During the feast, effulgent gift giving and general excess that is Christmas the art trade tends to go to sleep. With a few notable exceptions. France does not stop. The auction catalogues keep flopping on to the doormat and the email alerts ping into the inbox. Rather than being annoying however it is a comfort, it is the counterpoint to all the over indulgence. In a weird way art shopping, which most of the time is the epitome of indulgence, suddenly becomes transforms into an almost Spartan activity. Cast in the serious world of earning a living it smacks of gravitas and provides a comforting alternative world.
Of course it is a delight to be in Norfolk with my sister and her family. Nothing could be nicer than the seemingly endless parade of deliciousness. My nieces all seem well trained and each one in turn fashions a fascinating twist on the traditional culinary expectations of Christmas. The day itself passes with the formal structure only slightly changed as we eat at supper time. But bedtimes rolls round and I am as uncomfortably full as I should be. However the day has been spent travelling round the local dealers. From one I have acquired a charming desk chair, Edwardian and mahogany, it looks like a late Gillows model with turned reeded tapering legs and reeded seat rails. But the unusual aspect is the slatted, almost arcaded back. It bears an echo of Weiner Werkstatte and is a fascinating fusion. Then at another dealer I find a cool pair of open bookcases. Actually that is rather too grand a term, they are basically a pair of tall shelves. They probably date only from the 1960's but they have guts and charm and will hopefully present my glass collection well at the forthcoming Battersea fair which starts on the 22nd Jan.
On the 27th the bucolic party are all off to kill birds. They gather outside in a posh version of combats and chat about other days similarly occupied. They look rather marvellous all together. There all all ages from 14 up to about 70. I cannot help thinking of cliched images of the First World War. There are two classic blonde sloane rangers who look round with a sort of blinking innocence, almost like young birds. Nothing has ever stood in their way, and probably nothing will. From school to trust fund to job in the city and wives and children. That same untroubled innocence will probably remain all their lives. That sort of pampered life is quite rare these days and the boys should be followed and filmed as a kind of anthropological record. Like recording the last throws of an extinct species. I feel like I am privileged to observe this rarity in its natural habitat. During the Great War they would have been fodder for the guns.
I decided to embrace the celebration of guns by taking my urban brood off to have a lesson in clay pigeon shooting. We arrived not looking very country tweed at all. My eldest son having made a point of trying to look as Stockwell as possible. We are quickly delivered into the hands of a true Norfolk voice. He looks and sounds built from local soil. I ask him if he has shot all his life. From under his worn baseball cap and through his jovial grey beard he says, no. He only took the sport up when he was 60 and he has only done it for 31 years. Wow, our teacher is 91! And what a marvellous man he is. All patience and encouragement, my two sons cynicism evaporates in the face of his complete kindness, slow speech and the regular clattering to the ground of exploded clays. The oldest, coolest son hits everything. Loving it from the start. He ascribes his instant skill to years spent killing aliens on an x box. I don't doubt it. The wife is annoyingly much better than me and the youngest who is always a slow starter soon gets the knack and ends the session killing clays from different directions. We drive back to the game lunch thrilled and our cold numb feet a minor irrelevance. Bleeding pigeon and grouse on the gravel actually don't seem as weird and alien as they did before. But my blood lust remains focused on the kitchen rather than the field.
Back in London and we are mapping out the next few days. The New Year's Eve and a gathering of neighbours, but it is a joy to be home. The smell of the city and the sirens and the multi cultural citizens. I can feel the throb of business and I can't wait for the new year to get going.
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