I love charity shops. Those places where all the things that people don’t want, but don’t want to throw away, end up. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure, or so the saying goes.
One of my favourite potential treasure-troves to go to is in the centre of our town, it’s a large shop covering two floors and is run by the charity SCOPE (previously The Spastics Society). I’ve picked up many interesting items here over the years, but recently – and for fairly obvious reasons – have started to focus my searching on toys.
One of the main toy ranges I keep my eyes peeled for are Lego sets, due to them being ridiculously overpriced to buy brand-new (unless it’s reduced, then it’s only slightly-comically overpriced).
And yesterday myself and my daughter stumbled over this gem, in good condition, seemingly complete and hailing all the way from 1997.
We got back home together and we eagerly opened the box, to check the completeness of our bargain find.
This is what the contents of the box revealed:
Now this is where things get interesting because, as the keen-eyed amongst you may have noticed, this Lego set is slightly more complete than usual.
That’s not a comedy key-ring in there, or a hollowed-out souvenir, oh no. Nestled in there, amongst the Lego bricks and dust is a live, lethal, unlikely but oh-so-real bullet.
To say this is not something one expects to come across in a Lego set is an understatement.
I am no gun-nut, I’m not even a gun-peanut butter, my knowledge of them and bullets extends to what I see on the TV and in films. I really should have paid more attention to CSI (when it was good, so not for long).
What do you do with a bullet? Can’t throw it away, some kid could find it. Can’t throw it in the bin, it could go off in the crusher. Bury it?
In the end I opt for the safest option.
I call the police (hoping that they won’t take my Lego too!).
They listen with interest, tell me they’ll send someone over, and advise me to put it somewhere safe and contact the charity shop, in case there are any other toys with dangerous objects from the same batch. A 1992 Action Man with ‘realistic’ weaponry? An ET with an extra-terrifying tomahawk? or perhaps a Spot Goes To The Park, with a razor blade in each page? The mind boggles.
I duly telephone the charity shop and explain the situation to them over the phone. ‘Does it have a barcode, or is it just the generic 320 code?’ the lady says to me. I confirm it’s just the 320 code. ‘Oh, OK, I’ll look into it’ she says ending the conversation, and displaying all the concern of someone who has just been told that she needs to move the clothes rack for middle-aged men to the back of the store. Not someone that has just been told her toys may all be filled with potentially lethal ‘bonus’ items.
I tell my cousin about her complete lack of surprise at this completely surprising piece of information. Perhaps, I say to him, this happens all the time in charity shops. ‘JST GOT TWO BULLETS WV MY BIG MAC’ he texts me ‘THEY MST B ON SPECIAL OFFER’. Always the joker my cousin.
After a couple of hours of me sweating slightly whilst the bullet rests in its ‘safe place’ outside (in the recycle bin, wrapped up in a carrier bag, standard operating procedure of the SAS I believe) the police arrive.
It’s a jovial policeman, which is nice. In my limited dealings with the police I’ve encountered two types: Jovial and serious. I’m glad it’s the former type, we can make light of the matter and things won’t be too serious.
I soon change my mind about the joviality when he jovially puts the bullet in a plastic tube and then jovially rattles it, making me take a step back and do something in my pants that we will all regret later.
It is indeed live, he informs my daughter and I, and it’s a 556 round, as used by our lads in the armed forces. ‘Great’, I say to him, ‘I’ve been pushing a pram around town for two hours with live ammo in the basket underneath’ (I’ll accept my father of the year award now, thank you very much).
He takes down the relevant details, doesn’t take my Lego – much to my relief – and pockets the bullet; incredibly casually I might add. ‘We get a few of these each week’, he says to me, heading out the door ‘The lads at the station will probably stick it in a tube and fire it’ (he’s almost giggling while he says this).
As he heads off up the path he has some final words of wisdom for me ‘Just don’t ring us if you find a live hand-grenade, we’re not interested in those’.
I breathe a huge sigh of relief at now having a bullet-free household. It’s been a memorable day, not so much the bullet as other people’s reactions. For me it was such a bizarre and EXTREMELY dangerous thing to find, particularly in the context in which I found it. The charity shop people and the police reacted with a scary degree of casualness about it.
Maybe there are more guns and bullets in my ‘Gun-Free’ country than I previously thought.
Or maybe it’s just that Charity shops are fronts, for shady arms-dealing gangs, the police are in on it and this could be my last blog post.
Hold on, there’s someone at the door………………………………..