Sunday, May 22, 2005

Junk and Utter Junk

Before we left the UK to come to Paris, we had a pile of stuff that, under normal circumstances, we might have kept, but which we couldn't justify packing up into crates and carrying all the way to France with us. We decided to flog it at a car boot sale, something we had never done before.

It was a rather depressing event. A huge number of people selling off their belongings in the drizzling rain, a sort of post-apocalyptic air to the whole affair. My wife seemed to enjoy it however, and came away with 100 pounds of extra pocket money. When I told a French colleague what we had been doing, he was aghast. "You sold all your junk?" he exclaimed, "that's terrible. In France we leave things we don't need outside our houses for people who need it more than us."

And that is indeed what happens. On Friday evening, worn out chairs, battered suitcases, broken lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners and orange fur-effect cushions all end up under the shadey plane trees along the avenues. In the twilight, old cars appear, their boots popping open with junk hanging out the back. A West African man with his two children helping, a boy and a little girl in a dress, hop around the piles of stuff, looking for items of value. Slowly the worth is sifted out of the heap and the remaining junk spreads out sadly over the sidewalk, waiting for Saturday's rubbish lorry to arrive.

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