Dominic’s post-uni peregrinations
Eschewing conventional routes, what followed next was a bewildering sequence of events: two years as a London dispatch rider; teaching James Joyce in community groups through the Open University; travelling and working around the world; and ‘generally shaking the dust of academia out of my system’. The one conventional choice he made was to buy a flat which he then swiftly lost during the financial crash in 1993 ‘That was a difficult period’ he admitted.
“I split up with a long-term partner around the same time – although I don’t think the events were connected – and I spent 6 months wintering in a VW camper van in a friend’s field in Herefordshire trying to re-group. In the end, I decided to go back to study as a way of moving forward”.
Dominic enrolled on a TEFL course at International House in Hastings and, while teaching there, was offered a job at a school in the Carpathians in Poland. ‘I was about to accept and head into the darkness of an East European winter when I succumbed to the allure of a flamenco-dancing Spanish woman and realised the bright lights of southern Spain would be better for my mental well-being.’
“I spent 6 months wintering in a VW camper van in a friend’s field in Herefordshire trying to re-group.In the end, I decided to go back to study as a way of moving forward.”
The dazzling light of Andalucia
‘In fact, that TEFL was one of the most life-changing choices I ever made; I met some amazing people – students and teachers – during that course and the teaching that followed, and it wasn’t a difficult decision to dust down the VW, pack it full of CDs and books and head across the Bay of Biscay to begin new adventures in Spain.’Dominic was coy about some of those adventures, but after travelling slowly down through Spain, he ended up in Granada where he lived and taught for the next five years. He acquired fluent Spanish, met some inspirational people, ran a (short-lived) ceramics and olive oil business and built up a cohort of private students which he taught from a carmen in the Albaicin overlooked by the Alhambra Palace. Why on earth did he leave?
“Tricky one,” he admits, “but it was almost too easy, too languorous. I was soaked in perpetual sunshine, warmed by wine and treading water with my teaching. I felt as if I was atrophying mentally and so I chose about the most diametrically opposed option I could have done – I enrolled on a PGCE at Bath Spa University. It was a bit like plunging from a sauna into an ice bath – but in a good way.
I was back in England and embarked on a very demanding course that included lots of teaching practice in some difficult schools around Bath and Bristol – a far cry from cosy one-to-ones with Spanish uni students in Granada. But it was brilliant – I loved the intellectual challenge and my tutor, Barbara Imrie, had a razor-sharp intellect, was a superb teacher and motivator and pushed me hard – she forced me to write all my essays on a computer which modernized my habits. Bath Spa’s campus is a bucolic dream and a perfect place to wander out with a book to relieve the intensity of study.” “I was soaked in perpetual sunshine, warmed by wine and treading water with my teaching.” It was a bit like plunging into an ice bath from a sauna – but in a good way.”