Robin Butler on Twitter



May 2017

In Britain, the media are getting very excited about the forthcoming General Election, but I am not sure that the ‘man in the street’ quite shares their excitement. There is a good deal of apathy. Most people are bored by the platitudes and broken promises, the decisions made ‘behind closed doors’ and the frequency of stories that show politicians in a poor light, or worse. There also seems to be discontent towards the confrontational way that politics are practised, while at the same time being trumpeted as the best system in the world. Is it?

It may be true to say that ‘democracy’, in the form used by western countries, needs a severe overhaul and that money is at the root of its inability to deliver on the wishes of those populations. It should not surprise us that the American presidential election was a revolt against ‘established’ politicking and that the French chose a Président who had never previously been elected to anything! Could Britain be in for the biggest surprise of them all? To mis-quote, are our politicians merely a selection of the unsuitable, chosen by the unwilling, doing the unnecessary?
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Before I had decided to make wine-related antiques my specialism I walked into an antique shop in Bridport, perhaps more in the hope of seeing the lady owner’s very pretty daughter, than in actually being able to buy anything. It was more a junk shop than one which sold antiques, despite “Antiques” being boldly emblazoned over the front door.

This was in the early 1970s. However, even then I used to buy pairs of Georgian decanters, along with Georgian and earlier furniture. But back to Bridport; I saw a rather good Georgian decanter with a pair of matching half-bottle decanters and bought them. I asked where the other full-bottle decanter was, to be told, much to my surprise, that the original owner still had it, but would not sell it because she always kept her sherry in it.

I kept the three decanters in the hope that I might one day be able to secure the fourth to make the set and revisited the shop on several occasions over the following months and years. Then, on one visit, I asked if the original owner might be tempted if I were to offer a bottle of fine claret as part of the deal. A few days later
I had a call to say that my suggestion met with approval, so I found a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild** and journeyed back to Bridport to secure the deal! I have kept the set of four ever since for our own use. Now, all these years later, I have decided to move them on as I can always ‘raid the stock’ if I have a need for several decanters for a dinner party.

** I think this was the 1969, which had cost me £6/10s/- in about 1973. I see a bottle today can be bought for £350.
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Some good news! Some months ago, I received a call from a man who said he wanted to write and article on “Ships’ Decanters’. I am always a little wary of calls like that, because they are not always what one might hope. Appearing in a magazine directed at the local population and entirely written as ‘advertorial’, is not the same as an article written by a professional journalist for a really prestigious publication. My call all that time ago was for the latter variety, but then I heard nothing until this month.

The Financial Times weekend supplement “How to Spend It”, will be carrying the article largely based on a transcript of a talk I gave to the Glass Circle and, I hope, showing some examples from the selection I carry. This will appear on Saturday June 14th and may include some that I have available. I have to say I am quite impressed by the FT for having staff whose job it is to check the accuracy of information given to their contributors - even if it has meant a great many e.mails and telephone conversations!
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Finally, I am targeting a few of my newsletter readers this month - those whose initials are AM, and preferably those with Scottish connections. As so many Scots’ surnames begin ‘Mac’ or ‘Mc’, that should not prove to be difficult and there are some readers with those initials who are not Scottish at all. I have a Victorian magnum decanter well engraved on one side with a thistle and on the other, the initials AM. I think it needs a home where it will be appreciated.

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