Martin the Microlight pilot

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The process of ‘DO WE? DON’T WE?’ is long and complicated. The overriding factor in judging when to open for the 2020 season is down to ONE concern ONLY: The Safety Of Our Customers.
Unlike a market where everyone knows what a piece of fruit or loaf of bread looks like and satisfaction can be achieved from 2 metres, a car boot sale relies on ‘Find By Rummage!’
There is NO SPECIFIC ADVICE to be had from anywhere and precious little overall advice. So please bear with us, we’re doing our very best to open at the right time for our sellers, our buyers and our staff…

After mowing the boot sale selling area last week I flew my Inspire 2 drone over the field to see the effects of my labours! 
Out of the blue I remembered one of our customers from about fifteen years ago. 

I shall call him Martin, because like so many, I knew him by face rather than by name.

I first met Martin the Microlight pilot when he was walking around the boot sale with his arm in plaster. I had seen him a few times before and we’d just about got past the ‘Good morning’ stage of acquaintance. 
Knowing he had recently been on holiday, I asked if the landing at Luton after his flight back from Tenerife had been a bit bumpy! 
Now Martin liked to laugh, it would begin like a bubbling pan on the hob, then become a chortle and finally overflow into a full-on belly-laugh. 
“Nah! It wasn’t on the flight back, but a bit of a dodgy landing in my microlight! I must take you up sometime. The view from up there is just amazing, you can tell it’s nearer Heaven.” 

These were in the days prior to my drone flights over the farm and the car boot sale field. 

He always seemed to have a new story for me about a recent scrape he’d got into while flying his flimsy aircraft.
He’d then repeat the request that I take a flight with him, saying, as he waved his now mended arm in the air and would say “It’s better, how about that flight, you must see the world from nearer Heaven, or as I call it ‘God’s Own View!’”
Like many customers, I am ashamed I didn’t notice his absence from the weekly sales for quite some time, but suddenly it occurred to me that he was missing.

I asked someone I knew was an acquaintance of his and was given the answer ‘Bad Crash Landing’. 
Imagining Martin from head to foot in plaster I then said, “Oh well, wish him luck and tell him I’ll see him soon!”
His friend didn’t reply for a moment and suddenly the truth dawned on me.
“He had a very bad landing and now shares God’s View, I don’t think you’ll be seeing him soon, or at least I hope not.”
Whenever I put my drone above the car boot sale I think of Martin. I only wish I could share with him what’s showing on my screen, but then I realise I’m simply looking at his view anyway! 

Enjoy the view Martin!

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Lucky!

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A Sunny Saturday in July 2006

While mowing the boot sale field this week I was remembering those customers who were once a part of my life at the Bootsale.

Of all those customers I’ve seen over the years, one that truly stands out is Lucky. He used to turn up in an ex-BT van, you know the type – grey with a moulded plastic body.

Lucky would leap out of the van when parked and do a hundred-yard dash to place a cone/coat/wife or similar to mark the extremity of his proposed pitch.
He would then spend the next couple of hours filling this vast area with items from his Tardis-like van interior.
The only problem being, that in all the years he attended, I never once knew him to have enough time to display everything before it was time to start putting everything away.
So, for Lucky, the whole morning was a constant procession to and from the van.

I’m not sure who first coined the term ‘Lucky’ because he was anything but over-blessed in the fortune department.
His first spell of bad luck arrived in a consignment of cigarette lighters that he predicted would make him a massive profit because he had bought a pallet-load of them ‘on the cheap’.
Unfortunately he had not counted on the weather being so hot and one summers day the van packed to the roof with these bargain lighters became the focus for attention from the fire brigade as they became a car-park fireball.
The chassis and cab of the van were saved but unfortunately the cargo area was turned into a large plastic blob.
This didn’t deter Lucky as his maisonette was stuffed to the gunwales with ‘reserve gear’. So instead of arriving in his plastic van he would arrive in an estate car towing a vastly overweight trailer and his constant procession continued once again.

Sadly his long-suffering wife/pitch marker was diagnosed with cancer and he disappeared from the sales.
I learnt some months later that she had died and that he had lost all joy in life.

Some years ago he turned up one last time, a shadow of his former self with a girlfriend in tow.
He set up his stall without enthusiasm, sold a few things, drank a cup of coffee with me to chat about old times and disappeared from view.

Gone…but not forgotten.

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How Not To Buy A Tea Service!

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Everyone knows that car boot sales are renowned for customers haggling over prices. It can be something that makes me cringe, particularly when I watch an experienced haggler take an inexperienced or nervous stall-holder to the cleaners. Very occasionally the tables turn and the persistent barterer comes up against a brick wall or in this case a tea service.

When I arrived at the man’s stall it was obvious that the bartering had just passed phase-one where the prospective purchaser had just asked the price of a particularly attractive, complete and unblemished, everyday tea service.

The barterer ignored the seller’s request for £5 and had chosen to start at 50p.

Now it should be noted at this point that it would seem that some customers, seem to have a limited grasp of values at car boot sales, that they are only able to mutter “50pee”.

The seller stood his ground and replied “five pounds”

To which the customer replied “50pee”

Just when it looked like someone needed to put in a call to ACAS, the arbitration service, to resolve the dispute, the customer raised her bid to “75pee” thus dumbfounding all those within earshot.

All seemed lost when the seller stubbornly stuck to his original price.

With perhaps more hope than stubbornness or perhaps the buyer just liked to try out the new phrase, the Prospective buyer suggested 75pee for a second time.

With a resigned shrug of his shoulders the seller turned, reached into his car boot and fetched out a hammer.

The crowd took a surprised step back and with more force than I thought necessary, the man brought the hammer down on the tea service which shattered into a thousand pieces.

Smiling a sweet smile he turned to ‘50pee’, whose mouth hung open with surprise, and grinning, said in a sweet a voice you might use on a small child or cuddly lamb, “now have the ‘effing thing for nothing.”

Give that seller a coconut!!

Please take care and stay safe.
We hope to be back with you before too long
Very best wishes
Farmer Giles (aka Baldock Bard)

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Phone calls can be deceiving!

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Car Boots and Sunday Soots (2)

While we still can’t open I’m going back through some memories collected over the years at the Baldock Saturday Car Boot Sale. Hope to see you all before the end of the season!
Baldock Bard


Roberto rang one Wednesday afternoon in June, some years ago.
I had been plagued by cold-callers from the Indian sub-continent so when the ‘out of area’ label showed on my mobile, I was less than receptive.
“Hello, my name is Roberto,” said the foreign accent.
“Mine is Santa Claus,” I replied, “and no, I don’t want to buy whatever it is you’re selling.”
Unusually with cold-callers there was a slight pause.
“Pardoning me,” replied Roberto, “Do you have car boot sale?”

Feeling a fool I explained that I did indeed run a car boot sale and yes I would be very pleased to see him the following weekend.
He went on to enquire just where the sale was located and I asked my usual question so I could give him correct directions: “Where exactly are you coming from?”
“Portugal!” said Roberto, as if this were the most obvious answer, “or to be precise, a small village outside Lisbon.”
By this time I had convinced myself that it was not a cold-call but a hoax call, one of many that friends seem to think hilarious.
Some years ago they had rung up wanting to know if they could sell second-hand safes at the sale, confessing that they had some for sale that were only slightly shop soiled, having recently had the doors blown off but would make good garden ornaments.

However as anyone in business will tell you, it’s better to be ‘had’ by a hoax than miss a prospective customer.
This time I was simply pleasant, adding that I was looking forward to meeting him soon and that should any problems arise on his arrival at the sale he should ask for Farmer Stan or look for the man in the high-vis coat.

About a fortnight later I had just parked a large white van into a selling space when I realised the following car was a small white ‘left hooker’ Seat hatchback with a foreign number plate.
Behind the wheel sat a smallish dark skinned man, a large grin spread across his face.

“Mr Farmer Stun,” he yelled in greeting, “I, Roberto, from Portugal,” and holding a hand to the side of his face with thumb extended towards his ear and pinky towards his mouth, “we speak on phone!”
I parked him up and promised I’d return to see him later.

My curiosity had been aroused, what on earth could be so valuable that someone would travel across three countries, a mountain range and over 1300 miles?
It had to be either imported cigarettes, alcohol or worst of all, drugs.
While I went around collecting the money and chatting to various stall-holders I would gaze across at the constant large crowd gathered around Roberto’s stall. Other traders had noticed as well, some even suggested that I would not be able to resist becoming a customer when I reached him, however not wishing to seem to be favouring one seller above others I feigned disinterest and made sure I found something on their stall to compliment them about.

When I reached the stall it was still completely shielded from view by a crowd, however Roberto had seen me!
“Farmer Stun,” his grinning face bobbed above the heads of the crowd as if he was on a trampoline, “I have your money, Euros or Pounds?”
He then added, “I have kept some special back for you, a gift from my garden in Portugal.”
My heart sank as I imagined him passing heaven-knows-what above the crowd along with the pitch fee.
“Make way for the Farmer Stun,” he shouted all of a sudden as he waved his arms like a beserk windmill, “Farmer Stun, let him through.”

Roberto thrust money into my hand along with a full brown paper bag. Tentatively I opened what seemed to be a bag of ball-like objects. I carefully opened the bag to be confronted by… lemons!

I still couldn’t work out how it could have been worth his while to drive such a distance with a small hatchback with lemons, my suspicions had not been quelled by the gift, I thanked him and said I’d be back for a chat when I had finished my rounds, “I’m look forward Farmer Stun!” chirped Roberto, putting four lemons into a bag for another eager customer.

When I had finished collecting the pitch fees I spied Roberto walking towards the tea wagon.
“Tea or coffee?”
“Oh! Farmer Stun, coffee please.”
We sat down at the plastic table.
“I sold out!” said Roberto.
“What of?” I said trying not to sound suspicious.
“Lemons!”
“You’re trying to tell me that it is worth your while driving all that way with a boot full of lemons and driving all the way back again?”
“Yes, but I’m not going home yet, I go to Birmingham!”
“But you’ve no more lemons!”
“Ah! You are not correct, I have one small bag.”
“So let me get this right,” I said, “you are going to drive to Birmingham to sell one bag of lemons?”
“No, they are a gift for my mother.”
“Ah that explains it, your mother lives in Birmingham.”
“No.”
It was obvious that the shared language was not going to help if we were to dive into ever deeper water, so I decided to let the subject drop.
“So have you enjoyed your first car boot sale?” I asked.
“No.”
In a flash I imagined the myriad of events that could have become the sullying of our reputation abroad.
“I’m sorry you haven’t enjoyed the sale, may I ask why!”
“It has been very good, I have enjoyed the car boot sale, what I mean is it’s not my first one, I have done it before. I pick lemons in my garden at home, drive to a car boot sale or market in England, sell lemons, drive to see my brother in Birmingham. This time I pick up my mother who flew for the first time. She rang up and say “Roberto, come and fetch me, flying not right at my age, bring lemons, they no good here” and so to help with the cost of the trip, I bring lemons to sell and a bag for her.”
“Ah!” I said with relief, “all is now clear, the lemons came from your garden.”
“No,” said Roberto with a look on his face that suggested that I hadn’t been listening.

I stood, shook his hand, wished him well and went to help a stall-holder whose clothes rail had collapsed.
Ten minutes later I was standing by my car at the exit, munching on my breakfast, when the small white hatchback pulled up and the window on the passenger side slid down releasing a faint smell of what could be described as ‘washing-up liquid chic’.
“Farmer Stun, Farmer Stun,” laughed Roberto, scarcely able to control his laughter, “the lemons I sell came from my mothers garden!” Grinning inanely at what was obviously a popular Portugese joke I wished him bon voyage and returned to my bacon roll.

Roberto came a couple of times for the next two seasons and then, like so many, vanished into the ether.

However whenever I smell lemons…


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