30 September 2012

Being Good, Being Bad & Entirely Having Fun

We caught the train from Portsmouth to London to visit the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition of anatomical drawings at Buckingham Palace.  London was fairly teeming with tourists, and too bad if we had wanted to tour the Palace itself because you have to book online if you want to be sure to get a ticket.  But we only wanted to see the da Vinci exhibition, and obtained a ticket that allowed entry 45 minutes later.
The Changing of the Guard in front of the
Victoria & Albert Monument

So off we went just down the road to have a picnic lunch at the Victoria & Albert Monument, right across the road from Buckingham Palace.  But when we arrived there were barricades everywhere and hundreds of people occupying the V&A Monument.  A quick check with a friendly Bobby revealed that the Changing of the Guard was about to occur, and magically a couple of spaces appeared at the front of the barricades just as we turned up so we thought we should stay to watch.  The Changing of the Guards is such a palava and you can imagine the Queen upstairs in the Palace thinking Just get on with it! but no, the Guards have to march this way and that way, with several bands accompanying them, entirely holding up the traffic in all directions.
This horse looks calm now,
but he was quite naughty
Prior to the Guards emerging from the Palace’s front courtyard lots of police officers on horses mill about, making sure the potentially unruly crowd remains ruly.  I kept my camera trained on one particular horse which was playing up big time and I had hoped to get a Policeman on Arse photo, but he retained his seat.  Which, of course, was a good thing.  Really.  Just not as amusing as it might have been.

Anyway, after the Guards had changed and the crowds wandered off elsewhere we were able to pop over to the V&A Monument for our picnic lunch, and then back to the da Vinci exhibition.  But first there was time to look about the Buckingham Palace gift shop.  I very much admired a multi-stranded necklace of baroque pearls, and Doug said Why don’t you get them?  I hadn’t expected this and hesitated to reply, and a woman next to me said Well if you’re not going to say yes to him, I will!  But then I regained my power of speech and now I am the happy owner of some lovely pearls which we decided would be one of my birthday presents.  Our tradition is that if your birthday falls during a buying trip your birthday lasts for the entire trip and you get multiple presents.  But this was a pretty good one.
So then off to view the exhibition, which was really amazing.  But do you know, for one of the world’s greatest ever geniuses da Vinci was also a bit of a flibbertigibbet who needed to have a supervisor to keep him focused on his many experiments so he would actually finish what he started.  He did have a friend who fulfilled this role for some years, but then the friend died and da Vinci got distracted by all sorts of other projects, and this is largely why his ground-breaking discoveries in human anatomy were not published before he died.  And some of his discoveries about how the heart works weren’t rediscovered until 1912.  Can you imagine the number of heart patients’ lives that might have been saved had his work been published in 1519? 
Unbelievably, you are allowed to photograph da Vinci’s original papers, albeit without a flash.  My camera’s flash turns itself on all the time when I don’t want it to, so I sought the assistance of a guard to help me turn it off so I didn’t get dragged off by the hair for breaking the rules.  Between us we thwarted my camera, so I was able to get some nice shots of some of da Vinci’s beautiful drawings.

So then a bit more looking about occurred before we left the Palace.  And now I have a couple of tea towels from the Queen’s own kitchenette.  Don’t ask me how I got them, cause I’ll never tell.  The less you know, the less you can blab.

The next day we headed off to the Isle of Wight to look through Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s holiday home.  We caught the hovercraft from Portsmouth to Ryde, which is the longer way to get to Osborne House but far more fun.  Doug got to talking with one of the crew, and we were invited to take the trip over in the pilot’s cockpit.  What enormous fun that was!  It was a bit disconcerting to discover that hovercrafts don’t have steering wheels or brakes, and Sven (the pilot) did mention that the person who designed hovercrafts needed to be shot for forgetting to include some type of brake.  But he assured us that steering via foot pedals was easy enough, and that he had never missed a take-off or landing.  All you have to do is take into account the wind direction and speed, current, tide, hovercraft’s speed, general choppiness of the waves and any other watercraft in the way as you judge when to lay off the accelerator as you hit the beach.  Sven promised not to mow down any yachts while we were watching, which was good of him.
In the hovercraft cockpit with Sven the pilot
Queen Victoria referred to Osborne House, which is a whacking great enormous mansion, as “snug”.  Compared to Buckingham Palace I suppose it is.  It has beautiful gardens and a lovely sea view, and you could see why she and Albert loved the place even though her idea of snug and everyone else’s is probably a bit different.  You are not allowed to photograph inside Osborne House, which we found a bit odd after being allowed to photograph Leonardo da Vinci’s original drawings, and that was a pity because in one of the hallways is a life-sized white marble statue of an angel that is one of the nicest statues I’ve seen.  The place was swarming with guards, though, far more than Buckingham Palace, so I judged the chances of getting a photo (let alone tea towels) to be low and I behaved myself.
One wing of Osborne House
Then it was back to Portsmouth (this time joining the plebs in the main compartment of the hovercraft) and over to Berkshire for a quick spot of shopping.  Then we visited a few small antiques Fairs in the Cotswolds and pushed on into Lancashire for a gentle start to the main segment of shopping that we have coming up.  Next week will be huge in terms of shopping, but we’ve already got plenty to pack so we’ll be kept busy for the next few days.

View from the Terrace of Osborne House looking back towards Portsmouth

Sven heading back to the Isle of Wight after dropping us off at Portsmouth

28 September 2012

French Opulence

The ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles
Side chandeliers along the walls
in the Hall of Mirrors

After lots of tres very good shopping in Paris, it was time for some Play Days.  Versailles was grand, very grand.  It certainly was grand.  But do you know, I didn’t much like it.  Sure there was beautiful marble everywhere, gorgeous parquetry floors, gold on everything, sumptuous fabrics, and the materials themselves were all top quality.  But together it was way OTT and on such a huge scale that you had to wonder how people actually lived there happily.  And I do hate the room off room off room look – no privacy anywhere.  The grounds were very beautiful, though, and I stole several ideas which I will implement as soon as I have a few thousand gardeners on staff.
A garden idea I might steal

Busker 1 - Quite Good

Busker 2 - Tried Hard
As an aside, we caught the train to Versailles from Paris, and it was a short but enjoyable journey, with buskers variously serenading us with violin and piano accordion.  Between the tunes I overheard an Australian tourist talking about an interview she recently had with the Bunnings Hardware chain, and one of their questions was If you were a Super Hero, which one would you be?  What a very strange interview question, but it did get me thinking about who I would be.  I do have a Super Power, which is the ability to walk into any shop anywhere and immediately identify the most expensive thing without looking at price tags.  I never hesitate, and I’m never wrong.  So naturally I am The Incredible Spendo-Woman.  Or maybe The Retail Flash.  

An exhibition of textile art was on show
throughout Versailles. This marble
lion is covered with crocheted doillies.
Yes this is Art, people.
Anyway, I digress.  We spent half a day at Versailles, and noted the benefit of getting there early.  When we arrived, about an hour after it opened, there were hundreds of people milling about but by the time we emerged from the Trianon (Marie-Antoinette’s play house, still with 20 feet ceilings but tiny compared to the main chateau) there were hundreds and hundreds of people walking the grounds.  The end of the garden is 3.5km from the chateau, but it was still easy to imagine how packed the place gets in summer.

A pink ostrich-plume covered
helicopter within the Chateau
at Versailles.  This is also Art.
We saw a bride and groom having their wedding photos in the gardens of the Trianon, and it reminded me of something an American we met told us about watching a wedding party in Paris.  He stood on the side of the stairs leading up into the Cathedral, along with many other tourists, and as the bride passed he said to his companion Wow, every one in the wedding party is gorgeous.  The bride turned to him and said We’re French, we don’t do ugly.  Of course they don’t.

Anyway, after the Play Day at Versailles we headed off to visit a usually good supplier several hours west of Paris, but on this occasion he had nothing I wanted.  So then on to St Malo, on the Atlantic coast, where we found a nice room in the old town with a view over the sea wall to a few small islands just offshore.  The causeway to the islands floods rapidly and with some force at high tide, and apparently it’s not uncommon for people to misjudge their walks and find themselves trapped there overnight, but we heard no plaintive squawking emanating from the islands on this occasion. 
View from our hotel room in St Malo overlooking
the causeway to the islands.

The bad news we received at St Malo was that Brittany Ferries, with whom we were due to return to the UK the next day, had cancelled all crossings between France and England indefinitely.  How lucky that I carry a travel laptop so we got the email about this in time to make other arrangements.   The only choice was to immediately rebook with P&O and travel up to Calais, which is over 500km from St Malo.  There are many thousands of people still trapped in France as I type, because not everyone can make the trip up to Calais, so we were among the “lucky” ones.
Le Mont St Michel
St Michel fighting a
Demon - my second
favourite stained
glass window

But before we bolted to Calais we wanted at least some of my Birthday Play Day at Le Mont St Michel.  We started the day with a champagne and pate breakfast, then off to the Mont.  It is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and building such a whacking great abbey over 1000 years ago on a small island that could only be reached at low tide showed real dedication.  But apart from being impressively huge, there are all sorts of smaller details that I really like.  For example, at the very top of the very highest spire is a golden angel, so high up that you can’t see it clearly but they still made the effort to put it there;  at the top of the abbey is an unexpected small walled garden surrounded by a very beautiful colonnade;  and at the tiny church at the bottom is my second most favourite stained glass window (my first favourite being in a tiny chapel in Prestbury in Cheshire). 

        Colonnade around the small
        walled garden at the top of
               Le Mont St Michel
If you want to visit the abbey you have to be prepared for stairs, a lot of stairs.  A lot, lot, LOT of stairs.  How I hate stairs.  And once you’re at the top and think that now you can tour the abbey on a level surface, oh contraire, there are still plenty of stairs to navigate.  What a higgledy-piggledy building, all up and down and labyrinthine, and if there weren’t signs to show us the way out we might still be there. 

We had time for morning tea of crepes and some local cider, and then we had to make the long trip up to Calais, where we arrived with 10 minutes to spare before they closed the gate for our ferry.  Phew.  So all in all, we had a 5 hour drive up to Calais, 2 hours over to Dover, and another 2.5 hours to get to our hotel in Portsmouth.  Not exactly how we had planned to spend my birthday afternoon and evening, but all part of the adventure I guess.
Our view as we enjoyed morning tea at the bottom of the Mont. 
See the golden angel right at the very top of the abbey?
So it was au revoir to France for this trip, and Allo, allo, allo to Old Blighty for the continuation of our Play Days before we start work again.  We left France having done some seriously good shopping and visiting two famous and beautiful National Treasures – we never run out of good things to do on our Play Days.  But we will start work again soon, I promise. 
In lieu of my usual moggie photo:  this carpet is in the Trianon at
Versailles, where Calypso & Caleb would feel right at home. 
Even Marie-Antoinette liked Bengals.


23 September 2012

I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles ....

Can you imagine walking for hours
around the Paris Markets in these
heels? Neither can I.
Fortunately, I also love Paris in the Autumn, when it drizzles.  And its drizzled a lot since we arrived, but we dont care cause were in Paris.  Its surprisingly warm, and a light rain gives even French girls bad hair so hurrah! for once there has been more of a level playing field than the Me Bag Lady – You Glamour Puss encounters I usually have to suffer through.  So yay for drizzle in Paris, it’s on my side.  Whatever the weather, though, it doesn’t stop the gels wearing outrageously high heels at the Markets, and on that front they’ve got me because I just can’t walk for miles in stilettos.  This is a skill that I think French women are taught from birth.
Huge horse figure carved into the chalk hills
overlooking the Eurotunnel entrance
This time for the trip over to France we caught the Eurotunnel train, and it was cheaper, easier and so much faster than the ferry so we’ll probably use the train in future. It’s not for the claustrophobic, I must say, because the train is only a little bit wider than your vehicle and you stay in your vehicle for the entire trip. They close off each carriage from the others, to contain fires apparently, and Douglas kindly regaled me with stories about fires on underground trains, floods in tunnels and other horrible ways you can die while in a confined space deep under the English Channel. Very reassuring. But anyway, after chatting among ourselves for half an hour we were suddenly in France so we set off for Paris.
** Before you go on:  if the font is all over the place from now on, I have no idea why and can't fix it.  Blogspot seems to be having a hissy fit on the font front.  I hate technology when it's stoopid.  Now to continue ....
As usual, we hit the Périphéric (the ring road around Paris) at around 3.00pm, and on a Friday afternoon it was its usual mayhem. I know I’ve said it before, but I do prefer the French Police sirens to all others – they always make me think of the Bourne movies. By now Paris has an exotic-yet-familiar feel to us, at least around the area where we usually stay, and French Police sirens add to the general ambience – especially when they’re not after us.
Dan sells the best
Hot Chocolate Ever

I did get concerned at one point when Doug parked illegally in order to get some cash– ATMs aren’t nearly as common in France as they are in Australia, so you have to get your cash when you can. He left me with the van in order to plead the Australian-tourist-wot-doesn’t-know-any-better story should the Gendarmerie turn up to book us. Everyone parks illegally in France, so you generally have a good chance of no grief, but sure enough on this occasion a couple of boys in uniform spotted the van and started heading for it. But hurrah! just then some young man did something stupid in his car right in front of them, so they veered away from me and headed for him. And then Doug turned up and I told him to drive off very fast, and he obliged without actually knowing why, and so we escaped the wrath of the French Police and got shopping money to boot.

And what a good thing we were cashed up when we hit the Markets because I spent half of our budget for France in a few hours. We arrived before sunrise, as you must if you want the best bargains, and immediately ran into Dan the Hot Chocolate Lady. Dan is an actress who works on silly early morning French TV shows, but at the Markets she also sells the best ever home-made spicy hot chocolate, with ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. So, well fortified, we started shopping and this time we walked away with a really interesting range of items.

Some of the jewellery on offer

The women who asked me to look for antique French cotton lace trim will be well pleased, because that’s the first thing I found. We also got some interesting kitchenalia, including probably the nicest glass and bakelite honey pouring jar I’ve ever obtained. Plus we found lots of excellent copper saucepans and some lovely and unusual enamelware.

Some of my rivals
for the jewellery -
not who you'd
necessarily expect
I ended up with tonnes of fabo jewellery, but this time I had to fight off more middle aged men than girls for the good stuff, and these boys were very competitive so I had to move smartly to get my chosen pieces. I also found good French magazine advertisements, a seriously cool Italian desk lamp that we are considering keeping, a tres very cool chrome and glass coffee table that we are also wondering whether to put in the shop or not, plus lots of lovely Art Deco glass and ceramics. We also carried off a giant panchon, which is a huge earthenware bowl that was used to rest dough when making bread, and this one has a lovely mustard yellow glaze on the inside that I’m very taken with. I’m sure there’s plenty more I can’t remember off the top of my head, but suffice to say that the Porte de Vanves markets delivered big time, and now we are exhausted and recouping for a few hours before heading to a nice little café just down the road for dinner.
You can find anything you want in the
Paris Markets - I didn't buy this

I bought the green Art Deco vase

It’s Play Days for most of the rest of our time in France (plus maybe a bit more shopping on Monday), but we already have such a good haul from the Markets that I’m feeling very relaxed about our buying progress so far. Even putting aside the things that might never make it into the shop, we still have plenty of really lovely items that will look great in the front window. We know that we’ll catch up with a number of French dealers at the big antiques fairs in the UK in a few weeks’ time, so the buying of French stuff hasn’t yet finished, as long as I still have spending money left by then, that is.
Calypso & Caleb would blend in nicely
on this couch, but they are poor, deprived
pussy cats and it stayed in Paris.
Ringing to see if she could offer
a better deal on this way
expensive cabinet. 
She couldn't so it stayed behind.

20 September 2012

One Night in Bangkok ....

Yes, yes I know it was actually one day in Bangkok, but that doesn’t sound as exotic as a heading.  And anyway, if I discuss our night in Bangkok I’ll be talking about a whole lot of sleeping going on, because we got in late and went straight to bed - and in a Blerk I’ve got Jetlag sense, not an Ohh, one night in Bangkok sense. 

And I know once I’m on a buying trip I’m meant to put the shop behind me for a while, but I have to tell you about this:  a woman came into the shop wanting a ceramic teapot.  It was two days before we were heading off so I only had two left in stock to show her.  Both date from the 1940s and both are $38 and $48 respectively (ie. utter bargains – they’re both on the website, so you can see for yourself). 

Oh look at the prices, she said, you know I don’t need an antique teapot. 
You’ve come to the wrong shop, then, I said. 
What do you mean?
You know you’re in an antiques shop?
A blank look:  Yes? 
So all my things are vintage and antique. 
Oh, everything? 
Yes, everything. 
Oh ….

And off she wandered without another word.  Honestly, it was enough to drive me screaming from the country.  So off I went.
There are lots of lovely temples
along the River ...

The flight to Bangkok was as pleasant as you can hope for when you’re in Economy.  There is plenty of room on Thai Airlines and the food is excellent so that was a good start.  I get horribly tired on long-haul flights (even though this was only 9.5 hours) but our room had a seriously enormous and comfy bed so a good sleep-in mostly cured my woes.  From our room we had a nice view of the Chao Phraya River, which flows through Bangkok, and seeing how there was a dock right down stairs we decided that a river cruise would be a nice way to spend a few hours.
all of them beautifully maintained ....


We caught the local commuter ferry as far as it would go down the river and back.  A two hour return trip for $A1.20 was somewhat cheaper than the official cruises and as the ferry criss-crosses the river we saw pretty well all there was to see.  Then we returned to the hotel for a very nice long, leisurely lunch just in time to watch the afternoon monsoon lash the river – and everyone unfortunate enough to have not anticipated that those whacking big black clouds might have indicated that rather a lot of rain was about to fall.

.... other places are
a little more ramshackle


Then it was off to the River City Centre to look at what is described as the largest collection of antiques shops in Bangkok.  Almost a third of this Centre’s shops are now empty, and looking at the prices we could venture a guess as to why.  OMG they were clutch-your-throat-and-fall-down-gagging high!  I have bought and sold many beautiful Buddhist artefacts over the years, but by golly I can tell you right now I won’t be sourcing any in Bangkok.  So that was disappointing because I saw plenty of lovely things that I quite wanted but had zero prospect of affording.
People are still living in this once gorgeous house.


One excellent find, though, was a wine bar/tea house/café nestled among the antiques shops and overlooking the river called Tête Quarters. It has only recently opened and is owned by some interior decorators so the décor is vintage and stylish (noice, different, unusual). It has silent movies from early 1900s Paris, plus some Charlie Chaplin movies, projected nonstop onto one wall, comfy leather couches and old upholstered chairs, vintage china, an eclectic collection of bits and bobs everywhere and large and mismatched chandeliers. It sounds odd but the overall effect is quite pleasing.

A thing I liked but couldn't afford -
marble buddha, about 4 feet tall, c1700
So we wiled away another few hours over drinks and snacks, watching the huge amount of river traffic undertake a complex ballet which involved everyone getting everywhere real fast and all missing each other. We lingered long enough to watch the lights up and down the river turn on, and then off to the airport. We expected a good flight with Swiss Air, but how wrong we were.

A really fabulous thing I liked but
couldn't afford - Thai wooden figure of
a horse, about 6 feet tall on its stand, c1600


Yep. another thing I liked but couldn't afford -
small Bronze figure of a Deer, c400AD

Our flight from Bangkok to Manchester via Zurich was almost indescribably bad. Almost - but not quite – indescribably bad. So I've found it within myself to provide a few observations:

-   The seats were minuscule.  Where were we heading – Lilliput?  Everyone commented as soon as they sat down on how small the seats were, and some poor blighter ahead of me had to spend a good deal of the trip with one arm draped over his head so there was room for the person in the seat next to him.  Granted he was a big lad, but that he had to sit like that for most of an 11 hour flight was ludicrous.  Doug and I raised the seat arm between us to give us a tiny bit more room, but it was horribly, HORRIBLY squashed and uncomfortable for the entire flight to Zurich.
Inside Tête Quarters - one wall has nonstop
black & white silent movies projected onto it

-   The food was awful.  Dinner was an exercise in stodge, harking back to the bad old days when airline food had a deservedly terrible reputation.  Most other airlines have upped their game considerably these days, but not Swiss Air.  Despite significant bragging in their In-Flight magazine about how damn scrumptious their Business and First Class food is, it appears that what happens in Business and First Class stays in Business and First Class, and nothing remotely scrumptious trickled down to the poor schmucks in Ultra Sardine Class.
Watching the boats light up from our vantage
point in Tête Quarters
-   And just let me just harp on about how truly bad the food was for a minute – how can you get tomato or orange juice so seriously wrong?  By buying the cheapest possible, that’s how.  Black & Gold and other generic brands have their places, and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between them and name brands, but other times you need to step up the quality and Swiss Air has clearly gone for the cheapest possible option with its Economy class food and drinks.  Even their cheese was hard and dry and awful and came without crackers – just a lump of cheese.  They’re Swiss!!  How can they get cheese wrong??  But okay the itsy-bitsy chocolate squares they hand out after meals were what you’d expect from Swiss chocolate.
-   The headsets provided so you can watch movies were those hideous tiny ones that fit into your earholes and which don’t actually let you hear much over the ambient noise of the aircraft and which give you a horrible ear-ache in no time.  In our experience only Turkish Airlines also uses these entirely unsatisfactory headsets, and it was a surprise to see Swiss Air was equally penny-pinching, to the intense discomfort of their customers. 
And seeing how movies and meals were to be our only form of entertainment over the next 13 hours (11 hours to Zurich, then another 2 hours to Manchester) finding them to be respectively inedible and unusable – and on the Zurich-Manchester leg totally non-existent - was seriously aggravating after spending so much on fares.  When you spend that much money on an airfare, and even in Economy you’re forking out thousands of dollars, then there are basic standards you should be able to expect.  Swiss Air didn’t deliver in any sense.

One last thing I liked but couldn't afford -
seated gilded Buddha, 4 feet tall, c1800

We have the same torture in store on the Manchester to Bangkok leg on the way home with Swiss Air, but we have another month before we have to face that. So anyway, now we’ve reached Manchester after an unnecessarily exhausting flight, and all going well the shopping will start tomorrow.

One last thing I have to mention before I collapse into bed for a few hours is Mischka’s attempt to help me pack for this trip.  We always leave packing until the last minute, and the night before we left I threw some things in my bag and shut the lid but didn’t zip it up.  On the morning we left I opened the bag to pop in a few final things and found that Mischka had crawled in overnight and left her favourite toy among my clothes.  How sweet was that?  Just in case I need something to play with while I’m away and missing her, she donated her all-time favourite toy, which is a fabric ball filled with some type of grain and festooned with feathers.  Then it occurred to me how I would go trying to explain it while going through a bag search with Customs and Quarantine.  I swear the cat packed it!  Yeah right, lady.

Mischka is notoriously difficult to photograph nicely because she just won't sit still,
but what a sweet-heart assistant bag packer she is. 
Or is she planting suspicious objects to get me arrested?


13 September 2012

Do You Have Any Final Requests?

Random shot of things in
the shop because I like them
Only four sleeps until we head off on the second buying trip of 2012 so this is my last missive while in Australia for the next little while.  I’m so not looking forward to the flight – cattle class has little to recommend it – although this time we’re travelling with Thai and then Swiss Airlines so we’ll see how they shape up.  It’s been some years since we were last in Bangkok, which is where we’re stopping over this time, but it’s just a quickie stop over because the whole trip this time is just a quickie trip. 

People have been coming into the shop or emailing me about things they want me to look for while we’re away.  So are there any more Final Requests before we head off?  Just email me (or visit the shop) and I’ll either put you on my Search List or tell you you’re dreaming. 

Double-chambered French glass
soda syphon lamp - the shade
has stylized Fleur de Lis,
which is nice
So, last Blog you might recall that I complained long and loud about how difficult it can be to find stylish lamp shades but how I needed suitably stylish shades to do justice to the French soda syphons I had converted to lamps.  The very next day, after our morning beach walk, we visited One World at Noosa and walked away with a lovely shade for each lamp.  And better still, they were having a sale!
French Blue Glass Soda
Syphon Lamp with
Metal Casing
The last time I had a seriously good lamp base in need of a shade it was a converted Qing Dynasty vase with a gorgeous crackled turquoise glaze and which featured a swimming carp.  I loved it the moment I saw it, but Doug didn’t and instantly dubbed it Crappy Lamp.  That was until we visited One World and obtained exactly the right shade for it, and now he also likes it - although it will forever be known as Crappy Lamp.  And he liked Crappy Lamp sufficiently that he agreed that we should keep it, so it never made it into the shop.  The only reason why the double-chambered soda syphon lamp hasn’t stayed at our house is because we already have one.  It took four years to find another one like it, but eventually my hunting paid off and it looks excellent in the window.  I must say I have my eye on the blue glass syphon lamp, but we already have lots of really cool lamps at home so I’ll have to think about where I’d put it.
The battle commences ....
But sometimes the hot water bottle
fights back and gets on top ....

It has been just Calypso and Caleb coming into the shop in the lead up to the buying trip.  They are the two that need the most handling to be social, and Caleb in particular is still learning his name and also that there are Rules-That-Must-Be-Obeyed-Because-I-Said-So.  He is really grappling with this concept, but we’re getting there.  And the more time I can spend one-on-one with him, without him being distracted by some passing moggie who he could wrestle with and bite in the neck and who is more fun than me, the more responsive he is to doing as I bid.  
So then you must renew your attack ...
I know the cats will be spoilt rotten and allowed to run wild while we’re away, so it will be good if especially Caleb doesn’t find the whole idea of Rules entirely foreign by the time we get back.  They all tend to play up for a good week or so after we return from a buying trip, refusing to do what I say.  They look at me with a look that Doug has interpreted as I’m sorry, I don’t speak Maid as they turn tail on me and flounce off.  This attitude doesn’t withstand the Wrath of Me for very long, but they all try it on for a while.

It's exhausting ....
The latest rat-baggery from Caleb this week has involved my hot water bottle.  It doesn’t matter how cold it is, if I have warm feet I’m fine so I do like a nice hot water bottle on cool evenings.  And I recently purchased a fluffy striped fake fur hot water bottle cover that Caleb immediately seized as his favourite toy.   He’s been dragging it all over the house, which is quite a feat because it’s about the same size as him, so I have to do a search whenever I want to use it.  Last night I decided I needed warm feet and so collected the hot water bottle (this time under the bed) only to find that the little wretch had bitten holes in it!  He’s killed my hot water bottle!  Then this morning I caught him red pawed having a go at the replacement.

But you must fight on ...

It’s lucky for the rest of the Gang that cat skin is tougher than hot water bottle rubber.  When Caleb was a few weeks old we used to watch him play with his siblings, and he was always in the middle of huge wrestles and always on top.  Nothing has changed except the size of his opponents – he is constantly wrestling with someone and is always on top.  He went a paw too far recently when trying to evict Mischka from her favourite spot and was told in no uncertain terms to Sod Off.  So he can take a hint if it’s accompanied by a great deal of stiff-legged growling – much like most boys, I’m thinking.

And eventually Victory will be Yours.
Your stalking sucks, Caleb.  We can see you coming.