There are still a few people who don’t know that Oxfam got its name because it was set up by students at OXford University to fight against FAMine. Since those early days it has become a massive, world-wide organisation, with 33 shops in Spain alone.
The shop in Valencia is very different from the old Oxfam shops in Britain, and Patricia, the only employee among a sturdy group of volunteers, informed me that she still occasionally gets a visit from well-meaning British ladies loaded down with second-hand fur coats.
What you’ll find in the Oxfam shop are basically Third World products produced under the aegis of the Fair Trade organisation, ensuring that the producers get a fair price and work in reasonable conditions.
You won’t find any Nike products here, but foodstuffs such as coffee, tea, pasta, crisps, mustard, spices, and of course banana-flavoured beer; all more expensive than in other places, but guilt-free.
If guilt is not your thing you could try a bottle of South African champagne in a Bangladesh cooler jacket.
Most of the shop contains gifts that you’d be unlikely to find elsewhere; an egg made of sunflower seeds was a definite favourite of mine, ladybird shoulder bags and of course the pencils that seem to be whole branches from a tree shot through with lead, something all to frequent in the war-torn countries of the developing world.
It’s also one of the few places I know where you can buy a Panama hat and do a reasonable impersonation of John Le Carré without being thrown out, or merely scorned.
The aims of Oxfam are not unambitious: “to remove 900 million peasants from poverty”. That being the case, I expect to see all of you down at C/ Marqués de Dos Aguas, 5, wallet in hand and without fur coats; otherwise there’s going to be trouble!