I want to start by making a confession. I quite often watch Bargain Hunt on BBC 1. This is largely because it’s shown at lunchtime, when I settle down for my 12.30 sandwich and mug of tea, but I can quite see how some of you would regard this as no excuse. Still, there it is.
As a result I have learned that nearly all those vases, paintings, tables and toys that are lying around are in fact worth very little at all. I have also learned that if presenter Tim Wonnacott (currently stepping down after many years) takes a dislike to something wooden, he will describe it as “shedwork” – in other words, it was made in a shed by someone insignificant.
This has always struck me as unnecessarily judgmental. Surely something is either well made or not: whether it was made in a shed is irrelevant.
Who made it is also irrelevant, really, though the right name will often add many pounds to an item. It’s rather like those art forgeries that are impossible to tell from the original. If you can’t tell them from the original, surely they’re just as good, just as beautiful and just as worth hanging on your wall?
Why do we care so much about status?
At the theatre not long ago I heard a customer drawl smugly to a friend: “Not bad, considering they’re amateurs.” But surely either it’s well done or it isn’t. You may think the customer is being considerate in not applying the same criteria to amateurs as to professionals. I think he’s being condescending.
Allied to all this is the tendency to make judgments about a statement of national or world importance on the basis of who said it. Of course it’s important to understand that all politicians have axes to grind (sometimes pretty silly ones), but surely something is either true or it isn’t? We should not refuse to consider something on the grounds that it was said by someone on the right – or the left.
The difficult thing about voting on whether or not to leave the European Union, for example, is to work out what is the truth and what is not. We can’t do that by watching who is voting which way.
If someone knocks together a policy in a shed, it may be a very beautiful policy, or it may be rubbish. But the shed has nothing to do with it. The truth is what counts.