28 March 2016

Be careful what you name your child

Somerset hills

What’s not to love about England’s west country?  Gentle, rolling green hills, gnarled old fairy-tale forests, and extremely alcoholic cider.

This time we stayed overnight at Wookey Hole, a nice little village in the Mendip Hills near the Welsh border.  Wookey Hole itself, on the edge of the village, is a giant cave system with apparently very good cave diving.  What a pity we forgot our wetsuits.

On drive down we crossed the River Avon, which prompted Doug to tell me the story of an acquaintance called Avon.  She was named after the river in memory of her uncle, who drowned in it. 

A small selection of English Cornishware
Does this strike anyone else as bizarre?  I mean, unless you really didn’t like your brother, in which case you were so pleased with the river wot did him in, you named your first-born child after it – that would make sense.

But if you did rather like your brother, why would you name your child after the river he drowned in?  And it struck me, lucky the brother didn’t die of plague or something else dire.  Can you imagine the poor kid then?  Bubonic Smith.  Anaphalatic Smith.  Syphilis Smith.  It could have been a whole lot worse for Doug’s friend Avon.

We didn’t go to the Shepton Mallet Giant Flea last trip because it’s a long way west and our itinerary didn’t allow the time.  But I’m so glad we fit it in this time.  It now attracts dealers from all over Europe, and those dealers had carted over a great deal of fabulous stock.  So I shopped ‘til I fell down dead. 

A fraction of unpack day in our room
I told the Cosmos I wanted lots of semi-industrial stock this trip, and the Cosmos is delivering big time.  So now I have more French flower baskets, oyster baskets, tall, thin Hungarian fire buckets that will look striking with tall flowers in them, and some really lovely distressed wood stars.  There’s nothing functional about them, they’re just beautiful.  Sometimes you need a bit of ‘just beautiful’ in your life. 

I also found three very stylish French coffee grinders and a nice selection of enamelware, so my wish list is being ticked off nicely.  And we still have France and the two biggest antiques fairs in Europe to go.

You will meet a tall, dark stranger ....
Finally, finally, after years of searching, I found an old English fortune teller’s cup and saucer.  They’re used for reading tea leaves, and they’re difficult to find.  About seven years ago I had only the cup and it sold the instant I offered it.  

It went to a psychic who reckoned she used to be an Egyptian princess.  There sure are a lot of reincarnated Egyptian princesses, if you believe everyone who says they used to be one.  Strange, but I’ve never met anyone who claims they were an Egyptian peasant in a former life.

A few of the Hungarian stencils, interesting & tactile
This time I also found a good selection of very old, Hungarian roller stencils.  They were used to paint patterns on walls to imitate wallpaper.  Back when wallpaper cost a lot.  But now the stencils are very collectible, and I was first to this dealer so I got the best ones.  Yay!   

Our customers tend to be very creative with these sorts of finds, and I think they’ll work well on fabric and paper as well as walls.  So I’ll look forward to seeing what people come up with.  They’re interesting to look at and being rubber they’re very tactile, so maybe they’ll have a broader appeal as well.  We’ll see.

We're finding good enameled kitchenalia
One thing – no, not the only thing, but one thing I bought for myself was a lovely deep green French Art Deco glass vase.  The dealer told me she had only just obtained it and hadn’t had time to research it.  But it’s not a signed piece, so what’s to research?  You either know French Art Deco glass when you see it, or you don’t.   

Lucky for me, I know it and she didn’t.  She still charged a motza for it, but compared to what she should have charged it was a bargain.  It will look lovely at my house.

We didn’t see anyone famous at the Giant Flea, although at Peterborough we did shop alongside Carson (the butler from Downton Abbey).  To be more precise, we shopped while he sat and had a nice cup of tea. 

Victorian era Belgian lace bobbins
You can be sure to spot a celebrity or two at Kempton Park, the big London market, but we’ve had to cancel our plan to attend this time so we can instead visit the freight forwarding company to drop off the massive amount of stock we’ve already amassed.  

I’m doing the best buying I’ve done in years, and the van is so packed not another thing will fit into it.  It has to be emptied before we head over to France because I plan on a major shop in Paris as well.

Victorian era copper jelly molds.  Lovely.
So now we’re hunkering down in Leicester for a while, to pack and pack and pack.  If we’re very efficient we might take time off to look at the new grave marker for Richard III at Leicester Cathedral.  I do like a bit of medieval English history with my shopping.

Next stop will be Hungerford, a nice little village in Berkshire with a huge selection of antiques shops – but only one you can actually afford to buy in.  But it’s sufficiently good that it’s worth visiting Hungerford just to go there.  Then we’ll hop on a ferry to Dieppe.  I’ll next be in touch from France.


  1. I am really enjoying your posts. Love the U.K and the thrill of the chase and your enthusiasm for the task. May your buying trip continue to provide many treasures.

  2. Hi Veronica. The buying this trip has been fantastic. I'm now in Paris (and about to blog about it) and will hit the Porte de Vanves market - your old favourite - tomorrow. Fingers crossed for some nice finds.