There’s been a fascinating series on mainstream tv by an ex politician who is now a traveller and very decent presenter of interesting facts. He carries a well known rail gujide from the last century – depending on location. His travelogues have become more and more popular – not only is he an engaging personality, but they find interesting folk to chat to in each of the locations filmed. I have seen fantastic historical pieces about early English and European settlers in the States – the stories of racial and ethnic cleansing are humiliating and true, sadly. However, as there’s nothing we can do about our sordid past now, I feel it best to capture the essence of the programmes and enjoy what each person wishes to show me! Fantastic arrays of early furniture are usually the mainstay, and the earliest working machinery. The furniture is so lovingly cherished, moreso in the States and Canada it would seem.
Does anybody else assume you have to live out in the country in a massive mansion or huge cottage before we can begin to take an interest in antiques. I have a slight advantage here in that I volunteered as a room steward at just such a property. I live in an area where there are many properties dating back to the English civil war and before. Admittedly they are all just up the road from the most famous civil war battle ground, which suggests much support for the winning side at the time. The furnitue in the house I know does not all fall into the ‘family antique herloom’ category and is in fact made up of odd buys from other country house sales. At one time the house was livedin by a very famous inerior decorating socialite who came over from the US with her husband and wanted to buy theur way into the very top tie of society. Leasing this housde and filling it with ‘appropriate’ aged furnishings enabled her to look the part and buy into society she certainly did.
Upon opening the cover of my favourite country style living magazine, which is not only nationwide, but also often includes articles from europe and the USA, my eyes hit upon a property very local to me. I nearly fell off my chair because this particular stately pile has always been talked about in hushed tonesd and with a reverence held normally for very very important people. There has been a general assumption that it was still owned by the slightly aristocratic family who bought it some 300 years ago. But upon loooking at the description of the property – in all its glory over 2 pages of the mag, it would seem that it was sold once before, in the early 2000s. Word has now gone round about this incredible bit of news — the local ‘big house’ up on the market for a smidgen short of £10M. It seems absolutely unbelievable. The write up suggests it has eleven bathrooms and sixteen bedrooms. All sorts of statistics fill the paragraph of ‘what we have to offer’. Oh how I would love to be able to pretend to be a buyer on the look out!
When we leaf through favourite magazines, it can be some years before we realise that actually, we’ve outgrown this one, or that. I found this with one magazine aimed at the established family aged female going up to later years. This is what their marketing blurb suggests but as the years went on, I found the fashion and beauty pages were definitely aimed at the younger crowd – hardly ever was there a wardrobe update for anyone in their later years. Or they may introduce a mature reader, but the clothes chosen always seemed to be inappropriately youthful. The same does not go for country living magazines. They have the eternal beauty and show an optimism that life out in the sticks is going tio remain absolutely right for everyone. I like looking back over the years at how the colour schemes have changed for kitchens and bedrooms. The updated adverts feature similar products – I mean how many kitchens can anyone feature? Just the colours of the cabinets and style of the white goods change. But the essence remains, living in a lovely village or country area is a bit of a priviledge, especially today.
I do have a joy these days of watching the tv programmes that feature auctions or at least valuations of furniture and effects that could be offered for sale at them. There’s something rather sad seeing a family taking their heirlooms to the expert – either we already like the party and have some empathy for them. . Or we’ve found them truly annoying and are quite pleased when the expert questions the provenance of the article, not rediculing it, but gently letting them down with a more likely scenario, whilst hacking several hundred off the anticipated value. If we want to buy antique furniture for ourselves, it is always advisable to do a great eal of research and to buy from reputable dealers and auction houses. The car boot sale and pop up ‘one day only’ sales are always going to be suspect. Stolen items can be disposed of this way – although many of the purloined beauties are stolen to order and shipped abroad immediately, there are outlets for other lucky acquisitions.
Ah the sheer joy of September, after the first full week, that is. The youngster have all started, or gone back to school an the university students are making their final preparations for the ‘off’. There is much more time and space everywhere. The old towns, particularly in the tourist spots, have seen their influx of visitors go back to whence they came; the chip papers and rubbish has been collected and dispersed to the dump. Now these little towns can sit back with a sigh and get on with every day living! I love the mellowness, when I can visit my favourite places – auction houses and genuine antique emporiums. always on the lookout for beautiful quality furniture, wooden accessories and anything with a bit of history to it. I love the smell, the feeling of old age in the second hand and antique shops. Nothing beats that old beeswax smell!
At least in the summer months, July and August for example, the weather can usually be relied upon to keep us calm, keep us warm, and most of all, keep us from going batty with mud an wet weather gear keeping everything nicely damp! I love going off for a good poke around a country house – now that I have a little more time to myself, I have taken out membership of three of the major heritage charities and enjoy nothing better than planning a sorti to one or two properties wherever I happen to be in the country. The membership is useful also when I’m travelling around and want to stop off for a nice, relaxed, quality cuppa – the car parks are always free to members and the tea shops are absolutely top notch! This reflects the quality of the furniture inside most of them too – such history and feeling of belonging!
Oak furniture is one of those phrases that for some, will conjur up visions of grandmothers and their pristine ‘front parlour’, smelling of beeswax & lavender. For others it will mean wandering around tagging on to mum or dad’s hand whilst they go round stuffy historic houses. However for a very pleasing number of younger families, the phrase is again the by-word for excellent quality, beautiful finish, versatile uses and something worth paying for and cherishing for ever! As borne out by the previous examples, although we don’t recognise or appreciate the reasons why oak is revered amongst woods, when we look back to childhood and late teens, we do have many examples of how it has been the mainstay of country furniture over centuries. Trestle tables, high backed testers, church furnishings, baronial castles, modern town house dining suites, and everything else between. We will have used this amazing commodity in every stage of our lives and will always do so.
There’s a programme on tv that everybody seems to like – one where we see experts repairing much loved heirlooms and that aged relatives have been hanging on to for years. I particularly like the clock repairs – the chap is a real expert and expalins very clearly what he thinks is wrong with the thing at the start of the show. Obviously the researchers have gone through everything first with a fine tooth comb to ensure that each piece offers enough work to keep it viable for a third of a programme – the amount of film ending up on the cutting room floor must be heartbreaking! There’s also a really fantastic ceramics expert who seems able to put back together the most incredible mish mash of chipped and broken collectables. I remmeber also a fantastic job was carried out on a very old rocking horse – the leather expert really made an outstanding job of a seriously battered saddle – other colleagues were brought in to deal with the mane and tail. It’s heartening to know we have real expertise in this country – a real morale booster in these very challenging times.
We are all used to living at an incredibly fast pace as a rule. When there are not lockdown restrictions in place to combat viruses and other pandemics of course. Most families still tend to follow the regular 5 day week with 2 family days off together and on those 2 special days there’s the shopping, cleaning and hobbies to fit in! One of the benefits of an almost country living is the chance to really take in the beauty of the local surroundings, be that farm land or hills and dales, whilst still having the avantage of a local market town for the supplies and social life. When we look at the hundreds of escaping to countryside programmes on the well known tv series, the majority of candidates are looking for a ‘country cottage with character’. They usually demand a fantastic sized kitchen – normally anything less than the footprint of a small bungalow will be considered far too small – the host of the show has to drag the expectations back down to reality – the secret being in the name – country cottage!