Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 13 February 2015
What's the Latin for 'toilet'?
One of the perks of my job is being able to truthfully tell people that you buy large quantities of diamonds on a regular basis.
A word of warning: If you ever go to Hatton Garden to buy diamonds, you will be shown into a bare room with a small table and one chair, and someone will bring in a little, folded piece of white paper and place it on the table before you. then leave the room to let you unwrap it.
You can unwrap it if you want, but if you ask to see a different selection of gems because these ones were not quite what you were looking for, you will be told that these are the only ones for sale at this point and then you will be shown to the door. You will never be able to buy diamonds at that establishment again. This is extreme control of the market.
I have a friend who is a classic, Irish, 'Father Jack'-type Catholic priest and he spends a lot of time trying to help the street kids of Brazil. He tells me that most of this time is spent trying to stop the boys from getting into the girls' knickers. He went to Hatton Garden with some emeralds for appraisal that he bought there, and told me that he met the very nice man who I had recommended to him, who sat at a large desk with a portrait of the President of Israel hanging on the wall behind him. I got the message. We can't all be Catholics.
He - in turn - recommended me to conserve some small, stone figures of Saints which adorn the rood-screen of our local, massive Catholic church where he lives in an attached annex.
I was to survey the damage in the half-light of the church, have a quick chat to the Father in his private quarters, then report to the architect who was in charge of the fabric.
"First of all, the figures are a French (I believe) magnesian limestone, and not Bath stone as I had been told." That is where I began and that is where I ended.
"They are Bath stone," insisted the architect.
"No they are not," I insisted back.
"I have been an architect for 30 years," the architect said.
"I have been working with stone for 40 years, and I know Bath stone when I see it," I said back.
Like the dissatisfied diamond buyer, I was shown the door with the implication that I should never darken the threshold again.
I have never met an architect who was not an infuriating combination of overly self-confident and ignorant. I have just walked off a job controlled by a similar architect who was more interested in using the project as a shining example of their personal skill and wisdom rather than the simple community pub toilet renovation that it actually is.
Usually, I wrong-foot such architects by asking them if they have ever read Vitruvius's (the Roman father of modern architecture) book on the subject, written over 2000 years ago. Most of them have never even heard of Vitruvius. In his day, the training of an architect took 21 years.
One day, I was having a bit of an argument with a somewhat upper-class, middle-aged architect, and I resorted to this tactic to shut him up.
"Have you ever read Vitruvius?" I sat back and waited for him to begin stuttering.
"Yes, and I have read it in Latin as well. Have you?"
Those public school-educated nobles can spot a plebian like me a mile off.