“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”
– English Proverb
It was a murky day, rain threatened, but we payed it no head. We woke up early, not feeling at all enthusiastic about the day. We had loaded the car to the roof the afternoon before, with linen, books and an array of odds and ends, things that overflowed in our cupboards and had been taking up too much space!
We don’t usually get up early on a Sunday, it’s our day to lie in, and ease into the day.
As we chugged out of the gate, I felt some anxiety, anticipating only selling a few items and looking like a fool into the bargain.
We arrived at the station yard where they hold the car-boot sale once a month, and for a minute it seemed like a multitude had gathered, traders galore and able-bodied consumers in hoards milled about. We found one of the last spots to park, it didn’t look like a very promising position at all, not like the shady spots under the trees, with professional traders bearing racks of clothes and shelves laden with goods.
However, a minute later we were swarmed, before we even had time to label any of our items with a price. My stomach went into a knot. I recognized a friend in the crowd and elicited his help, he was willing and able, I think he foresaw a few bargains of his own. As we set up our tiny garden table, we had already sold at least 10 items on the spur of the moment. It was quite a mish-mash of goods, not at all professional looking.
Around us a crowd of enthusiastic bargain-hunters gathered and I spotted another friend in the crowd. I then realized that most of these shoppers were Malawians. It took me back to our visit to a very large flee market in Lilongwe where they received bales of unwanted clothes and goods from affluent European countries, clothing that looked like it had never been worn. It was a place where the crowd haggled amid a jumble of various items for the best price. You couldn’t walk away without finding a bargain.
Perhaps the crowd this Sunday recognized that we were novices, because they definitely knew how to drive a hard bargain. I was willing to let things go because I was determined not to re-load the car with our excess of unused-possessions.
Our table was a treasure trove of pre-loved items that have cluttered our drawers and cupboards for far too long, some embellishments that had seen their glory days but had now lost appeal, impulse buys I never wore because I had planned to lose weight and never did.
It was like being in the trenches with people who don’t own much because they have travelled far to find work in a foreign country. They live in small rooms with their families and a shopping experience gives them a bit of a Sunday outing. It is definitely a good place to make a deal, drink a coffee and wolf down a pancake or two.
They managed to drive many of our prices down, almost to rock bottom, with the promise of ready cash. I saw hope in the eyes of one shopper when she saw a pillow, and I heard mention that she only had one pillow at home. I let it go for a fraction of the price, with the thought in my mind that I had no use for it anyway, and it might bring some joy to this discerning shopper.
My friend who is an artist told me he hadn’t been painting for the past year, my heart sank because he is really good. He is also a Malawian, just trying to put food on the table, taking any odd-job that comes his way. He spied some colored pencils I hadn’t marked with a price; I saw his eyes light up. If I could do some good in the world that day it was to inspire him to start sketching again, I handed them to him and said he could have them. He walked away with an air of excitement in his stride, hopefully knowing that someone believed in him.
I felt as though I had seen humanity at the car boot sale that day, the ones who need the things we have too much of, the ones who purchase our left overs, our impulse buys, our vanity. They help us declutter our homes and lives, they even give us pause to think about how privileged we are.
For the rest there were some definite bargain hunters who find a little treasure in unused tools, books, crockery *“epns” silverware and old vases at give-away prices.
A young man excitedly bought some CD’s that my son had in his car before he passed. He told us that he was driving his Dad’s old car down to Cape Town and it didn’t have the latest technology, so he was glad to find some entertainment for the road. It was music we don’t listen to, but it made my heart glad knowing there was someone who appreciated my son’s taste in music.
We came away quite pleased with our little stash of loot. It had been quite a festive day, with a live musician who played all the old beats and even took requests!
*electro-plated nickel silver
Nickel silver first became popular as a base metal for silver-plated cutlery and other silverware, notably the electroplated wares called EPNS (electro-plated nickel silver).