I had a phone call yesterday, when I was just sitting down to lunch. I answered it anyway because it was from one of my auction clients. Except, it wasn’t him on the phone, it was his daughter.
This chap had contacted me much earlier in the year and sent over a whole folder of photos and information about his pieces of L’toft china – not all of which was accurate: ie, not all the china was indeed L’toft. I told him the pieces that weren’t and it was arranged that he’d send the rest. However, when it came, he’d omitted one bowl and sent two Chelsea ewers instead, and sent some of the pieces I’d told him weren’t right. In addition, some of those I’d taken as being right, weren’t. So we sorted it all out by email and on the phone and it was agreed that I’d send the rest of the stuff back after the auction. All his pieces but one sold and he asked me to hold that over until next year. The, after the sale, there were two very nice floral teapots that hadn’t found buyers and I asked him if he might be interested, as he’d said he was on the lookout for such a piece.
In the end, he made an offer below the reserve and I asked the owner if he’d like to accept it. I said, I thought it was low and that his teapot had been unlucky not to sell and was worth more. But he decided to go for it. And I phoned my client again and we agreed that I’d deduct the cost and send the rest of his money.
We had such a pleasant chat that I really warmed to him. He’d actually caused me hours of work, I’d spent ages researching the pieces that I couldn’t even sell, but had managed to find buyers for two of them, taking no commission at all but just passing on the money. Which is what Russell would have done, I know his standards and aim to match them. He had said he was going to be away for a week or so and it was agreed that I’d hold on to his china and his money until he was home again.
Back to yesterday. I’d had the impression he was going on holiday, but he wasn’t. He was going into hospital for an operation and it must have been a major one because he’d expected not to be home for ten days. But it went wrong, or at any rate wasn’t successful and his daughter had phoned to say she’d found our correspondence on his computer, so had phoned to put me in the picture. She couldn’t deal with more china arriving so please hold on to what I had, and cancel the sale of the teapot. I’d already paid the owner the money, of course.
And I said of course, the vendor would quite understand and it would be all right and anyway, I wouldn’t hold her to it. Did she think that her father might like it at some time in the future? With some difficulty, she explained that he is unlikely to survive. In fact, I think that is certain and she was trying not to be too blunt. Poor woman, I’m so sorry for her and, though I’d not met him, I’d liked her dad and I’m really sorry about the situation.
A couple of years ago, I was sitting next to an elderly friend at lunch and she told me that she was going into hospital the next week for a major heart operation, and was very anxious about it. She’d been told it was her only chance as she had such a weak heart and it would fail soon. We were all encouraging, of course, and said we’d look forward to seeing her when she recovered. But she never did, she lived for several more months but never came out of hospital. We assume that an operation will put things right but sometimes, even if there’s no failure on the part of the surgeon, it just doesn’t work.
Anyway, on reflection, i’ve decided to keep the teapot myself. When I next see the vendor I’ll tell him about it, but I really don’t want the embarrassment of asking for the money back. And it’s a very nice teapot and I’ll enjoy it and it’ll remind me of poor Brian, in quite a good way.