Faith, Hope and Charity.

When one person’s junk is another’s treasure – and the other way round.  A post about the cyclic magic of working in a charity reuse shop. 

Some ornaments left on the shelf.

Left on the shelf!  There are some items that no one wants – not even for the bargain price of 50p!

Downton Abbey.

‘Lady Downtown’ – as Val – one of my favourite customers called me.  A frilled cushion re-purposed into a rather splendid bonnet!

I love my job working in a recycling centre; for a magpie like me – it is such an interesting and fulfilling place to work. Occasionally one has to handle unsavoury things that one would rather not – but that’s a small price to pay for its rewards. Rarely a working day goes by when I’m not reduced to eye-watering fits of laughter at something that’s been brought in for recycling. It’s rarely the item in itself that’s funny but the combination of ideas that it sparks between us…

Wednesdays are always a guaranteed giggle when first mate - Sallykins volunteers for the day.

Wednesdays are always a guaranteed giggle when first mate – Sallykins volunteers for the day…


Makeover magic. A pair of slightly more flattering hats!

A tired old pram gets a new life...

A tired old pram gets a new life…

With wheel re-affixed – Lady Downtown’s love child ‘Trevor’ gets an afternoon out in the fresh air.

In an effort to dress the pram – we dressed the ‘baby’ in a romper and paired them together.  They certainly afforded plenty of admiring glances throughout the afternoon but alas no buyers.  On more than one occasion I found myself bouncing the handle of the pram – like he was real! I have no idea why I named him Trevor – it just popped into my head and stuck – perhaps he once belonged to a boy called Trevor?  Unfortunately, Lady Downtown wasn’t a good mother – and she left him outside in the yard at home time and by morning he’d been kidnapped – ‘just’ Trevor not the wonderful, vintage pram!  

He was too adorable!

The other side to all this hilarity – are the things that can reduce one to real tears.  Not literally you understand – because I’m not given to that sort of thing – but often I come across something – that makes me stop and think; a quieter moment in an otherwise busy day. This week it was a falling apart bible with an inscription in the front – it belonged to Ethel – whom ever she was? What I loved about it were all the little treasures that were pressed between its pages – a petal, a fern frond, a strawberry leaf – and a number of pretty foil sweet papers – even a cellophane wrapper that had been re-purposed into a holy cross.

Ethel's Bible of treasures.

Ethel’s Bible of treasures.

Page turning itself – caught by that other unseen energy – the Wind.

As I flicked through the pages – I wondered at the significance of all these priceless yet worthless things and what they all once meant to someone called Ethel – that she should have preserved them so carefully in the holy book. Perhaps they served as simple markers to the text – or maybe they were reminders of special occasions – of Christmases and birthdays – and of days roaming the countryside and picking wild flowers…

So many of the things that pass through our recycle shop – are things that once belonged to people who have passed on themselves. I myself have not long cleared out some of my father’s things – all perfectly good and reusable but no one in the family wanted to keep them – so I donated them to our shop. While going through his books I found another bible of a kind – an old volume called ‘Wayside and Woodland Trees’. Drawn by its title – I stopped sorting his things, to look inside…

Four leaf clover

Found again – Dad’s lucky four-leaf clover.

There like Ethel – he had put-by a treasure for safekeeping. Inside, folded in a scruffy piece of paper – I found his lucky four-leaf clover now faded and tatty with age.  I remembered how much these four, small, conjoined heart-shaped leaves meant to him – the childlike belief he invested in them, especially when he was diagnosed with terminal illness in his late eighties.  My father loved walking over open green fields – he could climb over stiles and gates and walk up steep hills without ever stopping – inevitably though – his circles got smaller and smaller as his illness got the better of him. In the end I don’t think it was cancer that killed him but confinement – in that sense hope predeceased him.  I kept his book and its precious contents and wondered whether luck can be bequeathed – I hope so. To be able to roam freely and to pick up things that can only be found is luck enough for me…

Like this bejeweled buzzard’s feather – found in April, in the snow, in the dark – in Shedland.

One of my all time favourite television shows – has to be Bagpuss! I love the ethos of Emily’s shop – and now I’m lucky again – to be living and working the dream!  There’s a kind of magic – an unseen energy – that’s attached to all the things that pass in and out our magic door. It’s easy to believe that even the unwanted ornaments on the shelf come to life once we lock up and go home at the end of the day…

How else could one ever explain how they came to be so artistically arranged?

An episode from Bagpuss and Co – not about small white elephants like some of those on our shelves but a pink one made of straw! 

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