Antique browsing on a winter weekend


Dear Karen,

I was invited to visit my great friend this weekend. I always enjoy seeing her, either up in London or in her little mews house in a country village in the south.

Because the trains here are so good, it takes me just an hour to get to her. 10 minutes after arrival, I’m at her front door, overnight bag in hand and ready to enjoy a little solitude in the countryside with her.

This weekend was slightly different because we had an actual agenda, involving dinner at a friend’s, afternoon tea with another, a walk in the hills, a visit to a plant nursery and most unusual, a visit to an auction showroom.

I’m a fan of Antiques Roadshow, as anyone in my family would complain to you, but I’ve never been to an auction or had my antiques evaluated. I was really interested to see what was up for grabs.

Aside from the usual heavy wooden furniture, there were a surprising amount of child-size armchairs.

alt="IMAGE-child-chair-auction"

I wonder what kind of child would be interested in this – one with a Mad Men fixation, perhaps?

Then there were these two. They don’t match, in style, look or function, but I like to think of them being sold together, as a couple.

alt="IMAGE-two-chairs-sale"

To para-phrase that great spy, Maxwell Smart, “that’s the second largest highchair I’ve ever seen”.

alt="IMAGE-antique-highchair"

Or maybe it’s not a highchair but a tennis umpire’s seat or director’s chair?

An entire dinner service, up for auction. A set of 8, with 2 soup tureens, 2 gravy boats, dinner and side plates, bowls…a family used this, perhaps for “best”, given the good condition it’s in.

alt="IMAGE-dinner-service-royal-copenhagen"

It’s all Royal Copenhagen, which should excite me, but doesn’t. Not my style, I’m afraid.

In a nod to my Hong Kong past, I had to take a photo of a perfect Mah Jongg set. The tiles are high quality but I have to say, I prefer the set our family had, which now sits in your living room in Ottawa. The case ours came in was exquisitely delicate, with mother-of-pearl inlay. This one was very utilitarian and of leather. Still, it’s what’s inside that counts, right?

alt="IMAGE-mah-jongg-set"

Opening up drawers and doors, it’s fascinating to see what’s left behind: pieces of broken glass, photos of times gone by, ticket stubs, old matchbooks, the list is endless.

For a mere £40 guide price, this cash register was also available to the keenest bidder.

alt="IMAGE-british-cash-register"

Very impressive. I want it.

Looking at the keys, you can see the letter “D”, which stands for…well, figure it out yourself!

alt="IMAGE-cash-register-keys"

As a Canadian with basic maths skills, I could never have operated this machine successfully.

After snooping around for an hour or so, it was time to leave. Before being ushered out the door, I found some beautiful bone-handled butter knives and an entire drawer full of silver which was almost identical to our family set, missing the crest, of course. Very tempting to return and place a few bids on them, I confess.

Next time, I promise myself. Next time.

Love,

Wendy

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