I love snooping around in secondhand shops. Mr Neat and I have been known to take road trips to Woodville, stopping at all the antique and op shops along the way.

We hadn't "shopped" for ages so on Saturday morning we thought we might have a look at a few local shops.

The prices at some of the shops were astounding - way more than I'd expected. Sure, the money they get goes to charity, but isn't it better to move the goods on quickly so the charities get a good cash flow?

Clothes in all the shops were cheap, I really like the Havelock North op shop. The ladies are lovely and even though it's a small space it doesn't have the musty smell some do.


However, I wasn't buying clothes. Instead I was on the lookout, as usual, for Crown Lynn.

About eight years ago I was at a swap meet in Fielding with Mr Neat. There was a little stall with odds and ends on the table and my eyes were immediately drawn to a Crown Lynn swan.

I had one years ago, can't remember what happened to it. One of the children probably broke it.

Anyway, there was the big swan and a small one. I asked the man how much he wanted for them.

"Oh, five bucks for the two of them."

Bargain. That was the start of my collection.

Over the years I have added to it, however I've never paid more than $30 for any one item.

I probably have about 13 pieces now and yesterday I found a Wattie's 50 years commemorative Crown Lynn mug for $10.

However, by the looks of the prices of every other piece of the porcelain and pottery I picked up, that might just be the sum total of my collection.

Vases with big cracks were $50. Then I thought, oh well, I'll have a look at some jewellery. I might find some nice vintage piece.

No such luck. Anything that so much as looked vintage or Art Deco was, in my eyes anyway, overpriced.

Mr Neat, who collects just about anything that's old, bought a huge 28lb Edmond's Custard Powder tin (why he wanted that I don't know).

Inside it were three Queen Bee pot mitts that took me straight back to the kitchen sink as a child, scrubbing the pots. Haven't seen them for years.

He even has a pile of cloth bags from the days when everything from flour to bacon to nails was sold in them.

It's funny what people collect. When much younger I had a great collection of shells and petrified wood. I would spend hours painting the shells with varnish. I wish I had kept them.

I do have a large jar of shells and stones now. Can't help myself when I'm at the beach, if I see a nice shell or an unusual stone I take it home.

Mr Neat thinks I collect shoes as well but I don't. I just have a collection of shoes that I hardly ever wear. The favourites get a thrashing while the others sit idly in the wardrobe. But you never know when you might need them.

Finally today I'll tell you about a very embarrassing moment I had yesterday morning while walking to my mum's house.

I was striding along, the sun was shining, it was a beautiful morning. I came upon a man in his backyard who looked at me and gave me a big smile and said hello.

Hello, I said with a smile and strode on.

A few steps later I felt a slight breeze on my skin and looked down to find the zip on my top had slid halfway down. The zip came up so fast I nearly chopped my head off.

Sorry Mister, I didn't mean to flash you.

When I think about it, his smile was so big that he may just have been trying to hold back his laughter.

* Linda Hall is assistant editor of Hawke's Bay Today.