I am meeting my old friend Gerda Roper, Dean of the Faculty of Art and Media at the University of Teesside. Gerda is one of those rare people who seem always to be bathed in light. Not in the sense of an aura, you understand. More as if she is always in a moving spotlight. She is an artist and she talks like an artist. ‘Darling,’ she purrs, ‘how absolutely delicious to see you’. We settle into conversation, but as we chat, her eye keeps travelling down to the Waterstones’ carrier bag I have on the seat beside me. I have just bought Stephen Barber’s book, The Screaming Body, a study of the works of Antonin Artaud, and it rests between us concealed, as if pornographic, in a black bag. ‘Just a book on Artaud’, I say thinking she is wondering what I have bought. But she picks up the bag and slowly begins to read, ‘I cheated in the fi nal of my metaphysics exam. I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me. Woody Allen’, and we look at each other and laugh.