Southsea and Portsmouth

Deanna and Heather’s Excellent Adventure
There is nothing more novel than a new friend. Finding one is exciting, and like new books they have a kind of mystery which makes for unpredictable experiences.
The end of university is a time for goodbyes, for tearful nostalgia in the face of adult life, and moving on. For me, however, it involved taking the last possible opportunity to say hello. In the messy final two weeks of the last semester, I started talking to Heather, and the conversation never really stopped. The timing was odd, but I soon found myself referring to her as ‘my friend,’ which brings us to this morning.
After a few weeks of chatting, Heather and I decided to go on a joint venture for The Lighter Journal. I did a last minute google search for a map of antique shops in Portsmouth and Southsea, and rushed to Winchester train station, where I waited for my companion. Having trapped myself in this situation, I sat there wondering if the day was going to be fun, or extremely awkward.
What’s a good day out with a friend who you’ve never actually spent time with before? I think in these situations the best thing to do is to throw caution to the wind and go for something memorable.
I had never been antique shopping before. Watching the odd episode of Antiques Road Trip with my grandmother, I had always considered the art of rehoming heirlooms something to save for more seasoned years.
Heather is, however, something of a living antique, embodying her fondness of yesteryear with a forties hairdo, clip-on earrings, and red lipstick. Her previous experience with antique shopping also convinced me that at least I would not be seen as the leader of this expedition.
We caught the 10:19 to Portsmouth & Southsea, and followed my scrappy printout map through the city streets and into the suburbs, where we found our first port of call: Head Case Curios.
The shop was in the middle of a noisy refurbishment, and with its huge display of old records standing in stark contrast to the art deco mirrors behind, the place had a peculiar, patchwork vibe. Selling baby blue furniture in one corner, and crow skulls in another, it seemed like anything could be found there, including the odd missing person.
My personal highlights were a delightful white bicycle, a set of tiny engraved sewing scissors, and a large collection of nipple tassels.
There were also vintage baby clothes, nude paintings, leather sofas, and platform shoes, together with dinner sets, decanters and a magnificent array of hats. For the more discerning customer, there was even a deer head with a monocle, a full skeleton, and a board of discontinued Lego mini-figures. In short, the place supplied nothing that I will ever need, but a huge assortment of mad clutter to empty my purse and bring a smile to my face.
My favourite shop of the day was Langford Antiques, which can be best described as the messiest shop in which I have ever set foot. It was a disaster zone, manned by a single woman buried behind a table spread with trinkets and spectacles. Finding anything worth having would take a military level of determination, but it was the sort of place an eager shopper could spend hours sifting for treasure.
I settled on a basket of buttons from the uniform of the Royal Engineers.

Throughout the morning we toured Bellamy’s, Parmiters Antiques, and various other dusty emporiums of brilliant junk. It was a browsing experience like no other, because it was so far removed from the high street, with its predictable fashion chains, and so different from trawling the internet-suggested links. I can’t remember the last time I thought shopping was fun, but this was a revelation.

Everywhere I looked there was something new to see, and even though my finances didn’t stretch far enough for an Anubis bookend or a Victorian birdcage, I found that looking was, for once, satisfying in itself.
Having perused the wares, we pottered down to the seafront for ice-cream. I found a lighter in a tobacco shop, and sat clicking it as we watched the yachts bob along the horizon. I can’t really remember what we talked about, but I do remember laughing, and watching other tourists potter down the white, gleaming pier in the afternoon sun.
Heather is going away from Winchester soon, as am I, and there will be no small distance between us, but I think someday we’ll adventure again.

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