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  • Debra Palmen

Well England it's been nice, but France awaits

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

The Peterborough Festival of Antiques is always great fun to attend, but this time was funner than usual.

I’ve included photos of a couple of nice things here, but bear with me because the lighting in these hotel rooms is truly terrible. Really! You should see how I look first thing in the morning – it’s GOT to be the lighting. There are more shots on the Facebook page.

Anyway, we’d never seen so many sellers at the Peterborough Fair, and we’d never enjoyed such good prices. Poor Doug, my official porter, had about 12 trips back to the van and even I had to help with the lugging a few times when I bought too much for Doug to deal with. I know! Me, lugging! It’s not something Dougie should get too used to.

We always pay extra to get in three hours before the punters at this Fair, and it’s always worth it. It was a bright, bright, sunshiney day, and within minutes we were absolutely loaded down with fabulous French enamelware.

And finally I got my hands on more wooden well buckets. I sold out of these buckets within five days in our pop-up shop, so I was determined to find more this time. Now I have 13. Yes that sounds a bit overboard, but remember I’m buying enough to last for a year. And anyway, you need to buy these things when you see them because they’re not always available.

I also found some of the reclining hare garden figures I’ve been searching so hard for. So contact me now and tell me if you’d like one put aside because I don’t have many and everyone who saw the last one loved him. He’s beautiful, long and stylish, and I’ve never seen anything comparable in Australia. Hares are one of my favourite animals, and will be featuring in their own chapter one of my next books.

I’m constantly amazed by the huge variety of vintage enamelware colours available. Block colour is the most common, but sometimes manufacturers got all wild and crazy and produced really striking pieces. After all these years, every time I come shopping over here I find enamel I’ve never seen before. You’ve got to love that. My next pop-up shop is going to be fabulous!

After returning from lugging yet more stuff to the van I bumped into Eric Knowles, of The Antiques Roadshow fame. He also occasionally writes articles for the magazine I write for (Antiques & Collectables for Pleasure & Profit) so we’re almost colleagues. He’s good friends with the Editor’s father, Alan Carter, with whom he’s recently filmed an antiques buying competition program for Australian television.

We chatted about the trials of book publishing, and he told me he’s ahead of me because he’s published ten books and I have only one (so far), but I’m beating him in the rankings pretty comprehensively so I’m winning on that front.

He suggested we have a photo together, but you know I’m the world’s worst photojournalist and my camera’s battery was flat. But after a bit of rummaging he found his phone and roped in a production assistant to record our happy smiling faces. He said he’d send a copy to our magazine Editor to commemorate our meeting, so I hope I didn’t look like a crazed bag lady. Probably I did.

Eric told me he’s been appointed as the new host of the TV program Bargain Hunt, which was why he was wandering around the Peterborough Fair, but hopes to be called back to Australia for more filming. I told him the fabulous idea I had for Bargain Hunt, where someone (like, for example, me) would step into the frame just as a team member was about to make an idiot purchase, and say I’m sorry, but No. and then step back out of frame. I told him that’s what everyone watching the program is saying when an idiot team member is about to make an idiot purchase, and he agreed it’s a good idea. And yet I expect my fabulous new career as a media megastar is still a way off.

Lucky I can fall back on being a professional shopper. Doug tells me I’ve now blown the budget completely out of the water, setting new records for spending everywhere we go. I'm going through it like lolly-water, apparently. But I'm finding fabulous things I can't walk away from. Except for today. Today we went to some centres were terribly displayed and horribly overpriced. Take a look at this photo - who thinks that's a great way to style your shop?

So okay, we shall bugger off to France. We’ve had a big weekend of packing, so the next stop is the shippers and from there the ferry Dieppe. In France I plan to keep true to form and let Euros run through my fingers like water.

More from Paris, Bientôt mes chers coeurs.

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