Favours, freebies and being told to F off. The very British Sunday morning world of a Norwich car boot sale

PUBLISHED: 16:21 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:21 23 May 2019

The weird and wonderful world of the car boot sale

The weird and wonderful world of the car boot sale


It’s the most British thing to do on a Sunday morning. Its free, outdoors and quite addictive. Nick Richards enters the weird world of the car boot sale

If an alien spacecraft crash landed on a village green and its crew demanded to be shown the most British thing that existed, I know where to take them.

I'd skip the pub, the church fete or a cricket match and take them to a car boot sale.

Only in Britain can you stand in a field at 7.30am on a Sunday morning and get sworn at one minute, complimented the next and leave with jingoistic sense that this country really is in safe hands.

With burger van shooting a greasy aromatic cloud over proceedings, I chose to spend an hour last Sunday lost in the surreal world of wonky pasting tables, Mantovani albums and scores and scores of DVDs.

I've always had a soft spot for a boot sale, both buying and selling. In the early 90s I once picked up six original David Bowie albums for £1 each and recall more recently when I was selling stuff at one that I offloaded the DVD of the film Pleasantville to a lovely chap.

He only wanted it to check if his DVD player was working correctly but failed to listen when I told him the film starts in black and white and gradually turns into colour.

I hope he kept the DVD player.

What I love most about a car boot is the rampant lawlessness.

There's no legislation, no rules and no guidelines. It's the natural place in adulthood for children who used to play 'shops' at home with their siblings.

And it's still the place I go once a month in the hope that a cardboard box of attic treasures worth thousands will be chucked in the back of Beryl and Nigel's Citroen Picasso at the last minute and suddenly be spread out on an old shower curtain and I'll buy the lot for a tenner.

First stop last Sunday was an exchange with a real car boot character. I use character in the loosest sense. He had the charm of a medieval executioner.

He sat in his car puffing furiously away on a cigarette while I flicked through his boxes of records before pulling out a fairly tatty 12" single of Prince's When Doves Cry. I thought I would liberate this copy from a life of sitting in the sun being fondled by ketchup-stained fingers and rehome it in a nice clear plastic sleeve so it could sit on my shelves next to his other great records.

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"How much is this?" I asked.

"Fiver," came the reply.

"Fiver? This is a car boot sale mate. I'll give you 50p for it."

"I don't give a **** mate. I'm a dealer. I know what it's worth."

I put the record back. "Good luck," I said.

"**** off," he muttered.

My faith in the human race was soon restored by two lovely couples. Within a minute of the aborted record transaction I was standing next to two bowing tables groaning under the weight of a dozen banana boxes full of CDs and DVDs. It was a haphazard arrangement - they were piled high in no real order.

I suggested that they'd sell more if people could read the spines of the CDs and DVDs and if they were separate, not all jumbled up. I spent a minute or so quickly reorganising their table to their sheer delight. "You can have anything you like off the table for helping us," she said as I guiltily looked down at their pink sticker telling me everything was 30p.

I took a couple of DVDs, saving myself 60p. No profanity-laced farewell either!

Lastly, another couple selling a vast array of items had a box tucked away near their car wheel with some old beer glasses in it. Old beer glasses make my pulse tingle and my heart race. Even better if they are branded and from the 1970s, which these were. We established they were 50p each so I quickly picked up four, put them in my bag and went to pay.

I only had a £20 note or £1.78 in change. I knew they wouldn't have change for the £20 so asked politely if £1.78 would be enough.

Rather than make a snap decision the lovely gent needed to consult his wife, a bit like one of those conversations that take place in Dragons Den when the contestants are not sure if they should accept an offer.

They proudly returned as one.

"Yes, that's fine," they said in unison.

I left feeling proud that I live in Britain where a man can truly endure the gamut of all human emotions in a field full of tat before 8.30am on a Sunday morning.

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