The mystery of the Comares prop shop

Luis Vuitton suitcase, Poirot's water spray and other props
Luis Vuitton suitcase, Poirot's water spray and other props / J. R.
  • Items used in Agatha Christie films can be found for sale in an Axarquía village

When thinking of a link between crime writer Agatha Christie and Spain, Poirot’s The Mystery of the Spanish Chest or the writer’s own trips to Mallorca and the Canary Islands may spring to mind. Few, however, would come up with the mountain-top village of Comares in the Axarquía area of Malaga.

For Jim Grindley, 52, a film-set maker originally from London, and his Brimingham-born wife Tammy Haliwell, 41, who runs a property company and teaches dance and fitness, Comares was the obvious choice of location for their shop, bringing a little bit of Poirot and Miss Marple to the Costa del Sol.

The couple opened Props and Vintage Spain in October 2016 and since then have had a steady stream of interested locals and requests for items for fancy dress parties. The plan is to start a website and hire out or sell their eclectic collection of clothes, furniture and props to individuals and local film crews. One of their regular customers is a local Spanish resident, who, Tammy says, “comes in once a month with his pay packet and loves buying lace and scarves from us”.

An eclectic collection

Jim has 18 years’ experience working on major film and television series sets, from Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple to the recent and acclaimed The Night Manager. At the end of filming he says, production companies either “keep or get rid of the props used on set” and, seeing an opportunity either to use them on other sets, or to hire out or sell them, he often buys their unwanted items.

Having had a base in the Comares area for 12 years, Jim says he is looking to spend more time there and that is why he decided to bring his quirky collection from Ireland, where he previously had a similar shop, to the village. “I wanted to spend more time here so I decided to relocate it all,” he says.

Among the items in their shop, are a large 1920s Luis Vuitton suitcase, thought to have been used by Poirot’s cousin in Evil Under The Sun (1982), a small water spray also used by the Belgian detective in several films to water his beloved bonsais, and a lamp used by Timothy Spall in the 2013 BBC series The Blandings to check on his pet pig during the night.

The couple are keen to promote the idea of upcycling, restoration and recycling and have a number of items restored by local craftspeople, such as an antique chair which has recently been upholstered by someone in Alcaucín. “We use local people and have a number of contacts such as carpenters, upholsterers etc,” says Jim.

While Tammy confesses she has never really watched any of the productions that Jim has worked on and has “no previous experience of props or shops”, she says she was drawn to helping her husband because she likes the “eclectic, quirkiness of it”.

Wedding inspiration

Jim on the other hand says he “pretty much remembers which items have been used on which films and series” and is able to explain in detail scenes from a long list of films. He admits that he has his “favourite items” which include a Victorian shop mannequin, which he says he refuses to sell. The mannequin has been hired by clothes chain Topshop in the past and has appeared briefly in a film about Lord Lucan. The most unusual thing the collector has bought is a 200-year-old opium bed, which he says is “very unusual”.

The shop itself is an absolute treasure trove of clothes, furniture, accessories and odds and ends. It feels like it could be behind the scenes of any BBC costume drama. “There are a lot of suitcases and poison bottles,” says Jim. “They seem to feature heavily in any Agatha Christie film.”

Jim’s work even inspired the couple’s wedding in 2015, when they got married at the scene in The Night Manager where Hugh Laurie’s character’s son gets kidnapped on the island of Mallorca.

In May the shop’s contents were used in another type of wedding celebration, when an animal charity fundraiser, Married for One Day, was held in the town and participants used items from Jim and Tammy’s collection.

Props and Vintage Spain is open on Saturdays and Sundays by appointment only until the end of June and is located in the small hamlet of Losventorros near Comares. The shop will just be an online outlet, with no physical premises, from July this year.