A most extraordinary week. The rapid change in events and circumstances as a result of the global spread of the coronavirus would make your head spin. I’ve found it hard to keep up and then, by trying to keep up, I’ve been finding it quite stressful.

I had to keep up though. My work is quasi-educational and involves contact with teachers, other adults and a lot of children. It so happened that I was due to examine on three schools myself during the week and, even though we had, at the beginning of the week, put in place protocols designed to minimise the level of contact and maximise the distance between children and examiners, I felt a distinct level of discomfort during the exams I did, exacerbated by the occasional coughing child. So much discomfort, in fact, that even if the Government has opted to keep the schools open, I think I would have cancelled forthcoming exams. As it happened, however, that decision was taken out of my hands.

The current situation is that schools are supposed to reopen on 30 March. I doubt they will. In any case, I have cancelled all exams until the end of the school Easter holidays – that’s 20 April. In actual fact, I would be very surprised if the schools reopen before September, if then. In my mind, this school year is over, as is my exam year, with the exception of a few pilot exams by video. We trialled this last week with two kids who were self-isolating, and we have discussed it with another teacher who has some senior candidates. Whether it turns out to be a cost effective option for other teachers and greater numbers remains to be seen but I’m open to exploring the possibility.

In the circumstances, and given that I was examining full time on Wednesday and Thursday, the latter exams in Limerick, and that Friday was taken up ringing 30-odd teachers to explain our cancellation and rescheduling arrangements, my creative output has been low.

At the beginning of the week, while I could still think and when I was still hotly inspired by International Women’s Day, I did this. I love this symbol. It has such power and an absence of ambiguity and so I had to draw it. It’s painted on black card. The symbol was painted with drawing gum and I painted over it with acrylic paint. I didn’t let it dry for long enough before I tried to peel off the gum and so the image became a bit smudged. I blame my perpetual impatience.

I did a few very simple images on teabags that I had coated with gesso some time ago …

I prepared another long strip of rice paper to use as film in one of my empty 35mm canisters. You’ve seen these before so I won’t put up another photo.

And then this. It’s another idea for a tuna can candle, this time a poppy field. This is just a trial run on black paper to see what it might look like. The sky is very monotonal and dull but I actually have a tuna can with a better sky already painted on it. The rest of it looks OK I think, so I’ll have a go it that over the next day or two.

Otherwise I strummed a bit and doodled a bit during the week, but I did nothing on Friday, which makes me cross with myself. Grr.

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