27 January 2013

Of Droughts and Flooding Rains

The waterfall that forms at the
bottom of our property when it
rains was in full flow this week.
It’s a late Blog this week because we’ve been battling the weather.  Horribly, horribly hot has been replaced with horribly, horribly wet.  And in the mountain stronghold we copped a battering in the extremely high winds from ex-cyclone Oswald.  So that was an ex-cyclone? We still got battered, though.  And a massive amount of water came off the mountain, causing considerable flooding in the valley below.  Sorry about that, benthics! 

Anyway, we paid a lot of money to have the house, carport and garage cyclone-rated so we figured we’d see if we got our money’s worth.  We did, with nothing at all happening at the house.  The driveway faired less well, however, with a couple of reasonably large landslides, one of which we cleared ourselves but the other will need some gabion baskets installed to prevent further slides.  We do enjoy living on a big property, but when things go wrong big solutions are necessary. 
It seemed that water-based pictures
were appropriate to feature this
week.  This is new on the website.
But other than the bucketing rain, floods, landslides and that-might-have-only-been-an-ex-cyclone-but-boy-that-was-a-lot-of-wind, we’ve had lots of people visiting us in the shop, so sales have been excellent.  So this week, other than land care we’ve done little beyond getting new stock out and ready for the shop.  Except for a nice walk on Noosa beach followed by a very good breakfast at Noosa Wharf one morning, and a really very nice lunch at a restaurant on Noosa River another day.  And some socialising with friends on other days.  And ignoring it all to chill and watch a bit of tennis.  But other than that, it’s been nothing but being slaves to work.

The bronze panther on the French Art Deco
lamp that's staying at our place.
We’re down to three electric lamps, which is an issue because we use them to light up the shop at night.  I positively can’t persuade Doug to part with the very cool Italian Faro lamp we bought on the last buying trip – not that I blame him, and I refuse to part with the French Art Deco bronze panther lamp from the trip before last.  So we only have ourselves to blame if we refuse to put stock into the shop.  But I have a vague recollection of some lamps in the garage awaiting rewiring, so we’ll have to go hunting soon.

Another water-borne bimbo,
new on the website.
The big four for us in the shop lately have been jewellery, vintage pictures, Deco glass and French enamelware. Thank goodness the latest consignment of jewellery arrived a week ago, because the cabinets were starting to look a bit bare but now they’re fully stocked again and looking lovely. And we can’t keep up with the rate at which we’re selling vintage French copper at the moment, so that’s good. The picture of the copper wall I took for last Blog is now entirely outdated, but we have plenty more to replenish it with. We always give the old copper a very decent clean before offering it for sale, because you’d be amazed at the condition we buy it in. A bit blah, let’s say. But it’s all clean and glowing by the time we’re done with it, and it sells very well. I might put some on the website, but it tends to sell in the shop too quickly to make it worth photographing. But I might.
This shot of Caleb is courtesy of a lovely visitor
to our shop - Fiona.  Doug calls it
I'm waiting mouses, I'm waiting.
It’s been just the spotty cats in the shop this week, Caleb so he can continue his lessons in manners and Calypso because she’s a good gel who snuggles on my lap and lets me get on with paperwork.  Caleb has meltdown tantrums when I don’t let him go outside to play in the rain – Bengals surely do love water – but when we’re in the shop Not A Paw Past The Door is absolutely non-negotiable Rule No. 1. 

Klaatu can also do an intimidate-the-
mouses look.
So on Thursday he squawked and yowled and screeched his lungs out because he wanted to go outside and play in the downpour, but Ms Meanie said no.  Visitors were dead impressed at the noise one little cat could generate, but I’ve heard it all before and took the opportunity to reinforce Rule No. 2 – Resistance is Futile.  That one is taking a while to be accepted, but we’re getting there.  Caleb is holding out on the Do-as-you’re-told front for longer than any other cat we’ve ever owned, but we knew he was a strong personality when we selected him – even at two weeks old that was bleedin’ obvious, so we can’t complain that we got what we asked for.

Another water image, but not a
bosom in sight.  English antique
chromolithograph of a Water Lily,
new on the website.
On Friday morning Caleb expected to come back to bed after rolling around on the verandah in the pouring rain, and was very indignant when he was instantly ejected from the bed.  He was sodden, but determined to dry off next to me.  But after being fended off with my foot and then physically chucked off the bed when he evaded the foot, he went away and dried himself and re-presented as a clean and dry little pussycat, who was then judged suitable for a cuddle. 
Calypso and I were soaked on the way into work, but one of us was able to lick herself dry while sitting in the front window of the shop (hint, it wasn’t me).  So she looked all sleek and dry while I looked all frizzy and bedraggled.  Hardly seems fair, but I’m not tempted to lick myself dry in the front window.  Might increase visitor numbers, though.  Or not.
Artemis riding out the not-a-cyclone.

18 January 2013

Cat Conspiracy

How innocent they look.  Wrong.
Caleb is merely regrouping.
I have discovered a new conspiracy among cats, at least the ones at our house.  They are having a secret competition to see who can make us look behind us the most.  You know that thing cats do, where they look all saucer-eyed at a spot directly over your shoulder, so you feel there must be a tarantula on the wall directly behind you?  And then when you look behind you they do the cat equivalent of Ha! Made you look! and laugh behind their paws?

Well this week I dreamt that Mischka was sitting next to the bed looking intently at the wall behind me – and I woke up and looked behind me!  Of course there was no spider, there never is, but there was Misch sitting there looking all intently at me.  So OMG she ESPed me to wake up and look behind me!  She is so the winner of the Look-Out-There’s-A-Tarantula-Behind-You! Cat Conspiracy.  She is snoozing on my lap as I type, looking the picture of domestic moggie bliss, and if you didn’t know better you’d never suspect her expertise as Chief Cat Conspirator.  You’ve got to keep those humans on their toes, you know.

New on the website - American
Sphinx Brand Aurora Borealis
& Red Rhinestone Brooch
Surprisingly, given the on-going hot weather, we’ve had another busy week in the shop.  On Saturday it was so hot that people at the Markets were fainting, and although we were fine in an air-conditioned shop it was pretty horrible out on the streets.  And yet there were still plenty of people milling about and coming into the shop.  We’ve now sold half of what we’ve called the Jamie Oliver Boards, which is good going.  If you’ve seen his cooking show you would have seen him serving food directly onto these giant wooden boards, and his presentation always looks interesting and attractive.  And in his latest cook book, which is beautifully styled, every single photo features the food presented in vintage kitchenware.  His use of vintage kitchenware has made buying good pieces so much more difficult for us (because everyone’s now after it), but it also means that the things we have in the shop now have a wider appreciative audience.

Calypso has a tiger-orange colour, but other than
that she doesn't look one bit like a tiger.
And she's definitely a girl.
And, as with last week, when you have lots of visitors the probability is you’re going to get your share of Strange Ones.  As if last week wasn’t enough!  This week it was another woman (gels, what’s up with the strangeness?).  She wasn’t aggressive or a fraudster and didn’t do anything to incur my wrath, but was just Strange.  How’s this:  she came into the shop with a friend and spotted Calypso.  Oooh look! she said, A tiger cat! It’s obviously a boy.  I’ve found that most people incorrectly identify Bengals with tigers rather than leopards, which is a sad indictment of general education levels because they don’t look one bit like tigers and look entirely like little leopards.  Anyway, I told her that Calypso is a girl, and she said It can’t be – tiger cats only come as boys.  I said How would they breed, then?  Her friend laughed and said Good question!  But the first woman said Well that’s what I’ve heard, and I believe it.  I said But Calypso is definitely a girl, and she just shrugged and said Well I believe what I heard and then she left.  Her friend and I exchanged a Yep, She’s Stoopid look and then her friend followed her out, shaking her head and laughing at her.
There's always a willing photographer's
assistant when you're photographing
stock at home.

We started to bring out the vintage copper pots and pans this week, and the wall where I hang it all is looking spiffy, with more to come. Doug has seized several choice pieces, so a lovely lidded casserole pot and a big preserving pan will now apparently be staying at our house, but there are still plenty of good pieces to come. 

Willing assistants in the shop, too.

More esoteric things like Victorian sewing bodkins are also now on the shelves, although many people don’t know what they are. Bodkins are intended to allow a sewer (or embroiderer) to make bigger holes in fabric than needles can, but still small, controllable holes. I had one woman look at them and inform me that my description was wrong and that they were actually for extracting lobster meat from the shells. But the fact that she was incorrectly using her bodkins doesn’t make them lobster picks. I guess they would still kind of serve the purpose, but they started life as sewing implements. 
New on the website.  Victorian sewing bodkin, bone handle with bee hive design.

Who's a gorgeous boy?
And with award-winning relatives.

We heard this week that Calypso’s litter-mate and favourite brother, Catwalk Faberge, won Reserve short-haired Cat of the Year 2012. Because he is 17 months old and has only been shown in the adult cats division for a few months, this is quite an accolade. Lots of people have asked if we will show Calypso (Faberge’s full sister) and Caleb (Faberge’s half-brother) but I think we shall simply bask in his reflected glory. When the prizes are cash we’ll be there, but until then we don’t need any pretty ribbons. Nice to know that they are from award-winning stock, though. As if we didn’t know they are beautiful!



11 January 2013

I'm French - why do you think I have this Outrageous accent?

Calypso always waits at the door
when she knows it's shop time
in the hope that it's her turn.
I was planning on a Python-athon this week but it’s been too dang hot so we settled for just one movie and the Pythons can wait until next week when it’s cooler.  We watched the latest Bourne movie and I must say I prefer the earlier ones – that actually had Bourne in them – but while this one started slowly it did pick up and I ended up enjoying it. 

But I must have been channelling French insults even without watching Monty Python movies because it’s been a big week for selling all things French in the shop, so our Blog title, courtesy of Monty Python & The Holy Grail, seemed fitting.

Part of the castle walls at Vitre.  I think the
whitewashed part was the toilets. 
Too bad if you were on guard below!
When we visited the castle in Vitre (I think south-west of Paris) I entirely embarrassed Doug by shrieking various Python quotes from the battlements in homage to the movie but, do you know, not a single person passing below looked up. My quotes were in English (but with an outrageous French accent), so maybe people didn’t understand my entirely witty insults. But can Your Mother Was a Hamster & Your Father Smelt of Elderberries be properly translated into French anyway? Does it really mean anything in English? I grant you that I fart in your general direction or I blow my nose at you are good insults in any language, but I tried out a range of quotes and none of them elicited a response. Doug’s theory was that I wasn’t the first person to do this, and the locals were immune to idiot tourists. He’s probably right, but how rude to say so.

Calypso wants my chair but sees me coming. 
Time to launch into the Cute Cat routine to
distract me from evicting her.
In the shop almost everything we’ve sold this week has been French.  Why didn’t I think of selling the vintage French images and advertisements unframed before now?  Cause I’m not very good at this, that’s why.  Retail doesn’t come naturally to me.  But selling the images unframed has been a hugely successful move, one of my better shop decisions in a long time.
Being a Cute Cat involves a great deal of
wriggling about on the chair, waving your paws
at me and inviting me to rub your belly.
And what a good thing we bought so much French enamelware on our buying trip.  I was starting to hesitate towards the end of the trip because I had bought so much, but I continued buying on the basis that I don’t see all these excellent colours and shapes on every trip so I should make the most of it while I could.  That turned out to be a good decision, because it’s been walking out the door and now I’m wondering how long our supplies will last.  Despite our resolve that we would try to limit our buying trips to one in 2013, we have both already started to consider a quickie trip in March/April, because the stock is selling so quickly.  Mind you, there are heaps of things still in the garage from previous trips, so we’ll see what we can dig out first.
French enamelled lunch boxs.  I only got these
two on our last buying trip, despite my best
efforts to find more.
I met a lovely old French man this week who told me that he recognized the enamelled lunch boxes from his youth.  I remarked that he didn’t get much lunch in those days, but he said that in fact the boxes were brought to him by his mother and then his wife three times a day.  So he actually had three meal breaks, plus a baguette, plus often got a good way through a bottle of wine by himself.  So French lunches in the old days weren’t quite as Spartan as I had been imagining.
If you really wriggle about and chirp and
squawk at me while being a Cute Cat, it's a
good bet I will relent and let you have the
chair and rub your belly.
Despite this week’s hideously hot weather there have been good sales for us.  I thought on Market Day we’d barely see a soul because everyone would be at the beach, but a surprising number of people braved the Markets and spilled over to our shop.  And of all that number of course there had to be a few Strange Ones.  Wouldn’t be our shop without Strange Ones visiting, would it? 

This week’s culprits are both women, one just unobservant and the other downright outrageous (but without the French accent) who I ended up throwing out of the shop.

But look up occasionally to make sure that
the Cute Cat routine really is working.
The first woman was actually a nice lady, but she stood looking at my main shelves for some time before approaching me and telling me that I used to have lots of lovely French glass.  She had bought a nice glass jug from me last time she visited and was hoping to find a glass bowl this time, so it was unfortunate I didn’t have any.  Sitting at my desk I could see 11 glass bowls just in my line-of-sight, most of them French, so I wondered if I was misinterpreting her idea of what “glass bowl” meant. 

I have lots of glass bowls here, I told her, so what exactly did you have in mind?  She looked back at the shelves, apparently saw nothing, and turned back to me.  What bowls? she asked.  Let me give you a tour, I told her.  After pointing out the first five bowls she realised that in fact they were everywhere, so I left her browsing - and this time actually looking - and sure enough she found a lovely French glass bowl to carry off home.  But that was just someone being a bit absent-minded.  Okay a whole lot absent-minded, but we had a laugh together and in the end she found something she liked. 
And when all else fails, feign utter exhaustion
and hope I will take pity on you and let you
keep the chair.  It won't work, but no harm trying.
The other woman I became very cranky with and for the second time ever I threw someone out of my shop and told her never to darken my door again.  How outrageous is this:  she bought a vintage brooch a few months ago, which left our shop in fine condition.  I don’t buy anything with damage because modern jewellers often have difficulty repairing the old pieces.  So anyway, a few months after purchase she brought it back to me having entirely ripped the clasp from the back, which in turn removed a good hunk of the filigreed body of the brooch along with the clasp. 

New on the website - French
Perfume Advertisement
She informed me that it was my responsibility that it had broken while in her care, and she wanted a refund.  I asked how it was possibly my fault that she had broken it.  I didn’t break it, she said, it was like this when I bought it.  I was incredulous.  You’re telling me that this brooch, which has been literally ripped apart from rough handling, was how it was when you selected and bought it?  What utter nonsense!  But apparently shop owners aren’t supposed to question customers and point out the bleedin’ obvious to liars who aren’t very good liars, so she became lost for words and just stood there looking at me. 
New on the website.  English jardiniere
featuring apple blossoms.
But guess what?  I do a fine line in eyebrow-raised-quizzical-looks, having had a great deal of practice when I had to bunge it on and be all Vice-Consul-ish when I was in the Australian Consulate in the UK in a previous life.  And before that I worked for two front bench Federal Government Ministers and in that role dealt with all manner of outrageous behaviour and demands.  So hey, lady, if you’re reading this (and she did take my card) I have years of experience seeing off fraudsters a whole lot better at it than you.

New on the website - French
cosmetics advertisement
So after a pause, where she clearly couldn’t think of what to say next and I waited for her brain to tick over, she came up with But this brooch wasn’t in new condition when I bought it.  I laughed outright – You’re in an antiques shop!  Nothing here is new!  You bought something over 70 years old, and you didn’t think you should be careful when handling it?  Well no, was the answer.  She told me that someone had told her that I should have offered a warranty with the brooch.  What, a warranty against you breaking it?  I asked.  Well yes, was the answer.

So I tried a few analogies on her:

If you bought a car for your son and he drove down the road recklessly and hit a tree and badly damaged the car, would you take it back to the car yard and tell them the damage was their responsibility and they should refund your money?  No, apparently it would not be the fault of the car yard that she had imparted idiot genes to her son.

If you bought a glass bowl (bowls being on my brain at that very moment) and you took it home but your dog knocked it off the bench and broke it, would you think it the responsibility of K-Mart?  Yes, I deliberately and snarkily mentioned K-Mart, having surmised that this was her usual retail outlet.  Anyway, no, apparently it would not be K-Mart’s fault for her having a boisterous mutt what breaks things.
So leading her gently here, if you bought a vintage brooch and handled it so roughly that it broke, and not any old broke – you actually tore a piece of the body of the brooch away with the clasp – would that be your own fault for being careless and rough, or the fault of the shop you bought it from.  Have you guessed?  It is, apparently, entirely the shop’s fault that she is a dolt who handles metal items roughly enough to rip them apart. 

So much for analogies.
New on the website.  English Green Dragon
ceramic bowl by Hancock.
Anyway, long story short I suppose I should have been more gentle with her because she was standing in front of my desk shaking like a leaf, with her voice was all thin and quavery.  But it was as well that she should stand there being all nervous and ashamed of herself.  It didn’t stop her trying her luck to get money from me.  I told her I found her behaviour to be outrageous, and that she had to leave now and never return because I would rather go without customers before I put up with customers like her.  I again made a reference to K-Mart and suggested that might be more her speed in future.  And hey, no offence K-Mart but some people just need to buy plastic stuff and I was sending you a customer.

As a parting shot she mentioned that she would sue me.  I told her that I suspected I was somewhat more experienced in contributing to Briefs of Evidence than her (former life stuff), so bring it.  I neglected to mention that my experience was in the Federal Court and not the Small Claims Court, but evidence is evidence and lies are lies in either jurisdiction, I’m thinking. 
Death's Head Mickey t-shirt. 
Apparently I look very mean in it.
Fear me all Fraudsters!
But by then I was entirely over her and told her she had to leave now.  I rose partly out of my chair as I spoke – actually to dislodge Calypso who had been insisting on sitting on my lap and my lap was getting seriously hot.  But I seem to have cut a mean figure (I did have my Death’s Head Mickey t-shirt on, afterall) and she gave a squawk and fled the shop. Hopefully never to return.

I guess we’re lucky in that for almost five years in our shop we’ve experienced little truly outrageous behaviour from our customers.  When I was a student I worked for a short while in a book shop, and people were forever demanding refunds – really quite loudly and forcibly – for reasons normal people would have difficulty believing.  For example:

-  I didn’t like the ending.  Take it up with author we used to say.

-  I don’t think it was well written.  Again, this was one for the author.

-  I didn’t understand it.  After we got over the fact that these people displayed no embarrassment whatsoever in admitting they were too stupid to understand the book they bought, didn’t they think that a book using magic realism as its literary device might be a bit brain twisty?  Or that a text on quantum physics might be a step up from Dick & Dora Play with Spot? 

-  And our all-time favourite, used only once but we loved it:  I dropped the book in the toilet and now it’s all yucky so I want a refund. 
Vintage French cotton lace trim.  Probably won't
make it onto the website because I don't have a
Textiles Page yet (coming soon, though) but 
in the shop now.
Believe it or not, dipping a book in your own urine (or indeed anyone else’s) is not grounds for a refund.  Neither is being too stupid to understand it, neither is I didn’t like it. 

We actually had a woman strongly suggest that we tell people the ending of the book they were buying so they would know if it sounded suitable before they spent their money.  What???  Can you imagine the reaction of most people if you told them The Butler did it as you were handing them their book? 

Also not on the website but in the shop -
extremely wide French cotton lace trim.
I guess it’s just a fact of life in retail that some people will try it on with you and see if they get anywhere.  Regulars to our shop will attest to how remarkably patient I am with sometimes very rude people, adopting the water-off-a-duck’s-back approach.  I have to care about what you think before it will affect me.  But even I have my limits.  If you’re going to lie to me, people, don’t make them pathetic lies that don’t stand up to the most basic logic in return.  And yes, if you insist on getting in my face and presenting such stories it will be Game On, and you’d better be good because I do enjoy a good verbal joust.  Or here’s an idea, why not present your outrageous stories with an outrageous French accent?  You still won’t fraudulently extract money from me, but it would be a little more amusing for all of us, don’t you think?

03 January 2013

You Can Be The Sinner And I'll Be The Sin

New on the website - French
Magazine Image
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this week Oooh I shouldn’t, my New Year’s Resolution was to be good.  But since when wasn’t it good to treat yourself?  Like the lady in the ad says:  You’re Worth It. 

For the most part, the sin of breaking a New Year’s Resolution has been quickly overcome by the enjoyment of carrying off something vintage, beautiful and affordable.  And I can totally identify with that - I’ve been buying and selling antiques for a few decades now (it’s rude ask exactly how long) and I still very much enjoy carrying off bargain treasure.

So if you’re someone who thinks it’s bad to buy nice things for yourself, think again.  It’s good for you to be surrounded by beauty.  If it makes you smile and feel happy then it is good, by definition.  And you know, after having this conversation with a number of people in the last few days, there have been converts who have made this their mantra:  Small indulgences in myself aren’t sins.  I’m worth it.  And remember I’m not talking about thousands of dollars, I’m talking about small indulgences.  Not that you’re not worth big indulgences, of course.  I’m just saying that small indulgences don’t hurt. 
Not Caleb's most elegant pose,
but he was hot and the manager's chair was just right for a bit of lounging.
But if this eminently sensible advice (do I give any other type?) still isn’t resonating with you, let’s keep it more basic – you can sin with impunity in my shop and I won’t tell.  My silence can be bought for a small fee.  Do you know how many women have secret bank accounts that their partners don’t know about?  A lot is the answer.  They use these accounts for their secret purchases, and some of them are pretty cashed up.  Who knew this was happening?  And why didn’t I think of it? 
New on the website - American Aurora Borealis
Domed Brooch by Rivoli
Until we opened the shop I had only ever met one woman who had a secret bank account that her husband was entirely unaware of, but since we’ve had the shop I’ve met heaps of them.  I’ve not met a man with a secret bank account – or maybe they’re just not sharing this information with me the way that women do.

We have lots of plans for 2013 – trying to cut the buying trips down to one a year (but a dang good one), build the rest of the house, and get some serious land care going on the property, which has been sadly neglected while we’ve been running the shop and dashing off overseas all the time.  But I have only one Resolution, and the picture depicting it came to me courtesy of the lovely Helga:  Live like someone left the gate open.  I think I can manage that.