Wednesday, 15 December 2010


There were about fifty of them dumped outside the auction house. They weren't in the catalogue. if they had been I might have thought twice before entering the danger zone. There were square ones, battered ones, some with dried up plants and soil in them as well as those toadstool like things that prop up barns, a couple of bald eagles and a line of corinthian columns in case you had delusions of grandeur. M in B's eyes lit up. He has a trough obsession. Our garden is full of them of all varieties. They are good to look at but how many troughs can a man have? We'd come to look at paintings of course - big mistake! Auctions are dangerous places.
Clutching a hastily typed list swiftly obtained from the desk he was out there eagerly evaluating.
'Hey, nobody knows about these,' he said. They're late entries; not illustrated, not listed, a snip.
I cast my eye down the estimated prices – they were in the low hundreds. Christmas was a-coming and I hadn't a clue what to get the man who has everything as usual so I rashly said I would buy him the trough of his choice. Problem solved and it would keep him occupied for some time – an extra bonus. I went off to look at the paintngs and sneak a quiet cup of coffee.
An hour later and he was still out there drooling over the largest one – a pig trough. It was big and round, more than a metre in diameter and weighed several tons.
'I've chosen. This is the one,' he said, eyes shining.
I rang Mac the Mover – Workington's miracle man. He can move anything. He'd moved M in B's trough collection from the High Pennine ten years ago. He knew what he was up against. I didn't ask about his hernia. Tact is my middle name – not!
'What do you reckon it weighs?' Mac asked cautiously.
I told him and heard the intake of breath, the sucking of teeth.
'How are you going to get it on and off my wagon?'
Life is never simple is it?
Back at the desk they told me the whole collection had come on a big lorry. It was the lifetime's collection of one man. The contractor on the industrial estate next door had lifted them off with a crane when they arrived and placed them on the forecourt. We had a word with him. He'd do 'our' one for £20. Our neighbour would lift it off with his tractor at the other end. Sorted.
'How far can I go?' M in B asked as we made our way to the sale next day.
'Go as far as you want,' I said indulgently. Well they weren't going to fetch much because nobody knew about them did they?
People were drifting off when they got to the troughs at the end of the sale, just a few stragglers followed the auctioneer outside while he quickly worked his way down the lot numbers purging to get off home for his tea. They were fetching low hundreds as predicted on the now dirty crumpled extra sheet in Michel's hand. At last; lot number 741 – 'our' stone pig trough came up. I wasn't paying much attention – just tagging on at the back. Bidding started at £200 and went up quickly by increments to £1000. What? I was stupified. I pushed in closer. M in B still kept nodding, not meeting my eye. I was going to have to mortgage the cat or take in lodgers or something. I was in panic.
'Any advance on £1500?' the auctioneer asked staring intensely at M in B. 'Do I hear £1800 sir?'
To my relief he shook his head. He had his sad face on.
£1800 then came from the back quickly followed by a telephone bid and it became a duel for possession again. The hammer went down at £3700.
There was a stunned silence.
'And then there's the commission and everything on top. It'll be well over £4000' I whispered doing the calculations. I'd had a narrow escape
M in B had to admit it was the most expensive pig trough on the planet.
'There'll be other troughs ' I said consolingly, 'and you've got a lot haven't you?'
'It was unique,' he said ruefully.
He's got socks and chocolates for Christmas. Anyway - the gift wrap would have been a pig!