“It should be called Keith”

… this is the second part of the story about the Creative Café…

On the opposite side of the table are Rhianan and Millie, both, I guess are about 14. They were at my talk last night and I had a brief chat with Millie as she was leaving. She told me she had a ‘hybrid’ camera – she rattled off some make and model – and that she wanted to be a photographer.

“Bring it to the ‘do’ on Wednesday,” I’d suggested.

“Can’t,” she’d said. “It’s got no batteries. It takes four double-A’s and I can’t afford them.”

It’s not quite school finishing time and so I ask Millie why she wasn’t at school today. Rhianan answers for her.

“She’s home-schooled,” she says, “by her mum. She only has to do two hours a day.”

“Three,” says Millie.

Rhianan doesn’t offer an explanation about her own absence from school and I don’t ask. Instead, as she models a clay creature, she tells me that she spends about 20 hours a week at The Edge, gets stuck into anything and everything and likes to meet new people. She and Millie have become friends after meeting here.

Rhianan is very confident for her age. There’s a maturity there that some adults might find challenging.

“So, what’s this?” I ask as I photograph her creation.

“It’s a ‘shocked cat-pig’,” she says. “A cross between a cat and a pig with a shocked look on its face.” I write it in my notebook.

“Are you looking forward to tomorrow night?” Ali asks Rhianan across the table.

She doesn’t answer straight away. She has seen my tape recorder. “What are you doing with that strange piece of equipment?”

“I’m recording everything you say,” I say, with a smile.

“Oh, don’t, let’s kinda get rid of that, shall we?” I go along… switch it off… then switch it back on a minute or two later. She will get to see this text before it gets published.

Daisy, the spaniel, growls at a couple of schoolboys who have wandered in, checking out the activity.

Rhianan says to Ali: “It’ll be nice to see everyone having a good time. That’s what I like about volunteering here, I like to see people enjoying themselves.”

“Sounds like you’re excited about your new dress.” Ali says.

“I am. I’m really excited. I hardly ever have an excuse for my mum to spend money on me. I never let her spend money on me, ever. I don’t like it at all.”

I chip in: “Is that because you don’t think you are worth it or because there just isn’t a lot of money around?”

“It’s a bit of both. I think unless you really need something, you shouldn’t really spend a lot of money on it.”

There are now legs on Rhianan’s artwork. “It’s a catpiguman now,” she says, “as in ‘human’.”

“Is that hyphenated?”

“No, it’s all one word.”

Rhianan has been around town and found herself a dress for tomorrow’s award ceremony. It’s the first she has bought without her mother’s supervision and she tells us that she haggled the price down to one that she knew her mother would find acceptable.

Like yesterday the café is an after school hub of activity. People come and go. Rachel, Sarah’s partner and my first interviewee for tomorrow morning pops by, apparently a little apprehensive. “I won’t have to smile will I?” she asks me.

“Not if you don’t want to,” I say.

“You’ll need to photograph her with her earphones in,” someone says, “or else it won’t be Rachel.”

Millie goes into the main space to practice her singing and in another corner of the café guitar lessons get underway organised by Dragan, the younger of Mara’s two sons. Having finished clearing up in the kitchen she is now sitting with us, making clay beads.

Judging by the discussion about leaving small vents for hot air to escape from internal cavities, today’s pieces are going to be fired. “That’s amazing,” Ali says to Rhianan, examining her ‘catpiguman’, and then to me, “She’s done amazingly well if that’s the first thing she’s ever done out of clay.”

“Are you going to give it a name?” I ask Rhianan.

“Wally,” she says. “No, wait.” She looks at her sculpture, scrunches up her eyes and says, “Keith. It should be called Keith.”

Laura comes into the café, “Becky’s back now,” she says, “shall we go over?”

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