Shops are so boring. Know what you want, go in, queue, buy it, go home. Big deal. There's no excitement or mystery to it. Shopping is just a tedious fact of life. Not so with car boot sales, the urban equivalent of beach-combing or fossil hunting. Knowing they'll be 99% rubbish only means searching more valiantly for that 1% of gold, for it is a treasure hunt. And one person's rubbish could be another's treasure.
Charity shops are okay, but they stink and tend to consist of stuff people would have binned otherwise. And they're quite expensive now. Car boot sales (CBS) are pretty cheap by comparison and usually a lot more diverse. Even at a small one in Wiltshire I went to last week there was a stall of Nazi memorabilia next to a stall of cocktail shakers next to a stall of old Star Wars figures. CBS seem so more individual, interesting and bizarre.
I've never been up really early on a Sunday, like 6am, to get to a CBS. I am lazy by nature. I do sometimes think, though, of the early morning bargains that I might have missed. The Clarice Cliffs, The Ant and Bees, The Beanos... Then again, people who I see leaving as I'm arriving usually have absolute crap under their arms, so I figure they buy the rubbish and leave the good stuff for me. I usually arrive around 9am. By about 11am one starts to flag, and a bad cup of tea and greasy bacon butty are essential. By 12pm it is almost certainly all over... though by this stage stall holders wanting to get rid of everything they've got are literally giving it away.
Are to be had in video tapes – which can't be given away. If you have kids, though, it's worth buying Disney videos – Disney DVDs are still quite expensive. Pay up to 50p for a video; up to £2 for a DVD; I rarely pay over £1 for a CD or record. Baby and children's clothes, toys and books are always good value and plentiful. Barngains are also to be had in furniture and electricals.
If you see something and want it, buy it then and there. I've lost count of the amount of times I've thought, oh I'll get that later, then returned and found it gone or haven't been able to find the stall again. Maybe it's just me.
Some good ones
Chiswick school – quite chic and a bit pricey; Peter Blake apparently goes there for inspiration, though I've never seen him – but most stalls are fascinating and do look rather like his studio. Barngain of the day: Tricky and Basement Jaxx CDs 50p each.
Tiffin school, Kingston – only runs up to July but generally pretty good. Barngain of the day: Nick Broomfield sealed DVD box-set for £3.
Nuthill Fruit Farm – Just before the turn for Burpham and Marrow on the A3. Sprawling on a massive field. Barngain of the day: Barbar books 50p each.
Hook Road Arena – Epsom, Surrey. Also pretty big. Barngain of the day: Clarice Cliff jug £2.