Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

I thought my life would get easier..

Instead it's getting harder...

So I haven't updated the blog in a while, I did write an entry last night but my computer died before I posted it. I then gave up and went to bed...it was after midnight after all.

So the Chief has come back from Germany where he had a great time by all accounts. Since he has been back he has been about as much fun to be around as...something not fun at all. It started off alright but then he has descended into his normal rollercoaster of emotional turmoil which is accentuated by jet lag and internal and external politics, a lack of motivation from the apprentices and the fact that he isn't as young as he once was.

Getting back to the previous thread, I went to the auction and it was pretty much a disaster. Despite doing a thorough recce of the stuff up for sale, nothing seemed worth dropping large amounts of money on, all the Chinese pots were damaged in some way or they were being sold by persona non grata. There were a few nice trees but our respective valuations didnt match up. I discussed potential purchases with a trusted friend of the garden who has his finger on the pulse so much he wears a nurses uniform in his spare time. My valuations were not too far away from his, and after setting some prices, I took pictures of the most likely items and emailed them to the Chief on his mobile phone which he looked at half a world away. How 21st century Bonsai has changed.

Everything that was worth a look at came and went for more than I was wlling to pay, including a lovely but unusual bamboo stand. It allegedly came out from some famous collection but netiher I nor my advisor had ever seen it before, it had not been in any books that we had seen and it was a little on the "I'm not prepared to drop $20,000 of someone elses money on a whim" side of things. It came up and went for almost three times more than I wanted it for...but thankfully, the Chief saw it when he got back and said I had made the right decision.

Times like this it pays to have spent the evenings of an apprenticeship looking through the hundreds of books, exhibition catalogues and collections that are available. If the object is in a book somewhere then it lends a slight air of authenticity to it and it can be traced back to somewhere rather than just listening to some sales spiel. Knowledge is power...as is the ability to pretend you are stupid, which is just as important. The whole poker playing atmosphere is fraught with subtle implcations and the unsaid but understood.

When it came round to me selling the stuff for the Chief, you could have heard a pin drop. Not a single bid from anyone except Morimae who bought a stand for much more than it should have been just to save face for me. It didn't help much but the Chef was happy that nothing sold...proves to him that his presence is essential at events like this.

We are allegedly really behind on the work (despite being ahead of the schedule from last year and every year previous to that) and as such I have been burning the midnight oil a little Working on into the night to get stuff done...iIt is a pleasant reminder of the joys of apprenticeship and how slack I become when I am by myself...but then we have a different work ethic in the West, based on efficiency and planning rather than just running around in circles until you get exhausted.

Speaking of exhausted, we went to the house of a customer today who has been coming to the garden for the last 7 or 8 years. A purely satsuki man who is a great laugh and has a big heart. We have always got on well and have a good understanding of each other. A couple of years ago he developed throat cancer after a lifetime of heavy smoking and is no unable to speak because he has a hole where his voice box once was. For two years he didn't come to the garden and nobody saw him, but everytime I was back in Japan I would make the effort to go around and see if he needed any work doing, which he always did. Cancer tends to take priority over Bonsai no matter how much of an enthusiast you are. It caused a few problems with the Chief because he was annoyed that I was being asked to go instead of him but it wasn't like that in a bad way. The customer was embarrassed to be seen in such a state, especially as it is very difficult to understand what he is trying to say at times. I guess he found it easier to ask me as we had history and I am also a foreigner, so our communication had always been bordering on the non verbal anyway. Thankfully he is pretty much back to his normal jovial self and The Chief, myself and Naganuma went around today to do all his post flowering pruning. He was happy to have us around and spent the whole day making rude gestures and playing around with an air hose, but he did it with a smile on his face.

One of the most important part of a Bonsai professionals life is the relationships you build up with customers, through good times and bad, when they are buying trees and not. Obviously there is a financial reward for the work done, but there is almost always a much more valuable reward for getting out of bed at 5.30 and working like a slave for 9 hours solid. Bonsai is more than just pretty little trees in pots...it is a chance to make people happy. As pretentious as that may sound...it is true.

Tomorrow I will start on with Candle Cutting on the pines in the garden. We have about 75 to do in a week or so. Thankfully the Chief is away for most of the week...and I still have to get some images together for my book! Oh well...to bed now.

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