When you hear the word ‘auction’, several things immediately spring to mind – a hushed, soft-carpeted room; serried ranks of tight-lipped, stone-faced bidders; a suave, swept-back-haired old Harrovian, gavel in hand, intoning the rising millions without the slightest air of being remotely interested; horny-handed ruffians, pressed into brown overalls, holding up precious works of art; a nod, a gesture, and the exchange of significant pallet-loads of pounds or dollars or euros for the ownership of oil on canvas, chipped-away stone, carved and crafted wood.
So the overwhelming stench of cow piss came as a surprise, to say the least.
On an ordinary day, this mammoth galvanised shed is where the component parts of pies, pasties, curries and casseroles are bid for as they trot into and out of the sale ring like cattle clockwork.
But this is the Furniture and Bric-a-Brac Auction. And no amount of stale bovine bladder action is going to keep the smell of a bargain out of the crowds’ nostrils.
Mysterious cardboard boxes, most of them sadly collapsing at the corners, are guarded jealously as the Pied Piper of the knock-down price approaches, a shuffle-footed mob of shifty-eyed chancers and rubber-neckers in his wake. The auctioneer’s rapid-fire delivery, like a nasal Gatling gun, dispenses with lot after lot in seconds and the guardians puff-chestedly waggle pieces of paper allowing them to take their treasure away – or glower and mutter behind the backs of interlopers who beat their bid.
It’s difficult to understand the interest. There’s a reason why bric-a-brac rhymes with tack and cack. And ‘you picked that out of a skip – put it back’. Or stretching a point, ‘what moron paid good money for that?’.
But every rose has its thorn, as the great and wise poet Axl Rose has told us, and every slightly grubby Sodastream; dolly with assorted costumes (unmatched), home treadmill (may work); velvet painting of Notre Dame (part-completed); and jar of screws (assorted) can find a home with someone.
One person, glittery-eyed, fever-browed and utterly infected with the cut-price plague, splashed out on 500 – that’s half-a-thousand – vinyl albums. Absolute timeless classics. If by ‘classic’ you mean Des O’Connor, Roger Whitaker, the Black & White Minstrels and, inevitably, the Band of the Scots Dragoon Guards.
They cost £3. And the day after she got them home, I had to take them to the tip.by