Random Recollections

Random Recollections
I did not join the ABA when first asked to by Peter Miller, but left it until I felt I would not be too embarrassed by my stock if I did Olympia.

My first Olympia did not start well, with the rotten shelves collapsing – the little metal bits shoved through were not long enough – depositing a run of Wisdens on top of a W.G. Grace plate, which shattered into ten pieces. Management in the shape of Adrian Harrington disclaimed all responsibility but bought me a bottle of wine.  T. L. Dallas paid up quickly. It was at the same fair that Hugh Pagan’s stand collapsed, with an almighty crash, depositing long runs of large architectural magazines on the floor.

I was wearing a virulently coloured club cricket tie, to which I was not entitled, and on the second day was approached by an elderly Swedish gentleman, impeccably dressed in a dove-grey suit, who asked if the tie was for sale. Of course I said yes, and he sat on my chair to arrange payment. We had a pleasant chat and after I had wrapped the tie he strolled off, leaving a pool of yellow liquid steaming on my chair.

Astonishingly I decided to do more ABA fairs, and the second one was in the George Hotel, at the end of George Street in Edinburgh. We used glass cases that had been stored in the basement of Elizabeth Strong’s shop and smelt strongly of damp, so the top needed to be propped open all the time, rather negating the purpose of a safe glass case. I was next to Paul Minet and my first attempt at conversation was when I said to Mrs Minet “I like your husband’s plus fours”, only to receive the crushing reply “They are not plus fours, they are plus twos”. I still do not know the difference.

The expenses for the fair were paid by one purchase, a large Scottish plate book, bought in an Edinburgh shop on the day before the fair and sold to Alan Grant at the fair. Very satisfying.

Olympia has been very good and very bad for me. It is quite nerve wracking seeing so much business going on before the public get in, and knowing as a cricket specialist that I shall sell nothing to the trade. However it seems to work, and there are decent restaurants around to relax in.

One of my favourites is the Pope’s Eye, located in a splendidly dull street at the back of Olympia. It is a small shopfront restaurant with the chef in plain view at the back. No starters and only two desserts, but you go there for the main course, which is steak or steak, Aberdeen Angus, flown down from Scotland twice a week, with the choice being rump, fillet or sirloin. Then all you need to decide is the size, and you can have anything from 3oz to 30oz. Add chips, a huge selection of sauces and a decent bottle of red and you have a dream meal. I thought 30oz was impossible at one sitting and challenged my dining companions, promising to pay for it if anyone could eat it. Two years ago Joe McCann accepted the challenge, and I booked a table for the Friday. He starved himself on Thursday and Friday and arrived sharpset and ready to eat. When we saw the mammoth pillow-sized steak the betting was against him, but he finished it – with the last portion being reheated – and even ate all his chips, and to rub it in a portion of sticky toffee pudding. That cost me £50, but I don’t begrudge it. It is always good to see a master at work.

I think it was at the Edinburgh fair that, with Steve Liddle, I went to a Chinese restaurant where they showed us to a small table. When it came time to order we were up to about five dishes and thinking of more when the waiter held his hand up and said “You need bigger table”.  I’m quite proud of that. 
Chris Saunders - www.cricket-books.com