I got an email on Tuesday from someone called Phil from Wales. “Please can I come and have a look at your watering can?”
I live in a third floor flat — I don’t have a garden. I’d been passing a famous London auction room where they were selling off the huge collection of a man called Stanley who’d inherited a railroad and oil fortune. Stan had decided to become a collector, but not knowing exactly what he wanted to specialise in, he had decided to collect everything in the world: from Rembrandts to rollerskates, Warhols to washing-machines, dogs to dinosaur eggs; one lot actually was a dog balancing a fridge on his nose.
An old Etonian — on day release from Cameron’s cabinet — was in full selling mode at the podium. I sat down next to a very attractive young Italian woman. “What exactly are you after?” she asked.
”Oh, this and that,” I said, waving my hand in the air. And that’s how I bought the brass Victorian watering can.
I also ended up with a two-feet tall porcelain mug in the shape of a bear, (I thought he’d said “beer mug”), and what I thought was a Ming vase. It was a bargain at £ 500.
“Can you identify yourself?” the cashier asked, when I went to collect them a few days later. “Yes, have you got a mirror?” I said. He came back with one in a gilt frame. I looked in it. “Yes, it’s definitely me.” “Thank you sir, we have to be very careful,” he said.
I picked up my Ming vase, and discovered why it was a bargain — it was held together by staples and glue. Probably I should have looked at it beforehand.
Later I replied to Welsh Phil. He’d told me he had his own watering can collection. What else would you collect if you live in Wales?
I invited him to come and view, even handle, my watering can. “At the same time, Phil, you might like to see my two-feet tall beer mug in the shape of a bear”. I’d surprise him with my Ming.
This morning I got a phone call from my friend Stockholm Steve, a Bognor boy who owns an antique shop in Stockholm. “I’ve had quite a week, Pete, we had an armed robbery in the shop on Thursday. I came in halfway through.”
“Did you hit him on the head with a Ming vase?”
“Well, Pete, given the choice I would probably have used an 18th century silver candlestick. It’s heavier and a lot cheaper”.
“So what happened?” “Well, I got him by the neck... his neck muscles, I don’t mind telling you, Pete, were enormous. He was obviously a bodybuilder .”
“He flexed them, Pete, and I fell down. He turned round and he had a gun. I surrendered. I gave him £12 cash and my watch, and he ran out shouting.”
“What was he shouting?” “‘Don’t follow me — I’ve killed people before!’”
“Did you follow him?”
“No, Pete, I didn’t, I made myself a nice cup of tea.”
“You didn’t get a chance to ask him if he was interested in antiques, did you?...a brass Victorian watering can?..a beer mug in the shape of a bear... or a glued together “Ming” vase?”
“No, Pete, I didn’t.”