Charity shops. Now there’s a subject for a blog.
Walking up Arbroath High Street, and passing the OXFAM shop, my friend Ann spotted the face of the Victorian Prime Minister, Mr William Gladstone, gazing out from a china plate. It brought back memories of her childhood and a similar plate that was displayed on the family sitting room wall. The price tag said two pounds and as Mr. Gladstone was carefully taken out of the window. The assistant asked , “I wonder if you’d be interested in Mrs. Gladstone ? She’s 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 year I spotted a large, shiny, copper kettle for seven pounds. I hesitated, after all my ordinary electric kettle was going strong and only needed plugging in for a quick cup of tea and this copper one would require a lot of elbow grease and maintenance.
Overnight I reflected on how beautiful it looked and I warmed to the idea of it sitting in my kitchen- even if I needed to polish it regularly. I rushed back the following day only to find it had already gone to another hearth in Arbroath.
My daughter on the other hand was much more decisive. Browsing around charity shops in upmarket 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 certain splendour.
Recently I was searching for a cummerbund for my eldest 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 back room where boxes of labeled articles were waiting for focused shoppers. Box one included 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. Box two overflowed with bow ties: ones that clipped, others that hooked and a few classic ones that required an extra hand to tie manually Finally, success! A scarlet cummerbund, to complement the 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 Auctions in Montrose. A couple of years back, I watched open mouthed as assistants carried magnificent stags’ heads around. The bidder was ecstatic. Where were they bound for? A restaurant? A banker’s Scottish pile? America? What fun!
Other unusual auctions have included Polynesian figures, swords, antique pistols, bagpipes, toys, Russian great coats and bottles of very old whisky. It’s amazing what some people collect, love and then leave behind as they move on.