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  • Debra Palmen

Champagne, Classic Porsches & Luxury Upgrades - it's all good. Except for the hair.


Where does the time go? And don’t tell me that time flies when you’re getting old, because I’ll have you know I'm officially aging backwards. And have for years. I love, love, love it that people believe me when I tell them that my younger sister is older. She loves it less. But she’s old and bitter.

So here we are in September already and here we are in Bangkok already, at the start of this year’s buying trip. We’re ensconcing in town for a few days, just up the river from the lovely temple above. The hotel has kindly upgraded us to a suite that's as big as our house, overlooking the Chao Phraya River. So that’s nice.

This is the least organized trip we’ve done for years. I only finalized the Paris accommodation the day before yesterday, and haven’t yet decided on the Bangkok digs for the way home. I literally wrote the book on how to prepare for and undertake an international buying trip. So why am I not ready?

Apart from general phaffing, of which there’s been a lot, there are other things that have distracted me. First, I’ve been writing magazine articles for my usual gig, Antiques & Collectables for Pleasure & Profit. The latest copy is out now, including a travel and antiques buying feature article by me on what fun you can have stooging about the south of France. Today I sent in my last feature article for the year, on Champagne. It’s a chapter excerpt from a book that’s still a little way off, provisionally called The Foodies’ Guide to Antiques, Vintage & Collectables.

Here’s a hot tip from my research into this chapter: there are plenty of losers when it comes to climate change, but whenever there’s an atypically hot summer in France it’s happy days for the champagne houses. A super-hot summer creates grapes that are especially rich and juicy, and this inevitably leads to extraordinarily good champagne vintages. So far, all the big champagne houses are predicting that the 2018 vintage will be one of the best in 100 years.

With champagne collecting for investment you want only bottles labelled Grand Cuvee (the best) or Premier Cuvee (second best), and they’re the only ones that receive a date on the label. When the 2018 vintage is released the big names such as Bollinger, Moet & Chandon, Krug, Pol Roger or Dom Perignon will set you back anywhere between $70 - $150 a bottle. That might sound like a lot, but if you store them properly – not in the fridge because it’s too cold and will damage the wine – you’re likely to make a sound investment.

The downside is that you might have to wait 20 years to realise your investment. The upside is that Dom Perignon’s 1996 vintage, believed by connoisseurs to be the last truly great champagne vintage and one of the best of the 20th century, initially sold for under $150 a bottle and is now worth about $1600. If you’re really prepared to wait, a few of Bollinger’s 1918 vintage sold at auction in New York last year for a few hundred thousand dollars. Per bottle.

A good deal of research has gone into my coming book (Little Beasts & How to Collect Them) and it’s no less work when the magazine Editor wants me to jump forward to write a chapter she can excerpt from The Foodies’ Guide. As for the Little Beasts book, I’m now on the final chapter of Volume 1, and it’s on Peacocks.

Right now I’m suffering from data overload because peacocks are the stuff of mythology and superstition in many countries, but I’m gradually winnowing out what I want to use and what’s too esoteric. I’ll sort that out soon, and with luck we’ll be looking at an early New Year book launch.

Meanwhile, my cat Calypso has written three books. It’s a sad day when the moggie is more productive than you, don’t you think? I’ll (probably) get a mention on the cover as her helper, which is dang decent of her.

There’s been a significant delay with these books because I engaged an illustrator back in March, but in six months she produced one picture and then declared the task was too much for her. And yes, Calypso’s bar is high. But what’s the point of going to all that effort if it’s not going to result in the best you can produce?

So talk to the paw, old illustrator, because I had 25 other illustrators jump at the chance to illustrate Calypso’s books. I’ve created a short-list from those applicants, and one in particular is looking really promising. Boy there are some great artists out there, and the joy of the internet is that you can collaborate with anyone from anywhere in the world. Fingers crossed that we can get at least the first of the series fully illustrated, designed and formatted, the cover finished and the whole thing launched and published by the end of the year. That’s a huge ask, but not impossible for a diligent moggie like Calypso.

Quite soon I’ll ask if you’d like to join Calypso’s Launch Team. That simply means receiving the book in electronic form for free prior to the official publication date, reading it – it’s only 25 pages – and then leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews on Amazon are vital for any book, so having a solid Launch Team supporting them is essential for any writer who doesn't want their book to rocket to obscurity. And we don't want obscurity for Calypso.

Very soon I’ll also invite subscribers to the Newsletter to nominate yourself (or your spouse) if you'd like to to be a character in one of Calypso’s coming books. You can tell me why you reckon you (or your spouse) would make a good baddie, and any interesting or bizarre skills or habits that could be worked into the story. Mostly you’ll have to be a baddie because Calypso and her girl Tallulah are already the goodies. But what a glorious baddie you’ll be. More on that very soon.

Meanwhile, meanwhile, finally the Porsche is back in our hands and we shall be putting it on the market after we’re back from our buying trip. There's already been a bit of interest from people after I popped some photos on our Facebook page, which is good news. You can see a couple of shots of it here. So anyone want to buy a car? A seriously beautiful car. Shoot me a message on the website's Contact Us page if you’d like to have a 1960 Porsche 356B, with a rebuilt engine and refurbished transmission (so it's purring along), all of your own. If you’re genuinely in the market you’ll have done your research so you’ll have a good idea of what constitutes a reasonable price. And we’re being very reasonable.

For the next few days the plan is to look at some interesting retro shops in Bangkok, hang out at the hotel pool and indulge in lots of room service. I did plan to get my hair permanently straightened so it looks all Shampoo Commercial. But in a major disaster I discovered that my act of vanity in putting a temporary colour-wash through my hair a few weeks ago to cover some grey means that I can’t have the intense hair straightening regime you can only get in Asia.

Truly, they nuke your head but it reacts badly with any type of fake colour, causing your hair to fall out. Ha! Get it? Fall out, nuke your head? I meant that. Anyway, that’s a less than desirable look, so I elected instead to have a treatment that means my hair will still be wavy, but not super curly and certainly not frizzy when the hot, humid Queensland summer kicks in.

But boy, they still used super intense chemicals for this 'lesser' process. I had three hairdressers working on my head at one point, all of us with our eyes watering and having to wear face masks to avoid choking. I think there’s a reason you can’t get this sort of thing done in Australia, but I don’t care – my hair is determinedly curly and frizzy, and I’m totally over looking like Sideshow Bob every summer. So bring on the chemical cocktail.

We’ll be in London in time for my birthday next Tuesday. Shopping in Paris was what I had planned for the big day, but shopping in London is what I’ll have to settle for. Life’s tough, I know.

More soon.


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