Packing up on Monday morning as the exhibition walls were taken down around me to the raucous accompaniment of pop music, power tools and the occasional heart-felt curse, I reflected on what I would miss from the past week.
The Battersea Decorative Fair runs thrice yearly out of the fancy "Evolution" tent tucked away by the plant sales area and the gym in Battersea park. This year I have decided to exhibit at all three fairs and their Spring iteration has just wrapped up. David, who owns the fair loves the tannoy and I will miss his daily messages - warnings about a birthday, a cat coming in on a lead, or the police practicing a terror alert behind the tent - amongst many others. I will also miss my neighbours. Mark, a floppy-haired party animal, once married and now determined to remain free to fish both metaphorically and actually, who sells 20th-century design with a focus on lighting, and his landlord Roger who has a stand adjacent selling vintage clock faces with modern movements. The fourth corner of our little enclave is taken up by Dave, Rob and Edgar, fashionably dressed - leather jackets, tweed frock coats and sporting stubble, who purvey Danish mid-century seating and furniture. None of us is aggressively young but Roger wins the antiquity prize being in his 70s whilst the rest of us flirt with 50, either waving it goodbye behind us or saluting its near arrival. Roger is firmly of the V-neck jumper brigade and is either off to play golf or is just back. Mark does tennis swings with an invisible racket when bored and the Danish guys plan their nightly revels. We are a happy crew. We get coffees or teas for each other and band together to shift furniture when required. When a sale is made everyone looks shifty for a bit and then congratulates. There is no jealousy or competition - especially not with me as I don't sell vintage clock faces nor anything on the others' stands. My insane marriage of this and that is a constant cause of bewilderment to one and all including myself. By way of an illustration of my lack of focus I have three mirrors on my stand. One is 17th-century Dutch and in ebony, one is gilt bronze and Italian mid-18th century and the third is 20th-century and from the Secessionist movement in Vienna. Oh well -as George Bailey, current chairman of the amusingly acronymed 'TEFAAG' is wont to say say, 'We are where we are'.
I am trying to be abstinent. My normal fair day would consist of coffee, coffee and more coffee until about 6pm when a chilled (from my on stand wine fridge) glass of wine - and possibly another - would muzz my senses until closing time. This time, though I have the kit, I am sticking to fizzy water and green tea. My erstwhile chum Oscar Humphries once reported to me that his 'medical team' had concluded I was a bad influence. They would be so happy with me now. I am drinking the occasional glass but today I am a pussy cat by comparison with my past. So, the days pass as watching objects and furniture making their way along the corridors from stands to the stores and vice versa. The fair have laid on a team they call the Harvey Boys who will shift anything on or off your stand at any time of the day whilst the fair is running. Consequently the aisles resound to the grunts and groans of the boys as they lug big lots on and off. It gives the fair a great sense of activity and is equally a superb service for the exhibitors. The only downside is that you cannot help feeling a slight sense of jealousy as some dealers appear to clear their stands several times over during the week. But even without coffee, wine or regular bulky sales the week passes very pleasurably.
Just behind my stand like a caged tiger is my old friend Charlie, who prowls around clutching his iPad ready to sell or take orders at the drop of a hat. He makes plans and proposals all round and his iPad is hot with activity. He never stops unless he is having a cup of tea and this he could do all day. He sells too. This is his first outing at Battersea and he works it as hard as anyone could, ably backed by his daughters and wife. He will be back for more and we all enjoy his frenetic contribution.
The fair is fun and laid back, with scruffy no nonsense stand-building and dogs everywhere. There is also a growing feeling that this is where the trade thrives these days. The public come in their droves and they nearly all come with the urge and intention to buy something. Even my pathologically mean friend Lucinda went out with a bag, though I cannot be sure there was anything in it beyond her gloves. Admittedly the prices are usually between a few pounds and a few thousand, hardly anything is over 5. But this price point brings out people who want to own and furnish with old or antique things. Nearly every object at the fair is a special or different in some way and as such the opportunities are many and various. Many of the dealers buy from each other as well, consequently the atmosphere is one of the most commercial I have encountered. Just because the prices are mainly low I do not want to run down or deride the quality on view - there are some exceptional things, even masterpieces. As someone said - there are things that are a lot of money but nothing that is expensive. Roll on the next one in September.