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Mad Dealers #8
by Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

In the 80s in Paris one did not meet many dealers or people in the trade who braved crossing the channel. Paula was an eccentric exception!

A mousy Englishwoman with a plum in her throat, Paula was a ceramist who repaired museum quality fine ceramics. Her connection with Paris was her arty twenty something daughter who lived in the Marais close to the Jewish Rue de Rosier around the corner from Goldenberg, the famous kosher restaurant.

Paula was 'invisible' wearing a pale blue twinset probably left over from the 60s, Amami wavy short light brown hair and the inevitable string of Majorcan double pearls. Like a mouse, she would scurry around Marche Vanves on a Saturday and Clignancourt on a Sunday looking for china or pieces of ceramics she would take back to London to resell or use for repairing her valuable ceramics.

At some stage we had lunch in the 4th in a local bistro where I noticed Paula was 'careful' with her Francs! However, we promised to meet Chez Elle in the wrong end of trendy Chelsea near Worlds End off the famous Kings Road although the only thing we had in common was that we were both British and in the same trade.

Her abode could have been nice but astonishly it was a mere filthy hovel due to her kiln blackening her kitchen ceiling and walls which were thick with cooking splattered fat and grease on all the working surfaces from cooking. The word cleaning was unheard of let alone dusting. She and Quentin Crisp could have been soul mates!

Her living room, with nowhere to sit, was dark with a central dim low wattage naked light bulb revealing a low large circular table that took up most of the living space.  In fact one walked into the lounge with a low polystyrene ceiling as there was no hall in a 70s conversion of what could have been a smart residence. I suppose the walls would have been once upon a time white but with the grime from the kiln, they were decidedly grey!

Her table housed pieces of Sevres ceramics neatly positioned I suppose for her repair work. When a piece was moved or picked up, there was a visible white shape left behind on the table! But how could she see what she was doing even though she worked with a powerful magnifier? Mon Dieu!!

Fortunately I was only invited for a cuppa served in a posh vintage Limoges teacup without a saucer but unfortunately like refugees sitting on upturned wooden Spanish orange crates. Not even a biscuit offered at tea time. Le 4 o'clock! I recall there was a problem to reach her as her phone was upstairs next to her bed and no extension downstairs as she didn't want any distractions while she was repairing fine pieces of porcelain.

Needless to say I only visited her once. I sneezed throughout my depressing visitation but I never forgot the grim, grey grime!

Written on the train coming back from Spitalfields market in London on 13.12.17.
Read on BHCR 15.11.17.