Thursday, 31 July 2014

One fat lady

Juliana was on the rotund side and was somewhat the laughing stock of the skinny vintage ladies whom she met at fairs.  She was a latecomer to the vintage scene, but had eagerly tried to conform to its unspoken rules in the hope of blending in as part of the pack. 

Rule One - thou shalt always dress in a linen dress, smock, floral or gauzy garment.
Sadly, Juliana's ample frame was ill-suited to the floating waftiness of the most desirable garments.  She had found a dressmaker who obliged by making her XXXL sized dresses, out of cheap and colourful linen.  Her bulky form strained the seams on these creations, designed for thinner and lither ladies.  Juliana's sack like garments were at least comfortable and hid a multitude of sins.  She was oblivious to the fact that she looked like a galleon in full sail in her linen garb, particularly on a windy day.

Rule Two - in wet weather or muddy conditions, thou shalt wear Hunter wellies. 
As her stocky calves were not accommodated by Hunters, designed for slim, aristrocratic horsey legs,  Juliana was on a mission.  Her quest was to find boots that could slip over her large feet and chunky calves. Hours were spent on the Internet tracking down the elusive wide-fitting boots.  Her delight in completing her vintage uniform, by securing a pair of boots that could be eased on to her stubby legs, was boundless.  And Chunky Monkey, the boot suppliers, were assured of her lifelong custom.

Rule Three - thou shalt have long hair tied up casually in a chic French knot secured by a pencil. 
Juliana's hair was her pride and joy, regularly maintained by Sylvestro, the excitable Italian hairdresser at The HairPlace.  But her beautifully cut and coloured hair was no match for the wispy golden curls or shiny blonde curtains of her fellow traders.  Juliana's attempts at growing her hair were unsuccessful, as her thick tresses became bushier and wilder as they grew. Sylvestro was not about to allow his client to appear like a badly-kept hedge and ruthlessly pruned Juliana's locks into a more practical style, with cries of "bella, bella" as she emerged from his ministrations.  She ws never quite sure how "bella, bella" she really was.

Rule Four - all stock on the stall shalt be pastel or white, linen, distressed, shabby chic, floral, French or combination thereof. 
Juliana aspired to having a stall styled exactly the same as her counterparts.  But she was inexorably drawn to the complete opposite preferring dark wood, obsolete and obscure items of kitchenalia, heavy garden ornaments and funny old toys and books.  Mixed in with this were a few sundry items on the "must have" list, but these sat uneasily amongst the weird and wonderful artefacts on her stall.  Embarrassed by her peculiar stock, some organisers would locate Juliana in an out-lying corridor or in a dark corner to hide her from the customers.

Rule Five - all dogs shalt be worshipped and adored. 
Juliana's household consisted of  five whippets and one husband; and all of the dogs slept on her bed. Charles, her long-suffering husband had moved into the spare room, as he could no longer face the broken sleep created by fidgeting hounds. Dogs were her passion, to the extent that her life was spent raising funds for all kinds of obscure dog-related causes, when she was not out buying her random range of stock.  Occasionally, she would bring a dog or two to the fair with her, to spend the day running in and out of the hall at their whims and fancy.  Her interest in customers was vastly increased if they had a dog in tow; the opposite with small children.

Rule Six - thou shalt only eat one piece of cake at each fair. 
Juliana loved the tea and cake aspect of every fair, and her regular position near the tea room was a happy accident.  Starting the day with a cheese scone, moving on to the homemade quiche, finishing with a massive piece of Coffee and Walnut sponge,  her profits were often frittered on refreshments.  Not only the tea and cake, but any artisan food provider would be sure to enjoy her custom.  Her fridge was full of homemade pates, pies and salads - often not nearly as nice as they looked and usually bought at twice the price of the local deli. 

Juliana frequently hired a man with a van to bring her curious collection of stock to the fair.  Wrestling with large garden urns and solid pieces of furniture was not to be endured.  Luckily, she found a marvellous little man, Tony, who was willing to load his enormous van, drive to the fair and unload the stock all for a reasonable price.  The downside was that Tony was always over-booked, so the loading and unloading was always done at top speed, often with dire consequences for fragile pieces.  Tony, and his lanky sidekick Kev, were oblivious to Juliana's cries and warnings as they clattered boxes and furniture out of the van.  Anything very precious would travel in her car, to be unloaded after the Two Men in a Van had departed.  She was worried about upsetting her hired hands.

Once the stock was disgorged, it would take Juliana at least two hours to arrange it into a pleasing display. The process involved much huffing and puffing, a very red face and frequent stops for water.   She didn't quite have the knack of styling of her vintage sisters and so her displays might hit or miss the mark spectacularly.  Her hastily gathered bunch of wildflowers was her token attempt to prettify the stall, by contrast to the artfully prepared flower arrangements and copious greenery featuring on other stalls.  By some miracle she would be ready as the doors opened, but the colour of boiled beetroot from her efforts.

Once the doors were opened, the ladies that lunch and the yummy mummies would whisk by her stall, eyes drawn to piles of cushions or tiny handmade fairies temptingly displayed elsewhere. Very occasionally, she would make a sale to one of the most selective ladies and this small triumph would be celebrated with the reward of an extra cake.  But by some means or another, Juliana did have her own loyal following and frequently managed to sell a large quantity of her pieces.  Packing up was so much easier with less to take home; Tony would turn up and load the remaining items in a trice.  Meantime, Juliana would be saying her goodbyes hoping that she might be invited to the pub with the other ladies.  As no invitation was forthcoming, her day would end with feet up, enjoying fish and chips in front of Coronation Street - eyeballed by five greedy whippets waiting for their scraps.

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