Here is an abstract painting I made the other day. I quite like it – it’s colours and the shapes – but am not sure which way up it goes, so I thought I’d ask you.
Thanks! 😄 (Don’t you hate it when the computer thinks it knows what you wanted to write? In the paragraph above, the word ‘its’ has been given an unnecessary apostrophe! Sorry, I should have proof-read it but it was so short I just assumed it was okay. Now I know.)😩
My sleepless night is not important. It hasn’t any earth-shaking repercussions. I will survive it. But, it shouldn’t have happened!
During my childhood in America there was an air raid siren on top of the neighbourhood school. Every once in a while someone tested it to make sure it was still working but, as far as I know, they hadn’t warned those of us who lived close enough to hear it and it really worried us, particularly my sister, Judy.
Life in 1950’s Ohio, for little white children and their families, was pretty good as far as I remember. We weren’t rich but we weren’t poverty stricken either. Our mother had decided to study architecture at the University of Cincinnati and our step-father was also studying part-time. There was enough money for our mother to hire a ‘baby sitter’ who came every day, mainly to look after Jennie who was still quite young but also, I guess, to make sure we were home from school at 3:30 and not running riot. The only ‘war’ we knew was between our mother and her husband which was quite worrying really but there were no bombs, grenades and guns involved and on the whole, we were safe.
In the world in general, there were all sorts of things going on. There was the Korean War which didn’t seem to have any effect on us and something called the ‘Cold War’ which we definitely didn’t understand. Towards the end of the 50’s, though, when I was in my early mid teens, I started to realise that the ‘Reds’ was not only the nickname for our city’s baseball team but also the nickname of a group of people also known as ‘the commies’ who, it was thought, were dangerous and might just drop the A bomb or even the H bomb on us.
That worried me. Once in a while I’d lie awake wondering what would it be like if the air raid sirens went off, followed by a big explosion. Would we live through it, only to have radiation sickness? What would that be like? Would we mutate into monsters? My thoughts on the subject made me feel hot and cold and sick and I would lie awake worrying, wondering if it would happen that night and, like that prayer* children said at bedtime, my soul would have been ‘taken’ by the Lord.
*(Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.)
(I always thought that this prayer was horrible…..what child wants to die before they wake up? Thinking of dying in my sleep, as a child, was another thought that made me lie awake, worried about dying. We weren’t a religious family and weren’t made to pray before bed but we sort of picked these ideas up from friends, books, or tv. Perhaps if we had been church goers we would have been comforted by the thought that ‘the Lord’ would look after us but we weren’t. As an aside I will say that I did go to church regularly but that was because I had joined the church choir.)
Happily, the older I got the less likely it was that there would be a nuclear war – until 2022, when a certain Russian ex-KGB officer with a guaranteed life-long position as the head of state, threatened to use some of his vast stockpile of nuclear weapons if people « in the west » helped Ukraine in the war he started with that country.
So, I have spent nights awake, worrying, recently, not so much about me and dying (at 79 I’m quite used to the thought – I don’t want to go but I can think of worse things!), but about the terrible things that are happening to people whose lives were rather like mine until recently. They went with their partners to the local shops and bought goods for their homes, worried about their children, looked forward to the next instalment of their favourite tv show, hoped they wouldn’t get covid, cried because their boyfriend fancied someone new or whatever and suddenly, just when they should have been getting ready to greet spring, even in the cold weather, they have been assaulted, lied about, chased from their homes, lost loved ones, found themselves in foreign countries or imprisoned, learned how to shoot and to kill another human being (something many of us have no desire to do!).
It’s about a month since I started writing this post. In that time I (and others around the world) have been told that I’ve got it all wrong, that everything I’ve read and seen has been ‘fake news’, that I should read such and such a newspaper or watch this particular tv channel; that Mr Putin isn’t having his soldiers kill civilians, isn’t trying to annex the whole of another, separate country, isn’t trying to rebuild the Soviet Union, and that ‘the West’ has been at fault over the years, trying to influence people towards their way of thinking. The real war isn’t a war at all, we’re told….it’s an operation to get rid of the Nazis who have taken over Ukraine.
It’s all crap! It’s people! More than 5 million people have run away, some of them ending up in a foreign country without their small child who died on the way or who was in the way of a bullet or a piece of shrapnel. How many others have been ambushed as they were trying to leave, bombed as they were sitting in a hideout with CHILDREN written in huge letters outside, been at the receiving end of a missile as they lay in labour in hospital, have been raped then stabbed to death or been shot down when trying to find food or water?
How can I sleep when others can’t? If I were young and brave I might have done something more to help besides give some money or old clothes, but I sit here tapping on my iPad, eating fresh food, and watching fiction on tv or reading or painting so that I can forget the terrible things that people are doing to other people in a land so far away – and yet so near.
Every few days I have a look to see if anybody has read my recent posts and am often surprised for two reasons – the first is that not many people have visited my blog and the second is that so many people who have visited are from countries which do not have English as a mother-tongue.
My most recent non-English as a mother-tongue readers are from China . Now, I know that many Chinese people speak English because it is so important in today’s commercial world but I don’t know why they would find my posts interesting. The same applies to the UAE and Bangladesh, although those places’ views seem to have tailed off during 2021.
If you are from a non-English-speaking country and have come to my blog pages for any reason, please write and tell me what it is that interests you. I would like to write more articles that you find interesting.
Also, thanks to everyone who reads my posts. You all make taking the time and making the effort, so worthwhile!
When I was born, seventy eight and a half years ago, I weighed (I’ve been told) seven pounds, three ounces. I put on weight as expected and was never overweight as a child. It was the same with my sister, Judy – we were both rather slim, even skinny, girls. Jennie was tiny at birth and continued to be tiny until she was around seven when she had her tonsils and adenoids out and she became more robust – but definitely not overweight.
Patty, my mother, was also slim, as a girl and as a young woman – you can see that in all the photos I’ve put in posts. But, when she was in her forties, she suddenly started putting on weight and – guess what – so did I when I hit my forties!
At first it was just a couple of un-noticeable pounds, which became a very noticeable stone. Even a stone (14 pounds, 6.35 kilos) didn’t make me fat, but most of that extra weight seemed to be on my lower half (to put it delicately).
I always had a rather pear-shaped body – my figure at 18 something like 32-22-34 – so, flat chested, small waisted and slightly bigger hips. My legs were short but reasonably shaped. I weighed about seven and a half stone (105 pounds) until I was in my later 30’s.
I suppose each decade after 40 brought an extra stone or so and I started worrying about my weight when I was 42 and weighed about 9.5 stones (126 pounds, 60.3 kilos).
I remember going to a weight-loss group with Angela, who was also overweight. It wasn’t one of the franchises, just a group of women who wanted to lose weight. We weighed ourselves, paid in a token 50p per week, sat around and chatted and, each month, the woman who had lost the most weight that month, got her month’s money back while the rest of the money paid for the coffee we had drunk that month.
A few years went by and I started to go to Weight Watchers in the local village hall. I probably was about 10 stone then and wore size 14 (UK) which was a big size for me, who had worn size 8 or 10 only a decade earlier.
So, there I was, a rather sedentary 40+, weighing around 10 stone. I went to weight-loss groups from time-to-time, signed up to a gym, paid out a lot of money to lie on a table and let the table do the moving (what a waste of money that was!) and – meanwhile, carried on eating my standard diet.
Looking back, I can see why I started putting on the weight. When I was teaching at St. Katherine’s I always had a school dinner – the dinner ladies were wonderful cooks! But, when I started being a supply teacher, I would go home and make myself a fried cheese sandwich with butter every lunchtime, if I was working at a school not too far from home. Oh, those fried cheese sandwiches! Heavenly!
Most days, on my way home from school, I would stop at Safeways and buy a fresh, unsliced white loaf and, when I got home, slice a few thick wedges of bread and butter them, then take them into the lounge with a cup of tea and sit and watch The Wonder Years. Or, maybe, I’d substitute the bread for two or three donuts! Then, I’d make dinner in the evening for Julian and me. I can’t remember what we might have had but there would have been meat, potatoes and veggies or pasta with a meaty sauce.
When we opened our shop in 1997 I weighed around 13 stone! (182 lbs, 82.5 kilos). But the year 2000 came along and I knew that I was too heavy and unhealthy so I decided to do something about it for real. I wish I could remember what I ate during that time….I successfully lost 3.5 stone. I did get up early every morning and walk to Manor Park, up the fields and round the lake then back home to shower and dress for the day. (In case you are asking yourself why I didn’t ‘run’ or jog, there is no way I could ‘run’ anywhere. I had never been a runner – I was always the last one across the playground, with my short legs, during skinny childhood.)
I kept that weight off for about a year but started eating whatever I wanted again, and also discovered the delights of dry white wine! Unlike many in my family, I was more or less tee-total till I was in my 50’s, then would often have a small glass of white wine with my dinner in the evening.
For some reason I was able to keep my alcohol intake on the low side while other members of my family partook of rather more – Patty always told us that everyone drank loads in the 1940’s, which may, of course, have been true. (Patty seemed to be a part-time alcoholic – she could go for weeks with only one or two drinks a day then would “fall off the wagon” and binge-drink until she was too ill or till no one would go out to get her booze for her. She really never stopped drinking until she had to live in a care home, where she also had to give up smoking! She was 90 when she had to give up cigarettes and alcohol!)
In my later 50’s and early 60’s, a group of our friends organised walks of 3 to 5 miles. We would meet at a pre-arranged car park somewhere not too far, then would do a circular walk which would bring us back to the car-park which almost always was a pub car park or, at least, very near a pub that served Sunday meals. I think the walks helped me keep to a reasonable weight, though the pub lunches were usually fairly high in calories.
At that time, too, Julian and I were ‘standing’ at various antique fairs around the country. Many week-ends would find us travelling in Julian’s van – or even a larger hired van – to such places as the NEC, Newark, or as far as Lancashire. We stayed in bed-and-breakfasts or cheapish hotels but rarely covered our expenses with sales – we were, though, always optimistic! During those years I was Julian’s helper when we needed to carry Georgian secrétaire bookcases or Victorian chests-of-drawers. I must have used quite a few calories and blame all that carrying for my later knee problems!
In 2014, after I had my knees replaced, I decided that I had to lose weight and got down to around 10 stone but it wasn’t too long before my weight shot back up! I have always known that eating what I love wasn’t good for keeping the weight off but couldn’t seem to help myself….if there was a choice of puddings at Angela’s Christmas dinner, I would have the one I preferred first, then try some of the others. If there was a packet of biscuits (cookies), I would have a couple. If I made pasta, I would have a good big helping and sprinkle the lot with cheese.
In April of 2019 I decided to try again. I was over 13.5 stone – my heaviest ever – so joined online Weight Watchers and was very ‘good’. From then until Christmas that year I lost about 3 stone and was very pleased with myself. That Christmas we were joined by my sister, Jennie, and Veronica and her husband plus a couple of friends for dinner.
Jennie now realises that she wasn’t feeling very well but didn’t say anything. She couldn’t really taste the food she was helping to cook, but carried on, as there were so many of us. On Boxing Day she felt worse and spent the day lazing about but not letting on she wasn’t well. On the next day, she somehow drove back to London as planned and went to bed for a day or two.
Meanwhile, in Broadstairs, I started coughing – a dry cough, at first without any other symptoms , which stayed with me for about four weeks – and incredible fatigue. Every other day or so I would wake up and think I was feeling much better, then would begin to feel bad again.
In the February, news was coming from China, of a really horrible ‘flu, and it sounded like Jennie and I had had mild cases of ‘covid 19’. By the time antibody tests were available at a fairly low price, six or so months had gone by and my self-administered test was negative so I don’t suppose we’ll ever know if it was covid-19 or something very similar.
All this time, I was eating normally again and had joined the millions of others, adding a ‘covid-stone’. So, April 2021, I resumed my weight loss journey, yet again. Now it is nearly November and I’ve lost the covid-stone plus a little. I seem to have reached a plateau and for weeks my weight has hovered around 10 stone 6.5 lbs.
That’s not the weight I was aiming for but it means that I can wear loads of clothes I hadn’t been able to squeeze into and that makes me quite pleased! I am not dieting but am being ever so careful. If one day I eat more than I should, the next day I eat less. I plan to start the dieting again but am enjoying the occasional bowl of ice cream or slice of pizza.
But – here’s the thing about losing weight at my age. Ten or fifteen years ago, I was lucky that my skin was still quite ‘elastic’ and my muscles didn’t make my skin sag, now I’ve got saggy everything – bosoms, tummy, arms, legs – even my face has started to sag a bit but I find that if I smile 😊, most of the face-sag goes away. So if you see me walking down the street smiling, you know why! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
I think of myself as a ‘risk averse’ old lady. I don’t like travelling in cars, planes, buses, trains – and certainly not on the back of a motorbike or scooter, with or without a helmet. Maybe it’s because my mother, Patty, was ‘a nervous wreck’ most of her life and passed it on to me. Certainly in my youth she tried, not always successfully, to keep her daughters from doing something that could possibly backfire and harm them.
Now, I will admit to riding on the back of a motor scooter in the late 50’s or early 60’s without a helmet (it was legal then), even when the weather was poor and the roads slippery. When it looked like I might be riding bare-headed more often, I did buy a helmet but it was second-hand and who knows how effective it would have been if we had ever had an accident? My scooter-driving friend, Dennis – a photographer – was a reasonably careful driver, I guess, and we never had the opportunity to find out about the efficacy of my second-hand helmet. The last I remember of seeing and talking to Dennis, he had his heart’s desire – a little, old Morgan car – and was in the process of photographing a car collection belonging to some Lord or other. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to him.
Back to Patty for a moment. When Judy and I were 5 and 3 (I’m the older), we both had bikes which we used to ride on the sidewalk up and down Sunset Avenue where we lived and, daringly, around the corner into what I seem to remember is called Maple Avenue – where, incidentally, my first grade teacher, Miss Meyers, lived. But, I was still only in Kindergarten when the following happened and I don’t want to get ahead of myself!
Judy was riding her bike. She went off down the street and around the corner – and out into the main road (Maple Avenue) traffic. Someone snitched to Patty. Judy had her bike taken away and so did I! They were taken away for ever and we were never allowed bikes again. I obviously still hold a grudge! I didn’t go in the road and nearly get hit by a truck!
(Years later we found our uncle’s bike in Ethel’s cellar and rode it around the neighbourhood when Patty wasn’t looking. And, even later on, I used to visit my friend, Judy Weed, and she and I would take turns riding her bike down a hill. It was great fun until, one time, the handle bars suddenly came loose and I lost control, ruining my brand new pair of stripey pedal-pushers.😩)
Elsewhere I have written about the (to me) horrific flight we made to England in 1958 – the cause of my non-flying-forever-after-life. Except, feeling exceedingly guilty that Julian could never go on holiday abroad because I wouldn’t fly, one day in the late days of the 20th century, I suddenly said, if you want to go to Italy for a holiday, I will fly!
We decided the destination would be Florence and booked two return flights via Ryan Air to Florence. We drove to Stansted and did all the things one does before getting on a (quite small) plane. I am not a believer but I prayed the whole way there clutching my St Christopher medal!
We had a lovely time in Florence, stood in queues for hours to visit the Uffizi, walked across the famous Ponte Vecchio, looking at all the (enormously expensive!) wares in the shops, spent a day in the Boboli Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace, enjoying the views; went to gorgeous Sienna and sat in the Piazza del Campo; and spent our last day in Pisa, where the airport is. Somewhere I have a photo of Julian holding up the Leaning Tower (just like every other tourist who visits Pisa.)
We ended our stay in Italy at the airport which is also the train station. Though we had survived the flight to Italy, I wasn’t so sure about the return journey, especially when I found out that there are trains going from Pisa that I could take towards home! I had my credit card and was very tempted but……thwarted by the fact that the trains that day were all on strike! The only thing that made that flight interesting is that a relatively unknown British politician, of whom I had actually heard, called Boris Johnson, was on the same flight. I figured that we would be unlikely to crash with someone important on board —- then thought of all the famous people who had gone down with airplanes!
I prayed all the way back!
The first time I saw Julian, he was onstage in an amateur production by the West Wickham Operatic Society of, I think, La Périchole by Offenbach at the Churchill Theatre. A friend was playing violin in the orchestra and gave me some tickets to see it, so I drove Veronica and her best Vicki to Bromley to see it. In the chorus was a young Julian – whom I would love to say I saw and fell head-over-heels in love with, but sadly I didn’t notice him at all!
I tell you this because I hated the drive (possibly 20 minutes) because it was on the motorway and it was in the dark. I have never got over my dislike of motorways – the cars around you are going too fast – nor of driving in the dark.
On the way back, as we approached the turn-off for West Malling, I was trying to remember the rules about the countdown markers posting the way off the motorway. I remembered that there should be signs of three slanted lines, then two, then one…..but I couldn’t remember how much space came after the one slanted line before I should move left….and went to my left too soon! Nothing bad happened to us, no one saw me and reported my mistake, but, obviously, I’ve never forgotten it!
A few days or weeks later, Julian walked in to the wine bar (as mentioned in a previous post) and I knew he was Mr Right (and he felt the same about me – except that I was Miss Right.) His aunt, Jackie, was the chef at that time and, when I found out who Julian was and that she was his aunt, I went into the kitchen to do some snooping. When she said he lived in Bromley, I was worried! How was I going to see him if he lived so far (20 mins up motorway!) but she assured me that Julian loved driving and would be happy to drive to West Malling whenever we wanted to meet.
It was true – and he still loves driving. I, on the other hand, have happily given up driving and intensely dislike going even a short distance in the car – even as a passenger, though I do have to get places from time to time and then will sit nervously in the passenger seat. This year I have missed out on a trip to Norfolk, one to Cornwall and a third to north Wales but I don’t mind. If Julian’s away, I don’t have to cook – I happily make do with salads, bowls of porridge, or eggs on toast.
And now for trains. As with all other means of mass transport, sometimes I get very nervous when I’m travelling on a train. I can clearly remember a train I was on one evening which was going from Victoria to West Malling. As the train was zooming along between Bromley and Swanley, it seemed to me to be going much more quickly than normal and I started worrying that the train, somehow, was not being driven but was ‘a runaway’! When it stopped at Swanley some few minutes after I began to panic, I decided to get off the train and phone Julian to come and get me.
I walked out of the station, along the station road, found my way onto the main street but not one phone box did I find! (This was in the days before many people had mobile phones – and I certainly didn’t). I walked further and further and finally found a phone box. I rang Julian who, thankfully was at home, and explained my predicament. I don’t think he was at all sympathetic and by this time it was beginning to get dark and cold and I was beginning to realise what a ninny I had been. Luckily, Julian does like driving so he came and picked me up and I was so pleased!
I have often felt this panic when travelling on a train but seldom when on a coach – but, a few years ago I took a coach from Broadstairs to London and sat behind the driver. (Why there? I had forgotten my glasses and hoped that Julian could catch up with the coach so he could give me them when we stopped, but that didn’t work – so I bought some when I got to London).
Anyway. As we were speeding along the road I couldn’t sit and read so I looked out the window at the side and ahead, out of the windscreen. I realised that the driver wasn’t actually watching the road the whole time but was looking down and to the right….I think he was reading texts or maybe watching something on a screen – or maybe neither of those things but he had some sort of tic that made him do that. Whatever, I was doing the old praying thing for an hour or so before we reached some part of London where the traffic kept us going at a snail’s pace.
To continue with this aversion to risk I will name a few more things I haven’t done, knowing how nervous I would be.
I was invited to fly in a hot-air balloon – no way!
I was invited on an all expenses trip to Las Vegas when my daughter and her husband went back to celebrate their first 10 happy years. Nope!
And, more recently, I missed out on the trip to Brands Hatch to watch Julian speed round the track which was a present to him for his 70th. I just couldn’t face the journey there and back plus the worry of watching speed-demon Jules in a fast car!
On the other hand, even in my 70’s I have travelled long distance on trains and have driven back and forth to places 50 or so miles away (but never on motorways). When I was still in my youth, Julian used to insist on driving us to places like Northumberland and Cornwall for holidays and I did visit several caves (Wookey Hole, Blue John) without fainting at the thought of tonnes of earth and rock being overhead!
But, of course, I have been a smoker (but not for the past 40 or so years), a drinker (but surprisingly for members of my family, very moderately) and an eater of red meat and butter, cream, sugar, salt white bread and e-numbers and have reached a rather healthy 78, with most of my own teeth, no high blood pressure and at a reasonable weight.
I must have been doing something right! (Or maybe it’s just luck.😁)
When I moved to the seaside I gave up selling most antiques but I didn’t give up entirely – I started a website (now closed) selling antique and vintage games and wooden jigsaw puzzles. There were a few other websites selling games but, as far as I know, there were no others selling jigsaws, possibly because you really needed to know if all the pieces were there and the only way to know, for sure, was to put them together. I had plenty of time, being retired. I also had plenty of help as Julian, also retired, is very good at seeing whether pieces will fit together (and I’ve got better with time and practice.)
In the very early part of the 21st century I could buy a whole box full of old jigsaws (sight unseen, of course) for very little money. Going to auctions meant I could buy, say, 25 jigsaws for £100 – £4 each! Some of the puzzles would be only half there, some would be very uninteresting, but some would be incredible! I have photos of some of those I sold in the years up to 2014 when I gave up which I would like to share. They were sold, long ago and I don’t know who I sold them to – I hope they don’t mind my using the photos!
I think my favourite one that I sold is this one:
Last week I saw a jigsaw on-line in an auction. It arrived this morning. Here is a photo of the container it is in.
I hope you will agree with me how interesting and unusual older, wooden jigsaws can be. For more information and a lot more photos, have a look at the site thejigasaurus.com – an interesting and helpful website, exclusively about all things jigsaw! 🤪
I’ll tell you where my collecting ‘stuff’ really started, before I finish telling you about the stuff I have and how useless it really is (except for that platter I showed you last time, which has been very handy on occasion!)
In 1994, Julian’s first wife’s mother died and he was the executor of her estate. She lived in a 1930’s house in outer London which was full of ‘stuff’, much of it useful to Mary (first m-in-law) but really outdated without being antique or even vintage. But, some of it was antique. There was a lovely walnut table which was left to her brother along with a gorgeous secretaire-bookcase and a nice chest of drawers and there were a collection of gorgeous Chinese mother-of-pearl gaming counters, a few bits of china, some good boxes, some cutlery and a few paintings, which went to auction. Mainly, though, there were things like some kitchen utensils which could be described as vintage, but of no value along with old reels of cotton, large wardrobes of uncertain vintage, dining table and chairs from the 40’s which all went to house clearance people.
That year I was working as a supply teacher so had time to go to Mary’s house and see to the sorting, tidying, packing, etc that needed to be done. It was a job that I really enjoyed, despite the sad circumstances of Mary’s death.
Some months later, when life had returned to normal, I was thinking about how I had enjoyed finding things I knew nothing about (especially the mother-of-pearl counters which were sold for a quite substantial sum) and realised that my daughter and her daughter wouldn’t find anything very interesting if they had to do the same job when I died. That was my reason for starting to build such a huge store of ‘stuff’.
So, now to the other ‘stuff’….
I have a large shoebox full of ‘scraps’. They were mostly made in the late 19th century by the firm of Raphael Tuck, who had come to Britain from Germany in the second half of the 19th century. His firm also made greetings cards, postcards, cardboard toys, jigsaw puzzles and little books for children, all of very good quality. Though I still search them out – and have sold some in the distant past – I really don’t know what to do with them! Don’t tell me to get rid of them because I really like them, even if they are useless.
I also have a shoe box full of greetings cards (mainly antique), several shoe boxes full of postcards (mainly late 19th/early 20th century) including half a box of Tuck postcards, a small selection of advertising cards, and another of ‘song’ cards, ten or fifteen boxed sets of puzzle cubes, a few old and interesting games, shelves full of old wooden jigsaw puzzles, a 1930’s dolls house with lots of furniture and several box files full of ‘interesting’ papers. Sitting here, I’m sure I’ve forgotten other stuff but you get my gist…..many things that may once have been very useful, are in my possession and are no longer useful. But I like them!
So, folks, I guess these things do have a use (besides something to write about.) Their use is to tell part of my story to my descendants when I’m no longer around – which is, in fact, the purpose of all my posts!
And here is a selection of things made from wood that I have collected over the years. Some were bought to sell but weren’t, others I couldn’t bear to part with.
Last, but never least, wooden jigsaw puzzles. The best I ever bought were in anonymous cardboard boxes and came without a picture of the finished puzzle – the kind I still love today.
As well as all the sewing stuff (of which you have seen a very small sample), I collected buttons – one of only three things that I was/am really interested in. (The others are linens and wooden jigsaw puzzles/block puzzles).
Before zips, elastic and velcro, buttons were far more important. Baby clothes often had little tiny mother-of-pearl buttons, mourning clothes were fastened by jet buttons, clothes could be made much more interesting looking with glass or metal buttons. Shoes and boots were often held on the foot by buttons and collars were fastened to shirts with special buttons called studs.
Loads of buttons used on every day clothes were made in the UK but glass buttons were often imported from countries like the former Czechoslovakia (as were glass beads) and beautiful enamelled buttons were imported from France. In the thirties and fifties of the 20th century, buttons were often made in fun shapes in the new and useful material of ‘plastic’. Also made in plastic were millions or even trillions of really boring buttons of which I have had my fair share.
I found very quickly that I wasn’t the only person interested in buttons, as I could seldom find any at auction, except very run of the mill, modern buttons, but every once in a while I would come across a cache of buttons that was very exciting (to me)!
My most memorable ‘find’ was in a small town we stopped in on our way home from a holiday. We saw a charity shop while we were walking around the town, went in and found an entire cake-sized tin of buttons for 50p! I still have some of those buttons, but can’t think of how to display my favourites so they all sit in bags in a cupboard.
Linens were really where I started. I knew absolutely nothing about sheets, table cloths, doilies, coasters except for their obvious uses but I quickly saw that some of the better quality linens had been hand-embroidered with beautiful cut-work, and counted thread work.
It is a sad fact that many, if not most, of the linens one buys from auction are stained with either food residue or rust. I spent a small fortune finding products I could remove old stains with an, once clean, I ironed them – a job I particularly dislike in the normal run of things.
One time I bought a lot containing many rolls of hand-made lace of different widths. The work was so gorgeous that I was able to sell most of them within a couple of weeks.
Doilies and antimacassars are another item that turned up in their dozens as well as huckabuck towels, pocket handkerchiefs, and the occasional piece of clothing.
Okay – I’ve turned this into a lesson on linens and I didn’t mean to so –
Once my shop had been open for about 6 months a gentleman called Des B. turned up. He was, I suppose, a ‘runner’ – someone who goes to sales and picks up pieces at a reasonable price then sells it on to other dealers, still at a good enough price that she can make a profit. Des knew more about ceramics than I could ever hope to know and thus began some years of buying – and learning – from, him. I learned the difference between ‘china’, porcelain, and earthenware. I learned about the earlier English ceramic factories such as Caughley, and the more famous, Worcester, Chamberlain and Davenport. The strange thing is that I didn’t become very interested in ceramics. During the early years of the 21st century, people went in for minimalism and stopped buying antique plates, thus I am still the proud owner of six full crates of antique and vintage plates (and other bits and pieces of ‘china’.
– In the next part, I’ll discuss the wooden jigsaw puzzles and antique and vintage games, as well as the large box of ‘scraps’, many post cards, and other pieces of paper ephemera that I have had or still have.