9 July 1999

A real buzz from buying and selling

THIS family has a serious, incurable addiction. Not, I hasten to add, drugs, but to buying and selling. Farm disposal sales, junk yards, and old book shops are our haunts.

Let me explain. In 1963 we became tenants of a Herefordshire smallholding. Equipment was needed, so we attended local sales at first. Later on, the search spread to Lincolnshire, Somerset and Worcestershire.

A faithful, ancient truck was used as a carrier. Roads were slower then; so was the pace of life. Naturally, feeding, milking, and care of the cows came first, so hard work, long hours, small gains, summed up our lives. Still, being young, green and fully aware of people giving us two years at most, drove us on; a challenge, therefore.

It was becoming clear that farming men were making fair profits from used machinery dealing. Could we do likewise? Family doubts, always there, thought we would lower the tone, and end up as a "Steptoe family". By the 1980s the bank managed to smile on us, for they received every sales cheque.

Many people distrusted "dealers", and still do. "Is he a dealer?" was a constant question. "Well, hes a tenant dairy farmer; thats official". I would reply. What is a dealer, anyway?

One irate farmer rang to complain, " he has made 400% profit out of me, on the field too!". His money was refunded on errant husbands return home.

Over the years we have met "all manner of folk," some very colourful. They ranged from a High Court judge with a penchant for fast motorbikes, to a Birmingham junk seller, complete with "dreadlocks" who uttered "yeah, man," quite often.

Recently, our adventures have involved several close encounters with the police, especially in Wiltshire. Always perfect gentlemen, the officers with "jam sandwich" cars, blue lights flashing, would stop us, with the following: "Good morning sir, its that load. We will escort you to the nearest weighbridge." To date, nothing abnormal has been found.

Machinery bought is usually sold at home, often through newspaper advertisements. Paperwork, often tedious, is, to date, very straightforward.

During these distracted times, the need for something to sell is vital. Bills must be paid sooner or later. True, the milk cheque is treasured, but now machinery sales are too. Frankly they are keeping us solvent, an absolute must. My husband in one of his speech making attacks will say "my machinery keeps me sane".

I can understand that. At present, stress-related illnesses have become far too high. Perhaps our addiction is becoming a life saver, not a life destroyer, as with real drugs.

Margaret Winney