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Jo'Burg Days: The Picture Frame

George, who is renovating a house with the intention of renting it out, buys a one-rand bargain at an auction sale. But what happens to that bargain? There's a chuckle in the tail of Barbara Durlacher's story.

“Fifty cents, sixty … do I hear seventy?” the auctioneer queried, in a hurry to move on to the next lot. Gavel poised, he hesitated as the gent in the corner raised his hand and quickly offered “One rand”.

“Right! Gone at One Rand”… the auctioneer confirmed, and moved on.

Flashing a smile all round, the grey-haired man moved agilely through the small crowd, paid his rand, and retrieved his bargain.

Over the months George had been renovating and restoring the small suburban house, and it had proved a lot of work - rather more than he had bargained for when he first decided to fix it up and let it after his divorce. Gutters and down pipes had needed replacing; damp had been a big problem, and it would be necessary to renew the ceiling in places.

Gosh, it was hard finding the time and energy to continue these restorations after work each day, and he was tired with the long hours of standing. Supervising his workers in the clothing factory from early morning to evening was exhausting; and labour unrest was an ever-present difficulty, needing the most careful negotiating skills, as well as a strong and determined boss.

However, he was confident his staff were happy, wages were always just a few pounds higher than his competitors, his inter-personal skills when negotiating the big army clothing contracts gave him the flexibility to pay extra, and this meant a lot to the workers.

The house was coming along and was nearly finished, just a few more big repairs still had to be tackled; but when he had installed the new bath and washbasin, and tidied up the back garden the worst would be over.

Then he would find some honest tenants, and let the house. This would provide another source of income so that in time he would be able to buy again in a better area; get married and start a family.

Deciding to take it easy this evening after a couple of weeks of strenuous effort, he went straight home. Entering his workshop at the back he surveyed the carefully kept tools ranged in numbered pockets. There was a workbench with lathe, power drills and accessories all conveniently to hand. Settling down happily to a job he loved, George sanded down the auction find; then carefully varnished it. Some days later when the varnish was dry George took it with him to the house and happily installed it.

Time went past, the house was finished, new tenants moved in, and after a few months George decided to visit the house to see how they had settled and see if they were looking after the premises.

After knocking and being welcomed, he was conducted to the sitting room and invited to sit down while the new tenant went to get him a ‘cuppa’. Glancing round and approvingly noting the neatness and cleanness of the home, George looked up to check if the ceilings were dry or if the damp was still giving problems. As he raised his gaze, he eye lit on a framed picture of Grandpa and Grandma in the place of honour over the fireplace.

There in all its glory, was the “One Rand” toilet seat he had found at the auction sale, disconnected from its utilitarian function and proudly displayed as the premier object in the room, framing the pictures of the grandparents!

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