One dank Saturday afternoon last year, I snapped up the Georgian portrait you see here in a near-empty Northamptonshire junk shop. I haggled him down to £8. Even so, you might think I was robbed, since it is a fairly unremarkable picture. But the lady shown was one of the more interesting characters of the late 1700s.
I have to admit to a certain amount of confusion of late. I was asked recently by a friend 'what' I considered myself. I live in Scotland and here, in the run up to the referendum on independence next autumn, most people are trying to figure out, in essence, if they're more Scottish than British or vice versa.
I've nothing against Winston Churchill popping up on our money - it's not actually the first time, having previously appeared on 1965 five-shilling pieces. Although it seems a little rude he's kicking off the only woman, the Queen not withstanding, who currently appears on any British banknote, social reformer Elizabeth Fry. Still, if the public had its way, it could be David Beckham staring back at us as we fork over our fivers, or even Robbie Williams. Those being just two of the more contemporary figures offered up by well-meaning Brits.
We know this: that all art is the product of the modern human brain with its beginnings, over 100,000 years ago, in Africa. There, our species Homo sapiens sapiens evolved before spreading out around the globe to become the most successful animal ever. Those who migrated to the icy lands of Europe encountered Neanderthal people who, having evolved there over such a long period, had probably developed fair skin. The dark skinned, fully modern migrants who interbred with them produced the first figurative art in Europe. They themselves, in turn, gradually became fairer as they adapted to life at higher latitudes. Those are the facts. This is fiction: 'Race'.