or, “this sort of thing never happens to me”
On Saturday mornings I like to make my pilgrimage to the local charity shops. Despite being on a tight budget I still have an insatiable thirst for reading, and charity shops feed me whilst pandering to my thriftiness. Plus, I love looking at the bric-a-brac, seeing what sorts of things other people throw out. I love being able to say with a sharp intake of breath “Grandma used to have one of those!”
There’s also a long running joke between Mr D and I. For a long time, I have lusted after a Lomo LC-A camera. I’ve seen what can be done with them, but the price of them has meant that the thought of owning one goes on the high shelf in my mind of “things I really really want, but am probably unlikely to get”. Looking around, it seems that people like me who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a Lomo, usually end up getting an Olympus XA. Although the two cameras are fairly different, they can produce similar results. So, it made sense that the XA went on the shelf in my mind marked “attainable, but there’s usually other things to spend the money on”
So, every time I wander into a charity shop, I pipe up with “let’s go in here, you never know, they might have an Olympus XA for a quid…” Mr D laughs in a way that says, “yeah, right” but I still look on the shelves in the vain hope that someone has donated a knackered looking camera to charity without realising what it is.
One of my favourite charity shops locally is Barnardo’s. The small shop is about eighty percent books and some bric-a-brac, mostly teapots and vases. I love it because they have the sense to display their books not only alphabetically, but by genre too, so you don’t have to wade through hundreds of Catherine Cookson books to get to HG Wells. Last week, they were giving away toy flamingos with every purchase, apparently they were donated by a company, and when Barnardo’s realised they couldn’t sell them, gave them away with every purchase as an incentive to buy something. I bought two books, and got two free flamingos.
This morning, we went in and I noticed there were still pink flamingos lined like Tiller girls along the tops of the shelves. I went straight to the fiction section, letter A, because I’m looking for a book by Jake Arnott. That particular section is near the till, and I caught a snippet of a conversation between the shopkeeper and an old gentleman. He’d said the word ‘camera’. I glanced around, and noticed a shelf behind the counter with about ten different cameras on it. Ranging from Kodak brownies of varying ages to cheap nameless plastic tat, and somewhere in between. Then, just as I was wondering whether to get one of the Brownies, I noticed four letters in white – lomo. My first thought was nah, someone’s written that on, but as I continued to look, I realised that what I was looking at was a genuine Lomo. The old man was still contemplating his choice of camera, and was blocking most of the small counter area. I willed him to make his mind up, so I could get to my prize. An eternity later, he sighed and said “I think I’ll leave it…”
I beamed at the shopkeeper and said, “can I look at the cameras?”
(IB claim note – “client has no problems communicating with others as long as there’s a Lomo involved”)
Without hesitation, I reached for the Lomo. It was heavy for a small camera, and was indeed the coveted LC-A model. My fingers ran over the painted metal body and I felt a paper sticker – the price. I nervously turned it over, my heart in my mouth – wondering what on earth they would put as a price. Yesterday, on ebay, a Lomo LC-A sold for £84.
Prices of cameras in charity shops vary massively. Usually, they’re just the cheap plastic 35mm cameras that only cost £5 new – and they sell for pennies. Sometimes, however, the shop thinks it has something of value, and ups the price. Box Brownies, for instance, or anything with a recongisable name. I’ve never seen a Lomo LC-A in a charity shop – it just doesn’t happen. People are cottoning on to the idea that this is a fairly valuable camera, so if they don’t want it any more, they put it on ebay. I guess it’s very much like antiques. Programmes like the Anitques Roadshow and Flog It et al, teach people that things could be more valuable than they think. Troika pottery is a prime example – it’s relatively ugly to a lot of people, yet prices in the last few years have rocketed. Same with Clarice Cliff ten years ago. Everyone wants to find the “oh, I got it at a car boot sale for 10p” item that’s now worth hundreds. But I digress.
I turned the camera round to see the price. There must be some mistake, I think. Maybe it’s not the LC-A I want, but some other model. The ticket says “£2”. I resist the urge to scream out loud. “Ooh,” I say “I think I’ll have this one” and have a quick look at a Brownie so I don’t look over keen. I hand over my money, and leave the shop – the proud owner of a Lomo LC-A found for two pounds. It was a surreal experience, and it was absolutely magic.

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