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  • Debra Palmen

It's always fun until the packing starts


Knowing the right people helps when you want to get into an antiques fair on Unpack Day. This is when the best bargains are available and you can shop at a leisurely pace, without jostling crowds. Entry is strictly prohibited if you’re an ordinary punter. Unless you know the right people.

So thank you, right people, because shopping on Unpack Day at the Peterborough Fair was very productive for us.

We found a nice range of French, and even some Polish, enamelware. Good antique French copper wasn’t thick on the ground, but we still discovered particularly nice pieces, including a very old copper hot water bottle that a lady would have sat on her lap while out riding in her carriage. I even bought my first ever pieces of QEII coronation ware, including that nice blue glass in the photo. Coronation pieces are often cheesy or kitsch, but this glass is quite lovely.

We pounced on a range of lovely old kitchenalia, from beautiful bread slicers to stylish coffee grinders, herb cutters, and yet more of the blue and white striped Cornishware that seems never to go out of fashion. It’s always a pleasure to buy things you personally like so much, and there was no pressure because plenty of good quality stock was on offer.

I've included a number of photos here, and I'll put more on our FB page, but let me say now I'm in a hotel room with sucky lighting, and it's overcast today. But the colours are as close as I could get to real life.

Peterborough Fair can be variable in terms of prices, and I did walk away from plenty of nice things I really wanted, but we’ve still got Paris, several contacts dotted about western France, plus Lincoln and Newark, the biggest antiques fairs in Europe to go. So I’m feeling comfortable about the quantity as well as the quality we’ve been picking up.

It’s always good to source items with interesting provenance. Last trip we found some terrific old book stands from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. This time we sourced a couple of large copper mixing bowls from the Trinity College kitchens at Cambridge University. Would you like intellectual cred with your sponge cake? Cambridge University is a beautiful complex, as you can see, but these mixing bowls might be as close as some of us ever get to it.

But there are still things I haven’t yet found. I looked around London and now Peterborough for very large glass bottles called carboys, that the French and sometimes the Italians used for storing wine. But so far every one I’ve found has been hideously expensive. Fortunately, I instead found every single reasonably priced French glass olive oil jar in the entire Peterborough Fair. They’re lovely great big bottles, in shades of green through to pale blue, and they’ll look lovely on our market stand.

It’s a super-fast update this time, because we’re packing, packing, packing. The dreariest part of every trip is packing, packing, packing. But doing it well is vital.

We’ll drop off a van full of boxes with the shipper tomorrow, and then head down into Dorset to a good antiques centre we know. Then on Tuesday we’re hopping on a ferry to France. We shall cruise around Normandy and Brittany to visit several good contacts before we head into Paris, for a spot of shopping at our favourite market – Porte de Vanves.

More as it happens.


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