Friday, June 20, 2008

Mirth and Woe: The X Files

Mirth and Woe: The X Files

The school dark room.

If it could talk, what stories it could tell.

Actually, if it could talk, it would say "The wanking club meets on Tuesdays, and all the porn's kept in the suspended ceiling space above the sink."

After-school activities aren't what they used to be.

I – and this is a story I have stuck to for well over twenty years – was one of the few who actually used the dark room for the purpose for which it was designed: developing and printing photographs in those days before digital photography.

OK, there were certain sixth formers and a certain member of large-chested female staff who used the facilities both for photography and for masturbatory purposes (and we had the negatives to prove it), but they were the exception to an otherwise solid rule that involved far too many photographs of trains taken on platform five of Reading station.

Far too keen as this photographic game, I was joined by my long-lost partner-in-crime Geoff, whose real name I am still sheltering after all these years.

We made a right old killing at the school Christmas Fayre, in which we invited our contemporaries to throw darts at home-produced photos of the teaching staff, donating the best part of a hundred quid to the Head's Buy-a-brand-new-Nissan fund even after deducting what we called reasonable expenses.

Others might have called it embezzlement, but photographic paper's more expensive than you think.

Our next great scheme came about as a result of a fortunate accident.

Being complete sad bastards, we decided on making a photographic record of our entire collection of completed Airfix models. One of the prints – that of a plane silhouetted in front of a window - was accidentally over-exposed by a wanking club member bursting in on the wrong day, and the result was a blurry cigar shape, seemingly suspended in mid-air.

Much like a UFO, in fact.

Very much like a UFO.

So much like a UFO, that we shot some more. After a little experimentation, we found that best results could be obtained by cutting out a saucer shape from a cereal packet, sticking it to the window with Blu-Tac and photographing it through the net curtains on a sunny day. A bit of jiggery-pokery in the darkroom, and Robert, as they say, is your Aunt's live-in lover.

Passed around the easily swayed in the school playground and the local scout hut, the smug realisation fell upon us that no-one could tell they were crude fakes.

"You could make a fortune with these!" said one particularly bug-eyed friend.

And gad, we did.

The Reading Evening Post gave us a whole six quid - SIX QUID! - for the pick of the bunch, which was twice the amount I could earn in a week delivering papers for Darth ("Gasp – you – gasp – cunt – gasp") Vader's newsagents in Twyford.

One thing led to another, and our picture appeared on the wall in Fox Mulder's office in The X Files, with the words "I want to believe" added in crude lettering*. Fame, of a sort.

I understand the same people who paid us that small fortune now work in local television, judging by the number of lights-in-the-sky-filmed-on-my-mobile stories they have these days.

The sad denouement is, of course, the occasion I was abducted by aliens one Friday night on the way back from the pub. How else could you explain those lost eight hours, my coming to in a hedge miles from home, and my face being covered with the remains of a recently deceased "Alien" face-hugger that resembled a half-eaten kebab?

The truth is out there.

* May actually be a lie

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