"Hope it's as exciting as it sounds!"
That was my neighbour's comment this morning when I said I was heading off to Bloomsbury to attend my very first ephemera fair.
He had his golf clubs on his shoulder, and was heading for Wanstead Flats to play a round or two in the rain. And I hope that was as exciting as it sounds, too!
So, what happens at an ephemera fair? Well, there were thirty or forty stalls selling postcards, pamphlets, prints, posters, itsy bits of paper, maps, books, all sorts of stuff - very well organised and convivial, and well attended too. It was mainly men of a certain age - but I can hardly complain about that.
And I suppose you want to know what I came away with? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. I got a few books, all ridiculously cheap - so the 1885 Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, with all 800 pages of minuted evidence, for £3! (OK, so it was disbound, and I guess a couple of pages of the index are missing - but still a bargain).
The pamphlet above was published by the National Council of Labour, apparently in 1935, both denouncing and mocking Oswald Mosley and his blackshirted British Union of Fascists. Mosley had visited Mussolini a few years earlier - and that's the subject of the biting Will Dyson cartoon on the cover.
But my favourite is this wonderful poster - slightly larger than foolscap - published by the CP in January 1943, when communist concern to support the war effort and so save Soviet Russia extended to speeding up production and making capitalism work more efficiently, whatever the drain it put on the workforce. This was the CP's 'Home Front' - and there's a freshness about the drawing and colouring which I find very beguiling. Richard Gold (from whom I bought this) tells me the artist was Elizabeth Shaw - there's an obituary of her here and a nice piece with photo from the Irish Times. According to her Wiki entry, she worked as a mechanic through much of the war ... so she practised what she preached.
So, that's what you come across at an ephemera fair!
A (close to) final word about Bluston's - early in her career, Amy Winehouse staged a photo shoot here ... one style icon meets another.
All this courtesy of this blog.
It wouldn't be everybody's choice of a destination - but as a treat to myself (£18 advance purchase day return, so a cheap treat), I took myself of to Clacton during the past week on a #GE2015 day out.
This north Essex seaside resort is, as you can see, the end of the line - an hour-and-a-half from Liverpool Street, which is an awful long time to get not very far.
And why Clacton? Well if UKIP win just one seat on Thursday, this will be it. I was curious.
So, the back story. Douglas Carswell, Clacton's Conservative MP, defected to UKIP last year, and then forced a by-election in which he was returned with an impressive 60% of the vote and a 12,000 majority over the Conservative runner-up. The conventional wisdom is that this sort of by-election majority doesn't fade away in a matter of months, whatever happens in national politics. And of course UKIP's standing in the opinion polls, though slipping a little, is still fairly resilient.
Clacton's had a bad press - during the by-election campaign last October, lots of Westminster-based political commentators went up there and came back holding their noses. Well, I was pleasantly surprised - not that Clacton has much in the way of style, but it's not a dump either.
The town centre has an awful lot of charity shops, and a 'half asleep' feel to it even on a sunny spring afternoon, but it's a long way from derelict. Clacton pier still stands - though it was almost deserted, and from the pier end you look out upon the vista of ranks of wind turbines just a few hundred yards offshore.
The beach is not bad at all - though a strong breeze, the bain of the east coast, put off all but the hardiest from walking on the sands. Not a single deck chair - no donkey rides - all a little flat. I thought about popping in to the other key attraction, the Pirate Radio Museum, but I suspect if I had have shelled out my £5, I would have been the only paying customer they'd had all day.
And the election campaign? Well, I couldn't find it - and this in a constituency with more political needle than most. As you come out of the station, you are face-to-face with the UKIP office, festooned with Carswell posters. I popped in. Two blokes having a chat - very welcoming, apologetic that they didn't have any UKIP badges or rosettes, but they gave me a Carswell poster and thanked me for my support. Hardly a hive of election activity - and this precisely seven days before polling day.
A little way down the road is the smaller, cosier, Conservative office - and here there was a bit of a buzz. Four women busily counting and folding election leaflets and stuffing them into envelopes, all overseen by a purposeful young man: "Yes, the campaign's going fine. Our candidate's getting a good reception. And now-and-again we see Douglas Carswell, when he can spare the time to come up from Fulham". Ouch!
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