I swing my legs onto the floor, heavy and not ready to leave my cosy bed, but last night I’d sensibly put my alarm out of reach to make sure I would not back out this morning. I potter around the bathroom and whizz Trixy around the block, still trying to clear my head, and rid it of that fizzy, this-really-is-a-dream-not-real-life feeling.
I am amazed by how organized I was last night, leaving everything out and ready for 6am this morning. I gather my stuff together, head down to the garage and back out my loaded-up car. I always drive with a window open, and the early morning air is cool and welcome. The streets are quiet, but there are lights on here and there in windows around the town. I wonder why. Are they people on shift work? This area, of course, has a lot of shift workers. Are they folk going on vacation, returning home on an early flight? Have they partied all night, or is someone ill or in labor perhaps? I pull in for gas before I hit the motorway. I’m surprised that there are female pump attendants at this dark hour, then I realize that the gas station is right next to the Farmers’ Market, where vehicles are pulling in already, laden with goods. Must be a busy day for this gas station.
My own goods are of another variety. A part of my life sits in the back of my car, and I’m on my way to sell it off.
On the motorway there is more life around. I take it easy so as not to break any of my cargo. I reach the car boot sale site, and tuck, patiently into the cue. The sky is already beginning to lighten. Thank goodness for gaining the hour last weekend, even though this is the first time doing this that I’ve ever remembered my torch! I shake my head. I always think that “next time” I will rouse myself earlier to get a better pitch, but I never do.
It’s been 9 years since I started doing this, and I wonder that it would have been much easier to have got rid of everything at the beginning, when my nest emptied. Nine years ago I didn’t know so much, but I would have gotten better prices, but it’s hard to learn to let go. These days everyone and their kid brother is selling stuff, either because they have to, or because it’s simply fashionable to downsize. Letting go are buzz words.
What I know now about this process is that it’s easy at the beginning, but now it’s getting hard. Now I’m offloading stuff I’ve been thinking twice about in the past, it’s not like the early de-cluttering.
Guaza’s rastro is unusually quiet today. Normally, a very international hoard of traders zoom in as you unload, vying to get the best price first, so that they can fill their own stalls at the beginning of the market with the goods they’ve bought doubly cheaply from those of us too lazy to sleep in our cars to get a prime spot, or rouse ourselves from sleep even earlier than 6am. Arriving at 7, it’s late, and, as usual, I’m at the back.
Today there are only two or three traders, and then I remember that it’s a Muslim holiday, Tabaski (or the Feast of Abraham or Eid al Adha or any of its other numerous names). Many of these traders come from the north of Africa, and I muse on life’s curious circumstances, which brought some of these people to the shores of the Canary Islands in search of prosperity, and which now finds them trading on the downfall of Europeans selling off their possessions to make ends meet. There is a certain poetry there.
I clearly remember the first time I did this, nervous, naive, overwhelmed and not a little embarrassed. I came from a family where, although we were by no means well-off, it was considered uncouth to talk about money, falling on hard times or any of the things which today make up the better part of our conversations and news coverage.
The moment my nest emptied my house went up for sale, granted, it was partly necessity and partly a desire to begin a new phase in my life. In the end, in my struggle to create newness, I offered my furniture to a local Lyons Club, which was, apparently, even back in 2002, so inundated with offers that they could only just be bothered to take barely a quarter of it. I stacked it all in the garage, left the door unlocked and told them they could return to take whatever they wanted. If only I’d known then the folk I know now, who could have found homes for my castoffs! I assume that the new owners disposed of the rest. Since these purchasers messed me about for the 3 months which Spanish law allowed them to complete on their purchase after the due completion date I felt no remorse about shoving that onus on them.
This morning there is no embarrassment, whilst I’m not a regular by standards here, I feel as if I know my way around, and my choice stuff is stowed away, out of sight in the front of my car, to be produced later, as I pull the rest from the boot. The sky begins to streak with its morning pinks and turquoises, and for once I have time to open my flask of coffee before the bartering commences.
It’s a slow day, a professional seeker of antique-y bargains, a handful of traders and not much else as day begins to dawn. As the sun creeps over the hillside opposite people arrive gradually. The scene reminds me of a scene from “Oliver,” “Who Will Buy This Beautiful Morning” – folk arrive in dribs and drabs until the passageway is a chatter of humanity, a cross-section of the world, here in this small space allotted for commerce of the common folk.
The seeker of antique-y bargains buys my Spode, Shakespeare plate, and I hope that the research I did on its value was right, that I’m not giving away a fortune here. It’s not that I’m inordinately fond of the plate, nor that it has any particular memories for me, just that I’d kept it, hoping that it might be of some value. eBay said it wasn’t, and the bargain-hunter has a profit to turn too.
For a short while the emerging sun dazzles and I curse forgetting to plaster on some sunscreen, but it’s short-lived, and the clouds close in. That’s good for us sellers. A hot day here is like being stranded in the desert, without sunscreen you burn and the dust clogs mouth and eyes.
Back when I first did this, it was well worth it, but now I wonder. Each time I come it’s evident that times are getting ever harder. It’s isn’t just the recession, I realize that with cheap Asian goods flooding the market certain second-hand goods have no value at all, and others far less. Even if a scarcely-worn shirt bears the label Lacoste, to the average patron of this event a brand-new one from the Chinese shop is preferable. I am tempted to snatch back the kaftan that I bought in Busch Gardens six years ago, but never wore, as a fat woman clutches it to her ample bosom. I was saving it for something, sometime, which never arrived. Tonight the fat woman will enjoy its unconstricted freedom as she slouches in front of her television.
I wonder how come I acquired all this “stuff”, this stuff I never used, didn’t need. I feel guilty about my materialism. I like nice things. I like good quality things, but …. things which are surplus to requirements, put away for rainy days which never come? I content myself in thinking that if we stopped buying junk then there would be an awful lot of people out of work, we can’t all lead creative and rewarding lives, but we can create demand, which builds factories and sweat shops in China and the Philippines, and then, in discarding our possessions we provide income for others in the reselling of them.
The day rolls on, the better stuff comes out from hiding, there is joking and bargaining, chatting with fellow sellers and when the snowbirds begin to arrive I sell some books and cds. The snowbirds have arrived back on the island over the last few weeks. They aren’t all super-rich people with second homes, some scrape by in order to escape the effects of the damp and cold on their various ailments, and they are regulars here. They are the only ones who buy books, even in Spanish. I summer I never sell books.
I close my eyes and listen. …..Spanish, English, French, Wolof, Arabic, German and something East European I can’t name Romanian? Russian? Never Chinese, you never see Chinese people here. I guess they don’t need second-hand stuff. Imagine how cheap pots and pans are at wholesale price, they’re cheap enough at retail in their shops.
Candlesticks, fruit bowls, a tray, glass jars, a set of screwdrivers (how did I ever end up with so many screwdrivers?!), a couple of throws and an unused duvet, a pair of hiking boots and a worn suitcase, a couple of pictures and my IKEA kitchen unit – that’s a relief, didn’t fancy taking that back home, and there is no room for it in my new apartment. My pitch is beginning to look quite empty, and I spread out the books to fill space. It’s 11.30 and my neighbor has had enough. He packs his stuff away, but can’t move his car yet, so he wanders off.
I pick up my book, and the next, slow hour mostly I pass in reading. I’ve enjoyed a lot of reading this last week, much of which has been spent trying to get round bureaucracy, or waiting to try to get round bureaucracy at least. It’s normal around here.
An hour passes, dust rises as cars begin to move off. This is the good thing about being at the back, those at the front must have a long wait to pack up. My pockets bulge with change. That’s another thing. Few people these days ask you to change a note, payment comes in coins, which jangle and weigh down my trousers. It’s time to go.
For me it’s a slow, hard road, this de-junking. I mourn a little for the pretty, white porcelain fruit bowl I let go. Shaped like a daisy, its companion cake stand broken years back, it never “went” in any of the several homes I’ve had since 1997 when I bought it, but I always thought that one day there would be the right place. And maybe that’s what this is about, about not waiting for that time in the future when something will fit, but chucking out what doesn’t fit now, to live more comfortably in the moment. Like Jack Nicholson said, “Maybe this is as good as it gets.”
My quest, long before I’d ever heard of a travel blog, fueled by books like Rolf Potts’ brilliant “Vagabonding” (which Amazon confirms I bought in 2003, not long after it was published) was to whittle my possessions down to free me up to travel. When my time came though, I’d procrastinated about so much stuff that in 2004 I had to put my gear in storage, and get away. Finally, 7 years on, after returning to the island I thought I was leaving behind, dead-end jobs, unemployment, several car boot sales and some life-changing experiences later I’m finally there. What is left now is either needed or I simply won’t let go. The Christmas cards my kids made when they were little, presents they gave me, and, of course, box upon box of photos, and my books. At last I realize that I am no less an aficionada of travel for being the owner of a certain amount of possessions, not everyone is able to fit their entire world into a backpack, and that travel takes many different forms. In fact, I could say that yesterday the world came to me.