I helped my parents at a car boot sale yesterday.
Nothing unusual there – we’ve quite often gone along to clear stuff out and make a bit of extra cash over the years. They’re a great place to do some people watching and have a chat or two with strangers.
A personal highlight was the man on the pitch next to us. According to his wife, who was left babysitting both their stall and their child, he had quickly nipped off to get some more change. She was not happy when he tried to sneak a set of golf clubs he’d just bought into the back of their car when he returned about half an hour later.
Another was the chap who saw me wrestling with a clothes rail in a high wind. He cheerily informed me that that was why he doesn’t bother selling clothes at these things. I said if he raised the point with the boss (my Mum, in this case), I’d really appreciate it. He didn’t.
After a stint rearranging the stall and helping get a couple of bits sold, I went to see what the other sellers had. I was getting distracted by a man’s collection of guitars when I got a phone call. It was from my Mum.
“Can you come back, please? Someone wants you to sign a book.”
Now, my Mum is a huge fan, despite the fact I’m not famous for anything. I can barely get work out and I don’t think she’s ever actually read any of it. But minor details like that never stopped her.
It turned out that someone was about to go and study a degree similar to mine. They had purchased a bunch of my old textbooks, and even the last spare copy of a book I was involved with writing in my final year. Sort of a collaborative novel. We self-published it for fun.
And so there I was, signing this book and giving career advice to a teenager like she was a fan. Her Mum, who was also present, was happily chatting to me about travelling and what I was going to write next too.
I’d never been in this situation before. I had no idea what I was doing. I just kept talking and trying to be nice.
It was surreal. I felt like a bit of a fraud, to be totally honest. Not least because people were still trying to rummage through our boxes of knick-knacks while all this was going on.
If ever there was an advert for not getting into writing for the money, I think that was it.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the initial conversation between our mothers had been like, for it to bring us all to this point. Not least because, soon after, my sister also introduced them to her newborn son. He’d clearly been mentioned previously as well.
I asked my Mum about all this a few minutes later, once my confusion and awkwardness levels had reset to something approaching normal.
“I’m very good at giving people a potted family history” was the only explanation I got as she shrugged and went back to telling someone how much an old handbag was.