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Day Three: Visit to a charity shop
When in Oxford last year and again in Carlisle, I had discovered the great joy of shopping from a charity shop. Doesn’t sound very exciting or encouraging that one must buy from a charity shop where all things up for sale are actually given in charity by those who have used them. So I know that the things I picked up from the charity shops in Oxford and Carlisle are used, it is second had stuff but even that low-sounding description of it doesn’t beat my imagination.
Imagine rings, bracelets, combs, etc. used by someone somewhere and reaching your hands – what you do with them is of course up to you. I love charity shops for all its reasons but most definitely for its most primary reason – offering a place for people with limited means to buy something nice for lesser, cheaper. The idea of repurposing is just as interesting as the romantic side of charity shops.
For months, I had been looking for a certain type of cardigan. I looked in many shops in India and a few in London but couldn’t find what I needed. While strolling along Oxford’s high street, I stepped into a charity shop for the first time and found just the sort of cardigan that was in my head. Of course I bought it and I wear it. In the shop was also a gorgeous wedding gown, I smiled thinking how this dress would go from a bride to another bride.
So when I went back to London, I told Catherine that I was curious about charity shops and small, personal stores in London which sold inexpensive stuff. Catherine said she knew of a shop where we would go first on my third day in London.
Interestingly, there was nothing at the charity shop that I wanted to buy – much of it was very heavy winter clothing but I did find some wonderful butterfly magnets for no more than two pounds, I bought a handful. Despite my meager purchase, we spent a lot of time in the shop as I was observing people and their purchases. I was happy to see people in the store find something nice for themselves. A woman bought a fur jacket, it really seemed perfect for her style – how interesting to think that someone somewhere had just her taste!
Apparently, the charity shop wasn’t in London’s poshest areas. Though I don’t quite remember the neighbourood’s name, I could tell that it was in East London, not too far from Whitechapel. The neighbourhood was interesting with an open flea market – things were cheaper than they’d be in India! It was a mini India. It was interesting to notice that there were no regular chains around – no Starbucks or Costa but several, small bistros and restaurants. Catherine told me that most of them were run by immigrants.
We went into one of the shops which had some Indian style sandwiches on offer. I was thrilled to pick tandoori chicken, we also ordered some soup. The prices stunned me – they’re at least two times cheaper than the coffee shops I had been to in the City of Westminster. I told myself that I shouldn’t be too impressed – maybe the quality of the food wouldn’t be great or the portions would be too less – I was wrong on both and nothing pleased me more. The food was great and it filled me up for the day.
While I enjoyed my soup and sandwich and Catherine hers, I felt very good about the mutual respect of these kind of businesses. London is a great city and here was another testimony. The big chains didn’t seem to threaten these small businesses in these areas. I do not believe that the chains ethically kept away. I believe it is the municipal corporation of London and its good governance that could do it.