The best things in life are free

Some people say the best things in life are free. It’s certainly not true about Persian carpets.

My son, who moved to Cape Town recently, phoned me in the week.

“I got lost on my way home this afternoon, but it may be well worth it – I found auctioneers on the way and I am going to have a look on Saturday,” he said.

His excitement didn’t surprise me – some of our most precious father and son time over the last years has been spent at auctions, so the decision how to spend Women’s Day was a no-brainer – I would take the two-year-old Egg to an auction.

I have a few weaknesses (many, many, according to the lovely Snapdragon) and old, delightfully walked-in Persian carpets are one of them.

Auctions are the best place to acquire these and I took little Egg to a few of them when she was a baby. But at around eight months she developed a talent for shattering Royal Albert and Clarice Cliff and I had to resign as an auction frequenter.

They didn’t allow us to register as I forgot my ID at home, but the conversations with some of the people I have met on the auction circuit over the years more than made up for it. Pawn shop owners, antiques dealers, porcelain collectors, furniture restorers …

“My, she really has grown!” most of them said.

“Do you also love carpets like daddy and your big brother?” a woman asked.

“Ja,” Egg replied bluntly.

“Which of these carpets do you think is the pick of the bunch? I know your dad will never tell me.”

Egg pointed to a handsome Shiraz. “Oooooh!” she said.

“Do you agree?” the woman asked me, somewhat flabbergasted by Egg’s fortunate guess.

“Well, yes…” I answered. “It may very well be the best rug here. Attractive tribal designs, good vegetable dye, good quality wool. An excellent example of the rural Iranian carpet weaving craft.”

A few of the people around us made notes on their catalogues, and when the Shiraz came under the hammer, it was sold for far, far more than it is worth.

Some people say the best things in life are free. It’s certainly not true about Persian carpets.

But the time I spent on Women’s Day with my favourite woman, joking, making faces, sharing a Russian and chips … I don’t think any of Johannesburg’s expert auctioneers can put an estimate on that.

Dirk Lotriet. Picture: Alaister Russell

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