Some bazaar behaviour at the car boot sale
Published at 09:10, Monday, 21 March 2011
I KNOW I shouldn’t be tempted, but I just can’t stay away from the Hexham car boot sale.
Every time I go, I vow I won’t be coming back – but there’s always that sneaky feeling I may just be missing out in the bargain of a lifetime.
If someone told me I would one day stand in a 400-yard queue to pay a pound to enter a venue heady with the ammoniac stench of cow’s urine, and join a herd of humanity to rifle through other people’s cast-offs, I would have laughed in their faces.
Yet come Sunday, there we were taking a 35-mile round trip to Hexham Mart to do that very thing.
We had to park somewhere round the curvature of earth to get near the mart, such was the demand for admittance to the phenomenon, and then join a lengthy queue of folk straining at the leash.
And we were not alone, for the place was absolutely heaving with all manner of folk from all corners of the globe.
The souks and bazaars of foreign lands have nothing on the cattle pens of Tyne Green, where the tones of Tynedale and Tyneside are occasionally drowned out by the exotic cadences of dramatic women swathed in robes, or the guttural grunts of Eastern Europeans proffering zlotys and levs for that one-legged Buzz Lightyear or bumper pack of incontinence pads.
When it was outside at Corbridge, the car boot had room for everyone, with cars and tables stretching virtually the full length of the ground.
You could follow a leisurely route around the cars, with ample time to study the fare on offer, and haggle hopefully with people clearing out their attics or garages, and seeing if they could get a few coppers before taking what was left to the tip.
However, it used to rain with depressing frequency, and the beauty of having the event at the mart is that the show will go on no matter what the weather.
The downside is that metal pens designed to corral highly-strung bullocks bound for the abattoir do not make a particularly attractive setting in which to do a deal over a Paul Robeson 78, or a set of soup bowls which used to come free with petrol.
It’s almost impossible to ensure you have visited every stall, such is the labyrinthine nature of the stalls’ lay-out – and many of the stalls are selling the same stuff. It’s all push and shove, and the doomed cattle seem to have infinitely better manners than the some of the bargain hunters.
One of the biggest problems is young mums with pushchairs, also accompanied by two or three feral children and an ancient grandparent.
Pushchairs used to be about the same width as the average person, but now they are bigger than a 1959 Mini, with spiky projections on the wheels like a Roman chariot.
There was a prime example this Sunday, with one young mum who looked barely old enough to have left middle school, sporting indecently tight trousers and ear-rings like horse brasses, pushing a toddler around in a pushchair that may have had “Pickfords” written on the side.
The child sucked energetically on a dummy dripping with nasal detritus, while three other children shrieked and howled in the manner of whirling dervishes.
Every time they picked up a bedraggled Bratz doll, or a bald My Little Pony, and were denied the right to purchase, the decibels rose to even higher levels.
Weaving between the monster push chairs were old ladies in Benidorm-style mobility scooters – and woe betide anyone who got in their way!
But amid the stench, the noise and the chaos is the sure and certain knowledge that if you want something, and don’t have the wherewithal to stump up high street prices, you are virtually sure of getting it at the car boot sale, where patience is sure to be rewarded.
Like J.R. Hartley, I had scoured book shops around the region for an obscure and long out of print novel.
It only took two car boot visits to find not one copy of the missing tome, but two!
Knitting patterns, balls of wool, cricket balls, goldfish tanks, bicycles – both road going and exercise – rolls of wallpaper, scores of LPs, CDs and Scrabble sets have all found their way back to Hextol Towers for little more than a handful of change.
Long may it continue.
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk