In the film “Le Weekend” Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent have a sojourn in Paris, attempting to arrest late middle-aged decline with a series of nouvelle vague-ish adventures; buying clothes they can’t afford, kissing in church, pretending to be people they are not.
But perhaps the most poignant act of rebellion in this piece of Cinema D’un Certain Age is when Broadbent wakes and suddenly begins to create a collage on the wall of their stiflingly expensive hotel suite. Pictures ripped from art books, postcards, scribbled thoughts, a personal picture that was his state of mind.
In my first week at University I went to a poster sale and bought a poster of a young black girl holding a lamb, titled “The Drum”.* I knew nothing about the picture, I just liked it. I liked its ambiguity. You couldn’t tell if the girl was laughing or screaming, or screaming with laughter.
Mostly though I thought it was cool. I hoped that people who popped into my room in halls to borrow a corkscrew, or an egg, or to sit on the windowsill with a jumper pulled down over their knees and thumb through a Penguin classic, might also think it was cool.
My poster collection grew, and was joined on a succession of walls by Vogue covers, postcards bought and received, (rarely) a gig ticket, or a picture someone had scrawled in the pub. My ephemeral existence on display.
We all did the same, but different.
Stumbling into some baltic kitchen at 3am with a tin of red stripe in your pocket and a stolen ashtray in your handbag. Shivering and lighting fags off the gas cooker while Beatrice Dalle sulked down on you from the “Betty Blue” poster that every boy I ever knew owned.
Somewhere along the line though, that stopped. The innocuous snap of a clip frame heralding the gentrification of your life. Followed by ironing boards, a drawer full of tablecloths, drink that wasn’t to be drunk that very night.
As part of a trip organised by the National Galleries of Scotland I once visited the home of a very wealthy Edinburgh art lover. A fairytale Arts and Crafts mansion in an affluent suburb, we were shown paintings by Alberto Morocco, John Bellany, Peploe and George Leslie Hunter, even a Raeburn. All these treasures, hung on panelled walls, lit so tenderly, shaded from the sun by heaps of suffocating curtain at least a yard thick. The very charming hostess invited us to look round the house at our leisure. I wandered upstairs and opened the door into a bedroom. One whole wall was covered in posters and postcards, tacked on with blue tack. Some were tired and beaten up, some shiny and new.
The only trace of the art school girl the owner once was - those posters and the bitten and chewed fingernails that sometimes tugged at the sleeve of her cashmere sweater.
My posters are still in the attic. I might dig them out and fix them straight to the wall. Pins pressed into plaster. Defiantly impermanent.
When you carried yourself so lightly, rolled loosely, secured with just a thin elastic band.
*I subsequently discovered, (Lord knows how in those pre-Google days) that the image had been taken from a South African magazine called “The Drum”.