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The Car Boot Experience (aka Feeding Time at the Human Zoo)

By Mike Cotgreave

It was approx 6:30am. Me and my good friend Richie were in a muddy field somewhere near Burscough and we were surrounded by some of the most hardcore elements of the local car booting community.

Like flies around the proverbial excretion they came.

"Any guitars?"

"Any spanners?"

Before we'd been able to emerge from Richie's Vauxhall Corsa, car booting extremists were inquiring as to the exact nature of our assorted junk and bric-a-brac.

Alas, we had no guitars or spanners. I informed the guitar man there might be an old recorder somewhere amongst the jumble; he remained emotionless. The strange menfolk dispersed to interrogate other new arrivals to this Mecca of second-hand detritus.

The voracious bargain-hunting mentality soon manifested itself as randoms began rummaging through our mountains of unwanted clothes like emaciated paupers searching for loose lumps of coal on desolate, windswept slag heaps.

Indeed, this is a story of common humanity. Suddenly there was little difference between these hordes of ravenous junk enthusiasts and the Asian barterers in the markets and bazaars of the Far East

This is also a story of human psychosis. For once you become attuned to the psychic rhythms of the car booting crowd, it can become difficult to resist the temptation to search for a bargain of your own amongst the numerous sprocket sets, mitre saws, cocker spaniel statuettes, glass chess sets and almost mint condition copies of Barbara Windsor's autobiography.

On my travels around the stalls I acquired a handsome collection of cassettes for a meagre sum. Soon, the stereo in the Vauxhall Corsa was alive with the sounds of some of the great men of contemporary music: Billy Joel, Chris Rea, Stevie Wonder (Songs in the Key of Life no less) and the Czech composer Dvorak.

Perhaps the strangest item for sale that day was a particularly bad oil painting of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (aka the Desert Fox) who led Hitler's Arifkakorps with distinction on the bloody battlegrounds of
North Africa. Several questions arise from this find: 1) what would possess anyone to expend valuable minutes of their short lives painting such a picture? And 2) who in their right mind would buy it? Needless to say it isn't now hanging on my dining room wall, a fact which strangely causes me a slight tinge of regret - perhaps it's the benign influence of watching too many Nazi documentaries on UKTV History...

Soon the weather had reached a schizoid crescendo; the rain was horizontal, rendering our lovingly (and cackhandedly) erected gazebo useless and in danger of taking off. It was time to depart the soggy field of shattered dreams and go home.

Participating in the British car boot experience is like a cleansing rite of passage on the path to Zen enlightenment, as households cast off many of their material possessions whilst simultaneously offering a peculiar window into the heart and soul of their family lives.

Yes folks, it's feeding time at the Human Zoo. Bring out your dead (SodaStreams)! Bring out your dead (copies of Soccer annual from 1981)! Bring out your dead (Wet Wet Wet CDs)!






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