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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Anyway, here’s a jumble of a poem.
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.