On the delights of the parish jumble sale

The Rectory

St. James the Least

My dear Nephew Darren

The estimate for re-hanging the bells in our church tower came as a great shock. The church council discussed fund-raising at length. Someone suggested selling part of the Rectory garden for building, another for getting 200 parishioners to loan £1,000 each, interest-free.  Then Mrs. French suggested holding a jumble sale. The jumble sale won – mainly because it was achievable without a great fight, and also gave everyone an opportunity to see what their neighbors think of as junk.

Expensive articles were brought with an ostentatious show of modesty when everyone was sorting donations. Genuine jumble, such as odd plates, old blankets, and mysterious kitchen gadgets, were left at the church door in the dead of night.

On the day of the jumble sale, our helpers were ready behind wobbly tables stacked high with stuff. Had the tables collapsed, half the congregation would have been smothered.  Little Miss Faversham was having a wonderful time flitting from table to table like a woolly bumble bee, kitting herself out for another year.

When the doors opened and the customers poured in, I realized how the Italians must have felt when they saw Hannibal with his elephants pouring down the sides of the Alps. That is when the mettle of our ladies really showed. They were tremendous - haggling at great length over whether something worth £10 should go for 10p or 11p. I noticed that those who are used to riding with hounds seem best able to control the crowds – even if they occasionally tended to regard the customers as the fox.

As it happened, the youth club was going pot-holing that day, so most of the teenagers bought complete sets of clothing for 10p which could then be discarded afterward.  But I wondered what their caving instructor would think of teenagers arriving dressed in dinner jackets and tweed skirts.

Two days of preparation yielded a battle that was over in less than an hour.  We emerged bloodied but unbowed, with only scraps of jumble left. Then it was home for a bath and a strong restorative, in the knowledge that the first step to saving the bells has been taken. Only another 2,500 jumble sales and we shall have reached our target.  Indeed, the only jarring note of the day was to discover someone with a peculiar sense of humor had put a note on my car:  “Sold – to be collected later”.

Your loving uncle,


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