Over the stable door: Risking fury over sale in aid of charity

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TWO OF my morning riders are embarking on the Countryside Alliance charity race at Aintree in October. The chance of riding at the most famous National Hunt racecourse in the world was a chance neither were ever going to miss out on and the excitement is building in the yard. Both have ridden in a race before so they know how much work it entails.

They need to raise £600 to participate so we’ve begun with what seems to be the annual fundraising antics. Stef, my head girl, has decided to offer donation pony rides at the local village fête to kickstart her campaign.

Her fellow competitor Sarah has a head-start having found a sponsor for her breeches. Last week she was busy collecting junk from her friends, in preparation for a nearby car boot sale. She set off with her car laden full to bursting with the unwanted presents and household jumble. Foolishly anticipating my sales technique to be of a high calibre she asked if I’d assist her. With Tris and my son Felix in tow, we set off to help with the fundraising attempt.

I’ve never been to a car boot sale before and can only say it was quite an experience. We set out Sarah’s ‘bric-a-brac’ into a neat arrangement of chaos. Amongst my jockey’s wares there were a few bargain gifts to pull in the punters but we reckoned 80 per cent of it was unsaleable tat. Hand warmers, Christmas decorations, chipped bowls, a ladybird back massager and other bits, of little use to anyone.

Sarah made a bet with me. There was £10 riding on the ageing 80’s Laura Ashley lampshade I’d donated, if only I could sell them. They’d many years ago been part of a fashionable set belonging to my mother. She’d not seen them for 15 years so I guessed it was unlikely they would be missed - although I suspect the first thing she’ll do when reading this will be to pick up the phone and demand their safe return.

When the gates opened the punters steady flow began. There were families with young kids running from one stall to the next grabbing toys, professional ‘car-booters’ looking to resell and pensioners on the hunt for a bargain. We attracted quite a crowd. Toys, dog bowls, bags, books, mirrors, it was non-stop. We traded in bewilderment at what people bought.

“Yes, but you just wait,” Sarah said confidently. “No-one upon no-one will buy those faded old lampshades.”

The day continued and the lampshades never moved. Others round us began packing up. The families had dispersed and just as it looked like my mother’s lampshades would be returning to the attic a lady wandered over to us. She picked up the lampshades, inspecting them closely. “Laura Ashley,” I said encouragingly. “Yeah, their 1982 line,” whispered Sarah beside me before I stamped on her foot.

“How much?” the lady asked. “50p,” I said, determined not to miss this chance. “Will you take 40?” Before she could change her mind I had put them in a bag and handed them over. “Done,” I yelped clapping my hands. Sarah was flabbergasted. Shaking her head she threw a £10 note in to the charity box.

At the end of the day with just a few bits left we packed away. The afternoon had raised nearly £100 towards the charity race, a handy start for what turned out a highly entertaining day’s work.