Today I decided to pop down to Alfie’s, the antiques gallery in Marylebone. Readers of these pages will recall that Tigger and I often come here for breakfast on a Saturday. Alfie’s rooftop cafe is a delightful spot to take coffee or have a meal, especially on a sunny day when you can go out onto the terrace.
As Tigger was at work and isn’t as obsessive as I am about nosing through everything on the jewellery stalls, I took the opportunity to come alone. I intended to visit a particular stall where I had seen a very intriguing Art Nouveau silver ring. I hadn’t bought it but meant to return another time to see what treasures the stallholder had acquired in the meantime. Unfortunately, he was busy refurbishing the display cabinets and his stock was piled up in the next stall, not readily available. Not to worry, I will come back another time.
Alfie’s is a rambling place, like most antiques “emporia”. I understood from a stallholder that the building was once a department store. It has three floors, divided up into small shops and stalls by narrow corridors and staircases. It is all quite confusing for the first-time visitor who leaves with the feeling he must have missed some of the stalls.
I casually remarked to one stallholder that I needed a map. He snorted and replied “It’s not only a map you need but also a gun!” Riiight, I thought, tiptoeing quietly away. Later, another told me that they have a lot of trouble with thieves, which may explain the gun remark.
On the ground floor is a pool with fish in it. I always like to take a look at it. There are some medium sized goldfish and a couple of big silvery grey fish with dark patches. They cruise majestically up and down just below the surface. I don’t know what sort they are but will ask one day when I get the chance.
There were as usual many intriguing things to see. The goods cover a broad range from jewellery through furniture and fine art to books and “retro” clothes and jewellery. It’s as fascinating as visiting a museum. It’s both interesting and at the same time a little sad: I reflect that all this stuff has been owned and loved by others. For me that is the charm of antiques, the feeling that I have taken on someone’s treasured possession and given it a chance to shine and be loved anew. Where will it go after leaving me?
I took coffee on Alfie’s terrace and wrote this, listening to the chatter of stallholders at the tables around me and watching aeroplanes draw white lines across the big blue sky revealed by the rooftop perspective. Even the air seems fresher and cleaner up there. I thought about having lunch on Alfie’s terrace but in the end decided to go home where a pair of cheese sandwiches and several mugs of tea would be awaiting me. An unmissable bargain, wouldn’t you say?