We took a load of stuff to the Car Boot sale yesterday. No sooner had we parked up than we were surrounded by a swarm of bargain-hunters yammering to know what we were selling.

'Got any air-rifles' asked a man in khaki trousers.

What the fuck? 'No, I haven't got any air rifles.'



'Old photographs?'

'Er, no. Just give us a moment will you?' I turned just in time to see an old woman in the boot of my car holding up my raincoat.

'Oi! That's not for sale.' Get out of the goddamned car lady!

Eventually, with a certain amount of argy-bargy, we managed to get the stall laid out. And we did OK. £90. Not bad for a load of old tat.

But oh my, I found the experience depressing. Not because the punters were so rude (one well-to-do woman tried to haggle over a pound). I could cope with that. No, it's because eventually, sooner or later, all the stuff we're supposed to value, to aspire to own, to strive for, to display to the world as a sign of our worth, all of it ends up here at the Boot Sale. Ornaments. Books. DVDs. Music. Fashion. Computers. The lot. Today's must-have is just tomorrow's junk.

Take our telly. Ten years ago it was worth someone's time and money to drill the oil, refine it, make it into plastic, mine the minerals, smelt them into metals, manufacture the components, solder them all together and ship the result halfway round the world so that I could watch Doctor Who on a Saturday evening. Now, because everyone wants flat-screen TVs the size of a door, I couldn't give the it away (having had enough of Doctor Who, we're going telly-free). I had to take it to the tip.

Western culture. We dig up the Earth's resources, shuffle them up a bit, then bury them again in a more toxic form. I know this isn't news and that the gurus have been banging on about this for millennia, but at the car boot sale it really struck me how pointless it all is (and that's before we tot up the impact on the environment). Where's the stop button? I feel ashamed at my complicity.

So afterwards we went to the woods to see the bluebells (and some early purple orchids). Sanity at last.


  1. Oh yeah, it IS a basic insight of the great philosophers, but in western (wealthy/materialistic) culture this is could also be a developmental marker. Given you are paying attention, at mid-life, getting rid of stuff becomes more compelling than acquiring it in the first place. We can see the whole damn cycle from living earth stuff ("resources") to material possessions to junk, and it's so fast! dunno how it is there but in the US so much stuff is made only to be thrown away in a week or a month or even a few years. I now spend more time and energy trying to pass on, recycle, and get rid of stuff than I did buying it. Anyone want some fine hippie jewelry, occult books, old vinyl records, tarot decks, grammar guides, city shoes size 10?

  2. Sad to say, I am the luddite in a family of techies, therefore am surrounded with electronica. Hopefully your old stuff becomes someone else's prize possession and not end up in landfill somewhere. There is nothing wrong with make do and mend, or so I keep trying to convince my 21st century children.

  3. Ain't it the truth. I have been trying to reduce my load of stuff, selling books on Amazon, donating cartons of things to the volunteer fire department's sale . . . there is so much yet to go.



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