Auction Fever: Or a guide to panic buying for the stressed

Model boat

I blame my Ma for my love of an antique auction. She dragged me to these palaces of wonder at the impressionable age of 16. I soon saw that whilst high street chains might provide you with stuff that helps you 'fit in', an auction would give you a shot of uncovering the wonderful individual and downright weird. By the time I moved in with himself, a scarily aged 18, I was in lust with the sheer possibilities that an auction offered. Luckily he felt the same and this obsession has settled on us both like a tick on a beloved pet that not even the pointy tweezer and surgical spirit of lockdown has managed to curtail.

Curved sofa
Me on the sofa (1991)

An auction is also the gateway to two of my other passions: History and a bargain. Whilst it's only a bargain if you were going to buy it in the first place, purchases at an auction offer you the opportunity of brain training. Convincing himself that we have always 'needed' a Victorian bean slicer takes some ingenuity I can tell you. The hunt for a bargain, uncovering the weird, and wallowing in history all comes together in one of my all time favourite buys: half of an Edwardian curved hotel or grand house sofa. Not the whole thing mind - half, yes, I repeat, half. Only one half was on sale and one wonders where the other bit ended up, but it was a bargain at £20. I convinced himself that it would fit in a treat in our first house that was a converted gospel hall in Suffolk. It sounds grander than it was, but we were so proud of it. Whenever I sat on that chair I thought of all the butts that had shared it too. Maybe some scandalous lovers meeting in a hotel lobby or secret messages passed between operatives. These thoughts may give rise to you thinking I have a romantic nature, and my answer - damn right I have.

Violin to upcycle
New lamp?

Back to lockdown - so I'm not one to miss an auction, and By Wendy Jane includes upcylced bits and bobs, which is frankly a licence for me to rootle through quirky and individual stuff wherever I find it. So we head off to our nearest auction house to peruse the possibilities. We focused on tables to mosaic and upcycle, and the 1895 sewing machine I featured in my Craft Corner blog. Suddenly my eyes alighted on two things that made his eyes roll so quickly I could hear them spin; a violin that I'm hugely excited about as it's going to be a lamp and maybe mosaiced, and a box of silver-plate teapots.

Steptoe and Son from

Himself calls me Steptoe because of my love of random bits of metal. I have no issue with the sentiment but I am concerned he thinks of me as Albert (the father) rather than Harold (the son). Anyway, I duly wrote down the numbers and like the sensible woman I am I decided to email my bids in before the deadline of 10.30am the next day.

So 9am I email a list over and faff about awaiting the 10.30 deadline. At 10.25, I kid you not, I look at my emails and nearly (only nearly) drop my chocolate biscuit in my coffee when I see the email has bounced back -arghhhhhhh. So picture me clattering up and down our stairs for my phone, then again for the phone number and then for the list. I was wheezing and out of breath but laughingly telling the poor lady on the other end of the call what had happened. Apparently she didn't find my likely heart attack as funny as I did. But readers - I made it in time.

By the afternoon I found I had won some of the lots and duly went to collect my goodies. Sewing machine - check; violin - check; tables - check; metal ware - er, um. Alas in my panic I had given her the wrong number and instead of my elegant teapots destined to be lamps I was handed a box of broken plastic M and M figurines and two model ships. I'm choosing to see it as the serendipity of life rather than my incompetence. I have a few ideas concerning their future, but I don't think we'll be building, as himself suggests, a boating lake in our garden to host sea battles. For a start I'm not sure we'd agree who was Nelson. If we went down the pirate root I can't see my cats being happy to sport an eye patch or to have firecrackers in their fur like Black Beard either. If you've any ideas that don't include the above then they are truly welcome!

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