Anne Diamond on being bitten by the antiques bug
PUBLISHED: 11:00 25 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:09 25 July 2014
Anne’s never had much time for ‘rusty bits of bygone eras’ but hunting down vintage items in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire has given her a new interest
I have just recently learned the delight of antiquing. I’ve always known that there’s a vast community ‘Out There’ of people who love rummaging around junk shops or spending whole days at auctions looking for a bargain, a quick profit or a quirky or special objet for that difficult corner of the hallway or living room.
But I’ve never really wanted to be one of them. Not until now. I think I;ve got the bug - and it’s all thanks to taking part in a recently filmed episode of Celebrity Antiques Road Trip. As my son texted me: “Are you the Celebrity Antique, then?”
When I was first asked to do it, I thought, nah, that’s not me. I’m just not into dusty and rusty bits of bygone eras. What’s more, I’d expose my complete ignorance of what’s ‘quality’ and what’s rubbish. I’d probably show up an embarrassing instinct for the naff. But now I am so glad I did it - because it was huge fun and I could have stayed long after the filming had stopped.
Without giving anything away, because the episode hasn’t aired yet, I was teamed up with a well-known expert who guided me through antique centres from Maidenhead to High Wycombe, Wimbledon to Greenwich. He showed me that, basically, you should just go for what appeals to you, and stop worrying about what others think of your taste. Because once you’ve completed three filming-days-worth of antique shops and junk yards, you quickly suss that we’re a nation with diverse choices, and anything goes.
What made the whole experience even more heavenly was that I was asked to drive a vintage 1980s Mercedes SLX sports car (the only shock being that something from the 1980s is considered ‘vintage’) through the most beautiful Berkshire and Buckinghamshire countryside, under glorious sunshine. Ainsley Harriott (he was the other celeb against whom I was supposedly competing) had to keep stopping to slap sunblock on his bonce.
We were given a modest budget, and expected to buy several items upon which we would then make a profit at the end of the week, at auction. A bit crazy, you might think, in that we were buying at retail prices, from shops and stores, and then selling at wholesale. But heck, it makes a good programme.
Auction day was utterly brilliant. You really must go to one near you - they’re all over our patch. Usually they have cafes (and even bars) and on our day, there was a marvellous lady with a big grill and she was making bacon sarnies for the whole crowd. You wouldn’t believe what comes up for auction - and in some cases, the peanuts they sell for.
Why anyone buys anything new beats me now. I saw modern, working vacuum cleaners going under the hammer for twenty quid. Big tool chests full of expensive, quality DIY tools being sold for £40. And wonderful Georgian and Edwardian chairs going for a song. All they needed was a bit of modern fabric and they would look marvellous.
I was distraught at the thought of going home with nothing, so I bid on a huge, life-size porcelain cocker spaniel and got him for £12. My expert friend said if I hadn’t been such a coward, I’d have got him for a fiver - and he’s gorgeous! He now sits in my hallway next to the umbrella stand, and welcomes me home with loving, adoring eyes. And he’s so much easier to look after than the real thing. Oooh - and I got an enormous pile of very old, nay vintage, Private Eye magazines for the loo.
So if anyone ever invites you antiquing, take it from me, it’s the perfect day out. Just stick to a very modest budget - because I’m sure it must be addictive. And have fun!