Equally well-stocked with wonders and weirdos, the local car boot sale holds no fear for intrepid bargain hunter Helen Linehan. In this episode a puffin needs rescuing and Sue Pollard’s been besmirched.
Jesus! Is Rihanna here? Or perhaps Jeremy Clarkson?
A hefty crowd of varied-size men has gathered, all craning their necks to get a look.
I’m at ARMINGHALL CAR BOOT SALE, NORFOLK.
I doubt Rihanna would come here but just in case I push in to get a closer look…
Rows and rows of rusty old farm and garden tools. The men stand in awe. Stunned.
I love this place.
I lost my virginity here two years ago – my car boot virginity.
For 38 years I had managed to avoid these gatherings, considering them to be filthy places for human vermin to sell their dirty underpants. I was almost right, but sometimes… sometimes you find treasure.
I learned to bring more than £15 after my first foray into this world when there was a guy here selling letters written from Ronnie Kray to a local artist. Yes. RONNIE KRAY! Written in biro, the prison stamp thumped across every page. The letters were quite mundane, no mention of Jack-The-Hat murder or Babs Windsor or anything, but still, I could see the headline: “Kray Letters Fetch £6million for Savvy Local Lady”
“70 quid” the seller barked without looking up from his mobile phone. He wouldn’t take £15. Dream shattered.
Today I’ve just been to the cashpoint.
I’ve already hovered over an Opal Fruits Dinky Toy lorry and a Beverly Hillbillies’ annual (“Listen to my story about a man named Jed…” ); nostalgic, but I doubt I would ever read it and I don’t need it so I move on.
You have to be assertive at car boot sales. Here’s a lovely puffin…
He’s asking £6 for it. “Six pounds?” I question this young man. He tells me because it’s so heavy he can’t come down on the price. I have a hold and yes, it is a hefty puffin. Oh god, but I want it. I know exactly where this will gather dust in my house. I restrain myself. Perhaps if I return in a bit, he may reduce the price.
Keeping the puffin in my periphery, I ramble past the usual piles of broken old dolls: scribbled-on faces, missing eyes and chewed fingers all laid out on tarpaulin like victims of some terrible disaster.
You have to rifle through a lot of shit to get to the good stuff. Sometimes rifle through actual rifles. This is Norfolk after all.
Here’s a signed photo of Sue Pollard. Evidently 1980s with a personal message. Once cherished and now propped up against an old hose on a dirty trestle table on sale for 50p. WTF did Sue Pollard do to deserve this? I feel like buying it and returning it to her with a note exposing these fickle pricks. Of course, that would take up too much of my time and wouldn’t be nice for either party, so instead I offer a mild sneer at the old couple selling and continue on.
Here we go – black gold, Texas tea – a clothes plunger, circa 1850. Used by a scullery maid to rinse out clothes. My brain tells me I could use this in some way. “How much?” I ask, pretending not to be that interested. Four pounds later and my new toilet roll holder is in my arms. This is a real beauty. I laugh internally as I picture the same item selling on Golbourne Rd for at least £50, and then I laugh externally and everybody stares.
Ok, enough laughing. Time to head back to greedy puffin pants and see if he’ll come down in price. He has foolishly forgotten the original price he quoted. “Four pounds you say? Because it’s heavy?” Nyak Nyak Nyak! Come on puffin, I’ll look after you!
I am Helen Linehan. I am forty years old. Mother & wife. No journalistic experience whatsoever. Four more words...DONE!