Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A life in jewellery: Richard's childhood Saturdays

Portobello Market these days - Harris's Arcade is still going
As a child my parents both had stalls in Harris’s Arcade, Portobello Road. When Robert and I were very young we had a “baby” sitter for the day but one day my brother decided that we no longer needed a baby sitter and it was decided that we would take care of ourselves.

At the time we lived in a smallish terrace house in South London and the neighbours would keep a bit of an eye on us. Basically Saturdays consisted of going down to the newsagents and buying comics and sweets funds permitting. For about 5p you could get a decent bagful of pineapple and black sticky stuff. Beano, Marvel, The Victor etc. were all great! We also went to the library and the swimming baths. We also used to go to the Horniman museum where they had a children’s kind of activity class with papier mache and pottery which was great fun.

Did we miss our parents? Not really, not even slightly if truth be told. Only later, 15-16 years old, did I come to realise that it was unusual for both parents to work Saturdays. We did need to do the washing up and a bit of tidying up around the house. Anyway I digress slightly since not really jewellery related.

When my parents got home in the early evening, we would hear whether they had had a good day and how much money they had “taken”, it was money taken not sold so much. My mother would show us some new items she had bought that day or during the week and we would be asked what we thought of them and to try and figure out as much as possible. Was it French, English, what period, signed? What were the gems or the name of the techniques used. What was the style? What did we think the value of the piece was? The pieces ranged from Faberge enamel spoons to Victorian lorgnettes to signed Cartier earclips to Russian icons.
Then we would proceed to have dinner which during the autumn and winter months was vegetable soup followed by a stew or other main course which had been precooked the day before and just needed reheating. In later years, we would all go out for a curry in Penge! That was the big treat for the week! Stuffed Parathas, meat korma, onion bhajis, pilau rice... After Eight mints after the meal...

Another amusing story is one day we went to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. In those days you could spend as long as you wanted looking at the Crown Jewels and, after quite some while, I thought it prudent to advise my mother that she was probably wasting her time looking at the Queen’s jewellery for so long, since she probably was not going to be selling any time soon.

For more stories from Lucie Campbell's past sign up to Lucie's Blog. x Richard

Picture credits:
Portobello Market panorama:

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