There's always stuff to sort through from designer clothes to chinaware, from maps to original paintings and from postage stamps to paperback books. Of course, shop volunteers are the first to see new donations. We are allowed to purchase items at exactly the same prices our customers would have to pay. All volunteer purchases have to be carefully logged with counter-signatures in a logbook.
In the two years I have worked in the shop, I have hardly bought anything for myself - just a few paperback books and a DVD of one of my favourite films - "Once Upon a Time in America". Other volunteers seem to buy things quite frequently but I have deliberately striven to curtail that temptation. I am there to work not to buy.
However, yesterday I gave in and bought not one but two items I noticed in the shop last week. One is a large hardback book from The Royal Geographical Society, called simply "Illustrated". It contains many fascinating pictures from the early years of travel photography, including the following picture which shows a tea bearer in Sichuan, China. He is carrying numerous "bricks" of tea from a hilly plantation. The photograph was taken in 1908.
The second item I bought is a plate that commemorates one of South Yorkshire's many coal mines. It existed for well over a hundred years, in a village three miles east of Sheffield. It closed soon after The Great Miners' Strike of 1984-85. Coal mining has a special place in my heart as my maternal grandfather and great-grandfathers were all coal miners. Now there are no mines left in South Yorkshire. No more shall our pit wheels turn or our claxons sound. The plate is a souvenir - to remember all those brave men who went down into the bowels of the earth and to honour the mining communities that were broken. Thank you Oxfam and thank you anonymous donors.