Róisín Ingle on ... bargains
W hen I was in London recently visiting relations I came across the holy grail of second hand shops. These places aren’t what they used to be, as you might be aware. Near the end of the boom (di boom) I experienced something of a shopping nadir when rummaging in a place on Camden Street, an area generally revered as a second hand mecca for Dubliners.
I came across bone handled knives in a box for a fiver. That’s a fiver each mind you. If that wasn’t a sign of a nation in crisis then I don’t know what was.
The whole point of these shops is bargains. A fiver for a knife? I don’t care if the handle is made from the bones of ancient Bogmen, that’s not a bargain, it’s a lynching. My idea of a good charity shop has stuff for 20 cent and 50 cent and at least one rail where everything is €1. But when I want these kinds of bargain basement kicks these days, I have to go up north where Queenie (mother-in-law-in-waiting, gilet wearer, lover of cream cakes, force of nature) drives me around the Christian charity outlets in Portadown, where they know how to price things at my level.
Queenie is a secret weapon when second-hand shopping. She’s unstoppable and shameless. It doesn’t matter what the price tag says, she’ll keep on at the shop assistant until they just can’t stand it anymore and give it to her half price just so she’ll stop repeating “och, can you not do anything for me?”.
I generally go around scooping up what I want and then she takes it off me and drives the hardest bargains this side of Marrakesh. I’ve bought children’s car seats and crystal snack servers and Halloween costumes and yes, a load of tat I didn’t need but it scratched that retail itch and I didn’t have to hide the receipts when I got home.
But when I was in London with my mother I found this charity shop that beat even the Born Agains. You could go in there with a few quid and come out with enough to elegantly furnish the kitchen of your eldest child’s student flat, which is how it should be in secondhandshopland. No, of course I’m not going to tell you where it is. What do you mean, pleeeassse? Oh, alright then, it’s called The Scout Shop and it’s in the Hackney area. (I’d be rubbish under any kind of interrogation, clearly. )