Monday 28 October 2013

A near-spectacular surprise

After two helpings of Captain Hastings (well, almost two) now it feels right to do an event post by way of a change.

Yesterday (Sunday) morning found me at the St. Luke's Hospice Vintage Spectacular in Basildon.  St. Luke's Hospice, I should explain, is a specialist palliative care charity serving the local area (and although there are several St Luke's Hospices dotted about the country, I don't believe they're linked other than by the services they offer).  They have two large charity shops in the towns nearest me, Basildon and Wickford, from where I have scored many a find over the years.  This was their very first foray into vintage fairs and while it would be something of a stretch to have called it "spectacular" it was well-organised, quite popular (I've never seen so many pin curls and vintage outfits in Basildon before!) and definitely has potential for becoming a regular event.

Some two-dozen stalls were spread throughout the sports hall of the local college, with a dancing area at one end on which the fine folks from A2 Jive (including a distant relative who I caught up with) doing their stuff.  There are some pictures on their own site here that give a good idea of the thing.  Going solely by the leaflet I picked up months ago I was not expecting such a wide range of different stalls and traders, but rather a selection of clothing and collectibles (by the way, did you know the difference between "collectable" and "collectible"?) that had been culled from the two charity shops in the preceding months.  Certainly the sparseness I've encountered on the rails and shelves of both branches recently had led to me to suspect that they were holding stuff back for this event but it turned out that only 3 of the stalls were the hospice's, selling the usual mixture of books, old (and "vintage") clothing and bric-a-brac.  Nothing like what I'd envisaged, though.  It was still a very enjoyable, typical vintage fair, however - similar to my other local one at Benfleet (indeed some of the stalls looked familiar!).  Many local stallholders had turned up, including Lawdy Momma from Battlesbridge - who also happens to feature on Ruby's latest blog.

I had the briefest of flashbacks to my hated school P.E. lessons upon entering the building as the interior layout was almost identical to my old school's sports hall - no doubt the [same] builders had followed a template!  It proved to be quite a boon, however, as it allowed the stallholders and dancers a bit of space.  The Vintage Tearoom were able to set up in a separate room, too, which also allowed them more space; they also had a delightful live singer, Miss Violet Rae, in one corner doing more than justice to 1940s and '50s standards.  Refreshments were more than reasonable too at 50p each for a cup of tea and a fairy cake.

I didn't leave empty-handed either.  As is usual with these events there was a mixture of "proper" vintage, repro and stuff labelled "vintage" that really wasn't (or at least shouldn't have been for another 10-20 years).  Prices were wide-ranging but I did manage to sniff out three bargains, two of which you can see above.  A classic brown leather suitcase that cost me all of a five pound note and a nice plain chocolate brown wool tie.  Neither are of any great age - probably not many years older than me! - but both have a timeless quality that will suit me well.  The suitcase is very similar to one I have that belonged to my father - in colour and size practically identical, so I like to think of them as a matching set now!  )Not that I go on many holidays these days...) The straps on this one are strangely counter-intuitive though - you have to push the metal clasps up and away from you to disengage the pin.  Takes a bit of getting used to!  For such a niggardly sum and in such good condition (only a couple of small dings and marks on the leather) I just couldn't pass it up.  If nothing else it will serve as storage for some items of clothing, away from the dreaded moths!

The tie, although labelled "vintage", was only £4 probably as a result of it sporting the St Michael's label (Marks & Spencer's luxury line) which only ended in 2000.  It was also immaculate, pure wool and an appealing colour, though, so home it came with me.

The third and final item is a really interesting score, from the St. Luke's Hospice stall itself.  The selection of books consisted almost entirely of cricketing tombs (you can see them in one of A2 Jive's photos, actually) - probably all from the library of a recently-deceased cricket fan.  Being something of a fan of the noble game myself, I cast my eye over them and one in particular leaped out at me.  Lo!:

The splendidly-named The Test Match Surprise is, in its own words, a "cricket novel", written by the English batsman Jack Hobbs (later Sir John Hobbs) and dating from 1926!  I haven't had the chance to look through it closely yet but it would appear to be the fictional tale of the trials and tribulations of a lowly cricketer.  It is wonderfully redolent of its period, when Hobbs was at the peak of his popularity following England's win at the 1926 Ashes.  The book itself has aged, of course - the cover is dulled, the pages brown and crisped.  More remarkably the spine is as tight as anything - I can barely open it more than an inch or two without fear of doing some damage.  It's slightly looser up until chapter eight, where there are crease marks from where the page has been folded, but after that...  You know, I wouldn't be surprised if it has never been read in its entirety since it was first bought.  And how much did this 87-year-old book set me back?  One whole English pound.

All-in-all, then, a very worthwhile and enjoyable day out with some lovely finds to show for it.  St. Luke's Hospice acquitted themselves admirably with their first vintage fair and I sincerely hope it will not be their last.  Judging by this one, I think that very unlikely.


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