My mother is a very shrewd shopper. She was the youngest of five children, with three elder sisters and one brother, brought up in a tiny coal mining village in South Wales. Having been born during the war, rationing would have been the norm, and that, plus being the recipient of her three elder sisters’ clothes, has helped make her the savvy bargain hunter she is today. Now retired, she will often pop to the local supermarket just at the time she knows they start their daily reductions.
She was shopping in charity shops long before the goods they sold were labelled “vintage” and as a result, my brother and I often received recycled clothes and gifts for our birthdays and Christmas which padded out our stockings considerably. My brother was fortunate enough one Christmas to receive an electric toothbrush, many years before everyone else had one. It was still in good condition and the only sign it had been used before was the trace of pink toothpaste encrusted between some of the bristles.
A couple of weekends ago, Mum and I went to Prague for a winter city break to get us in the festive spirit. Prague was beautiful, but cold. Apart from a pair of salopettes that don’t fit anymore, I don’t have many clothes suitable for winter (I have neither the storage space nor the inclination for a top box full of Aran jumpers), so I was grateful that Mum had brought along some spare thermal vests. One of the vests was formerly owned by a lady called Doris Rew. We know this because it still has her name stitched into the back of it. Doris must have been a short plump lady because the vest was short and baggy on me, but I was still appreciative of its warmth.
Christmas is a time for giving thanks. So, in a post-gift contemplation, I’d like to thank Doris Rew for donating her vest to the charity shop, and my mother for the sometimes offbeat, quirky but always unpredictable presents over the years, given with love.