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I moved house three months ago, but it was ages before I bust my way into the neighbourhood group chat. It’s not very porous, that membrane between the virtual and the real. Social media can’t just guess that you have arrived – you have to know a person who knows a person.

In my previous ’hood, we spent all our time arguing about the low-traffic neighbourhood scheme and asking if anyone had witnessed a bike theft. It was a little curtain-twitchy, with more than its fair share of people who thought a teenager walking down the road was in itself suspicious.

Here, less than half a mile away, the social mix to my untrained eye is exactly the same: an unending cycle of people giving things away. It’s unpredictable, with no item too weird or small: a black kitten; some harissa; a blackcurrant bush; a lever-arch file. The randomness throws me into disarray and the freeness cracks through all my filters. Who’s to say I don’t want some harissa? When might a kitten come in handy? Sometimes they are selling things, which triggers a different consumer response – like, if the lever-arch file is free, but a poster of a famous surfing beach is £30, then maybe the poster is amazing.

Simultaneously, the new customs regime following an event I decline ever again to mention by name has started to unfold. The augurs are ill for almost every industry, but the immediate impact seems to be people in the UK buying an appliance from Europe for £12.95 and finding themselves stiffed with double that in some incomprehensible duty, while friends in Europe are paying fees on presents from the UK out of all proportion (unless the gift were a Fabergé egg, which it never is).

The most normal adaptation I can make to this without an unhelpful level of despair is to resolve only to buy things from round the corner or, when there isn’t anything to buy, limit my acquisitions to free stuff. Finally, early man’s barter system, which was always an economist’s myth, has become real. I’m off to swap some marmalade for a huge cardboard box. Just for the thrill.