Today I decided to pop down to Gray’s Antiques Market, just to look around and feast my eyes on whatever wonderful objects they had on sale. Gray’s might best be described as an “antiques emporium”, along the lines of Alfie’s and many others. But more of that anon.
I also wanted to take a look at the new Underground entrance hall at St Pancras, because although I have been past there many times, I have never actually been inside.
I took the 73 “bendy bus” from Angel, mounting by the middle door but remembering to bleep my Oyster card like a responsible citizen, and dismounted near St Pancras, that curiously beautiful iconic structure that has understandably attracted such fierce possessiveness among Londoners.
The new tube station entrance is large and airy but it doesn’t strike me as particularly wonderful or beautiful. Perhaps I need to become familiar with it and gradually learn to love it, what might be called the “Angel of the North Syndrome”.
It was only about 9 am by the time I jostled my way onto the long escalator the carries us down to the Piccadilly Line platforms and the place was crowded. As I sank slowly towards the centre of the earth I watched the people rising past me on the upward bound escalator and reflected how remarkable it is that all these thousands of people differ so completely one from another so that in the milling throng you can instantly recognize a friend or even the oik in a suit who so rudely whacked your legs with his brief case on the way down. I wonder whether we are so immediately distinguishable to other species or only to other humans.
I reached Gray’s a little before 10 am and so they were still closed. I wandered around the block gazing into their windows until the doors opened.
Like others of its ilk, Gray’s consists of a large space divided into small units which are occupied by boutiques or stalls. You can explore the nooks and crannies to your heart’s content. What you have to understand about antiques dealers is that they have many irons in the fire. They visit people and go to exhibitions and sales. This means that not all the stalls in the emporium will be open. This can be disappointing, as it was today, when a large proportion were closed. Antiques buffs get into the habit of visiting often, on different days of the week, in the hope of eventually finding their favourite stalls open.
There was an incredible range of stock on view and most of the stall holders were friendly and welcoming, so it was tempting to browse everything but that would have taken too long. I was mainly looking for silver rings and tried to keep this in mind. One of the features of Gray’s is the long fish pool on the ground floor. It is full of goldfish of various sizes and it would be tempting to dawdle and dip a finger in the water.
I saw many interesting rings, some that I took to be Roman or even older. The only one that really interested me was on the first stall you encounter as you go in through the main door. The stall holder told me it was Victorian. Imagine a silver snake wound around your finger. Now imagine another silver snake wound symmetrically around your finger in the other direction. That will give you some idea of the design of the ring. Unfortunately, it was a ladies’ ring and therefore too small for my thick fingers.
Next time I go to Gray’s, I will choose another day and perhaps go later in the hope of finding stalls open that were closed today. There is also a cafe but it is in the basement and not nearly as attractive as the rooftop cafe at Alfie’s. Still, you can’t have everything.