Friday, November 21, 2014. I took this photo yesterday at Kate's graduation in the Caird Hall, Dundee. I can't remember what she was looking so animated about before the start of the ceremony, but it reminds me of how excited she was back in August when she was told that she had passed her Masters degree with Distinction. Surprised and pleased is certainly how she looked when she told me the news when she got home that happy day in that most satisfying of months.


Now it's November, and the formal graduation ceremony is underway. I'm having to sit on a balcony to one side as I'm not one of the two-hundred-odd artists, scientists, lawyers and others who are collecting a qualification and a certificate today. (For the purposes of this text, 'today' means yesterday.) None of Kate's colleagues on the MFA: Art, Society and Publics course have turned up in person. Shame, but Kate is not entirely on her own. Several students graduating from the MFA: Art and Humanities course are here to collect their degrees, and of course Kate knows them. That's Larry Visocchi she's talking to in the picture below.


A procession of dignitaries take their place on stage and the ceremony gets underway. The Chancellor, Lord Patel, is in the next shot. But it's the Vice Chancellor, Professor Downes, who gives a speech in praise of Dundee as a place of further learning. As far as I'm concerned, his most impressive stat is that Dundee has recently been voted the best university in the UK and the seventh best in the world for levels of student satisfaction.


Tracey Mackenna, Head of the MFA, is not one of the seated dignitaries. She is serving on a committee, a better use of her time, I suspect, than sitting on stage doing nothing for two hours. Well, not doing nothing, there is plenty polite clapping to be executed. Each student appears, walks down the blue carpet, is clapped by however many of the people in the hall can muster the enthusiasm to do so, bows in front of the Chancellor, who gives him or her a dunt on the forehead with a Dundee bonnet, and exits stage right. Let's say Kate is the 100th student. Here she comes now (see below) for her 10 seconds in the limelight. It used to be 15 seconds of fame in Andy Warhol's time, but people's attention spans have got shorter just as the competition for attention has got fiercer. Indeed, many potential readers of this piece will already have abandoned it, having decided I've already had long enough to suggest I might be going somewhere special. I carry on regardless; I have every confidence in where this piece is going.


I agree the above is a crap photo. So is the one below. But the light level in the hall was low. Perhaps I would have made more effort to keep the camera from shaking if I hadn't been aware of an official camera on a tripod nearby, recording the whole ceremony which is due to be posted on Youtube shortly. In other words, I may replace these shakies with stills.


There are lots of proud parents in the audience, cheering when their 'child' steps forward and recording the precious seconds on cameras of all sorts. I suspect people have travelled from all over the world to be here today. It's a warm and colourful scene that I'm content to be part of.


Kate's parents cannot be here today. Her mother had her 90th birthday when Kate was in the first year of the MFA and her father died at the start of the second year. Nevertheless, perhaps it's partly for their sake that Kate opted to collect her masters' in person. Kate has told me of the day, long ago, when her 'O' Level results came out. She had gone on holiday with a friend and it was her mother who went to the school to consult the board on which everyone's results were posted in order of distinction. Kate's Mum's eye had to travel right to the bottom of the list before coming across her daughter's name. Kate remembers her mother's next words to her. "Oh, Kate, I was so ashamed. And you such a bright girl."

A photograph of today's proceedings - a splendid one - will be sent to Gina at her home in Witney. I'm not sure it will be the one below, which still has an aura of Kate the teenage rebel about it. 64 years old and still smoking roll-ups behind the bike sheds? Actually, Kate was anti-smoking at school. It was when she went to Brighton Art College in 1968 that she decided it was cool to smoke, an assessment she's since regretted.


Eleni Vlachaki of the MFA: Art and Humanities is chatting with Kate in the above photo. But it's Kostas Baritakas of the MFA: Art, Society and Publics who has suddenly appeared, much to Kate's delight, in the photo below. Kostas was a bit unlucky not to make it to the degree qualification and is here today to support his brother who did make it on the MSc in Animation course. But Kate is insistent that Kostas gets under a corner of her robe to share the kudos.


It cost about £40 to hire the robe for today and Kate is determined to get her money's worth out of it. First, with a number of fairly conventional perspectives.


But we're also on the look-out for others. Indeed, as I walk behind Kate I'm reminded of the day we went to Glasgow with a Zimmer frame earlier in the year. Was it raining that day as well? Were the pavements as covered in chewing gum? Was I attempting to take photographs while carrying Kate's coat and bag? Click
here to find out. What am I saying? If it's your first visit to this page, do stay with the flow of today (yesterday).

MacManus gallery next stop.


Kate is pleased to be in this hallowed space, and recalls the visit she made to the gallery right at the start of the MFA, Tracy introducing her students to the museum's director. Today its just us.


Well, not just us. The Victorian Gallery is teeming with people. Here is someone who can stand in for the Chancellor. Kate tells me that just after Lord Patel dunted her with the Dundee bonnet he said: "Dig the socks."


Kate is wearing coloured tights. But it was a more forgivable error than the one he made at the end of this morning's ceremony when Ann Gloag, co-founder of Stagecoach, was presented with an Honorary Graduand. After someone else had given an impressive 10-minute talk on Gloag's charity work at home and in Africa, the Chancellor was left with the simple task of shaking her hand and pronouncing her award. Alas, he said it was from the University of St Andrew's rather than Dundee. A most unfortunate error, which he realised after a few seconds and corrected, it has to be said, with some grace.


Kate gravitates towards the Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the collection, just as she used to do in the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight on the Wirral, close to where she was brought up. The name she associates with the above painting is Lizzie Siddal. Which I suspect is the name of the woman who posed for the male painter rather than the name of the painter himself. Which is fair enough if you're a young woman on the lookout for images to relate to in some way.

Kate strikes a pose in front of a portrait of a man painted by a man (there are plenty to choose from). But I suspect her heart isn't in it.


She was hoping that there might be an opportunity to pose against a painting of a mature woman, perhaps like the one we saw recently at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The show of Grayson Perry's superb work is cleverly positioned throughout the permanent collection, encouraging visitors to come across more than the fruits of the Channel Four-commissioned series. Below is a portrait of Radcliffe Hall, author of the 1928 novel
The Well of Loneliness, which has cult status for a generation or more of women.


I'm using the above picture in this context because I see that Kate was wearing her tiger and pearl necklace in the NPG. She bought it about a month ago from a Dundee artist who has a studio at Wasps, a graduate from DJCAD. In part, Kate bought it because the tiger reminded her of an important dream she once had, which I'll be returning to.

Back to the Caird Hall which is quieter now. Kate calls attention to a woman being photographed and to her high-heeled orange shoes in particular. "Tiger feet," Kate says. Which brings to mind the Mud classic from the days of glam rock. How does that song go again? Well, the lyrics are simple and they went round my teenage mind so often that I can still recall them. But first another photo of Kate between two pillars.


"Alright, that's right, that's right, that's right
I really love your tiger light.

That's neat, that's neat, that's neat, that's neat
I really love your tiger feet, I really love your tiger feet...

Your tiger feet
Your tiger feet
Your tiger feet."

Well, if the Chancellor of Dundee University can say he digs Kate's socks, surely I can put in a word for her tiger feet.
Her tiger feet... Her tiger feet... Damn, now I'm not going to be able to get that tune and those lyrics out of my head. (Note to self: do try.)

Kate needs to see more people she associates with the MFA: Art, Society and Publics. So we walk up the Perth Road. We pop into Roseangle Arts Café, opposite the art college, on the off chance that Claire Briegel's cooking there today. She is, and congratulates Kate with characteristic warmth. Claire will be resuming her part-time studies on the MFA in January, 2015, and will be part of the degree show next summer, so that's something that we can all look forward to.


Last summer - I mean in the summer of 2013, as recorded on
this page - Kate and Claire put together INTER. INTER is very nearly an anagram of TIGER, though neither the word INGER nor TINER are as interesting. But what's this? Am I mistaken or is that not a tiger's claw clasping Claire's waist? I had a feeling that Kate would make something of today.

Kate knows that Lada Wilson, who also graduated from the MFA with distinction this year, is invigilating at the Cooper Gallery, which brings to mind vivid memories of this August's degree show. So we go there. Unfortunately, Lada's at lunch but there is someone else around to swipe us into the college itself. There are no students around in the new studios of the MFA: Art, Society and Publics, which are now alongside what I think of as its sister course, Art and Humanities. But on the way out Kate looks into the woodwork room where Alan and John can always be found. John was a great help in the run up to Kate's final show. I remember him on his hands and knees hammering wooden pegs into the blocks of styrofoam that made up the grassy mound.


See these things around Alan and John's necks? One of those is what Kate would quite like so that she could enjoy permanent access to the college and its facilities. Would she swop her tiger necklace for one? Well, she might do.

We bang on the internal door between the art college and the Cooper Gallery. Soon its opened for us and we discover that Lada is back from lunch. Below is the photograph I take of the two MFAers. What is Kate - whose claws surely need trimming - saying to her friend?


Kate: "Show me your swipe card."

Lada: "Yes, Duncan, Kate is right. I have one thanks to my internship at DJCAD."

Kate: "I don't want to eat it, I just
- purr-rr-rr - want to stroke it."

Next stop is the Tower Building, tallest building on the university campus, where Mary Modeen, the director of the MFA Arts and Humanities course, has invited Kate to join her students for a drinks and nibbles reception.

After a chat or two, Kate and I step into the corner of the room together. We notice the railway as it sweeps over the Tay from Newport on the other side of the estuary. And she reminds me that I began Strange Bundle by invoking the Tay Road Bridge. Have we almost come full circle?

Two years have gone by. Kate has gone from being 62-years-old to being 64. Has anything fundamentally changed? When I wrote the opening page of this website, I suggested that during the course some kind of glass ceiling may reveal itself. I suppose I was thinking about career progression in the art world. Well, with the death of Kate's father in August 2013 and the death of my own mother at the start of this year, both of us have indeed come up against a glass ceiling, though nothing to do with the art world. Something hard yet invisible; something that is undeniably there and no longer a generation away: our own mortality.

Yes, when you feel that cold dunt on the top of your head you know its time to stop climbing ladders and looking upwards to the stars. It's time to look down and back with whatever emotions seem appropriate. Suddenly 'WE ARE GOING TO LIVE SUCH LIVES' becomes 'WE HAVE LIVED SUCH LIVES AS WE HAVE'. Though perhaps in that instant of contact, the glass ceiling becomes opaque and it's no longer possible to see the stars anyway.


The tiger seems pensive.

Slowly, we make our way back out onto Perth Road with a view to going to the Art Bar for some solid food. But, before we disappear indoors, we catch sight of Jonathan Baxter in the distance, which perks us up. We're part of the group he instigated who meet to discuss 'If the City Were a Commons'. The group meets every fortnight in Roseangle Arts Café and there is information about it

Once Jonathan is up close, he does the decent thing and gets down on his hands and knees to kiss the feet of the tiger.


Still on the pavement, Jonathan asks for permission to recite a tribute. Permission granted.


"Beautiful post-grad of the Dundee MFA!
With your numerous paintings and sculptures in so grand array
And your central precepts, which seem to the eye
To be almost towering to the sky.
The greatest wonder of the day,
And a great adornment to the River Tay,
Most beautiful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green."


"Beautiful post-grad of the Dundee MFA!
Which will cause great rejoicing in the present day
And hundreds of people will have come from far away,
Also the Queen, most gorgeous to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green."

I suspect Jonathan has been brushing up on his William MacGonagall. For is the poetry of McGonagall not a common resource of this city in particular? Is Magadalen Green not but a stone's throw from either the art college or from the Roseangle Arts Café or from where Claire lives? Claire is part of 'If the City were a Commons' and has a burgeoning interest in some poisoned land in the vicinity. But back to Jonathan:

"Beautiful post-grad of the Dundee MFA!
And prosperity to Provost Cox, who has given
Thirty thousand pounds and upwards away
In helping to expand the MFA,
Most handsome to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green."


I suspect his remarkable powers of invention are beginning to flag. Then up he pops again:

"Beautiful post-grad of the Dundee MFA!
I hope that God will protect all students By night and by day,
And that no accident will befall them while crossing
The Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
For that would be most awful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green."

Actually, I think Kate and Jonathan have been working on this 'McGonagall as Commons' theme together. Because when Jonathan stands up, Kate announces that she has a poem of her own, based on 'The Tay Bridge Disaster'.


"I'm all ears," says Jonathan. "What's it called?"

"The MFA Disaster."

"Let's hear it."

"Beautiful tutor of the Dundee MFA!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time."

I'm not sure mock-McGonagall suits Kate as well as it does Jonathan. But let's see how her poem proceeds:

"It must have been an awful sight.
To witness in the dusky moonlight.
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Dundee MFA,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the MFA,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central precepts would not have given way,
At least many sensible women do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible women confesses,
For the stronger we our courses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed."

I get it now, this is a double act. I thought Kate might have something in the performance line planned for today. And here it's happening on Perth Road for an audience of one. Moi. I'd better take it on board, so that I can pass it on to others through the gift of text and image. This time they tell me that the title of the poem is based on 'An Address to the New Tay Bridge'. This time they'll both be reciting the verses, turn and turn about. First Kate:



"Beautiful new post-grad course of the Dundee MFA,
With your divided studios and tutors in so grand array,
And your thirteen central precepts, which seem to my eye
Strong enough all windy storms to defy.
And as I muse upon thee my heart feels gay,
Because thou are the greatest post-grad degree course of the present day,
And can be appreciated from miles away
From North, South, East or West of the Tay
On a beautiful and clear sunshiny day,
And ought to make the hearts of the “Mars” boys feel gay,
Because thine equal nowhere can be seen,
Only near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green."

What compelling site-specific work! I mean, the art college - Duncan and Jordanstone College of Art, to give it its proud title - is right behind the performers.

Anyway, over to Jonathan:


"Beautiful new post-grad course of the Dundee MFA,
With thy beautiful side-screens along your railway,
Which will be a great protection on a windy day,
So as the MFA students won’t be blown away,
And ought to cheer the hearts of the students night and day
As they are conveyed along thy beautiful railway,
And towering above the silvery Tay,
Spanning the beautiful river shore to shore
Upwards of two miles and more,
Which is most beautiful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the bonnie Magdalen Green."


"Beautiful new post-grad course of the Dundee MFA,
I wish you success for many a year and a day,
And I hope thousands of people will come from far away,
Both high and low without delay,
From the North, South, East and West,
Because as a post-grad degree course thou art the best;
Thou standest unequalled to be seen
Near by Dundee and bonnie Magdalen Green."

Sarah Gittens, who got her MFA from DJCAD a few years ago, joins us. Kate puts a great friendly paw-and-arm around Sarah's neck and slowly squeezes the young life out of our friend. Of course, she doesn't. It's just another photo-opp.


Kate and I go into Drouthy's. Not the Art Bar, cos Kate has remembered that she's got a fully-stamped drinks card from the summer which entitles her to £5 off a meal. We order tea for two and a burger with sweet potato fries. While we're waiting for the meal to arrive, I ask Kate to remind me about her tiger dream.

"Fine, I'll tell you once more about the dream. I was living on my own in Bradford. I must have been about forty. I'd split up with Paul, my partner, and was living on my own with our dog, Emma. It was a difficult time for me.I was in the middle of my Art Therapy training, which which involved being in therapy myself. It also meant a lot of reading of Jung and Freud."


"In my dream, I was out with a group of friends. I got separated from them and found myself walking alone in the countryside, when I sensed the presence of a tiger coming towards me. I didn't see it but knew it was there and that it was awesome.

"I lay face down on the ground with my heart thumping with fear and anticipation. I was naked."


"As I lay perfectly still, I felt the tiger walk up to me and stand over me. I felt its beautiful, thick warm fur brush against my skin and smelt its rich earthy scent. I felt the heat of its breath on the back of my neck. It was incredibly exciting and sensual, though at the same time terrifying."


"When I woke up I was totally energised. I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs and woke up Emma and began to tell her about what I had immediately understood was a life-affirming dream."


"For some reason I was speaking in a Welsh accent. Anyway, I must have succeeded in communicating my excitement, because Emma started to bark like crazy.

"And that's it. I longed for the tiger to come back into my dreams. But it never did return."

I think about this for a minute and then suggest: "Perhaps it never came back because it didn't have to."

"What do you mean?"

"The tiger never went away."

The burger comes and we divide it in two. The sweet potato fries are delicious. Soon I feel revived enough to suggest: "Maybe we can still say it."

"Say what?"

"We are going to live such lives."