Last Thursday was a wet day – a very wet day. I got completely drenched 3 times. Following an early morning dog-walking soaking I changed and set out undeterred to drive the 4 or so miles to the Antiques Road Show at Hever Castle, naively thinking that at 9.45 am there would not be too much of a queue – the Castle is after all quite tucked away down winding lanes, and the only advert I had seen for the event was on my local village shop’s notice board.
First signs were good – no queues into car park which didn’t look too full (in retrospect is is quite a large car park), so I grabbed the bag of ‘heirlooms’ with which, on behalf of my mother, I was going to stun the awaiting experts and BBC viewers and set off, wearing my raincoat but deciding sunny blue skies did not merit the hassle of carrying a large umbrella and reckoning the coffee I had made would probably still be warm in its thermal cup by the time I’d nipped in, got the £1m valuation and returned to my car.
I wandered through Hever’s dreamy gardens – stopping to photograph the glorious rose garden and soon emerged in front of the Castle – Hmmm….
Over the next few hours I made a lot of good friends from all over the country as we exchanged hints about the priceless treasures we were carrying concealed in assorted bags, bin liners and blankets. For the first hour we revelled in the sight of the black clouds skirting past and dropping rain everywhere but Hever. Then, having been lulled into an amiable false sense of security (almost time to start spreading the picnic rugs and fire up the BBQs) we received in the space of about ten minutes what appeared to be a year’s rainfall during which we all sacrificed our waterproofs to project our precious luggage and I thought wistfully of my enormous umbrella tucked up warm and dry in my car.
We all joked about a passing delayed April shower, until one of my queuing companions revealed that he was ex-Navy and obviously had a special weather app on his phone with a hot link to the Met Office which predicted (accurately as it turned out) that the rain would go on for the next several hours. But we all continued to queue, and I found myself enjoying it as one of those ‘I was there once in a lifetime but hopefully never again’ type endurance experiences.
I learnt a lot of fascinating bits of ‘insider’ information about The Romney Marsh, Dungeness and the Sea Wall from the weather expert who had been born, bred and still lives there -invaluable fillers for future cruise excursion tours of the area.
The only crisis point was when, having reached the front of what turned out to be the reception queue I was given a ‘miscellaneous’ tag which involved joining the back of another snaking line (Tip: bring large items of furniture to future Antiques Road Shows – smaller queue and in a dry tent, or militaria which also had a small queue..people with priceless fast getting wet manuscripts also seemed to have a fast pass). As the queue ambled along at snail’s pace I realised it would be touch and go whether I would reach the front before I had to abandon the whole escapade to catch a train to Bath for a couldn’t miss meeting.
With about 5 minutes to spare I reached my alloted expert, the charming Mark Allum who was looking with genuine interest at some of my Norwegian great-great-great uncle’s stuff when we were interrupted by a vaguely familiar bespectacled figure under a large umbrella. About to object fiercely that I had not been queuing for all those hours to hand my turn over to someone else, Fiona Bruce charmingly (yes she is genuinely delightful and apparently had an eye infection hence the glasses/no make-up look which made the rest of us feel even worse about our smudged mascara) asked if I would mind standing next to ‘my’ expert while she showed him some far more fascinating African tribal artefacts which she produced with a flourish (several times – they had to reshoot) from her rucksack.
Her opening gambit was that it had been suggested that the huge decorative metal rings were for “measuring willies”. “Unlikely…” concluded the expert, although no-one was able to decide conclusively what they were. So look out for these objects if the clip ever makes it to screen and make your own minds up. I am the soggy wild haired (the ‘I’d better make an effort for the Antiques Road Show’ look had not lasted) woman on the expert’s left. Once they had reduced their 3 minute spontaneous conversation to a minute and re-shot 2 or 3 times, and once more for object handling close-ups it was back to my treasures. But by now, I was frantically talking them down when Mark said his producer ‘might find them interesting’ as my train was not going to wait.
The third soaking of the day? Drove home at high speed, changed into smart look-as-if-I-know-what-I-am-doing type meeting clothes, up to London, down to Bath, heavens opened on short walk from station to meeting venue, but I HAD REMEMBERED THE UMBRELLA so only ended up soaked from the knees down – result!