Monthly Archives: March 2018

Z winds down, though I wasn’t that wound up to start with

I fetched Pugsley at lunchtime and took him back home until his parents got back, which was within a few minutes of each other, as it happens.  For some reason, we started talking about how chubby the children were as small children.  We all agreed, they were fat – but it was just baby fat, they all slimmed down as they grew past toddlerhood.  I mentioned the photo I posted of toddler Squiffany the other day, with her ankles rolling down over her shoes, but she’s a slender girl now.  Pugsley was quite possibly the one with the roundest face and anyone would have thought it would be his physique, but he now has razor-sharp cheekbones and his little brother’s face has slimmed down in the past few months too.  They never were fat, past babyhood, but they looked stocky.

My three were the same.  None of them overweight as children nor as adults, but well-padded as babies.  But Ro’s little boy and Weeza’s two have all been skinny, even as babies.  Zerlina is an object of wonder to us all – she’s nearly five foot tall and she isn’t ten yet.  Turn sideways and she pretty well vanishes.

Anyway.  Pugsley is still feeling sore inside, so it’s a good thing that it’s only a week to the Easter holidays and he can recuperate fully then.  In other respects, all is fine.  A friend of mine in the village wants to rehome three of her chickens, so I’ve offered to take them.  I’ll split the hen house in two (there’s a door between the two halves) while they get used to each other.  I’d had an elaborate idea for a coop until I realised it isn’t necessary.  And my friends who took my dog Benji are planning to bring him over on Friday.  I haven’t seen him for ages, it’ll be lovely.

Yes, it’s only Wednesday evening and I’m winding down for the weekend.  I’d curtailed my plans somewhat – Rose and I had planned to go out yesterday evening but we were both really tired, so I made kedgeree and we had supper together instead.  And I didn’t go to Nadfas, which I didn’t mind at all, to spend time with Pugsley instead.  So it’s been quiet.  I made yoghurt, but didn’t deal with the leek mountain nor make bread, as I’d planned.  Leeks tomorrow.  I suspect bread will wait a bit.

Z over-explains

I was asked why I now feel it was the wrong decision not to look for a job at a pivotal time.  I’ll try to explain, realising that you don’t know a lot about the background – perhaps I should start by filling in some of that.

When we moved here, Ro was just two: that is, we moved in the day before his second birthday.  I was 32.  We had offered the annexe to my mother and stepfather; he having had a heart attack, but he died the next year, before they moved in, so she lived here alone for fifteen years before she died too.  I was talking to LT at dinner the other night about anniversaries (specifically, that I aim not to mark unhappy ones, ironically) when a thought struck me, I checked the date on my phone, it was exactly 15 years since she died and I cried, for a minute.  I don’t do anniversaries unless they’re good, it just struck me for a moment.

She was the age I am now, when she moved here.  I was a bit apprehensive, to tell the truth, and I know she was too.  I was very happy, had settled in well and was a bit worried about the balance being changed.  But it went reasonably well – fast forward a few years, to when Ro was about to start middle school, I was in my late thirties and Russell and I considered, as another period of change was happening, whether to change our lifestyle or carry on as we were doing.  I was supporting him in his auctions, we were both very involved with local organisations, had lots of friends and an active social life, Weeza was in the sixth form at school and Al was getting towards taking GCSEs.

We still didn’t have a very big income but it was enough  In short, we both agreed that we’d keep going as we were, that I wouldn’t look for a job and Russell would keep his business going in the same way as before.  And it did work and so it continued.

But I’m quite sure I made the wrong decision and I should have taken on an outside situation, with fixed hours and responsibilities.  In fact, the numerous voluntary things I took on became overwhelming, and so did my home life with my mother as she became less well.   As time went by; the more stressful things were at home, the more it seemed vital to me that I kept on outside interests, but the ones I’d like to have ditched weren’t possible and the interesting ones were too much work at various times.  And all the major deadlines came at once, in early summer and  again in September.  My mother resented me being busy, in a way she didn’t with my sister, who had a full time paid job.  That was real work and it took priority, but being a governor of two schools and a churchwarden and chairman of Nadfas, the local Meals on Wheels organiser and various other things were my choice and took my time from her.  I am sorry to say that I needed the time away from her and I also needed to feel that I was being efficient and keeping everything going and never letting one of those spinning plates wobble – I felt that if I stopped, I’d collapse and so would everything.

Russell and I always supported each other and I did always put the work I did for him first, and told him so, and we did always make time for each other, if not anywhere near enough time for relaxation.  He was wonderful.  But I remember once, when I was away with my daughter, and another guest and I sympathised with each other about the deadlines we’d had to meet, to be able to get away, and Weeza was quite contemptuous to me afterwards.  I was just doing voluntary work, the other woman had a responsible job and I shouldn’t have compared my workload to hers because I was only a volunteer – so, my work didn’t matter and shouldn’t pretend that it did.  I suppose it’s natural that a child, even a grown up one, doesn’t think much of what her mother does, but the thought that she didn’t regard the work that I actually got a lot of respect and fulfilment for as being of any importance at all was a bit of a slap.

Money doesn’t and never will own me.  I don’t judge people by what they do and how much they earn.  But I came to feel that paid-for time is a justification to pick and choose what else you do.  People just accept it.  When I did a voluntary job, I didn’t feel able to leave it until I’d found and trained my replacement.  But when a staff member found a better job or decided to retire a couple of years early, no one suggested they should take responsibility or feel guilty (not that I am saying they should, of course), even if we were left in a very difficult position.

It doesn’t matter.  It was all very interesting and I enjoyed and was fulfilled by a lot of it.  And, I should acknowledge, that I have a tendency to be whole-hearted.  I suspect that I’d have become very involved with any job and taken on more than I was paid for.  I also suspect that I sound self-pitying, and can only apologise if I do.  I lived the life I chose, I’ve been tremendously lucky and I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t have walked away if I wanted to enough.  Just two days a week at a local business would have taken so much pressure off, though.  Thirty-five years too late for that.

Catching up

Young Pugsley started back at school today – he’s still not all that strong, so will do half days until he’s up to managing full time.  I went over to fetch him today and his mum can manage tomorrow.  We think that, by Wednesday, he’ll be able to stay and he hopes so too.  He had been sent home some work and will easily catch up anyway, but he said that lots of things have happened among his friends, so he’s been hearing all the news.

LT is back in Reading for a few days and I’m holding the fort here.  All fairly uneventful so far.  Still bloody cold and I have to take a bowl of water out to the chickens every day, though at least I don’t have to refill it a couple of times during the day.  It’s supposed to be warming up in the week, I haven’t sowed any seeds in the greenhouse or garden yet and am going to buy in some plants instead.  In theory I could still sow aubergine seeds etc but it’s hardly worth the bother of setting up the propagator.

All being well, I’ll acquire three more chickens on Thursday.  A friend in the village can’t keep all her hens and asked me if I’d take some of them.  I’ll put them in Rose’s spare coop to start with, but I need to measure up to see whether it will go in the outdoor run, which I’d prefer, or in the big greenhouse.  I think they’ll be all right, once they get used to each other.  I still want to breed a few more of our remaining bantams, it seems such a shame to let the strain die out.  My remaining bantam, Mona, hasn’t laid any eggs this year yet and I’m not sure how old she is or whether she’s capable of it, but Rose’s four all lay and they’re only three years old, and one of them often goes broody.

Our little Squiffany is going to be thirteen years old tomorrow.  I’m just leaving that here.  Thirteen.  And here she is at 14 months old.



The Sage changes direction Part 6 (and the final part)

The auction I’m holding in April is of a single collection, put together over several decades.  I’m very happy that there’s an almost complete set of our auction catalogues, because Russell was fairly casual about keeping them and I haven’t got them all, by any means.  I’ll scan them all before the sale – I’m not doing it now because they’re in a very cold, triple-locked strongroom and it’s after dinner on a Sunday night.

Weeza and Al were involved pretty much from the beginning.  They were teenagers then.  I think I must have left Ro with my mother, who lived next door in an annexe by that time.  She always had a bottle of champagne and a plate of smoked salmon sandwiches in the fridge for us, which was lovely but we were too tired for.  A cup of tea and a glass of whisky was more like it, before collapsing into bed.  We enjoyed the champagne the next day – though we never told her, her feelings were easily hurt.  To start with, Russell just had one sale a year but soon progressed to two, occasionally three.

He also did valuations and, when someone wanted to sell other items, he would help them place them, he was as busy with that as he wanted to be.  We became involved in a lot of voluntary things in and around the village, but the auctions were great fun.  What Russell most enjoyed was the personal contact with fellow enthusiasts.  People used to write and thank him for sending a catalogue, or send apologies if they couldn’t make it to the sale.  We aimed to keep a friendly, informal atmosphere with a professional service behind the scenes.

The last sale was held in June 2014.  Russell didn’t want to stop, but Weeza and I put our foot down.  No one knew he was so ill, but his voice wasn’t what it had been and nor was his concentration.  And it would never have occurred to me, at that stage, that I’d want to start the auctions again, but there it is, I’m back in harness and glad to be.

As I said at the start, it was all begun when we were snowed in and the Sage discovered that he wanted to spend more time with his family.  And I’m glad of that.

The Sage changes direction Part 5

I’ve written before about the circumstances of us deciding to move here, the birth of our third child and everything, so I won’t recap, and I can’t actually remember how long Russell had the shop for.  We moved to this house in July 1986 and he still had it then and for several years afterwards.  It never made a great deal of profit as, of course, the turnover of sold items wasn’t anything like as high as it was at the monthly auctions and he made a fixed percentage of profit, so there was never a question of a lucky cheap buy and highly-priced sale.  But we’d got a couple of other sources of income and we were frugal generally and money didn’t matter to us for its own sake.  I know, of course, that money matters very much if you don’t have enough of it and that we were lucky.  Russell had been a bachelor until he was nearly 37 and he’d been young at the time when you could buy a run-down house very cheaply, do it up, sell it and do it again, and he’d done that several times in the 1960s, before he came to Lowestoft.  For that reason, we didn’t have a mortgage and that made all the difference.

I’ve been trying to remember how much he charged in commission and I don’t know.  I suspect it was 20%.  He didn’t have the outlay of buying the items for sale, so there were just the costs of employing Mrs C. and the shop rent, rates and utilities.  Once we lived here, he was very engaged with all we were doing as a family – this series of blog posts started because I was telling you how his attitude to a career changed when he found family life so much fun and wanted us all to be together as much as possible.  And, sitting here writing this, I am feeling so very lucky.  We did talk about it several times over the years, and we always chose a relaxed lifestyle, with a chosen quality of life, over the extra money we could have earned.  I don’t know if it was the right choice all the time, though I do know we made the wrong one when Ronan started middle school and I considered getting a job, but decided not to.  I was always busy and there were a lot of good things about the way I’ve spent the last 25 years, but it was still the wrong decision – but hindsight is a fine thing.  And this isn’t about me, so back to the start of the auctions.

Russell wasn’t a shopkeeper at heart.  He enjoyed it when he was busy but there was no question that he’d sit there day after day.  But he didn’t want to work full time and he did want to do something he loved.  He often had Lowestoft china for sale in the shop and studied it, learned a good deal about it and felt there was a place for a specialist auction.  He talked to some contacts, potential vendors and buyers, and took the plunge.  The first auction was held on the first Friday in November, 1991.

The Sage changes direction Part 4

There were only 38 lots in all, sold over the three sales, but there were some lovely pieces. Here are the conditions of sale/bid forms for the sealed bid auctions.

  1. Each item is to be put up for sale subject to a reserve price.
  2. Subject to 1., the highest bid for each item shall be the purchaser thereof.
  3. Each item is believed to be described correctly, but no warranty is given and the prospective purchaser is deemed to buy with the full knowledge as to correctness; faults and condition of each item.
  4. In the event of two bids or more being of equal value for the same item, the first bid envelope returned or postmarked the earlier date stamp will be the successful bid; closing date will be ***.
  5. If any dispute arises as to the highest bid, the Auctioneer shall have absolute power and discretion to determine the dispute, and his decision shall be final.
  6. On all items over £300, the successful bid price will be scaled down to £20 above the underbid, similarly upon all items under £300 to £10 above the underbid, in both cases subject to the bid complying to 1. above.
  7. All bids must be returned on this form and the enclosed marked envelope only.
  8. Prospective purchasers may limit their overall bidding by clearly marking on the bid form their total limit, and stating their first choice onwards.
  9. The purchasers will be notified from the *next day* and the successful bid process only will be disclosed to all other parties.
  10. The purchaser shall be asked to pay the full purchase money and, if unable to collect, to bear all other costs of postage etc.

The pieces of china were photographed and those who applied to bid could view them at the shop.  Here’s the descriptions of the china (I haven’t bothered to type in all the measurements, though they’re there, but I have occasionally clarified the description)  and I’ve put the successful bid price after  –

June 1982

  1. Butterboat – £50
  2. Sparrowbeak jug “Good Cross Chapel” print – £190
  3. Mug inscribed “Trifle from Lowestoft” – £1100 (my friend bought this piece, his tendered price was £1111, so he gauged it well)
  4. Bleeding bowl – £135
  5. 4″ vase, bulbous top – £145
  6. Scallop shell dish -£135
  7. Egg cup (runny glaze) – £210
  8. Bottle shaped vase – £400
  9. Egg cup (crisp decoration) – £290
  10. Scallop shell dish, early – £440
  11. Sauceboat – £70
  12. Sauceboat, Golfers pattern, Bow – not sold (the only declared non-Lowestoft piece in the sale)
  13. Chelsea ewer shaped cream boat – £110
  14. Vase – £145
  15. Tea bowl and saucer, Hughes moulded pattern – £160

I wish to limit my overall bidding to £     and I have marked my first choice onwards.

NAME and ADDRESS……………………………………………………

November 1982

  1. Pair dishes, transfer printed – £100 (there isn’t a picture of these and I’m not sure what they were)
  2. Teapot, 4 1/2″ high – not sold (this is a lovely little pot, I don’t know if the reserve was too high)
  3. Wedding bowl inscribed “John and Ann Glasspool, Blundstone, 1772″, transfer printed after sporting painting by A.F. Desportes. 9 1/2” diameter – £1520 (a huge price for a unique piece)
  4. Chamber candlestick, relief moulded – £800
  5. Octagonal tea caddy, 3 3/8″ high – £125
  6. Pair of Lowestoft Swans – £880 
  7. Eye bath, incurving rim – £440
  8. Sauceboat – did not meet reserve
  9. Miniature teapot, 3 1/4″ high – £200

June 1983

  1. Pair of Egg Cups – £400
  2. Leaf dish with relief moulding – £370
  3. Pair of child’s plates – £375
  4. Large octagonal dish £495
  5. Polychrome rectangular tea caddy £221
  6. Pair of knife rests as exhibited Ipswich 1957 – £135 (there was a fine exhibition at Ipswich museum to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the factory.  I still get exhibition catalogues entered into the sale sometimes and, if a piece has an exhibition label on it, it has an extra appeal.)
  7. Pair of small butter boats – £185
  8. Octagonal tea caddy – £220
  9. Polychrome teapot inscribed “Mifs Rachel Ives Drake, Iany 29, ages 6 years” as exhibited Ipswich 1957 – did not meet reserve, highest bid £1451 (Iany is abbreviated from January, I don’t know what occasion was being commemorated.  The family name of the owner was Drake, I don’t know if Rachel had been an ancestor of his)
  10. Bowl – did not meet reserve
  11. Polychrome mug, inscribed ‘JLB” – £190
  12. Polychrome teapot and matching sparrowbeak jug – £430
  13. Pair of shallow dishes – £185
  14. Two handled loving cup – £105 (this seems a low price but David was of the opinion that it was Bow rather than Lowestoft)

As I said, the envelopes were opened in the presence of our church minister.  Russell put in a bid or two himself – I think that’s where our chamber stick came from.  We used to put a candle in and light it sometimes.  It’s a chamber stick (bed chamber, that is) rather than a candlestick because it has a carrying handle at the side and a bowl surrounding the candlestick part, so that any dripping wax wouldn’t fall on the person carrying it upstairs to bed.  Hard to imagine the pitch dark there must have been on a moonless winter night, when all you had to guide you upstairs was a candle.  I expect you’d have lit another few once you were in your bedroom, so that you could see to wash and undress. If you could afford the luxury, perhaps you’d have a fire, which would give light as well as warmth, though I should think that was unusual unless someone were ill.

Tea caddies were small and the opening at the top was only about an inch wide.  Tea was expensive and the lady of the house kept it, it wouldn’t have been stored in the kitchen.  Teabowls were small and the saucers were deep, one tipped the tea into the saucer to drink – apparently, this always seems peculiar to me.  By the end of the 18th century, this was becoming old fashioned and rather unsophisticated and cups with handles were being made.  Coffee cups always did have a handle, though and, when you bought a china service, the saucers would be used with either.

These auctions were a great success and it made Russell start to think about getting back into auctioneering, which he loved.  There were other concerns on our minds that summer of 1983, though, as his father became very ill and, in August, died.

The Sage changes direction, part 3

David agreed to buy back Russell’s part in the business, over an agreed period.  I can’t remember how long, but it was all agreed amicably.  And Russell opened up a small antique shop opposite the saleroom.  The difference between that and the other shops in town was that he sold on commission only.  He’d been an auctioneer for so long, there was no question of him buying for the cheapest price and selling for the dearest.  As in the auction house, he agreed the minimum price that the vendor would accept, he’d put a price on the object and, when it sold, he’d pay out, having deducted an agreed commission.  He was always acting for the vendor and just took his cut.

He took with him one of the clerical staff from the business, because they’d always got on very well and she was ready for a change.  He didn’t have to be in the shop all the time, as a result, it certainly wouldn’t have suited him.  He went when he made an appointment with a client, buyer or seller, and probably spent about three days a week there.  He specialised in pictures, but also had furniture, china and decorative objects – he was never in direct competition with the auctioneer and would tell a client if he thought something was more suited to auction.  He never fell out with David over it, there was room for both businesses.

As time went on, he became more drawn to Lowestoft china, though.  He had a particular client, who’d been a china collector for many years, he was very fond of.  He went to visit him and his wife quite often – they lived in a little cottage a few miles away and it had never had any home improvements for decades.  Once, trying to see the china in a cabinet in a dark corner more clearly, he tipped the overhead light and it blew the fuses.  He mended the fuse, switched back on, and only then realised that the wires were old, cracked and brittle and he’d been quite lucky not to electrocute himself.  He used to take Weeza to visit his clients sometimes, to give me a chance to rest in the afternoon with baby Al, and he always told the tale of how fascinated she was with this old man’s long, white beard.

Eventually, the old man died, his wife moved out into a smaller place and it was decided to sell the china collection.  Some pieces were fabulous and hadn’t been on the market for decades.  It could have been done as a special exhibition, but in the end it was decided to hold an auction, with a difference.  Potential buyers were invited to submit their maximum bids in sealed envelopes.  On a given day, Russell would open the envelopes (in the presence of an independent witness: our vicar) and the highest bid would win – at one bid above the next … think eBay.  You don’t have to pay your top bid unless it only just beats the next one.  The auction was held in three stages, June 1992, November 1992 and June 1993.

My business colleague David has given me a copy of the sales particulars, which I was very grateful for because I didn’t have them.  I’ll write it all down tomorrow.

When I started writing, it was because of the snow.  I had no idea it would bring forth all this.  Blogging, hey.  I might well end up the last ‘personal’ blogger standing.  I have no focus, no theme.  I might write about what I’ve been doing today, something I’m interested in, something I remember, I often sit down here and don’t know.  But, to quote the late John Ebdon, if you have been, thanks for listening.

The Sage changes direction, part 2

Having had a query about the need for secrecy regarding John’s help with valuations, I’ll explain further.  It wasn’t a problem as far as Russell was concerned, but John’s fellow dealers would have been angry with him for spoiling their game.  There was a lot of pressure to join in the Knock and to get the goods for as little as possible.  If it had been known, the auctions might have been boycotted for a few months and John would certainly have lost some friendships at the least.  And, more simply, John and Russell rather enjoyed outwitting those dodgy dealers – the Knock may have been illegal but it was pretty near impossible to prove it was happening.

The other point was, however, that there wasn’t as much beautiful antique furniture coming their way.  The Victorian and 20th century stuff was saleable – “brown furniture” has been unfashionable now for a good couple of decades, but it wasn’t then – but it didn’t interest Russell so much.  He also realised that, with an increasing interest in more obscure and ethnic items, there was more scope to get things wrong.  He was interested, knowledgeable and experienced, and also willing to ask someone else if he wasn’t sure – he was still learning to the end of his life, until the few last weeks when he was too exhausted by illness – but he was aware that being a provincial auctioneer was becoming less straightforward.  The firm had a monthly auction and I’m sorry to say that I’ve forgotten which day it was.  I have a feeling it was the third Thursday.  They also had periodic property auctions (we bought our Lowestoft house at one in 1976) and an estate agency, which also acted as a letting agency, and had several office staff, a property negotiator and a full-time saleroom porter plus several hired for the auction itself.  About twice a year, they had a high-quality auction with fine paintings, jewellery, furniture etc, but it was getting so that these special sales weren’t enough to please him.

I’ll pause for another anecdote that few people have ever been told.  They had a very fine sale, which had had a lot of publicity.  Of course they welcomed that, but Russell was uneasy.  I’m fairly sure he had heard nothing specific but he had a suspicion…and he decided to spend the night at the saleroom.  I think that there was a shotgun coming up for auction – I can’t remember how that worked back in the 70s, a licence certainly would have been needed, but anyway, it was there.  It could have been an air rifle, I suppose.  Anyway, sometime after midnight, he heard some sounds at the door downstairs – the auction house itself was on the first floor.  He went to get the gun, loaded it and stood at the top of the stairs.  As the robbers broke through, he switched the light on and stood in plain view, gun aimed, and invited them to come on up…..

It was one of the most exciting and hilarious moments of his life.  He phoned me, full of glee, to say what had happened.  I suppose he called the police, but there was no publicity and the sale went ahead later the same day – the thought of the awfulness if the staff  turned up a few hours later and the place had been ransacked doesn’t bear thinking about.  As it was, the miscreants scarpered in panic, while the Sage laughed theatrically (yes, I got the full played-out account).  He hadn’t seen who it was, the light was behind him, and he never knew (he had his suspicions who was behind it, but it was pretty unlikely that person was there) and he didn’t much care.  The tale would have spread behind the scenes and it never happened again.

All the same, it was yet another factor and he decided he wanted to change direction somewhat.  He talked it over with me and then had a discussion with his partner David.


The Sage changes direction, part 1

There was a bit more to Russell leaving his auctioneering business than just wanting to spend more time with us.  There were two other factors.

One was that he wasn’t getting on so well with his business partner.  They worked well together to start with, but then the other guy left his wife for another woman.  Russell was very sorry for the wife, whom he liked very much, and he didn’t like the other woman and he lost some respect for his partner too, because of how it happened.  I don’t know details, it was a long time ago and it’s not my business – but she became more involved in the firm and Russell found that hard to take.

The other thing was the nature of the auctioneering business, in a couple of respects.  When Russell had done his training in London and got his first job in Ipswich, antique furniture tended to be mostly Georgian.  Victorian and Edwardian, not so much and later again simply wasn’t thought of as antique.  Times changed and Russell started to realise that dealers were sometimes getting away with paying less than they should.

You may know about “the knock.”  It’s not legal, but it can be hard to prove and it happens.  A group of dealers get together and agree that they won’t bid against each other,  the lots will be bought as cheaply as possible and, afterwards, they’ll hold their own private auction and share out the goods between them.  If the reserve for an item is at about the sum it’s worth, they’ll get a limited profit but if the vendor doesn’t have a reserve or the auctioneer hasn’t advised well enough, they will make a financial killing.  I should make it clear – if you and I went to an auction together and you admired one item and I said, I’m glad you told me you were going to bid because I like it too, but I won’t bid against it: even if you reciprocated on another lot, or if you sold one part of the lot to me, there’s nothing illegal about that.  It’s the organised nature of it and the private auction afterwards that isn’t lawful.

Russell realised that he and his partner didn’t know enough about good 20th century furniture, which was very saleable back then.  I’ve kept quiet about it all these years, but there’s no need to be any more – he and a fairly local dealer came to an arrangement.  The dealer came along and told Russell what pieces should fetch, Russell adjusted the reserves accordingly, the pieces sold for more money and the dealer was given a small commission.  Russell learned the ropes and was able to advise vendors more accurately in future.

Russell said that he soon found how it worked.  Joe Bloggs from the junk shop started the bidding.  When it got to a price that Joe wasn’t comfortable with, Mary Middle would carry on.  Once Oliver Posh got involved, he knew that he was getting near the right price, for a good piece.  Of course, there were sometimes private buyers bidding and it was interesting to watch that too.  Sometimes, the dealers would back off, but if they felt that the bidder was throwing his weight around a bit, they’d have fun.  They’d run the bidding up to more than the piece was worth and then land him with a big bill – of course, the risk was that he’d stop before them and they’d be landed with it.

I suspect things are rather more transparent now.  This was before the days of published estimates, for a start (though they can be wildly inaccurate and annoy me somewhat).  Anyway, he and his dealer friend John were never found out, though the dealers obviously realised the game was up somewhat and probably thought that the Sage had just done his research.

The Knock didn’t always go smoothly.  We heard once that two dealers fell out and one chased the other down the street, brandishing a big knife of the machete persuasion.

Russell really loved antiques, though and, whilst interested to find out more about the value of relatively modern stuff, it wasn’t what he was so interested in selling.  And I’ll have to leave you with another cliffhanger, because it’s time to go and cook dinner.  Tomorrow (or whenevs), darlings

Defenestration of tradition

It’s Mothering Sunday today – not Mothers’ Day, as it is in other countries, because here we use the day of the traditional religious festival; but actually we treat it as Mothers’ Day, even in church.  Not that we had any children in the church.  I’m afraid our village church has rather given up.  Things that take place at the school go well, but parents won’t usually come down to the church any more.  That’s the way it is: this is a statement, not a comment.

There was quite a big congregation all the same, because there was going to be a service for the interment of ashes afterwards.  The family of the woman who died were welcomed and most of them came for Communion, though none of them knew any of the hymns.  Again, just a statement.  I chatted afterwards with the minister – we agreed that traditional services and, especially, hymns, are likely to vanish in most churches in the next few years.  They aren’t sung in schools any more and ‘worship songs” have taken over in Sunday schools and so on.  Even at weddings and funerals, many people want to choose their secular music – we left the church at our wedding to a recording of Tim’s music from his professional days (which I asked him for).  And I chose a song to be played on a wind-up gramophone at Russell’s funeral.

It so happened today that one of the hymns was played at Russell’s funeral and another at my and Tim’s wedding, not that they were chosen by me (and I didn’t mention it to the chap that did choose them). It’s all right, actually.