Thursday, February 25, 2016

London through its charity shops #28: Eltham SE9

 I still go to charity shops – indeed I still find it hard walking past one without going in, you know, just in case, though I usually stick to the south west London ones – East Sheen, Putney, Battersea and Wimbledon – that I know and love. My series London Through Its Charity Shops becomes out of date every month a new charity shop opens and others shut down, or are refurbished, usually for the worse, or one charity shop where I used to get lots of art books or records just don't have the same kind of stock anymore – this is the nature of the beast. Recently I was visiting the charity shops on the Fulham Road and an old man, who reminded me of Colonel Blimp, was doing exactly the same as me at the same time. We fell in line, and started chatting. He looked at me and said: "I bet you never thought you'd end up with a tripod today" (I'd just bought a as-new Leica tripod), and I retorted, "I bet you never thought you'd end up with a goldfish bowl today" (his recent purchase). And this is the beauty of charity shops.

But this year a quantum shift has happened to my charity shop habits. I used to head straight for the records, CDs and books – but have reached saturation point: I own over 300 records, 1,000 CDs and 500 books in a small, overcrowded flat, and actually need to read and listen to some of them. So, the shift also occurred when I realised I hadn't bought a pair of jeans in a decade; mine all had holes (Gap jeans with gaps) in the pockets (loose change tumbling down my leg in particular became quite annoying) and were misshapen and worn. So, I went to buy a new pair of Levi's and did a double take when I saw the £80 price tag. I decided to look for jeans in charity shops. Admittedly it involved a fair degree of hunting in order to get the right size but after a weekend of searching I emerged with two pairs of Levi's, a pair of Wranglers (as new, unworn, with the labels still on) and two pairs of Abercrombie and Fitch, all for less than half the price of a new pair of Levi's (I'd recently had repairs to pockets to some of my old jeans and paid more for the alterations than a pair in a charity shop). If I was thinner I would have bought twice the amount – I saw lots of pairs of Levi's as new for less than a tenner, though usually size 28 or 30. This is all a revelation to me. I've never looked for clothes before but once I focus on one thing and one thing only, I find I have a fair degree of luck (yes, this is further evidence of my Asperger's-like obsessions). Condition of jeans in charity shops is generally and surprisingly very good; certainly a lot better nick than my ten-year-old rags. So, in short, now I look for clothes in charity shops and aren't afraid to say so. This is where the new barngains are.

Anyway: Eltham. It has lots of decent charity shops (and a Wimpy!) – Barnado's, Marie Curie, Scope, British Heart Foundation, Save the Children, Cancer Research, Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice Shop and Demelza House Trading Shop – all within ten minutes walk of each other (not that I managed to do all of them), either on or just off the High Street. Nothing spectacular, but all spacious, bright and reasonably priced. I looked for jeans first – tempted by a pair of grey Levi's (£8) but they were a tad tight – then moved onto records and books. I spotted an LP by The Enid called Something Wicked This Way Comes. I hadn't heard of the band, but liked the cover, looked them up, didn't feel the need to buy it. This is progress for me.
Though Eltham is synonymous for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, it has a lot more to offer beside racist killings and charity shops: Eltham Palace is a stunning Art Deco building (above), surrounded by parks and mansions – Kate Bush's former house (pictured, top) is just around the corner – though later owners added the Wuthering Heights lettering. Sevendroog castle has amazing views of London; from the top you can see for thirty miles in all directions, and also has a nice cafe.

No comments :