“I can’t allow you to eat that in here,” Violet said curtly to the lady who had just stepped through the door, “because of the sculpture.”
Apart from the shrieks of children down by the lake, and the whistling of Ted the porter in the courtyard, her afternoon volunteering in the Coach House Gallery had been pleasantly undisturbed until now.
The lady looked longingly at the choc ice she was holding.
“I just need to cool down for a minute,” she said, and then, “I’m sorry, what sculpture?”
“This, obviously.” Violet pointed to the installation by the hall’s artist in residence that filled half the room.
The lady looked at the sculpture frowning.
“What’s it called?” she asked. “There’s no sign on it.”
“Not yet, it’s brand new.” Violet smiled patronisingly. “It’s called ‘The Remorse of the Aristocracy’.”
The Coach House Gallery, while sounding very grand was just a converted stable barn, and prone to pigeons roosting in the rafters. Despite that, it was the coolest place to be on such a hot day, and probably the only place to successfully eat a choc ice before it melted. However, Violet’s role was to protect the artwork from sticky fingers and she took that role very seriously.
The lady walked around the sculpture slowly and sniffed. “This just looks like a pile of old canteen chairs.”
“The artist’s saying something important about the aristocracy.” What Violet most liked about art was telling visitors what to think about it, “And their value in today’s society.”
The lady raised her eyebrows. A drip of melted ice cream fell from her choc ice.
“You really need to take that outside, madam,” Violet said. “You’re making a mess.”
“But the floor is rather dirty already,” the lady observed. As though to prove her point a flurry of pigeon feathers fell from above.
“This is a very valuable sculpture,” Violet said, “we can’t have melted ice cream on it.”
“But some of the chairs in this so-called sculpture have tea stains on them,” the lady said, and pointed, “and that one’s got a lump of chewing gum under the seat.”
“If it has…” Violet hadn’t noticed the chewing gum before, and this lady was starting to annoy her, “it’s because the artist intended it. What he didn’t intend was for it to be covered in choc ice.”
“I can hardly see how it’s going to make much difference,” the lady said.
“Well, that just goes to show what you know about art,” Violet replied tartly. Honestly, sometimes she thought the hall would run a lot more smoothly with no visitors at all.
With his trademark whistle, Ted backed into the gallery wheeling a sack trolley.
“Afternoon ladies,” he said, and began dismantling the sculpture.
“What on earth are you doing?” Violet cried, “The artist will go spare if he sees you meddling with that.”
“He certainly will if I don’t get this lot shifted before five,” Ted said, grunting over a pair of particularly tangled chairs, “he needs this space cleared.”
“But this is ‘The Remorse of the Aristocracy’!” Violet was mortified.
“No duck, this is just a pile of old canteen chairs for the skip.” Ted looked up and snorted, “If you’re on about the new sculpture, it’s coming later.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead. “There’s been a delay, what with the heat.”
The lady had been watching from the back of the gallery, a triumphant smile forming on her face.
“Then I don’t suppose anyone would mind,” she took a large bite out of her choc ice, “if I eat this in here after all.
By Jackie Brewster