I had that Thinker in the back of my cab once

Not pounds 200. Not pounds 100. To you, love, 75p. Philip Sweeney finds gems in a car boot

It was retro cuisine, the alleged vogue for Sixties dishes such as Black Forest gateau and chicken Kiev - as reported by the new tits 'n' brioche monthly Eat Soup - that finally convinced me. There is now no field of human consumption in which the naff and cast-off are not in the vanguard of desirability; the car boot sale is henceforth unopposed as the chic-est, best-value, ineluctably most sensible retail institution of the beginning of the third millennium. And still, unlike most so-called flea markets, cheap.

"Personally, I think no-fashion is the most sophisticated look of all," observed Christian Lacroix in a recent interview, putting his finger flatteringly on one's very own "look", before going on to reveal that the decor of his house in the rue des Beaux Arts had been acquired at flea markets in Paris, Camden and Bermondsey at a cost of not more than pounds 200 to pounds 300 an item! (My exclamation mark.) Good God, Chris, I thought, they must have seen you coming, mincing round Bermondsey in impeccably clashing jacket and tie, brandishing your platinum Credit Lyonnais charge card. For pounds 200 at a car boot sale, you could buy an entire life, with any two of the traders who took your fancy thrown in for the extra pony.

The ascendancy of the car boot sale aesthetic first became apparent in the field of music, as the Easy Listening phenomenon took hold last year. Where else do you get those witty Les Baxter and Herb Alpert LPs, and the Tretyakoff prints and Babycham glasses to go with them? Within weeks of taking up Easy Listening, I had acquired, for 75p, a 12-album Reader's Digest set, boxed in slate-blue Nagahide with gold tooling and certified excellent by David Jacobs, entitled Mood Music for Listening and Relaxation, covering, album by album, all the key sub-genres: Moonlight Piano, Hits from Broadway, Vienna Bonbons, Candlelight and Wine ... From then on, the classics dropped into my grasp like ripe Black Forest gateaux - items such as Hammond A Gogo, Vols I and II, "famous evergreens and latest hits presented in true A-gogo style by James Last and his Hammond-Bar-Combo", on the cover of which the hyphenated maestro leers teutonically from behind a large candlestick at a permed model, as she sips a-gogo style from an antique silver Bavarian mulled wine cup. Soon I became frankly elitist - for so-called Easy Listening, some of this stuff is practically bloody Shostakovich - and began to reject anything but the truly moronic: Settle Down with Roger Whittaker, Funky Junction Play a Tribute to Deep Purple and the magisterially facile Let Phil Tate Play for Your Dance Party.

Then it became apparent that not just Easy Listening, but all aspects of musical life were to be found at the car boot sale disquaire. I set myself a simple task: for the price of one new CD - pounds 14.99, say - to buy an entirely representative modern music collection and the means to play it. The work of two hours, it turned out. First, an immaculate 1968 Dansette Viva in cream and maroon (long MoT, almost new stylus) for a fiver. Then the library: early opera (a 1958 version of White Horse Inn featuring Rita Williams, the Rita Williams singers and the Tony Osborne Orchestra), the Bristol Sound (Time to Play by Russ Conway), jungle (A Swingin' Safari by Bert Kaemphert), drum'n'bass (ditto with the Dansette's treble and bass dials both up to full whack), world music (Vacaciones en Benidorm by Anon), queercore (Gai Gai les Bretons by the Robert Trabucco Musette Ensemble), Celtic New Age (Gai Gai les Bretons with the Dansette at 16 rpm).

With pounds 1.50 still left, I indulged myself in two outstanding specimens of organ arcana: Ena Baga's Hammond Holiday by Reginald Dixon's replacement at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool, a lady adept at Swing, Latin, ballads and/or legitimate techniques; and The Cordovox Magic of Valentino, a sort of bargain-basement Irish Liberace with a purple ruffled shirt, 27,000 fans (Irish, presumably), baby seal and a pounds 2,000 stereophonic Cordovox capable of reproducing any sound from a Hawaiian guitar to a jet plane.

So successful was my record experiment, I began to apply the same principle to other areas, with equally spectacular results. In absolutely any field of human endeavour, you can replicate dernier cri fashion, in the space of half a morning and for a fraction of the cost. Clothing is easy, as 90 per cent of today's fashion headlines deal in reworkings of early Seventies this or late Fifties that or mid-period Biba the other. I settled more or less at random on the English Eccentrics photospread unveiled in the Independent on Sunday last March and rapidly put together a version of the Rifat Ozbek yellow minidress, thigh boots and gloves - couture that cost a couple of grand, presumably - from the crowded racks of Ego, Dorothy, Tammy Girl or Yessica labels at an "Any Three Items for pounds 1" stall. The matching yellow wig took a little longer, and cost a cool two quid, but I found it eventually, labelled "Fun Wig: Adult Carnival Accessory. Made in China", on a novelty stall, along with Taiwanese pantyhose, joke condoms and sticky trolls. Vivienne Westwood's English Eccentrics coat was a cinch, too, and, as for the Katharine Hamnett Sixties leather jacket, sequined bikini and tartan tights outfit, the whole thinking was so uncannily in tune with the contents of the novelty stall, I could have sworn the stallholder actually was Katharine Hamnett, kitted out with fake beer gut, raddled make-up and T-reg Sierra, for some sort of stylish weekend prank. Furniture and interiors are almost as easy as clothes. Seventies-style shag-pile rugs and G-Plan furniture are in, says issue number one of Wallpaper magazine. Nothing more to add, really, except perhaps to draw attention to the investment potential of china carthorses in little plastic harnesses pulling barrels of sherry or sets of fetching satin-effect metal coasters. And to note the wide scope for individual creativity. "There's something fantastically sinister about toys," remarks the video director, Zanna, as she shows the contents of her converted schoolhouse studio - all distressed walls, lurid fabrics and groups of disfigured dolls - to this month's Elle Decoration. Absolutely right, especially when deployed in juxtaposition with other curious objects like the wacky and collectable Ingram's Perfex bakelite enema set I spotted for pounds 1.50 recently, or an enigmatic and disturbing row of charred Yorkshire pudding tins.

Talking of which, what, finally, about car boot cuisine? For retro recipes, no problem. Try the following from the Farepak Book of Parties and Entertaining, authored by one Myra Street in 1968: bacon and egg pie - a virile, native and happening quiche lorraine from the Television Suppers chapter (ingredients: bacon, eggs, pastry, Worcestershire sauce). Or this original and elegant main course accompaniment from the Christmas Dinners section: fruit rings (ingredients: one can pineapple rings, one can peach halves, one can cherries; method: place cherries in pineapple rings on peach halves and heat). The ingredients can be found at knock-down prices and from different provenances, along with Finnish Panda brand Jammy Dodgers, Arabic label export Midget Gems and bags of things called Foam Mis-shapes.

On reflection, however, the dish most perfectly representative of car boot sale chic seems to me to be the pickled egg, so often to be found in close proximity to lead-effect garden gnomes and bulldogs announcing "Piss Off" or "Make My Day". With a big jar of pickled eggs on board, you can reverse confidently into the future, conjuring a merry dialectic as you go between fashion, no-fashion and junk.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
News
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
books
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
art
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
film
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
TV
News
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
books
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
music
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
music
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss