Friday, May 25, 2012

London through its charity shops #24: Balham

Barngain of the day: John Currin hardback exhibition book, £7.50; British Heart Foundation. How can a book costing £7.50 be a barngain (you exclaim)? Well, you may have a point, but it's £184 new on Amazon. Anyway, I've admired Currin's art for some time now, and not just because he paints naked women. After all, his women, though busty, are pretty weird.

Even though it seems as if Balham town centre has designed itself around the mammoth Sainsbury's which sits in the middle of the town, I have a soft spot for the place. It's a bit tatty but has some good places to eat and drink. On my recent trip I was glad to see that My Back Pages – a decent new and secondhand bookshop named after the Bob Dylan song – was still there.

More to the point, it has seven charity shops, most of which are interesting, tastefully laid out and well worth a look. In particular, the British Heart Foundation shop, recommended by Time Out back in 2007, is still good; colourful and spacious, it has decent books, records and DVDs; also plenty of clothes and shoes. The same goes for Cancer Research. Oxfam Books is very pleasant with some records (but no CDs or DVDs). Trinity Hospice has lots of wool and records. FARA is pretty cool; FARA Kids bright, large and spacious. The only old school charity shop, by which I mean smelly, cheap and a bit desperate, was the Salvation Army charity shop, next to their community church (above), a bit out of town. You know what though? I do miss those old-fashioned charity shops.

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