I am sitting here today in a warm glow of thrift and deep dark greenness as I begin my disquisition on me and my uneasy relationship with charity shops. The warm green glow is due to the fact that I have walked about two miles with Princess Bunchy to take her to the swimming pool, and then two miles back. You may be impressed with such heartiness but it is at least partly due to the fact that the Landy had a funny turn on the way home from work last night, and a strange orange light started flashing on the dashboard. When I arrived home I consulted the manual and apparently this all means that I need to seek professional help, which is possibly quite true on several fronts.
And not only was I saving the world singlehanded by using shanks' pony, even my footwear was thrifty. Some months ago I bought myself a pair of Goretex trainers for winter walking, but after a few walks it became apparent that said trainers were a little too large for me, and had since then remained in the cupboard, leering extravagantly at me every time I peered in at them to see if they had shrunk in embarrassment. But a few weeks ago I bewailed my mispurchase in conversation with a very green and eco friend, and she admitted that she had a pair of slightly-too-small Goretex walking boots in her cupboard: so we did the definitely Dottie thing and swapped. I have never had proper walking boots before and I strode out this morning as if motorized, and have returned with toned hamstrings and glutes (or is it just aching legs?).
But back to the charity shops. I love charity shops to the bottom of my heart, and whereas the thought of a trip to Bluewater evokes in me a sense of dread, mention the word charity shop and my eyes gleam and my heart lightens. The trouble is, I tend to return from such emporia with bulging bags and then come home feeling guiltily extravagant.
I have a cupboard full of preloved china - I don't really need any more until the current stash is broken (which it will be, eventually). But this is the first crinoline lady china I had ever come across, so I felt impelled to rehome it in my little cottage, where it will be amongst kindred souls, rather than languishing, rejected, on a shelf amongst last year's unwanted Christmas gift sets of bubble bath, waiting for the next stage in their infinite round of recycling between charity shops.
However, the Dottie Angel Ultimate Challenge has renewed my urge to haunt the emporia of the preloved. I had been quite sensible about it all for some months, and hadn't visited a boot fair all summer, telling myself that I didn't need it all, however cheap it might be. Even bargains cost money, and it was just mindless consumption, even if secondhand.
But since joining the Challenge I am beset with temptation whenever I turn on the computer. Tif stands outside thrift stores with a big trolley, Floss displays the most exciting wares gleaned from the magnificently-named vide-greniers, and last night I discovered that Lola is just like me: the Challenge just encourages us to spend more time in charity shops. The Ultimate Challenge is not a way to save money, more an excuse to take pity on even more of the world's unwanted stuff, and bring it back to, in my case, a stuff-filled cottage. (This is why the General harbours yearnings towards mimimalist white boxes as living spaces - it is obviously his mode of rebellion against the rummage sale crowded shelves of the family home.)
Just look at these books: I couldn't leave them where they were - especially the one entitled How to Run Your Home Without Help, offering inspiration for servantless households like mine. Alas, the solution seems to involve a lot of hard work and organization - I think I would rather go for the 'With Help' option any day, but so far no one seems inclined to offer much on that front. And Country Wisdom would seem something to aspire to - I have waved it in front of the Head Chef and will now wait hopefully for some bucolic thoughts.
And a metre and a half of Crowson fabric for £1.50 was just too good to resist: surely there must be something that I could do with it?
And so, as there seems no hope for me on the pared-down front, I thought you might like to see a few pictures of the latest textile miscellany to be brought home.
I was actually buying some concepts here, not just assorted textiles: in our local hospice shop I found a jumble of aprons which I imagine to be the remnants of a house clearance. All are made from recycled bits and pieces, not terribly well stitched, and the blue flowery one, quite patently fashioned from an old homemade skirt, even has a one-sided tie, as if there was not enough fabric to make a second tie - the apron is unwearable in consequence, but someone kept it and treasured it. The pink one is an old pillowcase, and the appley one looks as if it might have been refashioned from a larger pinny.
I couldn't leave such leftovers of a thrifty, stitchy life to be discarded for rags, and have plans to reincorporate them into new aprons, perhaps with the help of the doyleys and some of the dressing table and traycloths which also came home with me. I know I have no need of more traycloths, but the cross-stitch one is quite interesting. I have another in just the same pattern and style, but using different-coloured threads, so possibly this pattern was one which was widely distributed as a kit or in a magazine, and is hus a bit of domestic social history.
And doyleys - Tif has set me back upon the doyley route, one which I thought I had put behind me. I wrote a good few hundred words on doyleys in my magnum opus, and even ventured on into the world of antimacassars. Philosophers have also expended much ink and paper on the socioeconomic and cultural significance of such domestic coverings, and I, too, jumped into the fray.
Reworking them knowingly into the functional domesticity of the apron - surely that can't be extravagance, no, not even thrift, worthy as that might be.
No, it is quite clear, going to charity shops is really quite a cerebral act, and the reuse of such domestic detritus is a socio-political statement. And as such it must be a Good Thing, and no need for me to feel guilty of wanton extravagance at all. It is all in the cause of Art and Philosophy, and therefore a route to discovering the Meaning of Life.
And if that isn't an incentive to go and have a rummage in a charity shop, I don't know what is.
And a quick postscript thank you to Andamento, who has very kindly given me an award. I have completely lost the plot on the award front, and can't possibly single out someone to pass it on to, as I read so many lovely blogs. So take it as yours, readers, and go and have a look at Andamento, where you will find some lovely pictures, not only of some beautiful landscapes, but even more fitting, of wonderful thrifty finds from charity shops!