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Brassica could hardly hear herself speak for the frothing of the coffee machine

and the screech of a toddler.

Yeah, it’s that bloke in a frock who’s giving The Reith Lectures, she informed


Who?  Grayson Perry?  Suddenly I was interested in what she was saying.

Yip.  I liked his tapestries on class but I admit that I used to think they-

the artists, I mean- actually made the stuff themselves.

What?  You thought that Damien Hirst went out and caught his own shark,

like Ernest Hemingway?  I was somewhat surprised.

Well, I thought they would weave the tapestries, or, say, Henry Moore

would cast his own bronzes in his back yard.

Right.  Before the scrap metal guys nicked them.  Brass, you’ve just got

to understand the difference between craft and art.

Which is?

Some philosophers have described it as the difference between pushpin

and poetry.


It’s like shove halfpenny. I tried to clarify the analogy.  Look,

I addressed her.  Read the front page of the Life and Arts section of the


I reached up and took down the pink pages of a grease-stained

newspaper from the wall rack.

You see, I gestured, take a look at the artwork in this cafe.  I think it comes

from The Suttonford Art Society’s Annual Show.  You be the judge.  Is it art?

If it goes by financial value, then I’d say not, she deliberated.

Emmm, yeah.  Not many of them have a reserved sticker.  I suppose that

they could come under therapeutic, or popular art categories.

Some of them could be improved by more sympathetic

presentation, she decided.

Yes.  Proust wrote that we can only see beauty if we look through a

gilded frame, I expanded on the theme.  I wonder what Charles Saatchi

is collecting now..? Certainly not portraits of Nigella!  Maybe Trinny

Woodall woodcuts?  Skinny Trinny as Olympia.  Not a good look!

My granny used to commission oils of sunsets to match the colours in her

swirly carpets, Brassie mused.

(You could never accuse Brass of being a snob.)  She was reading the

front page by now and she came out with:

Are individual works of historical significance, or do they exhibit aesthetic


No, I replied quietly, looking carefully round the room for any paint

stains on clothing.  There is an acrylic over there which shows the oldest

pub in the town, though.  It all comes down to Bentham’s pushpin/ poetry

distinction again.

Jeremy Bentham by Henry William Pickersgill detail.jpg

But, endorsement is surely part of it?  I mean, if we placed a label under that

unconvincing representation of a Springer Spaniel and it announced that it was

by Dan Snow, would it change our perception of it? Brassie probed.

No, but it would change my perception of him, sadly, I replied.

Brassie began to show enthusiasm for this debate.  Didn’t Richard Hoggart,

who incidentally lived not too far from here, discuss some of this in his book

on popular culture, The Uses of Literacy?

Yawn.  Early sociology, I said dismissively.  Mind you, he made some good


Brassie pushed on, paraphrasing as she read: Apparently, what the’ lovely

consensus’ agree on is seriousness.

Mmm, some of these are seriously bad.  I tried to be generous and failed. Okay.

Who is going to validate them?

Brassie brightened up.  I expect their mummies, grannies, aunts, husbands

and wives might rescue them from ignominy.  They’ll probably buy them.

So, laying aside meritocracy, they will be saved for posterity by love? I


The greatest ennobler, breathed Brassie.  The Art of Human Understanding.

Compassion. An act of grace.  Love for the unlovely.  Transformation!