It used to be a mix of Aladdin's cave, pirate's den and older boys clubhouse. One of those secret places that made you feel glowing with smugness for knowing about it. Hugely satisfying to take visitors from out of town to and wait for the inevitable gasps - that kind of place.
Treasure hunting here was not to be taken lightly though. Especially not while carrying an oversized handbag. 'You break it you buy it' meant you could just end up with an 18th century squinting Madonna. A broken one. Then there were the dangers of setting foot on the creaking and groaning mezzanine, wondering whether that second helping you had the night before was going to prove fatal. Ah, that feeling of indecision in the pit of your stomach as you reached the end of the entresol - would it be best to chance a quick yet light-footed dash back (desperately trying not to knock anything over), or try your luck descending the Spiral Staircase of Death: wobbly, narrow and out to ruin your heels.
Risking your neck could be worth it though. Really worth it if you allowed the minx in you to come out and play. Which isn't all that hard when there are pretty things to be had, let's be honest. I struck some really good bargains here with the odd lash flutter, a demure smile and a whispered 'well I don't know' while discussing the price. Whoever said I even resorted to twirling my hair is a big fat liar though - I haven't stooped that low since I was six. And even then it made me feel quite ridiculous.
It was a dream of a place but sadly, all good things must come to an end. The owner has found himself a lady friend. And wouldn't you know - she likes to play house. All of a sudden the downstairs has a proper floor. A nice one, that you can actually see. No more mad stacking of as many antiquey kitschy items the building can hold. Objects are now arranged in pretty displays. Tasteful. Stylish. CLEAN. Even my old nemesis the mezzanine has been getting quite a makeover. Which hasn't actually stopped the creaking and the groaning and the murmured 'please don't let this be the day the whole bloody thing comes falling down' prayers.
Funny thing though. They've incorporated all the changes I thought would make the place even better, and yet part of the magic is undeniably gone. Goodbye Aladdin's cave, hello upmarket antiques store. Did I mention that prices have gone up significantly?
Lash flutters would now be wasted here. The new lady manageress is patrolling the store. Charming, elegant, sophisticated, she greets visitors with a polite smile. Not to mention a very, very steely gaze.
All photos were taken post makeover.