Life as a Jumble Sale

In the olden days, by which I mean the 1960s and 1970s, we had Jumble Sales. This is how it worked.

A small ad might be put in the local paper a few days in advance – this was big marketing for a serious event,  or a banner would be strung up on the fence outside the church hall, or a gang of Scouts and Guides pushing a trolley would knock at a string of doors asking for jumble.

The time was noted. Usually 2.00 pm. I remember a poem beginning

It’s ten to two

And they’ve already formed a queue

It was about a jumble sale – but I can’t track down the poet.

Image result for queuing for the jumble sale

Events back then were very localised. TV was black and white, in our house anyway.  There was a lot of street activity – gang warfare and bikes and going in for your tea, then coming out again.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 11.23.10

Hempstead Road

Shame about the overlay of text – but this is the house I grew up in – taken before the war – long before my time you understand. So this is the road where we clacked up and down in high-heel shoes (purchased from said jumble) and pushed prams and pretended to be grown up ladies.

Image result for 1960s shoesImage result for 1960s high heel shoes

They were something like these – the higher the better, and preferably not too big and sloppy.

Back then I don’t think  the term Charity Shop existed – it was The Oxfam Shop, or The Red Cross Shop. These dimly lit emporiums, squatting in empty shops,  were really static jumble sales, the depository for all the old junk that didn’t get sold at the jumble.

Image result for oxfam shop oxford

The first Oxfam shop – in Oxford 1942

Car Boot Sales hadn’t been invented. I think of those years as the Golden Jumble Era – no price tags, just boxes filled with stuff and a wax crayon scrawl saying  All 10p. Shoes were a lucky-dip arrangement, a deep cardboard box filled to the brim – find a shoe, find its pair, does it fit? Probably not. Or if you fancied going up a level, and trying something on behind a sagging curtain strung across a doorway that led to out-the-back, then you negotiated with the woman at the till and she made up a price. Brilliant.

Well, what’s this blog post about? Jumbles have shaped my life really. I love the idea of people just giving away the things they don’t want anymore and handing them over to a bunch of kids on the front path, I love the whole experience of rooting through a heap of clothes, scanning an assortment of cheap romances and old annuals, examining peculiar items on the table of bric a brac and basically digging for treasure. I love the  ethos of the jumble, the eclecticism, the mish-mash of un-design. I think this writing is jumble – I keep using words that I have made up. One of my children decided he didn’t want to go to Nursery School, so he didn’t. Really I think it was because he preferred the delights of the Oxfam Shop, which by that time had been modernised with a uniform banner of sky blue paintwork. It was the end of an era, but it’s still a great shop. Bang on trend now!

Image result for oxfam shop

The dictionary says jumble  means an untidy collection or pile of things. This is the nub of it, what I am steering towards. The creative space, the workroom in my case, is a jumble. 


An evening shot – gloomy but honest


How much honest revelation can I cope with? When playing that game – If your house was on fire what one thing would you rescue? – mine would be these old sewing books, up on the right. Priceless!

I did a  big reorganisation just before Christmas and was going to put on some pics – the before and after – the amazing transformation. But really it was just pictures of jumble and a bit of tidying up. These are my best shots!


Probably should have moved the chalk box


Probably should have shut that drawer


Nearly tidy – spot the Co-op shopping bag



And is this order or chaos? I don’t know


Anyway, here’s a jumble of a poem.


Bottom Drawer 

They chose a jumble sale marriage,

standing in the queue

expectant at the door

dropped 10p into the biscuit tin

and entered the church hall


a pin-striped jacket from the gents’ table

traces of crimson lake in a flattened handbag.

Tea was served at the hatch with that smell of gas

the women fussing over kettles like buckets.

She found a dinner plate,

crackle glazed from someone else’s oven,

he said he’d take the typewriter


dancing the dusty floor,

out to the tables, back to the centre,

departing with suitcases

awkward to carry.






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8 responses to “Life as a Jumble Sale

  1. Richard

    Great Poem

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And do you know about the book that Tink Kew illustrated called Dora the Storer? It was based on Bid and features a wonderful jumble sale!


    Harriet Crampton 0273339635 09 372 6613


    Liked by 1 person

  3. loved your description of clacking up and down the street in high heels playing grown-ups (I immediately remembered hanging on to the stair banister for dear life wearing my mothers high heels and trying to walk down the stairs in them when i was about 6…and I am still not so good in heels) – my worktable upstairs looks like some of your before pics… may use the morning to fix that. admiring also your wonderful library

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I love the thought of a universal memory, like a rite of passage – wearing your mum’s unsuitable shoes and coming a cropper in them. I also had a pair of those hideous pink sparkly ones, with elastic to hold them on, from the local toy shop. They snapped in half on the first wearing and caused much sobbing. A life lesson!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great poem, and I love your workroom shots – especially the pattern pieces hanging from the picture rail!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved a proper jumble sale. And you’re right they don’t exist anymore. I don’t want to think of the beautiful, now called vintages dresses, suits and tops that I found at these places. I wasn’t one for shoes, but I did have a thing for evening gloves. My first pair, pale blue and ruched, I was beautiful as a 10 year old in these. Great memories provoked here, thank you.
    Also I try to tidy my sewing spaces too! Never works for long.

    Liked by 1 person

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