I’ve just finished the last of the British Bank Holiday weekends for a few months, after their flurry around Easter and That Wedding. I was doing something on each of the three days; whether it can be counted as productive is another matter. Judge for yourselves….
I’d booked myself in to a local antiques and collector’s fair, held at a craft centre only a few miles from home; and on Saturday, I did the first such of these, located in a steel barn with a vociferous population of sparrows in the rafters. The plan was for me to display and hopefully sell landscapes and general photographs, with my railway stuff taking second fiddle. But the burglary threw a spanner in that particular works; it tied me up and lost me so much working time that I hadn’t been able to have a really good printing session or get prints measured up to order mounts. So I took my usual railway photography display to this first show, and frankly it didn’t do me any harm at all. I’d got the general pictures on the laptop, but the actual examples were all railway-oriented. I did no worse than anywhere else – I spoke to plenty of people and had some good conversations, but sold nothing.
It wasn’t just me – the other stall-holders were complaining that the punters were keeping their hands in their pockets, and the weather didn’t help either. We seem to have had our summer early in the UK, and so May has been cold and windy by comparison to March and April. Footfall was apparently down, as well. The only good points were that it was only about ten minutes from home and it wasn’t an expensive pitch.
We had a day out at a National Trust property in Northamptonshire, Canons Ashby, which has connections with the family of John Dryden, the poet (though John Dryden himself was a cousin and never actually inherited the house, so he was relegated to the role of a bit player). As we approached our destination, we began encountering a number of classic cars, mainly Jowetts; it turned out that we had happened upon the Jowett Owners’ Club annual rally, which was calling at various beauty spots and attractions before ending the day at a jolly fine hotel. Jowetts were a British car manufacturer based in Bradford who were comparatively big players before WW2; they were first to get back into production after the war, but ran into problems a few years later when their body subcontractor was bought up by Fords, who then promptly sold off the main factory to another company that was itself quickly snapped up by the then new BMC. Their post-war cars, especially the Jowett Javelin saloon and Jupiter sports car, were innovative and attractive vehicles. I had a nice chat with one of the members who spotted me as a Saab owner (as he also was), and got some nice pictures of the star of the show – a Jowett Bradford (named for its place of origin), a shooting brake endowed with a two-cylinder engine (count them, yes, two whole cylinders!), owned by a Scots gentleman who maintained an oil lamp emporium in Edinburgh. (I’m not making this up.) He could be found in the house, dressed in full Scots regalia.
The house itself was an interesting mix of periods and styles, and had some Masonic interest (“Over the fireplace you can see a representation of the All-Seeing Eye, or what’s left of it”). There was a variety of interesting interiors – some carved, some painted, and some panelled – and some nicely restored gardens that gave onto some nice parkland, if it wasn’t for the stiff breeze that made us bolt for the tearoom.
After tea and scones, we had a look at the church, which was the remnant of an earlier abbey which was the first to be dissolved by Henry VIII. This building made an odd little relict, as it was about a tenth the size of the earlier building, and as a result had a very odd ground plan. The rather overgrown graveyard also suggested that it was comprised of the rubble of the demolished abbey, especially as the ground level was about four feet above the floor level of the church itself.
Then to Middleton Hall yesterday with Jim Bell to represent Sutton Coldfield Model Makers at Middleton’s annual railway show. This was quite pleasant, but very wet. The reconstituted Hunslet Engine Company sent one of their display engines, a very nice Krauss 0-4-2T repatriated from India, complete with outside Allen valve gear and finished in a fetching shade of Improved Engine Green. This would have been a nice day except for the Bank Holiday weather, which kept the punters away in droves. Of course, when the show closed at 4pm, the rain stopped and the sun began to show signs of coming out.
Other than that, there were two layouts in addition to Jim’s engine shed, photo displays from me, the Etchells Park Light Railway (the miniature line that used to be at the NAC Stoneleigh but now to be found at Kingsbury Water Park), and Vintage Trains. I took along a selection of Austrian models to fly the flag and contrast with Jim’s German stuff. Again, I had no sales, though to be fair I wasn’t promoting myself that hard because I wasn’t officially a trader. I did have a couple of potential punters who a) wanted postcards of Tornado, or b) might have bought something except that the domestic authorities had already hung pictures on every available surface. Close but no cigar.