Saturday, 12 May 2012

All roads lead to Shepton Mallet

Yesterday I decided to do something different.  Whenever Thomas is in nursery the day seems to fall into a predictable pattern of sit on backside, feed baby, go to baby group, sit on backside, come home, sit on backside watching Jeremy Kyle, collect Thomas, sit on backside.

Sometimes I even manage to do something constructive while sitting on my backside. 

Sometimes I really, really don’t.

So this afternoon I took myself and Ben to the International Antiques and Collectors Fair in Shepton Mallet.  We are currently decorating and I have been reading interiors magazines, from which I have learned all about fairs and auctions.  They are full of amazing objects at bargain prices, which can be updated with a splash of paint or a few nails.  I know this because the magazines always show glamorous house-owners lolling artistically over unique and expensive looking objects that were apparently “flea-market finds” or “antique fair bargains”.

So off we went to Shepton Mallet, armed with a Sainsburys canvas bag, a modest amount of cash and an air of bright-eyed enthusiasm.  Well, I was anyway.  Ben somehow managed to pull off a world-weary, slightly cynical expression.  If I didn’t know better I would have thought he had been there, seen it, done it at every craft, antiques and vintage collectibles fair in the country.  I am pretty sure I saw him roll his eyes at the man on the gate as though to say “Oh goody, here we go again.  Another bright idea by the mother-ship.”

His cynicism was lost on me.  As soon as I was through the gate I was entranced.  It was like a museum where you could buy stuff.  The first things I saw were antique child-sized dining chairs. 

I wanted them.

Fortunately I was distracted by the pile of old-fashioned leather trunks. 

I wanted one.

Behind the trunks a whole vista of random objects rose up. 

I wanted it.  All of it.

I particularly wanted the pair of antique folding chairs that needed to be re-upholstered, the stack of garden crates and the apple-storage unit.  Not to mention the giant reclaimed elm mirror, the carved storage box and the wooden elephant.

Eventually I managed to move past the first row of stands, into the main sales area where I really wanted the vintage toys, the 70s fabric, the Corgi toy bus, the trug (whatever that is) and the pair of bedside cabinets.

Now bearing in mind that HWSNBN says that I collect STUFF, letting me loose in a fair like this was rather akin to sending a heroin addict for a jog in the opium fields of Afghanistan, or asking an alcoholic to organise a piss-up in the proverbial brewery. 

When I managed to stop hyperventilating, I began to notice something a little odd.  My entire childhood appeared to have been transplanted into a few acres of land near Shepton Mallet.  Weren’t those our living-room curtains on the vintage fabric stall?  And that Sindy Doll bedroom set – didn’t I get that for my 8th birthday?  And the corgi cars with the tyres missing – they looked a bit familiar.  As did the blue and white milk jug and the toy squirrel. 

A while ago I posted about the unfortunate misunderstanding which led to some of my treasured childhood belongings finishing up in the charity shop, and my longstanding hope that I would one day find it all on Ebay.  Well, some of it clearly hasn’t made it as far as Ebay, but it certainly made it to Shepton Mallet.  I saw a collection of Rupert the Bear annuals that looked strangely familiar, and a pair of Spanish dolls that I swear I used to own, and don’t even get me started on the Fisher Price stuff. 

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to throw a twenty-year overdue tantrum and demand that the stall-holders give me all me stuff back now right now because it’s miiiiiiine as Ben decided that drastic action was required and employed the simple technique of letting off a slightly demented, high-pitched scream every time I tried to ask the price of anything.

I persevered for a while, but after the third antique-dealer asked me disapprovingly “Isn’t he hungry?” I stomped off to feed him in the hope that he might consider shutting up for a while.

Not a chance.

“How much is the…”  “AIIIIEEEEEEEEEH!”

“I rather like your….” “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEH!”


I left with nothing.

Not even a vintage clothes peg.  Yes, they had vintage clothes pegs.  And yes, I wanted them.

So we climbed back in the car and headed back home.

Or we tried to.  Unfortunately, the main road through Shepton Mallet was closed and this appeared to have brought the whole of Somerset to a grinding halt. 

So we went cross-country.

This angered the Sat-Nav.  Now normally, the Audi Sat-Nav gets with the program after a few token whinges about u-turns and left-turns.  Not today.  It really, really didn’t want to go down the country lanes.  It really, really wanted to go to Shepton Mallet.  And it remained convinced that it could persuade me to fall in with its wishes.  You would think that after I had driven round the roundabout and back the other way, and after I had ignored at least fifteen attempts to get me to turn around, it would get its head around the idea that I had no intention of doing what I was told.  But no.

“Make a u-turn.”

“Make a u-turn.”

“Make a u-turn as soon as possible.”

“Turn left, then immediately turn left and left again.”

“Make a u-turn.”


Ben was rather taken with my utter insubordination, uttering pterodactyl-like noises of glee every time the sat-nav screamed at me.

I think he was just delighted that someone else was doing the shouting for him.

The sat-nav was persistent – I will give it that.  It kept banging on with a determination that I have only ever seen in the Tom-Tom we used to have in the pre-Audi days.  We were in Cornwall once and tried to escape stationary traffic by cutting across country.  The Tom-Tom screamed itself into a state of speechless fury and then sulked for about 10 miles.  By the time it emerged from its self-imposed shut-down, we had formed a convoy with some fellow traffic-avoiders, found our own way through the maze of lanes and waved off our new-found friends a couple of miles short of our destination. 

But the Audi is usually a little more docile, so when it suddenly adapted its route recommendation, I assumed it was giving in.  No, it was just getting a bit more sneaky.  It let me have the country lanes, but surreptitiously tried to steer me to the lanes around Shepton Mallet.

I ignored it again, leading to yet another frenzy of rage, and more dinosaur-squeals of joy from Ben as I intoned “No.  No.  No.” in response to every blood-curdling scream of “TURN AROUND NOW BEFORE I KILL YOU TO DEATH YOU DESERVE TO DIE DIE DIE.”

It eventually lapsed into silence.  Not an I’ve-given-up type silence.  More of a simmering Just-you-wait-Cowbag kind of silence.  I was under no illusions that it had left the fight.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, a new route appeared. 

“Have you considered turning left here?” asked the Sat-nav, a sly, wheedling note entering its voice.

“Or here?”

“Or maybe here?”

Ben and I exchanged a look.  Clearly the Sat-Nav thought we were stupid, prompting a final flurry of outrage.

“OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE HAVE IT YOUR OWN WAY COWBAG.  Carry straight on for 2 miles.”

We had done it.  We had escaped the Black Hole of Doom that appeared to be Shepton Mallet. 

I tried to high five Ben.  It didn’t work.  He gave me a “What do you expect?  I’m four months old, mother” look and went to sleep.

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