I, Peter, ego scriptor am feeling mildly silly. It is a question of hallmarks and related things, about which I tend, I’m afraid, to assume an attitude of “leave all this to me”. Many years ago, when the Lady Novelist (now nota bene a Professor in her own right) and I got married, some cousins of mine gave us a pair of Georgian spoons. The cousins were distant (what we call in Scotland “out-cousins”)and monied and rather flash. The spoons were themselves, in a Georgian sort of a way, flash. They also, the cousins assured us, had been made by the celebrated Batemans of London, thus they were, as it were, the Rolls Royces of flash silver serving-spoons. We have never given this assertion one second’s credence (assuming it to be no more than, as I believe young people say, “bigging it up”) and have accordingly used these objects to deal out fruit salads in the summer and that sort of thing.
My adored Godfather, who sorts out the silver on his too-infrequent visits, took one look at them last autumn said, “need attention” and bore them off to his silversmith in Hatton Garden. Whence they returned a few weeks ago, properly gold-washed as they had been in their Georgian infancy.
The resulting objects caused even me (with my notoriously strong stomach in matters of decoration) to exclaim “un pocito vistoso”, and the Lady Novelist to say that there were objects with which she was not prepared to share her life, or even a relatively big house, and that the two refulgent spoons fell squarely into this category.
So, having an immensely cultivated visitor at the weekend, and having proposed to him a little excursion to Speyside, I found myself in the position of being able to show the spoons (shining bravely, brilliantly, in the summer sun) to the good and knowledgable silver dealer of Dufftown. Or, to put not too fine a point on it, to offer him the flash spoons as a swap for whatever quantity of calm, bluey, moony Scottish provincial silver he felt to be apposite.
He got out his glass. He got out the big book of hallmarks. He compared the maker’s marks on the two spoons. He concluded that they would quite possibly translate into two stonking Aberdeen 1800 serving-spoons which I have loved from afar for many months, and a set of dessert forks and quite possibly that obscurest object of desire, a Banff teaspoon into the bargain.
“You see”, he continued, “take the glass. You see that square maker’s mark, not an ideal strike of it but quite clear if you look at both spoons. That “B” stands for “Bateman” you know, and, if you add up the hallmarks, they were made in Trafalgar year.”As I said, I am feeling more than mildly silly.
PS. The Cultivated Visitor found just the response to Dr Biswell’s spirited rendition, in his fine tenor voice, of that patriotic classic The Death of Nelson. When the last “England expects” and the last imitation-trumpet on the piano had faded away, the Cultivated Visitor pronounced, with precisely the same emphasis on every syllable, “Well, kiss me Hardy.”