Cash in the attic? You have got to be joking

It was the Sunday of the neighbourhood sale. It was the third consecutive year we had set out our stall to flog off our precious junk.

Dozens of families in the area we call neighbourhood were also hawking their wares in the front gardens of their homes for the delight and delectation of bargain-hunters.

The first year it was easy. We got shot of some redundant garden furniture, piles of old books, CDs, DVDs and nick-nacks… or possibly knick-knacks. When is a nick a knick?

Last year, having cleared a passageway in the garage through the stacked up assortment of garden tools, excess crockery, wine bottles empty, wine bottles full, miscellaneous picnic accessories and overspill kitchen appliances (It’s supposed to house a car? You’re kidding, right?) we were able to access the stuff we hadn’t been able to reach in year one.

This year, having sold everything from the back of the garage my husband had to get into the attic – and there was precious little cash up there.

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“Can I come down now?”

“No, you stay up there until you find something valuable.”

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It would have made all the difference, I’m sure, if Angela Rippon had turned up with an antiques expert.

The trouble is, I am not a hoarder unlike my gorgeous mum – she’s a Scorpio which explains it, apparently. I rang her and tried to persuade her to delve into her drawers and sell some of her odds and ends but she proved immovable.

“I like my little bits and pieces,” she protested when I went round to her house, tied her to a chair and rummaged in her cupboards. In the end, I gave in and went home. In the 55 years I have known my mum, I have yet to change her mind about anything.

When I got back I couldn’t find my husband. The I remembered.

“You can come out of the attic now,” I shouted up the loft ladder.

Blinking as he re-emerged into the daylight he climbed down clutching a large carrier bag. “I’ve found the Jurassic Park figures,” he said triumphantly.

I knew the contents of the attic were old but hadn’t realised they were antediluvian.

The items originated, of course, from the 1993 film about reviving extinct species by using DNA samples preserved in amber. The moral of that story is to avoid getting stuck to a tree.

“We could sell these. There’s a velociraptor and everything,” he said.

“They might be worth something one day,” I said, unsure.

So we checked on ebay, the online marketplace, and found that some of them were selling for as much as �8. We decided we would hang on to them.

We collected all the books we’ve read over the last year plus a few more. A couple had to go back on the shelves when I realised I hadn’t read them. This is the problem with buying into the “three for the price of two” offers. You can never get three really good books. One of them always turns out to be too literary.

I’m too old to be much improved by novelists who use words I don’t know. If I see the words “Man Booker Prize shortlisted” I hyperventilate and head for the Martina Coles.

Meanwhile, back in the attic (I think he was beginning to like it up there), my husband had found something exciting.

“What about this then?” He produced his trump card – a lace sideboard runner that probably started life white but had turned yellow with age.

“I’m not sure there’s much of a market for those and it looks rather discoloured.”

“I’ll wash it,” he said and, introducing an element of danger, added: “By hand.”

“You probably need a specialist whitener.”

He was not to be put off and cut open an Ariel liquid sachet and spent the next 15 minutes pummelling and squeezing – the lace runner, that is.

“It looks a lot better,” he announced.

“But still not white,” I observed. It went back in the attic.

In the end we managed to muster enough to sell. I set up the paste table outside the front door and drew a maroon cloth over it.

My next door neighbour watched. “You look like Paul Daniels doing that.”

“And for my next trick I shall saw in half the lovely Debbie McGee, as played by my lovely husband,” I announced.

A small crowd gathered but I had to disappoint them as I sold the hacksaw in last year’s sale.

As soon as I put the first sale item out, a large glass water jug, a passer-by pounced on it.

“How much is that.”

“Oh, um �2?”

“Yes, I’ll have that, thank you.”

The alacrity of the acceptance made me worry it might be a priceless antique after all. I checked its bottom for ‘Lalique’.

There was still another quarter of an hour to go before the sale was due to begin and people were already buying stuff. At this rate we would have nothing left.

“I told you not to put things out too early,” my husband choked me off.

Having never worked in retail – unless you count the tray of ice creams I carried when I was a cinema usherette – I am not well-versed in sales. When people came over to look at our stall I wasn’t sure whether to speak to them or not. Some conversations would have gone nowhere.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for an original painting by John Constable that you have always assumed is a print. I will take it on to the Antiques Roadshow and tell the expert I bought it for a fiver from car boot sale.”

I was equally uncertain about making eye contact. Eventually, getting stressed, I went indoors to make a cup of coffee. I immediately came back outside and grabbed a couple of mugs off the stall. “I told you we should hang on to a few,” said my husband reproachfully.

Later in the morning my mum and dad arrived to see how we were doing. Mum bought one of my books and dad went off to explore the neighbours’ sales.

Sitting on a chair surrounded by paintings for sale my mum looked rather vulnerable so my husband quickly wrote up a notice “Not for sale” and attached it to her jacket.

We packed up a bit early. All the books were sold but this was the third year running we hadn’t been able to shift the Osborne House thimble. That will be out again next year... along with the sitting room furniture.

It’s all we have left.

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