Some things are a given about Malvern Fleamarket: we won't sleep well the night before and will drag our weary bones out of bed at 3.30 a.m. wondering why do we do this?; the lights on the ever-present roadworks outside Llandovery will be on red - both ways; unless it is before mid-summer day, part of the drive (all in winter) will be in darkness; I will succomb to the temptations of a large sausage roll AND a Hereford bun despite having packed a perfectly adequate lunch; we will buy a bottle of rather good Malbec in Hay Wines in Ledbury afterwards to drink that night; we will sleep EXTREMELY well afterwards. All those things have/will come to pass today. Plus it rained. Not just a little bit, but quite a lot actually. For once (bad timing you guys) the Met office got it spot on. There was going to be a big black WET raincloud over the Malverns precipitating all the time we were there. We got soaked. I don't "do" umbrellas - they just get in the way, you risk poking people's eyes out, they're hard to share as you have to do a silly co-ordinated walk, and they leave you with just one hand with which to pick things up which you are interested in. We had forgotten: a) my rucksack; b) a change of trousers and - worse still - I had forgotten a dry sweatshirt. There were some steamy scenes in our car on the way home . . .
Above and below: example of a young Herefordshire apple orchard in pouring rain over a wet hedge . . .
I was surprised that ANYONE would be setting up a stall outside without the benefit of a small marquee over/around them, and even more horrified to see people putting out furniture to get soaked, even upholstered chairs which were soon saturated. I have seen people put out books before and cannot understand why they should wantonly destroy their stock? I found two pretty little probably-French lemon yellow vintage enamel pans which I bought, along with a Made in China ginger jar in a black floral colourway. Nothing to break the bank.
We took a couple of things back to the car and then came back in again and another walk round the outside stalls, as they were still unpacking. As the water was going down my neck by this time and the only dry things were my feet (OH even worse, I fear, with no hat on and thin summer trousers and a drippy jacket), we decided we would go into the Avon Hall, where they are civilized and have not only lighting but HEATING. Oh, another given is that my OH will buy a bag of dark chocolate covered ginger from the sweety stall in the Avon Hall. Which he did.
Then in the Big Sheds, I found this lovely Torquay Ware (Watcombe) big plate/dish for my collection. Quite an early one due to the length of the lines of writing on it. Probably 1920s/early 30s judging by the border - these got simpler and simpler as the 30s went on. Also the later they got, the more mass produced, and the shorter the motto. This measures 11" x 7 1/2". BIG.
I was browsing some old books on one stall and came across this one, from 1975, for £1. I used to have a copy but in a Downsizing Clear Up I gave it to the charity shop a couple of years back. I got all sentimental today and replaced it . . .
The chapters and illustrations felt just like old friends . . . Making corn dollies; making pictures from dried flowers/leaves/leaf skeletons/seeds; drying flowers; potato printing; making lavender bags; patchwork; rag rugs; smocking; rag dolls and woollen dolls; basket making; teasel mice. Oh yes, happy memories.
We got back to the car, having spent up, and looked at our watches - just 10 a.m. (we had been on the go since 7.30, when the gates opened). Normally it is 12.30 or 1 p.m. before we have done, but the outside people were desperate to sell to recoup their pitch fee, and keen to get rid of as much stock as quickly as possible so they could go home, and so we got some very good deals. I learned something new - if sufficiently chilled and desperate I will not only welcome hot Earl Grey with no sugar in it (I normally have one spoonful) I will actually enjoy it. Desperate measures were called for. I was so glad I had bought K a new and very large Thermos flask this month, despite his curmudgeonly "I don't know why you bought this, the other one is still working." Hmm, yes and about 30 years old, very small and stews tea very quickly.
As we drove back, the rain's urgency eased, and I had time to notice the first scarlet leaves on the Virginia Creeper covering a house wall; the fruitfulness of the orchards - some trees had their branches nearly touching the ground with the weight of fruit; the names of houses: Cotswold; Applehook Cottage; Little Orchard; Fairholme; Elm Cottage (not many Elms around these days); Forge House. We drove past a "tidied" hedge which had seen the attentions of the horrid trasher, but there was a tall fan of bracken behind it which softened the split and broken branches.
We passed Stoke Edith, which I always think sounds such a welcoming name. In my book(s) of British Place Names, the name Stoke denotes an outlying farmstead or settlement. Edith apparently could have derived from the forename of a former owner of the manor but in this instance (says Kenneth Cameron: :English Place Names) it probably refers to the wife of Edward the Confessor. There is a wonderful Stoke Edith wall Hanging which you can read about HERE
Nearby is Shucknall, which derives from OE 'scucca' - demon or evil spirit. ("Black Shuck" - a ghostly and ghastly hound from North Norfolk). Shucknall is a hill haunted by demons. We won't go there after dark then . . .
It seemed a long drive home, and the lights were indeed on red again when we approached them. There is a little blue cottage nearby - Ystrad Cottage - which has a little black metal image of a terrier outside, and still has the little roofed shelter in a corner of the garden beside the road where that little terrier would sit and watch the traffic go by. He died some years back now but was always out there, even on days like today.
One last picture - I think this is probably Traveller's Joy past flowering - with its covering of raindrops. Drat - now I'm singing "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens" in my head. I can see that will accompany me to bed!!