Harry Turner's Episodes of Personal History
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Build or Buy?


Fancy you remembering my struggling efforts to mould dinosaurs! I 'borrowed' the clay from someone going to pottery classes, and had a somewhat clumsy stegosaurus, and a more ambitious triceratops, hanging around waiting to be fired for ages. By the time I found someone to take 'em in hand I think the trike had been damaged, so only the steg got fired and glazed, with one of the back fins collapsing in the process.

Then in the mid-70s one of those doomed enterprises attempting to sell cosy watercolours, provide a framing service and offering artistic odds'n'ends, opened at the far end of the village. I passed it on my trips up to Bredbury library, and was captivated by the appearance of a vast porcelain triceratops on offer in the window. White glaze, some 20" long and 10" high, a defiant glare and aggressive stance directed at window-gazers - I promptly fell in love with it.

The shop was an erratic opener: every time I passed the white trike fascinated me, and by the time I found the premises actually open, I was all psyched up to dash in and enquire the cost of the trike in the window.

I got a rum reception: the lady behind the counter countered my enquiry by asking all sorts of questions seeking to establish my reasons for wanting to buy before she committed herself. I slowly gathered that the pottery had some slight defects which would upset an avid collector of pieces but perhaps not be of moment to an avid devotee of dinosaurs, and this factor affected the price she was likely to demand. Or it may have been that she couldn't bear to part with such an eye-catcher in the window.

Eventually I dragged a price out of her, glad that no other buyers appeared to be in the offing; it made me gasp a bit, but after some haggling and an arrangement to pay in instalments, I toted the carefully packed prize home dreading an accident on the way. I drooled over the new acquisition and hid my amateurish stegaurus in the background.

This was the time when my cataracts were getting me down and I was defiantly taking up photography (to prove something or other); so I should have some pics, I took of my friend tromping through the wastes of our grass patch...

Some time later I noticed that the art shop was giving up; a "closing down sale" poster appeared in the window. The sale seemed to last a while, and then on one of my journeys to the library, I was transfixed by the appearance of a white stegosaurus among the display of everything that must go...

Once again I encountered that reluctance to actually part with the dinosaur - it was a "second", (and even I could see one or two chips off the tail spikes, and some unsuccessfully glazed pits in places), was I interested in it as a porcelain piece or was I perhaps more interested in dinosaurs, and therefore not so critical?

Being experienced in handling these fine points, I attempted to establish if this was sone of a series, who was the modeller, and find out a bit of background info. But I drew a blank there. However, we negotiated a price, considerably lower than for the triceratops, and once again I carefully picked my way home, desperately scared that an upstanding paving stone might cost me my prize, and spent the rest of the day gloating over my dinosaur collection.

Currently the models lord it over the classical records shelves, between the speakers and the CD player. Very impressive: the trike is a convenient wearer of headphones, and national health shades when not in use, quite domesticated by now. Aas, I've never found out any details of the origins of the pieces, but I'm glad I got hold of 'em when I did. My feeble effort at modelling was discreetly disposed of... I recall that my record-buying was severely inhibited for a period when the purchases were made, but it all seems worthwhile today, and I remain grateful to the arty lady who brought them to my attention even if she didn't reveal all I'd have liked to know about 'em.

I hoped that somewhere, sometime, I'd come across a reference to the originator. But nowt so far. ■

Letter to the Varleys, 23/05/1993

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