Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturday Lunchtime in the 'Burbs

At a house auction, somewhere in the Inner West suburbs of Sydney, the neighbours and the curious gathered expectantly alongside a few hopeful bidders, and the sun beat hard on the concrete backyard. Nothing happened for a long time and then six suited gents appeared with clipboards and sly smiles, out of the house that all the fuss was about.

The house? We'd wandered through it on the way to the last shady spot in the yard and what a mess it was. Low and wide like all of Sydney's suburbs, the house had been occupied by people who didn't love it. The occasional furniture was tawdry. Apart from brown floral carpet throughout and the bubbling paint, a huge crack wound through the main bedroom and a further crack adorned the extension. The survey suggested total underpinning would be needed. In all, a house needing more than Aus$ 100,000 invested in it to make it back into pleasant family accommodation.

Small One and I sat quietly on the concrete. Big One stood, flanked by a flunkey, holding a registration card allowing him to bid. He didn't.

The fun started at exactly the price that the family had agreed in the car as their ceiling. It went on rapidly past as two parties fell into competition, adding 5K to 10K each time to the last one's offer. It spiralled.

An oily auctioneer, wielding a gavel, ramped up the tension. Three times, he took it to the final 'gone' but it was still going, going, going as the slower party of the two stumbled to another bid. He was haunted by a suit with a mission, the equivalent of the game show host who eggs contestants to risk all and take the next question. The house lurched from plausible, to inflated, to ridiculous. And then it was sold. Bought by a nice looking young couple - with a big bankroll it would seem.

We left stolidly, reliving the comment - made to the Big One, before the auction, by the oily boss - that there were a couple of emotional bidders that hadn't done their homework there that day. And one of them has now got a whole lot of headache. I could only imagine that my friends had got away lightly. Especially with businessmen as talented as that at the helm.


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