Sunday, 27 March 2011


26. Hans Anderson's Fairy Tales.

My father loved auction sales and I would often keep him company. At the previews each of us would be happily occupied, he making notes in the catalogue whilst I rummaged about in boxes of miscellaneous objects, where items that could mostly be labeled 'trash' would sometimes harbour a surprising treasure.
At the auction, if my father were bidding for himself, it would usually be for china or glass, but if he were buying professionally on someone's behalf then it would more likely be for a handsome piece of furniture. He was known for having a 'good eye' and a cool head and he taught me how to bid successfully.
First of all I had to learn the value of my desired purchase, and secondly, and this was most important, to set my price and NEVER exceed it. The difference between value and price could be extreme!
I was to bid quickly, with no hesitation, as though money were no object. When I was very small the auctioneer was indulgent, "Ten shillings to the little girl with the big smile!" As I grew older my success was due to my father's teaching.

Inadvertently I started my father on a new collecting passion when I accompanied him to a house sale and fell in love with an old limited edition book, signed and numbered by the illustrator, Heath Robinson. It was an auction of fine furniture where nobody was interested in a rather shabby book, bound in calf skin and very beautiful. I bought it for ten pounds.
When we got home we studied my purchase. Dad was hooked! 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Opal ring

25. Victorian opal ring

In my final spring term as a student I secured a lectureship, specializing in drawing, at an art school in the Midlands, to start in September. Peter, still a post-grad in Leeds, was accepted for a similar post at an art school near Liverpool. We would be spending another year in different parts of the country. Because, or in spite of this, we decided to get engaged. 
I chose my engagement ring in a small antique shop on Lewisham High Street. Opals are said to be unlucky, probably because they are soft stones that can easily be damaged and broken. However, if they are your birthstone, and I am a Libran, then, apparently, they are fine!

At Easter we traveled to my parents' home so that Peter could formally ask my father for his daughter's hand in marriage. He picked his moment carefully, choosing the day that my nephew was born, my parents' first grandchild. My father, already euphoric and not really paying attention, thought that Peter was asking to borrow his old Land Rover.
"Aye, lad," he said. "Take it, take it!"