When I moved into my current house, my wife and I were thrilled to finally have some more space. We could start doing proper grown-up things like inviting people over for dinner. As soon as the boxes were unpacked we arranged a long boozy weekend lunch with some friends. Then we realised; we had the space but not enough chairs.
Having just gone through the expense of moving, we certainly didn’t have any money left to go out buying furniture and I’ve never really liked Ikea. Our house is more ‘shabby chic’ than that – well...we’ve got the shabby part; still working on the chic bit. We were in a bit of pickle until my brother suggested I try the local auctions.
I’d always associated auctions with rich people buying paintings for the price of a 3 bed semi in the Midlands. How wrong I was. As you drive deeper into the Surrey countryside, near Ripley, there's a huge ‘Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers Auctions’ sign on the side of a building. Although I’d seen this sign many times, I’d never actually been in. The idea of going to an auction was a bit daunting – I didn’t want to look like a novice but I had a deadline, so I went along.
There’s something fascinating about watching people walk into an auction room. As soon as they cross the threshold, in their minds, they become antique experts. The hands are tucked behind the back and the chin struts out ever so slightly. They pick up an object and inspect it closely through an imaginary pair of spectacles perched on the end of their nose. It all felt a bit earnest.
This presented me with a problem. I’m rather fond of a bit of mischief, especially in formal situations like these. I’ve been like it all my life; sitting in church as a boy was particularly testing. All these de facto antiques experts milling around, was like a red rag to a bull. I was in dangerous territory.
Anyway, there were a few chairs with guide prices of £30-£40, so I went to the sale day to bid for them. The atmosphere here is very different – this is the part where money changes hands at speed. As the auctioneer works his way through the lots, and the one you want approaches, your heart starts racing and you start to squirm around in your seat.
Thankfully, when ‘my chairs’ came up there wasn’t much interest and I managed to steal them away for the princely sum of £5 each. I’ve never had as much fun buying furniture, as I did at this auction.
When the hammer came down and the deal was done, I was so pleased with my bargain buys that my resolve cracked and my sense of mischief got the better of me. I held up my registration number card and when the auctioneer asked me my name, with a huge grin on my face, I simply couldn’t resist answering ‘Lovejoy’...