Hop, skip and jump to the shops
Having decluttered my belongings, or “edited”, to use a more fashionable term, in readiness to move house, I had been feeling rather smug.
Books and cushions had gone to good homes, our skip was raided regularly during the final clear-out. “Any more of these wooden people?” asked a neighbour, holding aloft a Balinese wedding doll with paintwork that had known better days. Well yes, I thought, she should be paired with her husband doll, but he had departed yesterday on the back of a bicycle. I should have kept the pair together and felt obliged to tell the story of how I had acquired them, after an afternoon of spirited haggling, in Ubud. But that scared off the neighbour, who set off down the street in search of less troublesome skips.
Last week in Bali, I tried to be restrained. Truly. I took a suitcase so tiny it was barely there. I went shopping just once in Seminyak with my friend Fi, who is a brave buyer of things so big and unwieldy that shipping containers and pick-up trucks are required. In Myanmar, she persuaded the operators of our river cruiser to dismantle part of the ship’s decor and she popped half a wall into her port and thought nothing of it. Customs officers at Yangon airport didn’t like the idea she was carrying an antique iron from the markets of Bagan on to our flight but after jokes about pressing our clothes on board they let her through. Just before we landed in Singapore, Fi appeared from behind “the iron curtain” in business class brandishing her bounty and received a round of applause.
I am not that kind of bold shopper but I do have an obsession with cushions and bowls and can always find space for new ones, even when I have just given away stacks of the same. In Bali, my new zigzag-patterned cushion was a boon on the overnight flight home and so much more comfortable than those inflatable neck-rest whatnots. I bought just one sweet little blue-and-white bowl, which felt a meagre haul after my outing earlier this year to Beijing’s Panjiayuan flea market (pictured) with its thousands of stalls. I couldn’t believe the choice. China from china? Yes, please, to plates and dishes with patterns of dragons, phoenixes, blossoms and vines, all so cheap and colourful that they put a skip in this old shopper’s step.