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.