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My early art collection
I have written before about my formative years in a minor midlands city. Without mentioning names it was the one which produced Joe Orton. A few years ago I passed the the shabby council house he was born in and wondered about all the talent which there must be in similar houses which never blossoms in the way his did.

My talent certainly didn't. While he grew up on a tough estate, I had a comfortable, in fact suffocating, upbringing in a lower middle class family. My mother had escaped the slum around Highfields where my grandfather repaired shoes in the front room of a tiny terraced house stinking of condensed milk. My father was the product of a policeman and a domestic servant. When his sister fell down on the payments of a small house she had bought, he stepped in and took over the payments moving instantly onto the lower rungs of the middle class.

Unlike Joe who developed an appetite for sex and had the guts to up and away to London early in his life, I hid my feelings as I was taught to do. I was touched by a guy once in the Cameo cinema as Joe was in the Odeon but I ran away, Joe didn't.

I did however crave erotic photographs of men and had a secret scrapbook hidden in my bedroom. Finding images to fill it was difficult. I started with photographs of Roman and Greek statues torn from copies of ancient encyclopaedias. I had a picture of a young Cliff Richard stripped to the waist which I am ashamed to admit I used mercilessly late at night.

My best source of material though was the small newsagent where I delivered the local papers down the back streets off Woodgate every night. They sold copies of two magazines, Health and efficiency and Health and strength. The first was a nudist magazine and the second a body building magazine for men.

They were both printed in a pocket size format and used a strange yellow tinged paper which gave them a rather sinister air. I had first seen them in the window of the funny shop by Southgate street bus station which I later found also sold useful rubber articles. They had these and other magazines in the window with strips of paper covering the genital area of the men on the covers. I thought that the paper hid the real thing but when I managed to get a copy in my hand, I found they were all very respectably attired in swimming trunks.

I have to admit now that I stole copies of these magazines from my employer, so strong was my need for them. I slipped them into the canvas bag which held my newspapers' and as I rushed round the streets I was so scared of being caught with such an article on my person. I was 13 or 14 at the time and by the time I got home I came almost before I could get into my bedroom and open the forbidden magazine.

The only nude shots in the magazine were skilfully posed to avoid showing anything I wanted to see but my imagination filled the gap. Posing pouches however bulged suspiciously and I knew that every one must have been as hard as a rock when the pictures were taken.

I can remember my favourite picture to this day. It was a young guy who had won a junior body building contest He had been artistically posed sitting on a block of wood. He wore a posing pouch and he leaned back with his arms stretched out in support behind him. The photographer had chosen a side angle and the pouch curved out from his body in a suggestive way. A carefully place spotlight highlighted the contours and if you looked very carefully you could just make out the shape underneath the fabric.

When I think about it it was probably a sexier picture than many which appear in modern magazines or maybe my age and imagination play me tricks.


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