Every One A Story: My Life In Pieces Chapter Three
Greenwich Boot Fair Sunday 4th August 2019
Today was my first time trying to sell stuff at a market. It turned out that the space isn’t exactly a boot fair. You can’t actually park in there because there isn't any room, but this is ok because I don't drive and I don't have a car.
They look after you though, with cups of tea, and giving you a nice table, and everyone introducing themselves.
I sat next to Martin and Jenny from Blackheath. Ron was my first customer. He came before I had even set up. He bought 10 CDs for £5.00, his wife asked me if I wanted any CDs myself as the house was stuffed with them, I said no, she said I thought you’d say that.
Carly sat on the other side of me, she was selling clothes too.
Note to self 1: next time bring a chair. Standing all day is hard. Accolades to anyone who stands all day.
My next customer was Martin: my stall next door neighbour. He told me back in the day he had seen Max Wall perform in Greenwich Theatre - I remember my grandparents loving Max Wall. We had a good chat. Martin was retired now but he used to be a fashion tech writer, and told me he found he needed noise to write. I told him I needed quiet. We talked about noise and quiet and writing. Lovely chap.
Note to self 2: Next time bring a screen so I can hang clothes on it. My clothes look a bit squashed on the rail
My third customer was David. He bought two Tom Waites CDs for £1.00, (Nighthawks at the Diner, The Heart Of Saturday Night ) and a John Hegley CD (Saint and Blurry). I asked him if he recalled when he first heard Tom Waites.
I first heard Tom Waites when I left home. I was only just 17 and I was moving into my little flat on Shaftesbury Avenue in Southsea. As I arrived on a sunny day, my soon-to-be neighbour was sitting in his ground floor window playing saxophone looking like a jazz Adonis. I was the only person in Southsea that year who didn’t fall in love with him, but I could see he was beautiful. He said hello and invited me in and played me “Martha”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it was like hearing a heartbroken fallen angel singing a love song with a hangover. Tom Waites has stayed with me even since. I bought all the vinyl then I gave to away and bought CDs… now I am selling the CDs and buying the vinyl again (which I know isn't exactly “getting rid of everything” but more on that later) . It occurred to me that my days of living in Southsea with all the wild children and the eccentrics was a story worth telling.
David told me that he now has everything that Tom Waites ever recorded, but at the time he first heard him he was living in Derby and took out "Raindogs" from the local library and it blew his mind.
Note to self 3: I need bags and I need to write the stories of all of these things on labels attached to them. People like stories.
Note to self 4: I really must bring a chair
My back hurts. It has only been two hours. But everyone is friendly.
It was quiet so I wandered around the other stalls. I bought a notebook for £5 from Caroline who had just done a film “Queen of the Desert” with Nicole Kidman. Caroline is a designer and had been the prop buyer on films for years. It is a 1930s notebook, with some pages written on, pages that were shot for the film, it had been held by Nicole or maybe by some one standing in for Nicole, and it is part of that film's story.
Note to self 5: I am bad at resisting buying things especially if they are beautiful and useless with excellent stories attached. Mmmm.
My fourth customer was a very quiet man who bought Dr Dre G Thang CD for 50p. I said do you remember when that came out? trying to start a conversation, he said: no no no no no no no and wandered off. I remembered that I was given that CD by our neighbours in West Ham who were trying to give us a musical education at the time (I appreciated this). I wonder what happened to them, we lost touch. It occurred to me that was a story worth telling, first arriving in London and all the wild people and eccentrics we met, and what we did to survive.
I chatted to Caroline, the film designer and prop buyer, about constructing stories from objects, as this was her line of work.
I started to think that maybe I didn’t want to get rid of everything
I brushed the thought aside and decided to watch Marie Kondo on Netflix tomorrow morning to remind myself why I was doing this.
My fifth customer was a woman who bought the remaining five Tom Waites CDs for her friend who has MS, she said she couldn’t remember whether he liked "early or late” . She haggled hard and I folded. She bought Orphans, Asylum Years, Swordfish Trombone, Small Change, and Blue Valentine for a total of £1.50
Note to self 5: I should buy a bum bag. A stylish one.
Someone told me to go to the Meridian Sports Field in Charlton where you can make a fortune.
A fortune is always being made elsewhere , I thought to myself
I’d not covered my costs yet.
Karen was the stall holder selling toys next to Martin and Jenny. She is a jazz singer who had a stall in Kensington Market in the 80s. Karen sings jazz at the Pride of Greenwich pub now. She said her mum and dad were hoarders, she thought because of the war and the enforced frugality. They looked after their possessions well, her mum collected books and dad cards
Karen said “I want to live on a houseboat with nothing now”
I think to myself, everyone has a story to tell and wants to tell it
I wonder if there is a more efficient way of selling everything. I work out at this rate it will take me a year of Sundays to sell everything. A year of Sundays sounds like a blues song.
Next customer was Joshua who bought a Leonard Cohen CD for 50p. He said “Im your Man” was his favourite song
Someone picked up my Roy Ayres CD then I remembered that it was signed. We’d gone to see him at the Jazz Cafe in Camden and had asked to meet him and had been allowed. His speaking voice was just like a tiger’s would be if tigers could talk.
So I couldn’t sell that.
It occurred to me in that moment that actually the objects with the really good stories were the ones which I couldn’t sell. The things without stories, or at least not ones I knew or remembered, they were easy to let go of
Laura tried on a blue spotty dress which I had last worn to a festival in Brixton. She told me she'd had a double masectomy, and that the op had gone wrong and that then she got a superbug. She bought the dress for £5.00, it looked great on her. When she left I thought, why didn’t I just give her the dress? But it was too late, she had already gone. Damn.
Note to self 6: make a “free box” so that people can get something for free
I’m not very good at commerce, I thought
Then a man came and bought two Nick Cave albums “Dig Llazarus” and “Boatman Calls". I thought about how all my music reminds of my days at Smash Hits and how that is a story worth telling.
My friend Laura came and bought the All Saints parachute dress and the long dress which I wore as a costume for a short film I was in with Stans Cafe. I played a 100 year old woman who kept her youthful looks by stealing the lifeforce of children. I thought, all my years of theatre, that is a story worth telling. I told Laura I’d send her a copy of the film if I could find it.
Laura told me she had found Marie Kondo transformative
Then a woman visited my stall looking for something to wear to the Fan Museum. She told me she had just been to a Gramaphone Museum. After she left I wished I had asked her what she wore to the Gramaphone Msueum.
I think to myself it’s pretty obvious when you look at the rail (all size 8/10) and you look at me that either I have put on weight or stolen the wardrobe of a smaller woman. I decide to pretend it is the latter, for dramatic purposes, if anyone asks
In front of me, speaking privately as if I wasn’t there, stood a man and woman looking at the New Orleans Christmas CD
Man: I’m shying away from Christmas for the rest of my life. Not to be grumpy about Christmas. But I don't like it.
In the end they bought: DVDs “ The Big Sleep”, “Delicatessen”, and “Amelie” for their daughter who “isn’t doing her french revision so she can watch this”. Their names were Laura and Richard.
I thought to myself: this is the most Lauras I have ever met in one day.
I have made a lot of new aquaintances. Maybe what am I doing is getting rid of stuff and collecting people
people are kind (mostly)
people are funny (often)
people are interesting (always)
people are rude (sometimes)
people are awkward
people are intense
people are shy
The seagulls flew overheard making me think of freedom. Seagulls don’t have stuff to carry around in suitcases.
Then a man carrying a microwavable dish of mash potatoes bought a Touch of Evil DVD for £1. He didn’t say much, only that he liked Tesco’s mash as it’s so creamy.
I overheard someone saying “ Her boyfriend’s a Brummie, and they spit when they speak” and then I thought about that for a bit, having many Brummie friends who don’t spit, at least, not so I’ve noticed
Towards the end of the day having made only £13 profit and having stood for 7 hours straight, I put a few bits on ebay and sold to three people within an hour and made another £60. I wrote to the Ebay people and told them what I was doing.
The next time, at Greenwich Clocktower Market was much better. But still, this is a very slow way to get rid of stuff and I am starting to see why Marie Kondo gets you to do it in sections and work hard and take it all to the charity shop. The thing is, in the summer I was literally living off what I sold as I had no income. So on I went. I sold my most precious books on Ebay and kept my nerve.
("I just know that something good is gonna happen. And just saying it might even make it happen." to quote Kate Bush)
Its October now and financially things are looking up a little. I finished watching Marie Kondo on Netflix and I am halfway through sorting the clothes. It turns out that I do not want to get rid of everything. I love quite a lot of things. The things with the good stories, or even with the sad stories. It is the things without stories that I want to get rid of and will. Sell when I need money and give away when I don’t need it so much.
Each of those things that I come across makes me think “that’s a story worth telling.” So instead of being a blog about selling stuff this will be a blog of stories. My life in pieces. Including:
The story of my Grandad's musical cigarette box
The story of the green beaded bag I have never used
The story of the sewing machine that has never worked
The story of the velvet hat which is 100 years old
The story of me selling stuff on markets
More to come.