My favourite Charity Shop closed down yesterday: The London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy. It was situated on Fortess Road, Tufnell Park. Between a local supermarket and an alleyway. I’ve no idea when it first opened, but it’s become a feature of the area. And it retained the feel of an old school second-hand shop; charging reasonable prices; not marking-up so called designer goods.
I remember the man who ran the shop a few years ago suddenly disappeared. He never returned. I asked what had happened and was told he’d found another job. I got the impression many people had asked the same question. The man was a character; he transformed the experience of buying second hand clothes into something else. These days my memory is a little leaky, but I’m sure that on one idle afternoon he came to work dressed as a woman, wig n’ all.
Now the shop has disappeared. Nick and the other people who worked there are looking for a new location. During my last visit a conversation went around the shop, concerning the rise and rise of rents in London. The disappearance of much loved shops. The change in character a crazy property market forces: empty shops, expensive shops, and exclusivity. I’m hearing this conversation everywhere I go. People are noticing a disconnect, a levelling out, an emptiness.
Subtle changes happen when a familiar landmark disappears. A break in thousands upon thousands of routines. From the person travelling down Fortess Road on the 134 bus, looking out and seeing a metal security grate rather than an open and thriving place. From the casual visitor to the area, who finds something nice to wear. And from locals like me, who miss the place and it’s people.
Without routine the world as we know it would not exist. From the Citric Acid Cycle to the back and forth of the seasons. From the newspaper and bread bought on a Saturday morning; to the haircut a person has every so often. The barber who cuts earns a living. And a baker bakes the bread that’s delivered to the store; where coffee, tea and pastries are served by people around the clock. Before computers newspapers were made with blocks of metal, moulded into letters. People worked through the night in the blast furnace heat of a print room. Lifting these heavy blocks was dirty and strenuous work. I remember meeting an old printer; a living exhibit in Beamish Open Air Museum, who demonstrated his obsolete trade. He’d persisted with the routine, in a mock-up of his old life.
And in my routine; in-between the newspaper and bread shop, was a Cerebral Palsy Charity Shop. Part of the back and forth. Unlike the printer I can never reproduce the experience of browsing through it’s dusty clothes and records; of shooting the breeze with people in the shop. Fortess Road is changing; it’s more like Primrose Hill. It’s prettier, less grimy, but something’s happened to its soul.
So goodbye The London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy, I hope you find somewhere close to setup shop. Then I can visit you once again.