AS an impressionable youth, I would often try to imitate my heroes. The list was short, but well defined. In sport it consisted of King Kenny of the Dalglish. In music, I feted Springsteen, The Beatles and, until Bono went all preachy, U2. TV arrested my senses with Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Minder. I also harboured desires to become a car trader in the mould of Arthur Daley.

George Cole, God rest him, took no prisoners and would sell motors to ‘punters’ in which to earn a few quid for ‘er indoors’ as the much-maligned Terry McCann attempted to extract his boss from yet another pile of tepid human faeces.

I finally bit the bullet yesterday and attended a car auction in Bedford. I was expecting the sight of a flock of sheepskin jackets and the smell of cigar smoke in my nostrils, but could not have been more wrong. It was a revelation and I am now giving some consideration to re-addressing my position in the workplace for a life standing around auction houses and car lots, doing blokey stuff such as discussing re-sale values and Turbo encabulators while making copious wads of dosh.

I jest of course, as I know as much about the car trade as I do about growing a bouffant, but the experience was thrilling and eye opening in equal measure.

As a business teacher, I found the organisation at an auction house a thing of wonder: Hundreds of cars each being driven into the auction arena, on time, being sold for thousands of pounds with no let up, or mistakes, was as impressive as the environment is unforgiving.

Despite the auctioneer speaking what seemed like a strange hybrid Essex/Senegalese dialect, the real men understood each word. Frequented by 99% males, it was chip butties and mugs of steaming hot char from the on-site café all the way and the ‘gentlemen’s’ toilets looked like they had been vandalised by those who smoked like a fire pit and lived on a diet of fatty food while expecting imminent coronaries, which is probably not far from the truth.

It is a nerve-racking experience: Mainly younger guys walking around bedecked in Ralph Lauren and white trainers bid many months’ salaries with a Mooresque flick of an eyebrow toward the auctioneer. I stood, mesmerised, until my friend and trader, Robin, elbowed me in the ribs and said ‘your turn’. I bid on a car for him which we won. Now with the taste of Daley in my mouth, I decided to replace the less than trusty family Renault and bid on a Mazda which I also won for 2 and a half ‘gs’ under book value. I had to stop and put my hands in my pockets from that point on, as I had visions of buying a further 20 motors and then scarpering before they realised I was in fact a fraud, an interloper, without the funds to fulfil my impulse purchases.

After a good night’s sleep (the mental turmoil was surprisingly wearing) I had a post-mortem with Robin the next day. He reiterated that I had got myself a ‘Billy bargain’ and we discussed my being offered £500 on top of the purchase price for the Mazda that very morning.

Now with the car buying bug, I am in the throes of learning the lingo. I may diversify in the future and begin ‘dropping a pony’, ‘raising a monkey’ or ‘knocking off a score, guvnor’. Lazy stereotypes aside, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I now have my eye on a sheepskin gilet from fleabay with which to impress ‘er indoors’ on my next visit to the theatre of mockney wide boy dreams.

Brett Ellis is a teacher who lives in London Colney