Nothing New by Robyn Annear

‘Second-hand means different things to different people.’

When I was a child, second-hand was a sign of poverty, of not being able to afford new.  Later, as a new mother, second-hand was a sensible way of recycling baby clothes and the multitude of accoutrements that very young children require.  Very few of these items wear out: they are grown out of quickly and sharing makes sense.  And now?  In my senior years I visit op-shops regularly, rescuing fabric, long out of print books, craft material and clothing as well as donating jigsaws (complete!) and clothing.  And I love second-hand bookshops. Ms Annear could well have written this book for me: a history of one of my favourite pastimes.

‘There’s nothing new about second-hand.’

Indeed, there is not. And the history is fascinating.  We’d all be aware of second-hand clothing, household goods, books, building materials and cars.  But what about food scraps?  I remember ‘the pig man’ visiting my school to take away food scraps for the pigs.  Not these days, I suspect.  But unused food was also sold (or given) to the poor and is donated to charities.

Opportunity shop. How brilliant. Who wouldn’t prefer an opportunity shop to one trading in charity, salvage or thrift let alone waste products?’

I was reminded of the use of rags in paper and learned about ‘shoddy’ and ‘flock’.  I was reminded of ‘dripping’ (I never liked bread and dripping), and the manufacture of candles.  My grandparents, adults during the Great Depression, were great at recycling and repurposing.

If you enjoy op-shopping or have ever wondered about the history of second-hand and the reuse of items, this is a book to read and enjoy.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith