A cultured man is a marvelous thing, but not when he wants to drag you and an equally unwilling pal round a dead poet’s house on a miserable wet day in the Lake District.
I find it hard to believe that Ruskin was such a devotee of architecture among other things – his house is pug ugly. I also found it a major fail for hiding places.
We stepped reluctantly through the threshold behind a bouncing Johnny Eff. The over-enthusiastic and over-familiar Labrador of a National Trust chap on the desk lifted £26 off me and made me (all of us actually) wear a sticker. It said ‘Ruskin.’
He held us captive while gushing that the Ruskin video (involuntary shudder from me and the pal) would begin in 15 minutes and we’d be alerted to this visual treat by the sounding of a bell.
As one, with our shared goal unspoken we two oozed through the shop selling Ruskin knickknacks from hell and quietly flowed into a far flung music room, throwing in a sharp right immediately after the door to ensure we were out of sight when the bell went.
We stood there looking at a shell or a shrunken head or some sort of head louse in a case, still not a word was breathed.
The bell went (ruddy big school bell, hand bell thingy) we held our breaths. We could hear Johnny Eff’s hiking-booted feet thundering up and down the old house’s uncovered staircase as he became more frantic, lest we miss out.
We had just turned to each other for a relieved smile as his footsteps retreated when we heard a booming ‘I’VE FOUND THEM!’ We looked up to see the now reviled National Trust man at the door – blocking the door actually – and waving in Johnny Eff.
‘Where were you? I looked everywhere.”
We shuffled into the hated video. Half way through what seemed to be hours of mothball-stinking torture staring at black and white photography of a bearded bloke I remarked I thought Ruskin may have been gay. Not from his interior (or exterior) design choices, obviously. Johnny Eff piped up – “He did have a wife. She divorced him.”
“Well he seems to be pictured hanging on to several blokes and there’s just one pic of him in a canoe with a woman who looks desperate, so I just get the impression he’s gay,” I said.
“She divorced him because the marriage wasn’t consummated.”
My pal and I left with a fully sated Johnny Eff, high on the stink of faded lavender and some sort of taxidermy fluid as, without looking back I mused. Ruskin: Not an ounce of style, no wonder he couldn’t get a boyfriend.