The moving plans continue. Later this week, a company comes to take away half our stuff. Later this month, the other half goes. So there’s a lot of cleaning and deciding of what really needs to go. And in Britain when you do a clear out, you don’t have a garage sale. Instead, you go to a car boot sale. That’s where a bunch of people gather to sell things out of the back of their cars — out of the trunks, or as the Brits say, the boot. Until now, I’d only experienced the joys of buying at car boots. This Sunday, a whole new world — being the guy flogging his stuff.
For my British readers, Americans don’t do car boots. We have garage sales, where at an individual home, someone puts out all their stuff they want to sell. On Saturdays, people know to drive or bike or even rollerblade around neighborhoods looking for sales. There are often signs on street corners telling you when one is happening.
I don’t know why Brits don’t do garage sales and instead gather to do car boots (and here’s a good introduction to them). Perhaps some houses lack front yards, which may have helped the tradition start. Wikipedia’s no great help, telling me only that car boots started in the 1980s, which I kind of doubt.
I did the car boot sale with my friend Nick more for the experience than hopes of raising moving cash. Our day started bright and early. We drove to a place outside Salisbury where car boot sales are held each Sunday. 7am, folks paying about $12 each for a “pitch,” a place on the damp grass to park their cars. The organized and regulars even have tables:
One plus in going with Nick is that when he’s not using his van to cart his mobile DJ stuff around, it can double to carry all the stuff he and I have both accumulated in our garages. Above at the top of this post, my Mini demonstrated how much it can carry, too.
Nick being organized had a table. I did not. I relied on a few tarps, and I shamefully failed to organize stuff in any particular way:
Actually, I did eventually get a little more organized. I was particularly proud of my “Country Life” section where the old dog cages were organized along with a million pairs of Wellington boots that so are not coming to California, topped off by that tractor photo.
I felt I was at an advantage against the others at the car boot, as I launched energetically into banter. It was a bright crisp day, and there was plenty of fun to be had. Why, when this man picked up that tractor photo and his baby gasped in delight, I told him he clearly had to buy it. 50p richer — that’s about $1.00 — we were both happy 🙂
Midway through, another classic car boot tradition — bacon sandwiches!
They tasted better than the looks on our faces. I think we were questioning whether Nick’s wife was working my phone the right way to take a picture. Clearly she did and was simply troubled by the material she had to work with.
Another highlight of the day was when a man buying my old rotary sander asked how well it worked. I told him about as well as any 3 pound sander would work. Seriously, $6 and you’re looking for a year guarantee or something?
Nick had told me the professionals would swoop in at the beginning to grab all the good stuff, and there were a few of those. Me, I was more struck by one family that carefully weighed up the decision on whether to buy my old stereo, as theirs had broken. At 4 pounds when they asked me the price (I learned you just make these up on the spot), they wondered how well it worked. I dropped the price to 2 pounds, and that still seemed a big gamble for them but one they took.
In retrospect, I wish I’d just given them the stereo with best wishes. You kind of lose your head in the deal-making rush. Two pounds doesn’t seem much to me and other people, but it can be depending on your circumstances — and it’s good to have that reminder at a personal level. I can certainly remember when I first came to Britain, deciding if I wanted to add an extra zone to my London Underground travel car for the day, and whether I could afford the 50p hit.
Just before wrapping up for the day and packing, someone came along to buy my old wind-up electrical cable. I found myself nostalgic as I handed it over, telling the man and his wife there were a lot of memories with it.
“Memories?” he asked me, somewhat amazed such a generic item could generate such a response, I guess. I explained that when I bought my very first home here, there was a lot of home improvement / DIY that I did
Yep, a lot of memories. Funny how those can be bundled up in objects you never expect. Funny how we can drag these personal items that have been moved from house to house to be displayed not just for public view but for sale for tiny amounts.