By Bev Haigh-Jones

flea-market – Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

A welcome return this month to publishing a contribution from a member, thanks to this account from one of our committee members, Rosemary. We would love to be able to do this every month, but we need your help for that. Please think about sending us your stories, opinions, or comments. If you don’t want to write the item yourself, we would always be happy to talk on the phone and then write it for you. Just drop us an email with your phone number and we will be in touch.

Browsing the pop-up antique and vintage market at our local shopping centre in Hamburg has been a twice-yearly Sunday highlight in our family for many years. We used to see lots of British white vans in the car park, loaded with goods to tempt German anglophiles and remind me of home. Though we were not huge buyers, we have often bought little things over the years: a glass jug, silver teaspoons, an embroidered linen tablecloth and a ballerina figure – all still firm favourites at our house.

We recently visited the first market since lockdown and had been greatly looking forward to the occasion. Imagine our disappointment to find just one floor of stalls instead of the usual two, and – the worst part – not a single British visitor. We had already noted that the car park was rather empty, but the penny only dropped when we saw the goods on display. No British antiques or vintage items – all just the German sort.

Now I don’t want to knock German antiques. There are few enough of them, as many were lost in the aftermath of two wars. Those which did survive are often too heavy and Germanic-looking for my taste. With the British stalls gone, I felt as if one more link had been severed that used to tie me to home. And it hurt.

The answer, of course, is Brexit. I assume that most small antique dealers will already have given up trying to trade with Europe online, due to the complexity and cost of posting items into the EU and back. Many traders who had been doing good business will have been ruined by recent developments. The old regulars who used to enjoy a jaunt to the continent with a van full of treasures to sell, and then a browse through the EU markets for things to sell in the UK, will presumably have been deterred by the prospect of the extra red tape and expense engendered by the UK’s new third-country status. The end of an era of harmless pleasure for small traders and collectors on both sides of the channel. Not a major disaster, perhaps, but another poignant reminder of the many downsides of that fateful “decision” back in 2016. And what’s more, I fear that by the time we can rejoin, many precious mementoes of the past will have vanished for ever – history sacrificed on the altar of Brexit. So sad.

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