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Collecting: Notes from afar
THIS month finds me in unusual circumstances. I am on a two-month research trip to sunny Spain working on a new programme idea and I am writing my column while sitting on the beach.
Yes I know, it is a hard life.
However, as every collector knows, the urge to find that special little something never goes away and it just so happens that there are at least three really good flea markets within a short distance of where I am staying on the Costa del Sol.
A huge one in Fuengirola (Saturday), a smaller one in Nerja (Sunday) and a really interesting antiques market in Alumenacar.
The first two are popular with the Brits and the last one is very Spanish.
But a smattering of the lingo and a lot of arm waving go a long way if you want a bargain.
"A smattering of the lingo and a lot of arm waving go a long way if you want a bargain."Steve Terry
It is full of interesting and unusual stuff, so well worth the effort.
In the past, I have bought Roman and Medieval coins there, old farming implements and even an art deco bed.
The variety is astonishing and you do wonder how most of it ends up there.
However, one of my best buys was from the Nerja boot sale.
It was a lovely piece of green 'cloud glass' made by the English firm of George Davidson in about 1933.
Collectors reading this column will know how desirable this particular colour is.
Needless to say, I had no trouble moving it on at an antiques fair back in the UK just a couple of weeks later.
As with all flea markets you have to be choosy.
You might have left your winter clothes at home, but do not leave your brains there too.
Lots of things are not quite what they seem.
Dealers will be offering 'antique' Arab daggers and 'ancient' religious paintings.
Do not be fooled.
They are banging them out on an industrial estate just outside Malaga. Nice and decorative they may be, but antique? Never.
Now for a few words of warning regarding the flea markets here.
Firstly, unlike Britain where you are likely to get a soaking, by mid morning here in the summer you will roast.
Wear a hat, slap on the sun cream, and carry a bottle of water — you will need it.
Secondly, as with anywhere else in the world, thieves, rogues and vagabonds are drawn to markets like bees to honey. Yes, I'm talking pickpockets.
Just because you are on vacation, do not let your guard down.
Thirdly, and this is where it gets difficult, be sensible.
That ancient farm implement, or the oak stand for your olive oil barrel might seem like a most attractive 'decorator's item', but you still have to get it home and, believe me, those guys in the green uniforms at Malaga airport will take some convincing if you want to put a felling axe or a hayrake in the overhead locker.
Try to find something small and easy to pack in your hand luggage, but be warned, nothing even remotely sharp or pointed.
Speaking as one who was marched off for questioning by the Guardia Civil for having a bottle opener in his hand luggage, it is no joke.
Not so much the third degree from the gentlemen with the guns and the jack boots, as I explained that I had no intention of corkscrewing the pilot to death, but it was more the look that I got from her indoors when I eventually returned just in time to get our flight home.
She swears she would have just left me there.