Last year we walked around and got our feet wet on Queen’s Day. This year, earlier in the week, I got it into my head that I wanted to try and yard-sale.
I spent the week rounding up unneeded items, and on Sunday I baked orange-chocolate chip scones. No one could tell me exactly what time to claim my spot in the madness, but I’d been invited to two sales in the Hague that started at 6 a.m. Figuring Delft was probably a couple steps down from the bigger city, I loaded up my IKEA shopper and headed out the door around 7:30 Monday morning, while Tim was still in bed. I was having doubts.
“I feel stupid,” I said. And I did feel stupid, walking to the center wearing a stuffed backpack, pulling the shopper with a laundry rack stuck on it, carrying a cupcake carrier of scones. As I neared the Markt, the only sellers I saw setting up were commercial; and they were hardly ready, putting goods out on long wooden tables. I’m too early, I thought.
Then I came into the Markt and could see down where the blue heart sculpture is, behind the Nieuwe Kerk. I was greeted by full-scale yard-sale mania. Clothing and knick-knacks and who-knows-what sprawled everywhere, while people sat comfortably in lawn chairs, sipping their coffee. My conclusion swung: I’m too late.
The sidewalks were buried already, with any empty spaces marked in chalk or tape: “Bewoners”– residents only. (It’s not unlike staking your parking space in the winter in Cambridge.) On Dertienhuizen I found a small unclaimed spot next to a potato truck and resolutely set out my stuff: clothes hanging from the laundry rack; books, shoes, and miscellany spread on a beach towel alongside the plate of scones, little Nederlands flags stuck in them. I leaned against the building and took out a book, feeling a little self-conscious.
I didn’t read for long. What I didn’t internalize last year on Queen’s Day (because I was too busy trying to make my way through the mobs) is that the people-watching is choice. It’s amazing. For one thing, people are decked out in all manner of odd orange outfit. And they come out with intent to buy: pulling empty suitcases or carrying big grocery bags to cart their treasures home. They come with agendas: we ran into friends who were specifically hunting lamps. And so the main action is just watching people walk away with whatever they just purchased, including:
- a lawn jockey
- a long surfboard, carried by a string of four small girls (happy summer to you)
- a huge photo of the Arc de Triomphe
- a set of yellow vintage luggage
Imagine several hundred garage sales all jammed next to each other and you’ve got the idea. Tim came and joined me around 9 and speculated that there must be a steady state of “stuff” in Delft: it just moves from the shops to one house to another to another.
So seventy-five percent of the fun of Queen’s Day was watching the spectacle. The other twenty-five percent was selling the first of my scones. (Followed, in reasonably quick succession, by all of the remaining scones but two: one of which we ate, and one of which I gave to a small boy.)
On the side of me opposite the potato truck, a family was sitting outside their front door selling bags and baby clothes, and their boy was the one expressing a significant interest in the scones. Partway through the morning, we struck up a conversation with them that lasted until partway through the afternoon, stopping only for the excitement of one of us occasionally selling something for 50 cents.
The sun grew strong and water taxis started passing on the canal (along with homemade constructions like a partial couch on an inflatable raft; see below). Our new friends offered us sunblock complete with grains of last year’s sand, and I thought the Queen must have some pull to order up this weather.
The crowds thickened and thickened until crossing from one side of the street to the other made me feel I was in danger of being trampled. This is about my crowd-density threshold, and with that many people coming by, we figured that whatever hadn’t sold yet, wasn’t going to sell. To my surprise, the big hits were the scones and the English-language novels. I had a few pairs of impulse-bought shoes in fine condition and no one wanted those; the same went for clothing. Total haul? €12 (exceeding my goal of €10) and three new friends.
“Next year,” I told Tim, “baked goods. Baked goods all the way.” Another sure bet, he suggested, was to run a business like the following: