I’m nearing the end of my visit to the Transylvanian town of Miercurea Ciuc. I’ve run out of clean clothes and it’s also time for that rather deflating hunt for souvenirs. I can’t come home empty handed, but do I really need to bring back another armful of tat?
So when I come across a clothes shop with a sign saying ‘Second Hand’ and a big Union Jack painted alongside, I have a brainwave.
How about I get myself some clean clothes and some pressies from here.
I’m doing the eco-friendly reuse thing, I get a chance to moralise about waste and I get a big tick in the ironic present buying box.
I take a peek inside. The retail space consists of a series of wooden bins. The things in each one look vaguely sorted into how you’d get dressed. First underwear, then t-shirts, shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts and jumpers with boots & shoes thrown into the final bin.
But no prices anywhere, so what does it all cost?
I was directed to a sign.
Monday: 18 Lei per kilo – about £3, Tuesday: 16 Lei, Wednesday: 13 Lei, all the way down to Saturday when clothes can be bought for a bargain 5 Lei – just £1 per kilo. That’s about the same price as a bag of spuds.
Alas, it’s Monday. I seem to have come on the wrong day and I’ll be paying top whack.
But no! A fellow shopper explains how it all works. New(ish) clothes come over from the UK every Sunday. Monday shoppers get first pick and pay a premium for the privilege.
I may be digging deep into my pockets today, but at least I get the finest pre-loved threads Britain has to offer.
It occurs to me that, whatever the actual quality of the stuff here, the fact that the shop owners are proudly displaying that the clothes are from Britain says something. Bringing clothes from Blighty means travelling through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Hungary. What’s so great about the clothes coming from the UK?
Despite the political bickering with our ‘European Friends’ over the last three years, being British still counts for something.
Today, back in Westminster, politicians are arguing over the hows, whens and ifs of Brexit and it’s with that in mind I realise there is, as yet, one unemployed argument for a ‘clean break’ .
If the ports get snarled up with customs checks, the weekly clothes vans into Transylvania may get delayed by a few days and local shoppers will be able to get their hands on the good stuff on the cheap days.
Hmm, there’s a flaw in this argument somewhere…
But before that thought finishes, I realise that my clean clothes/souvenir hunting will have to take place somewhere else.
A closer inspection of the bins reveals a problem.
If there’s one thing the clothes here could really do with, it’s a good wash.