You wake up early as a grey light outside uncoils itself to work. Despite living in a small 2 bedroom terraced house on the edge of Stow-On-The-Wold you always insisted that you must sleep in an 18th Century French mahogany four poster bed, and it is this which dominates your sleeping quarters to the extent that there is no other furniture in the room other than a plastic bin that you picked up in Wilkinson’s and a magazine rack on your side of the bed (there is no space to have another side of the bed) which is overflowing with old copies of the ‘Antiques Trade Gazette’ and half filled (the easy half) Sudoku books. On the wall is a small Gainsborough painting which you insist is genuine but that you know is a fake. It doesn’t matter as you have little shame, because you are a celebrity antiques dealer.
You have an egg and toast breakfast with tea served in a bone china set you bought for a steal from your elderly next door neighbour when he was trying to raise money to pay for his wife’s funeral. It almost broke your heart to see him part company with it but you didn’t get where you are today without having the killer instinct, and of course an expert eye for a great deal. Once you’ve finished you head to the spare bedroom which essentially serves as your own walk in wardrobe and storage space for your bloated ego. You dress, as is your custom, like an absolute dick; a dog’s dinner combo of red corduroy, mustard yellow tweed and various eccentric condiments that make little sense – a paisley handkerchief and never consulted pocket watch are absolute musts. You like to believe that others think of you as an eccentric genius but late at night you lie awake and know that this just isn’t true.
Years ago you started your own antiques business which wasn’t really much more than a small unit in a shopping arcade in Swindon, the pitiful income from which you supplemented by going to every antiques fair around. You inherited your love of antiques from summers spent with you frail grandmother who had a flat stuffed with worthless old shit she had collected over years of failing mental health. Realising her days were numbered you spent your time sifting through it all to find anything worth a few quid and during the process you learned the key to being an antiques dealer: almost all antiques are utter crap but the trick is finding the one lonely, clueless twat out there that just happens to be looking for exactly the utter crap that you happen to have. Everything else about the business is pure luck and most antique dealers haven’t got a fucking clue what they’re talking about, which is why nearly everybody loses money on antique TV shows like ‘Bargain Hunt’. Today you’re working on another episode of ‘Bargain Hunt’.
Dolls, coins, plates, pewter jugs, apple presses, muskets, trinkets, hats, paintings, sheep gut condoms, billiard balls, lampshades, children’s chairs, tea pots, egg cups, ceremonial knives, paper weights, medals, vases and butt plugs. As long as you can prefix them with the word ‘antique’ it’s all the same to you because you haven’t got the faintest idea what they’re really worth, you just have the advantage of having seen and sold more antiques than most. Due to your deeply irritating flamboyancy you landed the job at ‘Bargain Hunt’ 6 years ago and it’s been your meal ticket ever since. You spend the morning getting to know the daft couple you’ll be helping to lose, a pair of chinless wonders who think they’re in with a shout because they trawl through car boot sales every Sunday, but in fact are doomed to failure because they don’t their arseholes from a pair of vintage ballet slippers and because, of course, they’re on your team.
As the morning progresses you become increasingly bored and frustrated, particularly so because your rival ‘expert’ on the red team is considerably funnier, better dressed and richer than you and also because they are occasionally called to work on ‘Antiques Roadshow’, which is the El Dorado of all antique shows. And you know you’ll never find El Dorado. As you seethe with resentment you deliberately pick 3 items that a tramp wouldn’t pick out of a bin and pretend you know something about them. You suspect the ornate silver plated picture frame dates from the late Georgian period and estimate its value at between £100 and £150 (less than you’d like, but it has a few scratches), when in fact it dates from 1983 and was made in Latvia for Woolworths and you’d be lucky if it makes 50p at auction. You team buys it for £25 and sells it for £2. Such failure should hit you hard but in your strange trade £2 can sometimes seem like a perverse kind of success. You spend a late lunch boring the camera crew to tears with a story about the time you sold a pair of Queen Victoria’s bloomers to Barbara Windsor at a fondue and bondage party, and then shoot off elsewhere, leaving a sticky trail of empty, desperate celebrity status behind you.
‘Celebrity Antiques Road Trip’ is certainly a step up in your book. There’s always a chance you might meet a celebrity you’ve actually heard of or seen before and so you decide to don a tartan hunting cape and a dear stalker hat which achieves very little except making you look like Sherlock Holmes’ retarded nephew. You arrive for a late afternoon shoot at an antiques auction not far from Royal Wootton Bassett. Your rival this time is a regular guest presenter on ‘Dickinson’s Real Deal’ (you loathe Dickinson with his own show and his burnt umber complexion, salesman suits and intimate manners; you loathe him for what you perceive to be his deliberate cheapening of TV antique shows – loathe him and yet ache for his success and know you would sell every atom of your soul to be in his mirror shined, buckled monk shoes) and first made her name on ‘Flog It!’. While you envy her charm and success you also secretly lust after her and this eats away at you almost constantly. You once thought you might be in with a chance of being an expert on ‘Flog It’ but you suspect your spot was pinched from beneath your nose by Philip Serrell, a man that you have referred to ever since as “that cunt”.
For this episode your rival has been teamed up with an E-Type Jag and Rick Witter, the frontman for the third rate generic Britpop shambles Shed Seven, but while he is hardly Hollywood you are dismayed to find you have been lumbered with Gemma Collins and an Austin Allegro, a situation made worse because Collins is clearly on medication and has failed to apply her tan evenly, making her look like squashed giraffe in shoe-horned jeans. You go through the motions nevertheless, picking up a Toby Jug that oddly resembles your celebrity dead weight partner, as well as what you thought might be the fabled ‘lost’ Faberge Egg until you realised it had dropped from the backside of a particularly big goose and been painted by Prisha in Form 3N. Despite all this your ‘team’ wins and you glow with satisfaction as your profits of £3.75 go straight to supporting the local goat sanctuary. You make some limp joke and Gemma tries to fake a laugh before the Allegro stutters into action with a belch of menacing smoke and you roll past the last camera you’ll grace today. Life is good, you tell yourself as you sink into your thoroughly inappropriate four poster bed, following a dinner for one at a Jamie’s Italian and the best part of another bottle of claret downstairs, watching yourself in old episodes. Life is good, you tell yourself, and one day you’ll be at the top of the celebrity antiques dealer tree; it’s just a matter of time. Time and every other celebrity antiques dealer dying suddenly in an unsolved antiques auction house blaze. Now there’s a thought to send you to sleep.
G B Hewitt. 27.08.2020