Eighteen months after David Farrier first reported on the strange antics of Bashford Antiques, he returns a final time to bid it farewell.
It was shocking, seeing that removal truck in the driveway. I pulled over immediately and hopped out of my car, incredulous, jaw agape.
As I took some photos from the side of the road, I heard the dulcet tones of Jillian Bashford-Evers yelling at me from within: “Wanker!”
The reign of Bashford Antiques is over. Part of Auckland’s antique scene for decades, it will perhaps be more fondly remembered as a key player in Auckland’s car clamping scene.
At one point the clamping fee for daring to park in Bashford’s parking lot reached the lofty sum of $760. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the behaviour of Bashford Antiques in recent years went over badly with some.
For certain individuals, it may have been all too much. Earlier this year, all the shop front windows were smashed overnight. They remain boarded up with plywood, waiting to be fixed by the new owner.
When did the chaos start? It’s hard to say. But talking to countless people over the last two years, I’d guess it’s something to do with Michael Organ’s arrival on the scene. Described as “a terror” by more than one person I talked to, the mysterious Organ became Jillian Bashford’s ever-present shadow. The exact nature of their relationship remains murky, but one thing is very clear: they’re both now directors of Bashford Antiques Limited.
He is as much a part of it as she.
The store below and flat upstairs are a prime piece of Ponsonby real estate, selling to the new owners for around $3 million.
Once home to countless antiques and clamps, Bashford parties were the stuff of legend. Friends and family – diminishing in recent years – would gather around a giant wooden table, eating, drinking and exchanging wild stories.
What was discussed at those gatherings? Oh, to be a fly on the wall.
But all that is over now.
I think it’s fair to say that in recent years, the legend of Bashford Antiques had grown. It became something bigger than an antique store. It was a mystery box, waiting to be opened.
As I watched the movers pack up boxes and antiques, I chatted to various people wandering by.
“He’d feed the pigeons rice,” one lady earnestly told me. “Every lunchtime, that man would come out and feed them rice. You can’t feed that much rice to pigeons, they swell up.”
Just like that, another piece of the deranged puzzle had fallen into place for me. Finally I understood why I’d often see pigeons sitting motionless in the Bashford Antiques’ parking lot, in some kind of dazed trance. It was always around lunchtime, and until now I’d never known why.
“Animal control was over there last week,” another person told me. “They just shut the door and hid upstairs.” If true, it was an effective rebuttal of animal control, who’d turned up after Bashford-Evers’ dog had allegedly nipped a man on the leg.
One thing I’ll always admire about the mysterious Organ and Bashford-Evers is their capacity to just get on with life, seemingly immune to the chaos they created around them. They were the eye of a beautiful storm of their own creation.
Oh, the number of times perplexed victims of Organ’s clamp would dial 111 from 24 Williamson Avenue, only to discover the police were powerless to do anything at all. There’s nothing illegal about clamping. I lost count of the number of times I drove past as police tried to negotiate the release of a clamped car well after 10pm at night.
Organ and Bashford-Evers seemed to be an unstoppable pair, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. Even the absence of a second-hand dealer’s licence couldn’t stop them.
Until now, perhaps.
They’ve moved out. Moved on. An eerie quiet has settled on this once hectic space on Williamson Road. It’s peaceful, but there’s still a sense of paranoia hanging in the air.
Out front, in the parking lot, sat two giant orange rubbish bags full of junk.
Rifling through the bins, an old banana peel sticking to my arm, there was a point when I wondered if I’d become too close to a story.
Even in their absence, the owners were still playing psychological games with me: boxes of all their financial accounts clearly marked, but completely empty.
Spilling out of the bins onto the street was a bunch of Christmas and birthday cards. The handwriting inside hinting that there are further stories to be told about the dynamic duo. But those stories are for another day.
One card summed up their history in Ponsonby quite well, I thought. “Wild Party”.
It was a wild party. It really was.
But all good parties have to come to an end.
Or is this the end?
Is this party really over, or has it just drunkenly stumbled down the road to a new location, a new spot where the music can be turned up even louder?
It was around 1pm when I drove away from Bashford Antiques for the last time.
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Their sign lay broken in two on the parking lot and there wasn’t a pigeon in sight.
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