Society Diary: The weird and wild things donated to charity shops

16 Nov 2018 Voices

Who wouldn't want to buy a live ferret from their local hospice charity shop?

Happy Friday everyone. Another week has gone and, well, what a week it was. Diary couldn’t help but thank its lucky stars that it chose the satirical charity beat over Westminster politics yesterday as it watched Theresa May doggedly stick to her Brexit deal guns while her government crumbled around her.

If nothing else, it was a performance so stubborn and stoic that Geoffrey Boycott would have approved. Except, of course, Geoff is well known for his penchant for leaving things; be they cricket balls or pan-continental economic union's. 

Anyway, this week in charitable sector satire: all the weird things that people have “generously donated” to charity shops over the years; a pair of Johns team up for a Christmas advert and a charity story pitch that had NOTHING to do with Brexit.  

'Generous donations' 

It is tough working in a charity shop; sifting through the bags of kind offerings from well-meaning local residents to find items that might be worth a few quid.

Diary was therefore delighted this week to see that members of the public are making a real effort to provide charity retailers with quality goods.

A prosthetic leg, a sheep’s head and a live ferret were three of the standout items from the Charities Aid Foundation’s list of craziest donations published this week.

The donation that piqued Diary’s interest though was a commemorative bottle of whisky to celebrate the royal wedding of Charles and Diana.

Diary thought it had the full collection of memorabilia celebrating the 1981 union of the Queen of Hearts and the Prince of Ears, but clearly it was mistaken.

Needless to say, Diary will spend this weekend trawling through Age UK’s 400-odd strong network of charity shops to see if the bottle has been bought (and demand the address of the purchaser if it has).

Sally Army, meanwhile, received a fascinating donation of dentures in a handbag and a live hedgehog named Harry in a duffel bag. The charity could at least sell the bags after a quick wash, Diary supposes.

And Amnesty International were the lucky recipients of the funds raised from an eBay auction that featured Elton John’s black leather, knee-high, signed platform boots.

Diary is disappointed, however, that none of the items listed top a nominee for most unusual item at last year’s Charity Retail Awards, where a charity was congratulated for receiving a generous donation of someone’s kidney stones. Bet the shop volunteer found that one hard to stomach.

Christmas comes early

It’s just gone the middle of November which, of course, means that it’s time for the UK’s supermarkets and department stores to start punting out their lavishly produced, ridiculously expensive Christmas adverts. 

Diary can’t help but wonder just how subservient a culture must have become to the global capitalist machine to get actively excited at the prospect of watching an advert on TV, but here we are. 

Anyway, one of the first out of the blocks – a mere 39 days out from the birth of JC – is John Lewis’ offering. Indeed, the department store has gone all out this year, teaming up with national treasure and all round entertainer Elton John.

The advert, which can be watched at your convenience above, or at 9.15pm this evening on ITV, apparently, essentially tracks the life and career of the Piano Man and finishes with Elton, as a child, running downstairs to unwrap a piano on Christmas Day. 

The closing line of the advert says: “Some gifts are more than just a gift”. 

So, yeah, if you buy your kid a piano from John Lewis - who do actually stock pianos, who knew? - this Christmas, they might go on to make millions of pounds and become a really famous musician. Is that what Diary’s supposed to take away from this? 

Considering the fact that the advert hasn’t even aired yet, it has already courted some controversy. John Lewis has been forced to deny reports that Elton was paid £5m to take part. John Lewis have said instead that “some of the fee” - which remember is DEFINTELY NOT £5m - will go to the Elton John Charitable Trust. They won’t say how much of the fee, or what the fee is, though. 

Sky News reports that “shoppers at John Lewis’ flagship store in Oxford St will be able to step into a 2,000 sq ft recreation of the ad production, to try on costumes and have photos taken at the piano”. Alas, if you’re hoping to grab yourself a Sir Elton John toy, then you’ll be very disappointed.

Also, that makes two mentions for Elton John in Society Diary this week. Diary's sure he's ecstatic about all the extra coverage. Always a good feeling to be able to help out local talent... 


As a general rule this column is violently opposed to any unnecessary capitalisation - and yes that includes job titles, especially when it comes to chief executives. So Diary usually takes a perverse pleasure in deleting any emails it receives with all-caps in the subject line.  

But Diary just had to make an exception for the press team at Barnardo’s yesterday. Perhaps sensing that any journalist who wasn’t physically loitering in Westminster to get the scoop on what new version of chaos our elected leaders planned to inflict on us, were either following the gathering storm clouds on Twitter instead with a heady mix of anticipation, despair and frustration or were just hoping to write about something, indeed anything, else.

So, presumably with fingers crossed, Barnardo's sent out an email with the subject line: ‘NOT A BREXIT STORY’. 

Bravo! Fair to say that this subject line certainly caught Diary’s attention, at least. Barnardo’s is “calling for an end to homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic bullying and highlighting the need to educate all children and adults about hate crime”. So far so good, no arguments with this message. 

It is “urging the government to listen to feedback from its relationship and sex education consultation”. Oh. Yeah – good luck with that… We’ll just call Number 10. and ask for a response. Diary's sure we’ll be top of the list. 

The sad truth is that right now everything is a Brexit story... even the things that really ought to be more important. 

Enjoy your weekend though. 


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