Today I experienced an experience for the first time. I went to an auction.
Most people in the area have bought something at sometime from the Saltburn Salerooms….with some visiting as regularly S might John Lewis at Bluewater. Others go, as I was to discover, far more often than that and on viewing day yesterday O and I rubbed shoulders with professional dealers who looked the business and professional dealers who really didn’t ….more Steptoe and Son than Jeffrey Salmon….their grubby untidiness throwing me off course as I tried to imagine how they might know a) what to buy and b) who to sell to. Their very presence, not just in the auction room but also last week in the Cancer Research Shop – exposed by the magnifying glass held to every piece of ceramic – made me want to run right back to John Lewis safe in the knowledge that if I want that vase I can buy it. I don’t need to register, I don’t need to enter a bidding war and I’m not up against people who know far more about the origins and value of that vase than I do. Hang on…I think I have just answered my own questions. They buy crap and it is to me they sell. Via the Internet. Doors. (See week one)
Conscious that I needed to look like I knew what I was doing I circled the showroom a number of times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I’m not, in all honesty, interested in value but only in finding the items which I feel will help our house become a home. Nothing in particular leapt out though O admittedly tested that ‘love at first sight’ instinct by giving me a fairly short window of time in which to experience it……negotiated by first giving him an opportunity to find out once again What the Ladybird Heard and secondly by giving him edibles encased in a small box (raisins) which take both time and patience to extract when you have the limited dexterity of finger of a 20 month old (improving rapidly with the help of the iPad I must say….his second finger quite adept at selecting his apps when I’m looking as well as my contact list when I’m not).
There was one item which tempted me – a child’s rocking chair – but I rationalised on the drive back to my mother in laws that it would not stand the test of time. O and any siblings he may yet have would have grown out of it within a few years and, I figured, if you are going to subject yourself to a two-day shopping ordeal which involves nervous adrenalin, proximity to some dodgy looking dealers and eau de urine – it had better be for a future heirloom.
If asked, O’s enjoyment of an auction would rate fairly low on a scale of one to ten so his obliging Grandad took him to the playground instead where, it would appear from his repetitive behaviour, a slide reached into double figures. Meanwhile, inside the auction room I had no clue what to do other than sit down and watch, mindful of keeping both my snuffles and hair twirling at bay for fear of twitching my nose or raising my hand.
At first I couldn’t even see the bidders, their signals so understated as to go undetected by a novice like me. My head snapped back and forth in vain as I tried to identify who was raising the auctioneers price..
“That’s a twenty, do I have twenty five? Twenty five. Thirty. Thirty five. Forty. Do I have a forty? Forty. Forty five? Forty. Forty five for the lovely jewellery box? Forty. Do I have forty five? Forty. That’s forty to number 259. Lot 108. . .a crystal vase…..”
Then the doubt set in. Why didn’t I want that lot? Should I have done? A woman next to me bought up every piece of jewellery which made me think I should be buying some too and another was racking up her lots of curios and glass. Had I better have another look around? Did I see those two lampstands yesterday? I squinted at them, the dealer-vultures allowing me no nearer. Would their pineapple shaped ironwork look quirky but cool or downright ugly? A set of brown and orange hued thick tableware which reminded me of some my Nan once owned was left neglected and unsold, offered for the measly sum of £3, and I felt sorry for it. The rocking chair I liked departed the Saleroom under the arm of a woman who was nearly asked by this nosy newcomer, having missed its sale, how much she paid for it. I stood up with the intention to register and sat back down again quickly as I caught the eye of the auctioneer. A transaction of an altogether different nature began to appeal. I whispered to O’s Grandma.. should we go in search of lunch?
We departed in the direction of a coffee shop, making a small detour en route into a charity shop where I bought several more frames for my collection in the conventional way. Practice makes perfect and I don’t intend to leave my experiences of auctions at that though I do think a few more dummy runs are probably necessary to ensure I can carry off the disdainful raise of my number for the auctioneers records without giving a bit of a cheer.
A far calmer environment was my mother in laws garage which we explored later on the hunt for more frames – bonus finds being a particularly attractive oval mirror, some vases and a pretty mother of pearl box. I also returned to the loft to extract the green curtains (see Loft Combing) once again. Now in receipt of a colour card from Little Greene Paint Company – another environmentally friendly supplier though it would require a remortgage if we were to decide to buy their paint – I was inspired to start thinking more seriously about selecting colours for the lounge. It does feel exciting to be getting to the stage where we can start thinking of the house as a decoration project as opposed to a building site but to honour our vision of decorating by the Three R’s I revisited my list of wanted items, which do not (I checked) include a pair of pineapple lamp stands. With the help of both Homes and Antiques and Google, I entered the upcoming London antiques fairs and auctions into my calendar. Saltburn prices (27p for a bunch of fresh thyme and a chilli in a green grocer today….can you buy anything in London for 27p?) may well be significantly less than in the metropolis. On the bright side, however, at least there’s marginally more chance of bumping into Jeffrey Salmon.