My friend Ann loves Charity shops.Recently she was walking up Arbroath High Street, and passing OXFAM, when she spotted Mr William Gladstone glowering out from a china plate. Despite the Victorian Prime Minister’s gloom, it brought back memories of Ann’s childhood where her parents had a similar plate hanging on their sitting room wall.
Mr. Gladstone was carried carefully from the window. The price tag said £2.00. The assistant smiled helpfully and said, “He’s a bit expensive but if you like him I wonder if you would be interested in Mrs. Gladstone too? 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 now hang side by side with a view of the North Sea.
I’ve discovered you have to be quick and decisive if you see something in a charity shop. Last month I saw a beautiful big copper kettle for seven pounds. I hesitated, after all my functional electric kettle is going strong and it only needs plugging in. This copper one would require a lot of elbow grease and maintenance. However, overnight I reflected on how beautiful it looked and warmed to the idea of polishing it. Alas, when I went back it had already gone to another hearth in Arbroath.
My daughter on the other hand was much more decisive. Doodling 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 Cambridge family meals now have a certain splendor.
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 a focused shopper. Out of the first box tumbled an enormous array 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 had bow ties: ones that clipped, bow ties that hooked and those devious ones that always need an extra helping hand to tie. Finally, success, a scarlet cummerbund surfaced and is currently being worn in the Home Counties underneath 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 and bow ties 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. I wondered were they bound for. A restaurant? A banker’s Scottish pile? America?
Other eccentricities have included Polynesian figures, swords, antique pistols, bagpipes Russian great coats and bottles of very old whisky… it’s amazing what comes out of peoples’ houses …. I feel another blog coming on.