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  • Debra Palmen

My Mission (should I choose to accept it)


Here’s the Mission:

Travel around England and France, buying 1000 nice antique and vintage things in 21 days.

Find them first.

Find them first at a good price.

But some of those 21 days will be spent on a ferry to and from France, travelling to different locations, or pack, pack, packing. So in fact, I have about 15 days to complete the Mission.

And yes of course I accept it. I always do.

But will I complete it in such a short time, is the question.

So far, I’m running well ahead of schedule. But we’ll see what happens next. It only takes one hiccup to throw things off course.

Day 1 was spent in Hungerford, down in Berkshire. It’s a beautiful old market town, first recorded in 1173. It’s well conserved, with ancient buildings jostling against more recent constructions – 200-year-old whippersnappers. There are entirely modern, architecturally uninspiring buildings for the local supermarket, etc – unspirational as we call them, but they’re tucked away.

Many lovely antiques shops line Hungerford’s main thoroughfare, but harsh experience has taught me that I can afford to shop in only one.

So it was straight to the Antiques Arcade for me. And more specifically, straight to the Junk Room in the cellar. I’ve watched many a perfectly coiffured woman baulk at going into the Junk Room, lest anyone see her. Heck, I’ve even seen perfectly coiffured women refuse to accept bags for their purchases if they were recycled bags from the ‘wrong’ supermarket. Heavens, I can’t let people think I shop there! I once heard a woman claim when offered a recycled bag for her purchase. How fun to be back in the Land of Distinct Class Differences.

Those differences totally work to my advantage when it comes to the Junk Room. Hungerford draws many wealthy shoppers to its beautiful antiques establishments, and if they want to preserve their I’m-Richer-Than-You reputations by avoiding the excellent buys in the Junk Room, I’m good with that.

As usual, I staggered up from the cellar looking dishevelled but totally triumphant. I also found a few other stands offering outstanding buys, and bought them all. Berkshire is a beautiful, rolling, green part of England, rich in history, so it’s always a pleasure to visit. And an even greater pleasure to leave loaded down with goodies. You’re going to be so happy with me when you see what lovely things I’ll be offering at such good prices.

Then it was the Sunbury Antiques Market in London. This too yielded a good haul, at surprisingly good prices. Surprisingly good for London, at least. It belted with rain, really bucketed down, so there wasn’t as big a turn-out of dealers as usual. But the sellers who did come were serious about getting sales, and the buyers were the Hard Core who will shop in any conditions.

It was so wet that even with a raincoat on I was saturated. Even my knickers were soaked! Sopping socks are no fun, but imagine wearing underpants dripping fresh from the washing machine. Not comfortable.

As usual, I bolted straight for Louis to get my hands on any of the fabulous ceramic floor polish bottles he had excavated from the last remaining landfill in London. But oh no! Louis had unexpectedly died. It’s such a pity, he was a nice man who died years ahead of his time.

But I did meet Steve, who has taken over part of Louis’ licence. He told me this dig was officially ending on 26 September. In effect, that means any machinery on site was removed on that date, but the traditional hand digging you see on archaeological sites will continue for the next little while. That’s really hard work, especially in the compacted earth in the bottom of a pit, so he didn’t expect it would continue for very long. So dammit! that’s near enough to the end of my supply of those lovely little ceramic bottles. I bought plenty to last for a while, though.

Then it was up to Lancashire, to visit a very large haunted mill that almost always earns its inclusion on our itinerary. It’s a fair hike to get up there from London and still give yourself plenty of shopping time, but worth the effort. I’ve never had a ghostly encounter there, even though it’s said to be one of the most haunted buildings in England. But Spectral Beings would have to jump up and down in front of me, waving their misty hands in my face, and going Wooooooh even louder than usual, to distract me from my Mission.

As you might have guessed from this random selection of photos, I’m buying far more ceramics and beautiful Deco glass than I have in a long time. But I have a lot of shelf-space to fill in the pop-up shop. And it will be filled with terrific stock, so I’m feeling pretty good about how things are going.

Next it was over to Yorkshire, another glorious part of the country. The best pork pies in all of England, with stilton and caramelized onion topping, can be found only at the Elsecar Heritage Centre’s café. It’s a once-a-year indulgence, and they are seriously delicious.

Thus fortified, I hit the antiques centre. I immediately found a couple of lovely Chinese Sung Dynasty pots dating from about 1200AD, but Doug immediately confiscated them for himself. I do have one for sale in the pop-up shop right now, though. Until Doug discovers that. Again, my buying was heavy on chinoiseries ceramics and Deco glass, although I did find a nice brass-topped Byzantine Revival table that will look terrific in the shop.

Then it was down to Peterborough, to position ourselves for Dealer’s Day at the antiques fair. More on that in the next Newsletter. I’m photographing a selection of things as we pack and will pop them onto FB with prices. It’s just a tiny sample I’m showing here because of space constraints.

Meanwhile, England is in political uproar this week. It’s not just Brexit that no-one has the slightest idea about, it’s also that the Prime Minister advised the Queen to shut-down Parliament so MPs couldn’t pass legislation to prevent a Hard Brexit. But it turns out his legal advice was wrong so Parliament was recalled with great hysteria.

MPs from both sides shrieked at each other, and the “deplorable language” used by the Prime Minister is all over the media. He said words like humbug, preposterous, betrayal and surrender, among other appalling terms. Coming from the genteel environment of the Australian Parliament, I can tell you I was shocked to the core. I totally agree that Parliaments should behave like grownups, but this didn’t even count as vigorous debate.

Now they’re all focussed on the inappropriate language used in the Commons, with tears and acrimony all round, rather than what the hell they’re going to do about Brexit. It’s the easier thing to deal with, I suppose.

Every single time we travel, we’re always very glad to return home to the Mountain Stronghold. I don’t think this time will be any different. But in the meantime, the Mission continues ….


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