Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
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.