A lighthearted feature that manages to get under the skin of life modelling and provides a rare glimpse into the courage and humour of an experienced model
How do you think you’d feel if you woke up on the first day in a new job, knowing that one of the first things you’d have to do when you got there would be to take off all your clothes?
Well, I can tell you that I didn’t feel very well at all.
I couldn’t believe that I’d committed myself to something so unimaginably appalling. But there was no escape now; I had to go through with it.
Looking back at that day some ten years down the line, my reasons for applying to the local art college for work as a life model don’t look very convincing, but at the time it seemed like a good idea. Having been at home caring for children but otherwise master of my own time for many years I couldn’t face returning to office life; all the gossiping and office politics and having to wear tidy little suits and smart shoes – but a job of some kind was becoming a financial necessity. The idea of being an artist’s muse, spending time with a wild but profoundly fascinating being who would share his deepest thoughts with me as I posed, draped in silken cloths and lying on a velvet chaise longue, had an undeniable appeal. It certainly beat the hell out of the prospect of being on a till in Tesco.
What never entered my mind was that the average model spends his/her time mainly in front of classes of up to thirty strangers. And what I didn’t know was that the local art college, far from occupying the gracious old building I’d envisaged, had been rehoused in a semi-derelict office block, with icy draughts from broken window panes and the dust of ages still lying on the floor.
I was lucky. Taking pity I imagine on the pale and trembling middle-aged woman before him, the tutor in charge assigned me to a class of adults doing a part-time degree course, so at least I was spared the added horror of facing hordes of 18 year olds. The students couldn’t have been kinder, introducing themselves and having a friendly chat to help me relax, but the fateful moment couldn’t be put off indefinitely. I was shown the corner of the room, roughly screened with a tatty old piece of cloth, in which I was to undress. By this stage a sense of complete unreality had set in, but it wasn’t enough to calm my thundering heart. As I emerged clothed in my huge dressing gown, I still nursed the crazy hope that perhaps it was a mistake; that they didn’t really need all my clothes off. But they did. And I was shown to a rickety old wooden chair, and asked to sit down.
Nothing at all had prepared me for what came next, which was the total, unnerving silence of intense concentration as fifteen pairs of eyes zoomed in on me, and my cellulite. It was so quiet I was sure they could hear my heart thudding. As the morning wore on, and some kind soul brought me a cup of coffee, I slowly started to calm down a bit, though relaxation was short-lived once drawing after drawing began to be stuck up on the surrounding walls! Wherever I looked, there I was.
By mid-afternoon I was actually relaxed enough to start to feel a bit dozy at times. The sounds which were to become so familiar, the soft scratchings of charcoal on paper mingling with the background hum of traffic and the gentle drizzle outside, calmed my frazzled nerves and a sense of achievement began to creep in.
Feel like trying it for yourself?
Bear in mind that the myths about the pay really are myths, you’d be far better off financially working almost anywhere else. But there’s no doubt that it can give you a tremendous sense of empowerment, as well as a tiny stake in posterity. In just a few homes, my image will be gazing down from the wall for years to come. Cellulite included.
Keeping in Shape
Like most models I want to keep in shape, after all I need my body to earn money, so I joined a Zumba class as I find the gym boring and am too lazy to push myself very hard when I’m there. Zumba definitely helps with the modelling to be reasonably fit. However, for some classes a very slim and muscular model would be ideal so students can see clearly the skeleton and muscles. In others the more Rubenesque models are popular. I also practise yoga, which is popular with a lot of models as it helps keep the body flexible.
The Register of Artists’ Models is a useful starting point for anyone interested in this kind of work and gives a clear indication of rates of pay.
The author’s name has been withheld for personal reasons
Do you have a story you’d like to tell in all honesty but would prefer to remain anonymous? We can guarantee that anonymity … so do get in touch
All photography © Pintail Media
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That’s not to say that the West End never hosts a gem of a play; it’s really a question of winkling them out. Happily there is at least one to regale us playing currently: Simon Gray’s Butley at the Duchess Theatre. Well staged and admirably acted, notably by Dominic West playing the eponymous anti-hero, this play may be celebrating its fortieth anniversary but its rather bleak theme of the disintegration of a rather unpleasant man is, perhaps unfortunately, timeless.
Mark Rylance will reprise his star turn in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem which was sold out during the original run and was one of the best plays I saw in 2010.
Shopping online with a home delivery service is twenty four times ‘greener’ than a car journey to the shops¹
Makes sense. One vehicle for lots of addresses, rather than every household burning its own petrol.
Of course, taking the bus is preferential (you have to get out of the house some time) but it can still be more eco-friendly to have your shopping delivered to your home – leaving you more time to do the things you like.
If you shop with Goodness Direct you’ll find even more ways to go green. They have thousands of ethical goods on their shelves, whether it’s organic foods, eco-cleaning products or earth friendly cosmetics.
It’s an Aladdin’s cave of natural products and ethical goodies. There’s fairtrade foods, cruelty free toiletries, natural baby products, organic fruit and veg and special diet foods. It makes shopping a breeze.
So paint each and every day a little more green with GoodnessDirect. Plus, online orders over £35 ordered online are delivered free to anywhere in the UK.
WIN A VOUCHER WORTH £35 to spend at the Goodness Direct website
We have a prize voucher £35 worth of GoodnessDirect shopping vouchers to give to one lucky In Balance reader! Using the form below enter the prize draw and be in with a chance of winning your first GoodnessDirect home delivery FREE!
Entries, limited to one per household, should reach us no later than 15 July 2011.
17 7 2011: Update: The winner was Pauline Gibson of London
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
¹Green Logistics paper: Carbon Auditing the Last Mile: Modelling the Environment Impacts of Conventional and Online Non-food Shopping; J. Edwards, A. McKinnon and S. Cullinane, 2009
The first time Chris came across a wobble board was when he was attending physiotherapy at the local hospital following a severe stroke. He found it a real challenge but after a few weeks could see a distinct improvement in his posture and with that more confidence to walk without a stick. This is what he has to say:
After my stroke, I had to attend physio rehab classes to regain my sense of balance, among other things, and I found I had extreme difficulty balancing; the physio had a home-made wobble board, made of ply, and I remember commenting that this would be ideal for practice at home.
Then we found the Home4physio Wobble Board. This wobble board is adjustable for height; the adjustment is intended to provide a slight increase in difficulty, once some profiency has been attained. This exerciser would be ideal for anyone with weak core muscles (calves thighs, back), plus those with a poor sense of balance. It is small and easily stored away, when not required. My wife and I are both using it just for fun, balancing on one leg – this is not as easy as it sounds – just try closing your eyes!
* * * * *
The Home4physio wobble board is designed to aid the recovery of balance following injuries to feet, ankles, knees, hips and would benefit anyone or any age – many athletes and sportsmen and women use them in recovery and physiotherapists generally have one in their armoury. We use ours for general balance and flexibility maintenance – and it works!
In the elderly especially there is a certain look of vulnerability in those with poor balance and stability. Using the wobbleboard helps to regain confidence through improved strength. Flexibility and coordination can be improved without impact damage.
The home4physio wobble board has two height levels, easily adjustable. It comes with clear instructions for use and the exercises for improving sitting and standing are not extreme – with regular practice they will make a big difference.
More details on www.physiosupplies.com, or call the sales helpline, M-F 9am-5pm on 08700 545 050.
UPDATE – apparently the Wii Ski device is very good for strengthening balance – we’ll write about it once we have had some practice
Christopher Johns, Contributing Author
Memory Loss is disconcerting. Unbelievable really, and I was unwilling to accept it. I kept on trying to remember, thinking about where I had been, visualising, but getting nothing in my mind’s eye.
What I can remember is sitting comfortably by the fire, sipping a welcome early morning cup of coffee and suddenly realising I should be at a press event in London for gardening journalists. An event I had been looking forward to for months.
I quickly got my stuff together and left for the station. After a few yards I ran back to the house to get my Nordic walking stick because my back has been playing up recently and the stick helps.
The next thing I can remember is walking back up the same street returning home. The period in between was blank and no matter how hard I tried I could not remember what I had been doing nor where I had been.
When I got indoors I looked through my handbag and found a train ticket and a taxi receipt.
Looking through my rollerbag I found a pile of paperwork, a pair of secateurs, gardening gloves, packets of seeds and the gardening event programme.
So it would seem I had visited the show, in Victoria, which meant I had taken the train, got off at Finsbury Park, taken the Victoria line to Victoria station and taken a taxi to the Royal Horticultural Halls.
The train ticket receipt showed it was bought at 10.42 and a taxi receipt (which is not something I usually take) showed 11.34 with a journey of 6 minutes, which seems to imply I took a taxi from Victoria to the RHS Horticultural Halls. In my notebook I found a short note about stevia, a natural sweetener and on a couple of business cards I had made other notes, so I must have spoken to at least a couple of people on stands.
I have no memory of signing into the event, meeting colleagues, visiting stands – all the kinds of things I would expect to happen. I have no memory of lunch, coffee, tea, water, visiting the loo, or leaving my jacket at, or even collecting it from, the cloakroom. I had taken no photographs, which is unusual for me.
Frankly the whole thing is a puzzle. Almost like the beginning of a mystery story, at least I didn’t find something sinister in my bag!
All night I tried in vain to remember something, anything, to convince myself I wasn’t going mad, or worse.
I went to the doctor the following morning who had no idea what had happened to me. He checked my reflexes and for signs pressure behind my eyes. Everything looked normal. The doctor said he had never experienced anything like this before and would get back to me after investigating it from a neurological perspective.
My symptoms were that I felt very tired and had occasional head pains, not a headache as such.
So it feels as if I have lost a day of my life and the feeling of bewilderment is strong. I’m also concerned that it may happen again and wonder whether I will be able to get back home. The doctor suggested I take my mobile with me at all times and put in an ICE – in case of emergency – number.
Do I go to a training course next week, or to Regent Street for a meeting?
The doctor did get back to me and confirmed it was a case of Associative Amnesia, sometimes referred to as fugue state. I have been assured it is unlikely to happen again. It affects about 2% of the population with a 5% chance of it happening again.
So what made it happen? No idea, except I have experienced a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for many months, mostly related to lost websites, lost email addresses with little understanding of how they happened.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
PS Four months later: I have experienced no further episodes. So, onward and upward!
Unfortunately these days, there can be hardly anyone who has not known someone, relative or friend, who has suffered from some type of cancer. Or indeed has the disease themselves.
What once was called ‘The Big C’, because no-one dared speak its name has now become so prevalent as to be almost a household word.
Based in Singapore-style city Dubai in the Arabia Gulf, Dave Reeder took advantage of a quick trip into the more relaxed and green Oman, specifically to watch the centuries old story of giant turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs
Was it a good trip?” my friends all asked, the week after I’d had three days out of Dubai. Yes, it was a great trip. Oman is stunningly beautiful, even though we only saw a hint of it!
So I escaped the steel and glass city of Dubai, thanks to the local natural history club. A team of about 12 of us went in convoy, from one side of the Arabian peninsula to the other – from, if you look at an atlas, the Gulf to the ocean facing East Africa.
Anyway, this late-40s New Zealander turned up in her giant V8 Landcruiser and we set off, to rendezvous with the rest later. In the way of expats, she was easy to talk to and she drove us to the Omani border where I took over the driving of this 2-ton monster.
Fast down the coast, we turned inland about 30km before the capital Muscat, rising up through the mountains on great roads. Because it was the Islamic festival of Eid, most locals were with friends and so the traffic was light. We then ended up late afternoon on the edge of the Wahaybah desert – which stretches across to Saudi Arabia and is serious Bedouin country – looking for the desert camp. Seems, however, that there is a political battle between Bedouins and government on the ‘proper’ name of this part of the desert, with the Bedouin destroying signs that have the ‘wrong’ name on them!
Of course, the supplied map was dreadful and our mobiles didn’t work. Finally, with sunset approaching we found a rough track into the desert and, after about five miles, found the camp – up a hillside in deep desert sand, which somehow I got the Landcruiser up!
Simple place. A-frame tents covered in barasti (a kind of interlocking frond and branch arrangement), with hard metal beds inside – memories of school! – with a communal eating area and a shower/toilet block. The whole group then assembled piles of drinks and nibbles on the back of a 4×4 and we drank our way through to the dinner bell at 7pm. Food was simple, buffet style, with rice and dhal, boiled eggs and sausages, bread and salad. Breakfast much the same.
Plus a small Bedouin troup of musicians who, sadly, didn’t speak any English but tried to help me understand the oud – the Arabian lute – and how to play it.
An early night for all, as we were tired and wanted an early start. Next day we went in convoy to a serious wadi (a dry channel that floods after rain) way up in the mountains – five miles up rough tracks, some 20 miles off the main road. Up and up we went, finally reaching the end of the road and the start of rolling over giant boulders and the like. But so green! And, when we reached the end of the road, there was a walk up through falaj (irrigation) systems and, finally, two enormous pools of clear water – about the size of two Olympic swimming pools! Unfortunately, because of the holiday, it was stuffed with more people than you can imagine – many brought up first in taxis and then, after decamping, on the back of small trucks.
But it was a magical place and the peace and beauty of it out of season must be amazing. So unspoilt. Wonderful.
Then, a drama. A German family with us had twisted their front wheel coming up, so it was at a serious angle to the vertical. With far too many cars on this twisty road, they somehow got it out, with us taking the luggage and a mother/daughter combo. Serious 4×4 guys made light of it – they were ready to drag it out of there, if necessary!
Anyway, they set off for the nearest town (some 90km away) and we headed for camp two about 150km south of Muscat. The coast there is stunning and we ran between it and the mountains across a kind of lunar landscape with the sun low in the sky and the most amazing colours everywhere. Finally we found the camp – similar to the others but with wooden-sided tents. Same kind of food and then, at 9.30pm, we set off in convoy to the beach.
This area has some 20,000 green turtles laying every year which means, despite the remoteness, that it gets popular. The night before, at the main beach, there had been some 1,000 visitors! So our guide took us to a smaller, more remote beach. Serious instructions in the car park – no lights, no shouting, no flash – and we set off following the three Omanis who found the most suitable turtles on the beach.
The beach is dark but you get used to the light, until a crowd of dumb people keep turning the lights on and off. Seems their children were scared and so started bawling and shouting and demanding to be taken home. Talk about destroying the atmosphere … But we could see the tracks up the beach, the mounds that the cover the eggs and then, by magic, a turtle in its self-dug pit laying eggs the size of golf balls. Maybe 120 of them.
Once they’re at work, they’re very placid and didn’t seem to mind us. Even co-operating when the guides unwound a fishing net that had got caught around a flipper of one busy laying.
The moment was incredible. Such a privilege to see, under a black sky filled with more stars than I’ve ever seen – no ambient light, of course. So we went on and they showed us other nests and other turtles. Apparently they take about three hours to climb the beach above high water mark and dig three holes, the first two as decoys to fool the foxes that come at night for the eggs. About the same amount of time to lay and then the same again to rest before hauling back down to the water. The hole is about two feet deep and bigger than the turtle, obviously; then, when covered over, the mound is about a foot above the surface.
After an hour or so, we went back to camp and to bed, woken at 4.30am to go back down again. This time, with the faintest hints of dawn in the sky, we were told it was a “free beach” and we split up, watching the last couple of turtles make their way back to the water. And then the treat of seeing tiny hatched turtles emerging from earlier mounds – they take five or six weeks to incubate. They’re tough! About the size of a cigarette packet, they had to be held really tightly else they’d squirm away. We spent maybe half an hour gathering up any we could find and putting them into the water – with dawn, seabirds were starting to gather for this feast …
And that was the most amazing thing. Out of every hundred, maybe two survive and to know that I helped, in whatever small way, to try and improve those odds was such a wonderful feeling. And then to watch the sun come up over the ocean and the colours of the cliffs behind changing. Wow!
After breakfast, a couple of cars set off on convoy up the coast on a rough road – here an ancient tomb visited by Marco Polo on his way back from China, there a giant sinkhole. Finally, we got to Muscat and hotel apartments. After welcome long hot showers, we were ready for more exploring. We went round the old part of Muscat with its 16th century Portuguese forts.
Then, next morning, a run up the coast through tiny fishing villages. Part of the Eid celebration involves new clothes and everywhere we saw small children rushing towards the car in their new finery, faces full of smiles. Omanis are so friendly. Then we cut in land and headed for the Emirates border at Al Ain – a stunning run through the mountains with loads of fertile little oases and beautiful small villages. Lunch in Al Ain in an archaeological site of bronze age settlements and then home.
What a trip! For those who imagine that the Middle East is all desert and no wildlife, this kind of trip could be such an eye-opener. Traditional ways of life. Loads of greenery, often in the most unexpected places. And wildlife from birds and camels, to turtles and whales – strangely, the whales off the Oman coast never migrate, like all other whales. Why would they want to? It’s a paradise …
Dave Reeder Consultant Editor
What a fantastic FREE
High Fashion Catwalk Event! & anyone can attend! The Yohji Yamamoto Show is on 1 July 2011 at the V&A but booking is essential – details below
Me? Go to a fashion show with impossibly proportioned models wearing impractical clothes? Never! And yet … I was there! At the V&A, watching the amazingly outrageous designs of Jean Paul Gaultier. It was one of five shows of the day put on as part of the Fashion in Motion series of free catwalk shows. This was the first time Jean Paul’s work, from his early collections to his most recent, had been shown in the UK.
All the Gaultier iconic items were there, from underwear worn as outwear, the corset dresses, the Aran pullover dress, the patchworked mermaid dress, the silver anatomic dress.
My favourites were the most outrageous, the Divine Jacqueline, the ballet costumer for Regine Chopiot, Sacre Coeur and the black lace capelin dress.
An inspirational experience – it was half an hour of sheer entertainment with a very excited and appreciative audience: young, old, male and female, fashionistas, the wealthy, students, admirers. All wildly applauding Jean Paul when he appeared at the end of each show. And what a friendly chap! He mingled happily with the crowd, willingly signing anything offered to him. He took a real interest in the questions from fashion students and young people – where did he find inspiration (everywhere), what he was most proud of (the most popular designs!)
Two young women who work in the accessories trade were ecstatic at having the chance to attend the show, very well aware they would never normally have access to a couturier fashion show such as this. Others were knocked out by the clothes, the models, the atmosphere and energised by the sheer excitement of the event. That clothes such as these are inspirational is clear and elements do filter down to high street fashion.
Attending the show made me appreciate how successful the V&A is at working to make art forms accessible to the general public. Their aim is to show fashion as it is meant to be seen – in movement. Previous designers featured in the series include Ozwald Boateng, Giles Deacon, Roksanda Ilincic, Christian Lacroix, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, Vivienne Westwood and Erdem. Absolutely everyone I spoke to agreed it was an absolutely fantastic event and couldn’t wait for the next one! Must say I felt the same way myself!
If you would like to go to the next show on 1 July 2011, featuring the work of Yohji Yamamoto admission is free but booking is essential.
Tickets will be available to book from 20 June on 020 7942 2820.
If there is absolutely no chance of you being able to attend you might like to know Fashion in Motion: Yohji Yamamoto will be broadcast live from the V&A website www.vam.ac.uk/channel/live
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Of all the gardening gadgets, products, equipment we have come across so far, these taps are the most useful. We are really happy we had some to giveaway. They saved our plants in the drought because we could target the tender and precious ones, right where they needed water, next to the stem in the case of the tomatoes. And those tomato plants are looking very good.
Leaving the milk containers in place means when we want to feed the tomatoes, generally once a fortnight – we just remove the cap, pour in the fertiliser mix and away they go!
So the lucky In Balance readers who have won a pack of 10 taps sponsored by The Organic Catalogue are:
- A Westley, Chesham
- V Brown Chichester
- T Karweni, Aldershot
By the way www.ourfrontgarden.com is the website we write about the ongoing renovation and care of a front garden in a garden city
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
On Sunday, just take your unwanted items into the Wardour Street branch of Hummus Bros where you can haggle the value of your possessions with staff from the Marylebone Cancer Research UK shop. Vouchers will then be given out matching the value – two or three good quality donations should be enough for a completely free meal!
Barter Day runs from midday to 6pm on Sunday 19 June at Hummus Bros, 88 Wardour Street, Soho, W1F 0TH and all quality donations will be accepted. To get directions, see their mouthwatering menu and see what journos thought of the cuisine see the Hummus Bros website.
With Barter Day, Hummus Bros continues to offer unprecedented value while being socially and environmentally responsible – keeping your conscience and tummy happy.
So why not get a few things together and meet other likeminded diners on Sunday …
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor