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Posts Tagged ‘antique’

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For Otis. As I sit every night at the moment, huffing and puffing grumpily into a dust mask as we scrape and sand hundreds of reclaimed hardwood parquet blocks, I try to remember that not every purchase of second hand goods from gumtree means blood, sweat and tears. Although Otis’ antique brass bed, acquired at a price to make the bargain hunter in me very pleased indeed, did require some serious polishing and a bit of repair work on three decorative spindly bits, it was nothing compared to the mammoth task of restoring Sol’s bed.

I really wanted a metal bed of a similar age to sit next to Solomon’s, which meant waiting a while for the right one in a reasonable location to pop up. But pop up it did, and we’re all really pleased, none less so than Oti!

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DIY July 2012 022

Remember this sorry looking bedstead I posted about last summer? Poor Sol has been very patient and Oli has been very dedicated, and I, I am sorry to say, have been rather removed from the whole thing. I did a bit (a tiny bit) of sanding here and a moany attempt at brass polishing there, perhaps; but on the whole this Finished Project is very much Oli’s.

brass bedknobs

It needed to be stripped of its white paint on the cast iron frame, sanded and re-painted. A technical challenge then followed to replace a broken bolt with some brave attempts at welding by a friend and Oli. The welding failed, as did the plasticine-like substance that hardened (sorry for my total lack of terminology here), but a long bolt through the length of the bottom support beam did the trick. Then the brass needed to be taken off and cleaned (two bottles of Brasso later) and a wooden frame built for the mattress. The mattress turned out to be an odd size -shorter than a standard single bed- so we ordered one to fit properly. This all took rather longer than we’d thought it would. But, we all think, very much worth it. Sol especially!

sol's bed, hemlock tam 005

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Oh yes. DIY has begun in earnest. Dust is swirling. And settling- on everything. But it feels good to get started! Insulating upstairs is the first project. Because the ceilings are so heavily coombed, and there is no attic space, we are having to remove the wood panelled walls to fit the insulation. So we needed to move downstairs. This somehow turned into bashing out the fireplace in the sitting room… it seemed necessary at the time. Out with the old, pseudo-Art Deco fireplace (not without its retro charm, I’ll grant) and back to the original granite blocks- painted and very dirty, but it’s still exciting. So, not really before and after photos, but certainly during:

And Sol’s big brass-trimmed bedstead that we bought for a bargain price (due to the amount of back breaking restoration work involved in it) is also under way. I’m keeping an eye out for another one for Otis- the old beds have such character and look right at home under the eaves.

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The thing about second hand, vintage, thrift stores, charity shops, jumble sales- is that stuff has a story. Some I might know, like the baby clothes and toys that once belonged to Oli and I that have found new lease of life with our boys. Some isn’t really very important: at the nearly new baby sales that are hugely popular round here, I don’t go round feeling all melancholic and thoughtful about some good condition boy’s trousers for 50p. But then there is history that you do wonder about. The antiques shop we went to at the weekend acquires much of its stock from house clearances. The job of clearing out the house of a relative who has passed away is overwhelming, sad, gritty and tiring. Once the family has taken what they want, the rest often falls into the hands of clearance folk and then into the dusty, crammed corners of various shops. And that story is lost. I might know from the label, or google, that the pretty inlaid box is an escritoire. But that dent? The replaced lock? The letters written, the journeys taken. ‘Wanted on Voyage.’ What voyage? These are up to the imagination now, and are often, I’m sure, more interesting than the reality. Thus many a novel has been born. But to me there is always a certain sadness in the deep patina of meaning that surrounds such a simple thing as a well-looked-after tea set or embroidered handkerchief.

A friend of mine lost her mum recently. She had been ill, but then she had been better; and so her death was sudden and shocking. Clearing out her belongings was made harder, my friend told me, by the fact that it had only been recently that her mother had come into some money. All of her life, she had worked hard and spent little. She had only just been able to buy herself nice, more expensive clothes, and my friend felt terrible giving these away to charity. When I mentioned I had taken up knitting, she asked if I would like her mum’s collection of patterns and some yarn. She would feel better knowing they were going to someone who would appreciate and use them, she said. I feel quite honoured. I never met her, and I will never know the full story behind the wool; what it was bought for, what she had planned for it. But I shall treasure them. And imagine.

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I’ve had this date in the calendar for ages. After last year’s bountiful haul, I was positively gleeful with anticipation at this annual event, which is in its 40th year. It runs from 10-2pm, but get there early. They made £10,000 last year. It’s hardcore bargain hunting, with beat-up trailers, shifty looking antiques dealers, excitable boy scouts selling chocolate frogs and bacon butties, Northeastern grannies with their reusable supermarket bags ready to fill to the brim, and families upgrading children’s bikes.

Last year we went with a list which we ticked off pretty smartly. This year, with our own home to buy for, we went with measurements. And a tape measure.

Oli spotted a wooden blanket box/chest thing which he started to make enquiries about while I took pictures of lovely chairs, tables, a beautiful cast iron slipper bath with clawed feet, a great pair of old deck chairs -sold, sadly- and stacks of vintage suitcases. Steering clear of sports equipment and toys, I ventured inside.

The crowd outside was bustling, but the scrum in the hall -bric-a-brac table 3 deep- was unreal. Last year I was very pregnant, this year Otis wailed at me from his sling. He will soon learn about bargain hunting. I had the same feelings of missing out on something that must drive all thrifters, trawlers of car boot sales and charity shoppers. The feeling that somewhere was something that must not get away. I just needed to find it.

Nothing is priced at this sale, either, and the volunteers are not exactly expert antique/second hand goods sellers. There are some serious bargains to be had. I saw a very large rolled up eastern rug (one of those plain ones with little animals dotted about very sparsely) and was told it was £20- but by the time I had found Oli to discuss buying it, it had vanished. Rookie.

But we still made a few purchases: two demijohns for £1, two gorgeous embroidered tablecloths and a hand knitted baby blanket for £6 (rescued by me from a woman who wanted it for her dog’s bed!) and the aforementioned wooden chest.

The boys, by this stage, had had enough, and so we retreated to our friends’ house for a lovely lunch and cups of tea. It had been the first day of sunshine in a long while, and it is set to be sunny today. It feels like a tiny taste of summer.

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I can’t actually recall the last time it rained (although I know it was heavy as the watermarks in our bedroom became a great deal more alarming!) and the swallows are swooping and chirping to each other as the sun finally heads down. There’s a bit of a breeze -it is Aberdeenshire after all- but pop up a windbreak and all is well! We were given some rhubarb by the farmer’s wife (apparently it is growing wild at some secret location along the Dee) which I made into rhubarb fool with lots of home made custard and whipped cream. I had intended to photograph the fool sitting prettily in its wine glasses but, alas; we scoffed it before I had the chance. The tangy rhubarb and creamy custard kicked off the spring season very nicely.

Also in the cottage life department: the holz hausen woodpile, now struck from the ‘to do’ list emphatically by Oli. I think it looks great and the wood in it is seasoning much more rapidly than usual:

The logs on top are bark side up to form a sort of rain hat!

We had thought about going away camping this weekend, but the thought of sleeping on the ground when 34 weeks pregnant put me off rather. Plus it would mean missing the annual Banchory Scout jumble sale, which the tiny neon signs pounded into a grass verge assured me would be THE BEST EVER.

I had been forewarned that there would be queue, and so we arrived a good 20 minutes before opening at 10am to assure ourselves of a good chance at the best bargains. Quite the schoolgirl error. There had apparently been people there since 7am and the queue of patient bargain hunters clutching their reusable grocery bags snaked back about 70 metres past the caravan park and tennis courts. Bemused caravanners gave us all querulous glances as they strolled out for papers and ice creams and I must admit I felt ridiculous waiting for a jumble sale! But we were not disappointed. I cannot vouch for it being THE BEST EVER Scout sale, as it was my first one, but it was by far and away THE BEST EVER jumble sale I have ever been to.

I (stupidly) go to these events with a mental list of what I want or need and of course am always let down. The beauty of the second hand bargain is finding something you weren’t expecting but really need, or really love. We wanted a standard lamp for Solomon’s room and a Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair for baby number 2. Sol has one that belonged to my mother in law and they really are fantastic as they can be adjusted to suit the baby right up until adulthood. A bit too good in honesty, as if you have a second child you need to fork out the £139 for another one.

We paid our £1 entrance fee and immediately spotted a standard lamp for which we paid £4. I was feeling very pleased and smug and think it looks lovely by the big armchair in his reading corner. It definitely needs a new shade but the current one isn’t too terrible:

Aside from feeling smug at the lamp purchase I was also feeling utterly overwhelmed at the whole scene: packed with people furiously and busily browsing the outside stacks of furniture, bicycles, garden equipment, sports goods, and toys, we were informed of a one-way system inside the hall to prevent overcrowding. Small boys in yellow t shirts and scarves scampered about getting high on sweeties and vowing they were ‘definitely not going to have another bacon sandwich until 11 o’clock.’ A charming scout leader told us they made £13,000 last year. It. Was. Mental.

Then we turned a corner round some wardrobes and brass double bedsteads and came face to face with a Stokke Tripp Trapp. Missing one of its platforms and in need of a good clean, we bought it as quickly as was seemly for £3. Unbelievable!

This was followed by a bevelled edge fan mirror for £5 and some carving skis in good condition for -after much discussion- £10. They are no longer made but Oli looked them up online and found them for £300 new. It was too crazy in the main hall -one-way system gone utterly to pot- to really get a look-in at the clothes, linen or bric-a-brac. I just kept thinking ‘Antiques Roadshow! I bought it at a jumble sale for 50p! I didn’t know they were diamonds!’ but alas all the jostling and bumping was giving me braxton hicks contractions and Oli and Sol looked terrified at the general melee. We called it a day and retired to the sunny garden of some friends to regale them with tales of our bargains and drink beer and barbecue in the sunshine. Can’t wait for next year- Oli says he is going to save up!

Speaking of Oli it is his birthday today- as I type he is patiently returning a hysterical toddler to bed time and time again but a big slice of cake and a cup of tea await. Happy Birthday my love!

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