I had never been involved in running a boot at a car boot sale before. In actual fact, I had a sneaking suspicion that I hadn’t ever been to a fully-fledged car boot sale. This realisation took me by surprise rather, surely I had been to at least one and had just forgotten. I had definitely seen them before, from afar, but perhaps never felt compelled to step inside.
I am one of four sisters. My placement in the hierarchy is number two, second eldest. It was Number Four’s idea to ‘do’ a car boot – the ideal way to rid one’s house of unwanted items that would surely be someone else’s dream bargain. I was quite excited at her venture and, despite the prospect of a very early start, offered my services as sales assistant.
The Sunday dawned brightly and freezingly! A late autumn car boot sale is not for the faint hearted, nor the un-furry! I layered myself in the warmest clothes I possess, finishing off with my cosy chunky green polo neck jumper, usually reserved as ‘at home wear’ due to its undesirable mono boob effect. I waddled downstairs to make a flask of tea and gather emergency Bourbons, added coat, hat, scarf and gloves and set off.
Despite my lack of car boot know how, I had seen an episode of Car Booty – and knew that true bargains were to be had. I was also well aware that some sales were full of, what my father would refer to as, tat. My understanding too, was that the postcode of some car boots heralded a better class of booty than others. I pondered as I drove and decided that whilst my first ever car boot could offer up some gems, it would more than likely be pretty tat filled. Sister number three had had to regularly take bleach and a brush to an array of car boot gifts bestowed on her children from a well meaning relative who was unable to resist the lure of a car boot bargain. More often than not, this habit involved Barbie hunting. Whenever a Barbie was spotted, she had to be bought. Car Boot Barbie does not generally come boxed or with accessories. She has suspiciously matted hair, a dirty face and generally, only an approximate amount of body parts. She is believed to be a Barbie of dubious morals and ‘don’t care’ attitude, but is always loved by her small new owner as much as her other, more attractive, Barbies. I smiled to myself as I drove through the unmarked gates, hoping that I was in the right place.
I parked in a non-car boot space, spotted my sister and niece by their car, and ventured over. It was, even to my inexpert eye, a rather bijoux gathering. I was heartened to see that the title of the event was true and that there were indeed cars parked with their back ends on show, boots open. The neat, ordered rows of open boots put me in mind of giant toothless mouths. As I approached, my niece was being eaten and Number Four was perched on the edge, gloved hands around a cup of something warming. Very, very cold – but no rain, thank the car boot God.
Number Four had set up her family camping table to display her wares. There were various bits and pieces of the sort that homes mysteriously accrue and never use, and all sorts of toys that the children had out grown, but which still had a year or two of play left in them. A basket of Barbies, in various states of undress, with glossy golden hair, immediately caught my eye. It transpired that Number Four had been banned, by Number Three, from handing them on to our Barbie obsessed niece. The gifted Car Boot Barbies had rather taken over, she had said, leaving little space for anything else remotely Barbie related. A shame really, as Number Four’s Barbies, despite being so scantily clad, were super clean and each in possession of four fully functioning limbs. Their synthetic yellow tresses were particularly clean and shiny. It turned out that in order to help a doll make the best of her hair, especially if she had partied a little too hard, one required diluted fabric softener and a nit comb. Number Four declared that you could learn absolutely anything from YouTube and had found the combing of the tiny heads quite therapeutic!
A few plastic crates on the ground in front of the table held an assortment of soft dolls, their clothes long since lost or worn by others, small cuddly toys and a mismatched tea set. Parked neatly next to the table were two red and yellow chunky plastic cars and an enormous plastic kitchen. The cars were the kind that could be sat in and driven, Flint Stone style, if you were the right size. The kitchen – a wonderful source for imaginings and make believe, and Number Four’s most desirable item to be rid of.
As the morning crept on and the cold crawled into our bones, we nattered and drank our tea and hot chocolate, a dribble of customers stopping now and then to scrutinise our items and occasionally to buy one of them. A sticky moment, when a rather abrasive man returned to complain that the Flint Stone car his wife had purchased earlier had a dodgy wheel. A mortified Number Four suggested that he swap it for the other plastic car, which my niece pushed along to demonstrate was in full working order and worth every penny of the £3 paid. We then watched through our fingers, as the grumpy man proceeded to try myriad ways to make it fit into his car. My sister, certain that something would drop off the toy car and the man would march back over, had to turn away and not look, whilst I gave her a running commentary on proceedings. His was a fairly large car, but there were also a fairly large number of items in it already and still the family to fit in around them. Eventually, with much door slamming, the laden vehicle departed, to our enormous relief.
Returning from a wander around the other boots, intrigued by the amount of ‘way passed its prime’ items people felt worthy of recompense, or ‘tat’, I arrived back to find a slightly discombobulated looking Number Four. She had just had a visit from a fan of the soft-bodied naked dolls lying in the crate on the floor. Their admirer was a middle-aged man who had asked my sisters permission to take a photograph of the dolls. I wished she had asked why, but she was rather lost for sensible words at the time. The photo’ was taken, the dolls lying with their eyes shut, oblivious to the voyeur. He didn’t buy any of them – perhaps they weren’t quite what he was looking for… And what about the basket of not-your-average-car-boot-Barbies, with their silky, flowing hair and shiny clean faces? Topless Barbie’s modesty mostly covered by the long blond locks of her pal, Trouserless Barbie. The man hadn’t wanted a picture of those lovely ladies, only the sleeping clotheless dolls in their plastic tub.
After dodging tricky questions from Number Four’s daughter as to why single middle-aged men should want to take photographs of naked squashy dolls, a round of bacon butties was found to be the perfect distraction. Refuelled, Number Four reduced profit margins further and treated herself to a beautiful designer coat from our neighbouring car booter. Sensing the camaraderie, the stall holder on our other side decided that although she had tried, she just couldn’t resist the striped lampshade that I had balanced on the enormous plastic kitchen earlier. Sadly, despite our best saleswomen techniques, she found that she was able to resist the kitchen.
As the morning drew to a close we began to repack Number Four’s boot with her car boot left overs. I found myself channelling my inner Ronnie Barker from ‘Open All Hours’ – the bit where he reflected upon the days happenings as he moved the outside items into the shop at closing. A chilly gust of wind buffeted me from my reverie, whipping up the hair of the Barbies, exposing Topless Barbie’s perfect perky breasts. She smiled beatifically from the basket. She may have dubious morals, but with hair that clean she was not your average Car Boot Barbie.