Things could only get better? Still riding the clichés.
I was running late. I had spent some time playing with Squiffany, to give Dilly time to catch up with chores. I hurried out to buy supplies of food. Sale days are the rare times when I unashamedly buy quantities of junk food. We are busy all afternoon and evening, handling items of fragile antique china and we need to keep up our energy levels, with only a few snatched minutes to eat. So I fill rolls with meat, cheese and salad and buy cakes, chocolate biscuits, crisps and sweet drinks – as well as bottles of water which I don’t normally buy. I think the use of food miles and plastic bottles to transport fancy water, when every drop that comes out of our taps has been purified to drinking quality is one of the dafter examples of modern life.
We were ready to leave by one o’clock, which was all right. Half an hour to reach the saleroom, an hour to set up, half an hour in hand for unexpected problems plus, hopefully, a cup of tea and a brief break. Two miles down the road, the Sage said “You did put in the *star item*, didn’t you?” “I thought you did. I put it in its box and waved it at you and put it down again.” Ah. We turned the car around and headed home.
We left again at one-fifteen. And the Sage, most uncharacteristically, drove, if not recklessly, without his usual reck. We sat in silence for most of the way, each of us (Ro had taken the day off work and was with us) calming down in our own way. We unpacked the car and I headed for the car park, anticipating some difficulty in finding a space.
And this is where the day changed. As I approached the furthest corner, a car backed out of a space. I drove in and, as I put money in the ticket machine, three cars went past, drivers peering to see if someone was about to leave. More cars were driving in as I walked out. I said ‘thank you’ to my vastly appreciated guardian angel. No, really, it isn’t superstition, I have a personal other-worldly assistant, he’s fabulous and saves me from myself and from disaster. And, just occasionally, he finds me a parking space, when it really matters.
We were all ready by quarter to three, but people were already hopefully hovering. At five to, I started giving out the china to the ten or so people sitting at the tables and then, just as I was about to go round registering them with booking numbers, in streamed a dozen more.
How we arrange the sale is to have three tables, covered with blankets and then white tablecloths, down the middle of the room. Around them, with space in between for us to walk about, are more tables at which the viewers sit. There’s probably room for about 30 people at a time. The rest of the room has rows of chairs for them to sit at during the sale. They ask for the china they wish to look at and we hand it to them. They are welcome to handle it – some people like to see it all, others only ask for a few selected lots. The viewing goes on for four hours and is constantly busy.
Our various helpers came and went during the afternoon, putting in a couple of hours each. Ro helped and also dealt with the registration. Al, Dilly and Pugsley arrived at about 6.15, after Al had shut up shop and done his Friday deliveries and El hurried in, having come on the 6.30 train. The saleroom was full, nearly every seat taken with a dozen or so standing. Many of the buyers have known us for many years and are friends, but there are new ones every time. On man said “this is very civilised and friendly, I’ve never known a sale quite like it.”
At six-forty, I phoned the one person who had asked to make a telephone bid. I confirmed the lot numbers he was interested in. At six-fifty, the Sage reminded everyone to register and a couple more hopeful bidders-to-be came to the desk. There was an expectant feeling in the air. I wished I’d got around to visiting the loo at some time during the day, but decided I could hang on for another couple of hours.
The Sage taped his gavel on the table, welcomed everyone to the sale and announced the first lot.