I thought this a lovely phrase just as a phrase; but it becomes even better when you know that it is ‘highly inflammable clutter all over the walls.’
The phrase is Steve Bell’s, used in his strip cartoon in the Guardian. The words are spoken by a cartoon philistine Prince Phillip to the Queen, his wife who he has just discovered, to his surprise, was ‘a handsome filly’ at the time of their marriage. The scene is in Windsor Castle where, according to HRH, they are ‘benged up in a notorious fire risk’. The ‘inflammable clutter all over the walls’ is the hundreds and hundreds of paintings hanging in every room and corridor so characteristic of Royal residences.
Still smarting from the loss of much of my own oeuvre, I found some balm in the concept that at least parts of the Royal collection could be regarded as mere clutter on the walls, and a fire risk too. Should we ever return to a time when we can again visit country houses and the like, I suspect that, as we pass from tapestried dining room to gilded boudoir, my mind if not my eyes will see the serried ranks of worthies on the wall as but clutter and a fire-risk.