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.

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