The customs sign at the Vlissingen offices.

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First, they applied for an ATA Carnet, a document which allows for listed items to be transported for trade fairs. They listed 347 books, pictures and lithographs and submitted it to the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KvK).

This step took 10 attempts.

“Some of the reasons we were rejected felt very petty”, Marc said. “One was because I had headed a column ‘book number’ rather than ‘item number’ Still, we got there in the end, and a large document (about 60 pages thick) arrived.

“Then I needed to go to the customs at Vlissingen to have my whole stock examined (so I had to mock up travelling to the fair). Here, the customs officers spent an hour gathered around, discussing the best way to sell at book fairs.

“They were sure a Carnet wasn’t the way – but couldn’t think of a better one (other than me paying a €5000 tax deposit against possible sales). Then a customs officer came out and I had to empty the car of all the boxes and show them each item on the list.”

Stamps now in hand, the dealers headed to England via the tunnel, and found that at Douanes (customs) the Carnet was ignored altogether, as was the stock in the car. Such disregard for carefully completed paperwork has become a common lament among dealers.

At Folkestone they were directed to the official customs lorry park where to gain entry Marcia had to climb onto the car to reach the screen that was at the height for a large lorry. Again the vehicle was not checked. On receipt of an email (rather than a promised text) they were confirmed to enter.

Homeward bound


Intrepid explorers – Harrison-Hiett offers an 1890 French photograph album with 81 albumen and silver gelatin images for £320.

“On the way home, it was a little quicker as it was a Sunday, and we knew the drill by now”, Marc continues.

“In Calais we sailed out of the terminal and onto the motorway before realising we must have driven past the customs office. In fact, the customs are off the lorry park, and there is no easy way to get to them. For any who try, at Calais, follow the signs for Cite Europe and turn off at the barbed wire.”

After receiving their requisite stamps they were off home again, ready to prep for their next UK fair in September.