In my first weeks I'm busy exploring the shop and learning about its workings, making lengthy lists of book titles, ornament descriptions, stock-management language and much more, which I will be organising into verses. Hopefully I'll have something ready to put in the window in early October and you'll start regularly seeing my word pieces around the shop. I'll be in residence most Tuesdays as well as other times during the week.
What I'm finding particularly interesting is all the procedures in sorting stock and the care taken in preparing it for display - from checking for missing buttons and choosing hangers that will best flatter the shape of a garment, to replacing plugs, cables and fittings in order to make electrical appliances usable and sellable. All these processes will certainly be the subject of a piece later on!
My first word piece can now be viewed in Second Chance's window, where it will be for the next few days. Called The World Observed in Second Chance, it's a list of things which are either made in, refer to, or illustrate, different places in the world and their languages, and is an introduction to the abundance and vast variety found in the shop. I'm always amused and fascinated by the il-logistics of global manufacture and trade e.g. the hula dancing kit made in China.
I'm trying to be as widely observant as possible, and include not only shop stock but also things used by the shop, things found in the staff area downstairs, and things I hear. For example, in this piece I have mentioned the ancient Egyptian symbol of the Eye of Horus, having seen this on a pendant worn by a member of staff, and I've mentioned a song heard on the radio, and a bit of banter between regulars. he final lines came to me as I was helping to set up a new window display of winter boots - we had to stuff dozens and dozens of pairs of long boots with newspaper to make them stand up by themselves, and I found myself scrunching up an interesting photo centre-spread on modern-day Berlin for this purpose.
My second piece is now in the shop window - called Wildlife Surveyed in Second Chance, it's admittedly not a very technically correct survey, being simply a list of animal references and representations found in the shop. At the end, however, there is one real wildlife sighting in its natural setting - a pigeon passing the window.
For this piece I had to look at the sorts of things I would normally blank out and ignore, such as ceramic ornaments and children's toys, but in seeking these out and trying to describe them, I found humour and charm in many of them. Especially the plastic duck bathtub radio - the shop's electrician was testing it in the sink for its ability to float while transmitting radio broadcasts at high volume, and the song Eye of the Tiger came on - I was looking for animal references, and here found two together in a rather surreal combination.
I also learnt while checking my facts for this piece, that the correct term for a group of cygnets is a 'clutch'.
I've been reading my drafts to shop staff and volunteers, who have been giving me very useful feedback - suggesting additions, helping me identify which phrases are unclear or which bits need work. For this particular piece I must credit Warwick, the gentleman who sorts and prices the books, as when I showed him that I was trying to shape the verses to look like flying birds, he suggested putting the first 'A' of each verse on a separate line, to suggest a head - it turned out to be a great idea.
I must admit a major omission in this piece however - there are regular sightings of domestic wildlife in the shop, in the form of customers' pet dogs. I've been pleasantly surprised to see that dogs are not only permitted inside, but are actively welcomed by staff - this is just one of the friendly and good-spirited aspects of this shop. However, I've had to leave out the dogs this time as I couldn't find a satisfactory way to fit them in, so shall make amends by featuring them in a piece later on.
This week I have placed a couple of word pieces in an unexpected place in the shop for customers to chance upon. See if you can find them - here's a clue: try something on.
There are two different pieces, each a list of instructions from all different sources found around the shop - many of which are a little curious or amusing when taken out of context. I got the idea from the wording on the steamer (the machine used to air-iron clothes with steam) - DO NOT KINK HOSE. 'Kink' is an unusual although accurate word choice, which gives this phrase its charm. I went on to search clothes washing labels, other notices and appliances around the shop, and toy and game instructions for the rest. Of particular interest was a sheet of guidelines for charity shops, listing what luxury labels to look out for, and detailed information on how to spot fakes; and a magic trick set, which included some curious props called 'sponge squirrels'.
While I'm still mainly writing about the things I find in the shop, I'm actually taking an increasing interest in the systems behind the scenes and taking part in the regular conversations about the value of valuing books (for the value of their knowledge or contents, or for their presentation, condition and quality, or whether to not bother valuing them individually at all and just price them to sell!) and will be writing much more about this later.
A shock at the shop this week - I arrived on Tuesday morning to find a police investigation underway inside, after the shop was burgled on the weekend. A reasonable sum of money was taken, in mysterious circumstances. I can't really say more at the moment, and staff are very dismayed, especially considering the purpose of the shop, though at least it happened without anyone there to be in danger and without any significant damage done other than the loss of cash.
So there's no new verse from me this week - the burglar stole my draft. That's not true, but their actions stole a lot of time and attention this week, so I'm behind schedule. Next week you can look forward to an alliterative tribute to the shop's steaming machine.
This was a busy week in which I completed and put up two new pieces, as well as assembling a window display.
The first piece is for the staff, and is displayed downstairs, next to its subject - the steamer. If, like me, you've ever wondered why clothes at most charity shops smell fresh and appear washed, and you wonder how they do it - it's the steamer. The steamer is a machine which looks something like a large vacuum cleaner, but has a base full of boiling water with some fabric conditioner mixed in, and from its nozzle comes a constant spray of sweet-smelling steam. With this apparatus, clothes can be 'steamed' upright on a rail, and it only takes a minute or two to do each garment. It's very effective, and interestingly, many people enjoy this job and find it quite satisfying and relaxing to spend a few hours just working through racks of clothes.
If you try to read this piece out loud, you'll find it's an extended tongue-twister - it's meant to be fun and to elicit a knowing laugh from the users of the steamer! Again, I got a lot of help from staff in writing this - asking for ideas and getting feedback from my draft.
The second piece this week is a list of titles of books found amongst the shop's stock. I've been collecting interesting and curious book titles for a few weeks, with the help of the two volunteers who look after the books, but then quickly had to assemble my list into the above piece when I heard that the window needed to be filled with a book display this week. This piece is now on display in the window, and directly below it are many of the books mentioned in the piece, so I am hoping people will read it and then look below and see the connection.
It was also my job this week to assemble the whole window display. However, this is an endless job - as soon as something gets sold, you need to replace it with something else suitable, and if it's an important part of the display, you need to re-organise the whole display structure. Inevitably, some of the books included in my piece will probably soon get sold, so the visual connections will be lost. I am therefore preparing another, differently focused piece for the book window...
You can work out the season, the month, and probably also the prevailing weather, simply from what the shop is stocking, displaying in its windows, and collecting in its storerooms downstairs.
I've been fascinated to observe how the shop responds to the changes in season, weather, and customers' interests and needs at different times of year, and also how the shop is always thinking ahead to everything that will be happening over the next six months or longer.
This week's piece, called The Seasons Seen in Second Chance, is now in the window amongst the book display. This piece was initially inspired by one particular week at the end of September, when suddenly the stock was changed from summer to autumn. All the long winter boots were brought up and displayed in the window; the long coats that had been in store since spring and summer were brought out, and all the hat and scarf displays were changed over from the summer to the winter stock.
But I've been especially interested in the subtleties - for example, at that time the manager was pointing out that it was too early to bring up the 'furry stuff', and that there would no longer be any interest in the white linen trousers on display. Now that it's November, the 'fluffy stuff' is coming up, and the football scarves, Tottenham Hotspur curtains (true!) and ice skates are also being put out for sale.
I was also interested to observe the differences in summer and winter scarves, which is not just the materials, but the type of patterns (partly dictated by the materials) - while summer scarves are often pictorial, winter scarves tend to be in solid colours and geometric patterns.
Second Chance is very lucky in that it has a large basement so that it can hold onto a certain amount of stock until the right event or season. It even has a special storeroom in which they collect stock for themed window displays - by looking at what's hanging on the rail in there and gathering on the floor, you call tell what the next seasonal event is. For example, in October the rail was hung with orange garments, waiting for the Halloween/harvest display.
In that same room are boxes for the next Valentine's Day, St Patrick's Day, and Easter displays - each full of items which are either thematic or in the colours of those themes, e.g. all pink/red for Valentine's, green for St Patrick's, and yellow for Easter. Christmas has a whole room to itself, as well as spreading throughout the other storage areas over the autumn.
But it was in the book storeroom that I was delighted to come across the first real sign of spring - a box of gardening books, with a label instructing to keep them for spring 2013.
If you've been following this regularly, you'll note that there was nothing from me last week. That was deliberate, as I had other demanding things on, however I've also realised that I'm writing more complex pieces than I originally intended in my plan of doing a verse a week. While I've had to remind myself to try and alternate simple pieces with complex ones, the intensity of activity at Second Chance inspires and warrants more in-depth pieces. It means starting work on a piece a few weeks in advance so there's time for all the word juggling, re-thinking, and getting feedback on drafts. But at the same time I'm also trying to time pieces with the shop's own themes and changes, which means sometimes having to get pieces completed quickly while the relevant window display is up.
My latest piece is not my usual style, and isn't even a verse or list. It's a convoluted observation of three interlinked instances of 'second chances', presented in text and photos. This is the last week of the book window display and book sale tray before Christmas takes over much of the shop, so I had to get it up this week before it becomes irrelevant.
This piece started with the innocent appearance of a novel called 'Second Chance' amongst the shop's donations, which aroused interest and amusement as the title is the same as the shop's name. The book was sitting around for a little while, waiting for the right display, until it got caught up with other books and ended up in the 50p tray before I spotted it again and rescued it, linking it to some observations I'd made in the meantime:
Firstly, a friend who visited the shop was telling me of having chanced upon a book in another charity shop, which he would never otherwise have come across, and wouldn't have bought if it was new, but which turned out to be a fortuitous and relevant find for him. He put into words the value of charity shops and libraries in that they offer the free or cheap opportunity to chance upon things or be able to try things one wouldn't otherwise, and how this can lead to unexpected discoveries and new directions.
Secondly, I had been learning about how Second Chance manages its books, and was impressed by the generosity of their system, in that books are given a lot of time and different opportunities to be found by customers. There is a very specific journey made by fiction books - from the bottom shelf to the top shelf, then to the 50p tray, then to the outside book boxes, before going to a book recycling company if unsold.
In this piece, called Second Chance's second chances in Second Chance I have described and illustrated this journey, using the example of the book Second Chance, to show all the second chances that books are given. The piece can now be seen in the shop's window for about a week, and the book will be for sale, with an invitation for the buyer to report back on its subsequent fortunes.
I've also had some fortuitous finds myself in the 50p box outside, showing that just because a book has ended up in there, it doesn't mean it's junk - simply that the right person hasn't chanced upon it yet. In that box I have found two fantastic books of real-life epic sea journeys: the dramatic story of one of the very last journeys of a working grain clipper around the world, and then Francis Chichester's heroic and record-breaking circumnavigation in 1966-67 at the age of 65 - in which he followed the same trade wind sailing route as taken by the grain clipper in the first book. These two books were probably unsold simply because they're from the 1960's and 70's and a little old and unknown now, but still clean and tidy enough to take home and read. Both these books have been my 'booktracks' (book equivalent of a soundtrack) during my project so far, and it's interesting to think that these expansive world-circling true adventures were just sitting quietly in a plastic box in the middle of Archway roundabout. There are more parallels to be pointed out here, but that'll have to be for another piece...
This week's piece, called Tested and Ticketed: Appliances, Devices and Diversions in Second Chance is about the appliance and electrical testing side of the work that goes on behind the scenes at Second Chance - which is a lot more fun and interesting than it may sound. Second Chance is very lucky in having a full-time resident electrician, Peter, who goes beyond the call of duty. Not only does he do safety tests on electrical goods, but he's an all-round handyman with an interest in rescuing and fixing all sorts of things. That's why in this piece there is mention of more than just appliances: for example, he rescued a wooden dragon puppet which had been rejected because of its mess of tangled strings, and in his spare time he's happy to even do jigsaws to check all the pieces are present, or check that sets of cards are complete. This week I found him gluing the head back on a decapitated nativity figurine - possibly the figure of Joseph himself.
The title of this piece refers to the system whereby he has to carry out specific electrical tests, and then apply a 'ticket' (label) stating that it has been safety tested. He also keeps a log of every appliance or device he has checked, so that he can refer to this in case anyone brings something back; these lists were very useful to me in compiling this piece.
There is a real interest in being able to make things usable again, and he keeps dozens of spare plugs, cables and leads, so that items can be made sellable by being united with a missing lead or being fitted with a modern safety plug. Often items which arrive with a part missing are held onto for a few weeks in the hope that the part they need will come in - and often it does. He'll also salvage parts from otherwise unfixable items, which will come in useful later.
The testing of electrical toys and games is taken seriously in a fun way - I've observed tests on a plasma ball (a science novelty with lightning-like discharges inside a clear globe), seen a toy car racing track being assembled and tested, and a candy floss maker producing real candy floss!
All this is done in improvised but allocated spaces downstairs - there is a particular table for setting up toy train and car tracks, and there is a specific top shelf for testing water-carrying appliances such as kettles (and baby bottle warmers!), which is called the 'wet bench'.
However, I must point out that it's not recommended to donate broken or incomplete things to charity shops - this often just creates an extra expense for the shop in having to dispose of the goods. Second Chance is lucky in that it can save and fix many things which other shops can't, and again, it well deserves its name in this respect.
This week's new verse is a playful piece about re-stocking the books at Second Chance - another of the invisible systems behind stock management which is a bit more involved than you'd expect.
Called Replenishment Measurements for Re-stocking the Bookshelves the text is inspired by an efficient system I was recommended by the manager: within each bookcase or subject category, you shuffle up all the books so that you can see exactly how much space needs re-filling - e.g. a foot-long gap, or the space for a couple of medium-sized books. Then you bring up from the book storage room downstairs only what you need to fill those gaps.
Described in this piece are the actual measurements I made, and observations of idiosyncracies, such as the Cookery section overspilling into the next shelf, and the Travel books actually being spread throughout - how appropriate - you could almost claim that there's a subtle underlying design here!
While Non-fiction is split into several subject categories, these are quite fluid, often spilling into each other - there simply isn't time to be completely precise, and the shop's priority is to keep all the bookshelves filled up, whatever the subject. There's also the theory that if books aren't too strictly organised, then customers will hunt around more widely rather than only look at certain shelves.
Books are a large part of Second Chance's stock - I counted 11 bookcases of different sizes! The organization and pricing of books also seems to inspire the most debates and discussions. There seem to be two main schools of thought on how to present books in a charity shop:
1. Price all books the same (e.g. 1 pound for paperbacks, 2 pounds for hardbacks) and don't categorise them, except into Fiction, Non-fiction and Children's. This system is very low maintenance.
2. Value books individually, and categorize by subject. This system obviously takes much more time and work.
In Second Chance, both these views are held, by different staff, and while the system tends towards the latter, in reality, because of the vast amount of stock, it's a bit of a combination of both. There are two part-time book volunteers, who like to sort and price books individually, and their work makes the book section a bit more considered and specialized.
There are also more ways to value books than I realised, e.g. by their presentation and condition, popularity, topicality, collectability, and also by the quality of their contents. One of the book volunteers is a very literary and literate gentleman (who has been invaluable in proofreading my pieces) who has enormous respect for the content of books. He believes in valuing them according to the quality or rarity of their contents, rather than their presentation or condition. Hence he may give a higher price to a rare classical text or translation, despite it being in the form of a worn paperback.
It's fascinating to learn of all these choices that charity shops make, the reasoning behind them, and the results. The way in which stock is priced and presented influences the type of customers, how fast the stock turns over, the type of donations the shop attracts, etc. I'm curious as to which of the above-mentioned systems would make the most money over time, all these things considered?
New this week are a pair of pieces about the work that goes into sorting clothes and preparing it for sale - there is a lot more to it than simply pricing and hanging things!
A lot of care goes into deciding which donations are fit to stock in the shop, and how to display them - these things affect how customers view the stock generally, and their attraction to it. For example, coming across items that are worn, drab, or have defects, might lower a customer's expectations of the rest of the stock and put them off looking through the rest of a rail.
In the 'culling' stage, donations are initially sorted, checked for defects, and assessed whether they are appealing and likely to sell. It's been very interesting going through the donations with the manager and learning all the things to look out for - from obvious defects to bad design, cheap workmanship, or subtle signs of an item being overwashed - or underwashed!
Because the stock seen on display seems to be clean and fresh, many people assume that charity shops have washing machines, so they think it's OK to donate unwashed clothes. However, the fact is that clothes which are obviously dirty or un-fresh are unsellable, and have to be culled straightaway. I've been pleased to see there is no wastage however - the culled clothes are collected by a recycling company who find other uses for them, including exporting them to the third world.
The 'hanging' part is also more specialised than you'd expect: there are at least a dozen different sizes, shapes and types of hangers, and choosing the right one is important to not only make sure that an item won't slip off, but also to display it to its best potential - a pullover or jacket on the wrong hanger can look limp and shapeless, but a longer, wider or more curved hanger could flatter its structure or shape.
Determining who a garment is for (men's or women's, adult's or child's?), which way around (front or back?) and its size, from inconsistent and often foreign clothes labels, is also a skill to be learnt! All these findings then need to be translated into sizer cubes - those little coloured cubes with the sizes on which are fitted onto the hanger hook.
Then the clothes are steamed (see my previous piece about this), then priced, for which there are further guidelines, and then they can be hung. Clothes are displayed on rails or carousels by 'colour-blocking', which means arranging garments by colour, rather than size - which looks better, and many customers prefer this.
Here at charity shop level, you can see the effects of shops like Primark, which bring large volumes of cheap clothes into the market. These end up as large volumes of donations of trendy but cheaply-made clothes, which is a mixed blessing! It's interesting to observe how the ongoing boom in charity shops must be fuelled by the great availability of low and mid-price clothes, which people buy easily and get rid of easily. I was reminded by one of the volunteers that charity shops are a relatively modern phenomenon: in the past, people had just a few sets of clothes, made their own, repaired what they had, and handed outgrown things directly onto others - there was no excess, and hence no stock for charity shops.
And finally, I learnt some new subject-specific vocabulary: the technical term used in the textile industry for 'bobbles' (those rounded clusters that build up on overwashed or overworn clothes), is called 'pilling', and there are even terms for each of the four stages of pilling: fuzz formation, entanglement, growth, and wear-off!
While everything appears quiet, I'm actually working intensely to finish off the last 5 or so pieces I wanted to write, and there will be a surge of visible activity from next week when the shop re-opens and I get to check my drafts over with staff.
As ever, I have more material and ideas than I will have time to use, such as these interesting quotes which I'd collected, so I'll use them here:
"I've started to view each trip (to a charity shop) as a visit to a museum or exhibition rather than a shopping experience; that way I can tell myself that I don't have to own these things, that it's OK just to look and appreciate". This quote is from an artist and lover of charity shops, with a storage problem. A very healthy view, which I share!
"Since working here, I've started reading again". This was stated by one of the book volunteers, and echoed by the manager, both inspired by the enormous amount and variety of books surrounding them.
"It's good to have some thoughtfulness and reflection in what is a chaotic and transient place". This was a nice observation from one of the staff, referring to this project and its value in the centre of Archway.
"It's therapeutic to untangle chains". A quote from the electrician, who as mentioned previously, is an all-round rescuer and fixer of things. Here he had been untangling a bunch of gold chains. A lot of untangling goes on in Second Chance, as well as re-untangling after things get tangled again.
My new piece, called Keeping Up Appearances at Second Chance, is about the invisible but constant work in re-tidying the stock that is constantly falling into disarray.
Charity shops are particularly prone to disorder, largely because of the variety and amount of stock and how it's displayed in racks, baskets and boxes for searching through, and because items are not individually packaged as they might be when sold new. And also some customers can be less respectful of charity shops and second-hand things!
But all the work in re-tidying it is something you are quite oblivious to unless you're actually doing it yourself and have spent time tidying a rail, arranging it attractively in colour order, looked back at the results of your work with satisfaction, and then returned a couple of hours later to find things fallen off hangers and the colours no longer in order.
Being an orderly person, I've taken satisfaction from tidying up various boxes and sections myself, such as the haberdashery, patterns, and records, but then been dismayed to see them all mixed up again within a few days. But you have to see it as a good sign and the inevitable consequences of a large number of customers looking at things, trying them on and thoroughly foraging through boxes.
This piece is displayed in the clothes sorting room downstairs for the volunteers to see, as it expresses the exasperation of their daily battle to keep things tidy, while hopefully making them laugh.
My latest piece, called Pictures Pondered in Second Chance, is a playful and slightly mischievous one - it's a list of titles or made-up descriptions of paintings and prints donated to Second Chance.
Original paintings and artworks are a difficult thing for a charity shop to assess and value - frequently they arrive without any title or artist's name, no clues or context, and only your own judgment to discern between something amateurish and something accomplished. I did manage to catch one donor who explained the story of a painting she brought in, saying that the mountain and lake landscape had been painted by her uncle simply as an exercise to show her how to paint in oils. I've mentioned this one in the piece.
The playful aspect was in making up titles or descriptions for those pictures which arrive untitled, as well as for some prints of historic paintings which inspired alternative descriptions. While this is partly a bit of fun, it's actually a very good exercise, forcing you to really look at what is going on in a picture, to pick up on clues or try to sum up an atmosphere.
I did this with the help of one of the shop's most regular visitors, an older lady who comes in several times a week for tea and biscuits (which is another thing the shop offers). She has been coming for years and enjoys the atmosphere and activity of the shop. Recently I found out that she has a great appreciation of art, and so I have been showing her all the pictures and prints that come in, asking for her observations, and trying to work out together what is going on each picture. She has been useful in translating many of the foreign titles, and is very visually perceptive, often working out things I haven't and spotting the subtleties of the scenarios illustrated. When I showed her the final piece yesterday in its printed and framed format, she was really pleased and surprised, recognising the descriptions we'd discussed of the paintings and her own suggestions.
Although I wasn't going to start displaying the pieces in the shop until Friday, I've put up the first pieces in the window today at the encouragement of the 'book man' who had the idea of doing a book, poetry and literature window, to help promote Saturday's event as well as to try to encourage book sales, as there have been several large donations and the book storeroom is over-full.
Included in the window are two new pieces:
Linens, Patterns and Haberdashery in Second Chance: I've chosen to write about linens and haberdashery because these are areas of stock that tend to be overlooked, but are actually immensely useful. Linens is one of the specialist departments at Second Chance which has dedicated sorters - there are two ladies who come in every Thursday specifically to deal with all the household textiles, sorting through all the new donations, measuring and identifying things, labelling and displaying them.
In this piece I have also included haberdashery (the materials and tools of sewing and home textiles), and knitting and needlework patterns. There are always boxes of these things in Second Chance, and again, they're overlooked except by those with a specific interest or need. The box of patterns is however worth going through just for the charming old-fashioned pictures and language!
I initially struggled writing this piece, wanting to include too much and describe the processes of measuring and identifying the donations, but kept coming back to what I really wanted to feature, which is the first line: "lots of lonely things coming in". This was said by one of the 'linen ladies' as she pondered a single curtain retainer. This observation highlights the value of the work behind the scenes of Second Chance - donations arrive in a chaos of mixed bags full of anomalies and idiosyncracies, with things out of order or context. In the sorting, these things are matched up, tidied up, labelled, put back into context, and made desirable again. That idea became the content and structure of this piece, and that single curtain retainer also gave me the idea for the design.
I was impressed by the care taken by the 'linen ladies', who keep a pile of spare pillows and bags of cushion inners of different sizes, so that when nice covers or cases come in that are worth displaying, they'll match them up. They'll re-combine split sets of things, and often hold onto items until a use is found or the right season comes around, and take the trouble to label and price the smallest things - knowing that there are uses and customers for almost everything.
Requests at Second Chance: this piece is a list of things that customers have asked for. Second Chance is somewhat of an emporium of second hand goods, so it does understandably get a lot of expectant requests.
Most of the items listed in this piece are things I was asked for and tried to help with, or overheard while in the shop. I spoke to the lady mentioned at the end, who turned up having recently donated her video player, hoping we hadn't sold it yet as she'd just re-discovered a collection of videos she wanted to watch. Luckily we had several video players in stock, so the electrician managed to sort her out with either her previous one or another to replace it.
The 'men's drop-in' mentioned is a nearby drop-in for homeless men, and Second Chance keeps some donations aside for them - there is a list on the wall in the sorting room of the things they have specifically requested, including 'trackies' and 'hoodies'.
Impressively, of the above requests, nearly half of them were satisfied.
Last Saturday was the public event to present the results of my project, and I'm pleased to report that it really couldn't have gone any better.
The event was held in the shop, and there was a perfect-sized audience of about 30 filling the room, who were all receptive and smiling from the beginning.
I had recruited seven other people to help read the pieces - these included the shop manager, the Reverend and the Administrator of Archway Methodist Church (which the shop is part of), and several of the shop's volunteers, including some of the younger ones who had less public reading experience. All the readings were beautifully and entertainingly done, and Warwick and I acted out the amusing true adventures of the book 'Second Chance' in Second Chance, which went down particularly well.
I introduced all the pieces with explanations of the findings that inspired them, and explained how I had become more interested in the workings of the shop than the stock itself, and had ended up writing in particular about the hidden work in sorting, preparing and displaying stock and all the decisions and reasonings behind the procedures. I was pleased to hear that this was much appreciated by the shop's staff, making other people aware of how much goes into the shop's success, as well as "making our work sound interesting".
One of the pieces I read was a list of interesting and alternative uses to which customers had put things that they'd bought in Second Chance, and was delighted that one of these customers had brought along the Miss Havisham costume that she'd made from clothes and fabrics found in the shop, to illustrate the line 'a net curtain shredded for a Miss Havisham veil'.
We finished with a piece I'd written just for this event - a list of some of the many different charities and projects to which the income from Second Chance is distributed. It's a really interesting and varied list, from the local Brownie and Guide groups and a cold weather shelter, to national charities and overseas aid projects. The Revd Paul Weary read this piece, bringing the presentation to a thoughtful conclusion about the end result of all these efforts. One of the younger volunteers remarked later that she hadn't previously made the connection between her day-to-day work there and the money that was raised for dozens of charitable projects as a result.
Yesterday I completed my work at Second Chance, by hanging all the framed pieces downstairs (in the stock sorting and staff working areas).
There were 14 pieces to hang, and doing the first few was a horrendous job because it involved drilling into concrete. Most of the pieces are hung near to their subjects - e.g. the piece on linen sorting just by the linen table, the pieces on sorting clothes are in the clothes-sorting room.
So now I go back to being a customer, albeit a much nicer and wiser customer - e.g. I know to put clothes back on the rails with the hangers facing the right way.
Hosts: Rev. Paul Weary of Archway Methodist Church and Barry Brundage, Manager of Second Chance
Thanks to: all the staff and volunteers of Second Chance for their participation and contributions (described in my notes below); Kasonde, Warwick, Ken, Sheena, Tyg, Barry, and Paul who read beautifully at the presentation; and the customers for their great observations and stories.