Saturday, July 9, 1983

Art Volé

As it was my birthday I thought I ought at least make an appearance before the afternoon, so I got up about 9.30.

Mum and Dad gave me £10 and wished me many happy returns. Andrew seemed embarrassed that he hadn’t anything to give me. My birthday was very low key, just three cards from family, and anyway it’s hardly a cause for celebration; just another meaningless milestone, just another year to cross off. Nineteen down, how many more to go?

Birthdays used to mean so much.

When Mum and Dad brought Nanna P. over she gave me £5 and we watched TV until Lee rang at three from Tesco to ask me if I wanted to go over to his house. It wasn’t long before I was banging on his door.

He ushered me in, looking smart in black and grey checked shirt, dark trousers, pink socks and ancient gleaming leather shoes. He showed me some of his bounty, looted on recent trips to an old garage on Geoffrey Road opposite Montreal Woolpacking Co., and the basement of an abandoned photography studio on Lodgehill Lane.

Most of the stuff came from the garage; he and his mates had broken the lock and discovered a treasure trove; a ‘50s car in perfect condition (“we thought of putting petrol in and driving off with it”), two motorbikes from the '30s, and piles of old car and motorbike mags. In a cupboard they found stuff that once belonged to a lieutenant in the First War—Lee showed me a photograph of a ‘20s lounge-lizard type in plus-fours with slicked down hair, and Lee has the man's dress uniform, each dark trouser leg with a red stripe down the outside, along with a pair of leather boots in perfect nick,. All of these fitted Lee perfectly of course.

He also showed me a WW1 German cigarette lighter (operated by caps), an initialed solid silver cigarette case, a metal suitcase, and a leather case still covered with old travel stickers that he’s polished and expertly relined. Lee said that as he’d put on the old uniform and boots he almost felt as though this man was taking him over.

What started off as a casual wandering into empty houses has so caught on at Easterby Art College that everyone is doing it and now even the tutors are involved. For a laugh, he and a friend decided to call their ‘movement’ Art Volé, and have even drawn up a manifesto. They’ve now progressed into virtual break-ins, kicking down doors and looting what appears to be (but might not be) abandoned property. The garage with the car and ‘bikes in it was padlocked, and Lee said he smashed down the door to the abandoned photography studio to gain entrance.

We were in hysterics over the photos he found in the latter, which was also apparently some sort of low-key '60s soft-porn concern, full of very tame pictures of bikini-clad girls eating ice cream, scores of head and shoulders portraits of strange old men, and frightening looking '70s-era Pakistani families.

Afterwards we went and tried to fly a boomerang (something else he’d “picked up”) but we broke it, so we sat instead beneath a small tree that was stripped of bark, feeling smothered in the hazy late afternoon sun. We sat and talked by this dying tree, and Lee told me he and a few friends recently smoked some nutmeg to try get hallucinogenic effects but it didn’t work. He asked me if I fancied going mushroom picking sometime.

I had a good time, but bid him goodbye until Monday and finally got home close to eight to find my tea nearly spoiled.

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