The item below is a scribble our boss did recently. He probably didn’t mean to have it included in Madazine, but he’s away for a couple of days, so I’m slipping it in. He’ll be cross when he gets back, but in the meantime I’m in charge so there’s nothing he can do about it. Tom Bola, Subeditor.
Some time ago, I noted with interest that the UK had sold a sizable part of its gold reserves. I had nothing against the move, but found myself thinking about this metal in general. Though no expert, I understand that it has certain useful qualities – the immutability of which Charles de Gaulle spoke with such emotion, the ductility and goodness knows what else. However, I have long been puzzled by the ‘use’ to which so much of it is put.
It seems that I am not the first person to express bafflement here. I once read a short story in which, purely as an aside, the main character remarked that he could not comprehend why gold was extracted, mostly from deep holes in the ground, at not inconsiderable human and environmental cost, only for a very large part of it to be processed at further great expense, then buried in other underground locations around the world. The man commented in much the same manner about diamonds.
While dwelling on this matter, my train of thought drifted to humanly contrived items. Possibly this musing was inspired by the fact that just before reading the above-mentioned story, I had watched an antique show in which I saw a number of bits of old junk sold for astounding sums of money, merely because they were rare. Nobody seemed to consider whether they were desirable in any other way.
My ruminations went on to postage stamps, which I imagine must, relative to size and weight, be the most prized of all objects. I understand that there are instances of a single one being sold at auction for millions of pounds, merely because of a belief that it is unique. Imagine the reaction of a collector who pays a vast sum for such an item, then hears of somebody unearthing a long-lost cache of identical ones.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I then thought about why people pay staggering prices for old paintings. About a month ago, I strolled through a local shopping precinct, noting an exhibition of the brushwork of our contemporaries living within twenty miles of me. Now, while hoping to avoid being labelled a philistine, I thought the offerings I saw were far preferable to the efforts of the old masters. Those chaps did wonders with what they had to hand in their day but things move on, right? If I wished to add to the few pictures hanging in my home, I would take the new ones every time.
Notwithstanding the above comments about things limited in number or quantity, I am no more averse than the next person to cashing in on human peccadilloes. With this in mind I intend to proceed to Mauritius, where I hope to find a limited quantity of dodo droppings. Naturalists tell us that these birds flourished only on the island in question and became extinct over three hundred years ago. Therefore, if there is any residue of their deposits, it must have great rarity value. I am prepared to accept provisional offers of £50,000 an ounce.
They say that a competent strategist always has an alternative scheme ready in case the preferred one seems unworkable, so should my effort to locate the faeces of extinct birds come a cropper, my Plan B is to return home and put myself up for auction. After all, I am over eighty years of age, and it seems to me that an antique of six-foot-two and seventy-odd kilos must be worth quite a bit. Watch this space.
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