I felt lacking in the motivation necessary for the writing of a bestseller this morning, so instead of completing some of my NaNoWriMo word count for today I got some dreary chores done and sat down with a cuppa in front of Bargain Hunt. To be honest, I can really only ever be bothered to watch the last twenty minutes of the programme, the moment we find out whether or not the contestants have bought a load of old tat. I do find it hard to enjoy watching other people shopping, but genial host Tim Wonnacott does occasionally visit a really interesting period house or museum (for about 5 minutes)
Today he was at Belton House in Lincolnshire, a magnificent country house built in the late 17th century. It was apparently featured in the adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that Colin Firth starred in, which immediately sees my Google rankings shoot up.
Seriously though, he spent the very short time allotted to him showing us some fine antiques in the Library, which was originally the Great Dining Room. The room apparently holds around 6000 volumes, many of them dating from the collection of Lord Tyrconnel who died in 1754. It was stunning, the kind of room that you could sit in for hours, just breathing in the smell of old paper. (I do that kind of thing you see.)
What struck me most forcefully today however was the contrast between the objects Mr Wonnacott was describing to me and my sparkly new ‘smart phone’ thingy. I was due an upgrade and eventually came out of the shop with a lower bill and a phone that downloads tons of fun and useful ‘apps’. I spent much of yesterday biting my lower lip and resisting the urge to throw it against the wall but today I got twitter and Facebook downloaded, along with Adobe and Google Sky which can show me exactly what constellations I am looking at in the night sky. Or what I could be looking at if it wasn’t at this moment persisting down.
Anyway, in the wonderful library in Belton House, we were first shown a fabulous leather topped folio cabinet made in around 1840. It could tilt to just the right angle for reading books with poster-sized pages, and you could imagine yourself, resplendent in a pair of white gloves, carefully turning over the pages of an ancient manuscript. Then there was the folio stand for smaller documents or individual maps for example. By now I was wishing myself back in the 19th century, although in my daydreams I do have to ignore the fact that I would in all liklihood be cleaning the place rather than enjoying its comforts.
At this point it struck me that although made 170 years ago, how much more marvellous these antiques were than the Kindle app I had downloaded onto my phone. I have resisted an e-book reader as there is nothing to compare in my view to the physicality of reading a ‘real’ book with actual pages. However, I am sure I am not alone in being caught on a bus or train occasionally with precious time to spare and only the receipts from Tescos at the bottom of my handbag to keep me occupied. This seemed a possible standby. Looking at the beautiful leather inset and the fine workmanship on the ratchet system of the folio cabinet though, the app seemed silly and insignificant.
My feeling of slight shame increased when Mr W moved on to the two beautiful library globes – one celestial and the other detailing the world as the mapmakers knew it in the 1790′s. Now I am not one for changing my mobile phone every five minutes so I was convinced I had chosen the right one for me when I was told it could no longer go out of date, as regular updates could be downloaded. How foolish I felt to be so impressed with this sales pitch when I learnt that those wonderful globes were sent back to the makers – Bardins I think – to be regularly updated with a new intricate overlay when a new planet was spotted or territory was claimed, or a whole continent mapped properly for the first time. So much for Google StreetView. It’s only ever good for looking at the state of your front hedge six months ago anyway.
By the time the programme had moved back to the auction house and we learnt that the experts were no such thing and the teams had paid too much for everything as ususal I was ready to take the phone back and swap it for a couple of tin cans and a piece of string. But then I went and looked at it again, saw you could download wonderful camera apps and Solitaire and I was hooked again.
I do genuinely wonder though, what the 22nd Century version of Bargain Hunt will be taking the viewers to see. I do hope it’s Belton House and not the inside of Phones4U…