31 October 2013

From Newark to Nambour, the Shopping is Great

Aw, inne cute?  This little piggy is wee-wee-
weeing all the way to Australia.
Well the travel computer carked it while we were away, so I’ve been incommunicado for a while.  But we’re back now, safe and sound, and this is a catch-up blog. 

But before I go on, let me mention that we’ve gotten back just in time for the next Collectorama Antiques Fair, the biggest in south-east Queensland.  It is only a tiny fraction of the size of the Newark International Antiques Fair in the north of England (more on that below), but it’s the biggest we’ve got and it has a good variety of dealers who come from all over to attend.  We took a double stand at the September Fair, and that went really well so we’re taking another double stand.  It’s on this coming Saturday, 2 November, so if you’re able to come be sure to visit us to say hello.
These pieces of copper came back in our hand
luggage but are all sold already.  More great
pieces are on the way, though.
Even though the shipment from the buying trip is currently on the high seas somewhere between the UK and Singapore, we did manage to put a few things in our hand luggage and they’ll be coming out at Collectorama.  I knew I had done a lot of shopping, but the shippers tell me that it came to a little over 600kg!  Yep, I surely know how to shop. 
Among the things we crammed into our hand luggage was the collection of lovely copper moulds I had amassed, and they are all sold already.  But I also have a small selection of really charming small glass birds, a seriously good pair of large French tailor’s shears, and I’ve put a lot effort since we’ve been back into getting some very beautiful travel advertisements reproduced, so they’re ready to go.  The reaction to reproduced images at the last Collectorama was great, and this time I have a good selection of images that I’m really happy with.
This is one of the hand blown glass birds that
came back with us and will be offered at
Collectorama on Saturday.  Those brown spots
are actually glittering aventurine inclusions, so
this little fellow is much prettier in real life.
But anyway, that’s to come and I shall report on it in due course.  In the meantime I shall finish talking about the buying trip.  So, to continue ….
The last of the big Antiques Fairs for this trip was at Newark.  It’s certainly the biggest antiques fair in Europe, and is said to be the biggest in the world.  It covers quite a few acres, but we barely got 20m through the gate before we’d run out of money.  But by then I did have six wooden printers trays, three of them with nice little brass highlights between each segment, and four ship’s lights from a German freighter that was dismantled in the 1940s. 
We already had three of these lights for our house's breezeway when it’s built, but figured it would be too late to realise we needed more when we’re back on the other side of the planet.  And if we have any to spare we’ll offer them for sale, and they will be unlike anything else currently available that we’ve found.  So dang, we were glad to find these lights but we hadn't planned on spending so much money and had to hunt down a cash machine and see if we could trick it into spitting out some cash.
Tim Wonnacott walking towards the cameras
as he does his opening spiel for Bargain Hunt.
I was in Take 2, but he did 7 Takes so good
luck seeing me on't telly any time soon.
And yay that our trickster skills are still up to par, so we resumed our exploration of the Fair re-cashed.  For the first time this trip I finally ran into Tim Wonnacott, the presenter of Bargain Hunt, and we exchanged quick greetings before I was filmed in the background of his opening spiel – my 16th time filmed in the background on Bargain Hunt, although to the best of my knowledge I have yet to appear on TV.  He did his opening spiel seven times and I was only filmed once, so unless they go with Take 2 I am destined to remain undiscovered by the antiques viewing public.  I told the crew that after all this time I hadn’t yet made an appearance, and they said they’d see what they could do for Lucky 16. 
We felt under no pressure at all to buy stock, which was a very pleasant change for this Fair, where we normally go nuts.  But we had already bought so much on this trip, so for this Fair we decided to limit ourselves to really special things. 
Doug said this was the ugliest
Buddha he had ever seen.
She was Not Amused.
So anyway, I was looking for anything interesting, and for a few extra things like more potato baskets.  I found potato baskets, but boy oh boy, the prices were ludicrous!  At first I deeply suspected that there was a Potato Basket Price Fixing Racket going on, because everyone had the same delusional prices.  But that was until I ventured further into the Fair and found the deeply delusional prices.  So I had to walk away from more potato baskets on this trip, and can offer only three when they arrive.  But three good ones!
On the positive side, we found a more pieces of interesting French enamelware, some great vintage kitchenware including two enormous Italian sieves, and finally a small brass-topped Byzantine Revival table.  I had been on the look out for as many Byzantine Revival tables as I could find all trip, because they’re very attractive, the tops come off so they travel well (and store well at home) and they always sold immediately when I had them in the shop.  So anyway, at least I found one and we’ll see how it goes at an antiques fair.  A few trips ago we decided to keep one of these tables for ourselves because they are attractive but so hard to come by, and they’re getting increasingly hard to find so I’m glad we decided to keep one before it's too late.
The weather was starting to
turn at the Newark International
Antiques Fair just as we got
to our van.  Shopping at the
Fair is great fun, but not in
the rain.
Finally, we decided we were done.  It was the first really chilly day of the trip, and all of our shopping had been done at the outside stands.  Then, just as we were slowly traipsing back to the van, each heavily loaded with our finds, tired, cold and all shopped out, we stumbled across two big terracotta pineapple finials.  This was a big deal thing to find, let me tell you, so we perked up immediately. 
These finials are French and date from the early 1800s.  They both have a bit of scuffing, as you’d expect on something that has spent the last 200 years outside, and fabulously crackled white glaze.  Earlier in the trip we found a great English pineapple finial which I snapped up because they are so hard to come by.  Interior decorators love them, and why not?  They were traditionally put on gate posts, or somewhere close to a front door, including on stair banister posts in a home's entry, because they symbolize welcome and hospitality.  Sometimes you can even see little wooden pineapples used as finials on very old four poster beds, and you know by seeing them that it was a guest bed.
The stylized fox is my favourite
of Lea Stein's brooch designs. 
I caught up with my main supplier
at Newark and bought some
lovely pieces.  One fox brooch
has sold already, but this piece 
will get his first showing at
In the early days of colonial America, real pineapples were used as table centrepieces by the most gobsmackingly rich of rich hostesses to demonstrate just how much richer they were than you, you hopelessly impoverished rich-as-me-wannabe.  You could even rent pineapples in the early days, just so you could dead impress your guests, but then you had to return the fruit in good condition, without little bites taken out of them.  So over time the fruit took on a particular meaning, which continued into the 1800s, and stylized pineapples made of wood or terracotta or metal were used rather than real fruit. 
I have looked out for a large terracotta pineapple finial for years, but have only seen them in chic but expensive Parisian shops.  Much as I’d love to, I don’t shop in chic but expensive Parisian shops, so I’ve always come away empty-handed.  But guess what?  Now I have three.  I'm not sure if we’re keeping one or two, but either way we’ll have at least one to offer when they arrive in Australia.
So then there was a flurry of final packing, getting things to the shippers, and bolting down to London to return the van to the hire company (which we did with one minute to spare), and then had two days of chilling until our flight home.

This was a momentary break in the crowd at Portobello Road.  Way too many people and way
too expensive prices to enable any serious shopping.
We elected to spend Saturday visiting Portobello Road, a very famous antiques tourist strip that we last visited about 20 years ago.  I’m afraid the passage of time hasn’t really improved this location.  Not only were there thousands and thousands of people strolling around, but the prices were ridiculously high for often pretty routine stuff.  There were some good stands, but few and far between.  I did buy a small sugar sifter as a souvenir purchase, but overall it was a disappointing experience.  Years ago – okay decades ago – you could pick up truly spectacular pieces at Portobello Road, and even though you jolly well had to pay large for them, you were getting something fabulous for your money.  These days it’s not worth the effort of fighting your way through the incredible crowds.
Doug would dearly love to carry
off a set of WW2 airplane
spotting binoculars.  But at
3000 pounds tell him he's
The one good thing we did find was a tiny burger bar called Honesty that had a vacant table right in the front window, so we ensconced there to watch the crowd and have a bite of lunch.  And wow, it was fantastic!  I can put my hand on my heart and say it was the best burger I ever had.  And of course it came with chips, because in England everything comes with chips.  And again, OMG the best chips I ever, ever had, with a seriously delicious rosemary salt over them.  Then we decided we’d need something equally delicious to follow, so we headed off to Harrods for desserts. 
Harrods is such a lovely shop, full of lovely things.  I inspected the Prada handbags because some years ago I picked up a vintage Prada bag for a song and wanted to see if that little investment had proven to be a good one, but I was left guessing.  In Harrods the designer handbag prices are of the if-you-have-to-ask variety.  But the little cakes and petit fours were lovely and not too outrageously expensive, so we indulged.  And we found a modern counter-part for the gobsmackingly richie-rich colonial American hostess – these days, if you want to dead impress your guests with how terribly well off you are, you can buy a cake from Harrods with a giant ‘H’ across the top of it.  Smaller cakes had edible gold-leafed Harrods labels on them.  All terribly, terribly, dahling.
Don't leave your guests wondering where
you got your afternoon tea supplies from.
Harrods bakes all its cakes in its own
kitchens every day, and they're all delicious.
We stepped out of Harrods to find a couple of young ladies busking by singing opera arias.  Wow, were they good.  Seriously good.  We decided that Harrods attracts a better class of busker than the Eumundi Markets, and in that location I expect these gels were well compensated for their efforts.  As they deserved to be.
Our final Sunday in England was dismally cold, and it poured and poured with rain. Thank goodness the really bad weather didn’t start until our last day.  We had plans to visit Hampton Court Palace, but decided it would still be there next trip and instead arranged for a late check-out at the hotel and lounged about instead.  Then it was back to Bangkok, where due to the hotel being heavily booked we were upgraded to a two king sized bedroom apartment that was a whole lot bigger than our house.  I know we have a small house until the rest is built but, come on, I had booked a hotel room
The different halls in Harrods have signs over the
doorways telling you what you can expect inside.
I want to talk to my local supermarket about getting
something similar installed rather than the
standard aisle signs.
I had time to have my hair straightened – at a third of the price you pay in Australia – so goodbye to frizzy hair for the next few humid months, and then we ordered room service.  A lot of room service.  Another late check out was arranged, because it’s much nicer to laze away the hours before your flight in a luxury apartment rather than Suvarnabhumi Airport, which I must say isn’t very comfortable if you’ve got a while to wait before your flight. 
Then, voila!, we were home and that was that for another trip.  Now we have to get through Collectorama next Saturday, and then we can relax until the shipment arrives in December.  We are thinking about taking a stand at a nearby Sunday morning market that is right on the beach, but we’ve yet to see if the logistics will work for us, so more on that later.
Nice looking wooden crates at the Newark Fair, but what a pity they are all fake.
How good to be home.  The builders did as we asked and stopped work while we away, but we’re back now, boys, so I’m expecting that we’ll have a little hive of activity at our house from next week.  Hopefully I’ll have some progress photos real soon.
More fakes.  Many dealers don't declare when things aren't real, but seeing the same thing again and again is a bit of a give away.


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