Teenage bohemians Tallulah and Daphne's doings are attended by a profound aura of mystery

Life As We Know It No.83: The students at West Somersetshire Art & Technical College regard them as a kind of superior tourist attraction

Dj Taylor
Saturday 21 November 2015 19:07
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Even by the standards of the West Somersetshire Art & Technical College, Tallulah and Daphne are a fairly exotic addition to the student body. Tallulah turned up to her first tutorial a couple of months ago sporting a monocle, a top hat covered with oyster shells and a soggy green wreath around her neck, which was thought to be made of seaweed. Daphne, a shade less flamboyantly dressed, came clad in an Edwardian child's sailor suit and could be seen, in the break between lectures, excitedly bowling a hoop over the campus concrete.

Yet more exotic were the contributions that they began to make to the "work-in-progress" sessions that are such an important part of the course. The West Somerset first years tend to go in for fuzzy collages, abstract suspensions of wire and pipe cleaner or "installations" composed of laboriously arranged household furniture. Set against these modest offerings, Daphne's Decapitation of Salome, a canvas 16ft square dominated by a gory severed head, caused a sensation only equalled, minutes later, by the unveiling of Tallulah's Queen Kong – nothing less than a live monkey kitted out in Ann Summers underwear.

They are nice, friendly girls, and no one resents these self-conscious departures from the norm. Nothing, however, can prevent the other students from regarding them as a kind of superior tourist attraction. People push their heads around the doors of lecture rooms for a glimpse of Tallulah reading one of her abstruse paperbacks, with titles such as Spirit Hands Have Touched Me and Astride the Grave – or Daphne, oblivious to lecturer and audience alike, glueing pasta shells on to cardboard in the shape of a giant penis.

Inevitably, Tallulah and Daphne's doings are attended by a profound aura of mystery. There is talk of seances and planchette sessions at the tiny cottage they were discovered to be renting, but the rumour that Daphne's mother is a celebrated actress was dispelled by the visit one day of a stout woman in embittered middle age who addressed her daughter as "Kate". Observers sometimes wonder to which late-adolescent sub-group they belong. Are they goths led astray by picturesque costumes? Twenty-first-century hippies? Is the whole thing a tremendous joke? Time, climate – the West Somerset autumn is a bit chilly for sailor suits – and the necessity of passing their first-year exams will tell.

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