My friend Ann loves browing in charity shops. Walking up Arbroath High Street, and passing the OXFAM shop, she spotted the face of Mr William Gladstone, a Victorian Prime Minister, resplendently gazing out from a china plate. It brought back memories of her childhood home and a similar plate that hung on the sitting room wall.
Mr. Gladstone was carefully taken out of the window. The price tag said £2.00. The assistant smiled, adding, “ I wonder if you’d be interested in Mrs. Gladstone ? We left her in the back store room!” I’m delighted to report that Mr. and Mrs. G have been happily re-united for the princely sum of four pounds and hang side by side with a view of the North Sea.
You have to be quick and decisive in local charity shops. Last month I spotted a large, shiny, copper kettle for seven pounds. I hesitated, after all my ordinary electric kettle is going strong and only needs plugging in for a quick cup of tea. This copper one would require a lot of elbow grease and maintenance. However, overnight I reflected on howbeautiful it looked and warmed to the idea of it sitting in my kitchen- even if I needed to polish it regularly. When I went back the following day it had already gone to another hearth in Arbroath.
My daughter on the other hand was much more decisive. Browsing around the charity shops in St Andrews she found a solid silver tureen ladle with a 1906 hallmark for £6.00! She bought it immediately and their Cambridge family meals now have a special splendour.
Recently I was searching for a cummerbund for my grandson who was about to ‘step out ‘in his great grandfather’s dinner jacket. A casual enquiry at the local Heart Foundation resulted in an invitation into their storeroom where boxes of labeled and tidied articles were waiting for focused shoppers. Out of the first box tumbled an incredible range of neckwear; funereal black ties, exotic night-club dazzlers; thin shoe-lace styles, kipper ties, and a psychedelic selection from the 60’s. The next box was overflowing with bow ties: ones that clipped, others that hooked and a few classic ones that need an extra helping hand to tie manually Finally, success, a scarlet cummerbund surfaced and is currently being worn with a vintage dinner jacket.
It’s the stories behind these objects that fascinate me. I wonder where Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone were living before they were dropped into Arbroath’s High Street? What amazing parties have the cummerbunds attended?
This week I’m off to the monthly auction at Taylor’s auction house in Montrose. On my first visit, a couple of years back, I watched open mouthed as assistants manhandled magnificent stags heads off the walls. The bidder was ecstatic. Where were they bound for? A restaurant? A banker’s Scottish pile? America?
Other unusualeccentricities for auction have included Polynesian figures, swords, antique pistols, bagpipes, Russian great coats and bottles of very old whisky. it’s amazing what some people collect. I feel another blog coming on.