A very cold grand day out

Friday March 17, 2006

For some time now Graham has had a hankering to obtain one or two additional ceramic chicken models to join the one we bought soon after moving here. They were made in China and for whatever reason are now becoming scarce and hard to find. Last time we went to Lincoln, passing through Horncastle on the way, he spotted a pair in an antiques emporium—Horncastle is the local antiques town—and resolved that, soon as we could, we’d have to make a trip to get them.

It’s all part of pursuing the vision he has in his head of our next kitchen, you see. When I question him on it he expands on the design thinking he’s developing for our next home, getting all technical and expert, and leaving me way behind him in my understanding. All the individual words that interior designers use are straight forward enough. It’s the way they string them together that leaves me muttering in a confused heap.

“Just think of it as the sort of place Mrs Madrigal (from Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City) would have,” he said, trying to be helpful.

“Ah. You mean faded hippy.”

“Not really. There’s to be nothing faded about it. Or shabby. It’s a synthesis, you see, between…”

And off he went, losing me almost straight away. Sometimes I wonder if my powers of concentration are wearing thin.

“Well, I’m sure it’ll look splendid,” I said. “You do have a history of successful splendid. I’ll go with the flow.”

Anyway, braving the bitter east wind, we wrapped up and took a large chunk of the day off to make a trip to Horncastle, shopping in the lovely miniature Tesco’s by the car park, and lunching in the tearoom we’d visited last time.

Gosh but it was cold. Not the sort of day for wandering around looking in the windows of antique stores. More the kind of day where you clutch your collar hard to your throat, put your head down, and dash from place to place quick as you can.

Graham finished his lunch first and sat waiting for me. I was warm, reasonably comfortable, and really didn’t want to move. I think my reluctance must have shown.

“Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll go get the chickens and you can finish in your own time and then wander back to the car to wait. I won’t be long.”

I signalled the waitress for another cup of coffee and sat watching the street outside, busy with adolescent students from the local grammar school, standing about munching the pasties and burger-type hand meals they seem to prefer over the healthy food provided in the school canteen. Slaves to fashion, they were not dressed for the weather, the girls sticking to really, really mini mini-skirts and the boys to white shirts worn outside trousers and under thin blazers. They didn’t look cute. Or fashionable. They just looked cold.

By the time I got back to the car I was cold again, too, in spite of being well wrapped up. I turned the engine on—yes, I know, it’s a shocking waste—and shoved the heater control over to flat out, warming my hands at the vents in the dashboard. The little silver Ford has darn good heating and I was just getting comfortable again when my phone rang.

“You’ve got to come and see this place,” Graham said. “It’s the antique emporium you’ve been dreaming of.”

“Well, alright, but just now I’m dreaming about getting back home in the warm.”

“You’ll kick yourself if you miss it. You can park the car just up the road…”

Just up the road turned out to be just far enough to get thoroughly cold again before stepping into the shop. He was right, of course. Great Expectations is one of those vasty old places, all connected rooms, with rickety steps joining levels that aren’t quite floors in the common definition of the term, more a cheap way of joining small buildings together to make one big building. And it was stuffed, absolutely stuffed, with antiques and junk and bibelots of all kinds and prices. It’s a cooperative, with ‘stalls’ filling every corner and a central desk where you take your finds to be cashed up. And bitterly, bitterly cold.

“How are you doing?” Graham asked when he found me poking through a massive display of old English china and porcelain.

“Great. Wish I’d known about this when I was doing my eBay thing.”

“Thought you’d say that. Makes that place in Minehead look positively minute.”

“Yup. Soon as we’re settled I’ll seek out our nearest antiques town and see if I can’t find another place like this.”

“One thing for sure. You’ll have enough cardboard and bubble wrap to last you for a good couple of years.”

“Happy thought. Are we ready to go home yet?”

“Yup. Let me pay for these chickens and we’ll get ourselves going.”

It was a sheer, blessed relief to shut the kitchen door and settle back into the warmth of the little house by the fens. Once the weekend provisions had been stowed away and the kettle boiled we stood looking at our new acquisitions, pulled out of their box and put on display on the empty counter.

“We’ll need to name them before we pack them away,” I said.

“Yes. What variety of chicken do you thing they most resemble?”

“I’m no expert. Could be Wyandotts. Then we might call them Wilfred and Winnifred.”

“Not sure about that. They look more like Sussex Whites to me. We’ll have to call them Simon and Sharon.”

“Simon and Sharon Sussex it is.”

So I took a photograph of them, Graham wrapped them up carefully and lodged them deep inside a box of mixed pottery.

“I’d better write their names on the outside of the box,” he said. “Might puzzle the removal guys but otherwise we’ll never remember them.”

“I reckon it’ll puzzle us, too, when we come to unpack them.”

Just then the phone rang. Graham took the call and was informed by Sally that, though there’d been ‘some progress’, the contracts were still not on the right desks so exchange will have to wait for Monday.

We had a subdued moment following that.

It didn’t last, though, and we soon busied ourselves on other things, maintaining our cheerful mood. After all, we’d had a grand day out and there’s nothing like a grand day out to cheer us up. Even a very cold grand day out.


Meet the Sussex’s
Simon and Sharon, actually



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