Elizabeth Mary Jones welcomes me into her busy shop, ‘Just Looking II’. On the way into the back room I am introduced to her husband, Frank and some elderly volunteers. Elizabeth, or Liz, as she insists I call her, ushers me into a cluttered room filled to the brim with boxes of things an random treasures. I immediately want to dig through it all. Liz is a friendly woman, who calls everyone ‘Darling’ (a woman after my own heart). She is also very short and has a huge smile painted with red lipstick. She also has the wonderful ability to make you feel like she has all the time in the world to talk. Today I am interested in one thing only; her charity shop.
“I don’t try to compete with the other shops, to be perfectly honest. If anything I’ve got a very good rapport with them. We are actually great friends! We are forever running in and out, saying, ‘have you got…’ if someone has a request for something.” Frank, Liz’s husband hurries into the back room we are sat in,
“Tap shoes… How much, Liz?” he asks, flustered.
“There was a price on them, they are very expensive to buy from shops… ten pounds,” Liz replies. She looks at me,
“I often have to think on my toes!” Perhaps she needs some tap shoes of her own.
“There is not a stereotype that only old ladies shop in charity shops. There may have been in the past, but it’s certainly not now, absolutely not.” At this point her son walks in. Liz greets him happily,
“Hi Darling!” He smiles and looks at me with my pen and note pad. Liz refers back to my question about a rise in charity shop interest. Does he agree?
“Yes with the recession of course,” he says. Liz gets distracted and turns to pick up a very small pair of camo shorts. She waves them at her son.
“Are these not fashionable?” she asks, head on one side.
“Ask her she’s the judge,” he replies, nodding at me.
“Erm… I saw a similar thing at gay pride!” I say, perhaps too honestly. She then picks up a leather crop top from ‘Morgan’ and asks again,
“Is this fashionable?”
“Young girls would certainly wear that!” I replied. She seems pleased.
“I can remember a very funny incident when someone had this massive big dog and they tied it to my clothing rail outside and this dog decided to run after another dog and was pulling this rail behind it! All my clothes were all over the street in fact the dog ended up wearing half of them!
We’ve had a couple of objects come in and we honestly haven’t been able to fathom out what they are. What’s ugly to me could be quite quirky and beautiful to someone else! The ugliest item? Oh gosh I don’t really get very many ugly things. Well I had something well I’ll show it to you, I think it’s gross!”
She leads me to another small room and picks up a large potato sack. What’s lurking in here?
“Things like this! Oh, just horrid!” She pulls out a large, gangly stuffed toy giraffe with wonky eyes.
“I mean look at its face!” she laughs. “I mean I hate, I hate with a passion tapestry pictures, needlework type pictures but people seem to love them for some reason.”
In comes her son Richard again,
“Where is this so-called box of shoes then?” he asks Liz.
“Do you know what I really am upset about? Do you remember you had a really, really nice pair of running shoes?” she asks her son.
“No,” is his blunt reply.
“You did! We spent hours trying to find a shop were we could buy them. I’m bringing those shoes back home!” She points at a pile of old trainers piled up on the corner of the desk we are sat at.
“Those aren’t mine!” he protests.
“They are darling!” Liz says.
“I think they’re for women!” says Richard.
“They’re not!” Liz insists.
“They’re a child slash women’s size, mum,” says Richard.
“Funny though that they’re exactly your size and have got ‘Richard Jones’ written on the inside,” continues Liz.
“I’ve never seem them in my life!” Richard laughs. Liz stops to question me about my own family.
“I think people enjoy donating. It gives them a feeling that they’re helping charity.” In wanders Richard at this point.
“I just wanted to say you’re probably not supposed to be selling that in the shop…” He is carrying a box with a picture of an almost naked woman on the front wearing a silky red scarf tied up in a bow around her breasts. I hear Frank in the background call out,
“It’s a scarf!”
“It’s not a bloody scarf, that’s insane, why would they put it in that box?” said Richard.
“It’s a boob tube! I think that’s what they call it, but it is a bit of a naughty picture. Perhaps I should keep it for myself!” Liz laughs.
“It’s very easy to like a lot of things that come in but to be perfectly honest I’ll end up on one of these programmes about hoarders! I wouldn’t be able to get into the house if I took home everything that I thought was nice and I liked, so I just don’t do it darling, I chuck it all out!
We have a lady! She comes in every day and she insists on looking through every single handbag, all the pockets, all the zips, she does that religiously so we just let her get on with it. We’ve got a young man that comes in and goes through all the ladies underwear… but he doesn’t buy anything just looks at it (and that’s not my son!) We have customers that come in that obviously have an obsession for things. We do get very quirky customers come in, very quirky. But you tend to just let them get on.”
Words by Loo Loo Rose