The season is upon us. Not Chelsea Flower Show, not spring (cutting that one out this year and going straight for summer), not the football hiatus (I only know that because I saw a picture of Frank Lampard going on his holidays), am thinking bigger than all of that. The local car booter. This is a fairweather activity, scheduled between May and October, anticipated for weeks before it begins, full of expectation with locals reminiscing about their Best Buys Over the Years. You can chart my adult life by boot sale finds going from vintage fashion and cocktail shakers, to baby travel cots and ‘hand knitted by granny’ cardigans through to Enid Blyton and football boots and now firmly planted in kitchenalia and things for the garden.
And so it’s back. The actual start date confused by gossip and rain, I have been checking the website daily for news and then a glorious sight. Am driving past the fields and see three ramshackle portaloos leaning slightly into the hedge – it’s the signal, the whistle for Sunday start. Magnanimously I tell a couple of fellow booter devotees and then raid the children’s piggy banks for additional slush fund.
Am out of the house earlier than I would be on week day, in a million times better mood and unencumbered by snapping children around my ankles. They are all huddled on the sofa under blankets watching the Disney Channel and eating Coco Pops – haven’t got time for bad parent thoughts right now. What I have got is a booty shopping list from the Husband of Things That Would Make My Leaving The House On A Sunday Morning Worthwhile. Main pretence for going is to get a 1950’s glass butter dish for the B&B. I don’t intend on taking much notice of the rest of the list particularly not the part that says Fishing Tackle and then goes into long explanations of something I can’t even understand enough to read out. ‘Just show the stall holder the piece of paper and he will know what I mean’ the Husband says like some spy on a coded mission. Which is how I usually shop for lightbulbs, paint and screws as I can’t be trusted to just ask for something. If I speak it I manage to change the name, size, brand and colour. The old land rover is the best vehicle for this job. Normally my neighbour, with his own boot sale wishlist, hears the distinctive engine and comes running out to pretend to stop me leaving. We go through this play fight most Sunday mornings with both our cars jostling for pole position up the lane. Oh how we laugh, really it’s Such Fun in our village. This time I am out too early for him and he is hanging out of his bedroom window shaking a mock fist at me and I am laughing girlishly and I know he is really thinking Cow as I speed off with my empty basket full of promise. Round one to me but... Arriving amidst dealers cars and already too late for the steamer chair, enamel bucket and welsh blanket that are being carried back to cars. Spot Favourite Friend, long time booter and vintage queen, like a sparrow hawk with best bargain ability and a particular soft spot for children’s toy prams. In any other place we would be joined at the hip. Here it is every gal for herself and there is the briefest of acknowledgement with a plan for post-booter coffee and Show and Tell before we head in opposite directions. I pick up a selection of brilliant old readers digest cookery and gardening books for the bookcase at the B&B, a few scraps of early Laura Ashley fabric just because, an old garden fork with long oiled wooden handle that I know will bring magic into the soil but no butter dish. Second friend appears and we both pretend to be chatting whilst really scanning the stall horizon. He is clutching his phone, ready to take pics of possible finds and text back to his wife for approval while she is still in bed with her eye mask on. She has so got this boot sale thing sussed. I turn the corner and then, heart pounding, out of the corner of my eye….I think I spot a small Ercol bench, nestled right at the back under a mountain of junk. How could they have all missed this I think? Slow motion like I lunge for it, drag it out, lay across it, pipping several huffing and puffing others to the post. I am triumphant, I carry it aloft back to the car with several dealers offering to buy it off me there and then. No butter dish or fishing tackle but instead the perfect under the window bench in the B&B so I know The Husband will understand. I think I may have peaked already this season. Sorry, what’s that you say? Where is the boot sale? Nope, can’t hear you, lost signal, toodle pip.