I have been looking after these dogs for about 25 of their 377 years of existence, and between yesterday and today, I have spent a solid 6 hours beginning an attempt to secure their future for when I am no longer able to.
There are three of them, and this is the only one which has not needed my physical care and attention in it's long life, mainly because it is a lot beefier than its brothers, and also a lot higher up, out of reach of malicious hands.
They currently belong to a local government, who purchased the wall they sit on in order to demolish it in a road-widening scheme, but they have since built a by-pass and these dogs are - almost literally - mill-stones around their necks.
I have begun the long and tortuous process of getting them listed so that they cannot - as I have stopped twice in the past - be taken down and sold to antique-dealers of the most unscrupulous kind.
The two I know of would sell their mothers for a profit, and one of them actually said to me, "What good are they up there? Far better that they are taken down and appreciated for what they really are." Yeah, right.
Another one came into my workshop about 20 years ago and when he spotted the dog, his eyes flashed for an instant - like Gollum's - before he professionally composed himself and asked what it was doing there with an air of disinterest.
"Is it for sale?" There was a distinct but forced tone of 'I will take it off your hands' in his voice. I said that it was, indeed, for sale, but I was not going to part with it for less than £xxx. I deliberately undervalued it by a factor of about 2000, and his response was very revealing.
"Does that include the restoration?"
I sweetly smiled at him and he realised he had been had.
"YOU FUCKING BASTARD!" He returned to his old self as if he had just picked up The Ring, and stormed out. He has never forgiven me.
The other dealer was once tangentially involved with an article I made for a super-famous musical and theatrical impresario, when I was called to his converted priory to discuss a fountain bowl he needed as a water-feature in the garden.
We went into the garden, then Sir X pointed to an extremely large, male, stone figure in one corner which he had just bought from the dealer for around £50,000, saying that the bowl needed to compliment some details on the '17th century statue'. The statue was made of Vicenza stone, and easily recognisable as being no older than about 30 years, and worth no more than about £5000 tops.
The bastard dealer had put me in a very difficult position indeed, and the gardener gave me a sideways look which I furtively returned. Should I tell Sir X and embarrass him, or should I just keep my mouth shut and hope for the worst?
Of course, it would only be a matter of time before Sir X learned the truth of the matter, and it would be an even shorter period of time before he understood that I had been in some way complicit in the deal, whether I had been or not.
I have not heard from Sir X since, so I think that time has passed.
I found this stage-coach flyer from 1706 yesterday, sitting in an ancient frame and perched high up on the shelf of a shop.
I took it down and looked at it through the magnifying glass which I always carry with me, and saw no obviously modern print tell-tales, so became mildly excited.
On the wood panel at the back of the dirty old frame, there was a 19th century book-seller's label saying, 'Melville Fletcher & Son, St. Andrews NB.' I began to think that Mr Bodingfold had travelled further North than York, ending up in Scotland, but then I wondered what the letters 'NB' stood for.
An internet search said that it was New Brunswick. Maybe Mr Bodingfold had gone even further and ended up in Canada? The plot really thickened.
I bought it for a reasonable amount of money, and when I took it home I looked at it a little closer through the glass in the frame. I was drinking a bit of red wine at the time. There was a slightly iridescent sheen on the surface of the paper, and I became a bit more doubtful.
This morning - in the light of day - I took it out of the frame, then took a few photos through my electronic microscope.
There were obviously no print impressions, or indeed any sign of it having been reproduced using relatively modern photocopying machinery. It began to look as if someone had photographed the original with an old-fashioned camera, then mounted it onto a bit of paper.
So I typed some relevant words into a search and found this:
The original appears to be in the Science Museum, London, because they claim copyright of the image.
I now think that mine is a Victorian photograph and, as such, may still be worth the sort of money I paid for it, but not what it would have been if over 300 years old...
Moral: Don't let your excitement and optimism get in the way of hard, logical deduction. You would think after a lifetime of Sherlock Holmes I would have learned this lesson by now, but obviously not.
I sat at the kitchen table and remembered a time when I was about 12 and bought a cow leg-bone in The Lanes in Brighton because the bastard told me it was from a dinosaur. I didn't want to believe it even when my aunt and father laughed at me for being so gullible, and I kept it for years afterwards, eventually swapping it for some other trifle.
I haven't progressed much in the intervening years.
I recently sold this little, African wood sculpture for about 10 times more than I paid for it, and now I miss it. I don't normally like 'ethnic' art, but this bit is rather fetching, don't you think?
The only slightly disturbing thing about it is that - from the waist down - it tended to put me in mind of Kim Kardashian every now and then.
I used to go out with a girl who had similar attributes to this Venus, and I can honestly say that one could have rested a book below her back to read it. I know this for a fact because I once did. It was not 'War and Peace', though, and I did not get much reading done.
The other slightly disturbing thing about it is the missing head, arms and legs.
Although these omissions could be misunderstood as disrespect, I know - as a sculptor - it would be an entirely different thing (I was about to say 'object', but that word is too charged in this context as well) to what it is now, and just wouldn't work as a piece of sculpture as it does.
I know that I have already said how - when assisting a sculptor in making a classical figure of Apollo - we experimented with putting a normal-sized penis on the figure, and this was a disaster which was easily rectified by whittling it down to juvenile proportions, as all the Greek and Roman sculptors did. If we had begun the other way round, this would not have been possible.
The trouble was that it was deeply off-putting to have a normal willy on it, and one's eye was immediately drawn to that region at the expense of the rest of the anatomical carving. This is the sole reason why the classical sculptors gave them diminutive tackle, and this in itself was an extremely valuable lesson to learn.
Cro has already pointed out that it is - somehow - better to have over-size hands and feet on a classical figure, so what you lose in the trouser-department can be made up for in other extremities.
The Victorians liked large backsides, but detested big hands and feet on all but agricultural workers.
If you paint large hands on agricultural workers, remember that they must also be red.
I had just left the petrol station when I took this photo, but I had to do a double-take to see what was being advertised on offer there at the pumps. I don't think it is just me that had the same inappropriate thoughts - especially when you notice how they describe the colours...
When I trawl through my photos looking for something hiding in amongst the thousands of others, I am forced to stop every now and then and revisit an image which takes me back in time. This award-winning one above (nominated by me) reminds me of a Peter Tinniswood or Nick Warburton play.
I love this trailer, parked up next to my stone-supplier by - presumably - a potato merchant. The same merchant is probably lobbying the government health police to get around to designating the humble potato as one of our five a day.
Like another view of Mount Fuji, here's the old Falcon and chicken shot again. I obviously cannot resist a good photo opportunity, no matter how many times it presents itself.
On the rare occasions that H.I. or me hunt for a particular old photo from the piles of prints in bags, boxes or containers, we suddenly realise that about three hours have been passed in pondering pictures of her aged 20 or 13, her daughter aged 3 or 15, or me with dark hair.
I have sepia prints of the grandparents I never knew with their parents - complete with an Aspidistra to once side of the photographer's studio, and marvel at how close to the Victorian age we really are.
In one way it is great that digital photography allows us to take so many pictures and I no longer duck as I walk past a tourist in the street taking a shot, but in another it has made us all a lot more careless - all those bloody selfies, or pictures of untouched restaurant meals. If I have to see Kim Kardashian's arse one more time...
Yesterday's post was an exercise in talking to the blind, but today's is - for me - picture heavy, though I know I could never compete with many of you, even if I did own an expensive camera.
I have an acquaintance (I could not call him a friend) who told me he was not in the slightest bit interested in looking at my 'holiday snaps' when I tried to show him the recently discovered, ancient and magnificent cisterns beneath the streets of old Istanbul. He is mean spirited about most things anyway, which is why I could never count him as a friend.
I love looking at people's holiday snaps, no matter how crappy they are - just so long as they don't hand them to me one by one or edit them. I will decide how long I want to look at something, thank you.
That coat is just about to come out again, but the hat... is not quite right...