Saturday, March 26, 2011

Antiquing in England

Dear Husbola and I are eagerly anticipating a trip "across the pond" this early spring.  We will spend a week-ish in London before we head to Paris with a petite group of new and old friends.  The purpose of the trip is to celebrate 25 years of marriage and celebrate current good health and the ability to travel.  The purpose of the trip is NOT  business and not antiquing.

For nearly 24 years--each March we made the trek to England to spend several weeks in the exciting and mad hunt for treasures to sell in our antique shop and show venues.  We would rent a flat in London, purchase Britrail tickets--and pack not clothes for the theatre or dining out--but collapsible carts, huge canvas bags, bungee cords, rolls upon rolls of packing tape (UK cello tape just is not great!) and inventory stickers and take on the antiques trade by storm.

Each day we would head out by train, visit a fair or a town with shops and buy items, load them up and carry them back to our rented flat.  Our flat turned into a packing warehouse--with large cartons and bubble wrap rolls the size of truck wheels.  We would pack all the items--and then our trusty Shipper Eric would come by a couple of times during the visit to haul the boxes away and prepare them for shipping.  I know Husbola remembers fondly all the items I purchased over the years that would not fit into a standard shipping box--and he would have to make "a special box".  This task was not all that easy as he was working with a Swiss army knife. 

Nope--not this time--our trip is NOT for antiquing.  No--NOT this time.  Really.  Shipping costs have skyrocketed. There is no economical way to get stuff from there over here. We do not do huge containers of brown furniture.  Brown furniture is cheap over there--and no one wants it over here.  Towns that used to be stuffed with great little shops have dwindled--and great towns like Arundel, Hungerford, Long Melford and Honiton barely have shops anymore.  At least not shops with interesting decorative smalls with room for us to make a profit.

Antique fairs in England are still bustling.  But let's face it--dealers used to deal more.  UK dealers had it right for many years--their turnover was great.  They would buy something in the morning from another dealer--take it to a fair that weekend and sell it and turn it over -make a few quid and constantly keep their inventory moving.  No more.  Their discounts are not great anymore.  Auction house have gotten as greedy at USA ones.  20% commissions are the killer for a dealer buying for resale.

Nope--we are NOT going to antique this trip.  We are staying in a hotel--not a flat.  A nice hotel where we cannot be lugging a cart through the lobby to our room.  Husbola has to pack a jacket and tie--not blue jeans and packing tape.  We are going to some art exhibits and do lots of walking around the beautiful parks stuffed with primroses and daffodils.  We are going to bookshops and have tea at Fortum and Mason.

Well--there is that little auction house in Sussex we like--and they have a Monday auction.  And then there is that fall off the train and into a shop that we like up north.  It has been a few years since we scoped out Portobello Road--if just for the atmosphere.

Shhhhh.  Don't tell Husbola.  I just swapped a pair or trousers for a couple of rolls of packing tape in my suitcase...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where Have All the Clotheslines Gone?

Husbola and I live in a part of the world that does not have clotheslines.  When have you last seen one?  I mean the real outdoor kind--with two large metal posts and several lines strung between them.  I don't see the lines in our area--let alone lines filled with freshly washed sheets towels and "unmentionables".  They seem to have disappeared from the suburban Chicago landscape.

Well I know where to find some--Husbola and I found them last weekend while attending a couple of antiques shows  in central Illinois Amish country near Arcola.  Each spring we attend two shows in the tiny town of Arthur--which prides itself on being the largest Amish settlement in Illinois.

It was a dismal blustery gray weekend--but we enjoy going to this part of the state because it is so different from where we come from.  I promise I will not be patronizing and use the "quaint" word when describing the settlement.  The Amish in Arthur run a  great antique store, rent out their large community center for one of the antique shows and have a fabulous grocery store lit by gas lamps.  We loaded up on a fabulous cinnamon friendship bread, organic soup mixes and Husbola sneaked in some homemade nut candy.  Did I mention the locally made mustards and brown eggs?  Oh my!  You find this store off the beaten path--way down a road that is not much larger than a driveway.

And the clotheslines!!  Yup--it is gray and dark and dismal day--but house after house had a large line out back and on  Friday most of the lines were covered in laundry.  Nothing too brightly colored--but it was terrific to see the wash flapping in the stiff wind.  Can't you just smell that fresh air on the sheets when they were brought in the house?  Friday must be the traditional washday in this settlement.  What discipline in housework.  Heck-at our house--sometimes there is no washday until we run out of clean underwear!

Another highlight was finding a fabulous hole in the wall BBQ rib joint for supper one night.  We knew it had promise as there was a HUGE smoking smoker outback.  Dry rub ribs at Pauly's--with a variety of sauces to put on them--and one with a great "kick".

I am still thinking about those clotheslines.  I grew up in houses with them.  I love the smell of sheets and towels after flapping in the breeze.  Our house actually has a big umbrella like thing in the garage.  There is a sunken pipe in the yard and the thing can be set up--with great effort--actually a two person job.  But it puts it right in the front yard.  I wonder what the neighbors would think?  Do I care?  Naahhh.

Drive by sometime this spring--and check out our "unmentionables.

No More Concrete or Cast Iron Please

Dear One  and I spend many good hours wandering around looking for quirky things to sell.  There is nothing that makes a dealer smile more t...