I knew I’d gone too far. But it was all Kirstie Allsopp’s fault. I had sworn at an old lady and it was all because of this wave of ‘let’s fill our houses with stuff that costs under a fiver and live like musty kings’ that’s taking the nation by mothbally storm.
Permit me to set the scene…
British Heart Foundation shop counter, afternoon.
Weather: UnBritishly Sunny.
I had been drawn in by two 1930s style champagne coupes that looked like they belonged in a Poirot villain’s hand. Reassuring myself it was still a valid means of payment, I counted out all the annoying coppers that were turning my purse into a deadly weapon. (I wouldn’t annoy the Tesco’s lot by doing this. They are very short-tempered and, on occasion, violent.)
What turned this otherwise simple transaction into a potential charity shop showdown was the clock. The 1960s clock that flirted with me using its off-beat tick and tarnished slattern sheen. It was shaped like the shard, if the shard had turned up for a fancy dress party as a sixties clock. It had an air of “I watched the entire Conservative cabinet of ’63 have it off with a stripper above a Soho pub and have maintained my silence until now.” That kind of clock. I paused a while, trying to decide if it was naff or not. It’s hard to tell good naff from bad naff and you don’t want to get it wrong in case Kirstie Allsopp gets cross with you.
The pricetag fluttered at me like a can-can dancer’s skirt. A quid. That cheap little clock teaser. I thwacked it on the counter. Kirstie would definitely snap this up, even if its frenetic tick-tock did bring on an epileptic fit. Another old lady sidled up and raised what was presumably once her eyebrows. She spoke to her colleague, who looked like a Valerie, like I didn’t exist.
“This isn’t a pound. It works for a start. Must’ve switched the labels round.”
I stared at her. I suppose I was waiting for her to look at me and realise her cynical summation of my character had been disgustingly unfair and to apologise. She stared stubbornly at the clock. ‘Valerie’ blinked at me.
“I’m sorry?” I said. (Feebly. I’m no granny-basher.)
“This isn’t the right tag. This has been swapped. This should be at least ten pounds.”
I stayed limp and silent, but my eyes, pools of fiery chaos, said this “Well, I didn’t write it, did I? Your colleague just saw me pick it up. There was no time for label fraud.”
“Oh.” (I actually said) “That… was what was on there.”
“Hmm.” She said, no doubt rendered silent by the scary lasers in my eyes.
Her suspicious arrogance and her refusal to look at me made me unleash the beast.
“DON’T YOU *insert F word* IMPLY I AM TRYING TO DIDDLE THE *insert F word* AILING HEARTS OF BRITAIN OUT OF NINE *insert F word* POXY POUNDS, YOU MISERABLE, MEAN OLD *C word shuffle* CRONE.”
Obviously, this torrent of profanity only took place in my head. What I actually said was
“Ok. I’ll leave it then. Thanks.” And left.
Why was this violent fracas all Kirstie Allsopp’s fault? Well, someone’s got to take the blame for OAP volunteers having to bolster themselves against hardened pricetag fiddlers (NOT THAT I AM ONE), and it might as well be the bird telling the nation that everything can be had for a song and that our homes should glint with the scrubbed up rubble of the Blitz.
Charities shops used to be a place you could sweep slowly around pondering life as you bonded with an old egg whisk. Now, thanks to these ‘I wear an old tea cosy on my head and gave birth to Barney in a refurbished skip’ programmes, if you snooze you lose. If you don’t whip around with ninja skills, you will get bustled into the Loser corner – into the basket of old brown bras and the 100 piece Country Cottage puzzle with 99 pieces missing. And if you even attempt to lay one finger on that old Singer sewing machine before the stay-at-home mum who’s channelling her disenchantment with life into quilting, you will end up with some broken Edwardian bellows up your arse. This shit is turning ugly. A child in a buggy wails on cue to optimise haggling conditions for its thrifty mother. Two pearl-wearing passive-aggressives tussle faux-laughingly over a suspected Clarice Cliff pepperpot. A strategically spilt takeaway de-caff mochaccino on the one remaining clean bit of carpet in Scope befuddles some poor volunteer who forgot to take her HRT into letting an early Turner go for a handful of change and half a rich tea biscuit. Soon there’ll be covert CCTV cameras in carriage clocks and mace stowed in old marjoram jars. Overnight security to man the midnight toot drop-offs. The washing machines out back that once produced that strange sicky-powder charity shop smell will be scrapped to make space for interrogation rooms. The old brown bras will be commandeered for assailing thieves; former cross-stitch champs will be strapped sobbing to chipped one-armed mannequins in the window til the police arrive. This isn’t ‘make do and mend’ anymore. This is ‘make my day, punk. This junk is so on trend.’
I can’t blame the oldies for all that. They’re old. They lived through the blitz the first time around. They had to eat powdered egg for fuck’s sake. They don’t give a shit about old shit anymore – they just want some flat-pack Ikea crap that smells new. Solid wood bores them. They want the uncertainty of MDF; it reminds them they’re alive.
No, I couldn’t flip them the bird – it wouldn’t be decent.
And they’d probably punch me.