Ordeal Wendy? Shopping's a Joy

I reckon you’ve got it all wrong. Go on-line to shop! What a travesty. How boring. And where was it, in her tale of woe, that Wendy was doing ‘real world’ shopping? It’s obviously Melbourne, as trams are mentioned – and if it was in one of those big generic malls like Chadstone or Highpoint, well perhaps that’s just what happens. Then too, it could also be a gender thing. And, as for trying stuff on – well I do admit I’ve never done that across in Yarra City.

But, yep, I personally do love shopping in Melbourne, Wendy. When over I do a bit of it in the CBD – shopping for my granddaughter in Myers children’s wear or moseying around the Emporium or in the little shops in Degraves Street, for instance. And in those I’ve never had an experience such as you have described, Ms Squires. Maybe it’s because I’m an old fella often shopping for little Tess – and hopefully soon for Olivia – that I always end up having chats to the lovely sales assistants behind the counters therein. They, in my experience, are always attentive, particularly if I have issues working out clothing sizes.

But mostly my shopping expeditions take me elsewhere. Once upon a time it would be mainly up on Smith or Brunswick Street. If I’m in Melbourne on a Saturday, I often wend my way to the Rose Street Market just off the latter. It’s a great destination for a browse and again, often a bit of conversation with a stallholder. Of a Sunday the same can be had at the Arts Centre Market, along St Kilda Road, just across Princess Bridge from Flinders Street Station.

These days, though, my favourite area is Coventry/Claredon Streets around the South Melbourne Markets. SMM is the best of the traditional markets in town, I reckon. But those two streets also contain plenty of interesting and largely non-generic retailers as well. And gee, I’ve had some great exchanges with the shop-owners in that part of the world. There’s more of a languor about shopping there that isn’t present in the guts of town, or along the other strips. With the latest crossing I bought greeting cards, soap and some clothing for Tess at the Markets and at each place had chats. The lovely Suki McMasters beamed a glorious smile at me when I purchased cards at her outlet and then praised the quality of her designs. Another aspect of these markets that I love and makes me just a little envious of Melburnians is the astounding fresh fruit and vegies on display, not to mention the seafood, meat, small goods, beer, wine, pasta and so it goes on.

Across the road, on Coventry, as well as numerous wateringholes for coffee or something cold and refreshing, is perhaps the best chocolate shop (Bibelot) in the city, together with a great bookshop. And nearby is Paperpoint (259 Coventry), a cornucopia of all things paper. None of the ubiquitous Hallmark here. On one of the streets running off this South Melbourne strand is a shop specialising in, amongst other items, wooden ducks. At $5 and $10 a pop, depending on size, I had often wondered why they were so much cheaper there than the up to $50 price tags I’d seen elsewhere. I had the question answered this time around as it seems each duck has a slight imperfection. No matter, Tessa loves hers anyway. I proudly showed the proprietor of the delightful place a pic on my phone of said girl carrying her precious duck on a Hobart street and as you do, we started to chinwag. She was a lady of a certain age, but ageless in her beauty, with it turning out that, back in the day, she was a Qantas air-hostess. What’s more, she was regularly on the Fokker Friendships flying the Strait from Tullamarine to Wynyard. I possibly flew with her many a time.

Claredon Street has a Kikki K and my beautiful, writerly daughter always appreciates something from this chain in the way of ‘…award winning… stylish gifts, stationery and functional organising tools in Scandinavian designs.’ Their product is not available in Hobart yet. In my most recent sojourn, further down the street, in an alleyway, I found ‘Made in Japan’ (1-7 Wynyard Street). It was full of inexpensive oriental items and I had fun selecting something to take back with me as another gift for Tessa. The young (to me) man behind the counter had a very hipster countenance and spoke in barely a whisper. When he found out I was from Hobs he became quite animated. He wanted to chat about Mona – as so many do. He hadn’t been, but was desperate to and had many questions to ask of me. I wished I could have purchased more at his fine emporium, which also had a cafe and cooking school on its premises, but fragility and luggage restrictions prevented me. I’ll be back.

I am saddened one of may favourite columnists for the Age saw as her only option to take to shopping on-line. In the ether there’d be none of the tactility of handling the product you are trying to decide on – that being one of the delights of ‘real’ browsing rather than looking at an image of it. And of course, with on-line, where is the scope for engaging in chat – and maybe receiving a wondrous smile to be on your way with. To me, no item arriving ‘…in a box so gorgeous I will keep it, lined with tissue paper and a lovely card thanking me for my business…’ can replace that. No, Wendy Squires, it takes all the romance out of one of life pleasures.

The Wendy Squires column for Fairfax  = http://www.smh.com.au/comment/this-week-i-went-shopping-and-didnt-buy-a-single-thing-20170216-guemh2.html

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