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So I pick up this book and it falls open at Car Boot Sales. Now it may be a Freudian slip but I have just looked back at the first of these ‘Quirky’ articles and in fact the book that I use to spring these articles didn’t come from a Charity Shop but from a Garden Centre.  Now it strikes me that I have just mentioned three British experiences that were not around when you and I were children but strangely the book doesn’t mention the latter two. But anyway, here goes: Car Boot Sales first.

Intriguingly the title in the book added a sub-title, “Like Antique Roadshow… without the antiques”, and there we have a fourth British experience that was not around when we were children. I have taken part in a Car Boot Sale and like many other participants stretched the boundaries by using a pasting table as well as the car boot. I think my American friends tend to have Yard Sales and House Sales, all still selling the unwanted stuff that clutters our homes. There are even TV series given over to clearing out cluttered homes which is a step further on in recognising that we are possessions-orientated people like no people previously in history. There must be something about turning up in a field where dozens of people are displaying their previous bad buying habits, and you have to have a certain sort of nerve to put out on display some of the ghastly things they want you to buy.  Perhaps they were unwanted Christmas gifts from Aunt Maude but some people must have been drunk to have bought some of the stuff that now appears on their tables. But seen in the light of the adventure of a Car Boot Sale, where you may just pick something valuable for next to nothing, these things leave you thinking, “Now where could we display that stuffed eagle at home?” Insanity hovers very close.

There is something about going and selling (or buying) in the middle of a field that beats buying online, as the number of regular Car Boot Sales show. Online eBay used to be the number one place to buy and sell but if you Google “old goods selling websites” you come up with a number of other similar places to dispose of your unwanted second-hand goods (to put such items in the nicest language possible….  Bric-a-brac, tat, rubbish, junk, jumble, seconds, all sound a bit too much what this stuff is and they lose the romanticism of bartering  over whether to pay a pound or 50p!)

But then there is the Charity Shop of which in recent decades there have become somewhere from six to ten in every respectable High Street. Respectable? Well, they tend to be in the slightly run down or cheaper rental part of the High Street. In my experience Charity Shops seem to attract two different sorts of clients: women who look at clothes and men who look at books. Maybe that is too much of a generalisation but I guess I rub shoulders in front of the bookshelves with men rather than women. You used to be able pick up good second hand books for 50p but one well-known charity killed that off and now you often have to pay at least half the price of the original. Not British!  Charity Shops are incredibly diverse. There are those that look like a run-down extension of the local council tip and others that compete with quality of appearance with some of the best in the High Street. I am told there is serious money being earned in Charity Shops these days. Part of that may be because they don’t pay volunteers, but part of it may be because we are getting rid of such good quality goods these days, simply because we’ve grown bored with them.   An interesting phenomena.

Now to talk about Garden Centres in the same breath may be a bit unfair on them because increasingly they do not look run down and do not deal in second-hand but they are another of these ‘retail outlets’ that were not around fifty years ago and they are a sign of modern affluence.  When I was a child I had an uncle who had a “Market Garden” but that was a far cry from a modern garden centre, many of which also sell garden furniture, clothes, cards, books and so much more.


I’m not sure how ‘British’ these various forms of retail outlet are. ‘The Book’ has Car Boot Sales as a particularly British thing but as I said I have come across similar things in the States. Charity Shops seem to go by the name ‘Thrift Stores’ in my experience of the States and I have come across Garden Centres in other parts of the world but have to admit that where I have seen them, there was a strong British influence.  

I mentioned the Antique Road Show as a further offshoot of the retail therapy thing, again another one of those phenomena that just wasn’t around forty years ago. Strictly speaking it is a not a retail outlet but is certainly a place where possessions feature largely and how much we can get for them – yet another sign of the affluent society!  The moment you move down that path, you run across such TV programmes such as Bargain Hunt and its like. There seem to be a number of those programmes all about selling goods. We are a nation taken up with our possession, how much they are worth and how to get rid of them at the best price.

Well, that’s enough of the rambling. You get the picture. A whole area of British life that we never even dreamt of forty or fifty years ago. Life certainly has changed in our lifetimes and if these things are anything to go by, changed for the affluent better, for many at least. Here’s a little quote from an article from the Daily Telegraph back in 2013 followed by one or two other bits and pieces of related interest:

“Marion, who had been looking at my son’s old goldfish bowl, gave the cushion her full attention. It was, she agreed, beautiful. It would, she added, go just perfectly in the front room. The woman looked at me. “How much do you want for it?” she asked. Delighted that the cushion was on its way to a good home, I decided not to capitalise on her burning desire for it. “How about 20p?” I said. She looked at it again. “Nah,” she said, and walked away. This is the peculiar psychology of the car boot sale, with which regular “booters” are familiar. Ask too much, and punters will move on. Ask too little, and they might still move on.”

I went to a car boot sale today and parked the wrong way round. Got £50 for my engine...


"If you're looking for something really special, it can be a good idea to visit charity shops in more affluent areas. I've found designer dresses and shirts in some of our shops."

(Save the Children volunteer) 

I bought a jacket from a charity shop. The only thing wrong with it was one sleeve was slightly longer than the other two!


I searched for my local car boot sale and saw that the gates opened at 6am - yikes! Who'd be shopping then? In the dark? I decided to get there for about 7.30 and was one of the last to arrive.

(Aurora James | Yahoo Contributor Network)

My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our coming anniversary. She said, ‘I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds. I wouldn’t really mind if it was secondhand’ So I went to the local charity shop and bought her some bathroom scales.


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