Car boot sales.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer.
The signs of spring are there if you look in the hedgerows. I don’t mean primroses, bluebells or early purple orchids. I mean signs. Real signs. Car boot sale signs.
Yes, it’s the start of the season in which farmers look to harvest their favourite crop of the year. Cash.
The whole concept is actually quite ingenious. What other crop: scatters itself around the fields, needs no fertiliser (because it brings its own shit) and pays for the privilege of doing so?
To my mind, car boot sales are merely alfresco jumble sales, but for me, jumble sales lost their appeal when I was no longer allowed to visit Santa’s grotto.
A while ago, Rachel and I had some building work done and we spent the biggest part of a year moving our possessions from one room to the next trying to keep everything out of the way of the builders who were creating dust storms on a daily basis.
One byproduct of this stuff-juggling was a collection of boxes full of ‘quality pre-loved merchandise’. Personally, I would call it junk, but we were selling. Anyway, the genuine junk had been put into the skip with the old radiators, bathtub and kitchen cupboards.
So, after much persuasion, I was convinced that we would car boot everything that had not been skipped, burnt or donated to charity shops.
The foreign corner of some field.
The dreaded day arrived, and we were greeted by gangs of friendly farming folk who directed us with animated arm gestures and shouts of “Come ‘ere,” “Go there” and “Giv us yer money.” We were soon in the corner of some English field that would be, to me, forever foreign.
It is difficult to sum up the scene before us. It was something between a third world rubbish tip populated by scavengers trying to eke out a living from the detritus, and the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The wheels of our car had barely stopped turning when a troop of rampaging booters descended upon us. It was reminiscent of the moment shortly after entering the enclosure at Longleat when the monkeys clamber over your vehicle and you can’t help thinking you might have made a mistake. But, these crazy primates didn’t want the windscreen wipers or mirrors they wanted the contents of our car.
One of the more confident specimens approached.
“Got’nee toys?” he grunted, peering over my shoulder and into the back of the car.
“No, I’m afraid not,” I informed him.
“Huh!” he snorted, lolloping away with his knuckles dragging in the mud.
Business tended to come in waves. It would be quiet for a while, then it would slow down, then no one would buy anything, then it would be quiet again.
Follow the muddy crap road.
There came a time when I needed to get rid of the huge quantities of coffee and cola that I had consumed in a vague attempt to keep myself alert through the tedium of the day. This also offered me an opportunity to take a look at what the other booters had brought along. It was quite an eye opener.
To some, it may appear that I am a bit harsh on the car booting fraternity, but having looked around I think I probably credited them with a smidge more discernment than was exhibited on this occasion. There were record players with bits hanging out, broken toys, broken ornaments and broken furniture. The one half of a pair of binoculars might have appealed to a retired pirate captain intent on birdwatching, but if he was there I didn’t notice him. About every third stall had a quantity of Danielle Steel books, the total of which would have felled an Amazon forest and filled an Amazon warehouse. I was soon of the opinion that we might have had more chance of making some money if we had brought the contents of our builder’s skip and taken what we had here to the charity shops.
I located the toilets in the far corner of the field and was curious to note their proximity to the Burger van. To say it was an unpleasant location would be a bit of an understatement. The dust storm created by vehicles scratched my eyes until it was like looking through frosted glass, but luckily the pungent cloud that hung over the area like riot gas was so eye-watering it flushed out the dust. The smell in question was a choking combination of fried onions and stale urine, and it was difficult to differentiate between the two. As if the smell of the toilets wasn’t enough to put people off their food, the smell of the food very nearly put me off wanting to wee. Fortunately, I can tolerate most things, and although it was unpleasant, at least it was somewhere to pee without getting thrown out or arrested. Later in the day, it was with great sympathy (and a degree of amusement) that I watched Rachel head off on the same journey. Rachel, is so sensitive to smell that she will feel sick if a bumblebee farts in the next street. She came back looking slightly more delicate than when she left.
What goes around.
So, this is car booting. Jumble for the 21st century.
As I leant against the car, I could not help but marvel at the diversity of life around me. There were contingents from most demographic groups. There were families, loners, representatives of the unemployed and the unemployable. There were drunks, drug users and anorexics. Many appeared to be retired or so haggard that if they didn’t retire soon they would shrivel into oblivion. There were parties who were clearly ambassadors for the morbidly obese movement – and when the morbidly obese form a movement, you can’t help but notice.
Hypnotised by this flypast of humankind, it occurred to me that these people were possibly the saviours of tomorrow. They are the eco warriors of an environmental movement for people who won’t buy anything new. This whole field had momentarily become a huge living breathing recycling centre, an alternative to landfill and a new natural cycle. In school, we are taught about the water cycle and the carbon cycle. This was ‘The Crap Cycle’. People simply gather their rubbish and drive it into a field. If this is where the story ends then we are talking about fly tipping. But no. They pay each other to let them take it home, thus ensuring it does not get thrown away. It is like the antique business for dirty broken junk. No one owns it for long and it is merely juggled between dealers, destined to spend the rest of eternity going round and round.
Lessons for next time.
By the end of the day, we had made a tiny profit and gotten rid of some bits and pieces that had been cluttering up our lives for so long. It is rather therapeutic to de-clutter occasionally. It acts like a detox or a cleansing of the soul, exorcizing the ghosts of the past and letting someone else have them.
Despite my initial reservations, I have definitely learnt a lesson or two about car boot sales. The biggest being, the next time I do one I will be wearing a very heavy overcoat. Why? Because it will be a cold day in hell before I go to one of those things again.