(But first, this.)
It is the first time that K and I have taken Mrs “Bob” out shopping for Lovely Things For The Home. Looking at her now, trapped motionless in front of the exquisitely turned chinaware, I realise that Mrs “Bob” may never have had Gentleman Friends Who Shop quite like us before. Perhaps it is all rather a lot to take in for one afternoon.
She was absolutely fine in the Gorgeous Kitchenware Shop at Hathersage (whose other branch is in Sloane Square, don’t you know), coming away with a nice little raft of kitchenalia. (Meawhile, I bought a beautifully turned birch tray – along with a Swedish milk jug, co-designed by a professor of ceramics and no less than five of her students.) However, now that we have unexpectedly fetched up in the Gorgeous Ceramics Gallery at Rowsley, I sense that a certain trepidation may be threatening to cloud her enthusiasm.
Her eye has fallen upon a trio of tiny little china receptacles, in a sort of grey-green. Supportively, I draw myself towards her. This is no time to be faint-hearted.
“Nice, aren’t they?”
“They’re gorgeous. But Mike, what are you supposed to do with them?”
“Oh, you just have to love them.”
“Good answer. I’m going to remember that.”
She’s looking thoughtful. I smile to myself. Already, I sense that she has commenced her journey towards becoming a fully-fledged snapper-upper of the Beautiful But Useless. This is what we do
to for people. It is a noble calling.
In the centre of the gallery, facing you as you walk in, some exciting new work from a promising young ceramicist is prominently displayed. It’s surreal, vibrantly coloured stuff. Bold, witty, more than a touch whimsical. To the left, a battered pink sofa perches on top of a desert island, complete with palm tree. To the right, a “bobbly fruit”, rather resembling a pineapple, squats on top of three pinky-blue pillows. As K points out, there are strong similarities with the work of the celebrated (and highly collectable) Kate Malone – but at a tiny fraction of the cost. Frankly, this stuff’s a steal. We’d be daft not to.
Fetching the gallery owner over to the display, I point decisively towards the bobbly fruit/pinky-blue pillows composition.
“That one’s our favourite. In fact, all three of us independently came to the same decision”, I explain – beaming with pride at our connoisseurial unanimity, gaily unaware of any troubling subtext.
The gallery owner is too much of a professional to betray his feelings – but as he reaches for the selected objet, I sense the merest flicker of confusion dancing across his fractionally creasing brow.
A-hum. Well, he’s not been there long. His colleague has been selling to us for years. She’ll put him straight. Perhaps I need to work in a few more loud remarks to Mrs “Bob”. “Look, over here! Your HUSBAND would LOVE THESE!”
After a few more conspiratorial circuits of the gallery space (“Tell Bob about the coffee spoons, boys!”), we drain our wine glasses, pick up our goods, and head for the door.
Back over at the till, the gallery owner can contain himself no longer. As the door opens, he calls over to us.
“So, er, who is the bobbly fruit for exactly?”
“Oh, it’s for us”, I beam, wiggling my index finger back and forth between myself and K. “Thank you so much!”
As the last of the sun sets beneath the blood red sky, the three of us giggle all the way through to the B5056.