24 February 2013

Some People Just Won't Take Good Advice

New on the website - a quite
rare French Perrier advertisement
How slack am I?  Contrary to the views of everyone who has been asking where the Blog is, I’ve not been one bit slack – I’ve actually been hugely busy.  But it’s been keep-enough-stock-in-the-shop busy rather than anything-particularly-exciting busy, so I haven’t had much to talk about.  But I shall make up for that now.

New on the website -
French magazine cover
February is traditionally the OMG Nothing Is Happening month in Eumundi, so hurrah that we have had consistently excellent weeks. Which means we’ve been busy keeping the shelves stocked and pictures on the wall.

We’ve sold 20 vintage French covers and advertisements just this week, so some urgent framing is on my To Do list over the next few days.  And we really can’t put off the archaeological dig of our shipping container for much longer, so we can find the stock that was packed away over a decade ago, but the horrendous weather has stymied that plan so far. But autumn is soon upon us, and hopefully a little less pouring, bucketing, pelting rain, and then it will be possible to start the major unpack that we’re facing.

My Valentine's Day card.  The
message is private, thank you.
In the meantime, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and wasn’t that nice? A dozen long-stemmed red roses and a champagne breakfast in bed was my surprise, and I must say it was a very civilized way to start a Thursday. 

As usual, we entered into various Valentine’s Day conspiracies with various romantic men buying their beloved something nice that we had to keep quiet about. Mostly it was jewellery, but one guy bought every single piece of electric blue French Art Deco glass we had in the shop. I sure hope his wife likes electric blue French Art Deco glass. Mind you, en masse it made a beautiful display so if she has the place to put it, it will look fabulous.

I have just started a course on web design and digital marketing.  This is a particularly difficult course for someone as technically illiterate as me, so I’m finding it a challenge.  So what am I doing wrong on the website and Blog?  Absolutely everything, apparently. 
New on the website -
French magazine cover
On the upside, I now know that our website is too small for the amount of stock I would like to have listed, so I’ll have to move to a bigger site.  Good to know, but what a drag to have to change.  And now I have to learn all about Search Engine Optimisation, Google Analytics (which I already have grappled with and retreated, soundly beaten), Webmaster Tools, Key Words, Meta Tags and various site analysis approaches.  Pah, I don’t enjoy this one bit and I don’t want to do it.  But it’s the way of the future and if I want to undertake effective eMarketing I have to know about it, so I have to suck it up and be a big girl.  Rather than a big girl’s blouse, which I’m currently feeling like.
New on the website -
wooden shortbread mould.
No, it's not a pineapple, as someone
in the shop suggested.
On the Blog side, I’m not one bit professional, it turns out, and that’s official.  But you already knew that.  I am receiving lots of good advice, professional advice, sensible advice about how I’m meant to be writing, but guess what?  La-la-la, not listening, not listening.  These Blogs started because I was writing chatty emails to friends about what we were seeing and doing and buying while on buying trips.  But the ‘send’ list became too unwieldy as more and more people wanted to receive the emails, so a friend (yes, looking at you Louisa) suggested that I write a Blog and let everyone come to me.  So the Blogs just became a different form of writing chatty emails to old friends and now to new friends I've met from being in the shop and writing this Blog.
New on the website - Scottish
lidded ceramic jar, c1930
So anyway, you know that I shall remain resolutely unprofessional.  I talk about the shop enough, I reckon.  I talk about buying stuff when we’re on buying trips, and I talk about that a lot.  I show pictures of specific stock that’s going onto the website, and if you want to see everything new on the website each week it is but a click away.  You already know that I favour Art Deco design, but I’m not averse to some good mid-20th century pieces, and that I like the elegance of Georgian and Edwardian pieces.  None of this is news.
And oh yeah, according to the experts I’m meant to be blogging at least 16 times a month. You’ve got to be kidding. I would call that Spam if I got so many emails from a friend, let alone from a business. And if I don’t have time to do that much blogging – and who does? – then I should consider employing a professional writer to write the Blogs for me. But who can rant like I rant? And how can someone who doesn’t come on our merchant adventures possibly talk about what we’re seeing and doing and buying? That's just silly, so you’re stuck with me. 
Caleb flat out in the shop,
his usual managerial position
And one last thing, the good advice from the experts that I’m not taking says that my Blogs are meant to remain entirely on point, talking only about business things.

But it wouldn’t be my Blog without a moggie in evidence, would it?  So the moggie story this week is that we had a cat show judge visit the shop.

She inspected Caleb and urged me to start entering him into cat shows. She really pushed, but as I’ve said before, when the prize is cash and not pretty ribbons I’ll consider entering both him and Calypso. But while the prizes are only pretty ribbons we shall stay at home and play. As an enticement, the judge said that some shows also offer products as well as pretty ribbons, which got my attention, but when questioned more closely she confirmed that these products do not include wide screen TVs or cars or assorted white goods. Just cat stuff. My cats already have enough stuff. So that’s more good advice that I’m just not taking.
Look at that sweet little face -
you'd Vote 1 Caleb, wouldn't you? 
But I will take good advice from you.  So if you have suggestions about what you would like me to write about in these Blogs, let me know.  I have been an antiques dealer for 25 years so I know a few bits and bobs on the topic.  And I’ve found an increasing and surprising number of people are coming in to the shop to talk about effective cat training, because they are amazed at how well behaved the Moggie du Jour in the shop is. 
Caleb is still learning good manners, I must say, but with training and patience he’s growing into a very nice, engaging boy.  I’m no animal trainer, but I can talk about what has worked for us in bringing up Bengals who are reasonably well behaved (they are Bengals, afterall) and happy to interact with lots of people.  But mostly the Blog should be on antiques and the business, I suppose, seeing how this is what we do.  So if you want a specific topic rather than my generalised news and views, let me know and I shall try to oblige.  Otherwise, each time will be whatever I'm moved to talk about.
Look at those great big paws - Caleb has had a growth spurt lately and is suddenly becoming quite muscular and stocky.  He looks like a wild cat but he's just a cute little pussycat.

11 February 2013

Always Be Polite to Potential Mad Axe Murderers

New on the website - French blue & iridescent
glass butterfly brooch, c1950
Okay, I am reintroducing to our shop the rule of all French shop keepers that customers must be polite at all times.  I mean it, people!  So if you come into my shop and ask me for my knowledge (gained over many years) and I give it to you (for free), you say thank you.  You don’t just say okay and turn and walk out.  And if you see Caleb snoozing on the desk you don’t say bizarre and rude things about him.  You keep your bizarre and rude opinions to your bizarre and rude self, and grit your teeth and be polite.  Grimace at me – I’ll kindly interpret that as a smile.  So anyway, this is now The Rule, and offenders shall incur my wrath rather than me just raising my eyebrow at them.

New on the website - Crown Devon ceramic
bowl, c1955
I mean, I do subscribe to the view that one should always be polite to potential mad axe murderers.  Having dealt with people armed with meat cleavers and big sharp knives (in a former life), none of whom were glad to see my happy smiling face, I know that the person who is armed is the person to whom you are polite.  Because, you know, there are all sorts of nutters out there who will stab you if you look at them the wrong way.  Let alone if you’re cheerily informing them that you’re arresting them and they will be deported forthwith.
New on the website - Cecily Barker
Cornflower Fairy, c1935
However, in my shop the person with meat cleavers and big sharp knives readily to hand would be me.  That alone should be reason for visitors to be polite, let alone common courtesy.  And yes, 99% of visitors are lovely and perfectly nice to have a chat with.  But then you get the people who can’t be bothered to be polite to anyone else.  I’m sure we’ve all met one of these creatures, who reckons they’re All That And More.  But I’ve had a run on them in the last week, including my own former neighbour, who I knew had a reputation for being a pig but I got to see it close up this week.  How can someone so stupid and entirely obnoxious get to be so rich?  Doug reckons it’s money laundering, but he reckons that about everything he doesn’t know the answer to. 
New on the website - French Damascene
Sailing Yacht Brooch, c1940
The former neighbour wasn’t in my shop but he was still unpleasant to watch in action, so he counts on my list of people you don’t have to make too many guesses about to understand why no-one likes them.  So I’m putting my foot down and reintroducing the French shop keepers’ rule of not dealing with a customer unless they are polite.  I have let this rule slip in recent times, but it’s back.  Eyebrow raising and pointed looks seem to be lost on most rude people, who are oblivious to all but themselves, and anyway I am rapidly getting an over-developed left eyebrow muscle and that will just look strange if I keep it up.

So ends the rant. 
New on the website - Cecily
Barker Poppy Fairy, c1935

But before I let it go entirely, just know that the next person who calls Caleb “it” and says Urgh, a cat, look at it, how hideous, I don’t know how you could even touch it, I’m a conservationist and if I had my way I’d just shoot it is going to get an atomic wedgy and be frog-marched to the door on their tippy-toes. Just for the record, I’m a conservationist too, and that’s why all my cats only ever leave the house on leashes (plus for their own protection because they are a long way from being top predator in the rainforests around our house). And Caleb is a beautiful boy who has never hurt another critter in his life – except for flies, but it’s a well known fact that All Flies Must Die if you’re a cat.

Look at this beautiful baby boy. 
Is your first reaction "I would shoot it if I had my way"?  That's cause you're not a nutter.

Okay, now ends the rant. 
Though I am still grumbling under my breath.

New on the website - French mother-of-pearl,
turquoise, onyx & carnelian Humming Bird
brooch/pendant, c1960
Meanwhile, sales have been excellent this week in the shop.  All of the Jamie Oliver giant wooden boards are now gone, but this week has been especially busy for pictures, jewellery and glass.  Doug has been too busy getting the landslide on our driveway fixed to work on tarting up any more copper for me, but I’m hoping he’ll get a few pieces done in the next few days.  I’ve got a few boxes of it to go.  The copper wall is looking downright bare right now, and we’ve got lots of lovely pieces so I want to restock the shop quick smart.  And I think I’ll frame a few more French magazine covers for the picture wall.  They always look especially nice framed, and we’ve sold so many pictures lately doing a bit of framing is becoming an essential task.  If you're nearby the shop come and have a look - the picture wall will look lovely.  Just remember The Rule.

03 February 2013

Play Dates, Sausages & Forgotten Treasure

Noosa Main Beach.  Oh dear, those rocks are
meant to be under a thick layer of sand.
This week was quiet in the shop, but last week was really excellent so it all evens out.  And other than the damage to the driveway at home we emerged from the storms and floods relatively unscathed.  But not everyone can make the same claim.  We visited Noosa Main Beach during the week and boy did that take a pounding in the storms.  It was the only beach open for days on the Sunshine Coast, and it makes you wonder how bad the others must be.  Still, the other end of the beach was entirely undamaged and just fine for a morning walk. 

The other end of Noosa Main Beach.  We'd not
seen the water so high up the beach before, but
it was still good for a walk.
It was another big week for jewellery sales – we always sell lots of jewellery, so thank goodness the latest consignment arrived on Thursday - and started selling on Thursday.  And I rearranged the shop to take the Dutch piano trolley out of the front window, where hardly anyone noticed it, and put it front and centre in the shop.  Suddenly everyone is commenting on it and asking if we’ve only just brought it out.  It makes you wonder how something that size could go unnoticed in the window, but it also points to the power of proper placement.
New in the shop this week - extra
large French deep blue enamel
kitchen storage container.
Finally Polly the Poodle came back for a play date with Caleb, and what a sweet and funny encounter that was.  Caleb was really keen to play, and jumped off the desk to greet her the moment she walked through the door.  And then chased her around the shop.  Polly wagged her tail a lot and washed Caleb’s ears a lot, but he’s used to wild chasey with the gang at our house and Polly wasn’t really ready for the full-on version.  She retreated behind her owner’s legs a lot, but always came back for more.   At one point Caleb grabbed Polly’s leash and laid on it to prevent her from retreating, so she had to come back and play.

At first Polly the Poodle (and Polly's owner)
wasn't entirely sure that Caleb
just wanted to play.  But there were
no claws, and look at that tail sticking
straight up.

I’m amazed at how self-assured Caleb is around dogs he’s never met, especially when you consider that big sister Calypso doesn’t like dogs one single bit and if they get too close they get the Bengal Death Stare, and if necessary a very impressive snarl. No phaffing about with growling, she goes straight to a I’m-going-to-rip-your-throat-out-now snarl, which always works to keep the mutts (and their owners) at a respectful distance. But Caleb loves dogs, and had a great time with Polly the Poodle.

After chasing her around for a while,
Caleb was happy to wait for Polly to
regather her courage.

In breaking news, finally, finally this week we have approved the final drawings for the next stage of our house.  Yes, we all thought the day would never arrive, but at last we found a builder and designer who were not only on the same page as us, but they also came up with intelligent suggestions that looked good and saved money.  It’s taken so long to find a builder who thought about good design and didn’t ignore our budget.  When we mentioned things like proportion to other builders and designers they’d just blink at us and clearly have no idea what we were banging on about.  How can people in the construction industry not be able to discuss proportion in architecture?  And yet it happened a lot.  And who would have thunk that we would find a builder who isn’t obsessed with milking us for every last cent and who doesn’t appear to think that we’re morons who are just going to fork it out without considering if we were getting value for money? 
You're not going anywhere, Polly.

So yes, this Blog will shortly morph into a discussion of antiques buying and selling, pussycats and the joys of building.  But hey, that’s our lives right now.  It means that the final decision on a buying trip in March/April this year has been made, and it’s a no.  I mean, the builder seems to be very fabulous but we’re still not prepared to leave him to his own devices for four or five weeks right in the middle of the build.  This is a big investment, and we intend to project manage it. 

We’ll miss not having the buying trip, but hopefully we’ll be having fun here instead.  And now we’ll positively have to dig into the storage container and unearth the stock that we packed away about 15 years ago.  These were items we placed in an antiques centre in Sydney for a short time, and plenty more that never made it into that centre, that we bought while living in the UK for three years. 
Until next time, Polly.  I'll probably be bigger
than you pretty soon, but I'll still play nice.
Back in those days I was on posting in the Australian Consulate and was expected to turn up to work most of the time, but Doug and his mates got to gad all about the UK and often ducked over to France and returned bearing all sorts of good stuff.  On his first trip to France when I couldn’t go he promised to return with a fabulous present.  The man was in France – was it so unreasonable for me to expect Chanel?  At any rate, I anticipated some nice perfume or lovely jewels.  I got Toulouse sausages.  He almost got Toulouse sausages up his nose.  And then he had the gall to eat half of them! 
New in the shop, and not at all
unreasonable for a gel to expect for a gift -
French lapis lazuli & turquoise
on silver brooch.
Yes, the sausages were actually very delicious, but nonetheless we were obliged to have a little chat about how the party wot gets to go to France has certain obligations towards the party wot gets to go to work. And those obligations involve jewellery or some such. I crashed the office car into a stone wall by skidding on black ice on the way to work one morning (did I ever mention that to Central Office? Sorry about that, Central Office) and that evening when Doug called from France he was complaining that they hadn’t been able to get a table in the restaurant they wanted. We had another small chat that did not include me saying Oh you poor love, fancy not getting the crème brulee you wanted.
So anyway, when we moved to Queensland we didn’t know we’d be opening a shop here, so we packed the boxes with the stock into a shipping container for future consideration, and there they have stayed ever since. So it’s going to be exciting to unearth treasures that have lain there, wrapped and forgotten, for so long. We could call in Time Team! And we’re going to have to make a start on finding the boxes with these treasures soon – naturally they are as far back into a fully packed container as you can get – because if we’re not going on the March buying trip we’re going to need stock replenishment from somewhere. Watch this space!

Can you imagine this beautiful girl snarling at you?  Get used to it, if you're a dog.