Spruiking sofas and faffing around

We had a garage sale here yesterday – we, being me and my neighbours in the next-door unit. In fact, they (bless them) did most of the legwork including advertising it on various on-line sites and running around putting out signs the night before. And what fabulous eye-catching signs they were! We had a steady flow of punters throughout the morning right up until we were packing up at 2pm.

Shaun - sign-writer and spruiker extraordinaire

Shaun – sign-writer and spruiker extraordinaire

I was happy to piggyback on their efforts as I’d just emerged from a somewhat gruelling two weeks at work which saw me working weekends, some evenings, on my days off and generally walking around with a rabbit-in-the-headlights deadline-driven mentality. I was working on a hefty application for three different organisations and it took a lot of hours, brain power and mental and physical knots.

So rummaging around for things to put in the sale was the perfect antidote to all the cerebral intensity. I had a couple of old suitcases, a somewhat deflated gym ball, a yoga mat (yoga doesn’t do it for me; all that holding and extending makes me tenser than ever), a self-inflating camping mat (I’m far too Princess and the Pea to go camping), bits of jewellery, crockery, clothes, an unused dog kennel (which I tried but failed to sell on behalf of my brother) and a sofa. And the sofa became the unwitting star of the show.

I bought the sofa a couple of years ago when my mother was here from England. We spotted it in a shop that called itself an antiques shop but was, in fact, more of a junk shop. Anyway, it was a vintage two-seater Chesterfield-style sofa upholstered in a floral design. Although I loved its shape and size, the floral design didn’t really blend with my other sofa or décor. I made do with drapes but they looked messy and student-y so I got a quote to have it re-upholstered. Suffice it to say that I could have bought two new sofas for the same price.

I look at IKEA online and kept an eye out on Gum Tree but nothing really grabbed me until I walked past the window of St. Vincent’s a few weeks ago. There was a two and a half-seater sofa in just the shade of green I was looking for. At only $60 it cost almost more to get it delivered but, never mind, I had a new sofa. I was reluctant to pay $40 to get my old one taken away so listed it on Gum Tree but got no takers. The garage sale was my last resort. Meanwhile it looked fairly ridiculous tipped up on its side against the window of my kitchen/living room.

My 'new' sofa from Vinnies being christened by his Lordship, Bertie

My ‘new’ sofa from Vinnies being christened by his Lordship, Bertie

My neighbour’s brother, Shaun, not only helped me get the sofa out of the house and down the driveway for the sale (and, boy, was it heavy!), he spruiked it like mad as did Bianca’s husband Christos. Now, for those of you who don’t live in Australia or know the vernacular, spruik means to promote or advertise. For all their talking it up, however, it looked as if we weren’t going to sell it. But then, around midday, a man came along looking for a two-seater sofa for his daughter. He telephoned her to describe it, knowing she was really looking for something beige. Shaun sprung into overdrive at this point, highlighting the beigey background colour, the comfort, size, elegance and absolute must-buy quality of my sofa. At the same time, he dropped the price down from $50 to $25 until the deal was done. The man also bought Bianca’s mother’s fire guard and stopped by for a chat, sharing some wonderfully succulent strawberries and blackberries he had purchased at a farmers’ market that morning.

Full on sofa spruiking

Full on sofa spruiking

And that’s what made the day such fun. We chatted, ‘spruiked’, bargained, haggled, nibbled on fruit, nuts and dips, joked and larked around and made a bit of pocket money along the way.


My vintage-style gilt mirror, while useful for ladies trying on tops and shoes, didn’t attract any offers. Not everybody likes the classical look. My 1970s house, although very different from my Victorian terrace in Oxford, still strongly reflects my English heritage with antiques dotted around, lots of china and other nods to past centuries. You can’t take the British out of this girl. After eleven years, G’day still doesn’t trip off the tongue but I can pronounce spruik. I still use a lot of English expressions. One of my buyers laughed at my use of the word faff yesterday. To faff, according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘is to spend time in ineffectual activity.’ There’s nothing wrong with faffing, it’s good for the soul in our busy, busy world. All this talk of England and Englishness reminds me that I still haven’t blogged about my August trip ‘home’. Next time! Meanwhile, I’m going to faff around for a bit – it is Sunday after all.

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