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Competition No 3707

Set by Margaret Rogers on 12 November

One person's treasures are another another person's bric-a-brac. We asked for an account of a famous person's "treasures" as seen through another celebrity's jaundiced eye.

Report by Ms de Meaner

I was extremely sad to lose Sheila Naish's internal memo from Greg Dyke to "Props" re Alan Titchmarsh ("One 'gardener' outfit with removable stains"), but otherwise think I picked easily the four most outstanding entries. An hon mensh to Naish, £20 to the winners. The vouchers go to Barbara Daniels.

Tony Blair on Winston Churchill

So this stuff belonged to Britain's so-called greatest war leader, did it? Let's have a look, then. "Nobel Prize for Literature." Literature? Tch! Not exactly up there with the peace gong they'll be giving me pretty soon, or the economics one for abolishing world poverty. Look, here's a book on Marlborough! And people say I suck up to the tobacco industry. As for these histories of the world wars - well, they're a bit backward-looking, aren't they? Hardly in the same league as my New Politics for the New Century. Oh, and what about those awful paintings? What do they say? "Royal Academy Honorary Academician Extraordinary." Fortunately, some of us simply don't have time to sit around doing silly little pictures. And let's face it, he wouldn't get in a Cool Britannia exhibition. And what's with all these old newspaper clippings? "Boer war latest - Winston Churchill, war correspondent." Hah! A bloody war reporter! How low can you get? Can't wait to tell Alastair! Hang on, this looks interesting. "Honorary US citizenship." That can't be right, not for a jumped-up hack like him. I think I'd better look after this, just until I get one of my own.

R Ewing

Brian Sewell on Dorian Gray

I first saw this portrait when it was newly painted, and quite honestly thought it was ghastly. There was a sort of likeness, it must be admitted, but the execution of the work was so garish, so crude, it reminded one of nothing more than a painting-by-numbers kit, and one badly finished, at that. The frame that surrounded it was equally nasty, a sort of gilded-curl baroque, the kind one sometimes sees in cheap mirror shops.

I was somewhat pleased to hear that Mr Gray had placed the painting in his attic, away from the eyes of the public, and anyone else with any sensibilities, but I did catch a glimpse of it the other day. Quite frankly, it has deteriorated to the point where the local junk shop would refuse it. Obviously the palette was wrongly mixed and, for that matter, wrongly applied. Over the years, the colours have become more muted, but in a manner that would indicate bad storage conditions. Grey, lined, twisted and flaking, the paint appears almost to be falling off the canvas.

The frame is just as awful as it ever was.

Katie Mallett

John Prescott on Clare Short

I've always liked Clare, ever since we were both wobblers in the Gulf war. But I was shocked when she invited me to her house. Every shelf, every window ledge, full of military relics. Bits of bomb casing, fragments of landmines, shells, cartridges, pipe bombs everywhere. You'd have thought the IRA had decommissioned in her front room. On the sideboard, there was an unexploded cluster bomb. I was a bit taken aback, but she swore blind it was safe. Mind you, that was before I saw you had to climb over a daisy cutter to get into the bathroom.

Then there were the pictures all over the walls. Bombed hospitals, television studios, old folks' homes, all labelled "Gotcha". And pictures of the lady herself. In uniform, sitting on tanks, in cockpits, shaking hands with generals, giving the boys a send-off. She went on mumbling: "When I was minister of war" (mind you, she'd had a few). I told her: "No, you were minister for overseas underdevelopment." She didn't hear. She just kept saying: "We did it for the women. No more page threes for them."

Personally, I've never bothered about hoarding stuff. I just kept the Jags and Pauline's hairnet.

Ian Birchall

Damien Hirst on the Queen

There is so little to say about Her Majesty's famed collection of treasures that I will be mercifully brief. That someone who has enough ready cash to buy a genuine preserved half-cow should spend good money on this rubbish dumbfounds me. She might as well have taken photographs, except that all the subjects are long dead. This is not the art of the people - all those irrelevant ruffs and jewels. Think of the imposition of class-war restraints on the artists and the time taken in the embellishment of detail when they could have enjoyed the democratic freedom of chucking paint at the canvas. The only thing worth seeing was Her Majesty's carefully made bed - a truly clever sidelong glance at postmodernism. And the wonderful kitsch of that glorious singing fish. Now there's taste!

Barbara Daniels

No 3710 Set by Jeremy Watson

Wanted: a sonnet - with a difference. The lines of the sonnet must make sense when read forwards and backwards - that is, starting with line 14 and ending with line one. (Note: the words within the lines do not have to make sense when read backwards.)

Poems to be in by 13 December (to appear in issue of 7 January 2002) E-mail: comp@newstatesman.co.uk

This article first appeared in Who needs 12 when one will do?

2001-12-03