Friday, December 03, 2010

London through its charity shops #1: Hammersmith into Chiswick

The first in an occasional (possibly not very interesting – we'll see how it goes) series looking at London's charity shops. If I had done this in the old days – by which I mean 5-10 years ago – they'd be joyous tales of rare LPs and books for tuppence, Clarice Cliff cups and saucers for thruppence. As it is now, charity shops have realised they're a business and have to compete with other shops, making them rather bland. Also, anything remotely rare or valuable is looked up on the internet and sold accordingly (usually sold online as well, hence the lack of anything interesting in the actual shops). Last week I even went to Christie's with a charity shop volunteer to get a free valuation on some items. There's an urban myth that charity shops in posh parts of London sell posh stuff. They don't. It's still all crap. Still, it has to be said, I would rather go into a charity shop than any other shop and can't actually pass one by without popping in. You know, just in case…

We start from the top of King Street in Hammersmith; a bleak and ugly prospect. The first charity shop is an Oxfam; a surprisingly spacious and bright branch which my boon companion notes has 'funky music playing and funky helpers'. Further along is Traid, a clothes and textiles charity shop which we didn't bother looking in. Cancer Research has a huge number of CDs (mostly rubbish). The British Heart Foundation is deemed too 'jumbly' with lots of women's shoes and also hundreds of CDs. Further along, Amnesty International have a pleasant and interesting second-hand bookshop which also sells records and CDs.

Walking from King Street with its narrow, crowded pavement and emerging into Chiswick with its wide, empty pavements and trendy shops, restaurants and bars was something close to euphoric.

But before we went into Chiswick proper, we made a brief detour up Turnham Green Terrace, towards Turnham Green tube, where there was a FARA Kids shop (which we didn't bother with), an average Octavia (the new name for the Notting Hill Housing Trust) and, opposite, a Trinity Hospice. A little further along is a cheerful Bernado's, then a very funky new FARA. Finally on the corner is an excellent Oxfam Books with well organised books and cheap, decent records and CDs.

Once in Chiswick High Street, we came across a black-fronted Oxfam. There are several of these in London and a few others in other cities, such as Bath; they look like boutiques because they are, and specialise in vintage fashion and tend to be found only in the posher areas of London (The King's Road, Westbourne Grove). It held virtually no interest for us, except some amusing wine glasses which had small red toy cars attached to their bottoms (a reasonable £3). Further along, Cancer Research was deemed 'quite jolly'. Another Cancer Research a little bit up the road consists entirely (bizarrely) of fancy dress and vintage clothes.

Barngains of the day: the Amnesty bookshop had some good, pretty new CDs for £2 each: Black Sabbath's debut album and Paranoid (2010 Digipak versions); Gary Numan's The Pleasure Principle and (with Tubeway Army) Replicas (2008 Tour Edition with bonus CD of early out-takes); and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Dirty Shirt Rock 'n' Roll: the First Ten Years, released earlier in the year.

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