Anyone who’s seen our home lately may be forgiven for telling their friends “they’re lazy louts who don’t care about looking after their place and thank goodness they’re not our neighbours!”. Don’t you just hate it when people base their judgements on nothing more than visual appearance? I mean, painting our home is not like popping down to B&Q to buy an end-of-range-half-price-big-savings tin of Pride of India Pink, toning it down with some whitewash and the bottle of out-of-date Milk of Magnesia from the back of the bathroom cupboard and then waiting (quite a while) for a sunny Sunday to get out the recycled roller and freshen up the place. Oh no, the application of paint to our garret requires a HAWWWL and that is a VERRRY EXPENSIVE BUSINESS!
In December we were in a part of Spain where the local expat community was organising a Christmas Fayre and into our minds popped the idea that our participation would bring us the means to a HAWWWL, all in one day. Spurred on by the desire for new paint and fuelled by the drama of the Christmas countdown (17 days to go!), we handed over our euro to secure a table.
(Now those of you who’ve been aboard our blogging wagon for a while will know that, apart from the line-up of other pies that keep us in box wine, we also deal in exquisite decorative reproductions of Old Master drawings which we sell for pitifully low sums to people who can’t afford the real thing or can’t buy it because the Queen’s got it and she’s not selling.)
So, on the rather cold, grey day of the ‘fayre’ we packed our carefully chosen decorative repro drawings, threw in a few hand-made books and added some small stuff to fill in any spaces on the table. We took the dinghy ashore and dragged our goods across the sodden beach and up to the seaside venue.
The restaurant tables, denuded of serviette-wrapped cutlery and sticky condiments, were arranged along the walls down both sides of the room. We were ushered to ours … the second table – almost pole position. Our name, Studio Blue Sea, was beautifully printed on a card anchored to the table top with a foil-wrapped, miniature, chocolate Father Christmas. Next to us, in third place, stood a table already quivering under the strain of a mountain of krapfen and kuchen, cellophaned zimsterne and linzersterne, pfeffernuesse and engelsaugen. Surely not a single baking ingredient could remain on the shelves of any of the local supermarkets.
Exactly at the appointed time the doors opened to the hungry public … and hungry they were! A queue formed by our table, blocking our view. Alas, it was not for us. The Ham burgers next to us began to feed the five thousand. It was like a bread line in Berlin circa 1945 and by the looks of the clientele they had probably experienced that moment first hand. The legs on our neighbour’s table slowly straightened as the load lightened and the legs in the queue buckled under the strain of gugelhupf and schaumkuss.
Within an hour the crowd had thinned and the Germans stacked their empty plates and ordered an armoured van for their money. We gazed at our own table and took stock of the situation – we had sold one bookmark for 75 cents, the 25 cents change waved away by our kind benefactor. Around us the other table-holders were packing up; the entrance was clear of new attendees.
And then, suddenly, from across the room, a woman approached, smiling, and we knew we were seeing a connoisseur of art and of all things beautiful … poised, groomed, well-educated, well-travelled, old-moneyed, heading towards us to fulfill our dreams. She stopped before our table of plenty and gazed at the drawing of the old man with long hair and even longer beard. A large label proclaimed, ‘After Leonardo Da Vinci, Self Portrait, red chalk drawing’. At last, someone who knew a Master piece when she saw one, someone who couldn’t believe their luck at finding such a wonderful decorative original at such a low price! She raised her eyes to us. We waited. Would she take them all? Offer us a fully stocked studio in her Italian palace? Organise someone else to take care of our paint job? We held our breath.
“It doesn’t look a bit like you for a self-portrait,” she said. She shook her head and turned to the door.
We packed away our goods and straggled with the stragglers. The plod back down the beach was shadowed by a thundercloud. We climbed aboard SBS under light drizzle and counted our blessings before counting our takings: four euros, minus one for the table and two for the dogs’ home. At least we had a miniature chocolate Santa to look forward to.
It wasn’t until later that we discovered it was hollow.