In the last of a series of reports filed from Belfast by Richard Weston, our intrepid correspondent peers into the dark corners of The Shop With No Name
It came out of the blue. Totally unexpected. Couldn't have been more of a surprise actually. About, oh I don't know, four or five weeks ago, what used to be a boarded-up bingo hall, just over the road from our studio, re-opened its year-or-more-closed shutters. But there's no more "two fat ladies" or "clickety-clicks" now; instead, we have a veritable emporium of vintage delights.
The Shop With No Name (which, incidentally, isn't its name, it hasn't got one) is both a boon and a curse.
If ever there was an ideal lunchtime distraction for me, this was it, in all its mixed up, ephemeral, kitsch, government surplus, dead man's stuff glory.
Packed full of the unexpected, so far I've invested good money in such valueless nonsense as: employment cards from the 1970s, an embroidered souvenir pennant from Lourdes, a rather fine and mighty T-square like I used in art school; a Canadian Airways luggage tag and, very best of all, a letterpress printer's composing stick.
And therein is the curse: I can't resist a bit of vintage trivia. So having a shop just over the road is far too close to resist. Thankfully, to date, I've displayed just about enough discipline to only purchase small, low cost objects. This means I've managed to abstain from shelling out on the old bicycle in the window, side-lined the fully working manual till, ignored the Olivetti Lettera 25 typewiter (just) and walked away from the not-so-old but bargain-priced Eye magazines from the early to mid 1990s (three quid a pop, they're listed on ebay at £30 each).
The crammed-full shop is run by Ian and Michael, who use it to clear surplus materials not needed for their prop hire operation. And they have all sorts of stuff. Interesting, surprising stuff; some familiar, some never seen before. Some you'd probably be happy not to see again but lots and lots that is quite fascinating.
I couldn't help wonder, where does someone get so much weird stuff from? So, the other day, I asked Ian. With a straight face he said, quite simply, "Robberies, mostly".
The Shop With No Name is on the Lower Newtownards Road, just opposite Portview. If you're nearby, you should drop in and buy something. A set of opticians lenses or a Lady Di plate, perhaps.
We know you will be as sad as we are to bid farewell to Richard, the good news is that you can read much more by him at Ace Jet 170, where he muses on design, typography, ephemera and recent finds from the Shop With No Name.
Last week we hosted a modest event to launch The Look Of London, our new publication which we have produced in a collaboration with Paul Gorman. The map is a celebration of the independent shops and small businesses from which global fashions have sprung, and so we were delighted that we were able to do this in the lovely surroundings of Lewis Leathers, a prime example of just such an enterprise, and one that thankfully still thrives.
It was, to coin a phrase, a dark and stormy night but we were delighted that so many braved the rain and were able to raise a bottle of Saint Craft Lager to this new publication and to the pioneers documented in the map, some of whom joined us on the evening.
Our thanks go to Derek and all at Lewis Leathers, Nicola Murray at Dawbell, Saint Craft Lager, Kitty Regan, and all who showed up.
Top: Nigel Waymouth; Caz Facey and Lloyd Johnson
Middle: Jeff Dexter; Paul Gorman and Bruce Marcus
Above: Derek Harris
All photos by Kitty Regan
We are frequently asked to suggest good places to stay in London, but as residents of this great metropolis, our experience is limited. We can recommend hotels with pleasant bars or restaurants, and point out those with spicy histories or suffering from a particularly lamentable renovation, but if you're asking about clean sheets and a pleasant atmosphere, we come up with little. Until now that is, because if you are planning to stay out east, we recommend Russell's, a delightful bed and breakfast on rapidly-evolving Chatsworth Road.
Russell's is light and clean, homely and well cared-for but not fussy in any way; it's not the bed and breakfast of popular fiction. It is run by Annette with Reggie, her beautiful whippet, an excitable, elegant assistant. If we found somewhere as nice as this to stay while on our travels, we would be very pleased indeed.
Russell's of Clapton, 123 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LA. Tel: 07976 669 906
Below, Reggie vamps it up. Photograph by Instagram user whybray.
Our guides are printed in England on 100% recycled paper