• Debra Palmen

We shall overcome (bureaucracy), one day

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

I know, I know, I’ll never win the prize for Most Newsletters by an Antiques Dealer. But here’s my latest, very quick, update: as it is so often, it’s bad news, good news and book news.

The Bad News

I used to be a bureaucrat. I know what a good bureaucrat looks like. And yes, they do exist. Plenty of them. But I also know slack-arse ones when I see them, too. And for this shipment, our fate was to meet one of the latter.

This time, a Quarantine officer held up our shipment for two-and-a-half weeks while she phaffed about doing precisely nothing after the fumigation was done. To put that into context, the usual clearance period is three days. During this considerable delay she opened four boxes for inspection. Inspecting for what, exactly? The whole shipment had been fumigated. Anything able to hold its breath for long enough to survive that process hasn’t yet been discovered.

But hey, our shipment was more interesting than the usual huge consignments of sinks, or washing liquid, or engineering parts that usually come through this particular freight receiving company.

So the bored Quarantine officer decided to amuse herself with a rat through our stock. Our Customs Agent repeatedly asked her to expedite her efforts on the grounds that our paperwork was exemplary, we had authorised fumigation long before the shipment had even entered Australian waters, and this was the Christmas stock for a small business. Her reply was the bureaucratic equivalent of Tough Titties. I’ll get to it when I get to it, is exactly what she said. Which would have been fine, if she was remotely professional.

This does win the prize for Most Incompetent Effort by a Quarantine Officer, Ever. It not only cost us all of our pre-Christmas sales, we were then presented with a bill for over $2000 by the shipping company because the container was held, technically by us, for longer than usual. Through some twisted logic, we’re supposed to pay extra to suffer through the Quarantine officer’s incompetence.

But we’ll see about that. I feel a complaint to the Minister coming on. Join me now in raising your fist in the air and repeating after me: We shall overcome (bureaucracy), one day.

The Good News

But yay, at last the shipment is here. All three-and-a-half tonnes of it. Let me tell you, it’s taking some unpacking. We’re still going. Although the location isn’t great for a pop-up shop, it is a big space, sales have been good and I’m struggling to keep it looking fully-stocked. Every day I bring in the latest unpacked goodies.

When I say the location isn’t very good, I mean it has no windows, no street frontage, no passing traffic. Unless I do lots of marketing, the only people who know I’m here are the patrons in the coffee shop that adjoins us.

Some man was in the shop the other day, flipping through Travel & Shop the World For Free. He waved the book at me, to get my attention.

Have you read this book?, he asked me. You really should read this book.

I wrote this book, I told him.

Oooh, he said, eyebrows raised.

Then he carefully put the book down, refused to look at me anymore and left shortly after. I thought to myself, I bet he’s on the page where I say to succeed the Rules for a pop-up shop are that it should have big windows, street frontage and lots of passing traffic.

And that’s true. It’s true for any shop, not just a pop-up. That’s why I wrote that bit. But sometimes you’ve got to take what’s available, and dang the Rules.

So here we are until the end of March. If you have a chance, why not come by (15 Diamond Street, Cooroy) to say hello and have a look at our latest offerings.

I’ve already almost sold out of enamel storage vats, rectangular wooden chopping boards and those gnarly old well buckets that everyone loves but I hardly ever get. But there’s still plenty of excellent stuff I can show you. I bought more glass and ceramics than usual this time, and there are some lovely pieces.

Calypso and I are in-store from Tuesday to Friday, and I’m there for a few hours on Saturday mornings. As soon as things settle down I’ll get some stock onto the website, to replenish what is an embarrassingly empty site. But soon it will look spiffy.

Book News

Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them was launched at Berkelouw Books in Eumundi on 1 January, and that was a bit of fun.

It was seriously hot, not to mention New Year’s Day and all of the OMG-do-I-really-have-to-get-out-of-bed-right-now? that entails. So I really appreciate everyone who made the effort to come by to lend their support.

My goal was to beat Kevin Rudd’s total for books-sold-at-launch. And okay, he did have a low total to beat. But I did beat it! Thanks, everyone! He had name-recognition going for him, but I had a better product. Not to mention nicer friends and supporters. There are some shots here of some of the more dodgy ones.

Calypso’s first book Sink or Swim is still in development! The artist is truly fabulous, but she’s been continually ill since she took on the project and won’t be able to continue the series. She’ll finish Book 1 – fingers crossed for a March publication date – but now the hunt is on for a fabulous replacement artist who is just as good.

It turns out that replacing her with an artist who is just as talented is a tall order. But they must exist! I currently have artists from all over the world, from the three biggest freelance artists’ websites, completing trial images to see if I will select them to take over the series.

If you know a talented artist who could continue the series, depicting Calypso and her girl Tallulah as they appear in Book 1, please tell them that I’m looking for them!

The deadline to compete in the trial is the end of February. At that time I might post the illustrations by the top contenders on my FB page, and we can see who we all think should be awarded the contract.

There are some talented artists who have applied for the job, but to my immense surprise most of them can’t draw life-like looking cats. As a non-artist I can’t draw anything, but I did expect that someone who is talented at drawing would be able to produce a realistic-looking cat. But I’ve been getting a lot of naïve, children’s book moggies sent to me, even though I’ve provided multiple images of Calypso as she appears in Book 1. And how she appears is beautiful, we all agree.

I’ll let you know how that goes. So far there are some pretty interesting applications in development. I’m often sent work-in-progress sketches so I can provide feedback and direction – just as I would if they got the job, so it’s lucky I now know how to brief a commercial artist. It could end up being a closely fought contest. We’ll all see in due course.

Okay, that’s it for now. More soon. Soonish.

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