I like shopping. It’s part of my personal history, it’s in my genes (Mom, Dad and grandmother), and even where I met Andrew. Marshall Field’s Housewares Department. I worked in retail management for many years because, Music Composition Degree.
These days, though, probably my favorite venue is thrift stores (or Charity Shops as the Brits say). I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, the visual stimuli and that peculiar smell of used clothing. The chance that there will be a da Vinci drawing lurking behind the picture you bought for the frame.
Good news! Just about every town we have stopped in here has at least one! And these stores are in the central downtown area, sometimes with very chi-chi neighbors. Pedestrian streets abound with them. Glee! The reason is these stores used to house grocers, green grocers, butchers, hardware stores, appliance stores and that ilk. None of those Mom and Pop stores held up against the chains who opened on the outskirts of town, so rather than having closed up stores downtown, the cities’ planners have let Charity Shops proliferate.
But they aren’t like US thrift stores. No dingy piles of used linens, no racks groaning with ugly clothes hiding the occasional great find, no shelves of mugs and mismatched glasses. No-sir-ree! These stores are Clean! Tidy! Well lit! And the clothes are in excellent condition, washed (!) and sorted by size! Sometimes even sorted by color. The hangers have nifty plastic tags just below the hook with the size of the garment clearly marked. So civilized….
What is missing? Haven’t seen very many piles of old luggage. Very few mismatched dishes, glasses, silverware. Hardly any pots and pans. Is there are Pot-And-Pan Fairy here, cousin to the One-Sock-Stolen-From-The Laundry Imp? The Pot-And-Pan Fairy must be hiding in cupboards, keeping lids from straying from pans. But where are all the cheap vases people have from florists? Where are all the travel mugs? The Tupperware with melted edges? Maybe the Brits are just tidier than we are. Maybe the stores get those things donated but someone who works there says, “No one will want this cr*p, Right into the rubbish bin with you, you scatched up wine glass! Not displaying *YOU* in my nice store.” So the nice stuff gets displayed, the store doesn’t smell and Oxfam or British Red Cross or Cat Carers gets a few pounds from their clients.
But I do wonder where all that other stuff is….