German Signs

Getting a sense of a different country is often to be found in the small things of life – signs, for example.

On a visit last weekend to see friends in Bonn, the sign for the baby changing room in a airport made me laugh and, truly, Bonn airport is not a bundle of hilarity.

Anyway, the Germans call it a ‘wickelraum’ which literally means a wrapping room.

(Babies being swaddled thoroughly maybe…)

But it was the image of the baby which looked so alarming. It is on its back with arms and legs akimbo.

It looks as if it has been thrown splat onto its back only protected by the enormous nappy (wrapping/swaddling) it is wearing.

( My German friends said it was surrendering – but only they can say that and get away with it.)

Mind you, a quick glance at the Heathrow equivalent shows a baby being changed by someone with no hands – so how does that work?

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Colour Co-ordinated Books

I am never quite a woman of the zeitgeist so it took me a while to catch up on the idea that books organised by colour are becoming popular.

(My partner would be shocked and appalled at the thought that there should be anything other than alphabetical and topic organisation in our bookshelves – but I have to say I quite like the idea.)

Anyway, a few weeks ago we had a donation which included some of those old blue Pelican books – much too ropey and brown to put on the shelves and so they are usually sacked forthwith.

The shelves ‘out the back’ where the donations are put, are an interesting place to find all sorts.

On this day there was a broken laptop support ( who on earth would think we could sell that?), several 1500 piece jigsaws ( also not a great seller – anything over 500 pieces and you can forget it as a sales item), a diary from 2011 used for scrap-paper, leftover christmas cards, a book on Arabic cookery from 1982 – and usefully in this case, a ball of string.

I tied up the blue pelicans into bundles of 10 and they sold.

Then, on another day, a man came into the shop and said to the volunteer at the till, ‘I’d like to buy that shelf please.’ ‘What?’, she said. ‘That shelf of books, all of them.’

He was an interior designer….

On a quiet Monday afternoon – we get a good few of those – I re-arranged the ‘old and interesting’ shelves into colours. Blue, green, brown, mixed (for the leftovers) and those with proper leather bindings.

Now, I cannot be sure that this boosted sales but by the following Monday some books which had become old friends over the months (and months) had found new homes.

Sometimes we put all red books in the window, or I do a table display with books which have images of faces on the front, or I do all the front-facing books ( those on stands facing you with their front, rather than their spines) in a colour.

I am no expert on merchandising but it amuses me now and then and whiles away the time.

And last time I checked, our shop was one of the few, if not the only, shop in our area to be in the blue rather than the red against all our Oxfam targets – we like blue.

Labels and Bras

The other day I went to Winchester and saw a photo of myself on a price label in the Oxfam clothes shop there.

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(There was a saga about being asked to go to an Oxfam photo shoot and being told I was going to feature in the front of a group of volunteers on a poster and then getting a sight of it to see not only wasn’t I in the front, but not there at all.

Should you, dear reader, be an insomniac, you can read about it on the blog archive somewhere – but for the rest of us, we can move on.)

It was a bit startling, but I was hardly being pressed for autographs and even the volunteer on the till at the Winchester shop didn’t recognise me, looking bemused as my friend insisted on taking a photo of the real me and the label.

(While I am mentioning previous blogs – and really, I don’t expect you to read them all – I did do one about mutton dressing as lamb and the phrase the Germans have about someone looking young from behind and old from the front.

Anyway, a lovely German friend told the me right phrase – Lyceum from the back and Museum front – isn’t that brilliant!)

My amazing friend who I was wandering around the shops with, has a plan to create a festival of kindness.

We were talking about how to do that and make it feisty not saccharine, make it interesting, who would you get involved, what would you do, how would you take over London’s South Bank or do a ‘real’ festival, how would you get those young people involved?

Then it started raining heavily so we went into Marks and Spencers.

Only this amazing friend could talk about a kindness festival whilst collecting a tub of mascarpone for that night’s dessert and mooching ( diligently) round the bras.

If anyone can make a brilliant festival of kindness, she can – and she knows her bras.

Kites,Crows,Owls and Oxfam

Well if it isn’t lambs it is birds as they might say in Deepest Sussex – if we knew anyone who was actually originated from Deepest Sussex.

We have a pair of kites living round here – no longer as rare as they were – but still a delight to watch soaring and sweeping around the back field.

They are not, in case you are not familiar with kites, small birds. Indeed the dog can look quite anxious and prey-like in certain lights.

But it is interesting to watch the corvids/crows/ravens mob them.

I should be more accurate on what type of corvids they are being a big fan of the book by Mark Cocker called ‘Crow Country.’

Amongst other fascinating stuff about corvids, It tells of the difference between crows and other corvids and explains that saying ‘if your see some ravens they are crows and if you see one crow it is a raven’ – or perhaps it is the other way round …..no, actually crows are sociable.

Anyway, these big kites are circling around looking for prey and out of the woods come the corvids and mob them – swooping around and chasing them off so the ‘poor’ kites heads off for the Downs.

The corvids are half the size of the kites but are quite determined and the kites seem either to be saying, ‘Bloody hell, is it harassment or what?’ or ‘Darling, shall we swoop up to the Downs and circle lazily round there and leave these rather plebeian types to their own thing?’

Whilst on the subject of predators, there is, what I think, is an owl box on one of our trees.

When I say ‘our’, I just mean trees we think of as ours in that they are on our horizon and are the two trees on the top of this blog – of course in fact, they are our landowner’s.

I am sure he knows what he is doing, and maybe the owls like a clear view of the catchment as it were – certainly it is not disguised or protected in any way and, as we say when one of us is washing up, ‘ don’t you think darling, it spoils the look of the tree?’

Remind me to tell you one day of the expensive bird box we put up which had been assiduously ignored by our birds who have then built their nests – insultingly – in the foliage alongside it.

Anyway, the Oxfam bookshop was open on Good Friday only from 10 till 3 so it was short shifts all round -and Joan was on the till in the morning, and I was on in the afternoon.

I had found a lovely book dating from 1941 which was sketches of children and although it was only worth about £3, I thought it was lovely enough to try it at £9.99.

Now Joan and I have a habit of me setting her a book-selling challenge on her shift. A big old bible ( but we had sold those before Easter), a Complete History of Fishing etc etc.

Essentially books I can’t find a place for anywhere else – I leave them on the counter and challenge Joan to sell them.

She looked at the book and although not usually a bibliophile, she was enchanted. That made me up the price to £12.99, and set her the challenge to sell it whilst I was out doing some errands.

In our cabinet – for expensive books (and vinyl as we now call records), was a set of three books called The Birds of Sussex.

(Should there ever be an avid reader of this blog with a good memory, they might recall than I found two of the the three volumes, which of course means they are worth a lot less, and then discovered the third volume under a pile of other stuff.)

Anyway, these books with gorgeous illustrations and I do mean gorgeous, had been in the cabinet for months and months. I was occasionally thinking of culling them and buying them to take home as they are so gorgeous – did I mention before how lovely they were ?

Anyway, (again) I got back from my errands, to find Joan in a high humour.

She had sold the book of children’s sketches – and sold The Birds of Sussex for a princely £100.

Because we were having a short day, I suggested we did not need to cash up once at lunchtime and then again at the end of the day as we usually do, but instead we could carry on through.

‘Oh not on your life,’ said Joan. ‘I am going to get the reading for this shift. You, Lucy, can eat my dust.’

And indeed I did.

I had a nice short shift with good weather and a holiday mood making customers smiley and generous, but no Sussex Birds for me.