Life in the Arts Lane -week 129 - The anticipation game

Waiting is a fact of life - that does not make it any more bearable. Two weeks ago on a bright Monday morning I rented a van and - gathering up my son Inigo en route - loaded it with some of my least loved items of stock and headed off to Stow on the Wold for the "swap shop". I have only attended this annual event once before and it has stood in my memory as a great experience. I was at Mallett then and the assembled motley crew of dealers looked on in delight and surprise as the Mallett van turned up and disgorged myself, two porters and about 150 items. three hours later, aided and abetted by swap shop maestro Tony Fell I found myself loading about a dozen new pieces onto the van and all 150 items had gone. A nightmare cricket game followed during which I was so humiliated by my incompetence that it has remained a 'laugh' for many of the trade ever since and it was over 10 years ago! Nonetheless loaded up and full of hope and expectation I threaded though the traffic up to Stow. That night 16 dealers gathered to eat curry and reminisce ahead of the morning swap. I felt nervous - like before a fair. I had to wait and see what would happen. The next morning as Inigo and I pulled the stuff out from the back of the van I predicted I would both find nothing I wanted and no one would feel desire for any of my stuff. The wait dragged on for nearly three quarters of an hour and then things kicked off. Admittedly, various folk tried to persuade me - in a nice way - that my treasures were rubbish and theirs were solid gold, but that is to be expected. As before - with a bit of argy bargy and the occasional dramatic pause, I packed up into the van a bunch of new things and left my once loved things behind. It was a good day. Sadly the cricket was no better than before and being bowled by Edward Hurst to a daisy cutter that barely made it to the wicket is a further humiliation I will have both to bear and never hear the end of. Especially as my son has now been inducted into the mocking crew.

 The triumph of son over father.

The triumph of son over father.

 

The next stressful wait is for things to arrive from abroad. Last week I went to Belgium with my ex Mallett colleague Nick Wells. He has fashioned a post Mallett career for himself as an internet selling maestro. His website gets a regular avalanche of hits and he sells steadily and well a delightful smorgasbord of items. Nick buys relatively little but he felt like a day or so on the road. The highlight was eating in Brussels at Vismet which is my favourite fish restaurant in the world. Nick took on the 'assiette matelot' which is a delicious but unceremonious bowl of seafood. Oysters, crab, mussels and whelks comes in a heap and you just tuck in.  It is fabulous. I, in an unexpectedly demure fashion, had a carefully crafted plate of cod preceded by a half dozen of their typically bright, fresh and very salty oysters. But we were ostensibly there to buy art and the next day I succumbed in a big way and he more modestly. Sadly the items I bought would not fit into the car and so I now have to bite my nails nervously until they arrive. I am not concerned about damage - I am terrified that I won't like them when they arrive. Sometimes the thrill and drama of driving, eating and shopping abroad casts a rosy hue over all that you survey and bad mistakes can that way tend. So now I am waiting to see whether it will be future swap shop fodder or happiness. Another week to go.

 Vismet - Assiette Matelot.

Vismet - Assiette Matelot.

 

Today I am waiting for the public. The Battersea decorative fair opens tomorrow and I have set out my stall and am hovering expectantly. The Big Bang comes at midday but you have to be alert as for the last two fairs the Beckhams have been allowed early access to shop discreetly. I have to report with sadness that they did not dwell or even linger around the Woodham-Smith Ltd booth. Waiting is now my friend for the next few days. I will stand by for an eager punter to light upon something they hanker after. I will be tolerant of those that want to share with me how similar something of mine is to one they once owned or bought for a fraction of what I am asking - even if on analysis there is little connection between the two. I will enjoy the banter, the dogs, the look of horror when I reveal the price, I will enjoy it all because amid the frustration and the patience there will hopefully be a few sales. I will change around my stand and perhaps a few new things will come on and perhaps I will buy something.  

 It is a dog's life - always waiting.

It is a dog's life - always waiting.

The final and almost the only nice wait is the one before you get paid. It is true that you often wait too long and that can be exasperating, but the soft warm glow that follows a sale and the raising of an invoice is kept as glowing embers by the wait for the money. I have been expecting a payment for a couple of months and when it arrives it will feel as if the item has been sold all over again. Two tastes of honey for the price of one. Waiting is not all bad.

Maybe see you at the fair?