1 How did you get your start as a dealer?
I was brought up around antiques. My parents love them and used antiques to furnish properties they’d buy, renovate and sell. I discovered at a very early age, probably about five, that antique objects could transport me back in time and make real connections to people and places long gone and forgotten.
2 What is one great discovery you have made?
The idea to deal in antiques occurred to me when I was 15. We were living in Zimbabwe, where we bought several antiques including a chaise, which I adored, especially because it came with the most fantastic story. It had found its way to Africa in the early 1900s and its first owner, the story went, was Lord Nelson, one of my all-time heroes. I found a book on English furniture design in my school library with black and white illustrations that helped me put a date of manufacture on the chaise – c.1835. It took several hours of lying under it with a torch, peeling away the hessian base to get a look at the springs and webbing too, but I absolutely loved the research.
However, when I broke the news to my mother that our ‘Nelson’ chaise had actually been made 30 years after his death she was furious, but not for long – she saw the funny side. It was eventually sold in an English auction and made a hearty profit.
That’s when I realised that I could handle wonderful items from the past, get a thrill from learning from them and make money at the same time…so, from the age of 18 I was studying, buying and selling antiques (and classic cars – another passion).
3 What projects have you worked on lately?
I’ve written a couple of history books recently, A Romp with The Georgians and A Bash With The British Empire, which are funny stories from the past our history teachers didn’t tell us. I’ve turned both into stand-up history shows for theatres and after dinner events.
I love live shows. You live on your nerves for an hour and a half… it’s a buzz. I deliver them unscripted and with full-on audience participation throughout, so I never know what stories I’m going to tell, or what questions are coming… anything can happen and they’re always lively nights.
4 What is something you’d love to get your hands on – a ‘holy grail’ in your area?
I’d like to own a road-chipped, well-used and scarred Lalique car mascot from the 1920s. Something showing its age and use. I’ve never shied away from damaged objects… I often prefer them.
5 What is your favourite appearance of an antique in a film, play or book?
It’s got to be the ‘Herbie’ film The Love Bug which featured a VW Beetle with his own mind.
I remember watching this as a kid and loving the scene which showed a car dealer’s showroom decked out with not only magnificent cars, but with antique furniture, paintings, chandeliers and a roaring fireplace. It was more like a huge dining room, but it was filled with everything I adore… cars and antiques. I always thought that I’d replicate something similar one day. I never have, but I might at some point!
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