Sunday, November 26, 2006

A hornet's nest, a difficult guest

Hosts sometimes become very anxious and apologetic if the turnout at their party isn't what they expect. There is really no need to apologise to me. My parties have ranged from 3 guests to 23 guests, and they have all been fun. Unfortunately, it's the host who loses out if people stay away, because I calculate their rewards (or the donation to their chosen cause) from a percentage of the party sales. I have two parties this week, and both had a turnout that was less than the host had hoped for, but both were fun and interesting for me all the same.

First to South Croydon for a party hosted by my friend James, where we bake the chocolate and almond cake in the microwave. It is his church crowd, although some of them can't make it because of another event. Still, there is a vicar, an organist and many pillars of the congregation. Andrew the organist loves most of the catalogue, and has lots of questions and comments. His partner regularly rolls her eyes to Heaven. I ask the Reverend to dust the cake with icing sugar using the Sift and Stor . He does it very grandly and cermonially and from a dramatic height, throwing in his sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life.

James earns £40-odd worth of Tupperware, and he will be experimenting with some Fridge Smarts.

Next day I am heading out west to Southfields. It's an Antipodean enclave close to the Wimbledon tennis club, the shops full of biltong and Milo. But I am required at a thoroughly English fundraiser at Lorraine's spotless house with some mums from her children's school. Lorraine's own children are beautiful, charming and polite. They tell me the products are very clever, they thank me for coming, and they remember my name when they say good night and troop off to bed. They are model guests for future parties.

We make fresh salsa in the kitchen. I have to compete with a gigantic hornet, which Lorraine eventually catches in an ingenious perspex trap-on-a-stick. I also am challenged by one rambunctious guest who has surely come straight from another party, and who offers plenty of high-volume questions and comments and feedback. I am perturbed at first, then amused, but it's clear some of the other guests are mortified. It's a scene out of Abigail's Party.

Even as I am speaking, I am thinking that some of my standard quips about the products are starting to sound aimed at this guest, and are sounding a bit unkind. But it is just my usual shtick, mostly stolen from Dixie Longate. And anyway Dixie is right: the Expressions No-Spill Tumbers with Dripless Straw Seal really are fantastic for people who are liable to spill their drinks. It's just that normally there isn't normally a guest spilling their drink as I am saying it.

This is the fundraiser for which I was asked for 50 invitations, so if anything I am relieved when there are only a dozen guests. Bigger parties can tend to break up into smaller groups and I have to shout a bit. The party raises about £50 from sales, plus another £18 from my raffle, plus a £5 entry fee donation from each guest (Lorraine's own initiative), plus 20% Gift Aid because the school is a registered charity. I am too weary to add that all up right now.

At least one of the vintage Tupperware ads that I have blogged has been removed from YouTube "due to copyright violations". I really hope the Tupperware company didn't instigate this removal. They are understandably strict about the use of their name and image, but the old ads are great fun, and it's a shame to lose them. The latest addition to YouTube is not an ad, but is the first few minutes of what appears to be a French-Canadian documentary about Tupperware ladies. My French is rubbish, so I am none the wiser.

Incidentally, the first things you see in this little clip are the No Spill Tumbers mentioned above.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fish balls and bara brith

Three parties since I last blogged, hosted by three fine women. Andrea in Blackheath, Martha in Chiswick, and my Auntie Sue in Redcar.

Auntie Sue keeps an immaculate house. All her guests can't quite fit in the kitchen, so we mix a cake in her living room. My sister Lois knows I am sluttish cook, and I can see from her face that she fears for Auntie Sue's carpet with every turn of the Silicone Spatula. It is lovely to reconvene the three generations who came to Lois's own party in the summer: my cousin Emma and grandmother Benny are here too. Other guests are blasts from my own past: I used to work with Edna in Marks and Spencer 25 years ago, and I shared a tent with Pat's son at a cub scout camp 30 years ago. I wasn't a cub myself, I was a bit old for it, and have never been much of a joiner anyway. My late mother was Baloo, and I went along to lend a hand.

Most of Auntie Sue's guests moved to the street when it was first built in the 1960s and raised their families there. It was Redcar's Wisteria Lane. And unlike a lot of Redcar, the street is still pristine and in great shape forty years later. And the the ladies themselves don't look so bad either. Anyway, Auntie Sue does really well with her party, and is rewarded with: £50 worth of Tupperware for £10!

Meanwhile in West London's Chiswick, Martha uses her party as a good excuse to get together friends, relatives and neighbours for a natter, to meet baby Ezra and to get some Tupperware. Martha is donating her rewards to the neo-natal unit that took care of Ezra when he was born prematurely, and she raises around £65, not including Gift Aid. There is a very cosmpolitan buffet, reflecting the family's heritage: a luscious bara brith made by Martha's mum who had come up from the Vale of Glamorgan specially, and sensational Kosher fish balls from her mother-in-law.

I haven't been winning many prizes or accolades for my Tupperware sales recently. In fact I haven't even made the roll of honour for the last two months because my sales have not gone above £600. But everyday I stand on my Tupperware branded bathmat (above), and think postive thoughts.

Coming up next week: my friend James is hosting a party for his friends in Croydon. He has gay friends and church friends, and one or two who straddle the categories. I am not sure which crowd is coming along. And the long-awaited fundraiser for Our Lady Queen of Heaven School, for which I was asked for 50 invitations...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A word from our sponsor

Two more vintage television ads for Tupperware have recently appeared on YouTube. Although made ten years apart, both ads feature the classic stack of three Wonder Bowls, the original deep round Tupperware bowl. Sadly they are not currently available in the UK, although if you ever get to visit me at home, I will show you mine.

The first ad is from the US, early 1960s. I already blogged back in August another ad from the same campaign, with the same creamy-voiced narrator.

This second one is a French ad from the 70s. It is almost a mini-musical, shot in long takes and using that slightly discordant chanson-style singing which can grate on the non-French ear.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quiet but busy

It is quiet in my Tupper-world. A couple of small parties and a ginormous email order for £300-worth of Space Savers (right) keep me ticking over. It's the calm before the storm: I have 2 or 3 parties a week for the next few weeks.

The organiser of the upcoming fundraising party at Our Lady Queen Of Heaven school rings me and asks for another 20 invitations. I have already given her 30. I think we are gonna need a bigger boat.

This week, in another part of my life, I also have a taste of what it can be like when you get a sudden burst of business. I am the UK distributor of Calendario Romano, an Italian photographic calendar that features portraits of handsome young priests. It is sold at news stands in Rome as a souvenir of the Vatican, but when I came across it, I thought it would probably appeal to a broader church. The photographer keeps me stocked, and I sell 500 or so most years, via my website. I donate £1 from every sale to my favourite charity The Food Chain.

I often get press enquiries, which result in publicity for the calendar in magazines aimed at women, gay men, Catholics, heathens, ironists, all sorts, and bloggers latch on to it every now and again. Anyway, this weekend I am flicking through The Observer newspaper, and am staggered to see a 2-page spread about the calendar. It's just a short article but they print all twelve portraits and my website address for anyone interested in buying it.

And Heavens above, are they interested. I have sold around 150 calendars in the last 24 hours. My shoulder is dislocated from several trips to the Post Office with huge stacks of calendars.

The relevance to my Tupperware life? None really, other than how easy and random it can be to get into the papers without even trying. A few journalists have contacted me over the last few months, all fired up to write about my life as an urban male Tupperware Lady. But their editors reject the story every time. Also, a certain celebrity may be wanting me to run a Tupperware party for her, I hear from a mutual friend. Watch this space. But don't hold your breath.