has never really been a problem for me.
So I'm quite sanguine about my mission to become an artist's life model: all I have to do is strip off, sit about, let some art students have a gawp, and then go home, right?
Aiming high, I phone the Slade School of Art. "Hello!" I warble, "I'd like to enquire about becoming a life model." Without giving me any kind of response, the woman who answers abruptly begins talking to someone in the room with her. This is one of the things that annoys me most in life. I can't make out every word but she seems to be berating the other person about coloured paperclips. "Helloexcuseme!" I yell. "Yes," she replies, seemingly incredulous that I appear to expect conversation, "admissions, wasn't it?" I repeat my request and I am put through to another extension. A man answers. To my request he simply says, "Yeah." There is a pause. I am put on hold. A male voice answers again. The exact same exchange ensues and I decide I am trapped in a bizarre, Beckettian conspiracy until I realise it's the same man. Unfazed, he puts me on hold. I hear a woman bark, "Slade". It's Paperclip Woman. This is sapping my will to live. I hang up.
It's a few days later before I attempt another foray into the world of life-modelling. I answer an advert in a listings magazine. The guy who answers the phone has an odd purr that I am convinced is fake: "How loooooong is your hhhhhhair?" he murmurs. "Er, about shoulder length." "Nooooo," he sniggers, "I meant your pubic hhhhhair." For a split second, I am - unbelievably - considering how you would quantify this. Then some common- sense synapse in my brain is activated. I hang up.
Via a scribbled notice in an art supplies shop, I track down an elderly- sounding chappie in south London. We have a strange little chat on the phone - about his dog's musical rubber bone, his skirting-board paint and park flower-beds - when he suddenly tells me he's "delighted, delighted" and gives me arduously complicated directions.
When I arrive, a week later, he's calling instructions to his class, who are studiously ignoring him, and fiddling with pencils and wafting bits of paper around. He and I sit on the podium, discussing "positioning". "I feel you should stand," he is saying, "facing the class so they can see your ..." he tails off. I wait. He is blushing, his hands hovering outside his jumper. "Tits?" I suggest. He blanches, then nods furiously.
Unfortunately I've frightened him so much that now he can't mention any part of my anatomy at all, so the conversation degenerates into a surreal mime: "If you could rest your ..." he gestures at my lap. "Thighs?" I hazard. He shakes his head, outraged. "Fanny?" He nearly chokes. "Hand?" He nods with relief. "And put your other ..." "Hand," I supply. "... on your ..." again he points towards my midriff. "Stomach?" I suggest. "Hip? Bum?" I am getting bored, so I start taking off my clothes. I unzip my cardigan, and it's as if I've screeched, "Down with Art!" at the top of my voice. He scuttles away, terrified, and the class falls utterly silent, sitting up straight, pencils and brushes poisedReuse content