I guess there’s something in a shop that sells cigarette cards, Russian sabers and everything in between for all levels of peculiarity. And as a result is we get more than our fair share of oddness.
When it happens, I’ll share it, before this world of Facebook and Twitter scare away eccentricity for good, though that could just be the rain? Eccentrics hate rain. Also judging by other antique dealers, it’s possible that I’ll be sanitised to the madness within a decade; existing in a cosy land of tweed blazers and bow ties.
The other day, Rob and I were speculating over what horn a walking stick was made from. Commenting on its ivory inlay, an old chap of around 60 appeared, peeking his head around the corner.
In the most husky of voices, the most intense of manner, he leaned over the table, looked Rob in the eye and said:
“The ONLY, animal, that should be wearing ivory… is the Elephant!”
The first thought that came to me after this line was what amount of warm gravel this man had eaten to have such a voice. I agreed with him, though the situation and caffeine had given me an awkward smirk. Trying to hide it, I nodded sincerely. This didn’t seem to be adequate; another story was needed and with more intensity.
“When I was in Africa, I was a traveling man, you see… there were two baby, orphan Elephants, their mother hunted for ivory. All the while the rich folks sitting on the veranda, drinking tea – one of the elephants escaped the pen, went over to a lady and rested its trunk on her arm… on her arm, an Ivory bracelet!”
Every story he told (and there were many) ended with the phrase: true as I stand here. And cracking phrase that it was, it got me thinking, could I pull it off?
Imagine the stories I could tell, armed with that phrase and the voice to match. I could elevate the most mundane of stories, the most average of antiques, with the worldly gravitas of a pirate. “Geoff bought some stamps the other day… true as I stand here!”
Another interesting tactic of his was to let his left-eye do most of the work. The right eye was there to balance the aim of his anecdotes.
The funniest thing about all of this was I had greeted him a moment earlier, on his entry, noticing no peculiarity. The usual Good morning prompting the usual reply. “Hello, yeah, not bad, thanks” the voice of this reply differed from his storytelling voice. I guess it’s hard to maintain.
Cracking fellow, he didn’t buy anything, but I bloody hope he returns.