Out of the Camp

Out of the Camp Ch. 4 – Brondesbury Park

Returning to the London Academy of Modelling for a moment, I forgot to attach a copy of my ‘Composite’ earlier. I’m sure that these days this is all done online but back then aspiring models of both stripes – we only had two in those unenlightened days! – had to traipse around the West End hustling for work which entailed visiting agency offices and photographers, promoting themselves and handing out leaflets containing vital statistics and photographs. These were referred to as Composites and mine is attached in order that you may peruse it for your amusement! When the training course was close to finishing the Academy would provide information on photographers and agencies that were open to “new faces” and would assist in the next step of the process. In my case I was referred to a photographer who had a large studio in Covent Garden. Back then Covent Garden hadn’t yet been gentrified and still had wholesalers marketing fruit and vegetables to stallholders, retailers and supermarket chains. The Market would later be transferred to a purpose made facility in Nine Elms, south of the River Thames and close to Battersea Power Station where it still remains.

The photographer I was referred to, I’ll call him James, had a studio in a cobbled lane close to Charing Cross Road. He had instructed me when I called him, to bring a few different outfits for our first session. I put together a selection of what little half decent togs I could find which wasn’t a lot. I had two roommates at the hostel who were taking the p…s but, at the same time coming up with wardrobe suggestions both constructive and intentionally daft. I put some things together including a paisley-patterned pyjama top borrowed from one of my roommates. Why? Because he thought that if I put it on back-to-front it would look like a trendy shirt he saw in a Carnaby Street boutique. Honest! I’m not kidding. Check out the Composite attached and in particular the two outside pictures on the bottom row. “Carnaby Street Paisley-Man” is the one on the lower right, and I don’t know what James was thinking, but the one the left, the one of me half naked throwing a pillow slip over my shoulder is, I don’t know what. But, yes, I think it was a pillow slip and, no! I don’t know why we used a pillow slip.

When the sessions were over James invited me to his home for dinner which surprised me as I guess he’d have been in his late 40s to early 50s. Nonetheless I thought that this would be a welcome change from the uninspiring, overcooked hostel mush since he’d told me earlier that he was a good cook and that he’d prepare a nice meal for us. On the evening planned I travelled to Brondesbury Park near Kilburn where he had a first floor apartment (2nd in the US) overlooking the park. I don’t remember much about the décor other than it was very pleasant and comfortable. I might say elegant now, but I didn’t speak or think in such terms in my youth. What I do remember is having my first ever gin & tonic complete with ice and lemon and really enjoying it. Such that I had a second! I honestly don’t remember much about the evening, more I think, to do with the intervening 53 years rather than me getting sozzled, although I wouldn’t argue the point. Anyway, there was a second invitation and so a week or two later the evening progressed in much the same way as the first except that as we rose from the table following our meal, I recall we were laughing about some story or other and he approached me and put both his hands on my shoulders. He then slid them down my arms where he squeezed my hands and proceeded to put his arms around my waist. I almost peed my pants! I can’t remember how the hell I got out of there, but I never saw or heard from him again. All I remember is that I was traumatized for a week! Did I mention that I was a wee bit naïve?

Victoria Wines’ vehicles were garaged at a facility in South Kensington and so my start each day, provided it was dry, was to leave Lancaster Gate, walk across the Bayswater Road, enter Kensington Gardens and walk across the park past the famous Round Pond, cross Kensington Gore and head for the South Ken. garage lock-up.  In Spring/Summer morning sunshine I’d often pause by the Pond and enjoy the moment, where there’d regularly be kids with their Mums – or nannies – feeding the ducks. The joyous giggles that would erupt as a raft of ducks, splashing the water and flapping their wings excitedly would crowd the area where the latest handful of crumbs landed on the water’s surface. The entire scene aroused in me a sensation of pure happiness embracing the waves of freedom in which I was still rejoicing, the children’s delight I was witnessing and had become a part of, and the surroundings embracing us bathed as they were in glorious sunshine. Do you think I could get a job with Mills & Boon or maybe the Hallmark Channel? If you think this is bad, read ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ a poem by the great John McGonagall.

Anyway, after arriving at the lock-up and opening up, I’d drive the van out, lock the double-doors, and head over to St. James to start my day’s deliveries. In the evenings I’d reverse the process. When the weather was bad, I’d instead take the Tube from Bayswater to Gloucester Road, South Ken. And again, reverse the process in the evenings.


(1) LAOM (Reminds me of LMAO now!) Brochure. (2) Terms. (3), (4) & (5) Pics from a session at photographer, James’ studio in Covent Garden, 1969.