I’d lived and worked in France, I’d worked as a tour guide, I’d worked as an interior decorator in the past – and this new venture promised to weave so many strands of my life together: the chance to use the language again, to map read, plan itineraries and discover lanes and vistas, staying in manor houses that now offered B&B, to bring home beautiful objects, restore them and set out my stand.
The next issue for attention was that having had this fabulous adventure in France, what was I going to do with all these things when I’ve got them back to England?
Yellow Pages open on the table, phone calls made to Antique Centres, notes scribbled. At the one over in the Cotswolds I’d have to work there a day a week if I wanted a pitch. At another they only had a space under the stairs (bad fung shui), at another there was a waiting list. But at The Quiet Woman just outside Chipping Norton, yes they had a space, not too big, not too small, would I like to pop by and look at it?
On a blustery day in September – I was returning from a morning’s private conservation tour of Chastleton House, looking at dead furniture beetles, discovering that squirrel hair brushes are ideal for dusting fine objects and talking about micro crystalline paste favoured by conservationists to protect and enhance everything from leather to metal to wood – I called in to The Quiet Woman. Ann, the co-owner, was warm and enthusiastic, offering help and support, whilst at the same time running round organising tea-shop staff and dealing with customers. She showed me the pitch and there I was, on the cusp of a major decision to embark on a new direction in life. And yes it was – I’d take the pitch the following month, on my return from my first trip.
About the same time as this, a dear friend Daphne had left her life-long home, a farm just up the road from our cottage, to go to a retirement home. I spent an afternoon up at the farm with her daughter and rattled back home towing two trailer loads of buckets, enamel kitchen ware, chicken crates, Aga kettles, an enormous kitchen table, basins, folding chairs, baskets and a lot of woodworm to treat. So sad to see the farm go, but I also understood that this is, of course, one of the ways that antiques and the like return to the open market.