On "The Generation Game", winning contestants would watch a conveyor belt gliding disparate potential prizes in front of their eyes - from the ubiquitous cuddly toy to microwave ovens, golf clubs, towels, foot spa baths, framed pictures. So it is in your typical auction house - an assemblage of disconnected objects from who knows where? And if it could speak, each object would have a story to tell.
Down at the ELR Auction Rooms in Sheffield this morning, the auction catalogue listed 573 lots - from Lot 1 -"A quantity of promotional photographs and stills of music artistes" through Lot 290 "Fourteen Welcome doormats" and onwards to Lot 573 "An oval shaped pedestal coffee table with reeded cabriole legs". This wasn't Southeby's. The auction started at 11am prompt when the auctioneer advised that it would end some time after three o'clock. He was right.
The auction room was as big as a couple of school classrooms. It was crammed with the day's fayre - Victorian light fittings hanging from a bar, hulking walnut wardrobes from the nineteen fifties ranged up against the windows. In one corner there were the smaller lots in boxes and plastic bread trays. Many of these collections would have been gathered from house clearances - picking over the bones of the dead. Bizarrely there were numerous large plants in another corner and a miniature family of Easter Island moai to beautify one's shubbery.
I was really there just for the craich, the experience, but there were a couple of lots I might have bid for if the bids had been ridiculously low - a brass ship's bell engraved "St Gerontius Hull 1962" and a solid re-upholstered Victorian armchair which I sat in for most of the auction. In the event, the bell went for £75 and the armchair for £42 but there were numerous other lots that were sold at bizarrely low prices with the auctioneer having to press hard to achieve any kind of response. The fourteen brand new Welcome mats went for £8 as did a mahogany freestanding corner cupboard and a nineteen fifties bedroom suite comprising a two door wardrobe and dressing table - both in fine condition. The most expensive lot of the day was an exquisite brand new Persian wool and cotton carpet - a snip at £560.
Afterwards, I had a half of Barnsley bitter and a cheese roll in the Campaign for Real Ale's national "Pub of the Year" - "The Kelham Island Tavern". It also won this prestigious award last year.
Next time Eadon, Lockwood and Riddle have an auction I may be back but first I'll attend the viewing day to see what catches my eye. I have always loved junk shops and to some degree visiting a household auction is like discovering the source of The Nile if you see what I mean. Recommended for free entertainment on a drizzly March day.