The Parallel Shopping Experience

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The Parallel Shopping Experience is that awkwardness that occurs when you arrive at the supermarket at exactly the same time as someone else. It could be a stranger who attracts your attention for a number of reasons – those details are known only by you – or it could be someone you know already. Although, strangely, if it is the latter, you probably don’t know them super well. Not like a besty, or your mum, you know? And then the uncomfortable experience begins. You arrive at the same time, you shop at the same pace, you continually cross paths at Indian curry pastes, the wall of lettuce, free range eggs, exotic bio-dynamic, organic, gluten free dips (still looking the discerning and sophisticated shopper), then tampons, super strength antibacterial deodorants, and toilet paper (cover blown). As you pass each other, time and time again, there is the initial eye contact, the half way smile, the slight aknowledgement of eyebrows lifted or, if you know them, the “How’re things?”. And then, in the same spirit, you arrive at the exact same time at the cash registers. At this point the whole experience has become so uncomfortable and traumatic that a silent agreement is reached and you line up at opposite ends of the vast zone of payment points, sometimes even resorting to self service, to avoid any further contact. Worst case scenario? They parked real close to you in the supermarket carpark.

I would like to share with you the story of one such Parallel Shopping Experience.

It was his hand knit sweater, which attracted my attention. For a youngish man, with sunbleached wispy hair, the jumper was a slightly warring fashion choice. And I guess it was a bit about the wheelchair too. Youngish man. Wispy sun-bleached out-doorsy hair. Chunky brown hand knit. Wheel chair. Safely inside my head I’m thinking, “What’s your story?”. Then the awkwardness began. Same pace! We headed around the aisles and we were neck and neck, passing tinned foods, carbs, baby products, wizzing around the bend at personal hygeine, down the first straight past frozen foods, fresh foods, dairy and bakery and then the home straight, heading towards the finishing line and the, thank you God, two lanes of cash registers. I’m exhausted just reliving this. But he was a gun in that wheelchair. His lap was laden with shopping as he, yes, that’s right, beat me out the automatic doors.

I began across the carpark, watching as he headed towards the beat up station wagon which was parked (I know, right?) directly next to my car.

Well. Now.

He was super quick having the advantage of the wheels on his chair, and he spun across that tar sealing with the finesse of a champion ice skater. Once at his car, he got out of the chair, stood up straight and strong, opened the back passenger door, and threw his heavy bag of shopping in the back seat. Then he folded up his wheelchair, picking it up with one hand, walked with the chair to the back, and he opened the boot with his other hand. Not even a limp.

I blinked a few times and my jaw did drop somewhat. Then I got into my car, mindful the Kanga Pops might melt, and drove directly home.

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Out And About: NGV & Ai Weiwei

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Confession time. I wasn’t at the National Gallery of Victoria that day to see the art. It was my coffee obsession (addiction) {They do a good latte}. So to stumble upon this oversized construction, which sparkled and glistened in the summer sun in the massive gallery courtyard, was astonishing. Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles is just one of his works on show until the 24th of April and the exhibition is free. To learn more about Ai Weiwei click and watch this short flick called Never Sorry, the trailer for the award winning production directed by Alison Klayman.

Out And About: 2 Days In Sydney And Cafe Con Leche, Surry Hills

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Three years ago while in Sydney, after many failed attempts at finding an acceptable coffee, I stumbled upon Cafe Con Leche in Surry Hills. It is a tiny corner shop serving Columbian dishes and smooth-creamy-chocolatey-Arabican coffee. Phew! This time I didn’t muck around and my internal radar remembered exactly how to get my ass back down there. Lovely service and the coffee was as good as last time. Such a relief! Such a blessing! I have since discovered I am not alone in thinking this about Cafe Con Leche’s coffee. Reviewers consistently agree.  
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The coffee is Columbian Connection a local roast using Columbian Arabica beans – single origin. Rob, my Cafe Con Leche barista, doesn’t think you can get this roast in Melbourne yet. Shame that!
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The decor is South American with bright colours, Latino poster art, warm glowing pendants and shelves of South American packaged produce. I haven’t eaten there but the reviews are great. When in Sydney, Cafe Con Leche should be your coffee destination. Thanks Rob!

Out and About: Opportunity Shopping in Western Central Victoria

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I scoured op-shops and antique emporiums on a road trip over the weekend, which took me as far as the beautiful Grampians. There are many bargains to be had in these parts of country Victoria. Do you like my new comfy chair? What about those fringes?

I was on a particular mission to source retro household items for an extremely exciting secret project – to be revealed very soon. I found just a couple of little things in vintage stores but the store owners are really committed to their collecting and have promised to call just as soon as they have sourced some colourful retro canisters. They were also able to enthusiastically advise me on my secret project. Stay tuned.

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This sexy photograph is where I’m up to with my collecting. I stayed at the Halls Gap Eco YHA. It was really well run and had a range of environmentally sustainable features such as passive solar (concrete floors), 35cm thick rammed earth walls, solar hot water, water tanks, recycling stations and even free free-range eggs for guests.

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I swear, tourists cannot be disappointed if they visit the Grampians. The wildlife is prolific and unafraid of crazy, trigger happy people. I stalked these two (and many others) with my Iphone.

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Out and About: Open Studios – Maze & Vale

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I was nearly home from my run, slowing to a cool-down walking pace, when I stumbled across the beautiful printmaking studio of Maze & Vale yesterday morning.

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Leslie Keating was lovely and welcoming and didn’t seem to mind a bit about my persistent questioning over screen-printing techniques (technical problems I had been experiencing with the Greeves St Project).

Leslie has been crafting for many years. First, in her country of origin, Canada, where she made leather journal covers, and now, in Australia, screen-printing and block printing onto fabric, which she sews into quilts, toys, and other projects. Her Scandinavian influenced fabrics have been hand printed onto sustainable natural materials and are available as panels or by the metre for crafters.

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Maze and Vale is open tomorrow, Saturday the 29th of November, as part of Maribyrnong’s Open Studios event, which is running over this whole weekend.

Email leslie@mazeandvale.com

Post Maze & Vale PO Box 155 Kingsville VIC 3012 Australia

Facebook //www.facebook.com/mazeandvale

Out and About: “Don’t Ya Just LOVE Footscray???”

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Any chance I get I manipulate and lure my children out for non-tech life experiences. Yesterday my youngest and I ventured out for a haircut to our home town of Footscray. Wandering around Footscray inspires fond and heartfelt outbursts from my teenaged boys and me, such as, “Don’t ya just love Footscray???”, and… well…, “Don’t you just love Footscray???”

Every undercover police officer, bejeweled drug lord, funky Hip Hop African, bearded bicycle riding hipster, petite dressed-to-the-nines Vietnamese fashionista, or hectic distracted and drug affected individual provokes the same response from one of us, “Don’t ya just love Footscray???” The texture, vibrancy and pace of our home town is strangely endearing. Although I love the cool, quirky, arty tones of Fitzroy, Brunswick and the city, it is a different me that responds to the raw and edgy honesty of Footscray.

Yesterday Dan needed a haircut so I cleverly incorporated a lunch date at Hung Voung, a bustling Vietnamese soup restaurant specialising in warming traditional Pho. DSC04969 Comfort food. Happy, cosy food. Noodles, Asian herbs and sliced breast meat in a broth that tastes like chicken, but more so. Deep, tantilising, satisfying… Okay, okay. This is beginning to sound like the romance novel I once began to write… But, essentially, don’t try this soup if you can’t ever come back to Footscray because it will haunt your dreams.

IMG_3141 I strongly suspect the above photograph may haunt your dreams also. But how weird, right? We were sitting in the hair salon waiting for Henry to finish another customer. One of the other hair dressers offered to cut Daniel’s hair but Dan likes Henry so we declined, sparking a Seinfeld-esque Vietnamese bantering session at our expense, reminiscent of Elaine’s session at the Korean nail salon. Enter: strangely dressed squat man with missing teeth, pork pie hat and jewel encrusted kiwi under his arm. I just had to take the photo. Dan and I exchange a look, our eyes gleaming, the unspoken understanding, “Don’t ya just love Footscray???”

Daniel’s hair freshly cut, I followed Henry to the counter to pay. I wasn’t sure how much it would be because I thought Henry worked in the salon next door to this one. The boys had vaguely pointed across the street one day a month ago to show me where Henry, the finest hairdresser in Footscray, works as I am on a search for an affordable and excellent hairdresser of my own. So, a week ago, I went down to the salon, asked for Henry, and got my hair cut. Good cut, $20-00. Well… turns out the REAL Henry works in the salon next door and the impostor Henry does this little pretendy-gig all the time. Don’t you just love Footscray???

Hung Vuong Pho: 128 Hopkins St. Footscray. (03) 9689 6002

The Real Harry’s Hair Salon (Not sure of its real name) : Near the corner of Droop and Hopkins Streets, on Nicholson St. (The second Salon along, heading North.)