The August Bank Holiday weekend is the busiest time of the year for car-boot sales - an institution which feels instinctively British, although it is in fact borrowed from the American garage sales of the 1970s. On this weekend more than any other, a peculiar urge will come over thousands of Brits intoxicated by the luxury of three consecutive days off work. These people will pack their cars with junk plundered from the houses of deceased relatives and the bedrooms of offspring long since flown the nest. They will fill Thermos flasks with watery tea, dig out the tatty tartan blanket from the garage, and head for a dusty car park in suburbia to flog the cracked and faded trinkets of the past to other punters - who, having cleared their boots of yesterdays' belongings, now have room for other people's wedding presents, chipped mugs and brocade cushions.
This year, however, there's an added poignancy: the public servants at the Inland Revenue, who have long turned a blind eye to sale profits, are starting to demand their slice of the booty - costing organisers thousands in back-dated tax.
"This could be it," says John Payne, a "booter" from East Kent Fairs, which has run sales in school car parks in the Dover area for 12 years. "Our last big weekend." For the estimated 250,000 car-boot faithful, today might be the beginning of the end. !