Monday, 23 July 2012

The elephant

I'm not sure if it's a sign that I'm getting old, or whatever, but I found that I was looking forward to the local car boot sale this Sunday.  The sun is blazing, and so we stroll along the stands, looking at other people's junk, and I read the stories of kids growing up, toys getting broken and discarded, retired tradesmen selling their now-unused tools and equipment.  Plus the occasional trader with collectors' items, sweets or trinkets.

I used to love jumble sales as a kid, but the idea  of giving your unwanted junk away for other people to sell for charity seems to have been replaced by the car boot sale, where you sell your stuff yourself, and keep the money.  I don't know if they ever had jumble sales in France, but car boots are popular.  I think though, as a result, prices are higher.  You used to get some real bargains at jumble sales; I remember with particular affection getting an enormous box of Meccano for next to nothing.  I guess, in a jumble sale, everything must go, or some poor devil is lumbered with getting rid of what's left.  If you're selling your own stuff, perhaps it retains a sentimental value. 

I spot a Primus stove.  Now I like Primus stoves, they have real, malevolent, personality.  The modern butane camping gaz burners have none at all, you just turn them on, light them, and off you go.  But a Primus is a different thing.   They work by evaporating paraffin, and the vapour is then mixed with air and burnt.  They generate a lot of heat.  Because they work by evaporating paraffin, you have to get them warm first so the paraffin evaporates, a process that involves meths and a wick.  When it is warm enough, you then pressurise the paraffin in its container, the paraffin passes through the heated pipes, evaporates, is mixed with air, and is burnt.  In theory.

In practice, when you are a spotty teenager, out camping, and borrowing your Dad's Primus that he picked up dirt cheap at a jumble sale, you are impatient to get things going.  But if you pressurise the paraffin before the tubes are hot enough, it squirts out in liquid form, then catches fire (from the meths).   You then have to get the burning Primus stove out from under the tent.  Once all the little fires are out you have to start again.  And once they are going you have to keep them pumped up, and keep the nozzle clear of debris (using a pricker), and so on.  They need to be cossetted.

My Dad had a Tilley lamp too, that worked on the same general principle, but it was much less fun. I would have bought the Primus at the car boot for old time's sake, but he wanted 30 euros.  Outrageous.

I spot an elephant, or rather, a plant pot stand in the shape of an elephant.  Now porcelain elephants are not my thing, but my friend Leo likes them and has some dotted around his garden, supporting pot plants.  I'm not sure if he will like this one, but for the negotiated price it's worth the risk, so I buy it, and after the sale we take it round to his place.  He (and his wife, Thérèse) is delighted, and the added bonus is that it's Leo's birthday, too.

It turns out that Leo has a Primus stove as well, a modern one;  I have not seen one like that before, very compact and efficient-looking.  It even has a regulator.  I wonder if it has character?  We stay to enjoy a coffee in his delightful garden before setting off home for lunch.


the fly in the web said...

Oh dear....I had a primus stove (father's) and a tilley lamp (father's) and I deeply regret leaving them behind in France.
They had character.

Perhaps one day we'll give up on selling the house and just container everything over....which should fill the San Jose house as well as this one....and perhaps introduce the car boot sale to Costa Rica!

Tim Trent said...

We had a race once. Two cold stoves to boil the same amount of water. The Primus beat Camping Gaz hollow.

James Higham said...

Yes, I remember the old Primus stoves. Wow, those things were dangerous - especially the lamps you could run off the gas bottles.

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