Monday, 21 July 2008

Don't Go Dickinson With My Wonnacott

If I were to offer you a three hundred year old Wormwood buttering rack for ten pounds, you’d tell me to clear off and never besmirch your late Edwardian rat-hair doormat again. If, however, I offered you a three hundred year old Wormwood buttering rack for the better part of a thousand pounds, you’d break the bank and a few shins to get the bloody thing into your front room. It wouldn’t matter that Wormwood buttering racks went out with the ferreting needles that Queen Victoria used to pop her pubescent pimples. Nor, for that matter, would you care that European laws outlawed ‘buttering’ in the 1973 Milkmaid’s Charter and that the last man to be hung for the offence was actually incapable of committing the crime because he was lactose intolerant and deficient by two critical glands and a suitable buttering rack.

Of course, none of this enters into your squalid little thought processes when you think that there’s money to be made. You just see my three hundred year old Wormwood buttering rack and think it a bargain. And do you know what? I don’t blame you. Having just endured half an hour of the BBC’s afternoon output, I now realise that antiques are as sexy as an oiled midget and twice as exciting as Barbara Winsor with a cinnamon topping.

I’m constantly amazed by the success of shows that get misty eyed over common-or-garden tat. They encourage us to buy cheap and sell high and then demonstrate the futility of capitalism by awarding their contestants less than their bus fare back to Toffington-on-the-Snuff, Hampshire. I can’t deny that it’s absorbing to watch a middle-class account manager squander two hundred pounds of the BBC’s money on an ivory-handled tonsil scraper. It’s far more entertaining than any number of execs wasting millions trying to modernise the latest TV snore of Charles Dickens’ ‘Dumbledore House’ or ‘Dobby & Son’. It’s just a shame is that there aren’t more of these shows and that the BBC has already used up next year’s quota of men cursed by gypsies at birth who might host them.

First there was ‘Antiques Roadshow’ with Hugh Scully, who always reminded me of a badger that had voluntarily tried to euthanize itself by repeatedly running into a spade. Then came ‘Bargain Hunt’ which did more for the dandy population of Brighton than any show since ‘The Danny La Rue Extravaganza’ took the south coast from behind. We e must also never forget that ‘This Morning’ was the show that first introduced the world to David Dickinson, and David Dickinson to the world, even if ‘Bargain Hunt’ made him famous. Not only can he smell woodworm in French fluting from the cliffs of Dover but he has handled more wooden knobs than men called Elton with a thing for walnut dressers.

When David announced that he was quitting our screens, the BBC afternoon schedule could have creaked to an arthritic halt with ‘Quincy: QI’ and ‘Diagnosis Dick van Dyke’. Having achieved superstardom and with Stephen Spielberg knocking at his door, David Dickinson could have easily allowed his old show to be sold off without even meeting its reserve price. However, Dickinson was forward thinking and handed his auctioneer’s gavel to his equally gifted cousin, Tim Wonnacott.

Wonnacott is the sort of man to breeze through the heats of the Terry Thomas Lookalike Competition only to blow it in the final because he couldn’t play the cad with as much evil as he has panache. He’s so genial that fluffy hamsters called Mr. Squiggles have been known to find him twee and have penned scathing odes about him. Wonnacott was in charge this afternoon when I sat down to watch the red team outwit the blue in a closely fought contest that went to the wire and a set of wooden birthing stirrups. Luckily for the red team, there was somebody in Shipton Mallet who required a set of wooden birthing stirrups and the two pound profit on the initial ninety pound outlay carried them to victory. They beat the blue team by all of one pound, having only lost a meagre £187 on a suitcase full of worthless brick-a-brac.

Not that we should hold the blue team to account for their profligate losses. When all the lots are gone and the money counted, the people really to blame are the experts who are clearly nothing of the sort. They come in two sizes. The sad little men have delicate 1960s comb-overs and frayed cuffs where signs of repair will decrease their price at auction. The other team is usually assisted by a flirty young female, fashionably blonde, and definitely an ‘antique of the future’. They won’t get ‘all of their money’ today but you know that Timmy would be quite happy to turn them over and check for distinguishing marks on their bottoms. And as for Tim himself. He turns and pouts to camera. ‘Imagine!’ he says.

And it’s a take!

Another classic show goes into the BBC vault. And what’s more, it’s future proof. Ageless and never to be labelled an antique.

Oh... Before I go, I’d like to buy back that Wormwood buttering rack even if it means I have to throw in a mid-century sparrow mangle to clinch the deal.


Selena Dreamy said...

The habit of collecting is tenacious. I adore the Antiques Roadshow, but have never so much as peaked at Bargain Hunt or This Morning etc. I’m afraid you have the advantage on me. Nor have I visited the Saatchi collection or been impressed by Hirst's dead cow, for that matter. One would no doubt be seeking the medical report on that particular mammal, but I sincerely hope that Brit Art will be cursed by economic recession in a way that the antique shows and their quaint and lovable tradition will be spared.

Ooops, time for me to watch the Richard & Judy, six minutes to go, what did I miss?

Dick Madeley said...

I actually see the popularity of antiques as a good thing. Perhaps it suggests that people aren't finding as much value in modern day art, which, I agree, is generally quite horrendous.

Hope you enjoyed the show, Selena. I didn't shave today so I was looking a bit rough but we did have the wonderful Judith Chalmers on the sofa. Unfortunately, no prophesies from her tonight.

Barbara said...

Nothing I love more than a slightly scruffy man. Curse this crappy American tv with it's clean shaven hosts!

Black Cat said...

Only your blog readers would know that your unshaven state on the show was due to your hangover!

I find Dickinson irritating enough to bring me out in hives all over. I haven't stumbled across Wonnacott yet as I'm not usually up in time since I retired... Oops, 7.13 a.m., time for bed.

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

a set of wooden birthing stirrups

That's the ticket, Dick.

Welsh Girl said...

I'm not sure that introducing David Dickinson to the world is something that you can be proud of. Then again you did make a fortune for TV repair men across the country who were called in to fix the colour on the television screens before it was realised that glowing orange was David's natural colour....

Dick Madeley said...

Barbara, I've had a shave now but I'll try to look scruffy again in the near future, just for you.

Black cat, I was looking a bit the worse for wear yesterday, wasn't I? As for David, I can tolerate Dickinson on TV. It's just having him as a neighbour which is a problem.

Lord James, indeed it is. I wouldn't be without my collection.

Welsh Girl, I know. I regret it now but at the time we thought his tan might match the new set we were trying out. Only when you get him out in the light of day do you realise his true colour.

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