When I married my husband I didn’t realise he was part of a BOGOF offer and that I would get two for the price of one. The extra marital relation in question is my brother-in-law, or, the Philistine, as I like to call him. Yes, Kevin Moore, you know who you are. Worse still, our Kev cheerfully admits to this failing and positively revels in his ability to reduce me to a red-faced gibbering wreck in front of ‘them wot ‘ave a bit of culture’. Take our latest sortie to Pugin’s Grange in Ramsgate – the memory still has the power to bring the blood rushing to every extremity. Firstly, let me make it plain it wasn’t our intention to visit said establishment; we were, in fact, on our way to a local caff to sample the quality of the greasy spoon. But, and this is a rarity, the Grange was having an open day and, having lived for six years in the area, with nary the chance to poke my nose inside the door, I was in like Flynn. The problem is, our Kev was in behind me like Flynn’s hip replacement. Nevertheless, things got off to a reasonable start as I joined my oohing and aahing to that of a small, but select, group of Pugin aficionados. Happily, I craned and strained my neck to gaze at the wonders of the ornate ceilings. Reverently (when the guide wasn’t looking) I brushed my hand along the faithfully reproduced wallpaper (pretty garish, to tell you the truth, but who knew green and orange could work!). Overawed, almost to the point of tears, I gazed with longing at the Minton tiles (the tears were because mine are from Wicks and common as muck, as well as cracked). Still, all was going well and I was beginning to bask in that warm feeling of inclusion amongst your betters (a bit like when you were at school and the Head Girl let you polish her shoes with your tongue), but then we entered the dining room and things took a turn for the humiliating. A DVD recounting the story of Pugin’s life was playing in one corner, around which some of his more fanatical disciples, hungry to learn more of their master and hero, had gathered. I was hungry too (remember, we still hadn’t been to the caff), but hoping to milk my sense of cultural camaraderie, I was tentatively making my way to the edges of the worshippers when a sonic boom rang out.
‘Hey, babe, look at the size of this dining table. That would be perfect for doing my modelling or for making my jigsaws. Look, I could have a 25,000 piece one at each end. I could have my tools up this end . . .’
Believe me, had I not been dying of humiliation, I would have taken great pleasure in shoving his tools up whichever end he liked. Instead, my red face clashing horribly with the wallpaper, I slunk away, an outcast from cultural society, all thanks to my extra marital relation. Had I a bell, I would have rang it – unclean, unclean. Instead, I wended my weary way up into the bell-tower, figuring the panoramic view over lovely Thanet might go some way to restoring calm. Boy, was I was wrong! As I, and the small number of other asthmatic-sounding sightseers, excitedly looked for landmarks and gazed across the Channel to France, the sonic boom sounded once more, almost toppling us over the parapet.
‘Hey babe, this would be a great place to site a sniper rifle. You could set it up right here and bang, bang, bang . . .’
Cue gasps of outrage and and magenta faced as I schlepped all the way back down and into the Abbey next door. Even Kev, I figured, would have the grace to keep quiet in the sanctity of the church. Big mistake! Mega! As I left the side chapel, having duly admired a wonderful carved frieze depicting the Stations of the Cross, he called me back, his voice echoing up to the vault ceiling and reverberating off the stone walls making even the gargoyles cover their ears.
‘Hey babe, look at this. One of the soldiers is wearing an Italian helmet. It should be Roman. They didn’t have Italian helmets back in those days.’
I could hear the sound of Pugin swearing in his grave. That man has a gob the size of the Grand Canyon. Not Pugin!
So help me, I think there are times when murder is not only permitted, but essential – if only I had a sniper rifle or a large blunt object. Unfortunately, I did not have a sniper rifle and the nearest large blunt object, also known as Kevin’s head, was already attached to his body.
Had I known the day I got married, what I know now, I would have looked straight at my brother-in-law and shouted BOGOF! Instead, he was the best man.
PS. For those of you not afflicted by philistinic relations, the Grange and the Abbey are well worth a visit. It is owned by the Landmark Trust. You can find out more on: http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/visiting/opendays.htm