I Want It Before ……


Today was not by any means the occasion of the first exclamation ‘I want it before Christmas – it will be a present, you see’.
But the enquiry, and to be fair it was a politely expressed enquiry, even if the request did appear to be bathed in a coating of sincere supplication, was made only three days before Christmas Day.

My immediate response was that it was extremely unlikely that the work, three newly completed oil canvases, would be available in time, given the amount of work I have taken on, to which I have already given assurances that it all will be ready in time to wrap up in paper and tinsel before the
Big Day.
The gentleman enquirer said that he understood the situation, though was naturally somewhat disappointed that his request could not be accommodated. He asked for an approximate price for me to stretch and gallery wrap his three pieces of artwork. Which I duly provided for him, explaining that the price I had given was dependent entirely upon his estimation of sizes and description of the artwork and that I would need to view the work to provide him with a firm price. He ended the telephone conversation by saying that he would discuss the matter with his partner and then, asked when he could call around with his artwork. I provided the information, thanked him for his enquiry, and honestly anticipated that being the end of the matter.
I often receive such enquiries at this time of the year for no other reason than potential customers have trawled around all of the shop based framers and have either been appalled by the prices given for work to their artwork, and/or have been bluntly told that their request is ludicrously late in terms of completion before Christmas. So, they explore the net. The www.pleasehelpi’mdesperate.com Their last ditch chance that they may find something/someone/anyone who can get them out of the somewhat disordered position that they have managed to get themselves into.

And of course, they find me. Lucky people.
Little old me. Who is just sitting in my workshop, drumming my fingers on my bench, waiting for their telephone call. Just wishing I had something to do. Ready to immediately leap into frenzied action on their behalf.

Now if the estimated cost of the work which I provide them with doesn’t immediately illicit a “You have got to be joking!! You can’t charge that much. I want the piccy framing, not a bloody en-suite/five bedroomed house building around it. C’mon pal. Get real. It’s only four bits of wood slapped round a grotty picture”, you know very well that your estimate is nowhere near as exorbitant as those they have already received from the High Street shops.
So given the opportunity to do so, the customer is likely to stick with you. Unless you blow it, of course

But no matter how smug you feel, you still have to maintain that you can’t possibly fit their work into your busy schedule before Christmas. Which is perfectly true. You can’t. November and December are manic times for people like myself, who produce decorative (as opposed to functional) woodturning, picture framing, photography, pen sets, light pulls galore, etc. We become inundated with enquiries from generously minded potential customers looking for something ‘a little special’ to give to a friend, a family member, a loved one at Christmas.

In much the same manner that gymnasiums are inundated with the mildly, through to the extravagantly, fat/unhealthy/unfit individuals during May, as their intention is to slide their potentially rejuvenated form into the smallest of swimwear, or less as the case may be, and relax on the Mediterranean beaches during June, July or August.
And that, Beluga my little whale, no matter how hard you work, is just not going to happen. At least, not this year it’s not.

So imagine my surprise when the gentleman of this morning’s telephone conversation turned up on my doorstep, complete with his partner and three rolled canvases.
Together we looked at the artwork which had originated in Bali, and discussed their requirements in terms of how they would like the work to be carried out. And during the course of our discussion I sensed a very mild, yet admittedly well disguised, tension beginning to build between the gentleman and his non English partner. It was obvious that she wished to speak to him with some urgency, but due to her lack of fluency in English was not prepared to do so in my presence.
So I made an inane excuse to go out of the room and the moment I did so the lady began to implore her partner with her request.     When I returned he explained, in a manner which I suspect was not immediately obvious to his partner, that she was desperate to have the paintings hanging on the presently very bare walls of a newly decorated room, when their guests arrived for dinner on Christmas Day.
The gentleman expressed this in a manner which carried no hint of pleading or cajoling at all.    Rather it was a reserved and rational explanation of his partner’s dilemma.
I reiterated that I was very busy with work already committed to, and could provide no further assurance in terms of his partner’s desire to complete the decoration of her dining room.
He acknowledged my assertion in a very gracious manner.
And suddenly I found myself empathizing with another male, faced with the demands of a possibly emotional partner, knowing that he has no hole to bolt into. I have been there. I remember how exasperating it is and how unsettling the feeling of almost helplessness is.
As he was leaving I quietly asked for his mobile number and said that, without making any definite promises, if I could, I would ring him during Christmas Eve evening to let him know that his work is ready for collection.

So this evening, long after the workshop is normally locked up for the night, I have been constructing three appropriately sized frames, upon which to stretch the canvases on Christmas Eve afternoon, when everything else is completed.
His lady partner does not know, and probably never will know, that her pictures were hanging on her dining room walls during Christmas 2014, not singularly because of her emotional appeal to her man, but also because I could not stand by and see a fellow male in a predicament that I, with only a little extra effort, could assist him out of.

It is, after all, the season of Good Will.
And even the best of good will is often quite ineffectual without a little action, isn’t it?

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