22 July 2014

Pop Up Stories

Here is a nice French travel
advertisement, just to get me
in the mood as I plan our next
buying trip.  This ad is dated
28 June 1930, is 27x38cm
and is $40.
It’s been 12 months since we closed our retail shop in Eumundi, so for a year I have not encountered the bold and the beautiful and the just plain weird who used to come by to visit me.

But having the Pop Up shop for the last three weeks has brought it all flooding back.

So today an old lady came into the shop.  She walked past a set of four American spindle back chairs with woven cane seats, past a French walnut marble-topped bedside cabinet, past a Honduran mahogany Georgian table that seats six, and positioned herself next to a large English oak coffer.  It’s a beautiful piece that dates to 1750 and is one of the oldest pieces of furniture for sale in Australia right now. 

Does anyone around here sell actual furniture?  she asked.  I pointed to the piece she was standing right next to and said I have actual furniture.  No, she said, I mean real furniture.  I have real furniture, I said, even older than you.  Yeah that was a bit mean, but hey she was dissing my stuff.

The lovely French enamelware has been selling
solidly, so it's definitely on my Must Find List
for next trip.  As long as I get there before the
Americans, I should be fine.

But obviously I need to work on my meanness, because my tart little comment went right over her head.

She sighed loudly and rolled her eyes at my stupidity for not understanding that when she said “furniture” she meant “cheap, nasty, stapled together plywood furniture”. 
I felt my left eyebrow involuntarily rising, I felt my lips pursing, I felt downright meanness coming on.

We have chairs, we have tables, we have chests, we have cabinets, I said.  They are all traditionally regarded as furniture.

You know that we focused on vintage kitchen
ware on our last buying trip, and that was a good
decision because it's proven to be very popular. 
These are a couple of herb cutters, the top
one a quite rare shape, the bottom one more
typical (and probably easier to use).
She looked at me blankly, her mouth working silently.  I just looked at her, with my raised eyebrow.  She was a rude old lady and I wasn’t going to help her out, so I let the silence grow.

Eventually a thought formed – But do you have bookcases? she asked.  Yes, I said.  See that Art Deco stepped bookcase in the window?   That’s a bookcase.  No, she said, I mean a real bookcase.  My right eyebrow had now joined the left; it’s a real bookcase! I replied.

Yes, but I meant a tall bookcase, she said triumphantly.  The conversation may as well have been Guess what number I’m thinking of? with every number I nominated not being right.  If I’d been able to say Ha! Here is a tall bookcase, she would have countered with But I meant a tall, thin bookcase.

Now this is rare - an ad for the
Moulin Rouge, from the days
before they were mostly boobie-
girls with tassels.  This ad is
for La Geisha opera.  It is dated
14 July 1906, 29x40cm, and is $52.
In fact, it became apparent that she wasn’t interested in buying furniture from me (or anyone else) – it was just her way of opening the conversation, which then didn’t go the way she planned because she had failed to notice the variety of furniture she had marched past to get to me.
It turned out that what she actually wanted was for me to give her free valuations of her belongings.  My face was getting a right workout, with the eyebrows now furrowed.  No, was the answer.  Did you guess that was coming?  I owed her no explanation, No, was the only response she was getting. 

She looked at me blankly again, clearly expecting something more.  But I had wasted enough breath on this old chook.  I looked back at her, leaned slightly forward over my desk, and gave her my best Less Than Impressed look.  Without another word she turned tail and walked out.

This is a random shelf photo from the Pop Up
shop.  We have lots of lovely vintage French glass.
The only other You’ve Got to be Joking moment this week was when a couple with their 10 year old son came by for a browse. 

The boy picked up a large carving knife, and drew it across his throat.  A carving knife.  And he didn’t do a pretendy cut-your-throat action, the knife actually made contact with his throat.

I was aghast and quickly stepped forward.  Sweetheart, that’s a really effective way of killing yourself, I said.  He gave me a look that only exasperated 10 year olds can - I know what I’m doing, he replied.  What you’re doing, I said firmly, is coming close to seriously injuring yourself.  It’s a dumb thing to do, so put the knife down right now. 

This is a page from an old atlas, dated 1893.
The map size is 17x21cm, and it's in a frame
of 30x40cm.  It's $64. 
I also have a framed map of Africa from the
same atlas, and it's interesting to see how much
borders have changed in the last 121 years.
The exasperation was replaced with dumbfoundness – he appeared to have never been spoken to in a firm tone before. 
His father turned back from his browsing - What did he do? he asked. He almost cut his own throat with a carving knife, I told him.  Ah, kids, was the nonchalant response.  What, you have some spares at home so you can afford to lose this one? I asked. 
He gave me a smirk and a shrug and I turned back to my desk, abandoning the family to deal with their suicidal genes on their own.

So that was the week that was.  For the most part everyone has been lovely, with lots of welcoming us back to town, even if only momentarily.  We have one week to go before we close, and this has been so successful I will definitely consider doing it again.

In the meantime, we will be back at the Caloundra Street Fair next Sunday, 27 July, with a selection of nice things to show you.
Due to good behavior on her part Calypso has been the only cat coming into the Pop Up shop every day.  It is with much screeching that the boys are left behind every day, but they get over it and snuggle up soon enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment