Why visiting an Antiques centre is one of my favourite pastimes

September 9, 2022

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

Yesterday I did one of my favourite things in the whole world and visited an antiques centre.

After a dismal, grey morning, the thin, watery sunshine was beginning to slip through the filth and grime of the windows, highlighting the dusty cobwebs with their odd mummified corpse left hanging. As it drizzled its way across the dusty floor, dust motes trapped in the broken rays bobbed weightlessly like tiny spaceships suspended in the beams of welcoming light. The wood of the old, outdated furniture seemed to stutter and shudder infinitesimally, coughing into life as it expanded and contracted in the changing atmosphere.

It is like entering Aladdin’s cave with its cache of hidden treasure, and there is a kind of reverential silence, like entering a church, that fills one with a sense of awe and wonder. For me, these items are as precious as gold; unwanted and discarded, they nevertheless spell fascination and a yet undiscovered purpose. Of course, I have my favourites! Ask anybody who knows me, and they will tell you that I am a sucker for a spoon, have a passion for small, neat chairs and am drawn to woodworking and engineering tools as they, like sirens, call to me from secret corners, beckoning me over to stroke their rusted lines. Every time I hold an old woodworking plane in my hand, holding tightly onto the polished wooden handle with its patina like boiled treacle, I sense the strong, gnarled hand of the craftsman who wielded it easily, and I am held by a sense of wonderment.

Then there is the old office stamp with its stove enamelling and beautifully shaped strong curve, rising up like a wave, the delicately transferred gold flowers against the shiny black lacquer. Its carved wooden handle is so perfectly balanced and tactile that I find myself pushing down on it before I even know that I am doing it, as I am fascinated by the Victorian penchant for turning basic, ordinary items into stunningly attractive items of desire.

Like most devotees of these hallowed emporiums, I love a box and the better made the box, the more likely I am to be delighted by scientific instruments, a gentleman’s writing slope with its secret drawers or a genteel ladies velvet lined jewellery case. I stroke the solid wood with its dovetail corners; the Mahogany, Oak and Burr Walnut, the fabulous swirls and depth of colour, warm and almost silky to the touch. These items carry their own benign ghosts, the faintest breath of their former owners held deep within the fibres of their being, and they talk to me, call out over the decades of a life once lived so that I can only smile and wonder at their former existence.

Nothing in this place escapes my attention, and decisions made and purchases completed, I am already planning my next trip, already writing the stories behind these objects, their former lives leaping off the page once home, I sit down at my computer, a cup of coffee beside me so that I can disappear into the page, find myself in another world.

Thank you, Chrissy, for this beautifully written piece.

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