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  • Writer's pictureEllen Alpsten

Memories are forever

Do you love charity shops? Have you found something amazing in one of these latter-day treasure troves? Tell me, please !

I cannot even start to count the amazing things that I've found there - such as a haute couture Christian Lacroix gown, the name of the model and the date of the show in the late 90s still sewn inside: I have worn it at my best friend's birthday at a beautiful French Chateau and my parents' golden wedding anniversary. There's also an original black & white stills photo of James Dean from the shoot of 'Giants', where he acted alongside Elizabeth Taylor, shortly before his death. It has a haunting quality to it, and especially when dusk casts shadows on Dean's moody face.

The shelves of a charity shop are stacked with the most valuable of things: life, and its memories. Also, it is about Karma. Even if Christmas is over, and our funds are depleted, one can never give too much.

Whatever you give, you get it right back.

Just yesterday I queued in my local Oxfam, clutching frames and paperbacks. Ahead of me stood an old man, holding on to the most gorgeous, unopened set of trains, rails, houses, trees and farm animals. It looked amazing and induced a severe case of charity shop envy.

Curiosity is a sin, but a virtue if you like good stories.

'That's one lucky boy who gets this rain set so short after Christmas,' I said, and he chuckled.

'The lucky boy is me. I love trains.'

'How come?'

'They saved my life. I grew up in Denmark, where my Jewish father worked at the railway. At the occupation by the Nazis, his employer gave my mother, him and me an all-valuable ticket. It was the ride of our lives, into freedom, and made for all our survival, I think.'

'What do you remember most from that ride?'

'Everything. The sounds, the smells, the sights. The flats of Denmark flying by and then getting on a ferry to England. The grey and choppy waters. My first cup of tea.'

'Where did you move on to?'

He cracks a smile: 'Crewe. A train-lover's heaven. Every day, after school, I'd bike to the rails and watch the trains go by.'

I cannot help, but smile with him - no more charity-shop envy then, but one last question: 'But is your grandson allowed to play with you?'

'I only have granddaughters. But yes, they can join in. All in the name of equality. And then I'll tell them about Denmark, and that train-ride.'

Here's to the best times to be had with memories, and for a family not forgetting, ever!


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