One of the things you first notice about any European country is that everything is old. The obvious things are the villages, castles, churches, even hedges and trees. But the subtle side is the artefacts and records and pieces of paper that get produced by the passage of history. Every country has these, but something about England results in these being produced at a phenomenal rate, and more than that – they get kept in prodigious proportions. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the English a nation of hoarders, but there are probably people out there that are less polite than me that would.
We went to an antiques market today. We’d seen a few of these on Kirstie’s Homemade Home, where she does up someone’s house with old furniture, crafts and second-hand stuff. So we thought we’d go check out our nearest one, which happened to be just south of Coventry, and so only 40 minutes away. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a small bits-and-pieces type market. No furniture, or big things, that is (which is a pity, as we’re rather keen on picking up a red telephone booth. Don’t ask). But it was interesting just to see what sort of things are considered worthy of the name ‘collectible’.
The usual suspects were there – Bunnikins plates, Wade Whimsies, Royal Doulton and Wedgwood pottery, Beatrix Potter figurines, Rupert the Bear annuals, the military regalia, and the rail paraphernalia. And there were some things that just shouldn’t be worth anything: the vast quantity of artificial bling jewellery was a strong contender.
But the item that takes the cake was a huge stack of railway timetable adjustments. Yes – you heard right – changes to schedules, not the schedules themselves. I can almost, if pressed, justify the value of keeping old railway timetables, if only to compare routes and average speeds. But really, who needs to know that on August 6, 1958, the 5:15 from Paddington was shifted to 5:25 due to scheduled maintenance on the signals. No one, that’s who.
But this is England. And here, such things are sacred. Somewhere, there’s a nutty rail enthusiast who’d pay for such things. The sort who listens to a recording of a steam train when travelling on an electric train to try and improve the experience, and makes sure that the train he’s listening to is one that actually used to run that route. It’s likely that one of the
loonies enthusiasts at the rail stall who were flogging DVDs of old steam trains (40 minutes of the 6201, anyone?) was dying to do a bulk purchase for later perusal. And there’s sure to be a model railway enthusiast out there somewhere making a model of the 1950s Paddington station, and wanting to ensure that he gets his historical accuracy absolutely spot on.
And so, if there’s a small chance that someone just might be interested in it, then there’s a big chance that someone will be keeping it stored away in an attic somewhere for 40 years before hauling it over to an antiques fair to flog for 50p a sheet.
(And in case you don’t believe me, have a look at this site, where the momentous events of 29 January 1957 will be saved for posterity until the Internet falls over from the interminable strain of useless information.)