nice older couple stopped at my stall at a recent “Trash and
Treasure” market in Margate, Tasmania. The man was carrying a
block-mounted poster which caught my eye. It was a large
semi-abstract floral with the logo of the Museum of Fine Arts in
Boston across the lower margin.
my! I spent many happy hours in that museum in former times!”
got it from a man in the other walkway,” said the woman, waving
across the close-mown and sere grass of the park. “He’s
disposing of things for his mother-in-law.”
she has to go into a home,” the man added.
hope I drop dead in my own driveway before it comes to that,“ I
said. “Having to leave all your treasures to someone else to
deal with and go into a tiny space seems awful. It doesn’t
bear thinking about.”
of course we all do think about it, all of us over
thereabouts. The thought often come at three a.m. when I wake and
ponder things, “What’s going to happen to all this stuff
I have accumulated over the years?” I then feel guilty about
my younger daughter, who is probably the one who will have to deal
with all of it. Best to reduce the burden beforehand if possible, my
three a.m. self suggests, which is one of the reasons I was at this
market with an assortment of household goods for which I had no real
were eight heavy glass tumblers, half of the number I had purchased
just before we moved out of our old home and across the continent to
a brand new adventure. Optimistically thinking we’d be having
parties at which 16 new glasses might be required, I bought and
packed the tumblers.
years down the track, only eight had ever been unpacked and few of
them had ever been used simultaneously. I’m not sure what made
me think that four decades of our not being party animals would
suddenly change, but when the market announcement came to my
attention, the unused tumblers went into the pile of sale items.
with the tumblers was a box containing the (ahem) chandelier from the
living room. A sad exemplar of its kind, it had annoyed us with its
feeble trio of light bulbs for five years. We had tried putting in
higher wattage bulbs, but they blew out with alarming frequency.
Inertia was eventually overcome and the fixture was given the
heave-ho and replaced by a large, simple, energy-efficient flat light
bulb which gave off four times the light and had no dangly bits to
attract spiders or dust. Surely somebody would want to buy the old
light! (No, they wouldn’t.)
cups and seven saucers from my previous set of china were on display,
hoping someone would want them. It had been a lovely china set, but
over the years all but two dinner plates had broken. The cups had
been spared because due to a design flaw they’d never been
used. The handles were tiny, delicate, and cramped—no male
hand and few females would be able to hold them comfortably.
sale item was snapped up by an early bird before the official market
opening. It was a large, heavy glass mixing bowl with a handle and
pouring lip, marked off in ounces on one side and millilitres on the
other. I had bought it ten years ago on the assumption that it would
prove incredibly useful, but had rarely used it since moving house.
“I’ve got one of these and it’s all I ever use when
it comes to mixing batter or dough!” exclaimed the woman. Not
haggling at all, she put the asking price down on my table and hugged
the bowl to her trim bosom. Her husband looked bemused. “But
if you already have one....” he started to say. She gave me
one of those “Men!” looks and said to him, “That’s
exactly the point; these are very hard to find, and it never hurts to
have a spare.”
I digress. Back to the couple who had the Museum of Fine Arts
poster. After my comment about it, in what seemed to be a
non-sequiter the woman said, “Do you like cats?” I
admitted to being a cat servant and she said, “He’s got
another mounted poster from the same museum, with cats. Over there.”
pointed up and across to another part of the open-air market. I must
have looked downcast, for she said, “John, stay here,”
and marched off. With only the slightest hesitation about leaving my
stall, car and handbag with a total stranger, I followed in her wake.
She handed me over to the stall owner, saying “Here’s
another customer for you,” and then disappeared. I saw at once
the other block-mounted poster that she was talking about. It was a
print of a picture of two cats in a Japanese style, slightly faded,
but rather pleasantly so. I didn’t have time to dither, and
asked the price.
fiver do ya?” asked the stallholder hopefully. Judging by the
amount of stock leaning against his table and car he had not cleared
I thrust a crumpled five dollar bill into his hand and grabbed the
poster and went back to my own tables. The kindly couple were still
there on guard.
was fast, “said the woman.
don’t haggle about a $5 price,” I said, although
suspecting if she’d stayed with me at the other stall I might
have found myself owning the poster for even less than five dollars.
cat print is now in the place of a Kenneth Jacks’ print which
hung on a nail that happened to be at an appropriate height in the
new house. (Nothing’s as permanent as picture hooks or nails
that come with a new residence.)
is a more of a kitchen picture,” Gene said, running a damp
cloth over it. We stood looking at the print as the two cats, one
black, one calico, preened on our wall in the light filtering in from
the garden....our version of party animals.
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