Last month I persuaded my Goblin to take me to this antique market west of Lincoln. It’s an ex military base where the old RAF buildings have been taken over by various individual businesses many of which sell antiques. I’d decided that I needed (yes, needed) to treat myself to something Georgian…preferably something that had been manufactured before and then survived the Regency period.
Being an overly optimistic soul I had visions of finding an ugly ceramic figurine or clock that no one else wanted. I gave myself a budget (that could be given stretch marks if I saw something that called my name and promised I’d die without it). The Goblin only lasted the first building and then went back to the car for a nap. I carried on, determined to find treasure. After three buildings I’d seen about three things I liked (in the first building), but none of them made me feel anything. I looked at the objects. They stared back. They were lovely, but they weren’t for me…particularly after I gave myself a mental slap and asked myself if I really wanted to spend 80 English pounds for a cup and saucer that for all I knew was worthless. I kept looking. I was feeling exhausted when I entered the fourth building called Astra Antiques Centre. As I stepped inside and saw all the glass cabinets my spirits rose. Behind all that glass had to be at least one thing for me.
Just inside the door, I was peering into the nearest case when I overheard the young man behind the counter tell three apparent customers (who were also young men) that all the best stuff was in cabinet No. 1 which was located at the top of the stairs. I made a mental note to find that cabinet and have a look because it doesn’t cost anything to look at the best stuff and dream. Long before I made it to the stairs I’d seen several Georgian cups and saucers I liked at only 20 – 40 English pounds which compared to 80 seemed like a steal. I didn’t really spend too much time looking downstairs, I was drawn up the stairs by the nagging mystery of cabinet No 1.
I reached the top of the stairs and looked around expecting to see a large Fort Knox type cabinet full of museum quality pieces. I stood there staring in confusion (probably with my mouth open). I looked around the corner, but couldn’t see anything. Then I saw a tiny “No 1” on the front of the small wooden glass cabinet near the top of the stairs. The locked case had a shabby air, as if it hadn’t had a loving polish for several decades. This was the best case? My tired brain was running on slow that day! I bent down and stared at the jumbled contents, most of which looked like they’d been through a few wars and sustained visible injuries. Then I focused my eyes on a sales tag. My mouth hung open again. Four pounds? I looked closer at the chipped Chinese cup painted blue on white labelled as 18th century; it too was only 4 pounds! My heart was racing. I had to have that chipped cup! It was treasure and I was going to own it. I can’t swear I didn’t laugh maniacally or rub my hands in glee! My eyes raked the rest of the cabinet as I tried to decide which of the items were calling my name. On going to the counter to get the key and explaining how many pieces I wanted, the young man came back to help me carry my treasures. I’m glad he did. My hands were shaking as I held that chipped, faintly cracked bone china cup (made without a handle) that had once held tea for real Georgians. The stories it could tell of bad teeth and morning crypt breath! I’d never held bone china. It’s so thin and light it might almost be made out of paper. I bought two more cups and saucers from cabinet No 1 and found a pretty pink and white sound bowl and saucer from 1790 for 10 pounds. Leaving with my cracked cups and saucers wrapped in a small plastic bag (they were wrapped individually in paper) I felt as rich as the queen.
It turned out one of those young men I’d overheard had to buy something cheap (I assume for some sort of joke gift). If I hadn’t overheard half that conversation I might have walked past cabinet No 1 without taking a closer look.