28 September 2011

If the animals don't get you, the shopping will

So a few days have past, and the serious shopping has begun.  But first, on Saturday we decided on a Play Day and went to visit Banham Zoo in Norfolk.  Even though we got there at 10am we practically had the place to ourselves, which was really nice.  We decided to have a go at feeding the giraffes, and that was a lot of fun.  They have deep blue tongues that are about 18 inches long and really raspy, and huge eyes with beautiful long eyelashes.  We were given willow branches to feed them, and they pull really hard as they strip the leaves off the branches so you need to hang on tight.  Doug was bitten on the bum by the biggest giraffe when he didn’t hand over his leaves fast enough, and the keeper said this was quite an honour because they never make contact with people.  I got giraffe spit all over my hands from an over-enthusiastic girl who wanted her leaves faster than I could move my hands, which was a blek! moment.

We stopped by various big cat enclosures (Banham Zoo has cheetahs, leopards, tigers, ocelots, geoffrey’s cats, parres cats and snow leopards, so they’re well stocked with cats) and all the moggies obligingly came up close and posed for photos.  Then we visited the meerkats and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get in and feed them.  I’ve never been to a zoo that lets you in with the meerkats before, and it was tremendous fun.  The keeper poured mealworms on our laps and in our hands which was another blek! moment although the meerkats thought it was wonderful and they jumped all over us and squabbled on our laps for the best position to be fed.  They have the most amazingly rough coats and they allow you to stroke and tickle them as long as you keep the food coming.  As soon as the mealworms run out they’re off – no food, no friends.

But just after the keeper had finished assuring us that the meerkats had never bitten anyone, one of the wretches bit me!  I was trying to move my hand to give another meerkat a chance at some mealworms when my assailant tried to grab a big mouthful worms but instead got a big mouthful of me.  There was blood!  I’m sure I feel rabies coming on.  I have two little puncture wounds in my hand and they had better turn into scars so I have proof of my deadly encounter.

So after being mauled by assorted wild animals we headed off to the Norfolk coast so we could find somewhere nice for my birthday lunch.  On the big day we went to Aldeburgh Beach and had lunch at a hotel right on the beach.  It’s a pebble beach, as so many in the UK are, so not conducive to strolling along but the day was warm and sunny, a light breeze was blowing and it was a very pleasant place to spend a few hours.  If you had bionic vision I think looking straight out from Aldeburgh you could see the northern end of Holland, and then out into the North Sea.  A variety of people were sunbaking on the pebbles, and we thought that could not be comfortable (although we did not test out our theory by trying it ourselves).  And unlike at Noosa Beach, there wasn’t a bosom in sight.  All the sunbakers at Aldeburgh Beach were entirely covered from their necks to the tips of their toes.

Then we headed down almost to London so we could attend a big Fair that we hadn’t tried before.  On the way we did a quick detour to a small Fair at a community hall, and it was worth the stop.  Mostly the items on offer were over-priced and boring as, but then we discovered some beautiful scales from an old lolly shop in Suffolk, so we carried them off.  They are unlike any scales we’ve had before, and any one of the collectors who visit us should be well pleased with them.

The Fair near London wasn’t nearly as big as we had been expecting, and it was reminiscent of some of the flea markets in France in that all the stallholders and buyers are allowed in at the same time.  So at 8am utter pandemonium breaks out, with stallholders trying to get their wares out as fast as possible, and all the early bird buyers positioning themselves so they can be the first to see the new things coming out.  Of course you can’t be the first person at every stall, but you can jolly well try, and by being at the right place at the right time we came away with a number of really interesting items, including 4 sets of very attractive French scales (one with a marble top), interesting kitchenalia, lots of good quality glass, some lovely enamelware and a couple of big French wooden beer crates.

Today we went off to a huge Fair on the other side of London, which started at 6.30am – not what I call civilized.  We got there right on 6.30am and were amazed to see that literally thousands of people were there ahead of us.  We were the second last vehicle allowed into the huge carpark, which was then full and closed by 6.33am, and poor Doug wasn’t impressed that we were about a kilometre from all the action and he would be the one taking all the purchases back to the van.

As I suspected, this Fair did suffer from being too close to London in terms of gobsmacking prices for many of the more interesting European pieces, but it still took us about four hours to get around and we came away with plenty to be pleased about.  We did particularly well with nice cutlery and good glass again (but no show-stopper pieces yet) and surprisingly well with enamelware in interesting colours.  I’m always on the lookout for nice old wooden items, and this time we have three really big (really big!) wooden sticky rice serving platters/bowls that are about 140 years old and come from northern Thailand.  So they’ll have come a long way to find a home by the time they end up in our shop.  They are lovely and I’ve never seen anything like them, so we’ll see how they go.  Really old wood tends to wax up well with a bit of work, and when they’re good and glowing they’re going straight to the front window.

Tomorrow we’re visiting a large antiques centre in the Midlands, and then positioning ourselves for the first of the big northern Fairs.  Prices are usually more reasonable up north, although you don’t get the same number of European dealers until you get to Newark – the biggest antiques Fair in the world, where absolutely everyone comes from absolutely everywhere.  But for now it’s been a big day and we’re all tuckered out, so time for some dinner and a relax.  More later.

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