It was an evening sale just before Christmas and nothing much was happening. The public weren’t milling around, for it was -2°C out in the yard. There were no internet bids flashing on the monitors – I expect Amazon had replaced Auctionview in the nation’s web browsers. The Trade, weary from a difficult year, weren’t hedging bets by buying before Christmas. They therefore weren’t in anticipation of a strong start to the New Year. That’s significant in the scheme of things, but not relevant to this story.
No, my story today revolves around the auctioneer and a rare lively moment in an otherwise quiet sale.
Back in the good old days, the auctioneer was the star turn in any sale and their level of charisma and colourful patter encouraged bids. Remember, happy people sell and happy people buy. The advent of internet bidding has, for the most part, stemmed the flow of the colourful phrases, dialect and banter that were once part of the auctioneer’s arsenal. The style, choice of words and even the tone of the auctioneer has changed to suit the anonymous watcher and distant click-bidder. It’s all homogenous and exceptionally dull now as the assembled audience can no longer be exclusively captivated.
No longer can a Skoda be routinely referred to as a ‘Whisky & Soda’. No longer can the auctioneer blatantly take the mickey out of those standing below the rostrum or give nicknames to the regulars who bid in the shadows. The internet buyer doesn’t get the joke and is distracted rather than amused. Sobriety is the new flamboyancy.
Tonight, though, there was a rare moment of old-fashioned spontaneity when a Peugeot 206 entered the ring. It was quite routinely described by the auctioneer as “A tidy thing…” As such, I took no real notice. But I was then tickled to hear the auctioneer follow this with “…a bit like the driver”.
I did a double-take and saw the auctioneer give a cheeky wink to the jockey. What was going on? These drivers are miserable felons at the best of times. I discreetly edged over to the misfiring 206 to see a blonde driver behind the wheel. She was indeed fairly described as ‘tidy.’