Friday, 10 April 2015
All around the land the great and the good – well, the party leaders, at any rate – are crying “Road Trip!” and competing to annoy the greatest number of citizens by trying to prove they are human themselves. Of course, it is entirely normal for blokes in suits to don hard hats and pretend to hold a manual tool whose purpose they can’t fathom. Or to go around kissing random babies, spreading who-knows-what infection. Or to stand on soap boxes like demented street preachers and talk about how Britain can do better. Yeah, yeah, right… better leave roadshows to the professionals, I say.
These unwise outings reminded me of the time the Antiques Roadshow came to the big house in the village. The grounds of Cholmondeley Manor were packed with curious onlookers, much as they come to gawp at Ed Miliband and his amazing array of gurning faces, there to see the reactions to dismal valuations. And they weren’t disappointed.
A long-lost Gaugin, insured for millions, turned out to be a worthless scrawl by a poor, nineteen-sixties imitator. A towering confection of gilded filigree, housing a squawking, over-sized and malevolent-looking mechanical canary, a figure of curiosity and cacophony, was chuckled over and valued at “Fifty quid, tops”. And a collection of seaside postcards thought to be by the celebrated Edwardian illustrator, Donald McGill were identified as none of the kind, crudely drawn and rather more offensive than saucy. The day dragged on with valuable treasures being rather thin on the ground.
The roving camera crew trawled the queues and strolling observers to pick up the odd vox pop and occasionally a longer interview. Hoping to serendipitously happen upon TV gold. As the afternoon wore on they came across the lady of the house, accompanied by a servant pushing a trolley on which sat two formidable creatures. In an affront to the art of the taxidermist a pair of what were once pedigree hounds sat, stiffly, to attention. When asked about them, Lady Chalfont-St-Farquhar barked, “Pair of the best dashed springers I ever had! Mad as hatstands, of course, but we loved ‘em more than the children; ghastly little things – glad I had ‘em packed orf to boarding school, what!”
Thanks for dinner... I'm stuffed
The interviewer sensed he was on to a winner and pressed on with various questions which were answered with the classic, stiff-upper lip barrage of staccato return fire, as if delivering commands to the servants. Pretending to admire the moth-eaten remains and oblivious to the owner’s pride he ventured to enquire about their possible value: “And what do you think they would have fetched had they still been alive?” Lady Vivian stared at him as if he had farted at dinner. “You insensitive prick!” she bellowed. “What would they have fetched? What do you think? Sticks!”