… odd little shops …

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.’


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4 responses to “… odd little shops …

  1. Ha! That woman was experiencing one of the delights of writing, or creating any art: exploiting symbols to uncover some semblance of order in a chaotic world. And there’s no better exemplar of such chaos than a second-hand store. This also reminds me that I need to take a look at “Last Days of the Transitional Objects Institute”.


  2. Ha ha, that’s very good.

    I think you capture the charity shop scenario perfectly. They’re like that here, too. Staffed with those who need to ‘do good’ and frequented often by those who need to speak to others and have little other recourse. All a little sad when viewed that way, but equally I think there’s a richness in those scenarios that adds much to life. Less intriguing shops, staffed by young folk on minimum wage, are soulless places – at least in the smelly charity shops there is a heart.


    • Gosh, do you realise what you’re saying? Smelly charity shops are among the few shops left with a heart. The thing is you’re right, had never thought of it like that. I dread to think of a future all clean and bright and soulless. We need a revolution … of some kind.


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