11 April 2012

Exhausted but Triumphant in Northern England

Do you know, some unkind souls say mean things like Ah, Poor Diddums when I complain about how exhausting it is to be a professional shopper.  What is a Diddums anyway?  I’m pretty sure it’s something mean.  And how unwarranted these jibes are, because let me tell you that it’s utterly exhausting to go shopping for six hours straight, with only one little hot chocolate to sustain you.  And it wasn’t even the very fabulous hot chocolate you get in the Paris markets, where they include cinnamon and ginger and something else we haven’t been able to identify and the lady couldn’t explain in English (and we had no hope of understanding in French).  Now that was the best hot chocolate ever.  But I had only regular hot chocolate to sustain me during my shopping marathon yesterday.

No snow, no rain, but a wickedly cold wind accompanied us all day.  It made for some brisk browsing, to be sure, and many stall holders hadn’t come – the Fair was maybe a third of its usual size.  Nonetheless, Doug tells me that I am now a Good Gel on the spending front.  But boy you have to be quick to get the good stuff!  Early on, when many stall holders were still sleeping in their trucks and caravans – even though the Fair had opened – we spotted some good factory trolleys.  We’ve had them before, and kept one and had a wait list on the other, so I had some interest.  But the dude wasn’t out and about yet, so we went elsewhere for a while.  We met a charming Frenchman, who sold me lots of lovely enamelware at great prices, and I told Doug it is now an essential requirement that he cultivate a charming French accent.  Even this guy saying See you lat-ER was charming.  And with great enamelware at good prices, it was a nice way to start the day.

I also bought three nice, big, metal French watering cans.  They look very different from the English watering cans, and usually they are very hard to find so I snapped them up early in the day.  I had a request from a customer to find one, but the others can sit with some enamelware and one of the French grape buckets, a Scottish neeps basket and Parisian bottle crate to create a nice semi-industrial window.  I’ve got so much good stuff I’m already planning what some of the front window displays will look like, and the things won’t even arrive in Australia until June.

Doug and I had to part company so he could lug stuff back to the van and I could keep buying the stuff for him to lug, but he caught up with me about an hour later and told me I had to bolt quick smart back to trolley man, who had almost sold out of the trollies.  Bloody Hell!  An Italian dealer and a French dealer had come along and bought almost everything he had, but I got in there and mixed it with the continental dudes and managed to get two.  These are from a former piano factory in the Netherlands, and yet not too different from the trollies I bought a few trips ago which were from a car factory in Czechoslovakia.  Anyway, they look fabulously industrial – uber semi-industrial – and the lady who missed out last time should be well pleased and the remaining one will be front and centre in the window.

A few Fairs ago Doug bought me a lovely Lea Stein red bakelite cat brooch I had admired, and as I examined it that night I regretted that we didn’t buy a few pieces for the shop.  You have to look carefully at bakelite jewellery to ensure it has no hairline cracks, and of course Lea Stein is French and needs to be appropriately marked on the back.  But anyway, at the big Fairs you can find most anything and sure enough I found some really excellent Lea Stein brooches.  They will look lovely together in the jewellery cabinet, and we’ll see if people like them as much as me.  I must say the prices have gone up somewhat since I last bought Lea Stein about 15 years ago, but that’s a good thing for people who invest in good costume jewellery (like me).

The antiquities buying continues apace, and this time I obtained a good selection of Roman carnelian beads that were excavated in north Africa.  Carnelian is a deep smokey peach coloured semi-precious stone that is quite pretty.  The dealer was very cagey about exactly where they were excavated (as dealers always are), but he did mention that the dig is still in operation and the best known dig in north Africa, as far as I know, is Leptis Magna (present day Khoms in Libya).  So okay, being in Libya maybe the dig is not in operation at this exact moment, but this appears to be the most likely source of my beads.  I also secured a couple of very nice bronze medieval rings, and these ones fit women.  Usually the medieval rings that I find are monstrous and only fit men, so I was glad to finally get a couple for women.

Today it’s wet and windy and I’m glad that for the most part we’re inside doing a whole lot of packing.  We’ll need to venture out to the Laundromat for some emergency washing if we want clean knickers for the rest of the trip, and will no doubt visit the packers to drop off what we can so the van is cleared for the stuff I find at the next Fair.  Tomorrow is the biggest Fair in the world, and I’m really looking forward to it.

But we’re also tired now, and ready to come home.  We miss everyone, and the mogs, and even things like sleeping in our own bed and getting in our own shower (hotel showers vary widely, but most aren’t as good as ours and these things matter after a while).  The shop and moggie sitters (my parents) have been doing really well in the shop in our absence, and from all reports only Calypso has tried it on by being a bit naughty.  But I think she’s going to be a bit naughty for the rest of her life, so it was probably just business as usual for her.

My legs are really tired from all the walking about yesterday – the Fair covers acres and acres and there is a lot of walking to and fro, but I am girding my loins for tomorrow, which will make yesterday’s Fair seem like a doddle. 

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