Thursday, 14 January 2010

That Thorn / Hobbs Drawing - Revisited

Today you find your scribe sitting working in the local Wetherspoons pub – I had intended to go to the gym but it turns out that it is going to be shut for a few days. So here I am, sat sitting, and leafing through my notebook I came upon the second part of the piece I wrote around that old Thorn / Hobbs illustration. If you pop back to the original piece / illustration you will understand that this takes the form of some rather rambling thoughts that came to me while sitting in a pub having earlier in the day stumbled across a printout of this old drawing that i had all but forgotten about. Basically it is a series of ideas and thought processes that sprang naturally from the ambiguity of the scenario depicted and as such the ideas tend to branch and grow and pile one upon the other in no particular order but based around certain assumptions about the interrelationship of the participants. At this point I had moved in on a certain assumption as regrades the seated older woman.

Assuming that the woman is a teacher or governess having the intent of returning the young trollop to a strict regime of scholastic discipline, is it then her intention of only leaving the shop once she has the girl suitably dressed from head to foot in full school uniform? Although it seems doubtful that such an establishment as this would seem to be from the visible clues available would stock attire that would be deemed suitable in any conventional sense, in the case of a young lady, schooled in seclusion and kept largely out of public view, that sensibility might be shifted somewhat. On the other hand, being an efficient and well organised woman, might she have arranged beforehand to have a suitable complete wardrobe delivered from elsewhere? Then again, perhaps our young lady will be relieved to find herself handed back the fashionable adult outfit she arrived in, only to be much later dismayed when led to an old-fashioned school outfitters, hidden away in the backstreets, and shown through to a rear stockroom that looks as if it has been frozen in time since the 1950s.

This is where the artist (whoever he might in reality be) has surpassed himself, in the way that he uses the girl's body language to tell the story. Anything seems possible from this point onwards; just a glance at the position of the girl's hands and arms and one instantly reads that this girl, however defiant she might have been before, is now ready to go through almost anything rather than receive further cuts across her backside from that cane lying readily to hand on the table in the foreground. And surely at this particular moment she would welcome any form of covering rather than suffer further the feeling of naked defencelessness that undoubtedly fills her. If she were to be led to a changing room right at that moment, perhaps puzzling as to the fact that her clothing has been left out on the shop-floor, eyeing the young female assistant, barely older than herself, nervously, she might well react in dismay at the sight of the green and white, candy-striped, school blouse draped over the assistant's arm and the short-bodied bottle green 'bum-freezer' blazer waiting on a hanger at the rear, but would she have the temerity to voice her objection? Isn't it more likely that under the circumstances she would be welcoming of any form of covering, however humiliating it might seem? And even if she did balk, perhaps dismayed as the light catches the proffered blouse's satin fabric - seemingly more appropriate if incorporated in a bridesmaid's dress - and she realises that she can make out the shop assistants fingertips through the sheer fabric, perhaps noting for the first time the high, stiffened Eton collar, the equally stiff long cuffs and the childish subtly-puffed shoulders, she knows that the cane is still there waiting. A few wickedly burning strokes landed across her bottom in full view of the young shop assistant would soon have her fingers fumbling with the buttons, her cheeks burning and even deeper shade of red as the skin-close fit becomes apparent; the fitted in-sweeping side-panels curve notably inwards along the contours of her torso and the clever darting at the bosom allows the buttoning to nestled deep within the separation of her bust, tending to exaggerate her already quite generous feminine attributes. I can well imagine that if created by the mind behind this store, then she would find that the collar would button as tight as to seemingly threaten strangulation - even before the diagonally striped, green and gold, school tie is knotted about her neck - and would be as restrictive as to oblige her to keep her chin raised.

The school tie can only add to this sense of restriction. Nestling in the valley between her melon-thrusted breasts it acts to draw the eye to her cleavage, just as the short blazer, buttoning only at the waist by way of two buttons and thus open the front, seems calculated to draw the gaze inwards to where the thimble outline of her nipples can clearly be seen through the thin fabric, raising this already naturally shy girl's self-consciousness to a new level and conversely sending her self-confidence crashing. The form fitting blazer, with its broad lapels drawing in the eye, reveals more than it covers - indeed, it's more a showcase than a covering.

Perhaps a full-length slip might ordinarily have been called for, certainly if she were to leave wearing the gym tunic that has been supplied, but this woman has other ideas for her charge and for today a white nylon waist-slip has been considered sufficient. The thick nylon petticoat has been styled as if a pencil skirt and its reinforced hem girdles the girl's upper thighs allowing only the daintiest of gaits -there will be no more unsightly and feminine striding out for her, nor running about, nor any other activity that might be considered too 'boisterous'.

Beneath that, the bloomer-style interlocked-cotton school knickers fit as closely as if a sprayed-on second skin. Their latex inner lining clings intimately to her flesh and embarrassingly so in all the wrong places. Their frilled leg-cuffs, reaching down and dimpling prettily the lower part of her thighs, are adorned with bottle-green nylon satin bows at the sides; the ribbon being striped with gold so as to match the school tie, the ribbon trim around the lapels and detailing of the blazer and the ribbon bows that will later dress her hair, it is clear that this feature is very much designed to be on show, charmingly peeking out from beneath the hem of her skirt as she walks. As for the latter, the skirt is a conventional enough circular sunray-pleated affair realised in bottle green or light blue as appropriate, perhaps even a pastel shade - a full school uniform realised in soft pastel pinks and baby blues could be an interesting departure don't you think - flaring markedly out from an overly tight, perhaps belted, waistband and coming to its hem at no more than mid-thigh at most. Long coltish legs might perhaps be thought best left bare, perhaps finished off with white frilled, turnover ankle socks, the tops decorated with a dainty ribbon bow at the front or back on the outer sides as preferred and in a suitable colour so as to match skirt, blazer and shoes or perhaps striped so at to match the school tie, the ribbons in her hair and those at the leg-cuffs of her knickers.

As if this were not enough to crush the sturdiest of spirits, then a single glance at the badge emblazoned on the breast pocket of the blazer, mirroring that embroidered on the breast pocket of school blouse beneath, should do so, most assuredly - it would certainly do nothing to ease the girl's discomfiture, promising as it does, a suggestion of her future. Two wicked looking crook-handled canes are depicted crossed over an open school textbook and surmounted by the words: 'St Anne's Reformatory' and a legend curving beneath reading: 'chastisement, discipline and obedience' in a curling embroidered copperplate. That the named establishment does not formally exist is neither here nor there, it is the intent that it implies that matters here - and the confidence-undermining affect that the woman intends it to have on her charge's mind.

Now suitably subdued, our young lady is led away from the store. But perhaps not back to where she headed out from so cheerily that morning, perhaps a new home awaits - but of this latter development she is presently blissfully unaware. As of this moment, she feels that little could be more humiliating than her present circumstances – she couldn't be more wrong. There is much waiting in the wings that she is destined to feel more humbling than this – how misguided she is if she considers this to be her absolute cringe-worthy limit. But then of course she has yet to be sat in the barber's chair: “She wants a nice trim – side-parted and as short as a boy's. Isn't that right dear?”.

And she still has her appointment with the orthodontist specialist to look forward to: she isn't at all sure that she needs braces on her teeth, and most would agree. She certainly isn't looking forward to it, nor viewing the result in the mirror. Her anxiety is well founded, despite the constant reassurances – unbeknownst to her the ironwork has already been chosen and there is nothing modern, lightweight and discreet about it! But then again her guardian is a woman well known as nothing if not a perfectionist, Shes is also not one to squander a pretty penny on cosmetic dentistry without the promise of a good return. It is the all-in-one efficacy of the treatment that has attracted her attention: Perfect that near perfect smile, do something about the petulant brat's overwrought vanity and curb her incessant chatter, all in one...Perfect. Idiotically impeded speech the girl might well be cursed with as a result, but her guardian has set great store on that velvety tongue of hers not being so impeded that it can't be later educated to serve and to please in the correct manner. That day might still be someway off - perhaps still too far off to properly plan for – but that day will come. One that day one uniform will be swapped for another and the girl will find that a promising academic career will have been swapped for lowly service, the pen for the dustpan and the office chair for the kneeling pad..

So there you have it, an unashamedly rambling example of how a single pic can lead one thought to another and yet another.


Madmonkey said...

Well you seem to have figured out exactly what is going on in that picture! Maybe you can take this and make it into a short story or something.

Anonymous said...

Garth might also comment on other pictures by Thorn/Hobbs.
By the way, you had put a link to an exhaustive gallery of his drawings. I can't find it again!

Toyntanen said...

It was not that I wanted to figure anything out as such, just to consider the possibilities - including some of wilder conjecture. Obviously this sort of thing is an exercise in private fantasy, even if I choose to share my thoughts with others, but it all goes to 'inform' my writing (how posy does that sound) and the point of sharing is to give some insight into the thought processes that such illustrations sometimes have the power to trigger.

As for Orage's query regarding an exhaustive gallery of [Thorn / Hobbs'] drawings – well, to be honest the most complete I have come across is probably the collection that I have gathered together in my Picasaweb album. Check out the right hand sidebar for the link.