“How did you find this place,” I finally asked Wyona.
“I was on-line,” she answered. “I looked around at what was selling at auctions and decided I would try St. Neots Auction. I thought I would have some fun out in the countryside. Tomorrow will be my second time there.”
She was looking at the price of a round trip train ticket the evening before. “Look, Arta, £19 for one way, £22.50 for a return ticket.”
“Must be a Shangri-la,” I thought. Apparently no one wants to leave St. Neots.
Twenty pound bags of turnips were auctioned off among the vegetables and large flats of flowers came next. Then tools and outside equipment. We spent some time looking at the lot numbers inside a covered building, writing down a top bid on each. At least that is what I was doing. Wyona had already hired Peter’s Moving Van to bring her stuff back to London in case she bought anything: a flat rate of £110 for the trip back to London, no matter what she decided to get.
A marble wash stand, double marble, a piece on the backsplash and another on the counter top was the item I saw many people look at – one woman examining the feet of the wash stand, and thoroughly measuring its every dimension with her tape measure.
When the furniture auction began it was just with the slight tip of the chin downward, a mere flick of the eyelid and that bid went up.
Afterward Wyona said to me, “Could you tell who was bidding against me, Arta.” I had the advantage on her, a casually by-stander, not feeling the stress of the speed of the bid going up and up.
“The partner of the distinguished looking man over there -- and she looks crestfallen.”
Another woman bought a gilded triptych 3-sided mirror and some framed pictures. Wyona went over to her and said, “I wanted that mirror.”
“How about if I give you the mirror for £4 of the £12’s I paid. It is the books I wanted”, said the successful bidder.
Coming back to London, there was only room in the cab of the truck for two people, the driver and Wyona. So at least my round trip ticket did not go to waste.
I have been wearing a coat in London that has no pockets. Last night I sewed an inner breast pocket into the left side of my coat, a pocket that will fit my map of the streets of central London. I stitched another pocket in the right hip side of the same coat – one that will fit a pen and larger papers I am always digging into my purse for. The new pockets came in handy today because this is my first time finding my way home from an unknown location an hour’s train ride away from London.
I was well prepared for being out on my own: a map, a pencil and a piece of paper. My kind of happiness.
The speed of the express train surprised me initially. I stood on the platform at St. Neots to watch the train go past and involuntarily reached out to a pole to steady myself, wondering if I was going to be suck under the train when it whipped by. There had been a voice over the intercom warning passengers that the next train was an express and wouldn’t be stopping and then “Woosh!” in less than 2 second it had come and gone.
Even the local train is fast and the underground is efficient. I was alone and taking all of the correct corners in the tube to get myself on the Victoria line going south. I was home 45 minutes before Wyona. Now that was fun. All alone in London and getting it right.
When Wyona arrived home, she called up to the apartment. The driver did not want to take the time to use the lift on the back of his truck to get the furniture out of his truck and to the street level. He was parked illegally. So with back breaking labour, she and I carried the 2 china cabinets, the 2 drop leaved tables, the marble wash stand and the hand operated tread sewing machines from the platform of his truck to the foyer. I was wondering if we shouldn’t buy a dolly of our own on our next trip to the market.
Two ethnic working class women, arms laden with package of their own and walking by on the street offer to stop and help us. It was beginning rain. It was beginning to rain and seemed better for at least two of the four of us to get our packages home dry.
Wyona paid Peter the Mover. We had everything into the foyer, safe from the rain. Two tall able bodied twentyish-looking guys who live in the apartments on the second floor keyed their way into the building. They saw us struggling to get the furniture into the elevator and said that they would take the stairs and leave the elevator for us. I know you can hear me laughing inside.
Tonia had done similar furniture moving on her own for Wyona’s last auction run. I was reminded of that today and I believed that two 60 year olds could accomplish together what one 30 year old had done alone. We got the 2 pieces of furniture finely tucked into the elevator and found that there wasn’t room for the elevator doors to close – only room in the elevator for two of the barley twist tables -- no room on the side of the elevator for either of us.
Even though everything is an adventure, I was getting tired. I took a Buddha pose and perched cross-legged on top of the table in the elevator. That seemed easier than running up four flights of stairs to catch the elevator doors as they opened on the fourth floor.
The apartment looks strangely the same tonight, even after bringing that furniture home. Wyona says she might make one more St. Neots run before Greg gives up his post here. Why not? The 3 foot high cabinet that the sewing machine is in, is a beautiful piece of furniture that she will use for an end table. The fact that it is a sewing machine is just extra.
The cost at the auction -- £2.
St Neots Auction Centre Link