Monday 22 March 2010

tally ho, jolly good, bob's your uncle

So I did a terribly English thing recently that I've never done before: a car boot sale. To us North Americans, this is basically a yard sale out of the back of your car. Usually held at venues with large grassy areas or big parking lots, you drive your car up and you can literally pop open the trunk and sell your wares or you can set up a table. Ours was at the local cricket pitch, and I stumped up the five pounds to get my spot amongst the other sellers.

Just like back home, people swarmed the sale in the hour or so leading up to the "official" starting time. Looking for early bargains and the pick of the best ("best" being used very, very loosely in some cases) items, people crowded around my table rummaging through boxes and bags as I unloaded. "How much for this?", someone asked hurredly, waving something at me. "Erm, what is it? Oh, a sealed boxed set of books.£2?" I had no clue. I'd never done a sale like this here and really had no idea what to charge for anything, let alone be able to come up with prices as I was unloading the car. I quickly realised that I was severely undercharging, blurting out prices randomly. I hadn't even had my Thermos of tea yet, and there was the small matter of a baby in the back of my car who may or may not settle down to nap nicely in her seat during the sale. I had my float in a biscuit tin sitting in the boot, and a man peered over at it excitedly and said "Oooh I want to know what's in that!" "My change", I answered, at which point he left looking glum and probably went off to buy a solitary used running shoe in consolation.

A woman came up to browse through some girls' clothing I was selling, and I asked what size she was looking for. She pointed at her granddaughter and said, "She's 2 1/2". "Sure, I've got size 2 and 3 here. Would you like me to show you what I have?" The woman stared at me blankly for a moment and said "But she's 2 1/2" in a voice not dissimilar to something you'd expect to hear from Kathy Bates shortly before she whacked at your ankle with a large mallet. Dejected, she wandered away.

On the most part, people were kind and chatty, and we had a sunny (but brisk) day for it. Thankfully Isla slept through it all and my big Thermos full of tea kept me going. It was good fun, although not terribly profitable. I made £16, on top of the fiver I paid for the pitch. Rather annoyingly, I made £50 on eBay the following weekend, selling things from the comfort of my warm sofa and a glass of red in one hand. I suppose the benefit to a car boot is that you can get a little money for something that probably wouldn't sell on eBay (old books and DVDs, for example), but it means having to stand by the boot of your car chatting to people who are a little bit mad.

You know, experiences like this ought to count towards your British citizenship, not a silly multiple choice test about facts that even British people don't know about. When are you ever going to need to know what percentage of teenagers in Wales get pregnant each year? Car boot sales are one of the ultimate British experiences, along with pub lunches, discussing the weather at great length, and complaining about bad service to your family/friends but not actually saying anything to the people providing the bad service. All of this I can do with great skill, and yet I still need to take that damn test.


Jen said...

Glad to see you back! And thank you for the lesson, I just assumed you had a garage sale. This sounds like a Flea Market type of thing we have here in the States.

I still laugh at that grandmother!

Mrs Dee said...

Yeah, sort of like a flea market but imagine people selling things far more useless, like used running shoes. Basically people clear out any old tat they have laying around the house and try to sell it.

Lisa Tabachnick Hotta said...

Thanks for the chuckle, cousin Lisa. Bloody hell but you're a quick wit! xo

Anonymous said...

Yay you're back =)

I've never done a car boot sale, I've never even BEEN to a car boot sale. I wouldn't have a clue what to do! Think I'll stick to eBay!

Jennifer said...

16 pounds? Bah, I could doubled your money. Tripled probably.

Andi's English Attic said...

What percentage of teenagers in Wales get pregnant each year? Does that include the boys?
I can't believe you are asked questions like that? Can you let us know some more, because it seems totally idiotic. xx

Mrs Dee said...

It really does boggle the mind! Here's a site with sample questions on is:

Check out #5 - who the heck knows THAT?!