husband Martin and I moved lock stock and barrel
from trendy Notting Hill. We had sold our 'Biba
House' to the antique clock dealer Nigel Raffety,
with a prestigious shop of tick tocks in
Kensington Church Street.
We were meant to be downsizing from a Victorian
house at 164 Kensington Park Road to a
smaller one in Georgian Brighton. Our new house
was immense and not what we meant to buy but my
dear husband jumped up and down when we viewed,
mouthing to me that he wanted it and would not
speak to me if he didn't get his 'dolls house'.
Bang went the plan to make a killing on the
property market and downsize, investing the vast
profit on stocks and shares and semi retire. In
fact, we ended up with two enormous drawing rooms
with a gracious hall in-between to be opened up
for the receptions and lavish parties we were not
going to be giving.
How I longed for a large burgundy sofa so I could
stretch out in front of the fake roaring Georgian
style gas fire. I chose the front reception room
and decorated it a la francaise. It looked out
onto Hanover Crescent's lovely gardens with trees
and shrubs tendered by Richard, our talented
gardener. But I had nowhere to sit and
contemplate. Martin had the inevitable goggle box
in the back lounge with two maroon sofas from our
London house so he was alright Jack!
I was not but a trip to London to meet an old
friend changed all that. She choose to meet at
Liberty's social stationary department. After we
looked at blank books and cards, we ventured to
the Indian textiles department and then I got
bored 'window' shopping. I wandered off and
accidentally found myself in the small furniture
department. Nothing there visually caught my
attention until I was leaving. I stopped and
There waiting for my body to sink heavily into it,
I saw not one but
two enormous regal sofas in burgundy. Just my
style! Antique looking with a long wooden curved
pelmet above the feet. A sofa for three. Big and
deep enough to sleep on in front of the roaring
flames in the marble Georgian hearth. The sister
two seater next to it seemed abandoned. No price
ticket either. Priceless!
I tested the quality of the sumptuous textile
upholstery. Satisfied I sunk into the abundant
cushions propped up along the back. There were
about four enormous ones. I wanted these sofas at
I collared a young 'lovely' with a plum in his
throat demanding to know the price of both sofas.
He coughed nervously and asked me to make an
offer! And this was Liberty's? He then confessed
the retail price had been £2,500 for the large
one and £1,500 for the smaller one. But the
famous unnamed owner had sent them back and
Liberty's could not refuse!
Who had graced these sofas? He could not say. The
small department obviously had no room for them
and they were already second hand! He
showed me a minute scratch on the pelmet and a
slightly wonky arm. Easily rectified but I
noticed a slight white stain near to my derrière.
Who had been bonking after closing time I
The very gay salesman was pleading with me with
his eyes, casually mentioning that there would be
a sale in two weeks time and I could make a 'reasonable'
offer. Transport would be £50 extra. He didn't
even have a camera to take a photo and iPhones
had not been invented!
I returned and excitedly described the sofas to
Martin. 'Get them,' he said, 'I trust your good
taste and judgement'. I rang after two weeks when
the sale was to begin asking for the young man. 'I
can offer £650 for the pair including polishing
the scratch, mending the wobbly arm and CLEANING
THE SPUNK OFF THE CUSHION!!' I commanded him.
There followed a nervous British cough. He said
he had to speak to his manager and would call me
back within the hour.
All agreed and a suggested £750 was accepted. We
became the proud owners of a regal addition to
our already prestigious Hanover Crescent historic
house which Dickens and Hardy had slept in.
I recounted this Liberty saga to a sofa bed
dealer I knew in Brighton. 'Jilliana' he said, 'you
should not have used the vulgar word spunk but
in The Yellow Book Cafe, Brighton October, 2016.