Sunday, August 26, 2007

All the world under one Tupperware

I am just back from lunch with my friend Peter at the Oriental City in North West London. "All Asia under one roof", they say, and the whole place is in the style of shopping malls you see in the Far East. The Food Court has food stalls selling Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian and Indian food. Most of the customers are London-based folk from these countries.

There is a Japanese pound-shop type place with a whole wall of food storage containers, which Peter points out to me with an eyebrow raised, saying "The competition!". I ignore him and add a stack of Tupperware catalogues to the mall's free newspaper area, but I don't leave one in the pound shop, that would be cheeky. I think the catalogues were the only thing in English. You never know, I may have to recruit some people to run bilingual Tupperware parties for me.

Next month New Piccadilly cafe in the West End of London closes its doors for the last time. This place is a museum of 1950s cafe style, with a menu to match ("tunny fish"), and it has been threatened with closure for as long as I have lived in London, which is nearly 20 years. I go to the New Piccadilly this week for one last time with my friend Paul, and leave a few catalogues by a pot plant, under a Sound of Music poster.

The British do seem curiously resistant to taking Tupperware back into their hearts, and it's orders from ex-pats that are keeping me in business at the moment, especially Antipodeans. Steph's Mum is visiting from Australia and orders her some key Tupperware pieces for her London flat. I deliver them to an intriguing Mayfair mansion block round the back of Park Lane. I am dying to see what it's like inside, but sadly I don't get past the doorman because Steph has taken the baby for a walk, and is not home to take delivery.

Another hostess, Michelle, is a Kiwi who works right next to St Paul's Cathedral, and since all her guests were colleagues, I can deliver all the orders straight to the office. It's a lovely London day, and now St Paul's has had a facelift, it's a magnificent setting for a delivery. Another regular customer, Ivana, who is originally from the Czech Republic, has ordered a couple of items that I hand-deliver to her new office in Holborn rather that post to her as usual, so I get to meet her in person for the first time. Finally, this weekend I will also need to drop off a few items to the Shell Centre on London's South Bank, where Collette works. She misses her Quick Shakes from back home in South Africa.

I offer the organiser of the 2007 British Cheese Awards a CheeseSmart so she can see how good they are. She says yes she would love one. A few days later I pack it in a box with the contents of my shredder to protect it, and give her a quick call to confirm its on its way. The person I speak with puts me straight through, but the organiser herself then tells me off for bothering her when I could have spoken to her PA. She is so shirty with me that I unpack the CheeseSmart and decide she can whistle for it. Politeness costs nothing, but rudeness has cost her a CheeseSmart.

Still no parties in the diary, but at least I am not the only one having a lean time. White trash diva Dixie Longate (say it out loud) posted this message on her MySpace page:

"Hey Hookers, it’s Me, Dixie Longate. I’m in a mess of a pickle. As many of you know, I have been doing my show, “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” off-Broadway. It has been great, but the New Yorkers don’t seem to be buying the Tupperware like they should, so I have fallen from my position as #1 Personal Seller of Tupperware in the U.S.A. With the end of the fiscal year for Tupperware being this Friday, July 29th, I need your help desperately. If everyone I know just buys one piece of Tupperware, then I may be able to wrap this thing up. I am currently $17,288 behind the #1 Seller. Well, that is only 910 BBQ Specials or 494 FridgeSmart Specials! So, go to my site and place your orders now. Tell your friends; and make sure they tell their friends! Please help a sister out. You know I would do it for you. And I probably have! XOXO Dixie."

And what is it with drag queen Tupperware ladies? Pam Teflon is now snapping at Dixie's (high) heels:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dutch courage

A party this week for the staff at the Royal Netherlands Embassy near Hyde Park, and I am thinking of it as my last party for a while. On the outside, 38 Hyde Park Gate is your standard posh Kensington building, but on the inside it is a little piece of Holland: relaxed, airy and full of signs in Dutch, all lower case and Helvetica font. The hostesses are Daphne (the Cultural Attache) and Diana, both with impeccable English, wry humour and a tall blonde understated European glamour. There are Warhol-ish prints of the King and Queen on the walls, which perfectly capture the mix of laid-back and formal that you would expect from a Dutch Embassy.

The party takes place in the staff kitchen and is great fun, although I am hoarse by the end from talking over the chatting guests. The end of the working day is more of a chance for Embassy staff to chat over wine and nibbles than to listen to some bloke babbling on about Tupperware. But the orders come flying in. One lady confides hilariously that her ex-husband nabbed all the Tupperware during their recent divorce, and she has come along to restock. She gets the full range of Space Savers for cupboard storage. The FridgeSmarts (for salads) and CheeseSmarts (for cheese) are very popular, as my friend Caspar had predicted of his countrywomen when I rang him last week and asked for tips on which products to showcase at a Dutch party.

You never know who will be a fan of Tupperware. This week I had a message via my MySpace page from singer Elkie Brooks.

My friends Laura and Claire set off for their 6-month world trip this week. I took a similar trip 5 years ago, and wrote about it for The Guardian, so I gave them some things I wish I had taken with me: clothes pegs, soup cubes, business cards and a few chocolates to hide in your backpack then suddenly remember and enjoy when times are hard. I packed it all into handy Tupperware oysters, and I am hoping they might send me a few photos of the oysters in action, for me to include here on my blog.

I was in hospital last week for an arthroscopy on my left knee. I am all strapped up, and stuck at home for a little while. I can sort of get around, but slowly and awkwardly. Even so, because the Dutch Embassy is pretty much door-to-door on the 360 bus, I decide to do the delivery myself, knee permitting, rather than asking my nice neighbour Math to do it for me. I am glad I went back myself, because the security guard has been waiting to talk to me ever since he heard there was a Tupperware party, and he asks for six catalogues for his wife and her friends. As I wait for the bus back to Elephant and Castle from Hyde Park, I notice that the house opposite has a blue plaque saying Benny Hill lived there from 1960 to 1986. I shove a few catalogues through the door.

Not sure what the future holds for me Tupper-wise. Without my website I get very few enquiries now, and those referrals I do get via Head Office tend to be people who just want a catalogue or a couple of specific items. As I said in an email to previous customers this week, I am happy to take orders and run parties for them, but given that my main source of new leads has been shut down, and since I have decided to work full-time for the next months, I think that will be the extent of my business for the time being.

But who knows. I will keep my options open.