Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

Angus Tuppings –

the auctioneer

THE auctioneer likes his steak rare. "So rare its almost mooing," he bellows at the waiter. "And leave the fat on – its the best bit."

Hes at some dinner – the RICS, the CAAV or the LAA. And hes making the most of it, getting stuck into the wine and the port, sinking ever lower in his chair as the evening progresses. His stomach is expanding, his waistcoat stretched to breaking point.

The auctioneer speaks in a dialect that went out of common usage in the 1840s. You hear him as he strides around the countryside, looking like some extra from a costume drama, yelling something incomprehensible about "two-tuths".

Hes understood by other auctioneers, a clutch of farmers within a five-mile radius of his market and an assortment of farm animals. Not that it matters – no-one else needs to understand him. And he certainly doesnt care if they dont. He hates veggies, government and anyone involved with deadweight selling. "Markets are the only transparent method of selling," declares Angus.

The auctioneer loves market day – all the noise, the people, the hustle and bustle. You can hear him coming across the yard at 100 yards, his dealer boots clicking. Hell be smoking, his cheque shirt open, the chest hair poking out like ivy on an oak.

Hell eat with the farmers in the canteen. "Usual, please, my love," he bellows at Doreen behind the counter. His usual is steak and kidney pie, beans, peas, mashed potato (extra large portion) and three slices of bread and butter. And thats just breakfast.

When hes not in the mart youll find him out in a muddy field of turnips, frost in his sideburns, grading sheep. Hell have been there since the crack of dawn – hes the only person in the parish, in fact, who gets up earlier than the farmers.

Angus can tell the conformation of a sheep at 100 yards. He knows what proportion of Limousin a calf is. He knows how much a carcass weighs to the nearest half pound. "And it is a bloody half pound, I tell you – not one of these kilos."

Angus loves standing up there on the rostrum, surrounded by familiar faces. Gibbering insensibly. Banging his gavel. Cracking smutty jokes about back-ends and well-endowed bulls.

Sometimes he wonders why hes laughing, though – it hasnt been a laughing matter since BSE. Prices are down. "And that means commissions are down."

Maybe he should have gone back to the family farm after all – but his older brother did. Still, auctioneerings a way of life, Angus thinks, tucking into the port.

Hes had a glass too much, in fact, and starts slurring his words. Not that youd notice – he was incomprehensible before he started drinking.

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