The smell of the charity shop, calling me home

After a brief aversion to anything that could be construed as vintage (call it Keep Calm-itis), I have returned to the charity shop. The smell, like the smell of a clean but seldom opened cupboard – the musk of an old friend. The faint remainder of steam from that stand up steaming machine you sometimes catch them using. The powdery smell of whatever they use to drive away the lovely cupboard smell. Maybe I have just lived in too many old shitty Victorian houses, where I have found that I inadvertently smell almost the same as a charity shop; maybe that’s why it smells like home.

I think my return to the charity shop also coincides with having moved to Leeds from Brighton. Now, pretty much the same proportion of seldom worn size 6 H&M work blouses and hanging-on-in-there lime green granddad shirts are in evidence. I would like to claim that Brighton charity shops were more hippyish or more expensive, but no, the same stuff, the same £3.50 – £6.50 price range – still feeling a bit more expensive than a charity shop used to be. Oh those 50p trousers, that £5 trench coat my friend Chrissie bought that had a full set of children’s teeth in the pockets… BUT I do think the move is partly to blame: what makes you feel more like a part of a new place than having raked through its rejectamenta? What clues can I find to how people think and feel here? What can I find worth in, that no-one else has for years on end?

The post-baby, post-employment (looking for work and failing to attract any) skintness also adds to the draw I suppose. And feeling a little like a fish out of water – new place, drifting a bit, poking my head out of the nest for a tentative forage within the safe parameters of the second hand. I went to St Luke’s in Chapel Allerton, just down the road from me, and I bought a dark green mug with a child’s drawing of some knights fighting (‘Agincourt ’98’ written on the bottom) for £1.50, and a high street mass produced grey sweatshirt with the famous Ramones logo on it for £3.00 (I thought initially, ‘bah they have ruined the Ramones for me’ and then returned ‘fuck it – I am reclaiming the Ramones: and man it does look like a comfortable top to watch TV in’). A long way from the spike heeled green t-bars I bought in a charity shop in Torquay when I was 16, but it’s a start. Charity shop – how I have missed you.


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