JOURNALIST, MAGAZINE EDITOR, QUIZ KING EXTRAORDINAIRE, that’s me. And now, ladies and gents, I’m presenting myself on telly this Friday as a world authority on. . . SCARECROWS!
Honestly, it’s nothing to boast about having spent much of my career editing the 134-year-old Drapers Record (now simply called Drapers), thebusiness bible of the fashion industry. But on any form asking for my profession the journalist in me could honestly write “expert for a day” any subject that dangles a cash carrot in front of it.
Alas, too often these days I am asked to contribute some lofty insight ‘sans remuneration’. The latest incarnation of this pro bono tyranny will be aired at 4.30pm on BBC1 this Friday (28th January) on the popular Antiques Road Trip when I am due to appear spouting knowledgeably on the history of those agricultural crow scarers.
My segment was filmed at Heatherslaw and Etal as far back as October when Ford & Etal Estates’ annual ‘Scarycrow Trail’ jamboree was in full swing. Until a fortnight earlier I had not given the lore of protecting crops from avian predators any weighty consideration but the lure of stardom on the gogglebox proved irresistible to this egomaniac..
My TV ‘fixer’ was Jane, my child bride who now earns an honest crust toiling in the F&E visitor centre at Heatherslaw (she also runs the Heatherslaw Mill gift shop during the season); the Antiques Road Trip production team had been in touch with her. They were filming in the area. Could they come and cover the Scarycrow Trail? And did the estate have someone who could talk about the history of scarecrows?
Jane’s been stuck with me for nigh on 30 years, so she knew just the man. And I agreed to lap up the limelight in order to promote the varied attractions of our blessed community.
I met a young woman from the programme, which has been broadcast since 2010, is a BBC1 teatime staple, yet is made by STV Studios (no, I don’t understand it, either) and told her I had already dived into Google to become an instant authority, only to become slightly miffed upon being told me she would provide me with a rough script of what they wanted to cover when in conversation with the programme’s veteran antiques expert, the scarf-wearing Philip Serrell.
Hurt feelings were quickly soothed when ‘Mr Lazyman’ realised she would do all the research. When the script arrived I realised she had been looking at the same Google pages as me, all pretty straightforward and quite interesting, too. But I claimed editorial seniority in deciding to cut her anecdotes about German snipers planning to hide in scarecrows during World War II. Such poor sportsmanship was surely not what the nation would want to hear about around teatime!
Came the great day and I pitched up at Heatherslaw Mill at 10am dressed in one of my many eccentric outfits (I am a fashionista, after all).
Presenter Phil Serrell proved to be excellent company. He has a highly successful auction house business in Worcestershire but as he was brought up on a farm he was very much at home with the subject and our location.
Reminding us that the sun shines on the righteous, we enjoyed very temperate weather right through until the ‘wrap’ at around 3pm.
After shooting in Heatherslaw, we relocated to Etal village hall where Phil was supposed to have a go at making a scarecrow himself. Truth be told, most of the work was done off camera by Shannon Denson, Ford & Etal Estates’ head of visitor services, but I doubt she will get an on-screen credit. That’s showbiz, Shannon!
The programme is scheduled also to include Phil’s rival auctioneer Irita Marriott having a tour of Lady Waterford Hall with curator Vicky Smith-Lacey and then unearthing buried treasure at The Old Dairy antiques emporium in Ford.
I am not expecting my segment will last more than a couple of minutes at most. One of the great mysteries of modern life is why it took five hours of filming to produce such a short snippet.
If you miss Friday’s broadcast the programme will be available on BBC iPlayer afterwards to lift the nation’s spirits for months to come. Let’s hope it attracts more visitors – but not too many – to Ford & Etal.
P.S. True to form, I have completely forgotten all I learned about scarecrows.