Among my first jobs at Sotheby’s was that of porter in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Whenever there was a sale I would put on my grey porter’s uniform and stand behind the glass vitrines, making sure that prospective buyers didn’t sticky the objects with their fingers.

One morning there appeared an elderly and anachronistic gentleman in a black, astrakhan-collared coat, carrying a black, silver-tipped cane. His syrupy eyes and brushed-up moustache announced him as a relic of the Ottoman Empire.

‘Can you show me something beautiful?’ he asked. ‘Greek, not Roman!’

The Road to Abyei
Mrs Mandelstam