10 April 2012

Just As Well Shopping Warms You Up

By golly England knows how to do cold.  The weather was so nice when we first arrived, and the last week in Europe has been lovely, but back to the UK for the first of the big four Fairs we’re attending and it was time to dig out some thermal undies.  We travelled by ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, and I must say that Stena Lines are the best of the ferry services we have travelled on so far. 

So anyway, we arrived to a cold snap and made our way up to Norfolk knowing it wasn’t going to get any better by heading north.  You know I am a Dedicated Shopper when I’m out in -2 degrees to get the early bargains.  The very first thing I bought was a lovely glass jug, but it was literally coated in frost and I thought it was opaque glass but when it thawed out I saw that in fact it’s iridescent glass, which is much better.  But although it was a down-right chilly start, the sun quickly came out and it turned out to be a pleasant day.  Still coat weather, but no rain and a bit of warmth in the direct sunlight.

Yet again I bought lots of lovely Art Deco glass (yay!), plus another French Deco electric lamp on a marble plinth and with a globe shade, but this time the figure is of a flying bird.  This one, I promise, will go into the shop.  We also bought some very nice French enamelware, although of course it was more expensive than if you just go to France and buy it there, but it was sufficiently nice that I still wanted it.  I’m going to have the most fabulous enamelware shelves ever.  Plus more jewellery – like I need more jewellery, but Too Much Bling is Not Enough is my new credo.  And I also obtained two pewter and glass sardine dishes – very Downton Abbey - and they were exceptionally hard to come by even before such table accessories became fashionable and sought-after.  You go for years not finding things, and then there are two right in front of you – that’s antiques hunting for you.

My quest for nice antiquities is continuing to go well, and at this Fair I turned up a nice medieval floor tile (c1450) from an old church in Norfolk.  I’ve not bought tiles before, but this one and the Elizabethan tile with the rampant lion I bought earlier are lovely and I have determined to look for more in the future.

Then it was the long drive down to Somerset, to position ourselves for a large Fair on Good Friday that has always yielded good results.  Fairs held over Easter always attract huge crowds – there is nowhere else to shop so they hit the antiques shops (that are always open – no such thing as a public holiday in the antiques trade) and the Fairs.  And by golly this Fair was absolutely packed.  The busiest we’ve ever seen it. 

And as usual, the Queue Nazis were out in force, trying to make everyone line up a good hour before the Fair opened, so they could stroll down the line and sell tickets at their leisure, while everyone waiting froze to their toes.  But not us.  We’ve been to this Fair before, and knew that if you just wait in your vehicle until the opening time you can walk straight up to the ticket booths and start shopping a good half hour before the Well-Behaved-Do-As-The-Queue-Nazis-Tell-You people who queued up an hour earlier.  It’s so easy to make the Brits queue up, as a general rule.  Once we even saw a queue of cars patiently line up behind a parked car.  They all sat there until someone went and told them that they might be waiting a while, seeing how the driver of parked car they had queued behind had legged it into the Fair.

So at opening time we made our way, with a small group of other regulars who knew better than to risk frost-bite just for the Queue Nazis’ convenience, to the ticket booths to get our entry tickets.  There was no-one at the ticket booths because the Queue Nazis had made everyone else line up down the road.  Several hundred metres down the road.  Once they spotted us a couple of the Queue Nazis raced up to our small group and attempted to stop us buying tickets.  Sod off!, we all shouted in unison, The Fair is now open and we’re here buying our tickets.  But there’s a Queue!, cried the Queue Nazis, You’ve got to get in the Queue!  Sod off! we all again shouted in unison, Go herd your Queue.  Meanwhile, a few people in the Queue Nazis’ Queue spotted the Maverick Queue (that would be us) and ran up to join us.  Overwhelmed by our numbers – there must have been, cor, almost 50 of us by then – and seeing their queue starting to disintegrate before their very eyes, the Queue Nazis did indeed sod off and marched up and down their remaining queue, which I must say was still impressively long, to Keep Public Order. 

I tell you, give a poorly educated, inarticulate, middle-aged man a luminescent yellow jacket and a token of power, and whoosh! you have a Queue Nazi on your hands and all sense and reason goes out the window (or joins the end of the queue, if he has his way). 

So what a traumatic morning for the Queue Nazis.  We’ve never had so many people join us in the Maverick Queue before, and it was a refreshing sight to see British people taking a stand for doing something sensible (like buying their tickets at the ticket booth when the Fair opened) rather than be bullied into queuing in the cold.  And okay there weren’t many of us, but the numbers of the Maverick Queue are growing.  The Maverick Queue will soon take over, and sensible ticket buying will ensue, and this will be the end of the Queue Nazis’ world as they know it.  Can you imagine Britain without Queue Nazis forming unnecessary (but oh so lovely and straight and long) queues, and those who let the Queue Nazis bully them?  The Revolution is coming, my friends.  Just call me Che.

So anyway, after braving the Queue Nazis (albeit momentarily), we made it into the Fair.  The clouds hung low and ominous all day, but no rain and we skipped away with an excellent stool with built in steps, yet more Deco glass – but how amazing that we buy so much and yet never see the same thing twice – and some really nice ceramic pieces.  We’ve been a bit low on the ceramics so far, but our best piece from this Fair was a breakfast set for one (ceramic tray, teapot, cup, toast rack, sugar bowl & milk jug) in a lovely turquoise which is very nice indeed. 

We also snapped up a double soda syphon, which poor Carl the Electrician will be turning into another lamp for me.  We have one of our own, and I’ve been looking for another for such a long, long time.  This one doesn’t have the mesh that they often have around them, but it’s still an excellent piece that weighs a tonne and when it’s ready for display it will be very much in keeping with the semi-industrial look I’ve been hunting for.  And when it’s ready it will go straight to the front window and we’ll see how long it lasts.

So, triumphant and dry, we headed back north to Lincolnshire, to position ourselves for the last two Fairs of the trip – the biggest two.  The weather has turned downright chilly – even snowing in Yorkshire (where we’re heading later in the week).  We ensconced in the little market town of Grantham for a few days, to do some packing and have excursions to nearby antiques centres as well as attend the Fairs.  We’ve already picked up some very nice books, plus an excellent jug, basin & chamber pot set.  Chamber pots are always used as flower pots these days (from one scent to another) and this set has a lovely paisley and blue combination that will look striking in the front window.  There will be no shortage of front window pieces, which is good news for my trusty Window Stylists who come by to play and make the place look nice every Thursday. 

Tomorrow is the first of the Fairs for this week, followed by the biggest Fair in the world on Thursday.  If serious volume buying can’t be done at these Fairs, it can’t be done.  Doug is pressuring me to spend more money, and I’m trying, but my hopes are pinned on these last two Fairs.  Fingers crossed I find lots of lovely stuff.

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