A day in the city.....alone.
An outfit for my sisters upcoming wedding was needed and so on Mr Pickle's last day of holidays I kissed them all goodbye and headed off down the street....on foot.....to get a train into the city.....how novel....how exciting.....how liberating. I don't tend to get out on my own very often and usually its to do errands....groceries or medical appointments. This day was different...this day had one sole purpose.....shopping!
Shopping and I were once very firm friends. We knew each other very, very well. Almost every day we caught up, sometimes just to go wandering together but generally the time we spent was very productive and lasting memories came home with me in lovely shopping bags. Most days I wore something that shopping had given me and never, ever went out in something that shopping hadn't helped me find just for that occasion.
So many different haunts we had, city laneways, suburban department stores or shopping meccas, little boutique shopping strips in niche suburbs.....there were just so many different options for our rendezvous and we always knew which was the perfect choice for each outing.
Four years away from a city workplace and away from meetings in different places all over this fine city of Melbourne mean shopping and I have lost touch.....really lost touch. We barely recognise each other these days. As I reached the city I entered through the comforting laneways that have always been my favourite calming places in the city and then abruptly found myself standing in the central shopping precinct, confronted by the two major, recently renovated and very shmick department stores. I felt strangely nervous, shy, reticent, overwhelmed. Which one first....where's the escalator.... so many people... glaring lights.... shiny surfaces...... The most confronting, confusing and disturbing things were the signs hanging from the ceiling everywhere in one store which screamed (in my mind) BUY NOW OR CRY LATER - !!?*#! Had I gone shopping or into battle of some kind!
After what seemed an eternity walking the enormous expanse of racks in one of the department stores, passing by dress after inappropriate dress my mind was filled with questions: Where were the sleeves? Does no-one else feel they'd perhaps like a little coverage on their non-toned upper arm? What's with all the sparkles and sequins? Are we only dressing up at night? To jiggle in nightclubs? Are we all 23?!
Finally I spotted something I liked, classic, non-sequinned, with a good quality fabric printed with an unusual and appealing design with trees and quirky rabbits (I was feeling a bit desperate by now and I do know that description makes me sound like a mother....my mother....well, I am a mother and my mother always had impeccable taste, a good eye for a classic garment and a sensible approach to shopping so perhaps I've arrived where I need to be). Luckily I looked at the all important price tag at this point.........$1299!!!!!!!!! Hilarious!! Ridiculous!!! A perfect illustration of shopping and I's massive disjuncture - we are no longer in the same league.
Eventually, the tides turned and the perfect dress materialised (the fabric was very nice - ha! I crack myself up) A classic, 1950's style dress in a striking shade of magenta which I then teamed with turquoise beads and shoes. The colour of these contrasting but kapoow giving accessories were at the suggestion of a clever sales girl in the Leona Edmiston shop in the GPO centre which I found after having bought the dress in the scary department store. To think I could have bought it at the same incredible sale price in the nurturing environs of this lovely little boutique centre.
It's such a funny thing for me to see this building all crisp and white and filled with shiny glass fronted boutiques. Many moons ago when I began my working life at McGills across the road, I came across to this building to send off our parcels each day. I always looked up to the balconies of the upper levels and wondered what was up there. Now I know it was many lovely rooms with large arched windows out onto the street, high ceiling and stunning proportions. Its nice to see them all being used now but a bit sad to see so many shops with one rather lonely looking salesperson and narry a customer in sight.
Amidst all this dress and accessory searching in stores not quite to my liking I drifted back to the arcades and lanes that define my idea of Melbourne. In the greater scheme of things Melbourne may be but a babe of a city but this little lady does have a little bit of history and she has managed to hold on to some of her old charm. Two of my favourite arcades are the Royal Arcade for its checkerboard tiles, curved ceiling, row of fanlight windows and wrought iron shop-window surrounds.
The Block Arcade has so many beautiful features, in particular its mosaic tiles but all it really needs to draw me there is a Haigh's Chocolate shop. The Pickles now expect a chocolate teddy or frog each whenever I go to the city but sadly I haven't yet taken them to the actual shop. Considering the sight of this purveyor of delectable delights still gives their mama heart palpitations, perhaps they're not quite ready!
By far the highlight of my whole day was the discovery of a new and wondrous little shop in the Nicholas Building. The Nicholas Building has long been a favourite place of mine and I have watched for years as gradually more little shops and more of the many artists studios have opened their doors to the public. I was heading to a fantastic little button shop called Buttonmania and was stopped in my tracks by an open doorway right next door.
L'Uccello - Vintage Haberdashery. Wow! Heart palpitations are an understatement - stepping through this store's door sent me into feverish conniptions of crafters ectasy. The setting of the store alone is enough to make you want to just linger there forever. However, it has so much more to offer than just a stunning space, braids, ribbons, french fabrics, notions, buttons......they have even introduced Liberty fabrics this month.
This is exactly the kind of oasis that I go to the city to find. I have a secret dream of being one of the lucky people who get to work in this amazing shop, stringing the buttons onto their special L'Uccello cards, re-winding the braids, making packs of lace offcuts and helping make the items for the window displays they create for lucky stores in the city and surrounds.
Wondering about in the Nicholas Building I found another wondrous little shop with old and new wares, bric a brac, fabric, ceramics..... can't remember its name but will go back and linger a little longer there next time.
After all that beauty I finally had a chance to sit down and have a coffee at another old favourite. This also gave me the chance to unpack some of the little scrap bags I had picked up in a sale basket at L'Uccello and I truly felt like I must have stolen them! So much beauty and so many inspiring little pieces - all for $10!! The Babushka tape measures and the red and navy braids were separate but I will definitely be heading back as soon as I can wrangle another play in the city.
This sign made me giggle and gave me food for thought as I descended into the Flinders St subway on my way to Platform 11 and home. I wonder if this would help at home?!!
Thank you City for a lovely day, even if shopping and I are no longer in tune, you and I are definitely still kindred spirits.
Returning home I was greeted by two very happy Pickles and the Big Pickle immediately asked "did you get us our frogs Mummy?" and then "did you have a nice day wondering in the city today?". One of his many little word mix-ups that I love and this one fits just perfectly I think. "Paddy and I had a lovely day with our chothers today mummy but would you like to make me comftanys now and read a story with me?" They may not make sense to you but I'll take my Pickles over a bustling department store anyday!