My two recent successes at auction resulted in the usual post-auction scramble to make payment and to arrange delivery. In both cases there were different approaches and different outcomes. The Art Deco bull is still lying in the DHL/Deutsche Post sorting office, having apparently been dropped off there by the auction house on 20 December. The DHL Tracking very unhelpfully informs me that it has been scanned. That's it. Of course during this somnolent period between Christmas and New Year no one is working, so I have long since given up trying to find out when it might actually have a slight movement in the direction of some vehicle that might transport the little beast to this part of the world.
The picture on the other hand had to be paid for within 48 hours after the auction, with which I duly complied. Thereafter there had to be considerable shall we politely call prompting to get delivery to my address in Scotland where I have storage for this and several others. It was delivered on Christmas Eve.
I had a maturing pension scheme due on 28 December, but notification of its amount and the MI5 security checks I needed to pass in order to receive my money was sent by the investment company by surface mail, and arrived less than ten days before the payment date. One of the several requirements was their need to see a certified copy by my bank that my passport was indeed mine. All papers were provided and I couriered them the same day. I thought it very unlikely that the funds would be in my account, but it was a pleasant surprise to note that they were.
In Bangkok many people left the capital to drive "upcountry" to visit family for the New Year. My maid left on Friday night on a train that left at 7.30 pm and which she informed me would arrive at 8 am the following day. I am always very concerned about her travels during this period, because there are hundreds of fatal road accidents during these great migrations. The State Railway of Thailand has mitigated that fear by its safe arrival at its final station.
It's always a bit of a challenge to try and do anything which would normally be mundane, during this time of the year, but it's a happy outcome when it works, and to be expected when it doesn't.
I hope Twenty Twelve delivered many happy outcomes to you. And as it's against my religion to do so before, I will await the stroke of the midnight hour before expressing good wishes for what we are about to receive.
Last year I wrote about this house which we passed on one of our tours in Scotland. I see it is currently for sale and the listing from Strutt & Parker provides a glimpse into the interiors. Although it does boast six bedrooms, it is a more manageable size than some of the grander properties for sale in Scotland. Castles are all very well, but they are usually rather cold, as we found to our cost last autumn. My only disappointment upon seeing the interiors is that the ceilings appear to be quite low, but that could be as a result of the distortions created by the wide angle shots.
Manses, rectories, vicarages and parsonages are really quite delightful properties, but sadly very much in demand, so this will probably go quickly. The Atholl estate that, (according to the particulars), "gifted" it to the church, belongs to the Duke of Atholl, who's seat is Blair Castle, a rather unexpected iced-cake confection, but of the volume that does not appeal, when maintaining comfort can no longer rely on a retinue of staff, unless one is a member of the Royal Family, or a former shopkeeper from Knightsbridge.
But estates, even this rather modest 9.5 acres, require maintenance, and being looked after. Our long sojourn in Scotland last year rather put us off the idea of the perceived delights of country living. We'll just stick with Plan B, as in Bangkok.
After lunch the merry men from the airconditioning company will come and change some part of one of the airconditioners, which has developed a jack-hammer noise, albeit muted. It's one of those malfunctions that only occurs from time to time. And naturally, when the technician came to examine it the other day it was purring as beautifully as a Siamese cat, so I thought I'd leave it in its contentment. Of course on Sunday it had a good couple of hours rattling away.
So when a piece of the ice maker in the fridge dislodged itself again yesterday, (after being fixed in March), I was in full maintenance mode. Their technician is not coming today, which is such a pity, because we could obviously have had a technician party in lieu of Christmas, but probably sometime before the week is out he will come and (re)fix what he obviously didn't fix the first time.
This morning began as many do, with a swift 1500 metres in the pool, which is beginning to get rather parky following a plunge (well, drop), in the temperature last night. The weather is simply glorious, and will make drinking this bottle of champagne whilst sitting on the balcony tonight a rather pleasant experience. That, and a few glasses of wine with dinner may make me Westward leaning, but still proceeding.
This is my kind of Christmas. I don't suppose you'll be having as much fun, but may all your Christmas wishes come true.
The view from our balcony at night has been illuminated by the light box of a fitness centre of the neighbouring condo. It is part of the same development of The Sukhothai hotel whose courtyard water garden, (on the left) is also lit up at night and quite often used for parties at this time of year.
The scene, and the saxophone vibrato (last night at least), makes for a pleasing backdrop when sipping the evening's cocktail. So far this year we have not spent much time doing either - sitting out on the balcony, or sipping cocktails, as one of us is on the wagon, keeping the other's inclinations in check. This madly abstemious behaviour permits earlier swimming or exercising, and upon our return from the pool this morning I was happy to see that erection, (for it is indeed thus), of the lobby's Christmas tree had been completed, and it's not a bad effort this time around. I might even permit a photograph of it to grace a future edition of the blog. It is after all Christmas, and the spirit of goodwill abounds.
As we don't have any naturally spawned heirs of our own, (but plenty of graces), it has occurred to us that when we shuffle off this mortal coil, we might leave some pictures to a gallery which would find them of interest to their public, (such as for example the China Trade pictures). Sadly however, it would seem that one beneficiary of this largesse took it upon themselves to sell off the surplus art, without the owners' permission. The story, and the picture, above of Thomas Butterworth's Dunira, are from the Guardian.
Which all seems a little ungracious. Nephews and neices can breathe a sigh of relief.
For now. (Well, they could if they knew, but they don't.)
My solution to the annual Christmas tree annoyance performed in our building's lobby is to dispense with the traditional concept in our own apartment, and use what is widely available in Thailand - orchids.
Today we purchased two large pots with a multitude of buds, both tending to a pale pink, the one above in a black glazed pot in the kitchen, next to the all important store of goodness, aka the fridge,
and the one in the sitting room in the terracotta perforated pot arranged by the vendor, to which I have added gilded feet as a stand. The pot was too large to fit into the yellow glazed pot that normally resides in this spot, but the perforation affords an inverted tree-like pattern, so obviously it was made with Christmas in mind. It was (not) tempting to add a few baubles as witnessed by my fellow blogger Loi Thai, (and especially as I had none that could compare to the red nipple effect that would clearly have been the business).
By strange coincidence my Christmas cards this year are a photograph of pale pink orchids. Co-ordination is the name of the game. As they say in Thailand: "Happy Christmas".
Two gold pockets watches from the Columnist's collection, hanging from Chinese blackwood stands, using silver "S" hooks, made to my order. I am not sure where my interest in collecting watches came from, but one of my ancestors was watchmaker to Queen Victoria, so perhaps that explains it. And my displeasure at tardiness.
From the Guardian, the Shit London awards. Photograph no 8 resonates with me; the aesthetically challenged management of our building have taken to placing those yellow "caution - wet floor" signs around the pool, but I think we are finally now having made the appropriate warning sign made so that other residents are informed that the flooring around the pool may be slippery when wet, (and not as the yellow signs would indicate, that the floor is being cleaned). Like Christmas tree decorations, (that joy perhaps to unfold next week), there is a tendancy to state the obvious, as in " the pool is wet", "the sky is blue" etc. Well, to be fair, perhaps not everyone knows these things.
My persistence has finally paid off in the pursuit of an iconic picture of Hong Kong when I was successful at the Bonham's Travel & Exploration sale in London this week. The lyrics of Fergie's Finally are ringing through the house as I type. The picture graced the cover of the catalogue:
and the notes pertaining thereto give an insight to the history, for those unfamiliar with Hong Kong's story:
The present lot pertains to a late 19th-century tradition of representations of Hong Kong Harbour at the zenith of its history as a storage and distribution outpost for Western traders en route to and from southern China. Amongst the traffic of vessels visible on the water are a prison hulk, paddle steamer, a ship flying the American colours in addition to a plethora of Chinese, European, commercial and fishing boats. The vessel flying a blue ensign in the left foreground can plausibly be identified as the Royal Naval warship, HMS 'Princess Charlotte', which was deployed as a 'receiving ship' in Hong Kong Harbour between 1858-1875, providing temporary accommodation for sailors not yet assigned to a particular crew.
The city of Victoria can be seen from the north, across the harbour, with the Kowloon Peninsula running across the expanse of the background. The 'godown' of Jardine Matheson and Company - the dominant trading enterprise along the Chinese coast - is visible on the far left. On the summit of Victoria Peak, the grouping of flags indicates the presence of the Hong Kong Signal Station, the construction of which marked the first building on the Peak in 1861.
However, the writer has the highlighted line completely wrong. The panorama is viewed from the Kowloon Peninsula.
That mistake notwithstanding, I can now put to bed regrets for those I missed previously here and here, (and probably elsewhere too), and put in to perspective the (opposite) view from the Taipan's House looking towards the Kowloon Peninsula, from an earlier depiction of Hong Kong, c.1842.
The auction gods are finally dispensing a touch of good luck, and things are coming up roses. I shall now scurry off to find the wherewithal underneath the mattress.
Christie's upcoming sale of Modern British & Irish Art next week has three Peter Howson pictures for sale, including the above, entitled St George, (from where I have taken the image). It references the xenophobia and fascism evident in some elements of British society. Howson painted in the early 1990s. It occurred to me that there were similarities in the styles of this artist and Yue Minjun, whose iconic smiling faces belie his intent, following as he does the Cynical Realism movement.
Whereas Howson's angry faces express his hatred of bigotry, Yue's happy faces express his anger at the vacuity of modern China and its materialism, and obviously in this picture Execution, his anger and disgust at the events of 1989. It's interesting to me that both painters began their styles at about the same time. Howson's picture is estimated at USD15,000. Yue's canvas, above was sold in 2007 for USD5.9m. There's an interesting story related to the purchase.
Much more up my street in the Christie's sale are several pictures by the Scottish Colourists F C B Cadell, and Samuel Peploe. But even they are what technically we might call a lot of dosh.
My lack of success at auction recently has been reversed, when I was lucky enough to secure this Art Deco bronze bull on Saturday. The sculpture and its base are only 24 cm in total, so the design of the base incorporates one of the elements that appeals to me - using overscale to achieve a different effect.
Although I did not bid for it, I was also watching the sale at a different auction, at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, of one of my favourite artists, the Scottish Colourist F C B Cadell, whose picture herebelow achieved its estimate of GBP200,000.
I hope the symbolism of the bull will finally herald a change of fortunes in many spheres.