24 March 2012

The Ups & Downs of Merchant Adventuring

So who voted that Turkish Airlines is Europe’s No. 1 Airline?  Turkish Airlines executives and their mums is the answer.  Honestly, who these days has an international service that doesn’t have individual entertainment stations?  Turkish Airlines, that’s who.  So if you wanted to watch a movie on the four hour trip from Istanbul to Manchester, your choice was TinTin interspersed every half hour or so with unexpected and very loud Arabic music that played over the dialogue.  Maybe it was controversial dialogue that was being censored?  In TinTin.  But I’ll never know because I stopped watching.  Not to mention that the earphones provided were those tiny ones you stick right in your earholes and they hurt. 

And then when we landed we were obviously going a tad too fast, so the pilot braked using the wheel brakes a lot so we massively fish-tailed with lots of smoke off the wheels, and then he still overshot the exit off the runway and we had to proceed to the next exit.  The meal was the nicest I’ve had on a plane for a very long time, perhaps ever, but a big thumbs down for the rest of the experience.  We’re on Turkish Airlines for the return trip to Istanbul, but I will need a lot of persuading to book with them again for future trips.

Douglas is far more tolerant than me of travelling trials and tribulations, but hey when you pay thousands of dollars for airfare I expect decent service, and that includes the entertainment I select and not dying a horrible fiery death upon arrival.

But anyway, we arrived alive and the benefits of coming through Manchester Airport rather than Heathrow were yet again reinforced by virtue of the fact that we were in our hotel within an hour of landing.  At Heathrow you’d still be waiting in the Immigration line an hour after landing, and then you have to pay a fortune to taxi drivers to go a short distance (because it’s them or the bus and they know it).  We did spit the dummy once and caught the bus rather than pay a taxi driver 50 pounds (pounds!) to go 16 kilometres, but with all our travelling kit it is dang inconvenient on the bus.  It’s all much easier and way cheaper coming through Manchester Airport.

We hit the ground running on Day One, and were well pleased with our efforts.  We headed off to a big centre in Lancashire which I really object to having to pay to get into – I might start charging to get into my shop! – but notwithstanding my grumbling it’s worth going there.  We ended the day with lovely Art Deco and 1960s glass, a couple of fabulous and enormous Chinoiserie tins – big enough to be cookie jars, very nice ceramics (including a beautiful late Elizabethan tile (c1600) featuring a lion rampant and a beautiful giant Art Nouveau Chinoiserie ginger jar) and interesting kitchenalia. 

Then off to a place we hadn’t tried before, and despite my earlier self-admonition to not hesitate when I found good semi-industrial pieces that is precisely what I did.  Old habits die hard and I sucked my teeth over having to pay more than I wanted, but them’s the breaks if you want good semi-industrial pieces these days.  So I slapped myself about the head and got a grip, and walked away with a really cool trolley from an old textile mill in Lancashire, plus some lovely and very unusually shaped wooden spools, presumably from the same mill.  The trolley was a good price, but I want great prices and particularly so on Day One when there is no pressure to get lots of things.  However, I couldn’t pass up this piece.  It has four wheels and is very low to the ground and three sides are raised.  Goodness knows what it was used to lug about in the mill, but the moment I saw it I thought what an excellent coffee table it would make.  The wooden textile spools were really well priced so I snapped up all of them, and I think they will look nicely decorative in the shop when I group them together. 

On Day Two we visited a dealer we have had enormous difficulty connecting with (because he’s never where he says he’ll be) but at last we caught up and that was good news because I bought yet another set of really excellent bench scales (so that was three sets of scales in two days, despite my plan to not buy any scales at all during this trip) and a seriously cool old typewriter (c1920).  These are really interesting and high quality pieces and both are going straight to the front window when they arrive in Australia.

Then today was the first of the big Antiques Fairs of the trip.  It was pretty slim pickings, with lots of boring stuff or good but over-priced-to-billyo stuff, but I did cart off some nice Scottish neeps baskets (look it up!), and some attractive French grape pickers buckets.  Good semi-industrial pieces over which I yet again hesitated (because of the price) but ended up buying (because of how unusual and interesting they are).  I’m getting there with my campaign to be more realistic if I want to secure good semi-industrial pieces, but it’s not coming easily to me.

My quest for interesting antiquities is already off to a successful start, which is very pleasing this early in the trip, and I am now the proud owner of a selection of Roman bronze medical instruments.  Most people (normal people) will go Yuck when they consider where these pieces have been – they are a variety of bodge-you/scrape-out-your-insides implements – but I know a certain nurse who loves her antiquities and who is going to positively wet herself when she sees them.  It’s lovely when collectors are so enthusiastic, as long as all bladder functions occur outside my shop.

The weather here has been lovely, with sunny, t-shirt wearing days.  You know it’s Springtime in the English countryside when wherever you go you see hedgerows just breaking into leaf, thousands and thousands of daffodils and squirrels scampering everywhere.  And OMG we saw our first topless-bloke-who-really-should-have-kept-his-kit-on.  What is it about the smallest amount of sunshine that causes Englishmen to take their clothes off?  He was quite a youngish bloke, but with an impressive paunch and man-boobs and even though I shrieked and quickly looked away that image is now emblazoned in my brain.  But misery loves company, and hopefully you are now envisaging an image similar to what I had to look at.  Enjoy.

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