This figure of St George was one of my lovely mum’s favourite finds.
He belongs to an era when Mum had stalls at antique fairs in the South of England.
She had an eye for beautiful things anyway and when she retired, she decided to dabble in actually buying and selling. My stepdad was generally roped in to lug the special boxes down three flights of stairs – the less special and more commercial boxes were kept in the very cold storage shed by the bins. He didn’t mind too much; he would sit at the back of the stall and read the Sunday papers once everything was set out, maybe strolling off to the nearest pub for a pint of real ale at lunchtime, and coming back to help Mum pack up again.
If he was working, it would fall to me to help. I liked wandering amongst the other stalls, selling whilst Mum was off having a browse, and I even got into the swing of unwrapping the newspaper from each precious object, displaying it and wrapping it up again at the end of the day.
I learned from Mum. What was good and what was tat. What would sell and what would be endlessly wrapped and re-wrapped. Different fairs called for different goods depending on the clientele.
I became eagle-eyed for those who came to pilfer; interrupting them with a smile and a question before they had the chance to tuck the object of desire into a capacious pocket.
Even now special things sing to me from amongst the rubbish. They may not always be worth much; I probably wouldn’t be any good on ‘Bargain Hunt’ but as the saying goes – I know what I like.
Some of Mum’s favourites never actually made it onto the stall. Her St George statue – or Georgie as he became affectionately known, was one of those objects. He stood proudly by the fire in every property Mum lived in: the third floor maisonette I grew up in, the sheltered housing flat she and my stepdad moved into when the stairs became too much, the even more sheltered accommodation just down the road from us that they moved 240 miles to in order to see more of their beloved grandsons, and finally the specially adapted bungalow that enabled Mum to escape from hospital and have an extra eighteen months of freedom.
I was always very fond of Georgie. He’s a tactile boy with a lovely smile. I’d often sit on the floor next to him whilst watching the TV. There was always something very reassuring about his solid wooden form.
Not surprisingly, years later when Uni Boy was a toddler, he developed an affection for Georgie too. We had to watch him closely; the origins of Georgie’s paintwork were unknown and whilst mostly smooth, there were a few hard edges still. Georgie was one of his first words, which pleased my Mum extremely.
Gap Boy also enjoyed Georgie’s company and at first there were a few tussles regarding ownership but UB moved on to playing chess with Grandma, leaving GB to the less cerebral pleasures of Georgie hugging.
Just like Puff the Magic Dragon, Georgie was abandoned by my boys as they grew older and turned to gameboys and football but he still held pride of place by the fire; a memento of Mum’s antique fair days long after she left us in 2009.
Georgie was the first thing I saw when Hub and I began the long process of clearing out the bungalow after my beloved stepdad died suddenly in 2012.
I brought Georgie home to my own fireplace and he has been there ever since; a symbol of my Mum’s love for her heritage, for beautiful and unusual things.
My lack of prowess in the field of housework is well-known. I have had feather dusters but they invariably disintegrate from age rather than use. My mantelpiece is a display area for important but not necessarily priceless objects.
It is Georgie’s special day today so I have dusted him down and elevated him to the windowsill where he can keep company with the freesias and my star-gazing bunny.
Happy St Georgie’s Day Mum.