Cornwall for Christmas

An account of journey from King’s Lynn to Cornwall for the festive period.

INTRODUCTION

After a very quiet day yesterday, following a day of travelling the day before I am settled at my parents place in Cornwall, where I shall be spending Christmas and the New Year. This post details the journey down, before ending with some photographs.

KINGS LYNN TO CORNWALL

On Friday night it was the sensory friendly Panto performance at the Corn Exchange, King’s Lynn, which was excellent fun. On Saturday morning, with my packing accomplished I got the 9:20AM bus from just opposite my bungalow to the town centre (my baggage was heavy, so walking would have been very tough), arriving in good time to board the 10:13 train to London. Almost precisely two hours later I arrived at King’s Cross, with 45 minutes to get from there to my pre-booked seat from Paddington to Plymouth. The Hammersmith & City line (the district/circle line station is Paddington in name only) played ball for once, and I was at Paddington in good time. There was a warning that all was not necessarily well on the GWR when the platform information for my train did not come up on the departures screen until 10 minutes before it was due to leave. Ensconced in my seat I poured a cup of coffee from my cheapo travelling flask (it proved up the job) and waited for departure…and waited some more, until an announcement came through that our driver had been delayed on an inbound service and that we would be at least 20 minutes late getting underway. At this point I phoned my mother because even with no further delays that was likely to prove enough to prevent me making my connection at Plymouth for an onward journey to St Germans. I therefore arranged to be collected from Plymouth instead. In the event, it was fully 40 minutes after our scheduled departure time that the train finally got moving. We lost no further time on the journey, although the last section between Totnes and Plymouth felt like it was taking a long time. It would have been about eight and a half hours after I had left my bungalow in North Lynn that I finally got to my parents place.

CORNWALL

A combination of tiredness from the previous day’s travelling and some fierce Cornish weather ruled out doing anything much yesterday. However today we will be going to Looe. In the bad old days of rotten boroughs the two villages of East Looe and West Looe were both recognized as parliamentary constituencies, and each returned two MPs. These days it is well known as a seaside resort.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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A present from Karan – a London Undeground themed storage box.

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Now Assembled (three pictures)

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Pictures from the James & Sons christmas lunch – which took place at a Thai restaurant near HQ in Fakenham.

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Christmas lights in King’s Lynn

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Waiting for the panto to start (three pics)

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A display at Paddington.
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Shots from the living room at Fort Picklecombe, showing some fairly dramatic weather.

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Waves crashing around the lighthouse.

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Sailing in these conditions is either very brave or very foolish.

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Some Thoughts on Transport

Mainly about public transport, but also features autism and cricket, and of course has the usual stack of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post was prompted to by events on Monday, when I had to journey to Cambridge and back – in the course of the post I describe that day in full. However, before I get to the main body of the post there is something else to attend to…

NINE HUNDRED THANK YOUS

Well actually 902 to be precise, since that is the number of you now following this blog. I am very grateful to all of you.

A DAY THAT WAS AN ARGUMENT FOR RENATIONALISING THE RAILWAYS

I was due to visit Addenbrookes for a check-up on Monday, and had to be there by 12:00. This meant that the last train to Cambridge I could catch and arrive there with sufficient time to get to Addenbrookes was at 9:44AM, since the next was the 10:44 due at Cambridge at 11:37, which would have meant that even if it was on time I would have needed Lady Luck to play ball to be at Addenbrookes by 12:00. Being excessively cautious when it comes to making journeys by British public transport I was actually ready to leave my flat by 8:40 and saw no grounds for not doing so. I thus arrived at the station just before 9:00 and with no queue at the ticket office was actually able to board the 09:10 train, and never one to object to having extra time to spare did precisely that. It was a few minutes late departing, and then had to wait at Downham Market for a train coming the other way to pass (there are single track stretches between Downham Market and Littleport). Speed restrictions between Downham Market and Littleport cost us further time. At Cambridge I got a bus to Addenbrookes, and was there just before 11AM, giving me time to consume an early lunch before going to the oncology reception and announcing my presence.

Although the consultant was ready to see me promptly the people taking blood samples for testing were running behind, so I had to see the consultant first and then get that done. The consultation was exceedingly brief, since the scans done a week and a half earlier revealed nothing untoward (no news in this situation is most unequivocally good news). Once it came to my turn to be seen for them the blood samples were also to my great relief obtained without undue delay. Nevertheless, it was 12:45PM before I was finished at Addenbrookes. I got the express bus back to Cambridge (£2.20 instead of £1 for the regular bus, but in the circumstances worth the extra cost) and was there in time for the 13:36 to Lynn…

Cue more chaos. There was an out of service train occupying the platform from which the Lynn train was supposed to depart, causing a late platform alteration. The service was also delayed slightly (somebody had been hit by a train earlier in the day and the knock-on effects of that were being felt everywhere). However, once it got underway it ran fairly smoothly. Between them having the blood samples taken and the consultation took maybe ten minutes, maybe less, yet I left my flat at 8:40 and did not arrive back there until 3PM, and of that six hours and twenty minutes only about 40 minutes can be put down to Addenbrookes – the rest was a combination of my caution and the inadequacies of British public transport.

Although I fully accept that one cannot prevent incidents such as people being hit by trains from happening the rest, including the service pattern that meant I dared not run any risk being on a later train than 9:44 when I had an appointment at a hospital on the outskirts of Cambridge at 12:00 and the platform alteration due to an out of service train blocking the intended platform are wholly indefensible, and in the case of the platform alteration happen sufficiently often to be classed as regular occurrences on that line.

We need our railways to be fully publicly owned and fully publicly accountable. There only two groups of people in my opinion who should decide how railways are run – those who provide the service (railway workers) and those who use it (railway passengers).

Here are some photos from the journey:

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A NEW BOOK RELATING TO AUTISM

The book is to be called Your Life As I Knew It, and you can be part of making it a reality by visiting the funding site for it here.

EARTH XI TO PLAY MARS

This section was prompted by a post on the Full Toss blog comparing Virat Kohli and Steve Smith and inviting us to make a decision between them. My resolution to the conundrum was simply to avoid treating it as an ‘either, or’ situation. With Rohit Sharma and Mayant Agarwal shoo-ins as opening pair that left me only seven more players to find to make an XI. I have opted for Kane Williamson as the fifth specialist batter, Ben Stokes at six and as fifth bowler, Ben Foakes as wicketkeeper (he is the best currently playing, though as a controversialist I might be tempted to see if I could lure Sarah Taylor out of retirement for this one!), Rashid Khan the Afghan legspinner at 8 (a gamble, but I would love to see how he fares as part of an all-stars combo), Pat Cummins, Jofra Archer and Kagiso Rabada (Jasprit Bumrah is currently injured, otherwise he would be a shoo-in.). Thus the current Earth XI to take on Mars is as follows:

  1. Rohit Sharma
  2. Mayant Agarwal
  3. Virat Kohli
  4. Steve Smith
  5. *Kane Williamson
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. +Ben Foakes
  8. Rashid Khan
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Jofra Archer
  11. Kagiso Rabada

As twelfth man I nominate Ravindra Jadeja, spin bowling all-rounder and quite magnificent fielder.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Marxism 2018: Martin Empson on Climate Change

My first post about Marxism 2018 – which has kicked off in fine style.

INTRODUCTION

The Marxism Festival is always one of the highlights of the year for me, and it got underway today. My train to London ran a bit late, but I was still at the venue in good time to do everything that I needed to before the first meeting. 

Double map, Kings CrossSt Pancras ISt Pancras IISt Pancras IIIRoundel

CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT DOES THE ANTHROPOCENE MEAN FOR REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY

Just before I get on to covering this excellent meeting I wish to deal briefly with a related matter: Jeremy Corbyn has been getting stick in certain circles for choosing to use Prime Minister’s Questions this week to tackle Theresa May on the state of buses in Britain. He was right to take her to task on this topic, and she floundered hopelessly as she usually does, unable to answer the questions. Here are a couple of charts from nomisweb.co.uk that between them make quite clear the rightness of Corbyn on this issue, which I found by way of the twitter feed of somebody called David Ottewell

and with car journeys added to the chart:

That vast number of people using the car as their main mode of transport outside of London is a major problem in many ways, and is caused in large part by the scandalous state of bus services outside the capital. As a concrete example, King’s Lynn is the third largest town in Norfolk while Fakenham is a market town in the middle of Norfolk. The last bus out from King’s Lynn to Fakenham leaves Lynn at 5:40PM, while the last bus back from Fakenham to King’s Lynn leaves Fakenham at 5:30PM – and this is still a better bus service than most of Norfolk can count on.

The meeting began with an explanation of the term Anthropocene, and then covered some details about recent heat records:

Display IDisplay II

3E before Martin Empson meeting
The room in which my first meeting was taking place.

Book Display

Martin at the ready
Martin Empson preparing himself.

No To FrackingTimetable FCTimetable BCCover slide

Speaker and chair just before the start
Speaker Martin and chair Jasmine just before the start.

Fracking plus WindrushDump Trump

The chair introduces the meeting
Jasmine introduces Martin
Heatwave slide I
The first of six record temperatures set in a very short space of time to be shiown here.

Heatwave slide IIYerevan record

Quriyat min temp
This means that there was whole 24-hour period in which the temperature was never at any point less than 42.6 celsius in this location.

Pakistan 5o degrees

Colorado
A heat record set in the country with a climate change denier as president.
Heatwave slide - final
The final slide showing all the records.

After this the speaker went on to talk about the inadequacy of the provisions made at an important meeting in Paris, the demonstration that occurred in Paris at the same time as that meeting and to end with a message:

Climate Change meetingCC protest

Gas Platform
This is the largest floating object ever built by humans – an offshore gas platform owned by Shell.
System Change Not Climate Change
The ultimate message of this meeting.

There then followed an excellent discussion as people asked questions and made contributions, before Martin came back to tie everything together. This meeting was an excellent start to my Marxism 2018.

Camilla contributes from the floor
This young woman was to be the main speaker at the second meeting I attended, and her contribution from the floor in this one was excellent.
Martin summing up the meeting
Martin Emspon summing up.

LGBT+ Liberation

A Three Day Auction Extravaganza

An account of James and Sons’ April auction – very successful overall, and to my immense relief free of any technical issues.

INTRODUCTION

This week saw James and Sons’ April auction, a three day affair on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Overall it was very successful, with a couple of disappointments, but lots of sales. 

DAY 1: SPORTING MEMORABILIA, BOOKS AND EPHEMERA

In order to avoid being rushed during the preliminaries I caught the first bus of the morning, and got to the shop at 7:10AM. I attended to an urgent query first thing, and then it was time to complete the IT setup. To my great relief there were no hitches at all, and everything was in working order. During this period the auctioneer also briefed me about the May auction, and what was required in terms of imaging a very large quantity of military badges. In view of this I decided that I would have to leave some of the railway photographs unimaged, although it was a necessity from an ethics point of view to image lots 1203-12 as I was intending to buy a couple from that range, and it would not do for there to be any suggestion of influencing things in my favour by not making images available to the public. 

We got underway bang on schedule at 10AM, and while there were no headline making prices a decent quantity of the sporting memorabilia did sell. Then came some books, and a few big sales. Lot 260 had an estimate of £50-75 but vigorous internet bidding pushed the final price up to £220.

260
Lot 260 – old and rare, and a big hit (two images)

260-a

Willie Hoppe’s “Thirty Years of Billiards”, lot 279, was in with an estimate of £20-30, but caught the eyes of online bidders to such an extent that the final hammer price was £180!

279
Lot 279 (three images)

279-a279-b

Less dramatically, lot 282, Levi Riso’s “Billiards in a Lighter Vein” had an estimate of £15-20 and actually fetched £30.

282
Lot 282 (two images)

282-a

Lot 302 had an estimate of £10-20 and went for £30.

302
Lot 302 (three images).

302-a302-b

Near the end of the first day lot 340, a curious little item, attracted no interest from anyone other than me:

340
Lot 340 – my first purchase of this auction.

340-a

After lunch I started work on the badges for the May auction.

DAY 2: COINS AND MILITARIA

Another early arrival, and another hitch-free preliminary before going live at 10AM. We had three coin buyers in the room, and some internet interest, so the coins sold well. Lots 475, 501 and 695 all went signifiantly above estimate, and most of of the other coin lots also found buyers.

475
Lot 475
501
Lot 501 (two images)

501-a

695
Lot 695

We had a 15 minute break between the coins and the militaria, which kicked off in style with lot 700. Lots 704, 705, 711, 719, 727, 761, 802, 823, 824, 828, 830, 831, 832, 837, 838, 844, 846 and 847 all also went significantly over estimate, and almost none of it remained unsold. 

700
Lot 700 (two images) – £470 hammer price

700

704
Lot 704 (four images) – est £100-200 actual hammer price £440!

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705
Lot 705 (four images) est £60 – 80, actual £120

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711
Lot 711 (two images) – estimate £15-20, actual price £55

711-a

719
Lot 719 0- estimate £35-40 – actual price £85.
719-a
This close up of the two rings was in response to a query.
727
Lot 727 – est £15-20, actual £50
761
Lot 761 est £60-80, actual £150.
802
Lot 802 – only just above top estimate, but the buyer was somebody to whom I had sent an image of the reverse of this badge in response to a late query.

823-a

823
Lot 823 – a holster with no gun – est £10-15, actual £28.
829
828
831
831
832
832
837
837
838
838
844
Lot 844 – These images (alo incl those for 846 and 847) were suppliued by the vendor, along with descriptions

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846
846
847
847

DAY THREE: POSTCARDS AND RAILWAY POSTCARDS

I arrived early once again, did some badge imaging and then paid a visit to Tony’s Deli (Thursday is market day in Fakenham, and this food stall is excellent value for money). For the third straight day there were no hitches in the preliminary stage – although I was not especially happy about doing the official sound check at 9:57, not least because I already knew it was working. A couple of early postcard lots (856 and 857) achieved big prices, and most of the postcards found buyers. 

856
Lot 856 sold for £80
857
Lot 857 sold for £100

The other notewaorthy postcard lot was 1047, which became my second purchase of the auction. I will at some stage be giving this lot a whole post to itself, but here are some pictures for the present:

1047
These are modern reproductions rather than original pictures, hence why no one else showed any interest in this item.

1047-a

ML ex 1047
An old Metropolitan line train near Wembley.
NL ex 1047
Abstract art featuring a Northern line train of 1959 stock
PL ex 1047
A picture of one of the original ‘gated stock’ trains that ran services on what was then the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway – this scene would have taken place in 1906 or not long after.

The Railway Photographs did not attract any interest, although this was not helped by the fact that the auctioneer was hurrying through them. The only three to sell were all bought by me – lot 1071 (locomotive at Haworth), 1208 and 1209 (respectively arriving at and leaving Mallaig – for more on this journey go here):

1071
The images available to the public (three per lot – nine in total).

1071-a1071-b12081208-a1208-b12091209-a1209-b

1071h
And to finish, now that the items are bought an paid for, unwatermarked images taken at home (three in total)

1208

1209h
The departure from Mallaig, with Skye visible in the background.

A few more badges imaged for the May auction, and I was able to make my last ever journey on a Stagecoach X29 (on Tuesday, when I return to work it will be on a Lynx Bus number 49, since squillionaire bus company Stagecoach have deemed their Norfolk services insufficiently profitable and bailed out on them),.

Some Suggestions Re Public Transport

Some thoughts on public transport, prompted in part by Lord Adonis’ resignation statement.

INTRODUCTION

The timing of this post is due to the resignation statement of Lord Adonis, a man who I have very little in common with, but who hits the nail on the head with his resignation statement, which you can read in full, courtesy of The Guardianhere (an excerpt is reproduced below, courtesy of twitter):

adonisresig

EAST COAST FRANCHISE LOWLIGHTS

The first time the East Coast Franchise hit difficulties, it was being run by National Express. The then government took it into public ownership, albeit with the (stupid) rider that it be reprivatised as soon as it was back in the black. On reprivatisation it passed into the hands of Virgin Trains, run by a combination of tax exile Richard Branson and the Stagecoach Group (as a non-driver who lives in Norfolk I know them too well and like them too little for comfort). The East Coast Franchise is now back in trouble, and the current transport secretary, Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling, as well as being a strong contender in the ‘most incompetent minister ever’ contest is such a ‘private good, public bad’ zealot that rather than take the logical option of taking it back into public ownership is bailing it out at vast cost, thereby setting a horrendous precedent which will enable any other rail franchise that hits trouble to demand a bail out. 

RENATIONALISATION AS START POINT

Not only should the East Coast Franchise be renationalised now, with it being made clear that it will not be privatised again, the whole railway network needs to be renationalised. The Labour party have laid out how this can be achieved – namely by refusing to put each franchise up for tender as and when it expires. For further detail check out We Own It’s Railways page. However, this is only a beginning – both because railways are only one part of public transport – there are also buses, and because one needs to consider how the system should be run. As I was typing this, the following came through on twitter from We Own It:

we own it buses tweet

Bus and railway services need renationalising, and they need to be run jointly. As to how they should be run – well there are two groups of people who should be represented in the body that runs public transport services: those who use the services and those who provide the services. If services are to be publicly owned (and these should be), they need to be fully publicly accountable. 

SOME EXTRA RESOURCES

I have three final links to share which relate to this piece:

  • A second piece from the Guardian on the Adonis Resignation
  • Mike Sivier of Vox Political has offered his take here.
  • The Mirror has demonstrated yet another way in which privatisation is failing us, with fares going up by an average of 3.4% (when we already pay on average five times as much as our fellow Europeans for a service that is probably not even on fifth as good as most of them get – I have travelled extensively in Europe over the years and most countries provide far better services than are available here in Britain) – we have on average the oldest carriages since records began (that average is 21 years old, with the Caledonian Sleeper holding an unwanted record with 42 year old carriages).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here is you reward for reaching the end of this piece:

TW30TW29TW28climbing squirrelrunning squirrelTW27TW26TW25TW23TW22TW21TW20TW19TW18TW17TW16TW15TW14Sun on the Great Ouse11 lapwingslapwings and gullMallard drakes and white duck

 

The Last Auction Of 2017

An account of James and Sons’ final auction of 2017.

INTRODUCTION

James and Sons last auction of 2017 took place at our own premises in central Fakenham on Wednesday, and in this post I tell the story of that sale.

THE PRELIMINARIES – TUESDAY

On Tuesday we moved the stock for auction downstairs, and with that laid out, and the smaller high-value lots in the vault until the morning I then brought down and set up such of the IT equipment as I could (we are a laptop down at present so I would be pressing my own machine into service once again) and carried out a brief test which suggested that all was in order and that there should be no issues. 

THE AUCTION ITSELF

I arrived at work bright and early since not even Stagecoach can contrive to have the first bus of the day run seriously late. For those living in Norfolk and uncertain regarding buses in the holiday period services will stop early on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, there will be no services at all on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and a “Saturday service” will operate from the 27th to 29th of December inclusive (and since that day is actually a Saturday presumably also on the 30th). 

Coffee made, emails checked and a few things gathered up to go downstairs I went back downstairs at 7:45AM. The IT setup went smoothly, and I had the slide show running before any bidders arrived (there were a few room bidders on this occasion). Here are some pictures from this period:

Stock 1Stock 2IT setupBig Screen

BANKNOTES AND COINS

The auction kicked off with some uncirculated banknotes which went for very high prices. Lot 43, a display book showing old and new format New Zealand banknotes, brought the curtain down on that segment, going for £440. 

Lots 44-50 were less valuable banknotes. Then lots 51-56 were very rare coins. Unfortunately the reserves had been set too high to attract bidders, with the exception of lot 51, a 1787 gold guinea which went for £600. 

The remaining lots of coins and banknotes went fairly quietly, although there were a one or two good prices achieved. 

1
Imaging these uncirculated banknotes was a fiddle. They had to be imaged through the plastic covers they were encased in to avoid damage, and the black bakcground was needed for use in the catalogue. Additionally, since both sides were required what you see are two images joined to become one.

44343-a43-d

1-p
Lot 51.

POSTCARDS

Lots 151-300 were postcards, mainly military themed, and while there were no headline grabbers in this section, most of them did find buyers. 

STAMPS

Not quite on a par with the extraordinary happenings of November 29 (see here for more details), but much better than our stamp sections have historically been. 

EPHEMERA

The last 100 lots (501-600) to go under the hammer at James and Sons in 2017 were all ephemera. I expected a fairly quiet end to the auction, and that is what eventuated. Lot 545, with a modest estimate of £20-30 went for £75.

545

Immediately before that an optimistic bid I placed on lot 544 met no opposition. At some stage I will probably do a whole post about this lot. This is the picture that everyone was able to see:

544

Here are some more pictures taken today…

Farnham and AltonHampton CourtEgham and ChertseyArrangements with other railway companiesReading, Guildford & ReigateLondon BridgeWhitchurch, Andover and SalisburyGuildford, Fareham, PortsmouthRichmond to WindsorStaines to Wokingham and WokingWimbledon to CroydonReading extensionHavant to GodalmingSalisbury to YeovilYeovil to ExeterBranch to Cambridge TownSussex and SurreyAmalgamationBasingstoke to NewburyDorsetNorth Cornwall

An Auction Deferred

An account of the rescheduled James and Sons auction which happened yesterday.

INTRODUCTION

Followers of this blog will be aware that the second James and Sons August auction had to be postponed. Yesterday, at James and Sons own premises, 5 Norwich Street, Fakenham NR21 9AF was the appointed time and place for the rescheduled auction. We could not display all the stock in the limited space of our shop, so only small items made it downstairs. What follows is in account of my day and of the auction.

BEFORE THE BEGINNING

Some preliminary testing was done on Thursday to help ensure that the auction ran properly. On the Friday I caught the first bus of the morning into Fakenham. I was thus at the shop at about 7:10am, and after making a cup of coffee, getting my computer switched on and checking my emails I had a little time to spare before anyone else would be arriving, so I photographed some maps that will feature in the first of our end of September auctions. At 7:45AM I headed back downstairs, switched the downstairs lights on to acknowledge my presence to the world and was ready for action. Here are some photos from this period…

bus map
This route map can be seen at the bus stands on Oak Street, Fakenham

a1

a2
From here until the picture of the two computers are pictures relating to auction layout and setup

a3ToysEphemera

Beatrix Potter coins
The light was wrong for capturing these Beatrix Potter coins – the sun was shining directly on them.

Hats 1Hats 2

IT setup
The IT setup – the silvery computer is the master machine,, and is open on the operator screen, with my notepad, pen, catalogue and ersatz coaster (formerly the back cover of a notepad) in front of it, along with my bidding paddle. Note also the camera attached to to the other machine and positioned to focus on the auctioneer, and the brand spanking new mic in the middle.
545
The maps – this is lot 538, and although I only got up to lot 545 there are maps from this series up to lot 600, and then a few more will feature in the third and final auction of the end of September series, with lot numbers in the 1500s. I will be imaging the rest on Tuesday.

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A TESTING BEGINNING

Because of the circumstances of the auction there was a button I had to press called ‘repush bidders live’ when preparing for the start of the auction. Additionally, the auctioneer had decided to start at lot 921 instead of the official lot 924, which meant that I had to manually re-offer those first three lots before the system got back in sequence. A reset request from atgmedia also contributed to a slowish start. However, once this was all dealt with the auction proceeded smoothly.

THE AUCTION AND CLEAR-UP

The militaria fared well, the antiques and bygones far better than I had expected, while the records and books were predictably quiet. Then we got into the ephmera, for which section I had two plans, as follows:

  1. If lot 1415 was available at a price within my means I would get that and my interest as a potential buyer would terminate.
    14151415-a1415-b1415-d1415-c
  2. If plan 1 failed then I would try my luck with lots 1422 and 1428, with a fair degree of confidence of getting them.

    1422
    Lot 1422 (four images)

    1422-a1422-b1422-c

    1428
    Lot 1428

    In the event the starting price for lot 1415 was too high for me (I had decided that I would come in at £25 but not if more was required, and the auctioneer wanted £30), but I was successful with plan 2, getting each item for £10.

Some of the framed prints sold as well, which is all to the good. Lot 1600, the last item in the sale went under the hammer at about 2:20PM, and once I had accomplished as much of the clear-up of the IT stuff as was possible (typically, the laptop we used as the master computer decided that before shutting down it needed to install a load of updates, so I had to leave it where it was, though now unlugged and running on battery).

After consuming my sandwiches I was able to get away, having had a tiring but very satisfying day.