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Portobello Road: Home to a strange and motley crew of divvies, poseurs and nostalgia freaks

I delivered the final draft of my memoir a few months ago, and as a result of watching too much television, I decided to reinvent myself as a "divvy". This is what Lovejoy (currently repeating on Yesterday) calls diviners of the genuine article. A divvy will get a tingling feeling running down his or her spine, a "shiver-me-timbers there's Spanish gold to be plundered" intimation that thrills the nerve ends and focuses the senses. I felt it when I found my first jardiniere. Deep in the bowels of an arcade on Portobello I came across a pitch selling eastern artefacts. The proprietors were as dark-eyed and mysterious as T.S. Eliot's merchant and I sniffed a story. A genuine antique tells a story, and divvies love a story. This story, as Lovejoy would have it, is about greed, desire, love and death. There amongst the rugs and hookahs was a stoneware buxom pot glazed in sky-dipped blue with a slip-cast frieze in modest greys and taupe running round it. Doulton Lambeth in the Byzantine! The proprietor wanted sixty; I got him down to forty-five. Result! I love to haggle — it makes my nerve ends tingle with the derring-do of it. I took my jardiniere home and did the research.

Initials engraved into the clay revealed the designer to be Louisa Wakely. She was one of many female potters hired by Doulton at the turn of the 20th century. This pot was Transition period — moving from Victorian to Art Nouveau. The frieze reflects this in its organic scrolls and flower stems burgeoning into the trumpets of lilies. The ceramics industry was one of the few employers of young women that allowed them to express their artistry. In the world of antiques you get all the best stories - but like the stories behind scrimshaw, pig benches and oliphants, it isn't always pretty. But it makes you feel alive. 

Lovejoy was made in the Eighties when our dearly departed national treasure was ruling/ruining/running the new-brand UK, and Ian McShane had a mullet. There was still a cash economy in those days and there were still abandoned barns that could be filled with loot, Staffordshires and armoires. Where are these spaces now? These spaces that have evaded regulations? There is only one left in London, as far as I know. But my little wilderness is under threat. Portobello Road, at least the patch under the Westway, will soon come under the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's remit as a Community and Enterprise Hub. In other words, the strange and motley crew of divvies, poseurs, nostalgia freaks and part-time fences (don't ask) will flee in diverse directions as clipboards and committee meetings have their wicked way. As a result, the weekly flea market will lose its scruffy charm in much the same way Shepherd's Bush has been submerged by steel-and-concrete walkways and vertical gardens. London is always building itself, adding layer upon layer with relentless regularity, all the while disregarding its citizens' laments.

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