04 October 2013

Angels to the left of us, Angels to the right of us

The Angel of the North, a huge sculpture near Durham in the north of England.  Stunning.

After having spent too long playing on Hadrian’s Wall and at Vicovicium, we had to forego visiting the city of Durham and will need to add that to the itinerary of a future trip.  We did, however, finally get to see The Angel of North as we drove along the motorway.  This is the most enormous sculpture, 20m tall, and at the time it was erected it was a controversial choice.  But its stark lines are compellingly beautiful when you see the piece in situ, and it dominates the landscape far more than you realise from photos.

I don't buy a lot of figures,
but this is one cute cat.
So we headed over to Leicester, where our freighters are located, to ensconce for a few days while we packed the purchases so far and delivered the boxes to the freight company.  Packing is the boring-but-necessary part of every trip,  but it saves a huge amount of money to pack yourself so Pack Days have to be factored into every trip. 

But having been well organised and got a lot of packing done, we decided to take a day to head over to Lancashire to visit one of the biggest and best antiques centres we’ve found.  Lancashire is a bit of a hike from Leicestershire, but it was worth the trip.  We emerged from the centre five hours after going in, loaded with boxes and boxes of great finds.  It was the best buying we’ve ever done there, with excellent bargains at every turn.  We’ll be able to offer fantastic prices on excellent glass and really attractive ceramics, so I can’t wait for the shipment to arrive in Australia.

This chap stands at about 14" tall and is very
heavy.  He dates to about 1910.
Our best buy was probably a large, striking ceramic elephant, c1910.  I know some people get all superstitious about the position of elephant’s trunks, but I’m not one of them.  I’m interested in the overall aesthetic of the piece, and this one is really lovely so I have no doubt that it will be loved and snapped up when I present it for sale.

I had also been looking out for some owls and chicken figures, having missed out on that lovely French chook at the Porte de Vanves markets.  And Lancashire delivered, so now I have two amber glass chickens sitting in their baskets, plus a couple of cute owls.  In the shop I could be sure that these pieces would have sold within a day or two of being put out, so we’ll see how they go at antiques fairs.   Being somewhat cheaper than I would have been able to offer in the shop, and really attractive, should help a lot.
Steiff is an excellent German brand, very
collectable and usually not particularly
affordable, so I was very happy to
score this fellow.
I don’t usually buy vintage toys, but I couldn’t resist a Steiff leopard, in excellent condition.  Steiff is a German brand, most famous for its teddy bears, and the really old ones sell for gobsmacking amounts.  It wasn’t long before the company branched out from the standard bear figures, though, and created all sorts of critters.  I’d never seen a leopard before, and it was affordable – unbelievable for Steiff – so it had to be mine.  It reminded me that somewhere in the depths of our garage are a number of vintage teddy bears that are mostly stock, so I must go hunting for them when I get home.

Owls are always popular.  This one
has some age, and it shows, but I
couldn't resist him.
So after a great deal of additional packing we headed off to Peterborough, to position ourselves for the first of the really big antiques fairs in the north of England.  On the way we called in to see St Kyneburgha’s Church, which is said to be the finest Norman church in England.  Kyneburgha was a Saxon princess who ultimately founded a monastery and convent on the site of some significant Roman ruins.  Those Roman ruins are really famous in the archaeological world because they are so comprehensive, but the church on top of them is also really lovely, with a stunning ceiling covered with golden-winged angels.  Even though the church was dedicated in 1124AD, some time after the Norman conquest, it was still dedicated to the Saxon princess-come-saint who built the original monastery and convent.

We’ve been really lucky with the weather so far, with no coats needed.  But torrential rain is forecast for tomorrow, and seeing how most of my shopping at Peterborough is at the outdoor stalls, that could be problematic.  We’ve not had a wash-out at this Fair before, although I have heard of it being snowed out before.  So fingers crossed that we don’t get wet, very wet, and that the shopping is inspiring. 

Next blog:  what happened next.
A couple of the angels on the ceiling of St Kyneburgha's Church in Castor.  Many of the tombstones in the church and the graveyard also featured angels and cherubs, together with lovely dedications that described the fine qualities of the person laid to rest, and what everyone thought of them.  It really humanised these very old burials - they were real people who were much loved and some of the memorials described the intense grief of their families.  Fascinating and very touching.  But it also got me thinking that this could be a good practice for us all, with our tombstones having to tell the truth about our qualities and what everyone thought of us.  Wouldn't that be interesting?


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