30 December 2011

Resolving To Do Less Busy and More Funnerer

Not a lot to report this week because we are running about like Headless Chooks – or Hitler’s Chooks as an Irish friend always sounds like he’s saying.  We had our second best week ever, and have been opening several boxes a day just to keep the shelves looking stocked.  Can’t complain about that.

So I still haven’t gotten around to trying to get photos onto a separate page of the Blog (if that’s even possible), but everything I would have photographed I’ve already sold anyway.  But I’ll get there.  I also haven’t even looked at most of the copper, and the pieces I was able to put out yesterday were sold yesterday so there went the copper display again, but it’s okay because there’s plenty more where they came from.  And we really do have some lovely wooden items to come out, but nice old wooden things always need a decent wax to present them to their best advantage, and we haven’t had a chance to get to work on them yet.  But we will.  Real soon.

The only out-of-the-ordinary thing that happened this week was that I fell down nine steps on the way home after work one afternoon.  Goodness knows how it happened – one minute I’m walking up the steps and the next I’m flat on my back half way back to the carport.  And boy did it hurt – I could hardly breath for the pain and I thought I’d broken my hip.  But it turned out to be one of the few occasions when it was handy to have a bit of padding on the hips, and even though I bounced off a sticky-out rock on the way down and I’m still limping a few days later, no harm appears to be done.

And I don’t even have the faintest bruise to show for it!  For that much pain, I want evidence of my suffering via dead impressive big black bruises.  But nup, if I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know I had nearly killed or broken myself.  I was once bitten by a python, and by golly that hurt too, but after the bite marks went away, which was quite quickly, there wasn’t even a decent scar to show for it.  Same with that wretched meerkat that bit me on our last buying trip – no sign that I was ever mauled.  I’m afraid I don’t cope well with pain and I want evidence that I’ve been through it, but I’m thwarted at every turn.

Doug has been telling me a lot how glad he is that I didn’t break my neck and kill myself, which is a lot better than him saying Rats!  But it has made me consider how quickly and unexpectedly bad things can happen, and how we’d better be sure to have a good time as much as we can.  So this is my New Year’s Resolution – have a good time in 2012.  I think that will be much easier to keep than my usual Resolutions, and we are already off to a good start by skipping off to Europe twice a year for our buying trips, which are always terrific fun.  So it’s for periods in-between the sojourns that we will need to keep the good times happening.  Can’t see why that would present a problem, and it will include simple things like more walks on Noosa beach.

And yes, for all the When-Will-Your-Website-Be-Ready Nazis out there who nag me a lot – I’m working on it!  Okay not really, but I promise I will in 2012.  And finally this will be the year when the rest of our long-awaited house will be built.  These are my Harder-to-Keep Resolutions, but should still be achievable.  We’ll see.

22 December 2011

It's Here!

The first part of our shipment has been released by Quarantine and we have started presenting it for sale.  And hurrah, it’s going like hot cakes!  It’s always such a relief when your new stock is so well received because we buy as best as we can, so if no-one liked it that would be an issue that would be pretty hard to overcome. 

Doug went down to Brisbane on Monday to be present for the Quarantine Inspection and to pick up the first load of things that Quarantine had no interest in (they kept more than half, but he still had a van load to bring back).  And right in front of him the Quarantine dude got his knife out and started bodging at the items!  Doug pointed out that we’d rather not have knife marks in a 300 year old coffer, and that we were quite prepared to pay for fumigation rather than have our stock ruined.  The Quarantine guy seemed quite surprised by this attitude, but stopped digging his knife in the antiques.  What is in the heads of these people?  They don’t seem to care less about what they’re potentially ruining, and if the item is going to be fumigated anyway then why not just do that?  I have no wish to import some terrible bug, but I always offer to have the entire shipment fumigated every single time, so there’s no need to go hacking away at my stuff.  But it never changes.

Anyway, while Doug was collecting the new things I started to clear some shelf space in the shop by packing away some of the older stock.  That turned out to take quite a few hours because I have to clearly record everything I put aside so I can readily access it when I want it out again, but I had Billy Idol and Blondie and AC/DC and Status Quo turned up load and bopped about the shop while I worked.  And no smart arse cracks about my age – as revealed by my taste in music – will be entertained, thank you.  It’s a retro shop – I play retro music.  That’s my story, anyway.

Eventually, though, I had to write a sign and stick it in the window because people I don’t know were coming in (even though the door was closed and the Closed sign was up) saying Oh no, you’re not closing down are you?  I rather think I would not be quite so chipper and inclined to bop about if we were closing down, but I assured everyone that it was in fact the opposite of closing – the arrival of new stuff.  And then I needed to write another sign and put that on the door because not enough people were reading a bright red sign smack bang in the middle of the front window about the new things arriving and were still coming in to offer commiserations.

So then we had Unpack Day on Tuesday.  I must say that Unpack Day beats Unpack Night hands down – it’s hard work but at least you get home at a reasonable hour.  And thanks to a couple of very kind friends who came to help, it was done faster and was more fun than usual.  Doug had to be sent home to get more boxes late in the afternoon, when we realised that we didn’t have enough to fill the shelves, even after unpacking for a few hours.  And we had to get in early on the Wednesday Market Day to put the descriptor and price tags on the last few items, and then we were set.

The response has been huge.  Hurrah!  I knew I had bought an awful lot of beautiful glass, much of it Art Deco, but when you see it out together on the shelves it looks great.  Today I had to get up early again (which sucks) so I could get a few more boxes sorted so they could replace yesterday’s sales.  If this keeps up we shall run out of stock well before our next trip in March 2012, but we’ll see what happens.  You expect a lot of activity in the week before Christmas, although January tends to be our best month.

I haven’t even started to look at all the copper we bought, most of the enamelware has yet to make an appearance, some really lovely lamps need to be rewired before they can come in, most of the lovely scales aren’t out (although I did sell those excellent lolly scales yesterday), and all in all most of the stuff isn’t out yet.  But nonetheless I’m very happy with how the shelves look, and even happier knowing that I haven’t picked the eyes out of the stock but instead just opened random boxes. 

Eumundi Green (a local community newspaper) has now advised its readers that I have a selection of photos of some of the new stuff on the Blog.  I had said I was trying to figure out if I could create a new page with photos, not that I had done it and there were pictures to be seen!!  So having been misreported the pressure is now on for me to get over being a Techno-Numpty, and if it’s possible to put some photos on a separate page I shall do that.  Very soon.

15 December 2011

Cats and (Silly) Cows

I've been doing a lot of talking about the cat in the last week. I swear I'm going to make a sign to hang around her neck:

Yes I am real.
My name is Calypso.
I am a Bengal.
No not a tiger, a domestic cat.
My originating breed was an Asian Leopard Cat.
Yes I was expensive.
Yes it's rude to ask how much.
No you may not pick me up.
Yes you may pat me (for a while).
Yes you may photograph me.
Don't forget to look at the antiques while you're here.

I think that will cover the same questions I've been asked eleventy-hundred times as well as point out that people have actually come into an antiques shop, not a cat show.  Having said that, Calypso is gorgeous and getting more gorgeous every week.  She’s almost four months old and is getting a long gangly leg look that is very cute.  She is a media megastar now, having had her photograph appear in Eumundi Green (the local rag), although I have copped a deal of criticism for her photograph not doing her justice.  But hey, you try photographing a kitten who has decided she's got a rat in her head and is dashing from pillar to post, with a deadline for when the photograph must be submitted.  I don't know how animal photographers do it.

Last week saw some good selling in the shop, and so far this week is shaping up to be better.  Finally we’re starting to sell Christmas presents, so it turns out that there will be the Spirit of Giving after all this year, not a bunch of Scrooges.  Things don’t have to be expensive to be beautiful, and people seem to be really taking care to select something that their loved ones will appreciate rather than dashing in and making quick decisions.  Mind you, we’ll see what happens on Christmas Eve, with the last minute shoppers.

The wait for the new stock is becoming interminable.  The Customs Agent reported on Monday that the ship hadn’t even been fully unloaded yet – and it arrived the previous Wednesday.  But hopefully it will go directly from the ship to the Agent and they have a fumigation chamber on site so fingers crossed it will go straight into fumigation.  That way there is a prospect of picking it up next week.

We do still have a bunch of furniture from previous trips that hasn’t made it into the shop yet, though, so we can still continue to put new things out.  I put a heap of jewellery out yesterday and promptly sold a fair bit of it, and in the window we put a beautiful small Georgian English walnut chest of drawers, which is a little over 200 years old.  Small chests of drawers are always more popular than whacking great pieces, because it doesn’t matter how big or small your house is, a dinky chest of drawers will always fit somewhere.  This one has book-matched veneer, which is always a good sign of quality because it was quite wasteful of the wood to achieve the ‘mirrored’ effect.  It’s a lovely little piece, with the additional benefit of its original locks and key, plus it has a pull-out slope above the top drawer which is a bit more unusual.  So anyway, we’ll see how long it lasts.  The last time I had a small chest of drawers they weren’t as good as this piece but they didn’t last a week before they were hauled off to Sydney in the back of someone’s car.

I must say I am partial to Georgian design, which I find sits nicely with Art Deco because they both have simple, elegant lines.  We’ve got Georgian furniture with 1950s Scandinavian lamps,  Australian 1960s chairs and Art Deco coffee tables in our lounge room at the moment (it changes from time to time) and to my eye it works because we keep the lines simple.

Someone from a nearby shop was complaining over dinner the other night about Customer Fatigue, where they had a whole bunch of rude and extra demanding customers to deal with.  Touch wood, but it’s been a long time since we had someone like that, and I do have my favourite television line in waiting to use on the next horrible one to come in.   But I did just have a stupid woman come in, who said What are you doing open on a Thursday?  I said We’re always open on Thursdays.  And she said No you're not!  I told her that we’ve had the shop for almost three and a half years now and although I might have been living in a parallel universe in that time, in my reality the shop had been open every Thursday for that entire period.  And in homage to Myth Busters I said I reject your reality, and substitute my own.  And she just looked at me blankly.  If one was cruel one might say bovinely.  And I am cruel, so let’s just call a spade a spade and say she was a silly cow.  I hate it when people don’t get my clearly very amusing jokes. 

And then she said Well anyway I’m on holidays and don’t normally come to Eumundi during the week.  So like she’d know when I’m open during the week!  She seemed to be taking the opportunity to have a little brain holiday too, I think.  But stupid isn’t horrible, just tedious, so my favourite television line remains in reserve for future use.

08 December 2011

The End (of the wait) Is Nigh

What a good week.  Friends came by to help set up the shop’s Christmas Tree, which we decided to decorate with jewellery.  So we blinged-up the tree and had a laugh and a bit of fun doing it, and it looked pretty.  For the coming week the plan was to deck the tree with kitchen utensils (fa la la la lah, la la la la).  Nice, French, enamel kitchen utensils.  Trust me, it would look good.  Undoubtedly odd, and not your usual Christmas Tree attire, but it would look good.  However, Douglas came up with the fabulous idea of decorating the tree with lots of our hand-blown glass Japanese fishing floats.  They’re about 100 years old and beautiful.  Each one is unique because it’s hand-made, and they should glint nicely in the light.  So this idea wins, and that is the decorating plan for the window today.

We’ve decided to not have a Christmas Tree at home this year, because it is certain that I would soon be reporting on The Great Christmas Tree Disaster, with Calypso seeking to be the furry angel on top of the tree and it all ending in tears.  She is sufficiently ratbagish and knows no fear, plus she’s a baby for whom a real tree with gently waving branches and lots of twinkly baubles would be too much temptation.  She went absolutely nuts when she noticed a giant stick insect outside our kitchen window this morning, and tried to shimmy up the window frame to get to it.  She crashed and burned (and spilt water and cat food everywhere) but the point is that she didn’t hesitate to try to climb when something interesting caught her attention. 

The very first thing she did when she came into the shop after the Christmas Tree in the window was erected was try to pull it down.  Every time she goes near it she starts batting at it and chewing the pine needles and testing the strength of the branches, and that’s under my supervision, let alone by herself in the middle of the night in our lounge room.  So there’s no point ignoring trouble when it’s so clearly staring you in the face, and this year we shall go Tree-less and see how things shape up next year.

Meanwhile, yay!, the good ship Bunga Raya Dua has finally docked in the Port of Brisbane with our new shipment aboard.  So far so nothing from Customs and Quarantine, but we live in hope that they will live up to their claim of clearing goods within 3-4 days of it being offloaded from the ship.  So far it’s never been less than a fortnight to get clearance from them, but a girl’s got to have something to hope for and dream about, right?

I have taken the quiet time prior to the arrival of our new shipment to catch up on some reading.  Am I the last person on the planet to have finally read Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?  And the other two books in the series, naturally.  It took a while for me to get my eye around all the Swedish names, but what good books they are.  Got me intrigued early on, and then I had to devote almost every waking moment to them until they were finished.  One of the benefits of being self-employed is that you can elect to not be particularly employed whenever you want, and I elected to lay around reading books this week so that was that.  We shall run about like idiots once we take delivery of the new shipment, so resting and building up my reserves was entirely justified.  That’s what I say.

Of course that means that I am now horribly behind in getting the description and price tags ready for the things that will be put straight into the shop once we take delivery.  So I have a few days of solid work ahead of me, but I’ll get there.  We are sufficiently well organised that I know exactly what is in each box (okay it’s more-or-less rather than exactly, but mostly I know what is where).  And that means I can predetermine what stock will come out on Unpack Night.  Unpack Night happens the night on which we have taken delivery of the new shipment.  We hire a truck and dash down to Brisbane to collect it, then bolt back home, throw the boxes into various storage facilities, then bring the boxes of stock for which I have prepared the description and price tags straight into the shop and unpack them that night.

Unpack Night is getting bigger every year, as various people decide to get a jump on everyone else, and see the first of the stuff immediately as it’s being unpacked.  Many things don’t actually make it into the shop because they are snapped up as soon they are lifted from the boxes, but hey it’s the quick and the dead around here.  So anyway, Unpack Night tends to be a long night for us, but it’s fun and it signals the start a busy and interesting period in the shop.   Plus it’s the date upon which I can officially start planning the next trip.  It’s The Rule – I can’t start planning the next trip until the stock from the previous trip has arrived.  Don’t know why – it’s just The Rule.

01 December 2011

Getting Impatient & Fidgety Now

The fascination with Calypso continues.  One woman came in this week and asked what breed she was, and when I said a Bengal she said OMG, you mean you’re allowed to own tigers in Australia?  No, I said, she’s a domestic cat.  But she looks like a little tiger, she said, are you sure?   I promised her I was sure that Calypso is actually a moggy and not a man-eater in the making (although you never know …).  And anyway, she clearly looks like a little leopard rather than a tiger.

She continues to terrorise the entire household, with all of us – humans and bigger moggies – covered in itsy-bitsy kitten-claw-sized scratches and I have yet another kitten-tooth-sized hole in my finger where she tried to accept a cat-lolly from me in the midst of a frenzied play session, and missed the lolly as she dashed past but got my finger.  As Doug says, she is 2kg of Bloody Maniac.

Our good news of the week is that the freight company called and said our shipment is definitely on track for a 6 December arrival into Brisbane.  Hurrah!  This year we should have our new stock well before Christmas. 

But meanwhile we wait.  And get impatient.  And squabble over TV shows.  What is wrong with Inspector Rex, I ask you?  According to Doug the show is just about some stoopid mutt doing improbable things, to the amazement of it’s stoopider human companions, and what’s more it’s in German which is even worse because then you have to concentrate while watching it.  And that just goes to show how little Douglas knows.  Inspector Rex is actually a Wonder Mutt, a Master Mind Mutt, an absolute Paragon of Muttdom.  And if only his handlers knew enough to say Schnell! Befestigen Sie die Eurozonen krise, Jungen (Quick!  Fix the Eurozone crisis, Boy) then the world would be a better place.  That’s how good Inspector Rex is.

By contrast, what a bore is Ice Road Truckers?  This is what I was forced to sit through instead.  And I swear the narrator on that show moonlights as a John Wayne impersonator.  If only he had said Howdy,Pilgrim, I could have been absolutely sure.  But he did mention that the trucks were going to Dead Horse (a classic western name) and he even said at one point that the trucks were locked and loaded (and how is that relevant to anything but guns?).  We’re talking the John Wayne of the cowboy movies, where his slow-but-every-word-correctly-enunciated diction seemed somehow appropriate, not the John Wayne of the Green Berets, where his slow-but-every-word-correctly-enunciated diction was just silly in emergency military situations.  His whole crew would be dead before he could finish warning them.  Plus he was waaay too old to be a Green Beret on field operations in any case.

But I digress.  Yes the Ice Road is indeed made of ice, and I for one would have to be paid an awful lot of money to drive on it.  Bits of this road are just Arctic Ice, with nothing but Arctic Ocean under it.  Personally, I like a bit of dirt under my roads.  But other than that, the show is a big yawn.  The trucks go up the road, the trucks go back down the road.  Except for Virgil (or whatever his name was, but a good cowboy western name would be Virgil).  Virgil was the only entertainment on the show because Virgil, while reaching for an unidentified item on his dashboard, drove his giant truck off the road and into a ditch.  A big icy ditch.  And he wasn’t hurt, so you were free to mock at his poor driving skills.

So then the question became:  What was Virgil reaching for?  This was conveniently skipped over by John Wayne, in his slow-but-every-word-correctly-enunciated diction.  But it was the only thing on the show worth paying attention to.  Why wouldn’t they mention what Virgil was reaching for?  Why the conspiracy of silence?  What could be so terrible/embarrassing/illegal that Virgil invoked his You Can’t Blab clause with the show’s producers?  Now I shall have to die wondering.  And yet, in keeping with the western theme created by the John Wayne impersonator/narrator, I like to think that the true story is that Virgil had already reached for the chewing tobaccy on his dashboard, and crashed off the road when he went to spit it out the window, only to realise that the window was shut because it’s dang cold out there on the Ice Road.  Now that would be stoopid.  You wouldn’t catch Inspector Rex doing anything of the sort.

24 November 2011

Wating, Waiting, Waiting

Well this has been a quiet week, with not much to report.  Our window display this week is a collection of lovely old storage jars and beautiful tins, and all the jars have something in them.  Doug suspects that I am the reason that the jar with the jelly lollies has been getting progressively emptier, but he can’t prove a thing.

Calypso has now settled in as if she’s always lived with us, with the rest of the Gang entirely accepting of her and her terrorist ambushes.  She’s getting her face washed a lot by the others, and they are so patient with her that they literally let her take food out of their mouths.  What a pushy little miss she is when she believes that food is rightfully hers, but everyone is getting on really well and we’re very glad we have her.

The response to her in the shop continues to be huge, and there hasn’t been a day yet when she hasn’t had her photo taken on multiple occasions.  When she deigns to wake up and pose she’s giving people some great shots.  What a little trooper she is.  One woman came in, though, and asked if I had specially painted her to make her look so exotic.  Yeah lady, I painted the cat.  Klaatu’s getting zebra stripes next week.

Meanwhile, the Customs Agent tells us that our shipment is on track for an early December delivery.  Hurrah!  If we can persuade Customs and Quarantine to get their act together and work promptly to get the consignment through then we should be unpacking well before Christmas.  We know Quarantine will have a hissy fit because there is so much old wood in this shipment, but hey, just fumigate it. 

We always try to give pre-authorisation for fumigation of our shipment because we’re always bringing something wooden out of France, but front-end-loading is apparently beyond Quarantine to deal with, and we always have to wait for them to inspect the shipment and see - OMG there is Foreign Wood in it – and then they decide to fumigate it.   And this, naturally, adds a few days to the clearance process.  And before they decide to fumigate, they often take to our things with knives, bodging them to see if there is active woodworm.  I’m all for killing woodworm if it’s in any of the pieces, but not by stabbing them to death!  When you have a piece of furniture several hundred years old, you don’t need to be seeing knife holes in it when you take delivery.

Anyway, there’s no choice but to chill when dealing with a slow-moving bureaucracy like Quarantine.  People ask why we don’t complain, but it’s because we don’t want an on-purpose go-slow that will lead to even further delays in our taking delivery of our stock.  And put your hand up now if you don’t think that would happen.  We have no choice but to accept incompetent and slow service, of a level that would never be tolerated if it was being done by a private business because it would send the business broke. 

Whatever happened to Key Performance Indicators – real, measurable KPIs – in Government?  When I worked in Government I was aware of a strong resistance by sometimes very senior management to measurable KPIs, on the grounds that if the performance fell short then there would be uncomfortable questions to be answered.  But how slack is that?  I never permitted any areas under my control to have KPIs that were anything other than realistic, achievable (even if we had to sometimes stretch to get there) and entirely measurable.  It’s not that hard to meet realistic KPIs if you have a professional, well-trained workforce.  And therein lays the problem, I suspect.

Of the things that have arrived ahead of the main shipment, it’s just as well there is so much jewellery because it’s got to have become our best selling stock.  Whatever else we sell, we always sell plenty of jewellery.  And that’s great because I love sourcing and buying it, but also problematic because good pieces are hardly thick on the ground and require a bit of ferreting out.  But still, hunting down noice, interesting, unusual things is a large part of the fun of this business.

And an unexpected part of the fun of the hunt has been learning how to buy jewellery in the Paris Markets.  I used to be very “Australian” in my approach – stand back, give people room, wait to be served.  And get nothing.  In fact, get ignored and get nothing.  So I watched the people around me to see what I was doing wrong, and indeed buying jewellery in the Paris Markets is very different to buying pretty well anything else in the Markets or elsewhere in France.  Parisian gels who are buying jewellery tend to be quite assertive, and at times downright pushy in getting you out of the way.  So I’ve learned to stand my ground firmly when I have a good spot and be quite loud when necessary to get the attention of the dealer. 

I know I’m more difficult to engage with than the local buyers, what with my pidgin French, so it’s easier for the dealers to just ignore me if there is someone else they can be serving.  But when it becomes clear that I’m interested in multiple purchases I tend to be forgiven my atrocious accent and limited vocabulary.  I keep saying that I really must have some French lessons.  And I say that for a few weeks after every trip, when the stress of trying to get by in a foreign country without a good grasp of the language is still fresh in my mind, but there aren’t any nearby classes and it always falls down the priority list when the new stock arrives and we launch into Headless Chook mode to get it all sorted and out into the shop.

Oh well, c’est la vie.

17 November 2011

Introducing Calypso

Introducing Calypso, our newest furry (trainee) Shop Manager.  Her picture has joined the gallery of Shop Managers, and you can see she’s a very beautiful little Bengal.  She is 11 weeks old and already weighs well over a kilo, so I think she’ll be at least as big as Klaatu when she grows up.  She’s already well ahead of him, weight-wise, at the same age and he’s now a great big five kilo boy at three years old. 

Looking through various internet sites, I see that in the UK you need a license under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act to own a Bengal.  What sooks the Brits are.  In Australia there is no problem if your animal is at least six generations from their wild ancestor (Asian Leopard Cat).  Calypso must be at least nine generations from her wild origin, so she’s a properly domesticated little miss.  Doug has visions of waking up one morning when she’s fully grown to find he’s being dragged downstairs by his neck, but he’s being a bit of a drama queen.  That will only happen if he doesn’t feed her on time.

I’ve always wanted a Bengal but couldn’t afford one.  Now I can, so bugger it I bought one.  I’ve promised Doug to stop at four cats, although I did have my fingers crossed at the time (because I do still fancy a nice little cinnamon Abyssinian one day).  But for now four is absolutely plenty.  I promise.  We picked her up on Sunday and she immediately caused mayhem among the Gang.  And yet by Wednesday Artemis was totally accepting of her and giving her thorough face washes, with Calypso getting all squirmy the way littl’uns get who don’t want their faces washed, but then Artemis just holds her down.  She is the cleanest kitten in town by the time Artemis finishes with her.  Mischka alternates between wanting to play and wanting to growl and grumble about not being the only princess on the block any more, but more and more she’s playing.  Klaatu is scared of her, and yet he is such a good natured little boy that already he is relaxing and last night there was a four-way mad game of chasey throughout the house, which ended up on the verandah with everyone laying around together, exhausted.

Yesterday was market day and Calypso’s first day as Trainee Shop Manager.  Heaps of people came to meet her, and even though the poor little chook was in a brand new environment she was relaxed and confident, and really sweet and engaging with everyone.  She even tried to engage with the weird people who entirely ignored her (a beautiful little kitten trying to be friendly towards them) - and who therefore have no place in my shop, so they could get out now.  She is a real credit to Kim from Catwalk Bengals, who was her breeder, and who clearly cares so much for all her charges and brings them up to be happy and well-adjusted moggies.  Everyone was enchanted with her and she was photographed many times.  She might even overtake Klaatu as Eumundi’s Most Photographed Cat if this keeps up.  

Calypso does have one downside at the moment – and it’s the same with all small kittens – boy oh boy can she stink after she’s had a bit of dinner!  Atomic Kitten we’re calling her.  As her gut settles down that will stop, but for the time-being she is one toxic moggy if you meet her at the wrong moment.  Mischka was the same when she was a baby – she cleared the shop one day after she’d let rip.  Feline elegance doesn’t feature largely when they’re babies.

But apart from being totally distracted by my lovely new gel, OMG could a day get more boring???  Apart from Calypso’s new fan club it was little but Old People in the shop reminiscing about their Old Things and getting all excited about the prices they can expect for their stuff at their next garage sale. Hey, why didn't I think of that? Why am I bothering with a shop when I could get exactly the same prices just by holding garage sales? Brilliant! I shall shut the shop immediately and sweep out the garage forthwith.  Or I could start charging for patting the moggies.  I’d surely make my fortune if I charged 50 cents per pat, and a dollar per photo. 

In other news, we still have no idea where our latest consignment of stock is.  So in other news, there is no news.  Hopefully it’s somewhere around Singapore right now, which would put it on track for an early December arrival.  But when it gets here it has to clear Customs and Quarantine, and Quarantine in particular often dithers, in the way that only bureaucrats who couldn’t care less about business imperatives can do – and I’ve been a bureaucrat myself in another life, so I’m fully entitled to criticize.  Except I like to congratulate myself for never having been a ditherer.  But many are, and we were told last year how lucky we were that they released our stock “in time for Christmas” – that being we took delivery on 22 December!  So yeah, technically in time for Christmas. 

Fortunately for us, there are always plenty of people who don’t start their Christmas shopping until very late in the piece.  Every year we save the bacon of mostly men who have left their buying until the last possible moment.  We had a guy one year run into the shop three minutes before we closed on Christmas Eve, and he said what have you got that’s red?  So I gave him a tour of the shop, looking at a range of things from glass to jewellery to pictures that had a lot of red in them.  In the end he selected a very old Chinese lantern with its original red paper, and his wife had no idea what a good last minute save he’d made. 

And even though it was last minute, at least he made an effort to find his wife something lovely that she might like.  People can always tell when you’ve thought about them and what they like and that you’ve made an effort with their gift.  The opposite of the Last Minute Men are the Romantic Men.  Yes, such men do exist and every year we enter into Christmas Conspiracies with men who have actually listened to their wives and come into the shop to buy something she’s mentioned that she likes, and then we are sworn to secrecy about the purchase.  Often times we agree to hide the items in our layby cabinet until they can be picked up just before Christmas, so there can be no chance of them being discovered. 

Last year a guy came in and said my wife was looking at a vase in here – which one was it?  I didn’t know him or his wife, so it was a challenge to figure out which one it was, but in the end we did and he came back after Christmas to tell us of the major brownie points he had scored as a result of his efforts.  Then another guy came in to tell me that his gift had been very well received.  Did you score lots of brownie points as well? I asked.  Nah, he said, but I did score lots of sex.  Which is just as good, really.

10 November 2011

Generalized Rabbiting On

Hey I now have a second-most favourite bit of television dialogue.  I’m afraid nothing can beat Get a jog on, you sour-faced slag, ‘fore I slap you silly, as my most favourite piece of television dialogue ever, and I await with anxious anticipation my chance to use this line in the shop.  But everyone for ages has been very nice, so I shall have to bide my time.

However, my new second-most favourite piece of television dialogue is Butt-clenchingly awesome! Now that’s awesome.  I heard it on an advertisement for some fishing show, and not being a fisherperson myself I can’t say I get their excitement, but I did like the line a lot and shall now endeavour to have a butt-clenchingly awesome experience myself.  The only thing I can think of right now is to fling myself off a bridge in Queenstown (NZ).  Doug says he refuses to bungy jump with me, citing some nonsense about an oedema in the back of his eyeball.  So I have to find a suitable experience that he is prepared to do.  I shall ponder this for a bit.

Meanwhile, although life appears to be a bit on hold while we wait impatiently for the next consignment of stock to arrive – and hopefully it’s somewhere around Singapore as I type – in fact the shop has been quite busy since we’ve been back from our buying trip.  Last week was our best week in three months, and things have been going really well since we’ve been back even with rapidly diminishing stock, so that bodes well for a spike in sales when the new stuff arrives.  We finally got around to framing the first of the French prints and they started selling immediately, so that was good news, although it means a bit more framing coming up in the next few days. 

The jewellery has been going like hot cakes, but fortunately I buy a lot, lot, lot of jewellery.  We usually start to run out of jewellery just before a buying trip is due, but I was hoping this time I had bought sufficient that there would be plenty even while we’re off buying more next March.  It doesn’t normally work out that we have much left over so close to the next buying trip, and jewellery is selling so fast at the moment I’m already having concerns about how long the current stockpile will last, but we’ll see.  I’d be crazy to complain about making a lot of sales, but it’s difficult when I can’t replace items until the next buying trip.

Doug is already coming up with good suggestions for Play Days for the next trip, and if I can factor them in early in the piece then I can also organise a bit of buying in the vicinity of wherever it is we’ve decided to play.  That way we can combine business and pleasure and it’s all good.  We’ve got a real hankering to head right down south in France next trip – we haven’t been to the Cote d’Azur for quite a while because it’s a very long drive from Paris and you’ve got to commit to quite a while in France.  But what the heck, why not?  The last time we drove along the main boulevard on the Monaco seafront we were in a daggy old red former postal van, which we used to transport all the antiques we bought, so it was an essential vehicle for us but we did kind of stand out massively among all the Ferraris and Maseratis and the crowds of Beautiful People. 

But not to be daunted, we took our daggy old red former postal van to St Tropez beach, where we discovered that, Dahling, the only way to arrive there is by helicopter.  Of course.  Anything else is so passé.  I’ll see your Ferarri and raise you a Guimbal G-2 Cabri.

To our eyes St Tropez was an unimpressive pebble beach, with the only distinguishing features being the many, many late middle-aged men with giant bellies, but nut brown rather than the bright red which is the hallmark of so many English potbellies in summer.  And at least the French lotharios didn’t wear knotted hankies on their heads, as their British brethren are want to do.  There were also an unnaturally large number of very pretty bikini girls, and there appears to be no choice in the St Tropez swimming costume shops but to buy g-strings, so what is a girl to do but give in to fashion?  And at least every single one of these gels had the perkiest buttocks you can imagine.  Butt-clenchingly awesome buttocks, you could say.

Anyway, even though we would make our long-awaited return to the south of France in yet another van, albeit a Europcar van rather than a daggy old red former postal van, we are inclined to revisit past haunts and see if the buying has improved at all.  The south of France prices for everything tend to be aimed at Excessively Rich People and American tourists.  In more recent times free-spending American tourists might be few and far between, which leaves only the Excessively Rich people to buy the expensive stuff, so maybe the expensive stuff has started to revert to more-reasonably-priced stuff.  Only one way to find out.

Mind you, even in its hey-day of being a mecca for Excessively Rich People and American tourists, we did some pretty good buying at Isle de la Sorgue.  We once bought two lovely tapestries that had hung in a local museum for a couple of hundred years and had faded to sepia and other earthy shades over that time.  The dealer we bought them from had acquired them from the museum only the day before, and in my broken French I tried to chat with him and tell him how in Australia museums don’t tend to leave fabrics in direct sun for a few hundred years, thus destroying their original colours.  Ah, he said, it’s no problem – there’s plenty more where these came from.  And in Europe I guess that is exactly right, there is no shortage of beautiful old things, although as a general rule I think things as fragile as textiles are better cared for.  Still, the museum’s loss was our gain and now I’m reminded of these tapestries I must dig them out of our container and present them for sale.  Getting into the bowels of our container will be a major archaeological dig in itself, but I know they’re there somewhere.

Mischka is Shop Manager today, and she is in disgrace for chasing an insect in the front window and in doing so pulling a small stained glass window on herself and breaking it.  Miss Boof Head is perfectly fine, but the window is cactus.  And then this afternoon we have had an on-going battle because she spotted the gecko that lives in the shop and runs along the wall near the ceiling, and she’s gone nuts trying to climb the walls to get it.  Attempting to climb walls full of antique French prints is something I frown upon.  A bit further along the wall is a series of large old French copper saucepans which are hung off butcher’s hooks, which she could impale herself on, so really climbing any part of the wall is frowned upon.  Finally, only some sharp words and a smacked bum convinced her to listen to me and behave herself.  Now she’s pretending to snooze on the desk next to me, but has cunningly positioned herself so she can keep a weather eye on the bit of wall where the gecko was last spotted.  But I’m awake to moggy tactics of pretending to be good when in fact the exact opposite is planned, so we shall see who wins.

This week I really need to get stuck into the task of preparing descriptor and price tags for a lot of the stock arriving in December.  It’s a real problem, though, when you buy over 1000 things and see each of those items for a very brief period before moving on to the next purchase.  Looking through my catalogue, I can see a whole lot of things that sound pretty good in theory, but I have no memory of what I’m talking about.  So I’ll be able to prepare a proportion of the descriptor and price tags in advance, but the rest will have to wait until the unpacking begins and I can again see what I bought.  Unpacking and reinspecting what you bought is always a bit of fun.

03 November 2011

Doing your own thing

Visitors are always nice, but how good is it to have your place to yourself, when you can blob about without having to be mindful of the delicate sensibilities of others?  And after a month in various hotel beds, some excellent some downright dodgy, and then having visitors for a few weeks camped on our couch, now we can relax and let it all hang out.  Yeah I know I’m putting a picture in your brain that you might not have wanted there, but deal with it.  I’m afraid that’s how it is at our house when no-one is there to observe, so you are all well advised to not drop in on us unexpectedly.  Fair warning.

Fortunately, the moggies don’t care one bit what we are wearing or not wearing, or at least can’t complain about it, and we are feeling good about being home.  We always look forward to the buying trips and always have a good time, but it’s always good to get back to the mountain stronghold as well.

And for anyone who says things are tough in Australia right now, you need to go overseas for a while and really see how tough things can be.  I know we’ve had an economic downturn here, although touch wood our shop hasn’t been particularly affected by it, but life can be really grim in other parts of the world.  And I’m not talking about Africa, I’m talking about Europe.  While we were in the UK I read that in Glasgow there are now third generation unemployed in about a third of all households.  And this is exactly what so many people in Spain and Greece and Italy (et al) are now facing – never having a job, never enjoying a comfortable life let alone a few little luxuries every now and then, never having financial security.  We always come home so very glad that we live in Australia. 

We can’t wait for the new stock to arrive, although in the meantime the current stock (by which I mean stock that I bought during the April trip) continues to sell well.  It’s always such a relief when your stock is well received.  Every single trip I have an irrational fear that I won’t find anything decent to buy – we’ve gone all that way, spending money on fares and accommodation, and then find nothing worth buying.  But after the first purchase I feel fine and always end up buying 1000+ items.  Then when we get back I have an irrational fear that no-one will like our stuff – that we’ve gone all that way, spending money on fares and accommodation, and then nothing we bring back sells.  But in fact the stock always sells really well – high quality and unusual items at the very best price as we can put on them is a good approach that works well for us.  We don’t make as much profit as we might if we put closer to a true price on the items, but we make it faster and we have happy customers who come back, allowing us to go to Europe twice a year.  Works for everyone.

You can’t please everyone, though, and there is always a collector of something obscure who wants you to look for something for them that you will take a lifetime to find.  A surprising number of people come into the shop looking for absinthe spoons.  They are usually surprised that I know what they’re talking about (and I accuse them all of being decadent little minxes) but they are not surprised that no, I don’t have one.  Absinthe was a spirit with an extremely high alcohol content, supposedly highly addictive and consumed by the well-to-do Bohemian Set in Europe in the late 1800s.  The spoons were perforated and were balanced on the rim of glasses with a sugar cube, and iced water was then dripped onto the sugar until it dissolved into the drink.  So taking absinthe was a bit of a ritual. 

Absinthe was declared an illegal substance in the early 1900s, although this might have been on the basis of flawed research into its dramatic effects on chronic alcoholics who drank it neat, and didn’t even use a proper absinthe spoon.  ‘Normal’ drinkers of absinthe would never dream of drinking it neat, and wouldn’t be caught dead without a proper spoon.  In any event, absinthe has now enjoyed a modern revival and so antique absinthe spoons are very sought after by many collectors.  But good luck with that, people!  If you’re not prepared to buy reproduction – and who would do that?  Perish the thought!  - then they are really rare, and really really expensive.  Anyone who ended up with an absinthe spoon collection would have taken decades to acquire it, and spent a great deal of money.  I’m afraid I don’t have enough Collector blood in me to be bothered with 1) something so eclectic that I would spend my entire life to buy maybe 10 spoons, and 2) something so dang expensive.  Think how many trips I could have to Paris for the same price as a small collection of absinthe spoons.  No contest.

But hey, at least absinthe spoons are something you could use if you wanted to, and are generally beautiful so you can admire them.  I think the strangest thing I’ve heard of someone collecting is fossilized poo.  Scats, they’re called, if you want to be technically correct, but really we’re talking about someone who collects poo.  It’s very old poo, I grant you, maybe even dinosaur poo for the oldest bits, but even the antiques dealer in me can’t get excited about that.  Erk. 

And now I have mastered (after a fashion) the technique of downloading photos onto my blog, below are some pictures of one of our favourite little towns in France, Honfleur.  We stayed there the night before we left France on this trip, and it’s the place I mentioned in an earlier blog where there are lots of very expensive yachts lining the small harbour, with lots of rich, rich, rich people sitting on them so they can be seen to be sitting on their yacht and you will know they are rich, rich, rich.

26 October 2011

Back in the Saddle

18 degrees at Manchester was nice for England in autumn but going straight to 38 degrees in Abu Dhabi was a bit of a shock to the system.  Fortunately, the Crowne Plaza hotel has perfectly adequate air conditioning.  It also has the best beds ever.  It wins this trip’s prize for biggest and most comfortable beds complete with good pillows.  Hey, these things are important when you’re tired and ratty and starting to feel jetlag even though you’ve only completed a third of the journey home.  I hate this bit of every trip – planes suck when you’re in Sardine Class, Anchovy Class, Packed Herring Class.  All airlines seem to have invented fancy names for Economy (Etihad calls it Coral Class, for example), but the end result is the same for all of them – lots of being squished for extended periods.  We don’t mind Abu Dhabi as a stopover location, though, and will think about it for the March trip next year but probably also include a stop in Singapore as well to break up the flight.

It’s amazing the variations on the burqua you see at airports in this neck of the woods.  They range from an entire body covering where you can’t even see the lady’s eyes because they are behind a gauze of fabric, through to just a cursory scarf that’s not covering much at all.  My least favourite version is one that for some reason covers all the hair, but on the face covers the eyebrows, has a thin bar down the nose, and then covers just above the mouth.  It has the unfortunate result of making the lady in question look like she has a big black mono-brow and an impressive moustache.  There are lots of hennaed hands, too, and the designs are lovely.  All the western passengers stand out because they are so ordinary looking.

Next stop Singapore (after an 8 hour flight – can’t wait) then a quick shop in the Duty Free and another 7 hours to Australia.  I hate international flights.  All this bumph people say about it being about the journey and not the destination is said by people who either don’t travel very much or who get on the plane and turn left (towards Business and First Class), or who sensibly avoid planes altogether and travel via luxury ships or trains where they have their own suites.  Unfortunately, this would add a few months to every buying trip, so we’re stuck with planes.  And I will continue to bleat about how hard my life is until I find a way to justify spending the dosh I would need to spend for a Business or First Class ticket, instead of using the money to buy quite a lot of stock for the shop.  Can’t do both right now, which sucks.  When we travelled internationally on Government business we always went Business or First Class, and my memory isn’t so dementia-riddled yet that I can’t remember how much better it was.  Rooster to Feather Duster I think it’s called.  Still, on balance the Feather Duster life has more going for it and I guess that’s why we’ve made that choice.  So on balance I should stop bleating now, shouldn’t I?  Bleating has ceased.

So now a week has passed and we’re ensconced back in Eumundi.  Started selling jewellery immediately, as we always do, plus some very nice cutlery.  The bulk of our new stock won’t arrive in Australia until 6 December, and that’s forever away.  And after it’s arrived we will still have the Customs/Quarantine palaver, which they always say will take 3-4 days but always takes about 2 weeks. 

We’re almost over jetlag, although I’m still waking promptly at 3.00am.  Last trip I was really hammered and took more than a week to recover, and this time it seems a bit better.  Thank goodness for civilized opening hours in the shop, which means we can take our time and potter about before the ten minute drive to work.

The moggies are reacting well to being back at work, which is good because they are Working Cats and are expected to earn their keep.  Even Mischka is being a good girl, although I know this is a trick and she is just lulling me into relaxing my guard for as long as it will take her to go and jump on the jewellery cases or otherwise be naughty.  Klaatu is his normal dependable self on Wednesday and Saturday Market Days and snoozes the day away, interrupted only by admiring fans who want to rub his belly or photograph him.  He loves a good belly rub, though, so he’s always amenable when his fans approach him for an audience.

Now I will spend the next few weeks doing as much advance work as possible to prepare price and descriptor tags for the incoming stock – all that I can recall clearly enough, that is.  We bought well over 1000 items, so some of the recollections are a bit hazy and those pieces will have to wait until I can see them again.  Meanwhile we still have furniture items from the April trip that have yet to appear in the shop, and they can now come out to replace items that sold while we were away.  So there’s no rest for the wicked, as they say, and plenty to be going on with.

And looky-here, I've developed a modicum of technical skills and have been able to download some photos.  I thought I'd better start with the Shop Managers.  The pictures turned out somewhat bigger than I was expecting, but I'll work on that.  So now I can formally introduce Artemis, Klaatu and Mischka, our furry shop managers.  Feel free to come and visit them whenever you like.

14 October 2011

Some Work & Lots of Play

We left France, with regret, on Tuesday.  And no greater love hath these antiques dealers that they would forgo one of the last pleasures of France (lunch) in order to catch the earlier ferry so we could get to Portsmouth at a more reasonable hour and start packing stock for our customers.  We gave up lunch for you, people!  In France!  We expect appropriate gratitude to be showered upon us when we get back to Australia.

For the first time ever I thought I was going to experience a bad Channel crossing because the wind was blowing a gale and there were huge white caps all along the coast on the way up to Calais.  I haven’t had the joy of puking over the side of a Channel ferry so far, but I’ve heard horror stories from other passengers.  Anyway, Doug assured me that a bit of choppiness wouldn’t do a big vessel like a ferry any harm, and even though the choppiness turned into quite large swells mid-Channel and waves started crashing across the bow, he was right and it was fine.  So I emerged puke-free from another Channel crossing.  Hurrah! 

We spent the day in Portsmouth packing, packing, packing and re-admiring our French purchases as we went.  Dang, we did well!  I had forgotten about a number of things, including a very fabulous heavy glass vase that I will give a quick try in the shop and if it doesn’t sell super fast then I will take it home.  Plus OMG how many faceted glass pate pots did I buy?  A lot, is the answer.  Got the pate pot market cornered, I’m thinking.  But I haven’t had them for quite a while and they sold really well last time so here’s hoping there is still a demand for nice French faceted jars. 

There was little point in booking a hotel in a nice seaside location when we were actually trapped in the room all day, cataloguing and packing.  It’s the tedious bit of the job, but it has to be done.  Still, for once we applied ourselves and knuckled down and got it all done in one day.  We had the TV on in the background, and it was a non-stop parade of different antiques shows all day.  My goodness, don’t they ever get sick of watching shows on antiques?  I’m an antiques dealer, and I found it all a bit much.  Having said that, I did enjoy one show (Antiques Road Trip) where they task a couple of dealers to buy antiques in shops and centres and then make a profit on them at auction.  It’s a variation on Bargain Hunt (where I was filmed in the background twice on this trip) in that the contestants are professional dealers and so in theory should do better than the normal punters on Bargain Hunt.

This show did highlight a shop that sold quite nice kilim carpets at affordable prices, and although it was too far out of our way at this point (not to mention we’re at the Dead Broke stage of the trip) I shall factor in a visit for next trip.  So something good came of seeing the glut of antiques shows.  They also featured the antiques shops in Ashbourne, which is a beautiful town up in Derbyshire where the shops all look lovely but there isn’t an affordable thing between them – as the dealers discovered when they tried to sell their purchases at auction and made horrible losses. 

The last time we lingered in Ashbourne was during the last Rugby World Cup, where we spent a few hours in a pub surrounded by screaming Englishmen who were over-excited because England was beating Australia.  Doug and I know nothing about rugby, and care even less, and had only gone in to have a beer and a good time heckling the Englishers.  It’s amazing the reaction you can elicit when you randomly shout That was clearly offside!  We didn’t have the faintest idea what the rules were, but it was good fun to shout and exchange a bit of banter with the locals.  But anyway, I digress.  The point is that Ashbourne is good for pubs and looking about, but not for antiques shopping unless you have loads of cash and you don’t mind paying absolute top dollar.

Anyway, having finished the packing and been antique-showed to the eyeballs, that left Thursday entirely free for a play day. There was no hope of a sleep-in because the day started off very foggy and all the ferries turn out to have really powerful fog horns.  The horns sound quite eerie and I think would have been a bit scary if you were out there on a small boat, knowing that giant ferries were looming but you just couldn’t see where (yes, I know they were in the shipping lanes, but you know what I mean). 

So with all hopes of a good lie-in thwarted we instead went for a walk along the seafront.  We watched a hovercraft come roaring over from the Isle of Wight and just throw itself up the beach at Portsmouth, and then a few minutes later fling itself around and zoom back down the beach and hit the water at speed and race off.  It looked like tremendous fun so I will factor in an excursion via hovercraft to visit Osborne House (Victoria & Albert’s holiday house on the Isle of Wight) for next trip.  Then we briefly visited the historic dockyards, even though we had already seen the Victory and the Mary Rose some time ago.  We found a quite expensive antiques shop there, but did scrape up enough money to buy one last copper ship’s lamp because it was really lovely and unlike any other we had seen before.

In the gift shop across the way, though, we found light, tinny, brass reproductions of the really battered and weather-beaten ship’s lamp we bought at a Fair, and the repros were 239 pounds!  There was no prospect of mistaking them for real, and we couldn’t believe the price.  They also sold genuine Tek Sing and Hoi An shipwreck pottery, and I was very smug to see how much more expensive they were than our prices are for better pieces.  So I had no hope of buying any shipwreck pottery from them, but I did buy a book on the Tek Sing that looked interesting.

Then off to Highclere Castle, to take a tour of Downton Abbey.  It was the first day in October that the Castle was open to visitors, so there was a bigger crowd than normal and we had to wait in the queue for an hour before we got to the ticket counter.  Fortunately, it was a lovely warm sunny autumn day and the crowd was very good natured and we chatted and had a laugh with the people around us.  It was a good British queue, which is nothing like an unruly, seething, hold-your-position-or-be-trampled Italian queue and bears no semblance whatsoever to an Arabic “queue”, which is a queue only in the sense that someone who has muscled their way to the front is now being served and everyone else is in the process of muscling their way to the front and being loudly impatient about it.

Finally we were in the house, and having watched Downton Abbey it was very interesting to see that the rooms are nothing like as large as they appear in the show.  It’s still an impressively large house, but some of the rooms were downright compact.  The library and foyer with the huge vaulted ceiling were recognizable to us, even though the furnishings were different from in the show.  As far as the house’s actually furnishings were concerned, there wasn’t much we liked.  The only stealworthy things we saw were some really good Georgian fire buckets, a large Chinoiserie trunk in my favourite bedroom, a couple of nice screens, a good bronze of a hare, a large comfy looking (and very worn) leather couch and many lovely (and again very worn) Persian carpets.  Oh and their boot scrapers at the front door were lovely, and they feature wyverns, which are like dragons only they have two legs whereas dragons have four legs.  So there weren’t many covetable things to be found in such a large house, where I expected to be oohing and aahing at every turn.  Still, the house itself and its grounds are very beautiful and apparently the library and adjoining music room are used for weddings most weekends, and that would be lovely.  I asked a guide if it cost a lot to host a wedding at Highclere Castle.  No, she said, it costs a whole lot. 

In the music room there are the most fabulous finely embroidered wall panels, featuring all sorts of animals and foliage.  Very beautiful, and amazing workmanship.  No photography is allowed, which is a pity because these were very lovely panels which I would have liked to have a record of.  Less beautiful was the bath in the one bathroom in the entire place.  It’s a big bath, no doubt about that, but a deep avocado green.  Yerk.  Probably the ugliest bath I have ever seen.  I bet you don’t see that featured in Downton Abbey any time soon. 

The dining room in real life is nothing like as grand as it is in the show, where they clearly import a much larger table in order to fit the entire cast having dinner together.  By the time we had wandered into this room even huger queues had formed, not just for the ticket office but also to actually get in the front door.  One woman left the queue at the front door to come and peer into the dining room window, and I waved regally at her but she gave a little squeak at being observed and scurried back to the queue.  I’m sure it was my noble bearing that totally intimidated her to spring back into her place.

Then down into the basement to see the Egyptian exhibition.  Having been owned by Lord Carnarvon you’d expect the exhibition to be pretty good, and it was.  Only the artefacts in the first room are real, but those artefacts include an entire painted coffin and there probably aren’t too many other private collections that can boast that.  The coffin was that of a noble woman called Irtyru, and it was beautiful.  It is 3,500 years old and in amazingly good condition.  It shows in hieroglyphics and pictures of the story of what happens to you after you die, and the accompanying notes explained why a person’s heart was always kept with the body as it was mummified – because it was needed in order for judgement to be made of you and to help you get through your other trials to get into the afterlife.  You don’t just swan into the afterlife, you know.  So no pressure, but if your heart weighs more than the Feather of Truth a whacking big monster dog thingy eats it and there goes your chances of having an afterlife. 

All the other rooms had reproductions of things found in Tutankhamun’s tomb (including a resin copy of his body), because the originals are now either in the Cairo or London museum.  I guess they would be interesting if you hadn’t already seen the originals in the Cairo and London museums, so we were more intent on viewing the real things in Room One, which were well worth seeing. 

Then off to Leicester so we could offload all of our many boxes and sundry stuff with the packers.  Unfortunately we got in too late to see Emmerdale, of which I’ve only ever seen one episode but it had my all-time favourite line of TV dialogue:  Get a jog on, you sour-faced slag, ‘fore I slap you silly.  I love that line!  I’m dying to use it myself in the shop, and I shall say it to the next silly old cow who wants to diss my stuff. 

After the packers we have Friday free for another play day, then off to Abu Dhabi again for the first leg of our journey home.  When I’m next awake in Australia I shall finally see to getting some photos downloaded, and we’ll take it from there.  I'm having a major missing moggies moment right now, so it will be good to get home.  And yes friends and family, it will be good to see you too.