26 March 2014

Shopping with Skin Heads

I know a few people this sign would suit.
The day after the East of England Fair we headed up to Yorkshire, to visit a large antiques centre that often yields good results.  This time there wasn’t a great selection, although I did find several large blue glass poison bottles which will be staying at my house.  Plus a textured grey ceramic Chinese ginger jar from the early 1800s, again a My-House thing.

An instructional book some bloke will get for Xmas
For you guys I found a number of very good 1960s end-of-day glass fish.  These are the largest and the best I’ve ever found, beautifully coloured.  The nature of end-of-day glass, which was literally left-over glass at the end of working days in glass works, means that every single fish is unique.  I always look out for these glass fish, but these are the best I’ve ever found.

I’ve also found very good china, including Shelley and Spode at extraordinarily good prices, some alabaster eggs, which sound odd but they are beautiful and feel so nice in your hand it’s hard to put them down, a great brass preserves pan and some very nice large wooden French textile spools which I fully expect to be snapped up the moment I offer them.  All of these pieces are going to look so good together on our stand - I’m going to have great fun styling it with so many nice pieces to select from.

Wandering around the centre we encountered a group of skin heads, all looking suitably menacing with tattoos of leering skulls on their own bare skulls and down their necks (which has got to hurt).   This in itself was an odd demographic to find in an antiques centre, but even more strange was watching these big, beefy, bovver-boys cooing over various mother-of-pearl handled pen knives and vintage watches.  How nice that antiques can appeal to everyone.

The ideal Skin Head Xmas gift.
Aww, but wouldn't they be cuter alive?

We noticed there was quite a lot of taxidermy on offer, even in an out-of-the-way centre in Yorkshire.  I’ve been disappointed to note that dead stuffed critters are becoming fashionable again, because it can only hurt conservation efforts for endangered species. 

At the moment vintage taxidermy is particularly sought-after, but I don’t care how old the dead animal is.  A demand for vintage tiger skins, for example, will inevitably lead to a shortage of vintage pieces and that can only mean more poaching of living tigers to satisfy consumer demand.  So stop demanding it, consumers! 

This chap wasn't pretty even when he was alive

Why not enjoy animals alive and happy in their environments?  It’s macabre to surround yourself with dead stuff, not to mention cruel, entirely lacking in concern for the environment and utterly wanting in style.  It’s a bad choice on every level.  This I decree, and who among you disagrees? Contact me immediately so I can berate you.  Even the skin heads agreed that the dead critters were unattractive and a waste of little lives.  Ah, what nice boys they were.

Things you'll never see on my stand.
On the drive back to our hotel I noticed an ominous weather system developing ahead of us.  It’s been a while since we were in the Alps, but I commented that it looked distinctly like a snow storm.  But it was a balmy 8 degrees, too warm for snow, so Doug assured me that I was misinterpreting what I was seeing.  And obviously the rest of the traffic agreed with him, because cars were whizzing by at extremely high speeds – way over the speed limit. 

But guess what?  I was right, and we soon came across utter mayhem.  A short stretch of the motorway had been hit hard by this fast moving snow storm, and many cars that had been whizzing by only minutes before had spun off into ditches.  No-one was hurt, but there was plenty of work for recovery vehicles.  Living at the mountain stronghold means we have a fair bit of experience interpreting approaching weather systems, although it’s been a while since we’ve seen a snow storm heading our way.

Then it was down to London to position ourselves for the Sunbury Antiques Fair at the Kempton Park Racecourse.  There are a number of famous antiques fairs in London, but Kempton Park is a favourite of visiting celebrities and Royal families from around Europe.  Even the Sultan of Brunei has been known to bring his sizeable entourage along on a shopping trip.  

Bill the Mutt cried and cried to be let out of his car and into the rain at Kempton Park, but then didn't want to get his feet wet. 

All these celebs and royals have a lot more money than me, but I am not hampered by slow moving entourages.  Eat my dust, royal entourages!  I can shop real fast, and you need to keep moving at Kempton Park because it’s big and there’s a lot to discover (before some Royal turns up and flashes their wallet - or has their Holder of the Wallet flash their wallet).

It's an old trick to present glass on mirrors to make it look more glittery.  When I looked more closely at these pieces, though, they weren't so good.

Kempton Park laid on miserable weather, with rain nonstop all morning.  Even with my raincoat I was saturated, but that didn’t stop some serious shopping – although I must say browsing and buying in the cold, cold rain isn’t my favourite way to get things done. 

I like compacts, but none of these.
Nonetheless, I found all sorts of interesting things, including a couple of hand-forged metal anchors from Devon, a bronze ship's wheel and brass ship’s wheel from Germany, and various coloured glass fishing floats – we went all maritime for a while.  And we also finally sourced a couple of commercial meat presses, which are terrific if you want to make nice  terrines.  It’s been quite a few years since I was able to find presses of this quality, and last time I had one (in the shop) it was snapped up the day I put it out.  So we’ll see how they go at the markets.

No shortage of ceramics at Kempton Park Fair
I’ve also found a number of attractive glass and ceramic carpet bowls balls.  In the early 1900s the balls were always glass or ceramic.  But then it dawned on people that when playing a game that involves smashing balls into each other, it’s probably not a good idea if those balls are glass or ceramic.  Do ya reckon?  So then the balls were made of wood, and the more smashable balls were retired.  But they are really lovely, and I’ve found five so far so they will make a nice grouping.

After Kempton Park we popped down to West Sussex, to be near the ferry port at Newhaven for our crossing on Wednesday.  Next stop, France.

24 March 2014

My thwarted career as a media megastar

I’ve said it before and I’ll whine about it again – it’s no fun turning right when you get on a plane.  But we can spend our money on buying trips enjoying Business or First class flights, or we can spend our money buying nice stock for you lot - such are the sacrifices we make for our customers.  I expect sympathetic cooing to be coming out of your mouths right now.  

Solar powered Super Trees at Singapore Gardens, beautiful by day or night
We’re not the biggest fans of Singapore, even though the urban landscaping is beautiful and it’s an attractive city.  But it’s hideously expensive in terms of good accommodation and certainly in terms of antiques buying.  One thing it does exceedingly well is food.  We arrived late in the afternoon and found a good looking food emporium that was packed (always a good sign) and only with locals (an especially good sign).  So we ventured in, and enjoyed a rich and tasty Laksa and then some almond beancurd/lychee concoction which was delicately flavoured, delicious and refreshing.  Then it was off to that keenly-awaited decent bed before the next leg to England.

We've already found a number of lovely End-of-Day glass fish.  Each fish is unique in the world. 

A small potential drama brewed at Singapore Airport, when we caught the plane to London with only four minutes before the flight closed.  There I was, blithely enjoying a serve of very nice Siew Mai in an airport restaurant, having entirely misread the time.  Doug gently mentioned we’d better get going soon.  Yeah, yeah I said, we’ve got heaps of time.  No, actually we don’t he said.  So in my defence, it was all his fault for not dragging me to the plane by the ear when he knew perfectly well what the time was, and I was having a blonde moment.   

We always look for Art Deco ceramics and this piece is a good start to this trip's collection

We got to the security check point and ground crew started running towards us from all directions.  The last time a group dressed in black converged on us like that they all had semi-automatic pistols drawn, whereas this was just a group of gels tottering towards us in very high heels – doesn’t have the same Alarm Value.  But the gels were all quite agitated and almost bodily carried us onto the plane.

We arrived in England on the first day of Spring, and how lovely to be in such a green and pleasant land.  The skies are mostly grey and the wind has a wicked bite, but there are masses of pink and white blossoms, yellow gorse and daffodils, daffodils everywhere. 

Spring time in England - beautiful
We hit the ground shopping, and immediately carried off some teenie-weenie French copper saucepans – the smallest we’ve ever sourced.  French chefs really like tiny little vintage copper saucepans because they’re excellent for making sauces, but increasingly they are being used to serve desserts such as soufflés directly from oven to table.  So they are seriously hard to find, and as they were the first purchases of the trip we saw this as a great sign for good buying to come.

A bright sun-shiny day at the Peterborough Fair.  Still needed our coats on, though.

The East of England Antiques Fair at Peterborough was the first of the Fairs we’re here to attend.  It’s not the biggest of the fairs, but with 1700 stands it’s certainly a good start.  Most of our shopping is done at the outdoor stands, which are not always cheaper but generally more interesting than the indoor stands.  This is where we find good semi-industrial items and kitchenware, and after six hours we emerged footsore but victorious.  Yay that Peterborough did not let us down!  We bought heaps of great items, including a number of the giant Jamie Oliver wooden boards that sold like hot-cakes last time we had them.  No round wooden boards yet, but there’s still time. 

We look at rubbish so you don't have to.
We also carried off a couple of French wooden well buckets, and some long narrow wooden boards that were originally used for bread, but I expect in Australia they will be used on tables with candles, shells or other decorative items.  They are 150 years old, and will look fabulous when they’re all waxed and glowing.  Various wire baskets and beautiful enamelware really loaded us down, and we had multiple trips back to the van before plunging back into the fray.

We also sourced some nice Roman era bronze rings that were excavated in the Balkans, and medieval crosses that were excavated in Russia.  This is great news for the antiquities collectors who have been hounding me to find them something decent.  For the last few trips there has been nothing to be found, but this time I hit paydirt.

Hey, interior decorators!  Stop getting all creative with galvanized crates and buckets and forcing the prices up.  I am determined to find some, but no luck so far.

I pounced on various galvanised crates, only to drop them like hot potatoes when I saw the prices.  And do you think I could find a traditional wire potato basket that was remotely affordable?  Prices have sky-rocketed, and we lamented with several dealers how hard sourcing good semi-industrial pieces is increasingly becoming.  But still, we have found a number of attractive wire baskets, of a type that hasn’t yet been discovered by interior decorators.  But they’ll get there, as soon as prices for the more traditionally shaped baskets gets too much for even them.

Glass rabbit jelly mould on its way to Australia
I’ve also noticed a marked increase in the price of clear glass jelly moulds, which was hard to explain until I saw that the latest edition of BBC Homes & Antiques (one of the trade’s bibles) is featuring a big article on how jolly good these moulds are.  Dang, I hate it when mainstream discovers something I had been quietly buying at reasonable prices.  Then I can say goodbye to anything approaching reasonable.  But I am working quickly to snaffle any good pieces I can still find at good prices, keeping ahead of the trend by the skin of my teeth.  I’ve found a few very nice examples, including a most excellent clear glass rabbit jelly mould, which is a piece I’ve been hunting for some time.

Finally, I have now been filmed in the background of Bargain Hunt 19 times.  But have I appeared on your TV screens yet?  My enemies are deliberately making sure that I am edited out, that is all we can assume. 

This time I chatted with the red team, who had just finalised their purchase of the most hideous 1960s highly coloured totem pole.  I said to the husband I’m a person who will be watching the show, talking at you through the screen and telling you not to buy that.  And he told me I’m the guy on the show, wondering why I just bought that.

The Red Team buying a hideous 1960s totem pole
I later caught up with the red team just as they were about to purchase another hideous item.  They were blocking a stand where I wanted to buy some lovely Edwardian ceramic tiles, so I had to wait until they’d finished filming.  The wife of the red team and I met each other’s eyes, and I gave a slight shake of my head, suggesting to her that it wasn’t a good purchase.  She gave me a thin-lipped smile in return, rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders.  What could she do?  Her husband had the bit between his teeth yet again, and he and the so-called expert were talking themselves into another disastrous purchase. 

The girls are very stressed without us
I was standing next to a production assistant while filming was underway, and asked if it was possible for Bargain Hunt to introduce a new segment, where a person (say, me) could stage an intervention when a team was about to buy something so hideous Tim Wonnacott would fall down dead from apoplexy when he saw it.  I said they could have someone (say, me) enter Stage Left, put their hand on the main offender’s arm and say I’m sorry, but no and then step out of the scene. That would be all that was needed.  I told the production assistant that thousands of viewers would appreciate this new Intervention Segment.

OMG, gasped the production assistant, that’s a great idea!  Suitably encouraged, I expanded on my role, saying I could tell the red team Come on, you’ve just lost a huge amount of money on that hideous totem pole, why exacerbate the problem?  She told me that if it was going to get down-right bitchy there was no prospect I could have the part because Tim Wonnacott would demand to do it himself.  We cacked ourselves laughing at our own brilliance in planning this new segment, to the point that filming had to stop because we were being too raucous in the background.  So she had to look suitably chastened and I took the opportunity to buy the tiles I wanted and leg it. 

We've found more glass pate pots - yay!
So you heard it here first, people.  If Bargain Hunt introduces a new Intervention Segment it was all my idea and I should have gotten the part.  I know you won’t believe this, but I can be every bit as bitchy as Tim Wonnacott.  And I won’t wear appalling bowties while I’m doing it.

12 March 2014

Announcing the return of the Banjo Busker

One of our shelves at Nambour Collectorama.

Yes it’s true, my pleas have been heard, all other buskers at the Caloundra Street Fair have been renounced and Banjo Busker has been reinstated to his spot. 

But you know, after some time with him away and after being subjected to a stream of appalling replacements, I have  perhaps recalled Banjo Busker a little more fondly than I should have.

More Collectorama offerings.
True to his word, Banjo Busker had indeed worked on a perky version of Stairway to Heaven, and it’s everything you could imagine a banjo version at triple speed would be.  It even included the occasional Yee-Ha.  Can you picture us all standing there with squinty eyes and gritted teeth, trying to laugh and say That’s just wrong at the same time?

We offered a good selection & had a good day.
But Banjo Busker hadn’t just perfected the ever-so-cheery version of Stairway to Heaven during his hiatus.  How on Earth do you play a bouncy version of Riders on the Storm (The Doors) to the same chords as The Boys Light Up (Australian Crawl)?  With real dedication, that’s how.  And perhaps by being tone deaf. 

Finally Banjo Busker took a break, but the owner of the espresso bar across the road seized the opportunity to bring out his guitar to entice passing coffee aficionados into his premises.  You may recall during my last Blog I mentioned how colour, smell and music are often used as marketing tools.  It really is scientifically proven, you know.  If you are interested in a plain English explanation of the psychology of colour have a look at this link:  http://www.precisionintermedia.com/color

Our old shop sign, now used at Fairs & Markets.
As an aside, long before I knew about this type of psych report I had already designed our corporate branding in black, white, red and blue.  So yay that I got that right, even though I was winging it.  I expect that the font used on your signage means something too, but I haven’t found those reports yet.

So accepting that music can attract or repel customers, answer me this:  would you be lured into a café where the owner is mournfully yowling You’d Better Be Home Soon (Crowded House) in the doorway?  At least he was in tune, but he was no Neil Finn.

Have you seen more baroque pearls than these?
But just then Banjo Busker returned from his break and discovered the interloper across the road.  There was nothing for it, but a duel.  And not a dueling banjos type duel, which might have been entertaining.   It was more in the way of a my-music-is-way-louder-than-yours duel.  This is a musical variant of the mine-is-bigger-than-yours competition played by boys the world over.  But, oh dear, both of these boys had microphones.

So from across the road came a growing crescendo of Neil-Finn-esque yowling, while Banjo Busker countered with a Pump Up the Volume rendition of The Beverly Hillbillies which then morphed into some type of Whacky Races car chase music.

French enameled metal trivet.
They were so intent on out-doing each other they both failed to notice customers fleeing in droves.  And yes, that included from our stand as well, so thanks a lot fellas!  We literally had to yell at customers to be heard over the racket, which certainly didn’t encourage anyone to linger and browse.  The espresso bar emptied and while Banjo Busker appeared to emerge the victor, there were no listeners in the vicinity by the time he finished.  Except for us, the involuntary listeners.

So here is my new idea:  if we must have buskers at the Caloundra Street Fair, why not impose a musicality test?  But I would have no say in who passes the test, and where’s the sense in that?  Except that my new-found pathological hatred of buskers would probably mean that no-one passes. 

A selection of stock at Peregian last time.
For my final word on buskers (for now), go to the link below and turn your volume to maximum.  It is utter, total, 100% proof that all of my advice to Banjo Busker has been utterly, totally, 100% correct.  Why can’t the buskers at the Caloundra Street Fair listen to me in all things and be like this?  They’d make a total fortune.

Click here to see evidence of my untold cleverness as an advice giver to buskers:   http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/83896505/

The Peregian Beach Market has no buskers, preferring to let the ocean and sea breezes provide the background melody, and that works well.  We’re back at the Peregian Beach Market this coming Sunday, 16 March, our last time before we head off for the buying trip.  We’re still putting plenty of new things out so come by, if you can, for your last look for a little while.

Calypso sunning herself before visiting the vet.
Meanwhile, we’ve had worrying days with Calypso this week, with lots of tears on my part.  I am inconsolable when my pets are in harm’s way, although I tried to keep it together to ask reasonably intelligent questions of the vet.  Pet owners will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say I could not clearly identify a problem, only that I knew there was one.

Blood tests showed high creatine levels, so a potentially serious kidney problem.  She spent three days on intravenous fluids, and in the end that seems to have flushed out her kidneys and returned her to normal.  The vet said she had suffered a toxic insult, vet-speak for she ate something – probably an insect – that poisoned her.  Geez, no matter how you try to protect them, bad things can still happen.  But it’s ended on a happy note. 

Can you see her shaved neck & front legs?
The poor chook has a shaved neck, belly and both front legs, so she looks a mess.  Somehow – the vet doesn’t know how, but somehow – she managed to get past the giant Elizabethan plastic collar that was meant to prevent her from injuring herself to twice pull out her catheter.  So her legs are a mess.  But she’s alive and we have our little Spotted One safely back home.