Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Being Miss Jones

Early last week, I took a large bag of my unwanted books to Oxfam on Drury Lane. I left the bag in the shop's dumb waiter of a lift, as they like you to, and headed off in search of my lunch. I am stuck in a rut, lunch-wise, but that is a different post. I walked past Oxfam a few days later, and there in the window, front and centre of the display, was one of my ex-books (I mean to say it was still a book, I was no longer its owner). 

It was a very proud moment.  

This is because I regularly take bagfuls of my former life to the Mind shop in Dulwich, and in the 10 years or so that I have lived in the area, I have never, ever seen any of my items in the shop, let alone enjoying the prestige of a place in the window. Books, mugs, bags, shoes and skirts have disappeared behind the glass counter, never to be seen again. Over the years, I've spent some long grey afternoons of the soul wondering why this is. Could it really be the case that all my old stuff is a) horrible or b) shit? So much so that people will not even claim it in return for a minimal charitable donation? 

While it's true that I no longer want those things around me any more, I still feel a certain attachment to them, and some near-maternal need to protect them from criticism. Perhaps some items of clothing I have deposited in the Mind shop could be described as a little bit horrible. Some CDs, I will concede, may have been slightly shit. But this is the creed of charity shops and online auctions – one woman's horrible is another's amazing and oh-so-me. And one listener's shit is another's edgy and I've-always-wanted-this. So where, cherry-picking charity-shop staff, fillers of shelves and hangers of hangers, is my old stuff? 

This is what I think. Somewhere in the bowels of the Mind shop in Dulwich, someone is living my life, just a short lapse of time behind me, the genuine article. As I type, they're writing their twee blog about, oh, the last series of Strictly Come Dancing or something, tugging uncomfortably at an optimistically purchased pair of leggings, and realising – in eventual accordance with everyone they know – that the hat on their head should probably have remained in Topshop. Perhaps they are listening to a CD single by Eagle-Eye Cherry and wondering about the ethics of giving away unloved presents. 

I'm flattered, obviously. Perhaps I should be doing something to save them from making the same mistakes as me – from staying in when they should be going out, from choosing the apple crumble instead of the chocolate tart. But while I'm still bumbling my way through more days than I glide, ineffectually striving for poise and serenity and tidy hair, and making ill-judged jokes in socially stressful situations, it is doubtful they could really learn anything. 

At the very least though, I could probably exercise enough mercy to save them from 500 pages or so of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.


Princess B said...

Wasn't that one of the worst books ever? What a waste of our lives.

Anonymous said...

I rather enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and as a recent survivor of an OU course which included a section on Belief Beyond Boundaries, I am rather inclined to read it again. There really are people out there who believe this stuff. But then maybe not... too many books in too many charity shops...

mrs jones