Without wishing to sound sanctimonious – an occupational hazard for journalists, you know – the really refreshing thing about The Repair Shop, the BBC’s new show about restoring old things, was that there was no mention of money. Not once was someone asked if their gear was insured, nor did anyone inquire what some heirloom might fetch at auction. Quite the opposite. Obviously I am as desperate and willing to do anything for lucre as the next hack, and with the same prurient interest in other’s people’s financial affairs, but it was nice, just the once, to escape all that.
Thus it was that the three nice old things brought into the workshop by three nice old things were never valued, either before or after their repair and restoration. The captain’s cabinet from circa 1820, the 1880s cuckoo clock and the 1973 ceramic fruit bowl were all treated with the same dignity and respect. Yes, really. The only thing that mattered to all concerned was, to use the cliché, their sentimental value. Emotionally they were central to each family's life, with so many memories and so much personal history dovetailed into them. As an antidote to our throw at chuck-out-the chintz flat-pack hard consumerism, this was caring golden balm. There were lots of touching moments, not least when the captains cabinet which had sailed across the world on countless journeys returned home again, this time ready to be used to write a novel – by hand.
The best segment was watching two grown men cuckoo at each other, bringing back to life a clock that had long since ceased to cuck or coo.
As someone who likes to hang to things – my TV is 25 years old, the car hits the ripe old age of 11 in summer and I still wear ties from the 1970s, given the chance – this was confirmation that it is perfectly OK to have feelings towards inanimate objects. Unlike pets or humans, their fabric can always be repaired, provided the vulgar question of money is kept out of things.
The Repair Shop showcases the nice, rational, acceptable face of hoarding, and, maybe with a few more items on board per show, would be a very welcome replacement for Antiques Roadshow. The only enjoyment I ever got form that was when some obviously greedy speculator got told the oil painting they thought they’d picked up cheap was worth bugger all and was probably a fake. Even with the feisty Fiona Bruce, AR is looking a bit dog-eared itself these days.
Former England footballer Rio Ferdinand has been such a wonderful role model in so many ways in his life that it is doubly impressive that he is using his celebrity to talk about the terrible taboo of bereavement, as he does in Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad.
His new role is “widower”, and his experiences, and those of other widowers, was intensely difficult to watch. He feels it as keenly as anyone, but there is something jarring about seeing someone so “out of character”, like an actor cast against type. His wife Rebecca was diagnosed with cancer and was taken from Rio and her children within 10 weeks in 2015, aged 34. The speed of the loss meant it was closer to the kind of emotions people experience when a close one is killed in car accident, say, with less time for adjustment.
So it has been especially hard to deal with. Here is a big man, a famous man, a very rich man, a man who captained the England side, but a man who hurts and cries like the rest of us. That’s not so obvious, in fact. If nothing else it serves to remind us that not all premiership footballers are, well, what we think they are. I’ll leave you with one memorable, and apt, reflection by one widower on male grieving: “It seems all right to cry at football matches, but not when you’re wife dies.”
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