Friday, 20 June 2014

Trifles can be so sweet and successful

One in a thousand!  My winning trifle, a (large)pharmacy pill box for dangerous drugs!
Left to right: M.O.P. buttons, linen 'Dorset' buttons, glass buttons in Bonne Maman jars, pharmaceutical glass reels, blue glass kidney bowl, pre-war fruit punnet, fine ribbons, green/white casein button, and a box of pre-war initial tapes, lavender bag.
   I have amused myself by recalling some of the trifles I used to buy and which, funnily enough, some of my customers still remember fondly.   I always bought the whole lot, whether dozens, hundreds or thousands, because I could then fix my own price and be, oh so exclusive!
   I think the best lots that came my way were from a tiny antique shop near Dartford when visiting daughters nearby for half term at their boarding school.  The shopkeeper had put a few tiny red pill boxes resting on the sashes of his window and explained they were part of a storehouse where a large pharmaceutical company which bought up a lot of smaller businesses,  had put away all the obsolete medical equipment from  pre-war years . .The first batch of mixed sizes red (for dangerous drugs) went in a flash and I went back for the rest two months later and not one had been sold.  There were many thousands, and I also bought a very large quantity of hand blown vessels for syringes, sprayers, and pumps in strange and complicated designs and best of all, hundreds of different coloured glass reels for surgeons' sutures and gut, from pre-war hospital theatres.  By chance I was selling my antiques and folk art in East Anglia near Cambridge and Addenbrook's Hospital, and the young trainees there were fascinated by all this paraphenalia and bought it by the dozen, as did embroiderers, and even  fly fishermen bought the pretty reels to hold special threads for their hobby, making flies. I would sell out of all these trifles in a very short time and have only single samples left!   A German buyer bought 500 of the smallest red pill boxes to make hat boxes for dolls' houses, and jewellers bought them to pack earrings in their window displays putting a little plug of foam inside each.
   Other bulk buys of simple byegones included several thousand card fruit punnets, 1930s design, in red and green for strawberries and currants, all from a junk shop in Worcester,  and bought by cook-book writers and journalists to illustrate their articles on jam making;  in Provence I bought dozens of flat, circular perforated boxes for posting silkworms (from the manangeries where they bred them on trays in a sort of factory building), to the mulberry farms, with lovely labels in pretty colours and print;  also many crates of cardboard boxes full of cupping glasses from the hospital convents where the nuns were allowed to 'cup' and use leeches to 'bleed' inflamations of the skin. (i.e. non-invasive treatment)  The cups made safe and delightful holders for night lights!
    Reels of rayon ribbon (a French speciality) and trims for lingerie, finely scrolled name tapes,  were often available in quantity as nylon had taken over, and all kinds of job lots from textile factories were to be found in the street market at Isle sur la Sorgue in  Provence, and it is still fun and sometimes rewarding to walk along the pavement there on a Saturday.     The oddments that I sold for very few pence and shillings,  brought me into contact with many interested and interesting people, wardrobe ladies from theatre, opera and films, writers and journalists, stylists and photographers and through those brief meetings I had increased my little network of friends and customers in a big way!  Surprising!

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