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Campervan thrifting and the inauguration of Betty

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We always owned a VW camper when I was a kid, we’d scamp off from school a bit early and spend the whole summer trekking around Europe, hitting up spots as distant and exotic as Hungry, the Czech Republic and Berlin just after the Wall came down.

Those were the days of seatbelt ambivalence so my sister and I would often stay in bed while my parents drove, or we’d sit around the table in the back threading friendship bracelets or brushing the bright neon locks of our Trolls.

It was also the early days of video cameras and one holiday we borrowed a friend’s and my parents spent every journey  filming straight out of the window in front of them, no speaking, or even people really, just endless scenery.  One memorable clip involves the cap being pushed onto the camera lens and one family member (let’s call him, for the sake of the story, “Dad”) calling out “You have turned that off, yeah?” and the one who put the lens cap on (again, just for the story’s sake, let’s go with “Mum”) saying “Of COURSE, darling!” in a tone that really meant I’m not a complete idiot. The rest of the film is total darkness, the muffled sounds of life happening around it.

Me in my snazzy early 90’s gear. We have either broken down or having a cheap night’s sleep in a European layby

Since arriving in London Tim and I have taken all our holidays by train, with our camping gear and bikes in tow. This got a little bit harder with Ramona but we still enjoyed it. The prospect of doing it with two kids though kind of freaked us out a bit, and we began dreaming of getting back on the camper bandwagon.

Fortunately my folks were up for it too and after several weeks of arduous hunting we found ourselves co-owners of a brilliant 1991 VW Vanagon Westfalia. Although we love the look of a classic bay or splitty, we know the blood, sweat and tears  you have to pour into them so went for a newer and undoubtedly more reliable option. We call her Betty.

Betty at Bognor Regis

We took Betty out for a spin the first weekend we owned her but only got as far as Eltham where we slept in my friend’s driveway on the A21 – it wasn’t exactly fulfilling her potential. This weekend we managed to get to West Sussex where we frolicked in the autumnal vibe. WHAT A DELIGHT! We roamed around Chichester cathedral, slept over on the South Downs, and our Betty even bought the best out of Bognor as we parked up for a spot of lunch. What an incongruous place, a breathtaking, windswept, almost wild beach, and then these humongous eye-sore bouncy castles plopped left right and centre.

Ramona checking out the beautiful view (or wishing she was bouncing on an eye-sore) with her mucky chops and mucky top *wishes I’d photoshopped*

I’m not gonna lie to you, the primary reason we hiked all the way down there for one night  was because of the notoriously amazing car boot sales. So you can only imagine our disappointment when, one after the other, the car boots failed to exist! I had even googled in advance! But we turned up to THREE only to find soggy, empty fields. *sob*

Fortunately we found an afternoon one that redeemed the trip. We managed to spend a tenner and pretty much fill Betty up.

We picked up this set of mustard teacups for £2.50 – I thought they’ be perfect to keep in Betty. We also got a pair of these dining chairs. (Despite already actually being an Official Dining Chair Hospice.) We have about a billion, more than any amount of visitors could ever sit on. And they have a way of finally carking it in crashingly big public moments, providing the unfortunate party-goer with a bit of shame and a sore bum. BUT they were only a POUND and helped us really feel that owning a van was a Good Thing, collaborating with us to get items like this back home.

We got lots of other little things, handy items we needed and bits of gorgeousness we really didn’t but the batch I had to show you was this, from the “Three for £1 table”. I kid you not. . .

Gorgeous china teacups, a vintage set of dominoes and a cut glass vase, 33.3p EACH!

The weekend totally heralded good thrifty times for us and the Betty bomb. Did you have a good one? Thrifted anything amazing lately?

Linking up with Missie Lizzie and those marvelous Magpie Mondays.

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Car Boot Who’s Who

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We made the most of today’s glimpse of sun by getting ourselves to the Hayes Street Farm car boot fair. We weren’t expecting much seeing as it is just out of  the London ‘burbs but it turned out to be one of the biggest booties we’ve ever been to.

While I was scouting out an old set of hooks, trying to work out how to get the best price out of a wheeler dealer who had CLEARLY seen me coming from a mile away, an old know-it-all piped up over my shoulder “Oh yeah, 1950’s designer hooks them.” The seller’s ears perkied and he choked out a price way beyond my humble jumble means. I slunked/slank/slinkied (??) off thinking just how typical those characters were.

We bustled about the rest of the fair, spending only about £13 but coming away with a proper arm full. (Okay, er, boot full.) As we bustled we met the whole cast of car booters, the beloved and the beholdens you inevitably find at every one. See if you know them too. . .

Senior Seen Ya

He’s got a House Clearance van full of rusty relics, old stuff that he doesn’t know much about but he knows some people appreciate. Senior isn’t fooled by my guise of “looking poor” especially for the car boot,  he knows I can’t resist his languishing junk and hikes up the price accordingly.

Expect to hear: This piece, you know, it’s a collectible, like a vintage-retro-antique, yeah? It’s £25. A good deal too, for this piece.”

The WinWins

These are another kind of regular car boot sellers. Often a couple, retired, they fetch an extra bob on the odd vintage treasure but also have a a whole load of Rummaging Crates with a sign sticking out; “All 20p”. Their stock flows freely, they go home unburdened,  you take home a worn pack of Dominoes; everyone is happy!

Do say: “I’m just popping back to the car to get my trolley bag!”

Don’t say: “Shall we call it 15p, rather than 20p?”

60p I paid for these two sets of dominoes! I’ll keep one set and craft with the other.

Knock off Norrie

Norrie here, he’s got the Idops and the Idaps, a select handful on his muddy blue tarpaulin. But people are crowding round, and some are even buying. We saw one guy today pay £20 for a tablet off our Norrie – he never listened to his mum’s wise words-  if it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

Slogan: Less Car Boot and more Boot Leg

Colleen the Collector

Her table is a mecca for tiny porcelain creatures, a swarm of dainty ballerinas, hedgehogs and cats.  Either it is a life time of purposeful collecting, OR she made the mistake once of mentioning to someone how much she liked a miniature china hedgehog and every friend and family member has bought her a small ornament for every occasion since. She is finally liberating herself of her fragile army of porcelain.

Trademark:A slight discomfort at having her goods on display.

I got this rusty tin for 10p. Like I need another rusty tin.

Top Makes Dave

One of the rare sellers which will yell, market like, at the crowds “Top makes, everything a pound” as he tries too off load the giant pyramids of loo roll and new household products stacked up behind him. Dave comes from a long line of market traders and is single handedly taking on Poundland.

Try not to:Autocorrect “Makes” with “Brands”

I can’t refuse a Twinkle, especially for 50p. I got the the frame for 10p and a roll of the gorgeous old navy wallpaper behind for another 10p. (“Hey Big Spender, ba, ba, ba, baaa!”)

The Outdoor Boys

You’ll spot these tanned blokes wearing their polo shirts and cargo trousers – often with sons in tow-  standing behind their rows of swanky fishing rods and associated gear. I normally whizz straight by but not before wondering if they manage to shift any of their pricey equipment in this jumble rumble.

Expect to hear: Bruce Springsteen blaring out of their stereo.

Lara Landrover

Meticulous mum with meticulous piles of well priced toys and quality kids clothes. These mums help me leave with not just frivolous rusty tins but some things I actually NEED for Ramona. And I help pay for the kids Scout Camp I ‘spect.

Do say:I won’t take the princess costume but I’ll have these dungarees, please!”

Don’t say: “I don’t really buy plastic toys for my little one, even if it is Fisher Price.”

The Melancholy-Looms

It is apparent a dear elderly parent has recently passed on, or a dear elderly parent is not quite passed on but is clearing out. The table is bending under the weight of not-quite-heirlooms spanning the spectrum of a lifetime. A beautiful antique dinner set next to a modern toaster, a tray full of VHS’s under a pile of retro curtains; a film of dust and sadness clings to everything.

Try not to: Shamelessly yelp with too much glee when you find the vintage crockery you are in love with.

Tool Time Terry

Nothing. But. Tools. Hundreds of them.

Expect to see: Tools.

*curtain raise*

Would you add any other characters to this cast? Would love to hear them!

Linking up with Liz and those cracking Magpies – I bet there are car boot hauls galore over there.

Carters Steam Fair and my Brownie

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We went to Carters Steam Fair the other day – it is a spectacular family run affair and a feast for the eyeballs. Mr and Mrs Carter began their fairground adventure quite unintentionally, by just getting hold of a few bits of a carousel and building it in their lawn much to the delight of the neighbourhood tikes and the consternation of the council! Their devotion grew until they had enough rides to tour, and they continue to do so throughout the South East every summer. I love this story, partly as I can see myself and Tim with half a fairground ride in our garden.

We have been each year for the last three, and every time we feel a bit more inspired by the vintage signage and nostalgic vibe.

The first time we went was long before the days of Instagram, and the best way to get an old effect was to actually use an old camera. I would rig up my digital camera to my ancient Brownie with a loo roll and some selotape, and would spend hours trying to get some good shots. Many a strange look was shot my way, as I trundled around with this ridiculous contraption. But other weirdos do it too, yeah,  in fact it even has a name;  “TTVF” – Through The View Finder. Once things have a name it is pretty much An Official Non-Weird Past Time.

My old Kodak Brownie bought for £2 from The Sallies. What a friendly fellow he is!

Here are some of the shots taken with him at the Fair.

Back then these photos were INCREDIBLE – a nowaday scene with a vintage lens. But now they just look like they have been badly filtered with one of the many Vintage-ise your photos app.

Yes, er, there does seem to be a pube stuck in the Brownie.

I was well excited about taking Ramona on the carousel, and when she saw it too she went nuts –  almost climbing up mid-round, the little keen bean. When it was our turn we hopped on it but the second it started going round Ramona became kinda anti-carousel and actually threw a full blown, back arching,wobbly in an attempt to get off. I tried holding her close for a few rounds, but it became impossible and we had to perform a dodgy hand over trick to pass her down to Tim. I then had to ride the whole 5 minutes solo and the looks were more incriminating than when I was wandering around with two cameras and a loo roll.

Er… SHAMEFACE!

Riding the carousel, trying to be all casual like.

Ramona is becoming fiercely strong willed and theatrically expressive. It is wonderful to see her personality unfurling more and more, but with it comes a new learning curve. Trying to not let my own embarrassment, or shame, or sense of properness interfere with my response to her. It is too easy to think (and say)  “Oh don’t be silly” rather than try and see things from her perspective, and to validate any feelings of angst she might have.  Especially when you had to style out riding the carousel solo.

Ramona being totally appalled by a cloud of candy floss almost bigger than her

Anyway, back to the snaps. See, I got some of these PRINTED! Y’ know, that thing you used to do? Back in the day?  I, like, sent the files to a photo place, and they came back on GLOSSY PAPER.  Then I stuck my favourites behind an old window pane we found in a skip.

It’s propped up next to our cool lamp, it had no base so was only a cheeky £1 from a carboot and we created an impromptu  foundation out of some old wood.

So. There it is, Carters Steam Fair, through the eyes of my Brownie.

Linking up with other scavengers and secondhand lovers over at Missie Lizzie – traipse on round and ‘ave ye a peep.