Antiques Roadshow Specialist Marc Allum plays the ‘Doctor at a dinner Party’ and looks at how one’s profession often shapes the conversation.
I have a bit of reputation for talking too much. As a light-hearted jibe, some good friends of mine often like to rib me about this particular affliction. Their game, in which they think of a completely random subject and then ask me to tell a story about it, is a source of some amusement, as I am rarely stuck for words. In fact, it’s actually quite good fun and to be honest, it doesn’t really embarrass me. I suppose, in reality, like many people who prattle too much, I’m just a little worried that I might get a reputation for being a bit boring, particularly if you don’t happen to be interested in the world of antiques (Although I do have other areas of interest!).
However, given that I tend to associate with people who are generally involved in the same sort of field, conversations are often based on a mutual appreciation of the subject and the aural joust of the dinner party can be great sport – the art of perfect interjection and outlandish tales laced with spitefully clever wit, can make any gathering a wonderful metaphorical aural spar – for some it’s a natural skill and one that I always admire! Yet, and this is the problem, after a few glasses of vino at a dinner party I can sometimes get a bit carried away. Asking me about your collection is tantamount to lighting the blue touch paper but a swift kick under the table from the spouse, has on occasion been a useful reminder that I am not the only person with something to say. Yet, why not talk about what you love? Why not try and enthuse others with a sense of excitement about ‘stuff’? If I’m asked about it I’ll chat about it. I suppose it’s that old cliché about doctors always being questioned about ailments, but every doctor I’ve ever met or sat next to at a dinner party has been more than happy to give me an impromptu diagnosis or talk about the state of the NHS (Or their Harley Street practice). Similarly, I have always been happy to turn a plate upside down (Prior to the food arriving) or peer at a picture and pronounce on their age and value. Of course, I’m a past master at letting people down gently and also good at skirting the issue altogether – for the sake of their feelings - naturally. A presenter recently said – as I casually side-stepped a delicate topic on a radio interview - that I should be a politician, although I’m probably more suited to being a QVC presenter, given my ability to spin-out a yarn. But, one should never forget that talking to people about their experiences and drawing from their expertise is an invaluable way to gain knowledge and I like nothing better than to meet a new dealer, chat with a picture restorer or chin-wag with a collector.
Being an auctioneer is in many ways rather like being a doctor. Always on call, ready to dispense advice, ever mindful of one’s bedside manner and adept at dealing with sensitive situations. I am the GP of the auction world and I don’t mind talking about it!