Tag Archives: shopping

The Op-Shop Around the Corner

That’s me – the blue Huggies box, slightly dented. Or, more accurately, that’s my contribution. Inside are old baby clothes, a few toys, unwanted gifts, a pair of velvet tights (no longer tight enough), and some scraps from a relationship best forgotten. All destined for the shelves of St. Martin’s Op Shop in Kensington.

Then there’s you. Perhaps you are the person who stops to admire the hand-painted kangaroo paw adorning the doorway. Or are you the person who glances at the display window – some quirky crockery, some fine pieces of bone china – as you trot past on your morning jog? The shop is open between 9am and 2pm, so you can always come back, takeaway coffee in hand, for a browse. Fossicking, my friend Alana calls it. She’d have a field day with bargain buys here. Yes, this shop demands a mixing of metaphors.

You could be like me – the contributor of the Huggies box. I come, toddler in hand, on a quest for for cheap toys and old books at the bookshop next door. The shopkeeper is a Phyllida Law look-alike, complete with bun atop her head. The day is cold, but her breezy welcome is warm. Some books are not quite so old and some are not quite so easy to find at Dymocks. It’s a real thrill to discover old Enid Blyton editions and the latest Philippa Gregory. Oh no, wait that came out of last month’s Huggies box. No wonder it looks so familiar!

Then again, you could be like my son – keenly appreciative of the ancient ceiling fan that sweeps its blades across the ceiling. Delighted to see an activity cube sitting next to the dolls house. Ecstatic on finding Maisy Mouse in the shelves. I believe we’ve made our choice for this week.

We’ll come again, of course, when the next box is full. It’s not so hard to find St. Martin’s – just off Canning Highway, just behind the church. Just the op-shop around the corner of Vista St and Brandon, offering a cheery welcome, some grandmotherly wisdom, and often a far better bargain than any Good Sammy’s or Salvo’s I’ve been to. Come and have a look. You may even find me there of a Saturday – toddler in hand and Huggies box tucked under my arm.

 

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Freedom of Entry

“Do we have to pay?” asks my mother. We are trundling across McCallum Park, headed towards the Sunday farmers’ market.

“No, it’s free,” I answer absently, as I contemplate the perils of pushing a stroller past the stalls that have cropped up across the green. Freedom of entry, I realise somewhat wryly, is dictated by where my son’s stroller is able to go. However, the grassy expanse is dotted with other Baby Joggers and Steelkrafts. What is it about being a parent that makes you notice other babies and the brand of pram they are in? I decide the going will be fine.

We pass stalls selling fresh produce and colourful craftwork. No, I explain to my mother who is visiting from India, if it’s fresh and organic it probably costs more. Yes, Coles is probably cheaper. Even a dollar makes a huge difference, especially when you are mentally converting your gold coins into rupees.

We pass the community library. I have recently become a member, as has my six-month-old son.

“Can I go in there any time, if I want to read a book?” my mum asks.

“Yes, of course.” I reply. “You can borrow books on my card, if you like. Everyone is welcome. Entry is free.”

The words remind me of the military parade I had seen in Perth’s Forrest Place a few weeks earlier. I was impressed by the marching band in its the desert-hued uniforms and slouch hats with their characteristic upturned brims.

“It’s the Freedom of Entry parade,” explained one officer. Was the city not free to enter then? It was, I learned, an old English tradition, a granting of permission for the army to enter the city, and an assurance of their protection for the citizens. The battalions were standing at ease, being welcomed by the Mayor.

How were the first British regiments in Western Australia greeted by the Native Australians, I wonder. I do not say this out aloud, of course. No one speaks of these things. Centuries ago others arrived, also by ship and boat. They had freedom of entry but then they infringed on many native freedoms. Today, many choose to enter freely by boat. They are not free to stay.

Freedom of entry is very much in the Australian media and on Australian minds. A recent issue of The Monthly discusses Australia’s refugee policies, particularly concerning the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar who are being smuggled across the Andaman Sea eventually headed for Australian waters on fishing boats ill-fitted for the journey. Were we suitably concerned for their plight? The Abbott government’s determination to turn back boats suggests not.

Nevertheless, Australian is not entirely unsympathetic to those fleeing from conflict. At church this same Sunday morning, we listened as our minister applauded the government’s move to welcome twelve thousand Syrian refugees. Meanwhile, the editorial pages of The Age call for “a reality check.” What of the plight of those who have crossed the border only to languish in detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru, it asks.

Whether those who arrive at Australian borders should be viewed as refugees or as illegal immigrants is a question that has no simple answer. Do we tacitly support discriminatory regimes when we shelter the peoples they wish to eject from their country but do little to stop the discrimination or conflict? No nation wishes to make foreign troubles its own and every government is reluctant to send troops abroad to fight others’ battles. As Obama notes in one speech on the Syrian crisis, a nation cannot embroil itself in someone else’s civil war. Furthermore, it is very difficult for one nation to prevent another’s genocide or maltreatment of minority ethnic groups without threatening the latter’s sovereignty. As Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka have shown us, the law is punitive rather than preventive.

We are crossing a parking lot now, passing others on their way to the shops – Middle Easterners, Caucasians, Africans. I reflect on what it is to live in multicultural Australia. This is a country that has freely given a home to others like myself. Despite the many criticisms for the present government, I am happy that I was free to enter as a student and later as a professional. Freely, I have chosen to stay.

A Scent of Spice and Chocolate

I’m on a mission. My assignment is to discover two boxes of a German cocoa powder, brand name unknown. I’m looking for a shop that sells spices – not any shop, mind you. This store is the stuff of legend. One of the elderly parishioners at church speaks of its aromas with enthusiasm and (could it be?) reverence. “You can’t miss it,” he told me, “just on the other side of the station.”  In the three years since, I’ve discovered that I’m rather good at missing things – spice-laden stores included. Today, thanks to my Colombian friend, I have a name – Kakulas Brothers.

My destination is Northbridge’s Williams Street, between the station and the intersection with James Street. I’ve never been here by day before, and I make another discovery – the State Theatre. Could this be the beginning of nights at the opera? Afternoons of drama? But we’re looking for spices today, as all good Indians should – no, I forget, German cocoa powder!

Spice Paradise: Dieters beware!

My first glimpse of Kakulas’ treasures is through an open window, which serves as a coffee counter. Inside, Saturday shoppers are filling baskets to the brim. There’s coffee from Colombia, basmati rice, lentils, beans, all kinds of olives, dried fruits, nuts in shells, nuts out of their shells, and sacks and sacks of spices. Scrolls of cinnamon bark, the bright yellow of turmeric, rounds of jaggery (gur or cane sugar) – they have it all. They also have the unnamed German drinking chocolate.

Hugging my precious find, I do the rounds of the wooden boxes with dried fruit dipped in chocolate. There’s raspberry in white chocolate. Blueberry infused cranberries – or is the other way round? Dates in chocolates. But I’m drawn to the chocolate ginger. It’s expensive, so I take the smallest scoop possible. Seven round balls. My lucky number – perfect!

I emerge from the shop clutching my purchases, my heading reeling slightly with Dutch brand names – or perhaps I’m a bit intoxicated with all the wonderful sights and smells. The shop, I realize, is nothing much to look at. It’s a typical shop around a corner – there are many like it on Mumbai’s Colaba Causeway. But if heaven is a place that smells like spices, that combines the shabbiness of Mumbai’s Sahakari Bhandar with the aroma of my mother’s kitchen, then this is heaven. I pop a chocolate-ginger ball into my mouth. What bliss. I know I’m going to go to hell for this. I reach into my bag for another chocolate.