The impossible city

Emer O'Brien is a lens-based artist.

The chaffer, the auctioneer and Barry

The last time I saw Barry was in the parking lot of Banjul International Airport. I had only known him six weeks but it felt like a lifetime. I placed his key in a plain white envelope, unmarked and sidestepped towards the departure lounge. I could not resist one last glance. So magnificent, such presence; there he stood, alone in class amongst many. I left the envelope with the parking lot attendant and boarded my plane.

I believe there are two kinds of people in the world; those born to drive and those born to be driven. Happy to assume my place as the latter, I let Barry get on with it. On the highway, in the towns, on the beach and across the Sahara, from Plymouth to Dakar and beyond, Barry was destined for a great and gentle retirement in the smallest country on the Dark Continent. And I was proud to deliver him. And deliver him I did. Gentle retirement, ha! Barry was going to work harder now than in all his previous 23 years. For despite my promises and good intentions, I left Barry in the hands of another. One who knew all too well the worth of his assets and the value of his capabilities. I left Barry at the mercy of the gavel in the hands of the auctioneer.

What happened next could never have been foreseen. In the hours before the event a huge crowd gathered at the stadium. Barry had been seen all over the Gambian capital of Banjul (population 35,000) in the preceding days and established himself as a local hero by capturing the hearts of the nation. The bidding began at 800 Euro. A woman accepted. 900 Euro, the woman gasped. 1000 Euro, the woman shrieked. 1100 Euro, the auctioneer paused. There appeared to be trouble in the crowd. The triumphant cheers had turned; scowls had replaced smiles. 1200 Euro, the auctioneer persisted. The woman, now shaking with rage, was summoning the police. The auction was momentarily adjourned. Dumbfounded, the auctioneer disappeared with the police. Some time later whispers amongst the crowd would indicate the cause of such concern. The Gambians, proud and determined chaffers, had not been introduced to the concept of the highest bidder.

Barry is a 230 E-class Mercedes circa 1980. When he was donated to us in December 2002, the grandson of his then owner believed a retirement in the African sun would be gentle, graceful and most appropriate for the years of faithful service.

When your business travel requires you to make more of an impression than an ordinary London Fairway or the ubiquitous hired car, why not allow us to send one of our Mercedes or Bentleys to chauffeur you effortlessly and comfortably to your destination?


chaff•er 1 (ch_f'_r) n. One who engages in banter or good-natured teasing.
chaff•er 2 (ch_f'_r) v., -fered, -fer•ing, -fers. v.intr.
1. To bargain or haggle.
2. Chiefly British. To bandy words; engage in small talk.
v.tr. To bargain or haggle for.
n. Archaic. A bargaining or haggling.
[Middle English chaffaren, to haggle, from chaffare, cheapfare, bargaining: chep, purchase; see cheap + fare, journey, business (from Old English faru, from faran, to travel; see fare).]

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