As I snaked my way around the maze that was Freshers’ Fayre, I could hear my father’s voice telling me that, whatever I do, I must not sign up for too many societies. ‘Be restrained’, he said, on the eve of my starting at St. Andrews.
Most of the time, I take onboard his advice: he is a fantastic resource, partly because he has made mistakes of his own in his lifetime. I sometimes suspect that he tries to make up for these mistakes vicariously through me, his only son. However, on this occasion, like a young child surrounded by chocolate, I lost sight of his paternal Star of Bethlehem and succumbed to the fatal temptation of the seemingly endless societies that were on offer.
I had already distributed my e-mail address to the entire world when I came across the Catwalk 2020 committee handing out their beautiful business cards — mostly, I noted, to beautiful humans. I pulled my shoulders back, ran my fingers through my hair, and approached them bursting with confidence. As I seized one of the cards, all reason was overpowered by my fierce ego, which had been sparked into life by the mere mention of the word ‘model’, with all its glorious connotations. I would like to add that, before this, it had never so much as crossed my mind to take up modelling, and it was out of pure, blind enthusiasm that I decided to apply.
After a brief audition, I was accepted onto the team. I was so flattered that I gave absolutely no thought as to what it would entail. Perhaps I thought it would be easy: after all, walking along a stage does not sound like particularly hard work.
If I went in blinded by arrogance, however, my complacency was very soon knocked out of me. At the very first rehearsal, we, the models, were launched into a complex walking routine which involved twists, turns, pauses and backward steps, all jumbled up into a nightmarish agglomeration of movements. As I repeatedly made the same mistakes over and over again (much to the dismay of everyone around me) I had a minor confidence crisis and began to question my mental ability. I came up with the excuse that, just as some people hit a brick wall when they attempt maths, learning coordinated routines was simply not what my brain was made for.
Not only did I discover that walking really was not my forte, but, before long, even the reality of owning the label of ‘model’ began to lose its appeal. Either my excessive boasting was disagreeable to people, or else there was a more general, underlying stigma against male models, but I soon discovered that no one actually cared about my newly acquired status. Everyone else’s indifference translated into my own indifference.
Of course, I had not expected to be stopped in the street to sign autographs like some heart-throb of a pop idol, but I had thought that my friends and family would at least support me in my endeavour. My father, who had set the bar by passing SAS selection in his youth, had visions of me walking up and down mountains with the Officers’ Training Corps, following up in his proud military footsteps. Instead, I was walking up and down a catwalk, dressed not in camouflage but in flowery robes. I could sense his disappointment leaking out of the phone as I tenderly broke it to him that I had sacrificed OTC for modelling.
Even my ex-girlfriend, who I erroneously thought would be overjoyed to have a model for a boyfriend, said that if my modelling reflected anything, it was my startling level of vanity. (Incidentally, that is not why she is an ex-girlfriend).
The situation only got worse. After the long winter break in which the only form of walking I did constituted going to and from the supermarket, I found that I had forgotten everything I had been taught. With only three weeks left before the show, we were bombarded with yet more routines to learn, which only added to my despair. The hardest part was undoubtedly the boys’ walk, with its swift pivots and sharp head movements. I was far from reassured when it transpired that I had no more than one ‘eight count’ to make it from one side of the stage to the other, in a mad rush to begin the next section of the walk.
What is more, all the proceeds from the show go to charity. Among the charities Catwalk supports are: The Yard, a local institution which helps young people with disabilities; Calm, an organisation which combats suicide and mental health; and Women for Women, whose aim is to assist female victims of war. Although I fear my ego took precedence over altruism in my decision to join Catwalk, I am nevertheless pleased that I have in some way contributed to these worthy charities.
Making matters worse, I was to be trussed up in a full kilt complete with sporran, dagger and jacket — not exactly ideal for sprinting across backstage. All the while, my ability to pick up the choreography was not getting any better. All the other models seemed to be mastering the walks effortlessly; meanwhile, I could not even start off on the right foot.
Whenever I have my doubts about my past-time, I remind myself that fashion shows like Catwalk are one of the unique highlights that St. Andrews has to offer. Everyone knows the story of how Kate Middleton, during a charity fashion show, wooed her future husband by appearing on stage in lacy underwear. While it is sadly improbable that I will meet a gorgeous princess through my modelling, I feel that I am upholding an important St. Andrews tradition. I would even argue that fashion shows are just as much a part of St. Andrews life as golf and there is no doubt in my mind which is the more respectable of the two.
Another thing that keeps me going is the fact that the Catwalk committee have put their lives and souls into the show. Whenever I find myself grumbling about the number of hours I have to put into rehearsals, I put myself in the shoes of the committee members, who must be reaching astronomical levels of stress watching me bungle my way through their carefully laid-out routines. Their ability to stay calm under pressure is admirable and I take my hat off to them for being so patient.
The upcoming show, tomorrow at the time of writing, is causing me an unusual amount of stress. Never would I have thought that I could become so invested in a fashion parade. It is precisely the recognition of the amount of work that has gone into the show that makes it so nerve-wracking. Anxious questions buzz around in my already overladen head: will I fall off the stage? Will pictures of me in Superdry lingerie be distributed far and wide around the internet? More seriously, will I forget all the choreography at the last minute?
What I have realised, however, is that my concerns are not only a waste of energy, but they are also contrary to what Catwalk
is all about. There is a reason why this year’s Catwalk show is called Playtime: it is supposed to be enjoyable for everyone involved, including the models. The final walk of the show — and this is not a give-away since the newspaper will not be circulated till after the show — reaches a climax when all the models fire confetti cannons into the crowd. As we subsequently dance our way joyfully off the stage, we can only hope that no one is injured in the execution of our little surprise.
Now I think about it, it is probably a good thing that I am writing just prior to the show. If fate is cruel and the show strips me of my last shred of credibility, then I will surely have some less positive things to say about the charity. Heaven knows, in the event that I take a step wrong during the Trio Walk and fall head-first into a crowd of drunken spectators, I may even have to write an angry follow-up article in my hospital bed. However, rather than speculating about the potential for complete disaster, I will end my article by stating how honoured I am to have been a part of Catwalk this year.