Last Sunday I felt industrious and, as the weather was fairly good, I decided to garden. Along with almost everyone else in South Cheshire I had that morning visited the local boot market in Shavington and come away with a tomato plant and a souvenir programme from the Richard Seaman memorial vintage racing car meeting held at Oulton Park in July 1969. This is what poor men do. Faced with the choice between spending your last remaining couple of quid on something with at least some kind of practical use or calorific value and the complete opposite, we opt for the thing that will now lay at the bottom of the junk drawer* for the next 20 years. I decided to plant the tomato.
I chose my piece of ground carefully. It would receive plenty of sun and, being near the outflows from kitchen and bathroom, probably be warm enough to mitigate against any late frost. It was also directly beneath my kitchen and bathroom windows. I set to work with a mattock, breaking the old lawn and lifting the old turf. I intended to plant more than a single tomato vine in the coming weeks.
I pulled away a piece of turf from the blade and something glinted. In amongst the old cotton bud sticks and the ancient toothpaste tube was something shiny. I grabbed the ball of mud and broke it apart and there it was, resplendent in the South Cheshire sun: GOLD! I took it inside and washed off the remaining soil. It was perfect, no corrosion and no damage from the years of cultivation undergone in the area. A cursory inspection revealed the lack of a hallmark, possibly indicating a great age. I even thought I recognised the style as that of the late Tudor, Elizabethan, perhaps by the great court jeweller, Duke or his student, Robert Goss. Thoughts started running through my head: treasure trove! What would I do with the money? Would the British Museum be interested? I immediately told my friends and family; I'd see them right, this was my lucky break at last.
The next morning I sauntered into town, my step definitely jauntier than of late. Where would I go for a valuation? Crewe is largely bereft of major auction houses although there are several outlets promising a fast cash return should one find oneself on hard times and require to dispose of the odd heirloom or two. There was even an oriental gentleman sitting outside Wilkinson's last week amongst a pile of small white envelopes and a set of scales offering a similar service, no questions asked. "Crewe Jewellers. And Pawn Brokers". Ah, this looks the place.
"Good lady." I began
"While ploughing on the estate one of my men has unearthed this object," I continued, passing her the treasure. "I think it may be of some value." I volunteered in a whisper, so as not to rouse the curiosity of the other customers milling about the premises.
She took it from me, examined it closely and placed it in the scales.
"Silver. Plated. 95p."
*of which I now have three.