A junk shop is not to be confused with an antique shop. An antique shop is clean,its goods are attractively set out and priced at about double their value and once inside the shop you are usually bullied into buying something. A junk shop has fine film of dust over the window,its stock may include anything that is not perishable and and its proprietor, who is usually asleep in a small room at the back, displays no eagerness to make a sale.
I’ve quoted this passage from the essay Just Junk-but who could resist it by George Orwell before and I will again as I happen to think it’s very funny and it’s funny because it’s true. Everyone I know remembers how when I moved into this flat there was the oddest junk shop on the corner and it fit this description perfectly. We have all bought stuff there and some of it was very good, and possibly a bargain. The most memorable thing however were the long essays that the proprietor left in the window for passers by to read, explaining his worldview and what was wrong in society today. A lovely bit of eccentricity that the neighborhood did gain from I think.
Had I had this wonderful essay by Orwell then I would have bought more things probably; Orwell is a gem of a writer but also a seasoned shopper. Some of the things he tells us to look out for in the essay(included in The decline of the english murder)
- “Victorian brooches and lockets of agate or other semi-precious stones”; Orwell concedes that 5 out of 6 are ugly but the beautiful ones are worth the trouble. I will start looking immediately, this sounds like exactly the thing I like. Why don’t I have lockets of agate already ?(because I love jade that’s why)
- Papier-mâche snuffboxes with pictures painted on the lid; If I had a small collection of those my accessories would be well organized. I have those Muji thingies but they are not very sexy. Probably more practical but since I use the same pieces to death in periods (and then they are either on me or in my small Wedgwood dish) it’s not really something I need worry about.
- Scrap screens; He points out that the best were made in the 1880’s but these do not come cheaply anymore. I do agree that they are wonderful. An old friend bought one and used as a bed board, simply marvelous in that kind of minimalist Stockholm home that is de rigeur nowadays. And as Orwell points out; it is fun adding your own scraps if needed . I would like a screen in any case and I might just make my own with all the maps and other travel mementos I’ve gathered over the years.
- Glass paper weights with pictures at the bottom; Don’t buy the expensive ones from John Derian I implore you. Buy a 70’s one with the words “Bienvenue à Nice” at the bottom instead. You need a bit of kitsch, you really do.
- Old French sword-bayonets(to use as a fire poker); Pure genius.
- Keys to fit almost any lock; And if you don’t want to find a key to unlock a secret drawer in a chest (also bought in a junk shop), you can always turn them into art or accessories.
- “Indeed,I have often found that the cheapest way of buying a frame is to buy a picture and then throw away the picture”; This is very true but it should be added how many pictures that look a lot better when they are out of their frame. It absolutely used to be the case that people got very elaborate gilded frames for pictures and paintings so that other could clearly see that the it was something expensive that had been framed. That it ended up overshadowing the actual artwork seemed less of a problem. You might just get two for one with that.