroom so they don’t spit toothpaste on each other’s heads. Never mind the wet washing in the machine, the last day for school photo orders, the dinner undefrosted, etc etc etc.
But I get there, and bill a few extra hours, and make it to the school with my photo money one minute before the bell goes. I also lose the last precious day of polishing before my own latest short story competition deadline, and stay up till 10.30pm trying to recoup some of the lost editing time. All of which is useful practice for next year, though I can’t help wondering what it will be like, instead of just sending a story off unpolished to a nameless, faceless, bored slush-pile reader, fetching up in front of eleven pairs of beady, nitpicking creative writing-workshop eyes with my literary pants down.
An exciting year ahead, nevertheless! Hapless takes the news with relatively good grace and adjusts his Seek notification settings accordingly, though he does take the opportunity to remind me that all shoe and clothing purchases remain embargoed until further notice. Though maybe I can have some pyjama bottoms without holes in them. For Christmas.