Winter seemed to disappear on Friday afternoon and I have decided it’s permanent. To prove it I am taking my Dot Cotton winter coat, with its fake fur collar and cuffs, off the back of the front door and sending it upstairs to the wardrobe where it still takes up more space than it deserves but means I can at least open the front door properly and get to the letter box without feeling as if I’m fighting my way into Narnia.
The first sign of spring is not the carpet of crocuses and hyacinths that appear, as if by magic, outside the park keeper’s cottage. No, it’s the arrival, swallow like, of the first jumble sale of the year.
This year it was held at Katy’s school – and a magnificent affair it was. Magnificent in that it had all the good features of the jumbles of my childhood – a reassuring queue at the door, token entrance fee (50p), an excellent tea and cake stall with room for tables – and none of the bad – sharp-elbowed old ladies, indiscriminate and insurmountable piles of blue, beige and grey cardigans, and an overpowering whiff of BO. I know I have complained in the past about the faux austerity industry where some people are getting rich peddling nostalgia in the form of celebrating the spirit of make do and mend. I can’t abide the cynical idle way lovely, painstaking skills like patchwork and decoupage have been literally packaged and flogged in kit form. If you want to make a patchwork quilt rummage around in your wardrobe and start cutting up your old clothes, don’t go online and buy a “fat square” of artfully coordinating pre-cut squares of cotton. The joy of a quilt is in the hunt, otherwise, frankly, you might as well be doing a jigsaw, and it’s the same with a jumble sale. When I was a kid the excitement (I had a sheltered life) was in delving into the pile of frankly whiffy woollens and hoping to emerge with a man’s cashmere sweater or beaded cardigan. There is an air of embarrassed guilt which everyone, however apparently tough-skinned, cannot avoid donning the moment they step behind a Formica table on a Sunday afternoon. I know, because I have preyed on it since I was 12. It kicks in the moment anyone asks a price of over a tenner (when I was a kid it was a pound). If you know what you’re doing you don’t have to say a word – you just raise an eyebrow and lower your hand slightly as if the treasured item you were about to consider buying has just become uncomfortably hot. The true jumble sale volunteer will read your signal and drop the price immediately, for want of appearing mean and taking advantage of someone who (whisper) “buys her clothes at jumble sales”. It happened yesterday as I made a beeline for the “designer and new” stall. It was only five minutes after opening time, but in jumble sale terms that’s the equivalent of a day at the Harrods sale. Still, a butter soft suede Jaeger shirt caught my eye. “£10” hmm – I hesitated. “Ok nine – all right I can do it for eight.” I had not said a word.
Done. Not five minutes later Katy approached me requesting a fiver for some aqua beads (£14.50 new). She returned five minutes later with not one but two boxes of them and £2 change. “I didn’t know which one to get so while I was deciding she said I could have two for £3,” she said, slightly baffled but happy. That’s my girl. It must be in the genes.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn