Welcome!

Autumn apples

Welcome to my second-hand tales blog where I attempt to chronicle my adventures in second-hand shopping, and other greenish ventures.

Like many personal blogs my ideas have changed and expanded over the years. While my love of thrift store rummaging has not changed (see here and here) I have also dabbled in zero waste (here), plastic free (here) and simple, slow living (reading list here). It is here on my blog that I write about the things I have discovered and ideas I have tried to follow to minimise my impact on the environment.

I hope you enjoy reading my random(ish) posts: please leave a comment on any post that interests you – or you could  follow me on facebook , twitter or instagram

 

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Autumnal Colours and a new-look Charity Shop in Bath

Autumnal colours, the second-hand way via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Yesterday I took myself into Bath: my nearest city and favourite haunt for second-hand goodies. [Note to self: I must update my second-hand shopping in Bath post here, which is now two years old]

I was delighted to see that the Save the Children shop on Walcot Street had received a very impressive update.

Save the Children charity shop, Bath (before the revamp)

Save the Children charity shop, Bath (before the revamp)

The interior was awash with stripped floorboards, wooden crates and clean white spaces. I had the distinct feeling I had walked inside a Fat Face or White Stuff store. Some of their (donated) clothing was even hanging from the beautifully curated rails. Every item was on a wooden hanger and the colour coordination was a feast for the eyes. I felt instantly drawn to the blacks and silvers, with thoughts of dressing for Christmas parties on the cheap.

The shop floor was spacious and the clothing on display was cleverly selected to show a range of high-end stores and good quality high street designs, with just enough on the rails to allow you to browse comfortably.

I spotted a couple of White Stuff skirts but was disappointed that they didn’t fit. At £7 each I didn’t think they were overpriced too. In fact my one final purchase at the store, a Top Shop jumper, only cost me £4.

(second-hand) burnt orange Top Shop jumper, bought from Save the Children charity shop in Bath via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I happened to stumble upon the Save the Children shop’s opening day and the store seemed constantly busy. When I popped along later in the afternoon to see if I could persuade the White Stuff skirt to fit me, it had gone. The lady in front of me spend £120, although I’m not sure how as the clothing was reasonably priced.

The burnt orange jumper has become an instant favourite and autumnal colours must have been on my mind. I picked up this burgundy M&S top from The Shaw Trust shop on George St for a bargain £2.50.

second-hand burgundy top

I did also pick up two pairs of new tights, in matching orange and plum, but I’m very pleased my second-hand purchases only came to £6.50 (The Flower Fairy book was picked up at the bookstall at our village May Fair here)

charity shop labels via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I was really impressed with the new-look Save the Children shop, as I know they have struggled in the past to stay open and are still in need of volunteers. I can’t even begin to stress what an important charity this is (working with children in Syria and refugees in the Mediterranean: see here). Their new store now ranks them among the other vintage-style charity shop boutiques that have opened up in Bath (Dorothy House; Julian House’s vintage section), but also marks a divide between those charity shops that can afford the refits and the rest…..

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PS I’ve been thinking of running a regular slot on this blog to share our ‘Thrifty Finds’. Not just second-hand purchases, but also making use of things we already have (food, fabric scraps,old clothes), and when we choose not to buy. Lovely readers, what are your thoughts?

Corsham Repair Cafe celebrates its third year!

Corsham Repair Cafe September 19th 2015

Today our Repair Cafe celebrated its third birthday! What began as an idea inspired by the Dutch movement (repaircafe.org) has now marked three years at The Pound arts centre in Corsham, where I work.

Since 2013 we have made nearly 200 repairs which means these items have not gone to landfill. Our volunteers have helped people to fix broken toasters, clothing, chairs and even a puppet. Today’s items included a backpack, pair of trousers, coffee machine and a lamp.

backpack being mended at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandytales.wordpress.com

Sadly this Kenwood record player couldn’t be fixed with the materials that were available, but we’re hopeful the owner will be able to pick up a replacement belt online:

Kenwood record player at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

And we all finished with a well deserved slice of cake! Happy Birthday Corsham Repair Cafe!

Corsham Repair Cafe: third birthday

The Police: Synchronicity album (second-hand)

Second-hand vinyl: bagging a bargain with The Police

bagging a vinyl bargain at Dorothy House shop, Bath via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Last Monday I found myself with a little spare time in Bath. For me, this means time to browse the charity shops, searching for second-hand goodies. Even if I’m not in the mood to search for clothes, there are always books and records to flick through.

As vinyl has become more popular, many of the second-hand shops in Bath have started to dedicate some of their space to used records. As well as the Oxfam Book and Record shop there is the Dorothy House book, furniture and vinyl store on Broad Street. I’m a great fan of the Dorothy House shops which support this local hospice charity. They have really upped their game in the charity shopping stakes, opening their vintage store and coffee house, ’76’, in Bath last year (see my post here). If you’re on instagram check them out dorothyhouseshops : they post lots of pictures of their second-hand goodies.

What I love about their book and record shop is the retro listening booth:

retro listening booth: Dorothy House Shop, Bath via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

And they have some bargain price records on sale too. As it was a Monday I picked up this classic The Police album for just £2!

The Police: Synchronicity album (second-hand)

Released in 1983, ‘Synchronicity’ won three Grammys and was named Rolling Stone’s ‘album of the year’. It features ‘Every Breath You Take’ (the creepy stalking song that people think is really romantic), ‘King of Pain’ and ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’.

In 1983 I was obsessed with Duran Duran and thought that The Police was an old band. I didn’t pay much attention to them and have to admit that, in my eyes, Sting’s later solo stuff has rather tarnished their reputation. But listening to this album I realise just how good they were. A while ago I was given a second-hand copy of their 1981 album, ‘Ghost in the Machine’, which, unfortunately, was too scratched to listen to. Having picked up ‘Synchronicity’, though, I think I’m going to add this earlier album to my wish list too.

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Zero Waste Week (and eating leftovers)

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Today is Day Three of Zero Waste Week, the international campaign run by Rae Strauss, the inspirational voice behind my zero waste blog. The initiative has been running since 2008 and its aim is to get participants thinking about their waste. This year’s theme is about reducing food waste and so I have been looking at ours.

We tend to be pretty good with using up food. I freeze quite a lot of prepared food. I tend to do one monthly supermarket shop and will often cook up batches of roast peppers and other veg, and then freeze them for use in pizzas and pasta dishes.

However I’m not so good with our fortnightly veg box. In principal I love the idea of an organic veg and fruit box, delivered to my door (I don’t have daily access to a car). However, hand on heart, I think we waste at least one item per fortnight because the kids won’t eat it, or it goes off quickly. And there’s only so many soups you can make…

organic vegetable box via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

This week I shopped at our local greengrocers buying just what we needed (according to our meal plan). In an attempt to prevent food waste I’ve also found myself eating leftover tea for lunch every day this week: two lots of macaroni cheese and, today the remains of a sweet potato and sausage casserole (plus some jacket potato remains and a serving of peas). The addition of some sour cream and chopped coriander actually made it quite delicious:

Zero Waste Week: sweet potato leftovers

I’ve also dug deep into the food cupboard and made use of these second-hand Oat Cheerios (second-hand because they were given by a friend who didn’t like them,but my kids weren’t fans either). Thanks to the wonder of Pinterest I turned them into chocolate cheerio bars.

Zero Waste Week: using up unwanted cereal via secondhandtales bog

 

If you want to find out more about Zero Waste Week have a look at the site and these tips here for reducing food waste. I also really rate the LoveFood,HateWaste website, which has some useful pointers about measuring portions.

Watch this space for more updates on my leftovers journey this week…

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Is it okay to make money by selling things that were free (or cheap)?

 

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I have been pondering this topic for a little while.

I began to think about it after I volunteered at our school jumble sale this year. For the first time I experienced the semi-professional haggling skills of customers who were going on to sell their bargains at car boot sales etc for a far higher price.

Then the lovely blogger, Ruby, from Quiet Radicals posed the question on twitter: is it ok for people to buy cheap items in charity shops – and then sell them on for higher prices to make a personal profit?

This really got me thinking. If the item at a school jumble sale, or charity shop, is on sale to make money for a good cause is it wrong for the purchaser to later sell it for more? Especially if this ‘profit’ is then kept for personal gain?

I guess you could say ‘good luck’ to anyone who has the ambition and drive to make money from selling other people’s cast-offs. Whether these cast-offs were donated to help a charity, accidentally left behind, or given for free should be irrelevant. When we donate we should no longer have any say in what happens to that item. It is now down to the charity shopper, freecycler, skip-diver etc to use their initiative to turn a profit.

And yet, I feel slightly uncomfortable about this. I recently wrote a magazine article on upcycling and the skill and materials that are involved in improving old, discarded items is something I approve of. These people have taken time, and spent their money and labour on making something better.

I guess it’s when something is bought for a cheap price/for free and then sold on at a higher price without anything being done to it, is where I struggle. I also think that items bought from charity shops should only be sold to make money for that charity.

A few months ago I bought a t-shirt online that was too small. Instead of having to return the t-shirt, Redbubble said I could keep it (as well as being sent a larger size). They said: “there’s no need to send it back. Feel free to give it to a friend, donate it to your favorite charity, whatever you want..”

Redbubble label

For a brief moment I thought I could sell it on and make some money. However it didn’t feel right. I’ve essentially got that t-shirt for free and it would be so much nicer to pass it onto a friend, as friends have done to me. Maybe I’m just wired a little differently, or the pursuit of profit just isn’t my thing.

But what do you think? Am I being too puritan about this? Should people be able to sell these items for more than they bought them for in the first place?

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What I learnt from our Staycation via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

What I learnt from our Staycation…

What I learnt from our Staycation via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

While we have failed to have a ‘proper’ holiday this year, we have really been enjoying our Staycation,which goes to show that every cloud has a silver lining.

I have learnt that the main advantages to holidaying at home are:

  1. You can really make the most of the weather. Rather than going away and hoping for good weather (especially in the UK) you can wait for the right forecast and enjoy a scorching day out. Last Monday we hit the beach at Weymouth, Dorset. The weather was good, we picnicked on the beach and the kids enjoyed some seaside fairground rides. We also took a saunter around the (secondhand) shops, pausing to watch the boats sail into the marina. All it cost us was car parking, ice creams and a fast food restaurant on the way home.

Weymouth beach

2.You don’t have to go far. Wherever you live I bet there’s an interesting town, well-known (or lesser known) attraction, piece of coast or countryside near to you. I admit we are very lucky to live in the South West. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bath is only 15 minutes away and, within two hours we can be on some stunning Dorset beaches. Closer to home we have some picturesque Wiltshire and Cotswold towns to explore.  When the weather turned hot a couple of weeks ago we spent the day by the river in Bradford on Avon, just ten miles away.

playing by the river in Bradford on Avon

3. You don’t have to go anywhere. This is something I have been learning for the first time this summer. The children have had as much fun playing with friends in the garden.They have staged plays and shows on the deck; we have eaten in the village cafe; had sleepovers with friends and visited the local parks (including the school playground which is always open)

Playing in the school sandpit

4. If you do go somewhere you can stay with friends. We spent last weekend visiting an old school friend who lives on the outskirts of London. We had such a great time, catching up with her family and also making the most of their convenient location at the end of the Northern Line on the Tube. Using Oyster cards (and a £6  travel card for our 14 year old) meant we were able to visit the capital very cheaply. As well as doing free museums and packing picnics we also visited other (free to us) sights such as Platform 9 & 3/4 at Kings Cross and the giant M&Ms store in Leicester Square (the girls bought one gift here each with money from grandparents). Having taken the kids to see The BFG film we learnt about the BFG/Save the Children Dream Jars that are dotted around London this summer.We downloaded the app and were able to locate a few of these jars which were, surprisingly, crowd free. (plus a bonus for us adults: we got to ride the Tube with a Game of Thrones actor!). We had a great mini break and it didn’t make too much of a dent in our piggy bank!

5. You don’t have to spend much. This is one of the big advantages of staying at home. However having a Staycation doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. I price compared local cinemas and saved a lot of money by taking the kids to see a new release at the local two screen theatre, rather than the newly opened multiplex. We have also taken advantage of council run schemes such as the Big Read and free swimming for children in the holidays.

While we didn’t intend to spend all the summer at home we have really enjoyed ourselves over the past month. By taking it easy, but also booking in days out/a weekend away we really have had the best of both worlds, without breaking the bank. What have you been doing this summer?

Did you go away or have you been ‘staycationing’ too?

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Second-hand vinyl: Abba goes dark and moody..

Today is Vinyl Record Day (in the US), marking the anniversary of Edison’s invention of the phonogram.  So it’s quite apt that I have spent the past week listening to my latest second-hand purchase: Abba’s The Visitors.

Abba: The Visitors via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

 

I have written here about my personal wish list when browsing through second-hand records. But as well as Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, later Beatles albums (yes I know I’d be v lucky!) and early 80s electronic, I have also been looking out for Abba’s final album,’The Visitors’.

As a child of the seventies I know every Abba song off by heart. As well as inheriting their Greatest Hits album from my parents, I’ve also picked up ‘Arrival’ and, more recently,’Super Trouper’ (£2, charity shop).

This year I started to listen to their final album, ‘The Visitors’, on Spotify (I’m sure there’s a post here: Digital v Vinyl) and really began to appreciate it. With a nod to the  breakups and emotional turmoil that lay behind the making of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, this album was written after Benny and Frida, the other couple, had split up. You only have to listen to ‘When All is Said and Done’ and ‘One of Us’ to understand the inspiration between these more mature ‘break up’ songs.

But my favourite is the Cold War thriller that is ‘The Visitors’. The narrator hears the doorbell and knows that ‘they’ have come to take her away: “come to take me, come to break me, and yet it isn’t unexpected.” It’s all quite John Le Carre and Smileys People.  1981 was in the middle of Cold War tensions (Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 1980 Moscow Olympics boycott, Thatcher and Reagan in power and the very realistic threat of nuclear war). This dark, un-Abba song with its early 80s electronic beat is a far cry from the pop-friendly ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘Voulez Vous’, but probably a more realistic vision of the time. Even the dark, shadowy (and downright moody) front cover depicts a significant point in Abba’s final chapter.

Nonetheless, I was over the moon to find a good copy in a local charity shop at the weekend. For just £3 it came still partly wrapped in plastic. Although the title track is slightly scratched it’s still in good condition and I have really enjoyed listening to it and getting all dark and moody…