My palms are sweating. I've thrust my hands deep into the pockets of my suit jacket (Moss Bros, £65) to ensure I don't make any sudden movements. Occasionally I risk pulling out my pen (Bic, 59p) and scribbling down some notes in my pad (a car launch freebie).
What I'm trying to avoid is any arm or head movement lest it get mistaken by the eagle-eyed auctioneer as a bid for one of the lots, most of which are selling for more than the deposit I laid down on my modest Basingstoke abode (2 bed, terraced).
I’m at Christie’s, the London auction house, to watch more money than I (and possibly many of you) will ever see get laid down on ten items of memorabilia related to the James Bond movie Spectre. The star is an Aston Martin DB10, one of two unmodified cars out of the ten made. The rest were ‘modified’ during the filming. I shudder to think what manner of crimes were exacted upon them.
In the auction room in King Street, SW1, members of the press have to stand in a special area cordoned off from the glitterati. I’m pretty sure that even if I did inadvertently scratch my temple or twitch my nose it wouldn’t be taken as a bid, but I can’t be too careful.
Press aside, everyone here is impossibly glamorous. It could actually be a scene from one of Daniel Craig’s Bond movies: I hear many different languages, catch a whiff of strong Martinis as a tray-toting waiter floats past and see heavily insured jewellery sparkle in the auction room’s spotlights.
So this is how it feels to rub shoulders with the filthy rich. All the proceeds from the event are going to good causes. A nice lady from Christie’s tells me that this auction is a little more lighthearted in atmosphere than most. Bidders banter with the jocular auctioneer, Hugh Edmeades, as they decide whether to bid another £1000 with the kind of casual deliberation with which you or I might decide to add mushy peas to Friday night’s fish ’n’ chip supper.
The man with the hammer is juggling seriously large bids from many well heeled people. He can’t get this wrong. In addition to those seated in the room, there are people in one corner of the room whispering into mobile phones, taking instruction from anonymous bidders on the other end of the line. I imagine the instructions coming down the phone are being uttered by Blofeld-type characters stroking Persian cats.
Additionally, there are bidders watching via live streaming on the internet in faraway, exotic locations such as New York, Marrakech and Burnley.
The evening flies past. Each of the items sells for much more than its pre-auction estimate. David Walliams gets up and does a little skit. I’m not sure why he’s there, but he elicits a laugh when he suggests the other pristine DB10 is currently being advertised on Auto Trader for £3000.
Attention rolls round to the Aston up for auction. The estimate is between £1m and £1.5m and bidding starts at £600,000 - too spicy for my credit card already.
Less than five minutes later, the car has a new owner for the sum of £2,434,500 (Christie’s has vowed to donate most of its fees to charity as well).
For a car that can’t be driven on the public road, that’s a lot of cash. For a collector’s item that is effectively two-of-a-kind, it probably isn’t. I just hope the new owner is a genuine car buff who will appreciate the DB10 and not a speculator purely interested in the investment. Overall, the auction raises £2,785,500.
As auction-goers hail their chauffeur-driven cars, I venture back out into the chill night air and fish out my all-zones Travelcard (£12.10) to grab public transport back to wherever it was I parked my Honda Civic. Welcome back to the real world.