Over the last number of years I have steadily let go of possessions, through the process of downsizing to a smaller home, moving onto a boat for a number of years, and more recently moving to London with just a few suitcases. I have even become a reader of all things minimalistic and have vouched for a simple life. However, that hasn’t stopped me from being fascinated with auction television programmes such as ‘Flog It’ and ‘Bargain Hunters’ and one morning I decided that it was time to head to a London auction house in person to see what it was all about.
A long bus ride through west London and a walk through an Industrial area finally found me at Chiswick Auctions. I tentatively entered, feeling unsure of myself, and gathered the courage to ask at the reception if I could sit in the auction without registering. Receiving a friendly welcome and a catalogue for a couple of pounds I made my way in and wandered around the displays of ancient, dusty worn objects and furniture. Some things caught my eye but what was more interesting were the people in the room – they were examining objects (some of which I wouldn’t have a second glance at!) and discussing the merits of what they saw with each other. Interestingly enough they too looked a little dusty and worn and fitted in well with their environment. One group of women brought in their lunch in paper bags and made themselves comfortable around what looked like an antique dining table, placing their paper coffee cups on the saucers of a displayed Victorian tea set! A man hovered anxiously around his wife as she kept adding more and more to her list of potential items to bid for, and repeatedly gasped “You don’t need that, surely”
I found a seat on an old worn chair and waited for the auction to start. A well dressed auctioneer entered the room and briskly moved to the pedestal and without ado started the proceedings. On and on it went, from one object to the next, each looking equally old and used as the next, but reaching exorbitant prices, – the tired worn people bidding against each other with poker faces and very little excitement even when they won something! I wondered what they were going to do with all this stuff – display it in their homes with all the other stuff they had collected? – sell it in another auction house? – or perhaps polish the stuff up and sell it in an antique shop? Round and round the stuff would go – getting older and more valuable over time.
An hour later I gave up and left, reflecting on the experience on my way home. I realised that my fascination for auction television programmes was nothing to do with the objects themselves, but more to do with the people, their stories of how they came by their possessions, and the excitement of exaggerated prices made at auction. I continue to watch my television shows and perhaps one day I may venture to an auction house again to see it first hand!