Stepping into a charity shop I struggle at first to break through the smell-barrier, made up of molecules that cling to things kept long in musty cupboards or plastic-sacks before being exposed to light once more and put on show for good causes. If the smell is tolerable I open to the time warped sphere of free-wheeling fantasies, pockets of memories, rejects from house-clearances, objects fallen victim to a de-cluttering frenzy. What brings me here is the hunter’s joy of finding random treasures among bric-a-brac. And there are the old ladies with their delight in a bargain.
I browse the bookshelf of a charity shop in my town, pleased with myself, having found two good-as-new classics I had once lent to friends and never got back. Standing in line to pay my £ 4 less a few pennies, I overhear the repeated phrase, ‘I have a great-grandson called Leo.’ After the fourth refrain, I look.
The old lady is happily immersed in her monologue while those around her are lost in their own internal worlds. She clutches a stuffed lion, the prettified type, not even Disney quality, and small enough to put into a coat-pocket. ‘I have a great-grand-son called Leo.’ Nobody takes notice. So what? I think. I haven’t got a grandchild yet, though if I had, I admit to myself, that child would occupy a special space in my heart. But an ugly stuffed lion, I catch myself thinking, what a crappy present, just because her great-grandchild’s name is Leo.
Finally the cashier wraps up the scrap of a lion and gives the woman a smile. The old lady beams, ‘I have a great-grandson called Leo.’ It’s all she wants – a smile in recognition of the pleasure she derives form this, for her, astounding synchronicity.
Irrespective of the touching fact that she rescued an obviously well-loved toy, my morbid imagination goes into overdrive, and I envisage the wizened great grandma faced with a real lion in its natural habitat, weighing ten times her weight and looking down on her . . .
Overjoyed, she says: ‘My great-grandson is called Leo.’