Guest Market: Wondering Through the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair
I am beyond thrilled to have Author Alison Jean Lester contribute a delightful tale of her trip to the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair in Worcestershire, England. Allison is a graduate school classmate of mine, and someone I love and admire very much. She had shared some photos from her visit to the market, and I invited her to tell us about her whole experience. When you are finished reading this story, please read Allison’s wonderful novel, Lillian On Life!
The large indoor Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair happens 10 times a year. (Photo courtesy of Alison Jean Lester)
Some people list the Malvern Flea & Collectors Fair in Worcestershire as one of the best flea markets in England. That’s not why I went yesterday, though. I had no idea it was a rollicking event. I just knew that it drew enough of a crowd for my mother-in-law, Gill, to assemble her wares on Friday and get up at 5AM to stand around in a huge cement-floored building smelling of farm animals all day Saturday.
Sweet English Collectibles (Those Spoons!) at Malvern
The market is held ten times a year at the Three Counties Showground, a gigantic space of fields and large agricultural buildings offering not just the regular flea market but also events such as Truckfest South West and Wales, National Shetland Performance Show, British Spotted Pony Society Show, Autumn Quilts Festival, and CountryTastic (“We’re excited to announce that Tractor Ted will be joining us this year.”)
My husband and I arrived about two hours before the end of the fair, just as it began to rain, which we counted as a blessing. If it hadn’t been raining, we’d have wanted to look at the acres of wares being displayed outside. Hastening from the parking field to the building Gill was in, we saw old school desks, hand-woven baskets, galvanized buckets, enamel pitchers, enamel pitchers, and more enamel pitchers. I’m pretty sure we need an enamel pitcher, but we trotted past.
Gill and her business partner specialize in vintage hand-embroidered linen and lace, and also needles and silks. On their table yesterday was also an assortment of old kitchen implements, silver coffee spoons, costume jewelry, and cut glass. “People really specialize t the antique fairs, “she told me, “but here at the flea there’s a lot more variety on each table.” This means that you want to cast your eyes over just about every stand to be sure you don’t miss something (although there was one guy exclusively selling mounted deer antlers).
It’s stimulating, and eventually exhausting. I can’t imagine anyone walking through the flea market without having some sort of memory jogged, or making some interesting association. Alongside army medals hang pieces of Nigerian fabric from the 1960’s; a Mughal (or at least Mughalesque) miniature of a polo game in an exquisite frame sits across the way from a dull pile of silver jewelry being sold by the gram. You can find a perfect engagement ring. You can find a stuffed mountain lion.
For my husband, the memory came when he saw the type of puzzle for teaching children to tell time that he’d had as a little lad. For me the surprise of recognition came when we picked up a boomerang made in 1936, clearly bought by a Brit on tour. On the back, in what looked exactly like my British grandmother’s penmanship, the note: “Boomerang of the Type Used by the Aboriginal Blacks.”
Alison’s pup Jasper in his Flea Bag. It’s not personal. It’s England, and it was rainy outside.
There was also a table selling traditional sweets, fudge, and Scottish ‘tablet’. In the next building over, easily double the size of the one we were in, was a man who always comes to sell his hot chocolate. We didn’t go over there, though. That building housed the sellers who drove in and sold from the backs of their vans. We didn’t want to know. We didn’t want to desire. I’d already bought a silver chain (£6) and a Gouda serving plate (down to £20 from £35 through executing my cunning plan of catching the seller as he was packing his wares away).
As we helped my in-laws pack up the things that hadn’t sold, my husband held up a gorgeous black shawl, beaded and fringed and glinting in the light. I could see him imagining me in it, and only it. I imagined the same thing. “How much is that?” a smoker’s voice called out from behind me, shattering the mood. It was the woman from the stall opposite. Gill sold the shawl to her for what she had paid for it (professional courtesy).
On the drive home we ate cherries from a fruit stall, and I wondered if we would regret not buying the little telephone table with the attached pull-out stool. Because that’s what flea markets do. They make you wonder things you’ve never in your life wondered before.
~Alison Jean Lester, Guest Contributor, Markets of New York City
Wonderful English Treasures! (Photo Courtesy of Alison Jean Lester)
Furnishings for a Cozy English Kitchen (Photo Courtesy of Alison Jean Lester
Alison Lester & Jasper Survey Their New English Home (Photo by Andy Gurnett)
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