31 May 2013

Signed, Sealed, Delivered - It's Yours

Caleb's favourite Tuesday afternoon
position - knocking out zeds
on our computer chair.
Not a lot happening this week.  Except that the shop is now officially sold – Yay! Welcome to Malcolm as the new owner.  We’ve had heaps of fun here for the last five years and I’m sure he will, too.

It took a while because Malcolm’s stoopid bloody solicitor said he forgot that getting the Lease signed was urgent, even though Doug and I and Malcolm all told him it was urgent when we signed the contract of sale two weeks ago.  But seeing how Malcolm’s not taking over the shop until 1 July, his solicitor told him that he saw no reason to hurry and had forgotten that no Lease = no shop sale.  So when he was firmly reminded of this he hurriedly put together some gobbledegook that was entirely wrong.  But in the end it was done correctly and now all parties have signed their lives away.  Preparing a retail tenancy lease is pretty basic stuff in legal terms, but hey pay for a country hack get a country hack.  Little did Malcolm’s solicitor know that our meeting with him and our assessment of his performance was a secret audition to see if we would use him ourselves for future exercises in which we might require the services of a solicitor.  Yep, he failed. 

Our previous solicitor – also a country hack and now sacked - firstly charged $500 just for farting (as Doug so crudely put it), gave incorrect advice, needed to have relevant legislation correctly interpreted by us before he would concede he gave incorrect advice, and then still tried to charge a huge amount in order to confirm that he’d given incorrect advice.  You might be surprised to learn that he’s currently under investigation by the Legal Services Commission for corruption and over-servicing.  You might be, but we're not.  I’m beginning to feel all Richard III – my Kingdom for a Decent Solicitor.  Fortunately we don’t need legal services very often, but it would be nice to have a good lawyer on call when you do need them.

And in addition to incompetent legal assistance, we’ve also encountered the bureaucrats at the Council.  The builders are working on the profiling to determine where the house’s post holes will go as I type, and next week they will build the stairs from the carport to the house site, but that’s as far as they can go until the Council gives its final approvals.  According to Council there are things that need to be done that no-one else agrees needs to be done, but when you’re the Council you have the power to entirely hold up a project just because. 
You woke me up for this? 
You are beyond tedious.

So the first issue was that they decided additional soil tests were required.  Oh no they’re not, said our engineers.  Oh yes they are, said the Council, and we’re the Council so we win.  But then our engineers again produced all previous soil test results and asked what else the Council could possibly want, seeing how there isn’t a square inch of our building site that hasn’t already been soil tested.  So, grudgingly, the Council conceded that they didn’t really need additional soil tests at all. 

But wait!  Then there was something else the Council needed – advice from the engineers that our sewerage treatment plant would not be overloaded by adding an additional bedroom to the house.  Our system can accommodate a household of 10 people.  We’re a household of 2 people.  We currently have 1 bedroom, and are getting all wild and crazy and extending to 2 bedrooms.  So if you count on a few fingers, stick your tongue out and squint, you can probably add up that our current treatment plant will be sufficient.  Yes it’s advanced mathematics, but if you concentrate you’ll probably conclude that a system for 10 will deal with 4 people (presuming that our spare room becomes permanently occupied).  So okay, eventually that point was also conceded. 

One of the large original Circus window
cards we're offering in the shop this week. 
c1970, $86.


We also offered this French clown image, which sold the day we put her on the wall. 
She's a Clownesse, apparently. 
Guess what Circus image every single man
visiting the shop preferred?
But wait!  What about the sprinkler system that disperses the water from the treatment plant? asked the Council.  Is it sufficient for a household of 10 people?  Doug and I exchanged glances.  I gave him my Do-you-have-any-idea-what-the-hell-they’re-on-about raised eyebrow look.  He gave me his Stuffed-if-I-know frown.  So we were obliged to ask - what bit of “we’re a household of 2 and the maximum we can become is a household of 4, seeing how we're moving from 1 bedroom to 2" wasn't clear? 
Le Sourire French vintage magazine cover. 
Coming onto the website this week.
It's dated 4 March 1926 and is $48.
Ah yes, that’s all very well, but what if some time in the future you decide to sell your property and a household of 10 moves in? Then how will the system cope – answer that! said the Council, triumphantly.  WTF???? we said.  It’s a 2 bedroom house – where are 10 people going to sleep?  Will you also be wanting to inspect the rafters? I asked, because the 10 future people will need to be hanging from them in order to sleep somewhere. 

But at that point Doug told me to shut up now rather than put further ludicrous ideas in the Council’s brain.  And yes, I use the word “brain” with some reservations.  So now we have to get an engineering firm come and tell us how many sprinklers will be enough for us, for maybe 4 people and for maybe 10 people.  All at significant cost, naturally.  Engineers are in the same stratosphere as solicitors when it comes to charging, but hopefully they will prove to be a little more competent than the local legal practitioners.  With bated breath, we await the next instalment of Council Knows Best – No Really, We’re Not Joking, We Know Best.  Stop Laughing, We’re Telling You We know Best. 

We went all pretty on the dresser last week.
I read a quote this week, which was:  We shape the things we build, thereafter they shape us.  It refers to the importance of good design on the well-being and happiness of people living and working in those spaces.  I hope we get to build something in due course, but notwithstanding the Council’s antics it seems we are edging ever closer.  Our builder said that in the Council’s defence it might be that after all the approvals are given and the Council has gone away, we could decide to turn the place into a doss-house, by doing things like converting the kitchen larder into a bedroom, our office into a few bedrooms, our tack room into yet another (pretty small) bedroom, and the Council has to take that into account when considering the poop capacity of our sewerage treatment plant.  That’s their thinking?  Really?  Let’s ignore our clients’ house plans and instead work on expectation that they secretly plan to turn their home into a slum tenement?  It totally makes sense, now it’s been explained.  No, I just said that in case the Council is reading this.

This week we're doing retro-cool on the dresser.
Meanwhile, back in the real world the weather has been blah all week, just snuggle up in front of the fire with a decent book weather, and that has impacted on the number of people coming to the Markets and into town in general.  So it hasn’t been hugely busy in the shop, either.  I took the opportunity to bring out the first four of our American circus window cards, two of which sold instantly, and have also catalogued and tagged a bunch of really great Midwinter retro plates.  Midwinter is my favourite of the mid-20th century potteries.  It has several really cool designs from the 1950s that are dang hard to find in Australia, though it’s quite a challenge even finding them in England.  The garage keeps coughing up good things like this, so I’ve presented a retro-cool dresser this week.  It’s more of a Sydney look than a country Queensland look, but what the heck, I shall require my customers to have some retro-cool-sophistication this week. 

The builders starting on the profiling, so they know
where the post holes should go.
Artemis and Calypso, the main Building Site
Supervisors, keeping a close eye
on progress.

22 May 2013

Bare Bosoms, Antiques & Outlaw Bikie Antics

It's not necessarily attractive,
but the body art is creative.
Eumundi held its annual Body Art Festival last week.  It’s a Perv’s Paradise at the best of times, but oh dear it bucketed with rain – bare bosoms abounded.  Note to artists:  use water resistant paint next time.  The Body Art Festival doesn’t do anything for our sales - middle aged men with cameras tend not to be our demographic, and in fact our sales are down every year during this Festival. 
But the organisers, the artists, the models, and let’s not forget the middle aged men with cameras, all have a wonderful time and declare it a great success every year.  So next May I expect we will again be swamped with painted bosoms, just maybe next time a little more water-resistant.  And now I’m not going to be running the shop, I think if you can’t beat them you should join them, and in my hand-over notes when I sell the shop I shall stipulate that Malcolm and Sharon, the shop’s new owner and manager, should get into the spirit next year and go topless.  With artistically rendered flowers across their bosoms, naturally.
New on the website - French Jet & Rhinestone
Leopard Brooch, c1935, $42. 
You know I like spotty cats.
Mind you, the sale of the shop is not yet done and dusted.  The contract of sale is signed, and as soon as the lease is signed it will be really happening.  Hopefully soon.  I’ll let you know when I know.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  We visited the Caloundra Antiques Fair since I last wrote.  Boring as.  And OMG how can things in Caloundra be more expensive than Paris???   I’m always amazed and appalled when we visit local antiques fairs and find them to have little of interest and what is good is hideously expensive, but Doug just shakes his head and reminds me that this is precisely why we travel overseas to buy.  Of course that’s not the only reason, but we couldn’t have such successful buying trips if the prices were as high in Europe as they are locally. 

Lladro English Setter's Head.  The nicest
thing at the Caloundra Antiques Fair.
We met up with our friends Alan and Sandra at the Fair, and they always have high quality clocks for sale but this time they were also offering a Lladro English Setter’s head.  I’m not a great fan of Lladro, it has to be said, but I was in love with this dog’s head.  It was the pick of the Fair and if we weren’t building the rest of our house I would have seriously considered forking out the $700 for it.  It’s a lot, I know, but this was a really very beautiful piece.  It stayed behind because I’m being a sensible gel, but yet again I lamented how much it sucks to not be rich.

Australian Art Deco ceramic flower trough,
c1930, $78.  Similar to the Casey trough I
bought at the Caloundra Fair, and coming
into the shop this week.
We only found two things at the Fair that were worth buying and affordable, but still not good enough prices for them to become shop stock.  Just as well I liked them for myself.  We bought an Australian pottery flower trough by Casey in a lovely greeny-turquoise glaze, which I immediately envisaged being potted up with nice white orchids.  Of course Caleb has excavated the orchids twice already, but he and I have had a little talk about the perils of digging up my flowers (and being caught red pawed) and he appears to have gotten the message.  It reminded me that we had a similar Art Deco ceramic flower trough in a box, which I've now dragged out and shall present in the shop this week.
This moggie brooch is French, c1950.  It's on the
website and meant to come into the shop, but
I'm thinking about keeping it
We also bought a cool glass battery case, which is entirely in keeping with the semi-industrial look that I favour.  These cases tend to be tall and thin and make really interesting containers to keep things like lemons in – kind of like vertical fruit bowls.  We have three in different sizes now, though, so the next one I find will become shop stock. 

Fortunately, we’re not in a position where we need to be buying new stock yet so it wasn’t the end of the world that the Caloundra Fair was so boring and expensive.  The delving into our garage continues to produce great things that we’re really happy with, including some quite rare German Fat Lava plates and a couple of enamel on copper French dishes.  All striking and quite beautiful.  We’re pretty confident that we can keep digging out great stuff until Christmas, but a September buying trip will be essential to present new things after that.
New in the shop this week - German Fat Lava
plates, c1960, $80 (for 6 plates).  I've started
putting prices on things that I feature in the Blog
which are also for sale because too many
people complained that I didn't do that.
And on that topic, planning has now commenced for the September buying trip.  In addition to the Paris Markets we really want to make it down to the Montsoreau Puce this time because it always results in fabulous finds.  The Puce starts quite early on a Sunday morning, so rather than falling down dead into bed after a huge day of trawling the Paris Markets on Saturday, we instead have to leap into the van and bolt the few hours down to Saumur – the nearest affordable town to Montsoreau.  It makes for a tiring weekend, but the shopping is unbeatable. 

It was heartening to look through the latest edition of Australian Vogue Living this month, which focuses on French style and on almost every single page vintage French style is featured.  Yay for good taste being highlighted!  This stuff isn’t easy to find, but that just adds to the thrill of the hunt.  There are some very fabulous Jielde lamps shown on the front cover of the magazine, and we have one that we use every time we do some framing but we haven’t been able to source any remotely affordable ones for some years.  I shall make a concerted effort again in the coming trip, and if I can’t find any in Paris or Montsoreau they are not to be found.
Petrol-Head Klaatu loves the V8 Super Cars. 
He sits so close to the screen he goes cross-
eyed, but you can't keep him away. 
He's also a big fan of Meerkat Manor.
But the buying trip is still a few months off, so in the meantime we have to ensure that the shop keeps choofing along nicely.  And so far so good.  Yet again we enjoyed an excellent sales week, though last weekend it wasn’t helped by the Noosa Food & Wine Festival drawing lots of people away from us and to the beach on Saturday, and also the Black Uhlans were back in town, racing up and down the main street during the middle of Market Day and making one hell of a racket.  One of the few things guaranteed to wake Caleb from snoozing on my desk is a Black Uhlan on his Look at Me! Look at Me! ultra-loud motorbike. 
I always find it amazing how outlaw motorcycle gangs insist on being seen and very clearly heard everywhere they go.  Forgive my naivety, but isn’t the whole point of being outlaw is that you don’t draw attention to yourself?  Aren’t nefarious plans somewhat thwarted when everyone knows you’re there?  Having said that, although I missed the Sneaky Reverse Psychology lessons during my Criminal Mastermind classes, I do see some merit in the Hey, Look Over There! approach, distracting us all with big, loud motorbikes when in fact we should have all been looking behind us, to where the nefarious plans were actually unfolding.  It’s an oldie, but a goodie, so I’m sure I’ve identified the Black Uhlans’ business strategy.  Because it couldn’t simply be that they are precious petals craving everyone’s attention with their muffler-free motorbikes.

The Black Uhlans are certainly a noisy lot, but they have good motorbikes.  Bimbo optional.
Also, forget the spiffy paint job - black is de riguer if you're a Black Uhlan.  Stands to reason.

09 May 2013

Big News + How to Keep Witches Interested

New in the shop, vintage French
perfume advertisement.  It
features an elephant with the trunk
up for good luck, so I thought I'd
pop it in here to add to the good
luck in selling the shop.
I’ve hesitated to write for the last little while because firstly we’ve been flat out getting new stock out, but more importantly we’ve had shop news abrewing, and I wanted to wait until things were certain.  But guess what?  Things still aren’t certain – just probably certain.  So guess what?  We’ve sold the shop.  Probably. 

We hadn’t advertised it, so it was just one of those things where someone expressed an interest in buying so what the heck, we said yes.  And guess what other else?  Just as Malcolm (the prospective buyer) carried off the Lease for it to be put in his name, the very next day someone came into the shop and told me that she has a vintage shop near Brisbane but likes ours a lot better and would like to buy it.  So she left all her details and asked me to contact her if Malcolm doesn’t go ahead with the purchase.  And guess what other-other else?  Just then a business broker came by and gave us her details and reckons if we want to put it through her (should Malcolm and our First Reserve Buyer amount to only so much talk) she can sell it quick smart.  So all signs are pointing to us selling the shop, by hook or by crook.

New in the shop, vintage La Vie
Parisienne cover.  It's entitled
Courage with Two Hands.  I
thought this was also fitting,
to be featured this week
because we and Malcolm are
being brave and trying
something new.
Our first choice is for Malcolm to buy the shop because he wants us to continue to go on buying trips and sell things to him wholesale.  Totally works for us.  And he doesn’t want to buy jewellery directly from us, only for me to buy it, display it in the shop and he will take a cut from each sale.  Again, totally works for us.  I like doing battle in the Paris Markets for little niceties, as you know, and I’ve become quite adept at holding my own with the French gels (and the occasional big boofy jewellery buying bloke, as was evident from my Blog the last time we were in Paris).

The three main questions everyone has been asking me about the sale have been:

1.           Will the stock remain the same?  The answer is yes, because we’ll still be doing the buying.

2.           Will the prices remain the same?  Yes, because Malcolm is no dill and sees the benefit of high turnover and happy customers.

3.           Finally, will the cats be staying?  Are you nuts?  No, the cats will not be staying.  No moggies are included in the sale.  Malcolm has suggested he might rent one for market days, but that’s because he hasn’t yet seen Caleb in banshie mode, screeching his displeasure when I won’t let him dash about in the middle of a room full of customers wanting attention.  Maybe I’ll bring him or Calypso in for an occasional visit when I’m restocking the jewellery cabinets.
Caleb in his favourite Manager's Pose. 
He is  not included in the sale, and is also
not for rent.

So what a funny few weeks it’s been, with buyers for the shop coming out of the woodwork.  Meanwhile, our trawl through the garage continues to turn up really good stock, including a very fabulous wooden chest that dates to about 1710.  It lasted three days before we sold it, but was much admired before it got carried off.  There aren’t too many pieces of furniture for sale in Australia of that age right now, so I put it front and centre in the shop because it totally deserved prime position.
New in the shop, a vintage image
from La Vie Parisienne.  Relevant
because this is what I plan to do
for a while when the shop is sold.
Maybe with more clothes on.
Maybe not.
In terms of sales, last weekend was huge and we were totally hammered, so that’s got us diving back into the garage to find good stock that has been languishing there for the last few years.  And in contrast to Mean Wife, who I blogged on in my last instalment – remember the one who loudly told her husband that he couldn’t have the Atomic coffee maker even though he loved it and really, really, really wanted it? – well anyway this week Lovely Wife came by with her husband.  He made it clear that he really wanted the Atomic, but she feigned indifference until he wasn’t looking and then she snuck over to the desk to secretly buy it as a gift for him.  How nice was that?  So we’re down to three Italian coffee makers now, and I expect they will sell soon enough.

Jewellery has been moving well, as it always does, and just on Saturday we sold 30 vintage French magazine covers and advertisements, so that was excellent.  I’ve worked like a navvy to get most of our catalogue of pictures into the shop, and I’m almost there.  This work has really paid off in terms of extra sales, so once I bit the bullet and decided I had to put in the effort it was satisfying to see it work out so well.  But I’ve put out just about as much as Malcolm wants for now, so the rest of my stash – which is still considerable – will go onto the website. 

New in the shop, antique French copper
saucepan and flat lid.  Lids are particularly rare,
but we've just put out three saucepans with lids. 
And yes, they were in the depths of the garage
and should have come out ages ago.  Better
late than never, though, eh?
The website will now shrink to being just jewellery and vintage magazine covers, images and advertisements, at least for now.  If we buy more than Malcolm wants on our next buying trip then the spill-over can go onto the website.  But I’ll be amazed if Malcolm can’t sell everything we can provide – I’m forever having to run home to get new stuff to restock the shelves, and I can’t see why that would change.  But in terms of “my things” I shall photograph lots of pictures and jewellery over the next little while and reconfigure the website to the new streamlined look, and I’ll let you know when it’s done and will welcome your comments on improvements.

A Pentagram.  Maybe Christian,
maybe Wiccan.  Also used in
Masonic symbolism,
I think the most interesting sale since I last wrote was a late medieval bronze ring, dating to about 1550, which had a pentagram on it.  These days pentagrams are often associated with witchcraft, and I know that the witch who bought my big iron French cross-roads cross a few weeks ago would have loved it.  But it was still in a box in my garage when she visited the shop, so the witch missed out.  It sold the day I put it out, but not before generating some interesting responses.  The pentagram was actually a very early Christian symbol representing the five wounds of Christ before it was adopted by the Wicca. 
Every single time I have ever had anything that was associated with witchcraft it has sold instantly, so it’s a real pity that I can’t ring my suppliers at Pagans R Us to get more.  It’s really hard to find genuine items with serious age that feature a pentagram, but I’m always on the lookout.  One lady wanted me to tell her definitely whether the ring had been previously owned by a witch or a Christian, but how would I know?  It’s from 1550.  Either/or was all I could tell her but she wasn’t happy with that answer and I wasn’t sure which one she wanted it to be.  She didn’t look like a witch, but then what do Christians look like?   Either way, she appeared to be a ninny.

Hopefully tomorrow or at least by Saturday an enormous iron cauldron will be coming into the shop – yep it’s been in our garage for yonks – so calling all witches, if you have a fillet of a fenny snake, in the cauldron you can boil and bake to your heart’s content.  I do like the witches’ scene from Macbeth, and once spent some time teaching a friend’s four year old Witch 2’s chant, plus the chorus (sing-along now:  double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble) so she could go to her preschool and totally freak out her teacher.  And that worked admirably, so it was a job well done.  In boring old reality, I expect the cauldron will end up in someone’s garden, although I do know a woman who uses big pots to dye fabrics in, and this would be something she would love over her fire, I’m thinking.  So we’ll see where it ends up.

Martin .... Aston Martin. 
See that modern Uncool Car behind it, totally ruining
the shot?  Stay away from my shop, Uncool Cars.
Meanwhile, non-business life goes on.  Our friends Arfa and Megan visited the shop in their new ride, which is a seriously cool Aston Martin DB-something (can’t remember what).  Unfortunately they couldn’t park directly in front of the shop because some scummy modern car was already there.  I think the park in front of the shop should be permanently reserved for Cool Cars Only, enhancing the entire vintage ambiance, but no, people continue to park Seriously Uncool Cars there.  Have they no shame?  I had a quick sit in the Aston – it’s very squishy in there, and the driver and passenger certainly have to be close friends with only munchkins possible as backseat passengers.  And then I was allowed to turn on the engine via the starter button in front of the passenger.  How nice, I thought, that the passenger gets to decide when they’re going to drive off.
OMG is that a speck of dust??!!!
Another visitor – entirely unexpected – was Polly the Poodle, who had regathered her courage and turned up for another play date with Caleb.  Poh the Little White SomethingorOther just plain refuses to step foot through the door anymore after the thumping she got on the nose from Caleb, so it appears to be curtains for that budding friendship.  So it was nice that Polly came back, even though last time she played with Caleb he grabbed her around the neck, flipped her to the floor, and then when she was well and truly flattened he threw himself on top of her and laid on her in victory. 

Polly gathering her courage to leave the safety
of the lap and touch noses with Caleb.
Of course, Caleb was expecting Polly to behave as Klaatu does when they go into Wrestlemania mode, which is to kick him in the guts, flip him to the ground, put him in a headlock and hold him down until he’s able to wriggle out of the death-grip and try a manoeuver of his own.  The boys have a pre-dinner wrestle in the kitchen every night while their food is being readied – not so convenient to have mad ninjas hurling themselves around the room and using your legs as ambush cover, but they have tremendous fun.  But Polly still doesn’t get that Rough Is Fun and she was very nervous, preferring to sit on her owner’s lap and make occasional nose contact with Caleb, but it was good progress because after their last encounter I thought she’d never come back. 

But no, even when he's showing her his belly
and inviting a game, Polly knows better than to
mix it with Caleb.  In fact, it's probably better to
just look away and pretend he's not there.
Caleb is now 11 months old and is 6kg of pure muscle, and he’s starting to throw his weight around at home as well as during play dates in the shop.  I don’t mind visiting mutts being knocked flat, but at home he’s had a few smacked bums and strict instructions that he has to Play Nice with Calypso in particular, who is his usual squashing victim.  Klaatu can handle him for the most part, and surprisingly so can Mischka, but it’s more fun when your intended victim shrieks and hisses and snarls and then runs off at high speed with you in hot pursuit, and that’s Calypso’s approach to Caleb’s rough-housing.  She’s going to have to give him a good smack if she wants him to stop jumping on her, but in the meantime I’ve made it clear to him that she is under my Personal Protection and if you mess with her you incur the wrath of me.  I did this at around the same age to Calypso herself, who started being too rough for Klaatu (and that’s saying something), and she settled back down very quickly.

This isn't Caleb or Calypso, but it made me laugh
because it could just as well have been.  The
water bottle we bought to discourage attacks on
our nice leather Fler chair have been entirely
ineffectual on the Bengals.
But Caleb is the most stubborn, headstrong pussycat I’ve ever encountered.  Only this week he was being too rough with Artemis and I told him off and picked him up so we could make direct eye contact and there could be no mistaking my ire.  And the little wretch just stared me in the eyes for a good 10 seconds before looking away.  Direct eye contact can be very confronting for a moggie, and it was my intention that he understand he was in trouble and acknowledge that I’m Top Cat and he must do as I bid, that’s done through direct eye contact.  But by golly he challenged me right back, and long enough for me to start thinking Boy he’s getting heavy and what will I do if he doesn’t look away? before he finally broke eye contact. 

Caleb’s actually a real sweetie, but just getting big and very, very strong, and issues of doing as he’s told and not hurting the others must be sorted out before he gets any bigger.  We’re getting there, and I know that his good nature will prevail in the end, but at the moment he moves between being a bolshie bullyboy teenager and then coming and sitting with me and purring and head rubbing and being a schmoozy boy.  Girls are much more sensible and so much easier to deal with.  We all know that.
Apropos of nothing, except to demonstrate how easier girls are to deal with than boys.