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Life in the Arts Lane - Week 8

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The world is rising slowly this morning of 2013. Last year was an awesome party. We had it all. All the usual food and drink but it was expanded by so many feasts that no wonder we all are slouching around in our pyjamas.

The funny thing is that at Masterpiece London our year finishes in July and I have been stupidly talking about "last year" for months. Now we are half way through. Most of the contracts are in and the logistics of planning the build are well under way. We are planning, planning, planning. It feels as if we are about to gird our loins for the big push. The summer is within touching distance. We have a final crunch at Easter and then it is all nonstop until the fair.

But everyone else is blinking, stretching and yawning as they emerge into the year but not my pal in New York, who is vigorously up and running. He has a big deal that is going to close next week. This is the same big deal that was going to close next week for the last year. He is a wonderful enthusiast for art and decorative arts in particular. He has been collecting all his life. His apartment in New York is like a minefield. Everywhere you turn you might break or brush against a valuable object. His taste is truly eclectic ranging from early English needlework through porcelain and pushing on to Indian marquetry furniture. He is a one off. In terms of pure volume I would hazard that no one has as much stock as he does and he is not a dealer. Well, he sort of is these days as he needs to raise money to fund this "big deal". He is very solicitous on the phone, but his purpose is to encourage me to get into gear selling his stuff for him. But I am struggling to get anyone to answer the phone. The world is still away. Next week, I hear again and again.

I cannot stop. Over Christmas I made a few purchases in Norfolk and they arrived in London brought by the legendary JJ. He has been driving his van from Norwich to London for around 30 years, maybe longer. He is a slow speaking, steady man born and bred in Norfolk. Always smiling and always positive. He belongs to another world where people work to do a job rather than work in order to either do something else or be somewhere else. I feel certain that in all his years he has never crashed. He is too steady. I remember years ago his van was robbed in central London. He was low for some time after that as the betrayal of trust was what hurt him the most. Not to say he cannot see an opportunity when it presents itself. He spotted an old Victorian radiator sitting in the yard gathering rust. He quickly snapped that up and is off to try and flog it. Life behind the wheel of a van must afford the occasional entrepreneurial venture!

The pieces from Norfolk all need work and the workshop was not best pleased by feeling rushed during this time of sluggishness. But it is very exciting finding new objects. There is a sort of glow that surrounds the new. Realising the potential in something, through a new environment or through restoration, is very thrilling. The ultimate goal is to make a sale but the process of getting an object to the point of sale is often more thrilling than actually putting the money in the bank. The money only facilitates getting more stuff after all.

Having seen my stuff unloaded I cycled off to Mallett where the same nascent energy could be observed. The office is beginning to plan the stand at Maastricht and the quiet few days at the start of the year allow for a slow reflection. I wander around, greet everyone, check out the sale catalogues and head to my desk. A certain twiddling of thumbs follows. I look out of the window. I make a cup of coffee. I look out of the window some more. I cannot stand it. I get up and leave the office. I have to do something new. I call home and the boys are just getting up. It is 1 o'clock. I race home and I persuade them to walk into Brixton and we will have a late lunch at Franco Manca. I had never been before and he makes legendary sourdough pizzas. He is in Market Row. The whole market area is being rejuvenated with amazing food and curious shops. Some hate the change but others welcome it. The market is full of covered aisles each with a different decorative theme. All interesting aesthetically. The queue is not too long and we are seated at a marble table with wooden benches under the roof of the alley but in the flow of people. It is equally fascinating to watch the theatre of people as it is to taste his delicious thin but fluffy pizzas. I feel transported to Italy. There is a perfect balance between basic food and a gourmet approach. We leave full and stimulated by the vibe of Brixton. It is an odd comparison but the area reminds of St Petersburg when I went in the late 80's. The excitement and thrill of opportunity crackles in the air. In this case the fear is that it will all become very bogus and twee, but the commercial buzz is palpable and exciting to be around. I am enthused by it all so much I want to get to work!