Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Antiquities Roadshow

"Hello. My name is Leona Sluice and welcome to the 'Antiquities Roadshow'. This week we are at Peniston Hall, home to the Illingworth family."
(Producers note: Avoid filming the unofficial traveller's site when shooting opening sequence in the grounds.)

"In all my years on the Antiquities Roadshow, I have rarely seen such a fine picture in the 'Bognor' style," said the expert. "Tell me, how did you come by it?"
"It was left to me by my uncle when he died, last year. Apparently he knew the artist."
"You can make out the artist's name, here in the bottom right corner, John Thomas," pointed out the expert. "John was known to be painting in Bognor in the fifties. A Royal Academician he rarely painted anything other than young children in various stages of undress. Do you like it?"
"Not a lot!" replied the visito. "My missus likes it but I think its a load of c**p ... Whoops! Can I say that?"
"That's a shame," said the expert, a gaudily dressed man with bright blazer and flamboyant shirt."I believe his beautifully crafted use of light and colour has produced a work of rare perception and barely suppressed innocence."
"Well it's 'bare' alright," said the visitor. "He should have been locked up, painting kids like that. Bloody paedo' if you ask me!"
"If this came up for sale in the right auction ...," hurried the expert.
"Full of perverts you mean," interrupted the owner.
"... I expect it to fetch in excess of a million pounds. Beautiful picture; one of his best I've seen."
"Blimey!" said the shocked man, suddenly taking a new interest in the painting."I wouldn't give you tuppence for it. My uncle always said he treated him nicely though!"

"You know who this piece of glass is by of course?" says the expert.
"Yes it's by René Lalique. It's signed at the bottom," says the excited visitor, with high expectations of a good valuation.
"Yes; the most famous glassmaker of all time. Marked 'R Lalique' so it was made before 1945. Tell me, do you like it?"
"Well yes," replies the man. "My brother says it's worth a bit. He's seen one like it on 'Flog it'."
"Let's look at it in more detail, shall we," says the expert. "It's a well known piece of moulded clear glass. You did know that it was moulded, didn't you?"
Visitor shakes his head. "No, I can't say that I did. There are no cracks or chips."
"Yes you can see here the slightly raised line where the blown glass tries to expand into the join of the two halves of the mould."
The visitor's demeanour is changing as he feels his treasure is not as valuable as he hoped.
"There were quite a few of these made and a large number are still in existence. In a way it was mass produced and misses some of the detail of earlier vases. Quite honestly if it wasn't for the mark, this would be worthless, but because it is by Lalique, I suppose we have to value it as being worth £200 but Who in their right mind would pay anything for this rubbish?"
"I did," replied the man, indignantly.
"Do you mind me asking how much you paid for it?" said the expert, regretting that he's been so honest.
"£300, two years ago," replied the man, hurt to be seen as a twit on prime time TV."Call yourself an expert! You know nothing. You're a fraud. Bloody b******d."
CUT! CUT! shouted the producer as the visitor made a grab at the expert, sending them both crashing to the floor.

"What a beautiful bronze! I noticed it as soon as I came in the room," said the expert. "How did it come into your possession?"
"I found it -in a skip."
The expert is visibly shaken by the announcement. "You found it in a skip?" he asked.
"I just said that," replied the rather scruffy man.
The expert, wearing a brown corderoy jacket with leather elbow patches, picks up the object and sensitively turns it in his practiced hands.
"It's a good, popular subject, boy with dog, which helps increase its value. Can I draw your attention to the fine detail around the dog's ears and in particular under the tail, around the ... well er. I know a lot of people who'd like to get their hands on it!"
"What! Its bottom?"
"No! Ha, ha" he said, chuckling. "The dog. It's signed by a first rate nineteenth century sculptor, Antonio Gorgonzola, and is in excellent condition. The piece has been widely copied recently but the patina tells me this is just right. Most new pieces have been artificially aged which gives them away rather."
"And?" urged the scruff, impatiently.
"I was just coming round to that," said the expert, getting a whiff of the man's body odour and stepping back a pace.
"I have no hesitation in saying that you should insure this for half a million. Not bad for something you found in a skip."
"Thanks. Can't stop," said the scruff, picking up his treasure. "Got to go. Do you know where I can find a good pawnbroker?"

"Do you recognise the symbol on the inside cover of the box?" asked the jewellery expert, looking doubtfully at the woman. "The double headed eagle is the give-away mark of an internationally recognised Russian maker."
"Is it Smirnoff?" asked the visitor nervously, not particularly wanting to be quizzed on television. She wasn't very good at quizzes.
The expert smiled. He'd seen people like this in every corner of the country; wherever the Antiquities Roadshow went. Philistines; the bloody lot of them, he thought.
"Smirnoff is a brand of vodka," he answered with a good measure of sarcasm."I'm talking, of course, of the greatest Russian jeweller, the official jeweller to the court of the Imperial Royal Family. The maker of the famous Easter eggs. I'm talking, of course, of Fabergé."
"Oh!" smiled the visitor gormlessly."Her."
"It's a nice thing," sighed the expert, a wealthy owner of a very smart shop in Bond Street. "Can you tell me a little about it?"
"Dunno," said the waif-like woman before him. "Me muvver left it me. She said it came from 'er aunt. She was a dancer - sort of."
"How interesting," mused the expert whilst making up his mind about the aunt's particular talents.He puts his eyepiece to his eye and examined the jewel.
"Its a rare combination jewel or parure," he said, knowledgeably. "It is a tiara, but in fact you can take it apart to make a brooche, a pair of earrings, even a necklace. The stones are flawless diamonds, Ceylon rubies and Colombian emeralds, set in eighteen carat gold and platinum." He took out his eyepiece and smiled falsely.
"Have you insured the jewel, may I ask?"
"I don't think so. It's just been lying in a drawer since me mum died.I thought it was paste."
"The Russians are keen to buy these pieces; its part of their history. So despite the recession the market for the work of this maker is buoyant. Its worth two billion pounds. Thank you so much for bringing it in. You've made my day!"
"Oh! Is that it! I knew I should have brought the other six pieces!"

Now we come to the part of the show where I ask one of our experts about their own collections," says Leona Sluice to the camera. "I shall be asking them what piece gives them the most pleasure and what was their biggest folly. Today it's the turn of Jim Kana. What have got for us, Jim?"
"I'll start, if I may, with my greatest treasure. It's these," he said pointing out some amorphous black objects on the table in front of them.
"They don't look much," said Leona.
"They're certainly antique," said Jim, proudly. "They're over seventy thousand years old, ha ha ha. They're dinasaur poo."
"What do you see in them; I mean why do you like them?" asked Leona, bending down to have a sniff.
"The sense of history; a link to a long lost time," replied Jim. "I can just imagine this huge Diplodocus standing there, all those years ago with the pterodactyles buzzing about his head, having this enormous dump. Brings tears to my eyes to think about it."
"I can imagine," said Leona. "Now what about your biggest folly. It looks like a broken owl."
I bought a mixed lot of pottery in a local village auction," he said excitedly. "Imagine my surprise when I got the box home and saw 'Ollie' at the bottom. In perfect condition it was a fantastic example of English seventeenth century slipware. Unbelievably rare! I took it out, held it up to the light for a better look and dropped it. It shattered into a thousand pieces. As it was, in good condition, it was worth hundreds of thousands and now its worth vitually nothing," said the expert, fighting to hold back the tears.
"There, there, Jim," said Leona, passing him a tissue before continuing: "That's not the end of the story though. Is it Jim? Since then we've had to take you off fine porcelain because no one trusts you to handle their china or glass."
"It's all so sad," said the expert, fondling his droppings as the tears started to flow."Its teddy bears and tin b****y trains for me these days."

"My Grandmother was in service and I understand that she was given this when she left."
"Why did she leave? Do you know?"
"As far as I can tell, some items of the Lady's apparently went missing. That's all I know."
"Well this is a particularly fine painting. It's certainly a Constable; one can make out the signature. Dated 1822, it is a scene from the river Stour. One needs to do some research but this could be very exciting. It may be a painting, long thought to be lost."
"Well it would be; wouldn't it? It was in my granny's attic for years!"
"Quite so," replied the expert, looking at the back of the picture for clues.
"Have the police ever asked your grandmother about it?" asked the increasingly worried expert."Has anyone asked your grandmother about it?"
"The lady died shortly after my granny left," said the young girl. "Why should anyone ask about it?"
"Oh! No reason," he backtracked. "Subject to research and if it is the missing Constable, I have no hesitation in saying that at auction this will easily fetch one billion pounds."
"Granny will be pleased. The gardner told her it would be worth something one day."

(Producer's note: Camera to Leona)
"Well we've had a wonderful day, here at Peniston hall. Our thanks, once again, to the Illingworth family. Until next time that's all from this week's Antiquities Roadshow."

Signed copies NOW available for purchase at ROHHA Lifestyle, Mojácar Playa
Kevill Davies is author of 'Apsaras'. Available at most on line book shops.
Read more on his Indaloblog at

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