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Chapter 23. Going, Going, Gone!
Kerry emerged from the side of the stage holding my mother's painting. Then, she raised the picture shoulder high, prompting a round of applause from the party crowd.
Tonight we are going to invite bids for this superb Constance Pettigrew, entitled and depicting, 'Walkers on a windy day, Penswithian prom'.
Windy day, I thought, looks more like the promenaders have been foolish enough to venture out in gale force conditions. They all seemed to be toppling over and at risk of being swept into the Atlantic. Still, people tend to like a seascape, so we just had to hope for the best.
I think you are all aware of the price a Constance Pettigrew fetches these days, declared Spats. However, Constance, has quite incredibly and most generously, offered this painting of hers at a starting price of just fifty pounds. Furthermore, all proceeds from this sale will be going to Cancer Research.
More loud clapping from the audience.
Matt then came out carrying an easel and set it on the stage so that Kerry could prop mother's painting on it for the duration of the auction.
Thank you, Kylie... I mean Kerry, boomed Spats, as Kerry and Matt moved back down into the audience.
We shall be taking bids in increments of fifty-pounds, explained Spats. So, we will be starting at fifty and then the second bid is for one-hundred, then one hundred and fifty, and so on.
Was this a wise decision? I wondered. It was fairly presumptuous to assume that this crowd would even bid as high as one hundred. In my opinion, it would have been wiser to take bids of five pounds a time.
Who will start the bidding at just fifty pounds! Bellowed Spats.
Kerry's father's hand shot up.
Please let there be another bid, I thought. Mum is going to feel rather humiliated if she finds out that fifty pounds was all that her work had fetched.
Matt's father then waved his fashion show brochure high into the air to confirm his intention to purchase the painting for one hundred pounds.
One hundred and fifty! Yelled Spats. Come on, ladies and gentlemen, who will bid one hundred and fifty for this suburb work of art?
Well, I'm game, announced Justin, raising a hand.
One of my customers then fluttered her hand in the air and we were, by now, already at two hundred.
This wasn't too bad. Two hundred would be as much as we could realistically expect at an event such as this.
Then one of the local gallery owners yelled, two hundred and fifty!
There was a pause in the room and everyone started to look around at each other, sizing up the situation. Had the biding ended, or would another bidder step forward?
Suddenly, Kerry's dad was back in the game and we were now at three hundred.
The gallery owner went to three hundred and fifty.
My 'Tres a la Mode' customer then went to four hundred.
A determined Kerry's dad went to four fifty and the customer went to five.
Excitement was mounting, there seemed to be three serious players in the room. What was their limit going to be?
It looked as if that limit might have been reached.
We have five hundred pounds! That's five hundred pounds for a work of art that would fetch thousands in a London Gallery! Spats informed the crowd. Is the bidding really going to end at just five hundred pounds!? Surely not, ladies and gentlemen. Do I hear five-fifty, five-fifty, who will give me five-fifty?
Don't push it Spats, I quietly muttered, to myself. Five hundred pounds sounds pretty damn good to me.
Going once! Going twice!
Then Kerry's dad's hand shot up again, followed by the gallery owners and the customers.
We had six hundred and fifty!
At which point a new bidder joined the foray.
It was Rhett Stephens, the owner of the scaffolding company. Margery was at his side and I sensed that this was more of a move to impress, on Rhett's part, than a desire to own the painting.
Still, I didn't doubt that Rhett had the necessary funds. Tourism may now be the main industry left in Cornwall, however, the construction of scaffolding was surely the second. A day didn't seem to go by when I didn't walk up through the main street of Penswithian without being confronted by yet another erection.
At seven hundred, we had reached a truly respectable price for mum's work and a damn good donation for Cancer Research.
Spats then turned to Kerry's father to see if he was going to make one more bid. He wasn't, and sadly shook his head.
What about you young lady? Asked Spats of my customer, who was actually in her late seventies.
She giggled and once again fluttered her hand to pledge a further fifty-pounds.
Rhett looked rather relieved, in my opinion. I had a feeling that my mother's style of painting wasn't really his bag.
So, there we were, at seven hundred and fifty pounds, when a man I vaguely recognised, stepped forward, told Spats that he had no time for messing around, and bid two thousand!
Then I recalled where I had seen him, this was Pridine Campelot's chauffeur.
Pridine Campelot was the owner of the 'Existential' art gallery in central London where mum had had her incredibly successful private view and exhibition.
A hush fell amongst the gathered throng.
Spats carried on, as if a jump from seven-fifty to two thousand, was no surprise to him.
So, he yelled, we have two-thousand pounds in the room, that's just two thousand pounds!
Oh, give it a rest! I thought. Slam down the hammer and let's get on with the party.
Going once, going twice, going to the gentleman in the chauffeur's hat! Shouted Spats, as he violently slammed down his gavel.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have just raised two thousand pounds for Cancer Research. You have been a lovely audience! Goodnight!
Everyone cheered and I leapt back up onto the stage and announced the return of 'Vinyl Booty', who would cover one final half-hour set before the theatre would be closed.
I shook hands with Pridine's chauffeur and offered him my congratulations.
Have you been bidding on behalf of Pridine Campelot?
Indeed he had.
Pridine had been sent an invitation to the show, with details of what the night would entail, even though I doubted very much that he would be able to attend.
Pridine was holding a private view on the same night, so, aware that a Constance Pettigrew was up for auction, he had told his chauffeur to head off down to Cornwall, armed with a suitcase of cash.
Early in the morning, the chauffeur, Gary, had set off for Penswithian, tout suite, with a case containing five thousand pounds in the boot.
Pridine had expressed his determination to obtain the painting and instructed Gary not to return to London empty-handed.
Gary had spent the entire day driving down and the traffic had been awful.
All he wanted to do now was head on back to London. He needed to drive Pridine to Gatwick the following afternoon, so rather than hang around any longer, making fifty pound bids, he had decided to waste no more time and go right in at two thousand.
I signalled to Margery, and she wandered over with Rhett.
Is there any kind of safe here at the Ganja? I wanted to know.
As it turned out there was and Margery led Gary and his suitcase to her office upstairs.
Hey, Rhett, I bet you're slightly relieved that you didn't win the picture, aren't you? I joked, with a knowing smile.
To which Rhett replied, that he had not been at all relieved as he was a huge fan of my mother's work and already had two hanging in his living room.
Feeling rather flustered and embarrassed, I made my excuses and left to speak to Matt's dad.
Matt's father Patrick told me that Matt had talked of nothing else but the amazing Eva, for the past few weeks and confessed that he had suspected that the feelings might not be reciprocated. Apparently, Matt had a habit of falling in love with, and becoming massively obsessed by, someone who is usually unobtainable. He tends to go for women slightly older than himself as well, added Patrick, coming to the Freudian conclusion that this might have something to do with his mother disappearing off with some guy fifteen years younger.
I asked him if he thought that Matt would make a fairly speedy recovery from his present infatuation with me?
Patrick reassured me, that with a little time, this was a highly likely scenario.
Then I saw Matt heading over and I moved on to have a word with Kerry and her father.
Had they been very disappointed at being outbid?
Although they would have obviously liked to have owned the painting, they were absolutely delighted by how much had been raised for Cancer Research.
The evening was now drawing to an end.
Unfortunately for Matt's scaffolding friend's, they were going to have to dismantle the scaffolding, that very evening, straight after the party, as the Ganja would be closed on Sunday and there was an arts funding meeting upstairs on the Monday.
Margery didn't want to have to explain to the funding committee why scaffolding, that looked as if it had been brought in the hold up the ceiling, had been erected.
Still, the men seemed fairly good-natured about the situation and I just hoped that none of them would come a cropper while up on the top deck. They all looked like they might have had one too many drinks by now.
I went upstairs with them, as I would need to clear the changing room. My plan was to simply throw all the clothes onto the back seat of my parked car and leave them there overnight.
Marge wandered in offering to help and, much to my astonishment, compliment me on a truly wonderful show and most memorable evening
An outstanding success Eva, she declared, you must be thrilled.
I was more shell-shocked and more exhausted, than thrilled, but I did feel a sense of relief that, despite a few setbacks, it had all turned out rather well.
Then Yorik turned up wondering how much time there was before the show started as his sound system had broken and he needed at least an hour to set it right. The fact that the scaffolders were noisily dismantling the scaffolding seemed not to register, in what both Margery and I could see, was his fairly drug-addled mind.
Margery informed the dazed and confused Yorik that she had a good mind to sack him right there and then.
Luckily for Yorik, she was heading out for a late supper with Rhett and would make a final decision with regards to his role as in-house technician on Monday.
Chapter 24. Clubbing It
The twins had roped Matt into loading their equipment into the back of the limousine.
Then the girl's were now going to head down to Barnacles for a surprise guest gig.
I remembered how often they had frequented the venue prior to leaving Penswithian for Majorca.
Who would have thought, then, that they would now be returning to the club with such celebrity status!
Hey, Matt's pretty fit isn't he auntie Evie? Joked one of the twins. I bet you wish you were a few years younger! We've asked him to come on down to Barnacles with us and do some dancing, seeing as how he has lost his job as, bouncer.
Had he lost his job as the Barnacles bouncer? I wanted to know.
The twins told me that the club owner had decided that, since the posters for the show had been plastered around town, Matt's presence outside the club was more likely to cause more altercations, than help keep the peace.
They had nearly withdrawn their offer to perform based on this news, but Matt had said that he would like to dance as it would help distract him from his recently broken heart.
Oh dear, did he say who he was in love with? I anxiously inquired.
Apparently not, it was a thoroughly private matter and although the twins had tried their best to goad him into a confession, he had stood firm in his resolve to keep her identity entirely confidential.
So, that was a relief.
The other guys in the show also intended to go to Barnacles and show off their new dance routine.
Even Dave, I thought. Should one of the local vicars be seen down at a club dancing in scaffolding gear until five in the morning?
Zoe then staggered over and confirmed that Dave had every intention of strutting his stuff with the other men and she would be wandering down with him to cheer him on.
Betty wheeled Patrick over to me to say their goodbyes and I once again congratulated them on their engagement.
I shall be less of a worry to our Matt now that the lovely Betty here is moving in, concluded Patrick. It's time Matt started living his own life and worrying less about the rest of the family.
Just before leaving, Felicity had come up to thank me for letting me have her as a model in the show.
It was like way bad, Eva, it was like, maybe the most wicked night of my life, gushed Felicity. My friends were like, you looked way cool Spots (I could only assume this was a nickname Felicity had become used to). They said, bloody 'ell Spots, you looked like a bleedin' model or somethin'. They took loads of pictures on their phones too, so I bet I'm gonna be all over Facebook by tomorrow, you know, I'll be trendin' 'round school.
I gave Felicity a hug goodbye and her mother thanked me, with a huge smile, as they departed.
Well, don't thank me! I yelled after them, good-naturedly, Zoe was the one who could see that Felicity was model material!
Felicity then hurried back to return my purple suede platforms, but I persuaded her to hang onto them as a keepsake and reminder of her contribution to the evening.
As Spats and I set off for home, I turned and saw Rhett helping Margery to lock up the Ganja, both giggling like a pair of intoxicated teenagers.
What actually happened here tonight Eva? Spats wanted to know.
We had a sell-out and pretty successful fashion show, I replied, although I knew that wasn't really the question he was asking.
No Eva, I mean, between us. How do things really stand between us?
I don't know Spats, I lied. I mean, we have been together a long time now and sometimes I feel that you just take me for granted. Would the young and extremely virile Matt bring some verve and excitement back into my humdrum life? He is ever so in love with me you know, I added with a wistful sigh.
Spats reminded me that he too was ever so in love with me.
Maybe Spats, maybe, I replied. It's just difficult to know which way to turn because you don't seem able to convey that love to me any more. A woman needs to know she's truly appreciated. When was the last time you gave me flowers? When was the last time you bought me perfume or champagne and why can't I have that new computer I so badly need, as mine isn't powerful enough to run the new Windows system?
You told me never to buy you flowers, Eva, you said that men only buy women flowers when they had done something wrong, something they feel guilty about. You told me that flowers just made you suspicious... As that's what that lying cheating bastard, Gordon's father, used to do.
Well, I never said I didn't like perfume and you know I love champagne, I argued back.
You're incredibly fussy about which perfumes you like Eva and I'm sure that I did buy you some champagne on your birthday.
I can't remember any champagne, was my honest reply, as if truth be told, we had had rather too many cocktails early in the evening and my last birthday was now something of a blur.
Is a new computer really that important to you right now Eva? Asked Spats, pointing out that neither of us were very flush financially at the moment.
Don't forget you're planning on forking out a few hundred for our pal Bob to tart up your Daimler, and a computer is integral to my business. I've got a website to maintain!
Spats then wanted to know, in what respect was a computer integral to my business and didn't the one I had had quite enough gigabytes of RAM, whatever that was?
You see, Spats, this is just what has happened to us, here we are arguing our way home, and we have been bickering far more generally, especially since you started mooning over that Kylie, who, as you are fully aware, Matt had no interest in at all, whereas he called ME beautiful.
I have never been even vaguely interested in Kylie! Yelled Spats. When are you going to get that into your thick skull? I just pointed out Kerry's likeness and that was all.
Thick skull, indeed!
Then Spats continued his defence in a softer tone. You are beautiful Eva and I couldn't bear to lose you. Is a new computer such a pressing matter, is it really that important?
I've still got Windows XP! I reminded him.
And is that a bad thing? Asked Spats.
It's not the worst thing, I confessed, but soon a number of new programmes won't be able to run on XP and where will I be then?
So, Spats then promised, that when the next household auction was on, he would ask his friend Dan, the porter, if any decent computers had come into the saleroom.
That's a good idea, I agreed, now let's go home and have a nightcap.
Spats knew at this point that our argument was over and a peace treaty had been reached.
Romantically embraced, we swayed back to the flat.
Don't think I don't know how lucky I am to have you, Spats told me, as we both slipped under the duvet, feeling incredibly tired and emotionally drained.
Then just before drifting off to sleep Spats muttered something about decking Matt if he ever caught sight of him invading my space again and how Matt was lucky he hadn't floored him, right there and then, in the changing room.
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