Thursday, 30 May 2013

My wife doesn't understand


Lady Antonia Fraser was on the jolly old wireless set last night, saying that Turner's 'The Fighting Temeraire' (above) was her favourite painting when a child, and it reminded me that - blow me - it was mine as well. I even bought a framed print of it to put on my bedroom wall. I hadn't thought of it for years, but that is probably because other art-forms (see previous post) took over my adolescence during the intervening years.

When I was 14-15, I got a job in our local 'Boots the Chemsist' on the 'Farms and Gardens' section, right next to the actual chemist's, where seedy men used to buy condoms when to do so was a shameful adventure, long before STDs became so popular amongst teenagers.

The manager was a small and kindly, Jewish, balding man in a dark, pin-striped suit with a gold watch-chain, called Mr Samuels. He took a bit of a shine to me and when he found out it was my intention to go to art-school, he put me in charge with ordering all the 'Boots Prints' from a gigantic catalogue, and I would spend many happy, solitary hours selecting them with his blessing in a tiny room above the shop.

In those days, the most popular prints sold at Boots were the ones of Italian-looking, big-eyed children with tears running down their cartoon faces, and the best selling one of all time was Trechikov's 'Green Lady'. Even my mother had a version hanging on the sitting room wall. I - temporarily - put a stop to all that nonsense by buying nothing but classics, and I probably lost a lot of money for the Woking branch of Boots at the same time.

One day, Mr Samuels asked me to stay behind after work, because he had something to show me. I stood by him outside the store as he checked, double-checked and triple-checked the doors before asking me to do the same, even though it was quite obvious that they had all been securely locked by him a few minutes previously. We walked away, then he insisted on returning just to check the doors one more time.

Eventually, I accompanied him back to his nearby house, with him pushing the old bicycle he rode to work, and he was so mysterious about what he had to show me, that I  - unworthily - began to suspect some sexual motives. I had previous experience of stuff like that, and I seemed to attract it in my youth.

He let us into his little house, calling to his wife to let her know that he was home. I never saw her.

He then lead me into a small room, and locked the door behind us. Taking another key from his pocket, he unlocked a cupboard and extracted a large wooden box which obviously contained something heavy.

Yet another key was produced and he opened the lid of the box to lift out a solid gold figure of Buddha which was studded with precious stones. Placing it the table, he stared at it and said, "What do you think? Beautiful, isn't it?"

"You are the only person who I have ever shown this to - even my wife does not know about it. She would not understand. I am showing it to you because I know that you appreciate Art, but I want you to promise never to tell anyone else of it's existence".

It was one of my most surreal experiences, and I think that dear old Mr Samuels would forgive me for telling you about it now, all these years later.


20 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story Tom. Do you wonder what happened to that Buddha - I certainly do.

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    1. It became the subject of a Wilkie Collins tale, but that's another story.

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  2. And what did you think of the Buddha, Tom?

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    1. Just the job for old, Jewish Mr Samuels.

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  3. well told--thanks for sharing it with us, too.

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    1. I hadn't thought about it for years, until The Fighting Temeraire came up.

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  4. Buddha said 'To understand everything means to forgive everything', so maybe the wife would have understood - and maybe not.
    But the man must have trusted you very much, that is the beauty of your story - and he must have been wishing to share the beauty of his Buddha and get appreciation for it from you.

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    1. It was like he was showing me his darkest secret, but it turned out to be his lightest one. What a strange and amusing world.

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  5. And I've just been listening to a programme all about 'Anthony Blunt at the Courtauld' on the wireless, with my old friend Sewell coughing up his wisdom.

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    1. Anthony Blunt? That's Cockney rhyming slang, isn't it? (I await a response from Sarah Toa).

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  6. Where are the green bollocks?

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    1. Too boring, so I deleted it as soon as I posted it.

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    2. And the candlestick one?

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    3. Same again, but I did finish it with the C word, just to get you to comment, so it worked anyway!

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  7. Have you read the Times today, Tom? "Junk shop Buddha sells for 113.000 Pounds, found by a man when he was helping his mother to clear out her belongings after the death of his father. Auctioneers said: Largo.Chino Tibetian gilt bronzed deity (though the gems where broken out). "

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    1. That Jewish bastard Samuels should have gifted it to me! (Only joking of course, I loved him and he gave me more precious gifts!).

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  8. Tom - sometimes your post comes up on my side bar but just will not appear on my blog. Your seasick-looking woman in your next post looks most interesting but I cannot make it appear - sorry.

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    1. Don't worry Weave, that'd because I deleted it as soon as I posted it - sorry, but it was too boring to bother with.

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  9. Now I can't get your next post either - have you deleted that too?

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    1. Yes, Weave. Sorry, I know it's irritating, but it's not as irritating as it would have been if I left it up.

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