Before I fell for opportunity shops and hard rubbish, there was Dimmey’s. Before it was acceptable to rifle through other people’s cast offs in search of something useful: clothes, glass ware, shoes or toys, there was Dimmey’s. 

When I was sixteen, in bursts between spells at boarding school, a day scholar again, and free to travel home by train, even as I could not afford a ticket, or too much else besides, there was Dimmey’s. 

The store sat majestically on Swan Street near the train overpass with its turquoise globe elevated above, and row upon row of merchandise, unpredictable offers strewn over tables.

One week you might find night wear for a song, reasonable quality, motley colours, and sizes, but if you were lucky, one might fit. 

Best of all, after an intake of shoes cast off from some shoe manufacturer unable to sell, again, you might be lucky and find your exact size. A pair of shoes that would otherwise cost a fortune for less than five dollars. Unimaginable leather shoes. 

Shopping at Dimmey’s was like trawling through an Aldi store today.  Supermarkets hosted from Germany with foreign food packaged almost identically to the local variety.

In the middle aisle, rows of inexpensive items, bric a brac, kids clothes, sportswear, toys, camping equipment, kitchen utensils, cleaning aids, stationary.

An endless array of useful items if you happen upon them at your precise moment of need. Seductive stuff even without need because they’re cheap. The aisle of shame.

My mother’s impulse, and I have inherited her tendency. To buy things whether I need it or not, because it’s inexpensive.

A bargain, she’d say coming home with five new hair brushes or a dozen tea towels, none of which we needed at that moment, but useful for later, if her overfull cupboards could hold them.

There they stayed stuck in the back of the cupboard where they were forgotten until she died. 

I have not inherited my mother’s impulse to be on the lookout for bargains in gift ships, random bits and bobs she imagined might be a suitable gift for this grandchild or other, even for this adult child or other. 

I despised my mother’s gifts at adult birthdays. They spoke of her stashed collection of unwanted junk bought on the cheap and held in a cupboard to help appease her guilt over what she could give.

My mother liked to give. I too have inherited this impulse. To give.  But I cannot abide giving people junk. I cannot abide giving people stuff they might consider tokenistic.

Soap-on-a rope type presents. Even bunches of flowers make me cringe. Mindless acquisitions. I could not come empty handed, so I bought you a box of Cadbury Roses, or a pack of biscuits. 

For my sixtieth birthday, which I celebrated in style, you wouldn’t believe the number of scarves I received. When I rarely if ever wear scarves.

Scarves might be a delight to other people but to me they’re potential stranglers. 

The scarves were useless I have them still. Some elegant and in silk, boxed away to be removed when I die if I don’t give them to the opportunity shop first.

Then there were the multiple bottles of sparkling burgundy. A more meaningful gift. It’s my favourite tipple and some people recognised this. But they did not realise – a creature of habit – I prefer the same variety, Andrew Garratt. 

Finally there were the books, many books, weird books on things like a history of cooking, or of roses, or some random novel with names I can’t recall though the word ‘mother’ in the tile might have been chosen for this reason and no other.

Presents like the ones my mother chose.

In my fortieth year she gave me a copy of Rape in Australia. I was a social worker by then and she figured it might have been of interest. A scholarly research book whose title sent shudders through me.

Dimmey’s was a store where you could find such books. On a remaindered table, choc a block full of someone else’s efforts to put words to the page.

They left me in awe then. They still do. Rather like the shops that sell books, not by their titles or content, but by volume. As if a person can buy several kilos worth of books to complete their bookshelves as a decorative feature with no intention whatsoever of reading them.

I never read the book on rape in Australia, but I kept it buried within a random bookshelf. I am a book hoarder and cannot bear to pass them on though lately I’ve been trying to offload some into street libraries dotted throughout the suburbs. 

I love the concept of a street library as much as I love opportunity shops. Places like Dimmey’s where opportunities wait if you’re lucky and for the rest, you can be unlucky. 

There’s an excitement to the find. Keep your head to the ground, on the lookout for a glint of silver or gold. A bright flash of colour signifying someone’s lost treasure which might soon become yours.

This was my childhood pleasure. I often found money. My favourite dreams consist of finding a hidden five dollar note tucked under a rock. I go to haul it out and there are more underneath. And still more underneath that. I find so much money in my dreams and it bot thrills and terrifies me. 

What if someone comes looking for it? 

Is it theft? 

Can I have it? 

Does ‘finders keepers’ apply? 

Should I take it to the police? 

Will it burn a hole in my pocket? 

Where did it come from? 

 Does it matter? 

What shall I do with it?

Mrs Milanova once said, money is only as good as what you do with it. Where it came from also matters. How it’s earned.

All these noble sentiments that clash with my childhood desire to have something for myself when so little was forthcoming. Where I was the proud possessor of multiple hand me downs but sometimes longed for something shop-bought even if it only came from Dimmey’s. At least it was new and untarnished. A great find. A cheap treasure and all of it mine, if my mother could part with the money.

The joys of ownership. The joys of a trip after school to Dimmey’s.