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No, it’s not a scrap yard, It’s a car boot sale

For the uninitiated a car boot sale is an English tradition where people take their cars, full of things that they no longer want, to a venue where they then display it from said car’s boot in the hopes that it will sell.

A Brocante is exactly the same but set in France, not the UK. There are, however, several differences, I will do my best to explain these.

START TIME

UK: 3.45 a.m (sometimes earlier)

France: After coffee + croissants and having read the paper, walked the dog, chatted to the neighbours, had another coffee and cut the grass a.m (sometimes later)

ARRIVAL TIME OF FIRST CUSTOMERS:

UK: 2.55 a.m (sometimes earlier)

France: Generally just after it’s opened (unless the croissants haven’t been cooked in sufficient quantities, then everybody is delayed).

CHANCES OF HAVING ALL THE CONTENTS OF YOUR CAR BOOT STOLEN BEFORE YOU EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO GET THEM OUT OF YOUR CAR TO SELL THEM:

UK: high

France: Low

IF YOU SUCCESSFULLY GET YOUR ITEMS OUT OF YOUR CAR BEFORE THEY ARE STOLEN, WILL PEOPLE HAGGLE WITH YOU WHILE YOU ARE UNPACKING AND PAW AT YOUR THINGS, EVEN IF IT IS DARK*?

UK: Yes

France: Unlikely

*They bring torches

LOCATION:

UK: Always, always close to a sports facility. Either a rugby pitch, football pitch, or cricket field. I suspect this is because the organisers detest sport, and so hope to destroy the pitches, so they are unsuitable to be played on.

France: Side of a road, through the main street of a town, near a lake, up a tree, on the roof of a building. The French will hold a brocante ANYWHERE.

WEATHER

UK: If it isn’t wet, cold, windy and/or snowing the English will refuse to hold a car boot sale.

France: Generally gloriously sunny, if the slightest breeze picks up, or 25 ml of rain falls, everybody leaves.

CHANCES THAT 95% OF THE GOODS BEING SOLD WILL BE AGRICULTURAL TOOLS:

UK: low

France: High

CHANCES THAT 95% OF THE GOODS BEING SOLD WILL BE RUSTY AGRICULTURAL TOOLS:

UK: Low

France: Extremely high

DEAD ANIMALS?

UK: Not many

France: Loads

WILL FOOD BE AVAILABLE TO BUY?

UK: Yes

France: Yes

WOULD YOU EAT IT?

UK: Yes

France: Yes

COME ON NOW, BE HONEST, WOULD YOU EAT IT?

UK: No

France: Yes

WILL THERE BE MANY OF THESE VANS THERE:

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UK: No

France: Every other vehicle will be one of these.

IS HAGGLING ACCEPTABLE:

UK: If you don’t haggle they chase you off the field with pitchforks, screaming ‘Not one of us, not one of us!’

FRANCE: Not as prevalent, you will receive some glassy-eyed stares when you attempt to negotiate a better price for Spiderman AND Batman’s secret hideouts. Also they may hide behind the excuse: ‘I’m selling it for my daughter, and she said I can’t sell it for any less than 35 euros’.

IS THAT WOMAN REALLY SELLING USED UNDERPANTS?

UK: Yes

France: Yes

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No, it’s not a music festival, it’s a brocante. Note model of van in bottom right corner.

PASSIVE SMOKING OPPORTUNITIES:

UK: Not as high as it used to be

France: Everybody smokes. Even their dogs.

THINGS TO SAY:

UK: ‘Keep an eye on your handbag’ ‘Is that meat?’ ‘Why is that lady wearing a dressing gown?’  ‘Do people really buy this crap?’ ‘Where’s my handbag?’ ‘Where’s my child/husband/car?’

France: Who is Titeuf?’ ‘Is that meat?’ ‘Why are there so many dead animals?’ ‘Who buys all this rusty agricultural crap?’ ‘But I don’t need a picture of Jean Claude Van Damme’ ‘Wow, you people really like ashtrays don’t you?’

WHAT HAPPENS AT CLOSING TIME?

UK: A huge group of people – up to 75% of those still in attendance – who have had no intention of paying for anything wait with baited breath for the remaining sellers to give up, look at all their unwanted items and offer it for free. There then occurs the ‘attack of the locusts’ as the group, en masse, descend upon the boot of the defeated seller. They can strip a car boot of all its remaining goods in five seconds flat. After the dust has settled all that will remain will be the bewildered seller, his underpants and, if he’s lucky, his car.

France: The remaining people will slowly head home, many of them may hitch lifts with the sellers as everybody knows everybody. They will then add up the day’s takings, put all their unsold animal heads and rusty farm implements back in storage until the next brocante. Which will be in a week’s time.

Unless it’s a bank holiday, then it will be tomorrow.

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