I used to think working art fairs was hard graft. The long days on your feet, the endless chitter chatter. Repeating ad nauseum the ever so slightly awkward pas de deux of selling art. A balancing act that requires finesse, charm and a large dollop of persuasiveness.
Compared, however, to the infinitely challenging, exhausting and nonstop circus that constitutes mothering, an art fair seems more like a holiday. I speak from experience as I recently dipped an eager toe back in the world of work, via an invitation to help out on the Dadbrook Gallery stand at the Affordable Art Fair. Having been off work for six months I considered the prospect with excitement and a fair amount of trepidation. Would I still be able to hack it? Did I still possess the brass balls and endless craic (Irish banter) to flog art to an unsuspecting public? Would I still relish the thrill of the hunt, pick up the scent and go in for the kill??? The answer dear reader is a resounding yes. I found myself flung right in the deep end on opening night, arriving at the stand to find it packed deep with wine sipping connoisseurs. Wasting not a second I charged into the ring like an eager bull, salivating at the sight of the matadors red cloak. Those poor old punters didn't stand a chance; my art-selling blood lust was insatiable and I relished every moment, racking up several sales and charming the pants off anyone within range. I only came down from my high when I realised the hour of nine had come and gone. Cinderella had promised Prince Charming she would be back for ten, so off she trotted through the night-scented Battersea Park, a song in her heart and her spirits twinkling like the stars.
As I sat on the homeward bound train I felt like I was glowing with satisfaction. I felt revitalised, engaged, complete. Now this is a tricky one. Having Felix and being a mother has been the most incredible, rewarding and important thing I have ever done, but as I gazed at my reflection in the window I remembered the other Kat, the one who had joyfully stepped out of the wings to shine again that night. The poised, professional Kat who is fearless and bold and works the room like a Grande Dame works the stage. Damn, I was good at this! And I had missed it, missed it immensely without actually realising it. Motherhood is so immersive, particularly first time round, that you become snow-blind. Your whole focus changes; from looking outwards to your career and social life your gaze shifts inwards, into your new family unit. All your protective and nurturing instincts concentrate your gaze into your lovely, wonderful, terrifying new baby. Wellies replace heels, jeans replace dresses and late nights come to mean something very different. Hangovers become crippling, impossible, regrettable. You find yourself picking up yesterdays outfit from the floor (knickers still tucked into jeans) and thinking 'This will do fine'. Gone are indulgent shopping trips to pick up a few shiny baubles. Instead you find yourself buying clothes hardwearing enough to withstand the endless onslaught of motherhood, while daily trips to stock up on dummies, Aptimel and nipple cream become the norm.
That night, as I gazed down at my saucy red boots and black fishnets, I felt like shrieking with laughter. I saw how the disparate parts could become an integrated whole once more. 'Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'm every woman, it's all in meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' sang Whitney Houston before she became an unrecognisable crack slave with no teeth, that kind of woman we can do without, RIP Whitney. As I sat on the train, nestled amongst tipsy commuters and teenagers lost in Emo dreams, I glowed like a lamp that has been off for too long. I had found my switch, and boy did it feel good. As the train rumbled over Barnes Bridge bound for Chiswick, I felt the overpowering urge to see my baby, to hug him tight and hold his chubby legs and wipe his dribble and kiss his sweet wonderful face. I was like an elastic band; I had stretched as far as I could in the opposing direction and now I was snapping back, ever faster and more urgently. Reunited with my bike I peddled home as swiftly as my legs would take me, knees freezing in the chill night air, and as I sailed down Park Road I whooped out loud, startling a night walking man and dog out of their wits. I was the luckiest Cinderella in the whole wide world; not only had I gone to the ball but my very own Prince Charming was waiting for me at home. I had fitted together the jigsaw pieces of my being; mother, gallerist, friend, partner, daughter; a myriad identities flowed together like a river fed from many streams, and I felt the life force coursing through my veins.