May 9th 2006


I have received a very interesting e-mail from John Laithwaite of York. As a regular reader of my blog and thus knowing my interest in charity shops he wanted to know if I was aware of the abundance of these bargain retail outlets in his home city. He wrote that he hadn’t counted them but that there must be at least forty, and of that number upwards of twenty are to be found in one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Goodramgate, close to the famous Minster.


He went on to point out that York is a prosperous city with a consequently large population of well-heeled citizens, and that this is reflected in its well-stocked charity shops, many of which are of high quality. He then listed them. I won’t mention them all but Help the Aged, Oxfam, Age Concern, SCOPE and MIND are represented, some of them with more that one shop.


The only fly in the ointment, John warns, is that York is a university city and as such is infested with a large proportion of students. Being students the vast majority of them are poor, and charity shops are an obvious attraction to them, offering as they do the chance to rig themselves out in decent clothes without causing too much of a dent in their beer money.


Consequently students are frequent and voracious users of the charity shops and this brings about occasions when a non-student charity shopper and a student make for the same item. The way to deal with students when this happens, advises John, is to poke them sharply in the ribs with the pointed end of a rolled umbrella, or, if they are particularly persistent, a cattle prod.


York is a lovely city, one of my favourites, and John’s e-mail reminded me that it had been far too long since I had last walked its impressive walls. News of all the charity shops to be found within those walls – especially in Goodramgate, which sounds to me like the Bond Street of charity shops – only increased my desire to pay it another visit, and soon. Charity shops were certainly not there in anything like that number when I last visited York, but that must have been about fifteen years ago, and charity shops on the scale you get them nowadays are a quite recent phenomenon.


I mentioned John’s e-mail to Atkins Down The Road. Atkins is an even keener patron of charity shops than I am, quite unable to turn down a bargain, and, courtesy of Help the Aged, probably the only man ever to venture out in broad daylight dressed in a bowler hat and a kilt in the tartan of the MacGregor clan. This he did when we went together to the 2000 Commonwealth Games at nearby Manchester and he wanted to see if dressed in that fashion he could get into the Lawn Bowling for nothing by telling the man on the gate he was the entry from British Caledonia. The man on the gate, dressed in an even more bizzare manner than Atkins, in the official Games uniform of multi-coloured shell suit and flat hat, took one look at him and let him in without batting an eyelid, although he might have been swayed by the fact that Atkins had taken out the insurance of carrying his bowls bag and slipping him a pound coin.


The upshot of this is that Atkins and I are off to York for the day on Friday May 19 with plans to avail ourselves of the benefits of the charity shops to be found in Goodramgate, followed by a visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre, where Atkins hopes to get in for nothing provided he can pick up a helmet with horns in it at one of the charity shops. If anyone would like to come along with us we have room in the car for another three, or if enough want to come we can maybe hire a minibus.