Tuesday, 19 April 2016
In my downtime I love doing many things… the majority of those things involve a sofa and a TV but other things are a little more active, like going to the fridge for a beer – if my children are not around to get me one that is! Many of my hobbies involve watching though. Watching TV, movies, sport and also people!
Everyone does it - people watching. Watching the strange behaviours of others, how they interact with things, what they are wearing, what they say etc. The best place for this, to see every walk of life, is the humble car boot sale! So when I recently had a house full of crap and been a tight Yorkshireman not wanting to just bin it, the opportunity to car boot was a must!
Every little insignificant item was chucked into the car boot pile. An ever increasing pile containing branded clothes, kitchen items, costume jewellery, books (David Dickinson’s autobiography anyone???), DVD’s (why did I have three copies of Alien V Predator? Did I think it would get better with each version?), CD’s, toys and various other household items that I thought everyone would surely want in their household!
The car boot of choice was in Otley. The reason for this was the nearest one to me had closed its car boot for the final time and also the fact that Otley began from 10am onwards which meant not getting up in the dark, early hours. I am not a morning person!
Just as a side note, for any Americans reading, a car boot is the trunk! So we sell our old and unwanted items (selling your grandma is frowned upon apparently! Who knew?) from the ‘trunk’ of our vehicles.
It has been a while since I did a car boot and had forgot how cut throat and insane it is upon arrival. I was still pulling into my allotted space when a man poked his head through my driver side window and asked if I had any computer parts for sale. The engine was not off before another man literally climbed in the passenger window to ask if I was going to be selling any mobile phone equipment.
“Noooo I do not have any Apple Mac spares - now fuck off and spend your money on soap please!!!”
It then becomes a battle to set up your table. Usually a paste table that hasn’t been used for wallpapering in a decade, you are fighting against the tide to set it up whilst answering “How much?” and dragging people out of your boot!
World records are set at car boots, they must be. I once read that a record set was getting 14 people in a mini… I easily beat that Sunday morning. There were at least 24 grubby little men rooting through my bags, looking for that golden purchase!
It all becomes a daze in that first 20 minutes. You have planned set prices but it all goes out the window and people end up getting things for far less than you planned!
Eventually, after the initial mass excitement over fresh meat entering the car boot arena, it settles down and you can finally make your stall look inviting. This is when the people watching can truly begin.
Watching a woman waddle towards your stall, having squeezed into some very thin, almost see through leggings, looking like she’s smuggling a bag of puppies and flashing her spotty Bridget Jones style knickers for all the world to see, is a sight that soon wakes you up let me tell ya.
I also have to say the Eastern Europeans, who can have a rep, were all thoroughly polite. At first they can be a little intimidating as they stride towards your stall; they breed them big over there! But they were a friendly bunch and knew what they liked. They were looking for bargains and didn’t really barter either. They seemed to accept the price and if they thought it reasonable they then purchased.
Others, however, wanted something for nothing! Even if an item was 2p they would still try haggle you down to a penny and if unsuccessful walk away!
Here we have a Ming dynasty vase in mint condition, priceless, but today only it is 50p… If you buy this it will guarantee to make you thousands!
But is that good enough? Nope. They offer 20p and tell you that you will not get more than 20p in their lifetime! And if you stick to your guns they walk away, shuffle off to the next stall and try their luck there!
Unless they have kids! Then they are fine buying the shit faux leather camel for their child for a quid! It’s all pretty amazing to watch.
(Oh by the way, I didn’t have a Ming vase for sale, in case you were wondering and rocked up to Otley expecting a priceless bargain!)
Speaking about those with kids they either constantly shout at them or think your stall is the kiddie crèche on site, especially if you have children’s toys for sale. They allow their child to play with the toys for a good ten minutes whilst they browse other areas. They then collect their kid, leaving behind grubby fingerprints and a trail of snot and do not buy anything!
Then there are those that stand at the stall after something catches their eye and tell you their life story…
“I saw that scarf from over there and it looks gorgeous. It’s like the one I was given as a teenager by my parents who were from Newcastle (or somewhere equally glamorous). We came down to Yorkshire when I was just a nipper. Sadly they have passed away now and I often remember that scarf they got me and it fills me with tears, oh the memories… How much was that scarf you say? 50p? Nah, I'll leave it for now…”
The final type of punter is the worst – the comedian. They either want to make you laugh thinking you will be easier to barter with or are trying to impress someone, maybe the woman on the stall or their wife/girlfriend. They stand there, hovering over your wares, then suddenly a wasp will land on the table top… and you know what’s coming…
“How much for the wasp?”
Boooom! There it is, the one liner he uses over and over again (How much for the fly/dust/leaf etc etc). And you laugh. Not because you want to but because you have to. You play the game hoping they will buy something, you keep them on side when really you want to ask them if they read a lot of cracker jokes and tell them their jokes are very funny… if it was 1977!
It isn't just the punters who amused me as I watched though. The sellers also had their own unique way. One car, a pimped up Seat Leon, pulled up. Out jumped an Asian lad and his 3 white girlfriends and set up a stand with traditional clothing. They bought cans of pop and sweets and didn't look to sell anything even though their items were beautiful. They just showed no interest in interacting with people, only in taking selfies and updating their Facebook status. They then packed up and went!
What was the point? I can only assume his father said he needed to get out and help the business grow! The only thing that grew was the rubbish pile he left behind though!
You see plenty of unassuming quiet types who are happy to just sit there and read a book and you also get the ones that buy as much rubbish as they sell. They essentially replace what they are selling with a new pile of things to sell in the future! I think my Dad is an example of this.
The final sellers that you notice are the loud mouths who think they are East end barrow boys on the market. Offering two for ones or exclaiming everything must go or informing those that listen they won’t find a bargain like the one they are offering anywhere else… One such seller was American, in her Ray Ban shades, selling her old clothes. Her shitty, used, old clothes. Telling people they would grow into that jacket if they bought it or offering some Disney socks to go with the shiny leggings as they go perfectly and are only an additional pound!!
The day seems to last forever, but in reality is only around 4 hours long but it was just full of wonderfully weird people, some truly eccentric characters from all walks of life, all hoping to find that one treasure.
They all want a fucking free carrier bag!!!
And when they cost 5p a time, getting one for free to carry something small enough to fit in your pocket, is the real bargain right there!!