Car Boot Meditations
chapter 1

I woke up to the glorious beams of Spring sunshine bouncing over the duvet. A good day, I surmised, for the car boot sales.

There are two locally that I frequent on Sundays. Whilst others find spiritual solace in the Archers Omnibus or the Observer lifestyle pages, I make my weekly pilgrimage to the greyhound stadium and the cattle market.

I'm late as usual though - a quick call to my rival/friend confirms that she's already beaten me to CB 1 (The racing track). I calculate the odds that she hasn't managed to get to CB2.

I gambled correctly, however CB2 starts up later and I arrive well before many of the traders do. I pass the nail man, the car hubs man, the bird table man eventually some cardboard boxes filled with books come into view. Mostly they are Mills and Boon and I have learned over time that people can be divided by their book boxes - the former 'literature' rarely yields a worthwhile companion LB. It is here you are most likely to come across Whimseys, Doultonesque figurines and a multitude of dried flower derangements.

Ah but the joy when very occasionally a pristine W&H is accidently unearthed beneath the heated roller set. This is no miracle, of course. Rational thinking explains the phenomenen: as granny's goods are turfed out, amidst the cacophony of kitch is the book granny kept all these years after the children grew up - for the grandchildren. Forgotton, it lay in the cupboard where it was swept up along with the rest of the stuff.

The best bet is the stall with the Frank Sinatra LPs, the Spanish castanets and other circa 1965 objects d'art. Usually the sellers will be a late middle-aged couple, moving to a retirement flat and finally unearthing all the junk accumulated from rearing a family now grown up and away. All these years they had a stock of Achievements and Recognition books (2 boys and one girl) stacked away in the loft with the Matchbox cars.

Today, however, there were no such wonders to be found.

A few weeks ago I came across a lovely assortment of tack and some 60s Ladybirds accompanying it. I was lucky, but really it was the timing; I got there just as the lads were setting up their table.

And this leads on the the precariousness of success. It was revealed a short while back that there is another LB collector (aside from my rival/friend) who, with the help of her male partner, rucksack on back, gets there even earlier than me. Like a forensic archaeologist I am now attuned to the subtle disturbances, i.e. not a single Ladybird in sight, which act as clues determining whether I will be the one to unearth the treasures lying buried beneath the detritus of civilisation or whether I have been beaten to it (again).

I have attempted to develop a philosophical approach, one dependant on a charitable outlook on my fellow beings, where stealth and serendipity are of equal measure - but this is difficult sometimes, particularly when it's pissing down and all I can put my paws on is a tooth-marked Jungle Book. Then I usually resort to a mean dog-eat-dog outlook on life, where the Car boot sale is the microcosm for everyday life.

The human instinct towards obeying superstitious fancies is never far away either. If I do a good deed such as buy up Peoples' Friend annuals for my chum - they're not for me, honest (oh yeah, saddo) - the gods will eventually reward me with my El Dorado - Cocky the Lazy Rooster with DJ intactus. Thus I consider a variety of world beliefs, past and present. This cerebral cosmopolitanism is constantly reaffirmed by a visual bombardment of afore-mentioned nick-knacks alongside Madonna statuettes, Turkish rugs, minature Buddahs incense holders, scented candles, wind chimes and feng shui manuals. (It is auspicious that the red Ford Escort faces north with the river behind, but first you must circle the trailer van three times and offer up your reputation by buying a Catherine Cookson.)

I bumped into my fellow traveller Robert, whose managed to acquire a Home-pride (little black-suited men with bowler hats) cruet set (7 out of ten) and a Whimsey of a cross between a ferret and a hippopotumus (null points) this fine morning.

One of the stall holders - a friend of mine calls out "Congratulations, I saw you on the telly! Any luck?" I am about to give up, I nearly say to her, when I spy some original Garden Gang in OK condition at the next stall.

All in all not a day of rich pickings. I've managed to get a Spiderman title I didn't have, the Garden Gang books (3) and a couple of titles from the late nineties.

I cross town for CB 1, aware that I'm unlikely to find much there. I'm about two hours too late. I am right. I make my way up to the neighbouring golf course, where I know I'll find hubbie and son. "You got a call from rival/friend" I'm told, so on my way back I detour to her house.

"I'm just off to church", she says (she packs in an awful lot ).

"Well, did you find anything?" I ask hesitantly, knowing of her two hour advantage.

"Not really, just a Cansdale's Pets book, old, but with the DJ missing."

Well I can live with that, I think, and, according to the rules of probability, chances are next week's CBs are going to be great. I can even feel it in my bones...

More Car Boot adventures...

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