You don’t have to be mad to work in a charity shop but it does help.

These are the sorts of expressions I often hear in Second Chance, an independent charity shop in Archway that I’ve been volunteering for since last February. The reopening of bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes and shops has seen a celebration of community and so much of that spirit and essence is captured here.

You’ll find the best displays encased in French windows this side of Selfridges and Basil, 80 years young, ex-dancer and star of many West End shows, adorns them with all manner of chachkies - a Yiddish word for items that are a bit on the shiny side but still valuable. I feel I am describing Basil as he decorates the cabinets with records, books and dresses and a touch of bric-a-brac that is right on trend.

Ham & High: Russell Bentley enjoys volunteering at charity shop Second ChanceRussell Bentley enjoys volunteering at charity shop Second Chance (Image: Russell Bentley)

"Can I let you into a secret?" asked Basil conspiratorially as I handed him fabric to decorate the windows one Monday lunch time. "I was in the original production of Cabaret, directed by Hal Prince in 1968, and the revival in 1988 where I played Herr Schultz." Regarding his displays he tells me: "I was born with a good eye. What can I say?"

The volunteers are a real highlight, starting with the peals of laughter from Lorraine and ex-ballet dancer Rebecca as they sort out the endless bags of clothing donations.

The steady hand guiding the ship is Turkish-born Baris, who was living with his family in a remote town in Sweden during the first pandemic before coming to London. There is also Chaia the manager, Peter, an ex-electrician who relishes the challenge of resuscitating a faulty toaster, Johnny, whose many paintings are on sale and whose blarney charm could sell snow to the Eskimos and Sandra, with an infectious giggle.

Barry, Baris’s predecessor, has had to take a back step due to illness but his unbridled passion in making Second Chance second to none does not go unnoticed. Ann tends to the children’s donations and, like the pied piper of Hamley’s (deliberate pun), families and children often flock to her selection of toys.

Second Chance has it all. From 50p bracelets to £50 wedding hats in pristine condition, customers have left with a spring in their step if they’re buying trainers and a smile on their face.

Second Chance is second to none.

Russell Bentley is an actor and writer based in Belsize Park.