New Year Message 2013

London - Tower Bridge
2nd February 2013

I have just returned from France and England where I bought the pieces to fill the next two shipments. It was cold! Holiday snaps attached.

I left Auckland in the heat and didn’t think to take my scarf, hat and thermal socks. Damian, my UK contact picked me up in London and we drove to Portsmouth in the biggest van you have ever seen to catch the midnight ferry to Brittany.

We trawled the Breton warehouses and visited our contacts in remote villages (the GPS saved us many hours lost in a very bleak Brittany). We took the first vanload to the shipper in west Normandy. Fortunately one dealer had managed to source 7 wonderful French provincial dining tables for us – good news, as we didn’t see another decent table the entire trip. These same people knew it was my birthday and produced a 5 course lunch washed down with Champagne, a white Riesling and a 1990 Bordeaux. How the French get anything done in the afternoon is beyond me. Fortunately, Damian is a Yorkshire lad who drinks beer, so he did the driving.

On the third day we attended the outdoor trade only antique fairs. These events that begin at 6am in the pitch dark and bitter cold, are hilarious. It’s like one massive garage sale – 150 lorry loads of gear is emptied into a car park before dawn, business is completed and everything packed up and gone again by 11am in time for the 2 hour lunch in a nearby hall where everyone grumbles about the state of the French economy. We don’t buy much at these fairs but we did find two of the finest Louis XlV walnut commodes we have ever seen, and bought them!

Back to the shipper for the third time, where we purchased a fantastic Louis XlV period walnut dresser and two old leather 1920s club chairs. We loaded Damian’s gear for Yorkshire and headed for the midnight ferry. The next morning we drove up the M1 and home to Yorkshire to off-load in the snow before a pint and a curry and bed.

The weather was against us but we managed the English calls and found good desks, chandeliers, wing chairs, period Chippendale chairs and a lovely cricket table. The following day there was more loading to be done, this time for the Battersea Fair. Battersea is England’s premier decorative arts fair, held in London 3 or 4 times a year. Damian exhibits at the Fair and has sold to the rich and famous on many occasions. Champagne is served to those waiting in the queue for the fair to open. On one occasion I commented to Damian on a very nice looking girl who walked by. He knew it was Jemima Kahn, but I didn’t! The exhibitors showcase the very best of the decorative supply companies in France and England. We worked for 3 days setting up Damian’s stand, I was the electrician and general factotum. I am attaching pictures of some of the stands nearing completion.

My final night in England was spent at the Caledonian Club, a little bit of Scotland in London. It has a bar with 300 Scotches to choose from. I flew back via LA where I stopped for a night to go and look at a couple of the decorative/antiques retail stores: Obsolete in Santa Monica and Galerie Half in Hollywood. It was an inspiration but perhaps a step too far for John Stephens Antiques. The new shipment, which arrived on Christmas Eve, is now in store. It needs to be as the next two will be on the water before long. Look forward to seeing you in 2013.

John

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