shop not far from us. It is an adjunct to a wholesale business rather than a serious retail shop. The people who own it supply t-shirts to zoos around Australia. They also supply giftware of other types to other shops.
I occasionally set foot in the place when I want a gift for someone. The woman in there is pleasant and we have, over several years, come to know one another a little. She is a little "alternative" in her lifestyle choices while still being a serious business woman. The little shop area is filled with incense, candle holders, crystals, relaxation CDs, earrings, necklaces, notebooks, pewter pill boxes, pens, Chinese "coins" and other things. The t-shirts are on the back wall - those t-shirts that have not gone off to the zoos. There is usually a rack of t-shirts outside the shop, along with cards, spare envelopes, decals for windows etc etc.
My father and I want a present for someone who is turning 70 in a couple of weeks. Had he told me about this soon enough I might have made her a scarf out of something a little crazy and colourful. She is the sort of person who could wear such a thing with style. I once made her a shawl and I sometimes see her out walking with it flung around her shoulders. The shawl is in oranges, pinks, yellows and creams. She chose the yarn.
But, there is no time for that so I said I would go and see Judith - Judith being the one who owns the business. I pedalled uphill after lunch yesterday and found her adding a t-shirt to the outside rack. "Nothing here for you today," she told me. She knows I sometimes buy the outsize cheap t-shirts for my sister who uses them as sleepwear. All these were black with masculine looking pictures on the front. My sister does not want nightmares.
I told her what I wanted. She held the door back with a smile and said, "Look, no further."
Yes, there was exactly what I wanted in front of me. It was only a matter of choosing the design.
There were three other people in the shop. They had arrived together. One of them was a man so tall and large and obviously "different" I felt more than a little nervous of him. He wandered around, found the incense and bought some. The other man with him just stood there, apparently not interested. The woman wandered around but sensed the impatience of the man just standing there. She hastily bought a gift and they left.
Judith came to look at the designs I was looking at. These things are candle holders but they are designed to be completely safe. They look like goldfish bowls in shape but the designs on them are extraordinary. When a squat candle is placed inside and lit the container glows like stained glass. I bought one for a friend some time ago. She tells me she sometimes lights it at night and then turns the light off and just sits there enjoying the colours.
We tried several designs over a small light and both agreed on the same one. Judith found the box. I declined a gift wrapping. My father needed to see it.
It will be one of those gifts you know is going to be "right". I wondered though about the gift that was bought before I bought mine. It was bought in haste and, I sensed, reluctance. They were searching for something "cheap" and had almost certainly come to the shop because prices there are cheaper than they are in many other places.
I wondered too about the man who had bought the incense. Perhaps he needs it to relax. I am not a fan of incense - or candles. I do not care for the sort of "relaxation" music which was playing in the shop - although there is other music intended for the same purpose I do like. I am not interested in "crystals" or some of the other "alternative" items in the shop.
There is however something about the place I do like. It is quirky. There are things which do appeal to me, such as the pens engraved with Celtic knotwork. I have given one of those to another friend - and I know she uses it. There are the triskele earrings and pendant we gave my sister-in-law - and she wears them often. But it is more than that, the woman who runs it is pleasant and welcoming. I know she was a little disappointed at the haste with which the previous customers chose a gift and departed. She likes to ensure that they feel the gift will match the recipient. I have heard her encourage someone to buy something at a lesser price because it "feels right".
I must take the Whirlwind up there soon. She is old enough now to appreciate the diversity of the place - and to appreciate "quirky".