The finale of my recent magical Margate mystery trip was a stop off at a car boot sale on route home. “Can we? Can we?” pleaded Mair as she expertly swerved off the road into a conveniently placed parking spot by the gate. How could I say no when she was already slamming on the brakes and unbuckling her seatbelt?
I have never been good at the likes of charity shops or car boot sales. I just find it impossible to spot the diamonds amongst the dross. Mair, however, is very good at it. She came away with a vintage De Longhi heater for £2.50 (no I didn’t know that De Longhi did anything beyond coffee makers either) and a stack of tantalising vinyls including one by OMD that sent my brain on a little trip down memory lane to many a night spent listening to said CD in my youth. Sadly, I could not prise the damn thing off of her even when I played my trump card and told her I was once a signed up member of the OMD fan club. Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that she knew that I don’t actually own a record player. But it sure was lovely clutching that record again! I’m beginning to admit that spotify is lacking that all-round sensory appeal.
So, with shopping out of the question for me, I did what comes naturally and started taking pictures. I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how the amply-built and boldly-tattooed locals would react to this interloper with her camera. I found myself clocking the gate and working out my exit strategy just in case things got dangerous. Finally a stall holder came up to me and asked, in the nicest possible way, if I was taking pictures on behalf of the local Social Security benefit office. I replied, in the nicest possible way, that no I wasn’t, I was just someone who disliked shopping but enjoyed taking pictures, and so was doing this while I waited for my friends. You sensed the entire cuddly toy, 70’s pottery and kitchen gadget laden field breathe a collective sigh of relief. As if given his cue an elderly gentleman sidled over – an immigrant of Eastern European origin. “What nationality are you?” I asked. “British,” he replied, with a slim smile that was a blend of cheekiness and pride.
Before I knew it I was buying a slice of Mo’s homemade cake and discussing the state of the nation with her, then buying two, no three, sweet papers from an elderly lady who wasn’t getting a lot of trade. She saw me photographing them in their wonderful Union Jack box and boldly asked me if I would like to buy one. “How much? I reluctantly asked. “20p” she replied. “20p!!! Why don’t you have a price sign if you’re selling them so cheap?” I gently scolded her. She just shrugged her shoulders and I handed over 50p and asked for two. She scrambled around for change and I told her that seriously two sweet pepper plants for 50p was a bargain. But she politely disagreed and insisted that I take three.
As I look back, part of me wishes that I’d come away with the whole damn set of peppers in their lovely Union Jack box. But maybe that would have been a bit flash. So instead I will nurture my three little plants and as I watch them grow I will remind myself that not all commerce is bad. If it helps those who are hanging on in there in society by virtue of a bit of get-up-and-go on a Sunday morning then it’s perfectly fine by me, and I for one won’t gripe about immigrants coming over here and taking over our jobs or people doing a bit extra on the side while claiming their miserable benefit.
The cake was lovely by the way – moist in the middle and crisp around the edges, completed by a generous topping of coffee flavoured icing. Far better than anything I’ve ever tasted in Starbucks. But she’s just a lady getting by through selling the fruits of her labours for a few pence in a half-empty playing field in Margate. So what she creates doesn’t really count in British society does it? Which is a sad waste of good honest cake I think. Because it really was rather good.