Thursday 6 September 2007

A present for the Sage - Part 2


Just to recap, in case anyone else was as misled as Dandelion was by my half-baked command of the English language.

I had seen, and hoped to buy, a coffee cup (no saucer) on which had, in the 1770s, been painted a representation of a grey elephant, and on this elephant rode a Chinese man, dressed in traditional robes.

I travelled to the Angel and walked to El and Phil's flat. Glasses of wine were poured and I told them about my day. I described the coffee cup and said that, with the sale starting at 10.30, I had every hope of arriving for the start and at any rate, would be there by the time the L0west0ft came up. "There's an estimate of £600-£800 on the cup" I said. "I won't get it for that - but I've a hope at £1,000."

I tell you this, not because I want you to know how much I was willing to spend, but because of El's reaction.

She drew a deep breath. "I say!" she exclaimed. "I should run that past Dad first!"

The poor child will never live that one down. Sniffily, I reminded her that a) I was spending my own money and that b) I knew it was well worth it. £1,000 was a realistic, but quite optimistic expectation. Furthermore, c) it was for the Sage's Christmas present and he didn't know anything about it.

She had already realised what she had said, and backtracked at once. "I mean, it will give him such pleasure to imagine you bidding. You know what he's like. And how do you think you are going to keep quiet about this between now and Christmas? You're bound to tell him anyway - and if you don't, someone else will."

This was all true and I relented. I phoned home. I described the coffee cup once more and the Sage replied at once. "You won't miss it for a bid or two, will you?" A couple of hours later, he rang again. "I think you'd better go up to £1,400." Commission would, of course, be on top of the bid price.

The next day I left the flat, took the Tube to Covent Garden and walked to India House. I was fourth in line, although within half an hour there was a long line of people behind me. Once the doors opened, I was quickly dealt with and I had time for breakfast before setting off for the auction house. I arrived in good time, fetched my bidding paddle and chose a seat near the back, on the left-hand side near the rows of telephones set up for the phone bidders. I greeted several people I knew, some of whom are regular bidders at our sales.

I noted down bids in my catalogue, thus destroying its resale value. Pfft. If you've registered for a phone bid, the clerk calls you a few minutes early, to make sure there isn't a delay. Two people were phoned for my lot, 254*. I was apprehensive, but when I heard the explanation that there was a mistake in the catalogue and that the picture labelled 253 was for 254 and vice versa I smiled inwardly. Confuse the opposition!

I had decided that I would go to £1400 or £1500, depending whether I was caught on odd or even bids. I started early, at £400, by holding up my paddle firmly. Some people prefer to be discreet, not to let others know who is bidding, but I'd decided that my tactic was to look keen and strong. I nodded at once for £600, for £800 and for £1.000. The phone bidders were silent and the man in the front row shook his head. When the auctioneer banged down his gavel and announced my number, I smiled my appreciation to him.

So, for a total, after tax (not VAT on the commission as it was not from an EU country, but import duty instead) of something like £1225, the Sage had his Christmas present. I waited until the end of the L0west0ft and slipped out to pay. Then I went to phone him, and El. People came out, and chatted to me. They teased me, when they heard why I'd bought it. They were jealous though...

When I arrived home, I asked the Sage if he wanted it at once, or on the day. Nobly, he said he'd wait. When he saw it again, he realised that he'd missed it, in favour of another item (couldn't afford both). twelve years before. This is the reason he had, until I reminded him, convinced himself that he had sent me to go and bid for it.

Last year, a friend of a friend saw the matching saucer at an antiques market, but didn't believe it could be L0west0ft ("they didn't do elephants!") and so missed it.

If any of you see it, please let me know.

*I think, I haven't checked


mike said...

Love is: a thousand pound coffee cup. What a grand story! I like it here!

Z said...

Thank you Mike. And thanks for visiting three times in one day - beyond the call of any duty.

He doesn't get that sort of present every year, by the way.

Anonymous said...

My mother always wanted two things. A standard poodle and a painting by Red Skelton. One year I managed to save up enough $ for the painting (not my style but Mom wanted it). Her tears and joy at the unexpected present were wonderful. Then 15 years later I found a standard poodle litter, had her pick her choice of pup and bought it for her. More tears, more gratitude. Just seeing her so delighted and surprised was present enough. Bet you felt the same way when you gave Sage his coffee cup.

Z said...

Isn't it fabulous when you manage to find the perfect present? Doesn't have to be expensive, just right. The Sage is particularly hard to buy for, so it's a rare pleasure to get it exactly right.

badgerdaddy said...

I bet you're bloody careful when you wash that one up.

The Boy said...

So does it get used, or does it have pride of place in a cabinet? What a shame its saucer was seen and missed!

Its such a pleasure to find something just perfect like that. Once bought a painting for LL that was just her style. Didn't get framed until just after her birthday so snuck it home one day and hung it up. Took her preceisely half a second to notice it, was thrilled, them worried that it was too perfect and matched the colouration of the rug, and worried people would think she was a person who matched her artwork to her furniture, which just wouldn't do. So it lives in another room, but she still loved it.

That just feels good deoesn't it?

Monozygote said...

That was so exciting! I would have liked to know some of the interim bids that were against you though.

Z said...

Badge, I'm not saying we stick it in the dishwasher, not even in jest.

Strictly for decorative purposes, Boy. A bowl might have fruit in, but that's all.

I know just what LL means about matching too carefully!

Z said...

As far as I remember, Dand, the last one was 873 guineas.

Pat said...

How marvellous to find something that he really, really wants and of course he must wait till Christmas. He'll have forgotten by then if you give it to him now:)

Pat said...

PS I seem to have lost the ability to access the china web-site.

Brom said...

Not really Ebay is it?

Congrats, and I agree, stay clear of the dishwasher.

Z said...

Actually, I think I offered to show it to him. I would then have whipped it away and wrapped it up.

The link still works for me, Pat. If you can't get it, it's Bonhams and the sale is the 3rd of next month.

We've had a couple of good buys on eBay, Brom. But a real auction where you can handle the items and gauge the feel of the room is much more fun.

Dave said...

Well, what an exciting week I've missed while I was in Wales.

Dave said...

Did that sound sarcastic? Sorry. Us eschatologists and our use of words, eh?

Z said...

And welcome back. I wished you were here last Sunday, when I was puzzled by the Gospel reading.

I wished you were here every day of course, dearest Dave, for I do not value you only for your professional insights.

Z said...

No, not at all. I thought you meant it.

I feel a little abashed. You'll be relieved to know that Dandelion has kept me slightly anxious.

Dave said...

Yes, I saw.

By the way, I'd love to go to India. Will you lend me the sari if Dandelion won't go?

Z said...

Of course, Dave, Wouldn't you be more comfortable in a lunghi, though?

We could all go - you, me, Dandelion and Jen. We'd all love it (even D)

luckyzmom said...

Just letting you know that I enjoyed the cup story and wish you well on the saucer.

Z said...

Thanks, honey