Winter Unsprung

A miserable summer is one thing.

But what is it going to be like, down here in the valley, when the weather gets really bad? If there is snow on the ground and we can’t get out at all? It’s a romantic thought, being cut off, provided we have sufficient food, heat and power. And wine. But there is only so much DIY that a person can be reasonably expected to withstand.

A creative project is required and so I have purchased a pair of chairs. French, mid 19th century, ‘chapeau de gendarme’ tub chairs with ebonised legs. There are a few of them around, so they won’t be worth a fortune. But that’s probably just as well for the purposes of practicing. The webbing is shot, they need stripping down and re-upholstering from the frame up. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while. We’d tried auctions and bric-a-bracs to no avail and then an antique dealer let slip his source.

It meant getting up early. Extremely early. 1.30am early to be precise. When I’d been working I was getting up at a silly hour every other week to catch a flight somewhere or other. But these days I’m loath to rise anytime before 8.00 and it takes two cups of coffee to achieve even that. As you might expect, we had the M5 pretty much to ourselves. By the time we’d reached Reading, when extreme boredom had led to the start of a tally, Norbert Dentressangle road haulage trucks were beating Eddie Stobart by 7 to 5.

The antiques fair, south of London, started at 6.30am, with the serious business all done within the first hour. Once the gates open it’s every man for himself, people literally running to be first in line at their favourite stall. Many a ‘stall’ is no more sophisticated than the back of a van and it was at one of these that I found my chairs. The trader spoke little English and us little French. Cash talks, the cheque book doesn’t. The Chip & Pin machine has been left at home. But finally the deal is done, the chairs lugged back across the car park and, somehow, crammed into the back of the car.

Were it any other day, our alarm clock would be just about to ping.


Winter Unsprung

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