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  • Debra Palmen

At last, the end is near


The night ferry trip back to England was several hours through heavy swell. And seeing how we had enjoyed an early dinner of Moules a la Creme at our favourite restaurant in Dieppe, Tout va Bien, it’s just as well neither of us are prone to seasickness.

The same couldn’t be said of a number of our fellow passengers, who alternated all shades of grey, green and white. And not attractive shades either; yucky, bilious colours, no doubt matching exactly how they felt. And this time the captain didn’t drop by for some casual flirting. I figured he didn’t fancy the prospect of his lovely white uniform being vomited over by a gagging, retching passer-by, or he thought he’d better be the one driving in this type of weather.

Then it was a long drive up to Lincolnshire, to position ourselves for the Newark and Lincoln antiques fairs. The Newark fair is the largest in Europe, 84 acres and about 2500 dealers. Until recently the Lincoln fair has been the second largest in Europe. But boy, it sure has contracted. Plus Zoltan the Magnificent, my main supplier for the beautiful enamelware that everyone likes so much, had taken the opportunity to bugger off to Texas. So I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the Lincoln fair.

And yet, I bought more at the Lincoln fair than I have in a long time. I didn’t get even close to the number of enamel storage vats I normally source, but in their stead I found wonderful bowls, large and small. And this time, for the first time, I found extra large tubs that probably started off as enormous cooking pots in restaurants, but now will look fabulous as plant pots. You can see a few of them in our trollies – the shop is going to look fabulous when they're all cleaned up and on display.

I also found a good selection of old, old wooden dough troughs, a few of them with interesting repairs. Many people think the ones with interesting repairs have added character, and they’re the ones most people go for first. So I was lucky to find a couple. The only other things I particularly wanted were large wooden chopping boards, round and rectangular. Not many were available, and even less in good condition, but I scooped up the good ones.

Next day was the Newark Fair, and what a relaxed exercise that was. I strolled about, selecting some large, deep green glass bottles and – to Doug’s dismay – 40 kettering trays. They’re also called chit trays or chittering trays, and were used to store potatoes in farm and Stately Home cellars. They’re about double the size of the daffodil bulb trays I bought in Peterborough, and they’re always popular. But they're always a long, long way from where we've parked the van.

A particularly interesting find was a number of 2m long old oak ware-boards from the now closed Wedgwood factory. These boards were used for ceramic pots to dry out a little before they were glazed and fired. They’ll need a bit of cleaning up to get rid of the fine residual clay over them, but then I think they’ll look excellent in our larder. As long as I can get the larder painted by Christmas, we’ll be able to put them up as soon as they arrive and see if we like the look. It’s a pity that Wedgwood closed down, but terrific that some of its factory will live on in our larder.

Then it was pack, pack and pack some more. We've ended up with 70 boxes, plus a very large number of things that will be packed loose in the container because they’re too big for boxes, plus a few bits and bobs that will come home in our luggage. All in all, a successful buying trip, with well over 1000 nice things purchased. The computer has crashed again, losing some enormously important data, but I’m hoping my Australian techno-dude will be able to rescue me a little better than the English guy did.

Now it’s down to London briefly, and we fly back to Bangkok on Tuesday. After a bit of relaxing poolside and lots of room service, we’ll return to Australia on Friday. If you have a chance to visit the shop, Calypso and I will be back in the chair from Tuesday 22 October. Come by if you can, and peruse the noice, different, unusual things I’m bringing back in my luggage. The rest will be coming by ship.


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