Starfish

I bloody hate Antiques Roadshow. I made this declaration after sitting down and watching – because it was on – the valuation of a particularly esoteric old toy.

Old toys – apart from ancient, abandoned teddy bears who carry an ineffably sad poignancy – can be very dull. A one-eyed grubby plastic doll, for example, is only a treasure to her owner. This old toy was more interesting than most – a stool made by Stieff, the German manufacturers of collectable and very expensive teddy bears.

The stool was made in the shape of a moderately cuddly giant starfish. It was a starfish who looked as though he’d been well worn.

It also – I am refraining from sexing the starfish as they might well be ambiguous – bore the scars of an owner or visitor who fancied themselves with a pair of scissors. I was one of those children; obsessed with giving their toys a good trim, not really realising that the fur wasn’t actually growing.

On the tip of the starfish tentacles, the sewing had come adrift to reveal a bit of stuffing. The well-groomed, well-spoken expert lady was terribly pleased to point out that while it looked like stuffing, this was no ordinary stuffing. No, it was thinly shaved lime wood, which was why the starfishy stool had kept it’s robust shape for so long. She reckoned it was early 1950’s.

The owners, two sisters (I think)  said it was a gift from mummy, who was a career woman before career women existed and a chocolate engineer toboot. She’d bought it in Germany when the exchange rate was good.

I wonder what, as little girls, they thought of it? I could imagine their faces lighting up at the unwrapping of a Stief teddy bear, but an Echinoderm? Really? Let’s face it, a stool – even one with five legs – is a bit of a shit gift.

It wasn’t a very authentic starfish, although it did have a a red circular mouth part, just where bottoms would have been seated. I wondered if mummy explained this was the mouth filled with lots and lots of razor-sharp rasping teeth. Did she ever mention the neat starfish trick of expelling its stomach out through its mouth in order to surround and digest prey before hauling it all back in again? Probably not at tea time.

So hoo-bloody-ray. Jolly good show all around. How much was the worn stuffed starfish worth? I can’t remember to be honest but the value didn’t stir the hearts of all the slack-jawed gawpers who gather round such discussions looking blank.

Takes something like an old medal to animate them. Jaws were dropped, eyes were widened and there was a collective gasp of surprise and pleasure when the medal expert revealed that the WW1 medal was worth £10,000. But what kind of family would sell a medal?  And what sort of people would buy one?

So often The Precious, which is paraded in the public domain to be valued is a family heirloom which surely no-one in their right mind would want to part with?

So what is the point? To inform and advise us about antiques and the craftsmanship of old? To appeal to our prurient interest in Other People’s Stuff? Or is it a platform on which the unbearably smug can show off their old and rare bits and bobs so that the curious plebs can gather around and watch?

Antiques Roadshow. I bloody hate it.

starfish

Not the same starfish stool but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.

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About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Art, Current Affairs, Seaside and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Starfish

  1. Me too… a bunch of pompous gits hoping they’ve finally got proof that the reason they kept that bloody ugly piece of old crap is that they have an on-board $$$ detector and not just bad taste…

    I work at the Vietnam Veterans Museum here in Australia and I’m forever asking people who bring in medals and dog tags to donate if they’re really sure they wouldn’t really rather keep it in the family. I know it saddens me that my grandmother gave away my grandfather’s WW1 medals. I never met him ( and my dad died when I was young) and somehow I have always wanted to have tangible evidence that he was here.
    Sorry… was that a bit of an overshare?
    Wendy at Wendy of The Rock

    • janh1 says:

      Not at all, Wendy. 🙂 Stuff like that should be handed down.. framed or… actually…preferably inside an old shoe box wrapped in someone’s old sock within a bundle of ancient newspapers with a dog-eared yellowing photo.

  2. John Gamblin says:

    Spot on Jan. I only watch it for Andy McConnell. He cracks me up.

  3. Isobel says:

    I shall have to fess up; I do rather like Antiques Roadshow although I raely see it. I enjoy the back stories to objects, (though I always want the back story to how someone has managed to convey a whopping great bit of furniture there; I suspect half of them own horse boxes). I love it when someone has wanted to bring something along, looked round the house and grabbed the vase that belonged to Great Aunt Hermione that is used as a door stop (or worse) for the downstairs loo, only to find it’s some rare and priceless object meaning they can sell it and give up their shit jobs tomorrow. Or least have a slap up meal with the family. I like the enthusiasm of the experts, and the way they almost salivate over particular pieces.
    I don’t much like the starfish stool though.

  4. janh1 says:

    Excellent. I can quite see why you like it Isobel and I have no objection to hearing about the stories of particular objects and the enthusiasm of specialists who love their work. It’s just that seeing that much class-ridden smugness packed into one programme makes me grouchy. I cheered up again later. 🙂

  5. oddly enough I was thinking the same thing yesterday when I caught five minutes of an event. Hadn’t seen the show in years. They were looking at a pair of goggles belonging to a WW2 aviator and some lady was spouting forth about how “How romantic it was and how it brought the war back to life and looking at them you could almost see the pilot in the air”. Nothing of course about the blood, the burning wreckage, the screams from the wounded tail gunner or the bodies trapped in the rubble

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