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The auctioneer and what he sold

Posted by Sid Langley on Friday, June 22, 2007

Thanks for blog replies etc … One of my day jobs is writing a regular column for the Birmingham Post, a posh English broadsheet daily morning newspaper. Here’s a piece going in next week … a sneak preview which I thought some of the pickers passing through here might enjoy. Here it is….
 
During a hack assignment I find myself in an unfamiliar town, in an unfamiliar music shop hearing a familiar tune cranked out on a small keyboard and trying to place a familiar shirt.
 The music is easy, but the garment is trickier – something I think I must have seen on TV worn by one-time style guru Peter York. He’s the geezer who wrote the Sloane Ranger Handbook, if you remember those far off 90s days.
  I can name the Bach organ piece being played by the wearer of the obviously expensive small blue checked shirt – the celebrated Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. For all you know-alls (I believe some Post readers possibly fall into this category), I am aware there are two of them, but this is the famous one, made into a chart hit by the band Sky way back when. 
 At a certain point in the Bach I notice that Mr Check Shirt starts dabbing the floor with the toe of his left foot. “There’s a real organ player,” I blurt out, a little awed. His instincts had cut in and he’d tried to play a bass run with his feet, as you do on the pedals of the genuine article.
  He smiles sheepishly. “I’m an auctioneer, actually”, he says.
 The ice is broken. Like me, he’s looking at keyboards as a potential present, and I am able to avail myself of his obvious expertise – he warmly recommends the little Yamaha he’s been trying.
 It turns out that he developed his organ expertise as a second string to his bow. He really wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a farmer. But bad blood and a feud leading to an actual punch-up on the stone floor of a flour mill between his father and grandfather led to the older man being hospitalised and dad being cut off without a penny and the family land being sold off – so no chance for him to inherit and develop the skills he’d been picking up working on the land.
 Because it had extensive sand and gravel deposits on it, the farmland was bought by a quarry firm. The area was worked as gravel pits that eventually became lakes and the whole area was finally sold to a county council who developed it as a country park leisure facility – one I’ve visited recently.
 The mill was eventually demolished and it was then discovered that it had been built on the site of an extensive Roman settlement. The auctioneer reflected that he’d learned to plough as a lad in fields first cultivated by the Romans 2,000 years ago. But because his family couldn’t get on, he’d lost his chance to do the same.
 He’d been doing a Saturday job at an auction house which became permanent. But he continued the piano lessons he’d started as a boy and he ended up playing in local groups when portable keyboards first started appearing.
 Women, booze, drugs and humping around a big Hammond organ with its full array of floor pedals lost their appeal when he started earning real money though his day job – enough not to have to think

1 comment on “The auctioneer and what he sold”

stanger Says:
Saturday, June 23, 2007 @10:22:36 AM

Great story! Welcome to the Hangout, Sid... You'll find lots of writers here!

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