This is my account of the latest auction held by my employers, James and Sons, which took place yesterday at the Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich.
THE JOURNEY IN
Stagecoach, who have subsumed Norfolk Green, have very recently and without anything approaching proper communication cut a large number of services. One casualty of this piece of axe wielding is the 6:10 AM from King’s Lynn to Fakenham, which used to become the 6:55 from Fakenham to Norwich, and would see me arrive at the venue around about 8am, as needed. Fortunately, having been alerted to the mayhem while at work on Tuesday I had the foresight to check the timetables posted at King’s Lynn Bus Station and was able to come up with a back-up plan – I bought a single ticket on the X1 to Dereham and Norwich which is run by First Eastern Counties, departing at 5:55am and was in Norwich at the appointed time. This single fare and the single fare back from Fakenham (having travelled from Norwich to Fakenham as a passenger in the company van) amounted to £10 between them (£6 and £4 respectively) instead of £5.50 for a Dayrider Plus, to say nothing of the uncertainty created by the ham-fisted way in which these cuts were made. Surely if significant cuts to services are to be made (and I consider cutting what was the first bus of the morning on a particular route to be significant on its own – and I also know that half of the services that used to run between Fakenham and Norwich have been axed) the announcement should be made long in advance of the cuts happening, and every bus travelling on an affected route should be well stocked with new timetables that accurately reflect the planned reduction in services. Also, especially given the parlous state of public transport services in Norfolk, I consider any cuts to be unacceptable in any case.
With people arriving to view stuff not long after we had got there, there was not a lot of scope laying stuff out artistically, especially given how much of it there was, but a couple of areas were reasonably well done nevertheless…
THE SALE ITSELF
I am glad to be able to report that there were no IT issues at any stage of the sale. While the coins & tokens, some of the militaria and some of the ephemera sold well, the stamps did not go well, and the vinyls did less well than we would have liked.
Once the auction finished we picked out all the stuff that had sold to bidders not in the room, loaded the van up for the return journey and were able to head back. I was able to catch the 17:38 rather than have the dicey prospect of relying on the 18:35 not having been cut (if they can cut the first bus of the day, why not the last?). However, I was not yet at liberty to relax – there was still the matter of watering a few plants at Hampton Court, Nelson Street. Thus, it was almost exactly 14 hours after I had left my flat that my time was my own again.
MY ROLE AND LOT 450
There are two members of James and Sons staff who can manage the IT during the auction, so we swap duties during the day (auction days are the only time I regularly do front-line customer service). My colleague did an IT session between lots 200 and 300, at which point we had a scheduled break. I then did the first 75 lots after the break, before swapping for 100 lots or so, for a period when a few things I was interested in were coming up, before I then went back to IT duties until the end of the sale.
The first items that I was interested in were five sets of railway postcards, lots 391-5:
These as expected went beyond my possible price range. Next to command attention was lot 403, a book of views of Cambridge:
Again, to no great surprise this rapidly went beyond my price range.
The next items of interest were some antique maps, which I was fully aware I would not be able to afford but enjoyed seeing go under the hammer. This set the stage for the last lot to command my interest, and unlike any of the foregoing it was one that I was determined to get if at all possible. Lot 450, “The Bus We Loved: London’s Affair With the Routemaster”, was not an item that I as someone who runs a London transport themed website could happily countenance going elsewhere. There was a mini bidding war as someone else was also interested, but when I went to £10 that secured the item. For more about the book please visit my review of it that is on my website.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
Yesterday was a very demanding day, both physically and mentally. However, everything went fairly smoothly. Given the Stagecoach schemozzle referred to earlier, the travel element of the day was as good as I could have hoped for.