Written by Helen Linehan



Equally well-stocked with wonders and weirdos, the local car boot sale holds no fear for intrepid bargain hunter Helen Linehan. In this episode the Linehans have a romantic weekend away.


September 12th. Not a difficult date to remember and, yet, my husband repeatedly commits this date to the bowels of his brain – the compartment that holds other classified information such as the kids’ birthdays, my birthday, bin day and where the house keys are.

It’s that moment when I present him with a neatly-wrapped gift and wish him a “Happy Anniversary” he falls to his knees and silently screams like Al Pacino in Godfather III.

This year, though, he has come up trumps…he’s taking me to Vienna!

Our hotel is very close to the museum quarter and galleries, famous bars and cafes where Freud n’ Trotsky hung out and blah blah blah…I don’t care!

I have googled “flea Market, Vienna” and found the Naschmarkt, a daily market running through the city selling all kinds of stuff, including a large vintage and second-hand section on Saturdays. It starts at 5am. 5am. 5am…

I think of nothing else except getting up early to rummage through all those old nick nacks. But my husband wants me to stay in bed and rummage through his old nick nacks, on this rare romantic break.

Well, I’m sorry, but after 11 years my priorities lie on some tired old trestle table in the middle of Vienna and not in the middle of this queen-size Viennese hotel bed.

The market is held in the middle of a typically wide street and stretches for more than 1.5km. With Rock me Amadeus on a loop in my head, we follow the slow-waltzing crowd through carefully-displayed fruit and veg, kebabs, sushi, cheese, frankfurters, herbs and spices. There’s a lot of lebanese, turkish and Hungarian food stalls trying to distract me from my main objective.

“Stoppen distractingzee me!” I plead.

The smell of dust and mildew grows more pungent as we finally reach the vintage section.

I find an old guy selling stacks of dusty old enamel house numbers, perhaps taken from a block of flats before they were renovated. The numbers are embossed in that beautiful European font. My front door needs this! I search through the whole box maybe three or four times. There is every cocking number apart from my house number. Meanwhile, my husband is politely losing the will to live. It is 30 Degrees. One more search just to make sure.
He drags me away. House numberless.

Oh but look… Glorious dolls! Proper lederhosen! A hand crocheted-blanket. I know exactly what I can do with that.

I buy a box of old matches from a ladies boudoir for two euros. They were probably used to light candles on a dresser. They still have unused matches inside.

This beautiful portrait, 30 Euros! Klimt?

Despite his contempt for this prologue to our anniversary, my husband finds this little streusel…

It is very heavy. A design on each side and the names of Austrian cities displayed on its bottom. We haggle and get it for 40 Euros.

After three hours, I am dragged away before almost buying a huge old watering can. “How will we get it home?” he pleads. Fair dos.

Mission accomplished, we heave our treasures back home. The painting survived the journey back to Norwich. My mum hemmed the blanket. Check it out in my downstairs toilet…

The heavy cube seems to be a printer’s block. The designs are the coat of arms for five Austrian cities. There’s perhaps a connection to the Communist era. Well, it’s my doorstop now, comrades!

I had a wonderful 11th anniversary, so I’ve taken it upon myself to organise my (our) 12th. There’s a huge jumble sale in Manchester that looks romantic…

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Written by Helen Linehan

I am Helen Linehan. I am forty years old. Mother & wife. No journalistic experience whatsoever. Four more words...DONE!