I am definitely a one for bargains, if it's something used or slightly worn at the edges I go weak at the knees. There is something about walking into a charity shop and not knowing what I am in there for, little gems will leap out at you, in your hunt these treasures somehow find you. During the economic crisis a few years ago, people started flocking to these small higgledy piggledy havens, and I know exactly why.
Growing up, my friends would never have set foot into an Oxfam or The Salvation Army; where as I didn't have any trouble with strolling in with pride. Not only would I find something cheap and unique, lets face it I have never been one to conform. Whether it be clothes, books, odds and sods for around the house, knowing that these objects have once been loved and cared for now saddens me to see them in the scrap heap of the unwanted world. Their junk now becomes a cave of wonder to me and others alike. Someone makes a b line for an item you have spotted, you're too late, damn the voice is screaming, but you produce politely your famous middle class smile and pretend you have seen something else. Some are too proud and could never own something second hand. The beauty of an item, a story that lies deep within it, begins to unravel in my mind. As I am writing this now, I am wrapped in a hand knitted cardigan, I can only envisage a little old lady, full of stories knitting this with love, each of the ten dainty buttons placed carefully, the spacing not perfect but the individuality screamed out to me. What I would have given to have been sat there with this woman, as she looped each stitch over the needles; her paper thin skin covering the weathered hands that are telling me her stories in wool. I would have sat and listened as I did with my own great grandmother many years ago as she would crochet my winter jumpers, blanket or socks, the smell of talc and toffee's filled the room, a comforting warmth I still feel embedded in my soul.
Hidden away at the back of the store you will usually find the lost souls of flicked pages, the folds, the number of fingers who have lived this story have now stained the pages a used brown. The excitement surges through me, as I flick to the first page searching for a inscription "Dearest Norma, Hope you enjoy this as much as I have throughout my years "Never be afraid of what you know" With all my love Aunt Polly, Christmas 1939. A copy of Black Beauty I inherited from my Great Aunt Norma many years ago. The personalisation is now somehow passed onto me, as I read each page I now wonder if the previous owner enjoyed the book? My mind takes me to an imaginary book club of ages, fascinating.
A copy of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, was my latest purchase. A New Mermaids edition, first published in 1965, on the beautifully illustrated cover is a reconstruction of an Elizabethan theatre drawn by C. Walter Hodges, 60p, filled with notes, scribbles and class timetable etched on the back of the cover.
Some will argue that buying these books we are making a great saving at the authors expense. How so? These now unwanted gems would in turn never be enjoyed again or thrown away, at least this way we (the ones who want to enjoy) have the chance to do so. Some great novels/poetry are now either rare or are not in circulation any more. Our only option is charity shops or second-hand book stores. Should we close those as well? No of course not, the fact we are giving money to NPO (Non Profit Organisation) means there shouldn't be an argument at all, not to mention the amount of trees we are saving.
Stepping down off my high horse my conclusion is not to feel ashamed of these places, and sometimes girls, you will even find Topshop goodies still with the labels on. Laurie Rose x