Friday, June 26, 2009
"Charity Shopping and the Thrift Lifestyle"
Do any of you read the British Country Living magazine? It is truly a beautiful publication, and though I don't buy it often, every now and then there's an issue so gorgeous I must (the June one is devoted to roses). For one thing, there is a feature on a Victorian railway station that was converted into a home, with the former railroad tracks now the site of a garden! But another tiny item in the issue is what really caught my eye. Titled "Eco Chic," it says this: "Britain is the developed world's largest market for secondhand clothes - charity shop sales are currently worth 550 million pounds a year and there are 7,000 charity outlets. 'Charity Shopping and the Thrift Lifestyle' by Lettice Wilkinson recommends the best, including those with tearooms. What better way to spend an afternoon?"
Thrift store tearooms? Excuse me? Well, the publisher (Marion Boyars) was kind enough to send a review copy, and I must say I absolutely love this book and the concept behind it. First, some vocabulary: What we call "thrift shops" to the Brits are "charity shops" and to the Aussies are "op shops" ("op" for "opportunity"). I've never heard of a guidebook to thrift stores, but what a marvelous idea! For a chapter on the Hospices of Hope Tearooms in Otford, Kent, the author describes the layout of the building, the array of goods for sale, and the variety of tearoom offerings: "Shortbread biscuits are presented in boiled sweet jars and under net-covered baskets at the counter. Homemade sponge cakes, loaves and flapjacks are kept chilled in a display-case fridge built in to the side of the counter, and a further tall, freestanding fridge opposite keeps the cafe well stocked with confectionary. Whole cakes and quiches are wrapped in cling film and stored in view with great care and efficiency."
Photos are included for a good many of the shops, and Wilkinson writes her reviews with all the care and precision of a good restaurant critic. She describes the clothes at the Scarlet, St. Clare Hospice: "There is nothing that is not absolutely contemporary and no more than a couple of seasons behind from their brand shops. There are no unconventional pieces or vintage garments and nothing is old enough to look at all scruffy or particularly worn." She also discusses prices and the quality of the employees (often volunteers), and I can just imagine the British women marking up their books before making their charity shop rounds. If only we had such a useful volume here in Georgia! Just curious: How many of you would consider shopping at a thrift store with a tearoom? I know I'd love to!