It is always the case that January carries with it a contradictory air of both optimism and depression. There is no particular reason to get too obsessed by the end of the year. It is an end but at the same time nothing actually finishes - not really. It is just like Monday, just on a bigger scale. But having made it to the end of the year it is with a big sigh of relief that we recognise and acknowledge that nothing too awful has happened to us and we can still stand up and carry on. I know that does not sound very positive but in the world as we experience right now that is pretty good. 2016 was not a splendid year. As an antique dealer deeply embedded in European art and design I was very depressed by the Brexit vote; less so by the wave of celebrity deaths - though some did make me sad; the American election seemed to be expressive of a global lack of good fellowship. To end up at Christmas after all this injury - an insult was added in that I got a beastly cold. I coughed and wheezed and blew my nose so often that the bedroom became bedecked with tissues like a cheap Christmas grotto, my nose would have given Rudolph a run for his money.
I did five fairs during the year, three in the tent at Battersea and two at Olympia. They passed with a curate's egg-like scale of success. There were no great troughs and as few heights. I am probably bound to do the same again this year. The collapse of the pound does have a positive in that UK art and antiques are now significantly cheaper than they were in June. Each time I set out my stall I was filled with anticipatory optimism leading to partial disappointment followed by modest success. During the year I presented myself directly to people via calls and emails and I sent out a number of modestly entertaining email newsletters. I roll out ideas and images on Instagram and Twitter. All of this adds up to a standard issue antique dealer. I am not a trend setter, I cannot shift the world on or off its axis, I have to follow the vicissitudes that politicians, the economy and my own life throw at me. So when Christmas comes the carousel stops for a pause and an extended feast.
But now in 2017 we have headed off on the epic journey that will end at Christmas again. January brings the first Battersea Decorative fair of the year. Half deja-vu half hopeless optimism. The pad of yellow paper that sits on my desk was set to work arranging furniture on a two dimension plane. At Hatfields, the restorer, my things were buffed and made ready to go. Orlando, Patrick and their team at Oak fine art movers gathered up and deposited. I put everything in place and yet again a rather tiresome five days followed and I ended up doing just enough business to justify coming back. Not really a sensible way to earn a living but it is the only route I feel inclined to take. There is at the fair a real buzz which comes from the fact that the crowds still come, the appetite to buy is palpably there. There is a surprisingly robust and vigorous market - despite everything.
On the other side of things I have discovered the joy of the chainsaw. It began a year ago with the purchase of a cheap Chinese one in the supermarket in France. It is amazing what you can buy these days in a supermarket. It was very heavy and I kept blunting the chain so this year as a tree has fallen in the field by our Somerset dwelling I decided to invest in a Stihl one. This is one of those very manly brands that professionals use and it is reassuringly expensive. As a neophyte lumber jack I thought it appropriate to acquire a macho chainsaw. The noise and danger of the chainsaw is very invigorating. I have never owned a fast car that roars and now I don't need to. The pure delight of knowing that with a slip of the hand or concentration I could sever a limb or merely do myself a mortal injury is adrenalin inducing enough. The tree is nearly gone and I have not lost my passion for this lethally efficient tool.
I decided as a new leaf for a new year to sign up to the LAPADA website. It took quite a few days to load around 130 items onto the site and it was quite an exciting feeling that a new venture was underway. I like LAPADA, it is down-to-earth and hard-working as an organisation and it is definitely trying to be useful. It is the support for the lower end of the market, and in these days of austerity it is no bad thing to be associated with the 'value' end of the market. More than anything it is stimulating to start a new thing.
With Brexit starting, Donald Trump being Donald Trump and the possibility of crypto fascists - Populists - being elected across Europe who knows where this year will lead us but as we head into February again let us all cross our fingers and our toes and hope that armageddon will not ensue and we can enjoy Christmas at the end of this journey.