Visitors to the popular Brocante-on-the-Green were notorious for their eagerness and even downright craftiness in trying to enter the sacred portals of the village hall before the official opening time. Some would pass themselves off as "helpers" - "oh, I'm just popping in to give Jacinta a hand". Others would wait until the side door was unguarded before slipping in and merging into the rail of pre-loved clothes. This somewhat compromised the efforts of the fair organiser to set a time for the Grand Opening as well as missing out on collecting the modest entry fee. A Solution. Had. To. Be. Found.
Enter Richard, a gentleman perfectly created for the role of Official Doorman. Originally, his function was to chaffeur Jill, his sweet-natured wife, plus a carload of pretty china, softly painted furniture and lovingly embroidered cushions and bags to the fair. The overland trek to reach Sussex from the outpost of Devon in which they resided was somewhat of a legend amongst the vintage family of regular traders. No journey would be complete without at least one visit to a stately home, beautiful garden, delightful country pub or exquisite rural bed and breakfast. A whole book of Places to Visit from Devon to Sussex and Back Again could have been based on their voyages to and from the fair. Always good-humoured, Richard would draw into the car park ready to unload his precious cargo under Jill's firm but fair direction.
At the start, Richard's friendly chit-chat and willingness to hang out with the vintage ladies was perhaps unusual, some would even say a little odd. Most men could not get away fast enough from the piles of pink fabric, chipped and distressed furniture and piles of dusty bric-a-brac. But Richard was made of sterner stuff. Not for him the escape to the pub or hiding behind a newspaper in the tea room. Spotting his potential, the somewhat stressed fair organiser offered him the honorary role of Official Doorman, furnished with the Ceremonial Money Collection Box.
The front desk was set up with military precision - the Ceremonial Money Collection Box given due prominence, nestled amongst pamphlets promoting vintage fairs far and wide. All styled beautifully on a rustic table with a pretty bunch of wildflowers in an old French jam jar. As Doorkeeper, Richard's first duty of the day was to chivvy the ladies to move their cars and vans from the car park. Herding cats would have been easier, but with charm and humour the first objective was achieved. Then, he would take up his station at the front desk, ready to repel invaders until the given signal by the Lady in Charge.
His jolly patter was legend amongst the customers - "lots of lovely things to buy inside" "I don't know where they find it all" and lots of cheery banter with his regular ladies. The half hour wait to enter the hall went in a trice. Money duly handed over and reverently placed in the Collection Box, the vintage-hungry ladies would race into the hall or clothes room.
Rather like a friendly uncle, Richard would take it upon himself to make all newcomers trading at the fair welcome. Nervous first-timers relaxed under the warmth of his sunny charm and old hands enjoyed a joke or quip as they hauled in their treasures.
At the end of the fair, Richard would still be chatting to anyone who would listen, fuelled by cups of tea and the occasional slice of Lemon Drizzle. And once the car was loaded, Richard and Jill would potter over to the pub to join the other traders for a drink and final analysis of the day's activities. Still laughing, Richard would escort his precious lady to the car, to begin the overland expedition back to Devon. And the echo of his laugh would linger in the hall and in the memories of the vintage family.