The last time I did a car boot sale it was the late 90s and I was having a clear-out before leaving home to go to university. My mum and I had thought it might be a fun way of making some pennies for books (ahem lager ahem) at the same time. I seem to remember it was in a field somewhere in the home counties; Mum had made brownies for the punters… suffice to say it was a pretty civilised affair.
Twelve or so years later, my husband Jon and I set off to Battersea Boot sale on Easter Sunday, the car stuffed with junk jointly accumulated over years of impulse buying and general hoarding: DVDs that had been upgraded for the Blu-ray versions; such seminal works as Slimmer Thighs In 30 Days and Feel by Robbie Williams; regrettable green Topshop jeggings; and, of course, a microwave egg poacher.
We had been warned by a boot sale afficionado that the first hour would be a nightmare. “As soon as you park up, lock your car doors and go and get a cup of tea,” he’d urged. “That way all the traders and early marks will move on to the next target.” But for some reason we chose to ignore this sage advice, greedily thinking we might miss out on vital sales. Right on cue, the hoards descended, grabbing at clothes I was attempting to hang up and barking ‘HOW MUCH IS THIS?’ like deranged bargain hunters at a Primark shutting down sale.
I didn’t even get a chance to erect my necklace stand (creatively and rather obsessively fashioned by my mother out of planting wire embedded in a wine bottle filled with gravel) before a sea of jewellery junkies had all but cleaned me out. I kept spotting one woman suspiciously fiddling with her handbag, but there was no time to confront ‘shop’lifters. And in any case, we wanted rid of everything; any profit was a bonus. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the crowd dispersed and we were left to reorganise our decimated stall.
Thankfully the remaining three hours of business more closely resembled the romantic village fete-style vision I’d had in mind, and we had a steady stream of customers young and old. It felt good seeing something destined for the scrapheap go off with a new owner who would enjoy it as much as I once had. And when, as we packed up, I spotted a young girl proudly toting the retro vanity case her mum had bought from me, it gave me that warm fuzzy feeling I was hoping for.
Over a well-deserved drink that evening, it struck us that perhaps we had undersold some goods – namely the make-up and jewellery that had gone in the blink of an eye. Clearly London boot sale goers are willing to part with a little more cash than their rural counterparts. But we made £175, which isn’t to be sniffed at. And we’ve learnt our lessons for next time. Although, a still traumatised Jon assures me, ‘There won’t be a next time’.
by Anna Sargent
[picture credit: bbcworldservice]