I see the makers of Love Island have decided to dress contestants in secondhand clothes from eBay. This counts as good news, sustainability-wise, but I would have been even happier if they’d gone to the local charity shop.
I’ve loved a good chazza, as no one in Leith calls it, since I spent most of my childhood getting dragged around them. Coming across one of those rotating bookcases stuffed with Georgette Heyer and PD James paperbacks is a deeply Proustian experience for me. Charity shops are microcosms of our high streets, telling us all we need to know about the cut of a place’s jib. Anything that’s kind to the climate and mean to capitalism should be welcomed as warmly as a vintage porcelain boxer dog for £3. (No regrets.) There should really be a Great British Charity Shop Off on telly by now.
I love them for their specificity, and the identi-kitsch that lies within: the dressmaking patterns, maps, mugs, dusty glassware, Jamie Oliver cookbooks and James Last records. When I go home to visit my dad and sister in south-west London, it’s all last season’s Margaret Howell and, no matter the decade, giant Monsoon dresses. The kind of charity shops Mary Portas once spruced up. Here in Leith, people do their actual shopping in them and as the cost of living crisis deepens, they will be used more. How appalling that it should fall, once again, to charities.
They’re also where the best encounters happen. Yesterday I was examining a Count Basie record for scratches in my local British Heart Foundation shop when a middle-aged man tapped me on the shoulder. My first thought was: “HE WANTS TO TAKE MY £2 COUNT BASIE RECORD! NEVER!” Swiftly followed by: “HE WANTS TO MANSPLAIN JAZZ TO ME! NEVER!” Well, he wanted to let me know that in “the Bethany up the road there are three Basies, rare ones, £1.50 each”. He winked at me, told me to “go for it, lass”, and we went our separate ways.