28 March 2012

It's Good to Shop

Bath is such a lovely town.  I really do like West Berkshire, Somerset and Wiltshire and many of their towns, and this is the part of England where you see the least amount of litter.  When you drive along the motorways and other major roads in much of the country it’s like driving through a tip at times – an absolute disgrace.  Do they not have a Clean Up England Day here?  They desperately need it.  You particularly notice the huge amounts of litter in early Spring, before all the foliage fills out and covers it up, and it’s really awful.  But less so in the south-west counties, where the beautiful countryside is not marred by rubbish along every road.

But anyway, Bath doesn’t suffer from the scourge of the litter-bug and it’s a beautiful town with elegant Georgian buildings everywhere you look.  Not to mention the Roman Baths, which are in amazing condition.  We went there to try out a couple of Fairs we hadn’t visited before.  The weather forecast was for a fine, sunny day so I decided to not wear my coat on the grounds that I would warm up with all my walking about and shopping.  Big mistake!  The morning fog hadn’t yet burned off when we arrived at Bath Racecourse so it was horribly cold, and the first dealers whose wares we inspected were positively delusional about their price expectations, so I was freezing and not shopping.  Douglas kindly offered me his coat, but I elected to suffer in silence.  Well okay not exactly silence, but I did suffer.  After a little while the sun finally made its appearance and I found some dealers who were realistic in their pricing, so in the end my trolley and Doug’s bag were full plus we were both lugging other items. 

Then it was into Bath itself for another Fair, and again mostly the prices were based on the expectation that rich buyers who live in Bath would be coming by, but there were still some good purchases to be made.  We bought a couple of seriously cool 1950s electric lamps, and we’re going to try to bring them back in our hand luggage so we can offer them immediately upon our arrival home.  We don’t have a lot of lamps out in the shop right now, and seeing how we use them to light the place for night-time browsers, it’s important that we get more in asap.  We’ll see how it goes, but back in the hand luggage is the plan at the moment. 

I caught up with a dealer I hadn’t seen for a long time who specialises in antiquities and they are always lovely, and I was very pleased to obtain my first ever Egyptian pieces.  How fabulous they are.  I now have three faience ceramic bead necklaces from the 30th Dynasty, so late in the pharonic era but still about 380BC.  Being a total boy, he had restrung them but not in a way that they can fit over your head!  He said he didn’t expect anyone would actually wear them, given their age and delicacy and rarity, and perhaps he’s right.  And they were originally so short because they went around the necks of mummies, and so were sewn in situ rather than having clasps, so his restringing was true to the original, but still it would be nice to have the option to wear them.  Still, restringing is quite cheap if I elect to go down that path.

It turned out to be such a lovely day we decided to visit a couple of centres down in Somerset and Wiltshire, but that didn’t prove to be particularly fruitful.  On the way back to our hotel we drove past Stonehenge for the eleventy-hundredth time, but we never get tired of seeing this monument.  It’s such a little place – you realise when you see it that every photo you’ve ever seen of it was taken by someone laying on the ground and looking up at it - and yet it’s still dead impressive for a Neolithic site.  And the landscape all around it is dotted with burial barrows, so it’s all very mysterious and has no doubt been a happy hunting ground for archaeologists over many years.

Then it was a pack and relax day, and we ventured down to Marlborough to find a nice pub for lunch.  We found the Lamb Inn, which first opened in 1673 and Douglas noted that it might be time for them to renew their carpet.  They had a nice mutt lounging around, but not as nice as my moggies, who I am missing a lot.

Yesterday it was off to a giant Fair on the outskirts of London.  It starts at 6.30am and thousands of people attend.  Why aren’t all these people at work?  I think before anyone is allowed in they should have to bring a note to explain why they’re play-shopping on a Tuesday morning rather than being off somewhere earning a legitimate living.  When the gates open the crowd surges forward, and it’s kind of fun to be in the middle of a shopping frenzy that isn’t just made up of me.  Having said that, there are some silly people who want to push through the thousands of the rest of us so they can run to every stand and see everything first, first, First!  I am happy to be the Gel In Front at most antiques Fairs, but this is one where you really to have to take into account that there are thousands of other people.  And the silly run-to-and-fro people were just getting on everyone else’s nerves. 

This Fair suffers from being in London in terms of pricing, so let us all sing together De-Lu-Sional, De-Lu-Sional, They-Are-All-De-Lu-Sional.  Well they weren’t all delusional, but mostly they were.  Notwithstanding my determination to spend what it takes to buy good semi-industrial pieces, this new rule has its limits and most of the prices were gag-worthy and based on the expectation that rich dealers from London would be buying.  And they did – all the pieces I admired but didn’t buy that I later took Doug back to see were gone by the time I got back.  I’m not a rich London dealer, damn it.  I did buy some nice French metal milk crates and a really cool metal (and seriously heavy) ship’s wheel with nicely distressed aqua paint, but mostly it was Deco glass for me.  And Deco glass is lovely, so I was still happy.

It was a sunny day and in keeping with the get-your-kit-off ethos that grips the British public in such weather, I saw a couple of gels at the Fair with shorts that were so short that they were practically g-strings.  Hey gels, it wasn’t that warm!  Douglas said I was too harsh in my judgement of other peoples’ choice of clothes (or lack of clothes).  He saw nothing at all odd at the sight of these perky little white buttocks getting their first taste of sunshine for the year.  In the middle of an antiques Fair.  Of course he didn’t.  It was only 19 degrees so in fact they were brave gels because it truly wasn’t short-shorts weather and they must have been suffering from quite chilly bottoms.  And so much for British gallantry – not a single man in sight offered them his coat to keep them warm.

Today we’re going to France, and will spend the night in Calais because we’ve never had a good look around there but only driven past on the way to Paris.  But the old part of town looks interesting, so we’ll go and investigate.  Looking forward to a nice dinner tonight!

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