Eldest daughter and I planned to have a stall each at a car boot in November. We are boot sale/charity shop/junk garage aficionados, thus we have a lot of suitable stuff to shift. Don’t get me wrong – we utilise a lot of our purchases but we have small houses and gardens so we have to get rid of some in order to make space for more. Our lives would be otherwise meaningless if we couldn’t seek a bargain. This ethos doesn’t run in the family: youngest daughter (a metropolitan type) claims ‘your houses are full of ‘stuff’. True. Father once mentioned that the garden looked like Steptoe’s yard. Not true. Mother is a closet bargain-seeker. She only chose her hairdresser because it’s two shops down from Julia’s House (which is an up-market charity shop).
So, we have all this ‘stuff’ but our aim was to add more interesting things to our junk: which is to say, all our craftwork, including mother’s patchwork goods, that we haven’t managed to palm off on unsuspecting friends. Anyway, November came and went without any action due to a combination of wet weather and competing commitments. The first Saturday in December seemed a good idea as folk would be in the Christmas spending mood. However, daughter number one had to go to work so the first piece of bad news was that I had to venture forward alone.
The alarm goes off at 5.15am. Having previously telephoned Wimborne Market, I learned that traders start queuing for a stall at 6.45 so I have to allow time to acclimatise to the still pitch blackness of a December morning. As I’m driving through the silent streets, willing myself to be positive, and spending all that lovely forthcoming cash in my mind, I wonder whether I’ll be first in the queue. Arriving at 6.40am I am directed to the back of a line of folk who surely must have been there all night. And here I sit for 45 minutes. What seemed to have been a relatively mild start i.e. not necessary to scrape the windscreen, the car becomes icy in a short space of time. The die-hard regulars further down the line have left their cars and vans to walk their bored dogs around the block and converse with a huge amount of jollity.
Suddenly, we’re allowed in and I am jostled into a space between two vehicles, next to a line of cones that are strapped together. No quick exit from here then. And it’s pandemonium as drivers leave their cars and frozen canines in a bid to see who can set up stall first. I’m not about to be rushed which is just as well as I can’t even open my brand new trestle table. The dealers are circling like anxious and irritated sharks. One of them is so desperate that she tries to prise open my table with a key. ‘Got any jewellery?’ NO. ‘Got any cameras?’ NO. I am already deflated as it’s only 7.30am and I can see money changing hands on nearby stalls. And it’s so cold.
Eventually, it calms down and we wait for the general public to arrive. The general public are a sensible bunch: they’re still in bed. We wait and we wait and we wait. Folk drift in and out and everyone else seems to be doing a roaring trade. But in what? Everyone around me seems to be selling nothing short of rubbish. My stall looks lovely. I know my stall looks lovely because other traders keep coming over and saying ‘you’ve got some lovely things’. Some of them even purchase some of my lovely things, but not much. Mother’s patchwork comes in for many accolades: ‘you tell your mum her quilts are lovely’, they say. But they don’t buy one. ‘They’re very cheap’, I encourage them. ‘Yes, it’s a shame after all that hard work’, they mumble as they walk away.
And just when you think life can’t get any worse, here’s some cheerful bastard who wants ten quid from you for the pleasure of using a freezing cold and empty market space. ‘What time does it all finish’ I ask him? I mean the market but the end of life could also be a hopeful interpretation. 12.30 apparently. I look at those cones and the nucleus of a plan is born. After considering the doubtless subsequent need to locate a toilet, I go to a near at hand stall for a cup of sweet black coffee. It’s very cheap, as indeed scalding black water should be. Sally arrives from her Dorset Homebrew emporium and asks whether I’d like to use their loo. I take my bird-framed mirror for Tony’s inspection. ‘Nah’, says Tony but lets me empty my frozen bladder in their icy loo. Sally, meanwhile, is left in charge. A new face, not so desolate, might be just what’s needed. And here’s Sally chatting away to a prospective punter. Has she sold anything? No, it’s just Sally chatting away.
I notice that the freezing dogs have been laid out on mats and covered with blankets. The woman from the next stall comes over for the second time. On the first occasion, she told me they were having a really good morning. This time, she gaily informs me that John’s just sold three books for forty-five quid. I hate John. A lady comes past pushing an empty wheelchair. ‘What you need’, I suggest, ‘is a nice lap quilt’. ‘No I don’t’, she angrily replies, ‘I’ve only got this thing because my son made me get it. I have no intention of sitting in it’.
By 11.30, I’ve had enough and pack up my stall. I don’t normally feel the cold but today it’s all pervasive. Out of the corner of my icy eye, I can see the others, who mistakenly believe they’re my new friends, wondering how I’m to attempt an escape. Well, quite easily actually. I unwrap the strapping, remove one of the irritant cones to the other side of the roadway, drive over the detritus of prisoner–inducing restriction and, with heater blasting, I’m off back to my bed.
At some earlier point in time, I’d imagined myself eating a quick instant dinner after the morning’s tiresome exertions. It took some effort but there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal to restore the balance. As I write, a lovely bottle of Wolf Blas has reached the halfway mark. In the oven are roast parsnips and a liver & bacon casserole. There might be plums braised in sloe gin for pudding. On the bed is a pile of patchwork quilts which I’ll worry about another day.