My wife Helen and myself spent, as the studious reader of this site will already know, the last 4 days at Chatsworth in Derbyshire running a trade stall at their annual horse trials. We are now back at home, and as you can imagine, there was lots to be seen and learned and to be written about.
Worry not, you shall hear it all. There will be a veritable feast of information coming your way if you can be a little patient (I can’t spend all day writing, I’ve got some work to do as well).
So where to start? Well, let’s start here: official, undeniable and irrefutable proof that we were there:
I suppose the correct place to start is at the beginning of the trip. So I’ll restrict this post to day 1, Thursday. We got up at around 07:00, and I must have slept a little odd, because I had a bit of a crick in my neck. You know, when you either had too many pillows or not enough, that sort of thing. In any case, we got our stuff together at home (tools and various bits and pieces) drove to the yard where Helen keeps her horses (and I now keep my stall and all my merchandise), picked up the keys for the van and started loading.
It turned out that the only van that was available from Nick was a 3.5t box van. Let me tell you, even with all our stuff inside, it looked positively empty. Oodles of space. More about that later. So off we go. Add some fuel to the tank and then a stop in Halesowen at Colourcubed to pick up the business cards, leaflets and banner. And then we hit the road towards Chatsworth. This all went swimmingly until we left the A38 at Alfreton. By that time, Helen was driving because my neck was starting to give me some serious grief.
Now, instead of instructing my map app to find the easiest route, it was showing me the shortest route. Well, well, well. We lost our way several times, with all those windy roads and me not being able to turn my head very well. Just as well that we set out early.
We finally arrived on the showgrounds around 15:00, which turned out to be a blessing, because I had received an SMS from the RCA telling me not to come before 14:00, as they had to put some extra flooring into the tent after the heavy rains of the previous two days.
We had a 3m x 2.5m stall, in between Jane and Sean from Norwich selling leather handbags and Kathy and Colin selling Baavets (duvets and pillows from pure wool). There were about 20 traders in the RCA tent, and only the guys opposite Kathy and Colin had some wood items for sale, together with their crockery, all made in Tunisia. This was actually the slightly disappointing thing about the RCA tent: only about half of the stalls were occupied by actual makers of items, the rest were all just traders.
We could get the van quite close to the stall (another blessing), and erection of the stall went smoothly, except for a few things we need to just consider next time. Firstly, the corner braces are not 90 degrees, they are slightly overbent, therefore widening the U-shape of the stall. Something I will need to address before the next show. Secondly, and that was a little surprise, the panels, when screwed together, also showed quite a bend in the front. A little inspection showed that the minutest overhang of the plywood boards against the pine frames caused this. In the end, we only used two screws per panel instead of three, and loosened them all a little bit and it all went perfectly fine. Here’s a picture.
I am really happy with this stand. It looks almost like a small portable gallery, just what I wanted. The banner on top works well, and although it is a bit shouty, I am not ashamed of it. We faffed around quite a bit with all the items to find the optimum display, but in the end the stall worked very well.
Once this was all set up, around 19:00, we made our way to our overnight accommodation. Helen had booked us a room through Derbyshire Country Houses at Riber Hall. This is part of a small village right behind Riber Castle, on top of a mountain (OK, large hill) overlooking Matlock and the gorge. The room was on the top floor of a converted hay barn, and let me tell you, it was absolutely adorable. It had a four poster bed, some beautiful old furniture, a small kitchenette (self-catering!) and an en-suite bathroom. And an excellent view over the countryside.
By this time, I was in pain. I had been sweating heavily during the setup, the sun was out, and at the same time a strong, gusty wind blew, which would not have helped with the muscle spasm in my neck. So I had myself a really nice hot bath, and we got some dinner from the Wetherspoon in Matlock, pretty much the only choice at that time of the night. And then off to bed, after all it was an early start the next morning. Little did I know what was lying ahead…