“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.”
I hope you enjoyed the first two parts of Art in “the Towers”.
Those modest articles concentrated on some of the lesser-known fine art pictures in the UK in private hands in the UK i.e mine.
In this equally modest article, divers (not diverse!) objet d’arts will be looked at, coupled with a brief cultural tour d’horizon of Africa and India.
Government Mandatory Snowflake Warning
Turn away now, if you are under 50 and cry easily. There may be more than a few full stops. And, to cap it all, there is the forbidden word further down.
Handkerchiefs at the ready!
The first piece has a romantic story behind it. I hope you will bear with me as I relate the concise version:
My ex-brother in law is by hard work and due diligence, rich, and very generous. He owns a vast game park in the Waterberg mountains, SA.
The perimeter fence is 25 miles! Electrified, he once vouchsafed, to keep out freeloading British MP’s on parliamentary “fact-finding” holidays.
It is also unusual, in that it has an 18 hole golf course.
On the first day of our honeymoon, I stood on the raised first tee, with Mambo as my caddy.
It is important to maintain standards abroad, as well as at home. Consequently, I was wearing a suit and tie to play golf, like Harry Vardon. It was indeed lucky I was wearing a tie, as we shall soon discover.
I hit a massive drive straight down the middle of the fairway of the opening long par 5.
As I addressed the ball to strike it up towards the green, a giant warthog, snorting and a-snorting, suddenly broke cover from the surrounding bush and charged straight at me. I was doomed.
Mambo shot it stone dead.
The second hole was a par 4. I sliced the ball into the rough by the edge of the bush.
As I addressed the ball, a young trumpeting bull elephant charged straight for me.
Mambo hit it plumb between the eyes. It dropped dead literally 20 feet from me.
The third hole was a par 3, with a wide watercourse surrounding the green. I had been warned about the Hippo’s, so was taking extra care.
My shot was heavy and so fell just short of the water’s edge.
As I gingerly approached the ball and made ready to address it, a huge water buffalo stormed at me from the middle of nowhere.
I frantically turned to Mambo for help.
“I’m terribly sorry sir, you don’t get a shot at this hole”
Luckily, I remembered my Cub Scout training, before I was asked to leave the 7th Bromley.
Wrestling the two-ton vicious, raging beast to the ground and strangling it to death with my bare hands, and Old Cakeian tie. It took I guess 2 hours. It was an enraged female. Why females suddenly become enraged, no-one knows.
All this with no help at all from Mambo, I might add.
Bleached in acid, and tribesmen’s urine for luck, it was flown back to be put in a place of honour in the Towers. Here it resides after being installed by the Reggie the plumber and his apprentice, Chardonnay.
The edible meat was given to the natives, in the British way. Apart from the fillet steaks, which we ate for dinner, expertly cooked over an open wood fire in the kraal by the very large Zimbabwean cook, Lammy. Delicious. Better than Kudu or Sable.
I should add that fillet of water buffalo ranks, in my opinion, with that of the finest Highland beef.
Nowadays you don’t need to go to the Waterberg mountains to get your water buffalo. They are bred in the Somerset Levels. I can’t say the same for Kudu or Sable.
I know this because I bought some buffalo steaks at Montacute farmer’s market. Montacute is in Somerset, and hard by the dacha’s of a number of very grand Postaliers indeed.
Sticking with the African theme, the second objet does not have such a thrilling and unusual provenance, but is none the worse for it.
This is a bronze figurine of General Gordon of Khartoum, before the Mad Mahdi did for him. Khartoum, at that time, was nearly as dangerous as Peckham today. Moreover, it did not have the good fortune of Harriet Harpiperson (? please check the spelling) representing it in Parliament.
Actually, I made that up. Except the bit about Peckham.
Clearly, the figurine bears no resemblance at all to Chuck. This revelation then set me wondering whether the British Museum, under its woke charismatic German leader, Herr Mousen-Grousen-Arbiter von Vole-Strangler, has got round to burning all its copies of the said film yet? Also given that Larry blacked up to play the Mahdi, and, as a further insult to the religion of peace, played him as “Mad”, when it is a well known fact he was a Prince of Peace.
All I really know is that the cast is by Elkington and Co Ltd. Plainly a soldier, or a royal personage pretending to be a soldier, as they are wont to do. Victorian or maybe Edwardian?
We have many here who know of such things. Maybe you, Mr Roger Ackroyd, can help, as you know all about figurines? And of course, I am sure Old Git will be along in a jiffy with his invaluable input.
Sticking with figurines, this next item put me in mind of the great Lord Curzon.
“My name is George Nathaniel Curzon
I am a most superior person
My cheek is pink, my hair is sleek
I dine at Blenheim (Palace) once a week.”
The first Lord Curzon. Viceroy of India. But you knew that.
Although undoubtedly a difficult and impressive personality who wore an iron girdle most of his life, he was also humane and wise, and on the side of the less fortunate. Especially those in service.
When a Burmese woman was raped by British troops, he was outraged by the smokescreen thrown up by the regiment to protect them. As retribution, he sent the regiment to Aden, being “the worst spot I could find”. Nowadays, it would be Slough.
An English planter received an unduly lenient sentence after flogging his Indian servant to death.
Curzon wanted condign punishment for this appalling act of savagery against servants. He wrote;
“I will not be party to any scandalous hushings up of bad cases…or to the theory that a white man may kick or batter a black man to death with impunity because he is only ‘a damned n****r’”.
[He did not use the asterix, but we have to because otherwise we might have arson, looting and murdering on our hands for setting down exactly what was written 100 odd years ago by a famous historical figure.]
Curzon wanted the British in India to set an example by their “superior standards of honour and virtue”. Not by beating their servants to death because they broke a figurine or two. Whilst dusting, for example.
Naturally, despite the unfortunate dusting accident, the sad consequence of which you see before you, the standards of Lord Curzon are still stoutly upheld in the Towers.
Mrs Biggs remains unflogged.
Would this have been the case had she been employed in darkest Somerset, by the dacha set?
Next, a medieval oak stool, on which I place my cans of Stella when falling asleep in front of whatever is on the telly.
14thC, Sotheby’s advise me. I don’t bother putting a coaster under the cold cans because I reckon it needs some more marking and distressing (Please refer back to “A Forger’s Tale” in Part 2 for further information of this artistic process). And after 700 years, well, so what?
I like it because it is still faithfully performing the task for which it was designed and constructed. Sadly, there is no real market for any sort of oak furniture, be it even a 1000 years old. Sorry about that, but there it is. Might as well shove it on the fire in the Long Room, as may happen if this cold weather keeps up.
On the subject of appurtenances to chairs, as we are, I fast forward to the endlessly fascinating and compelling world of 21stC moulded plastic.
Perhaps the crowning glory of the collection? I will leave that to your good judgment, the cognoscenti of GP.
Entered for the 2020 “Tracey Emin and Turner Prize”.
This futurist ensemble is provisionally entitled, “White Plastic chair with assorted plastic flower pots and redundant plastic BBQ cover, with ripped encasing cord”.
There are very high hopes that it may get first prize. This is because, in order to qualify as a judge in the “TETP”, you must be a Marxist revisionist deconstructionist and stark raving mad.
So we have a head start, you must agree.
SB will certainly let everyone know if the judges’ do the right thing, as I feel sure they will.
Ars gratia artis!
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file