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Oh yes he did! His Majesty King George VI once gave me a canary in a gilded cage. You don’t believe me? Then read on all ye doubting Thomas’….

Sometime in the late 1940’s (unsure of the actual date without checking ‘cos I was only a very little boy back then), my old dad did meet and talk to the late King George VI. That is a recorded fact of history although the reason for the meeting had absolutely no bearing on Art, Antiques or Design. On returning home my dad had with him a yellow canary in a large gilded cage and he told us this story….

King George had asked my father if he had any children and my old dad said yes Your Majesty I have four and the youngest is Tom who is not very well. The King then told my old dad that he, the King, breeds canaries as a hobby and asked if my father thought I would like to have one “ To cheer the little lad up” said the King. Naturally you cannot refuse a monarch so dad said thank you Your Majesty. “Very well”, said King George,” If you come up to the Palace tomorrow morning then my ADC here (pointing to a huge Grenadier Guardsman standing at least seven foot six inches in his socks) will give you one for him in a golden cage”.

All we siblings had to write a gracious thank you letter to the King, in our very best handwriting thanking him for his kindness and to tell him that we were calling his canary ‘Ollie’, which my dad promised to send off. Some while later when ‘Ollie’ died we had to give the King’s canary a proper funeral in a wooden box lined with velvet and say a prayer over his grave in the garden. Again we were told to write a letter to King George informing him of the death of his canary which my father again promised to send off. Many years later, following the demise of both our parents my elder sister found our letters to the King. ‘Still wrapped in a ribbon and kept safe by my mother with her private papers and old love letters.

Now although it’s a (partly) true story you may think that this is all hokum and why do I bother to tell it on an AAD anyway? Well its all about the lies, dammed lies, and statistics that everyone of us use on a daily basis whether we admit it or not. I’m sure that no-one reading this tells really big lies (the sort that our elected politicians seem free to tell us daily). So let’s say little porkies (London Cockney rhyming slang, ie. Lies = Pies = Pork Pies = Porkies ). Perhaps just use the expression ‘economic with the truth’ or ‘stretching it a bit ‘if it makes us feel a little better. That’s what my dad did all those years ago. He was economic with the truth, told a little porkie and made a very sick little boy feel very special.

Now I’m an antique dealer and like all antique and art dealers worldwide have a natural tendency to attempt to stretch or be economic with the truth when describing stock. We all do it if we think we can get away with it (oh yes we do). Just two examples - How many times do we see that old hackneyed expression “In the Georgian style” , whatever that means ? ‘Sometimes used to describe glossy but badly made furniture that has not seen a single one of the last six King Georges (including the one who gave me a canary). Many items so described often having been made within the last ten years, in a tropical country using non-sustainable hardwoods and possibly constructed by cheap child labour. Perfect for punters who won’t know or even care about the difference from the real thing particularly if they see it on a super-duper, all bells and whistles website with a massive mark- up for the buyers who believe that only very high cost equates to quality. The type of punters who buy old books by the yard, with no intention other than to fill the shelves of a library whose sole purpose is to impress the easily impressed!

Worse, how often do we struggle to make any sense of artistic and gallery brochures filled with ultra flowery words and descriptions that defy credulity and stretch the English language deep into the realms of fantasy.

The old art and antique dealers prayer still remains: “ O Lord make me good but not yet”

Thank God then for our established professional CINOA affiliated trade organisations who vet us and to some extent act as our conscience to save us from ourselves and others from us. Their strict codes of practice ensure that we have to give full and accurate information regarding the items we sell. ‘Something for the man in the street who does not have money to waste, wants the real thing but maybe lacks the standard of knowledge that we professionals should have. Please don’t misunderstand me, no trade organisation is totally perfect including my own, LAPADA , and all could be improved upon. However, they do give a very good measure of protection above that offered by law and the local trading standards’ officer who the average buyer would rarely seek out.

Personally I really cannot understand why any genuine art or antique dealer would not wish to be a member of such an organisation. Unless, of course, they are very happy to be economic with the truth and give full rein to their natural tendency to tell porkies. In which case ‘Buyer Beware’.

Now, as I draft this article, it’s still mid-winter. It’s cold, its dark. I’m sitting waiting for ever because we’re going out and its now getting late. My lovely Irish wife is still upstairs putting on her full feathered armour and war paint (how many little black numbers can any one woman possess?). At any moment she will again come down and ask the question all men dread “does my bum look big in this?” Antique dealers- little porkie coming up any minute don’t you think……… ?

“Always say things as they are and as you see them” my old dad advised me. Particularly, to tell a story to make a point, I might add, and that’s no pork pie.