Perhaps from growing up in a frugal household – my father a Yorkshireman, my mother a Scot- I get inordinate pleasure from the process of choosing. I remember standing awed outside the matriarchal circle while my grandmother and aunts discussed the best tweed to use for a skirt, and they knew their tweeds, right down to the island the wool came from – I seem to remember it was Bute? Someone kindly showed me the colours, both from natural wool and the dyes from lichen and traditional, local plants, I was allowed to touch the materials and feel that one was too loose and mightn’t hold its shape, a firm weave was a little too stiff, and the final choice: soft, flexible, bright and subtle.By the time they had mulled over every aspect of that length of tweed I felt I knew the sheep and the bright grass they grazed on, the weaver who chose the fleece (to have a length made from ‘one wool’ was valued), the foraging for seaweed, onion skins and mushrooms, the winter weaving, pounding and washing in an icy peat stream to bring the fibres close. A ‘good tweed skirt’ wasn’t just a garment, it was an absolute, and a woman held her head high when she wore it.
Maybe because of this I am not much of a shopper. I prefer the generic over the novel, and I always want to dig down to know more about things. Real chocolate, not a bar. Butter. Oats rather than granola. I have one set of plain white china, and my husband laughed at me for buying three sets of identical trousers when I found the perfect pair. I wish I had bought more, for I wore them out. My closet is three feet by eight feet, has everything I need and isn’t crowded. I am not at all deprived, for this way of living brings me intense pleasure. More stuff would swamp me, and I can’t handle it.
So the following items are my personal creme de la creme. I am awful to buy presents for.
MudThese dishes are rustic yet fine, unadorned, slightly rough on the outside, glazed inside, with colour which goes right through the clay. I even love the colours. The next time I am in Sydney I am buying some because I can’t hold out any more.
I could go on and on – straw hats, beeswax candles, Mrs Meyer’s products, iTunes. Big white shirts. I have enjoyed making this list, but I would be so curious to hear yours! What do you stand by?