Tuesday, 9 May 2006

the things you take for granted ...and dealing in felt

Our fabulous friends from Thailand have gone home and we miss them already! We had a very busy time while they were here and we got used to having them around, now the schedule seems kind of empty and sad.

While they were here I had quite a few moments of reflection about the things we take for granted. You know those things it never occurs to you that others don't know about or understand. There are so many differences between Australia and Thailand.

Here are just a few things that really hit me.

We need heating. It's so hard for us down here in Southern Oz to imagine a life in which guarding against the cold never enters our minds (except when we go to the cinema or air-con shopping mall). How different our lives, our houses, our wardrobes, our fuel bills would be.

We can drink water from the tap. When we first got home from Thailand it took a while for the novelty to wear off. I was not above slurping directly from the water flow. Just because I could. No more worrying if there was enough water to drink, no more filling glasses up downstairs where the purifyer was before settling in to our evening at home. No more living in mortal fear that Amy will drink the bath water or that I'll forget and stick my toothbrush under the flow before I put it in my mouth. We should remain deeply thankful we have clean water so easily available to us.

We have hot water on tap. In the kitchen and the bathroom, and in the bath as well as the shower. For those that have hot water in their homes in Thailand (which certainly isn't everyone), they usually have one small unit attached directly to their showerhead. The water pressure is usually crap too. Of course when it's always stinking hot, a hot shower isn't necessarily a high priority, but I found it really hard to get used to washing dishes in cold water and taking the chill off Amy's bath with buckets of warm water filled from the showerhead!

With autumn leaves comes the cold. Don't get me wrong, I know it's really beautiful. Crisp clear Autumn days and muddy puddles and fresh air - I love 'em. But the dramatic change in weather and the way that totally changes our lifestyle is something lots of places never experience. In Thailand the woollies (well, synthetics anyway) come out with winter - but the average temperature difference between summer and winter is negligible from a Melbourne perspective. We were still happily wearing shorts and T-shirts (and sweating more than our fair share) when the Thais were wearing parkas. Many non-tropical residents go to Thailand and freak about the heat - they come here and freak about the cold!

Clothes that won't dry was also something of a mystery to our friends - they were really dumbfounded by the ever present wet washing. The prevalence of the clothes dryer, like heating, seems kind of obvious to many of us (especially those with children), but they were pretty surprised.

I can't remember when I had my first toasted sandwich. I grew up thinking they were one of the five food groups. They just always seemed so, I don't know, obvious. Like a sandwich, only better. Widely available. Supplement to soups, a quick snack or a meal substitute all on their own, I have rarely found myself without the ingredients for at least a basic toasted sanga when all else in the kitchen fails. From plain cheese or tomato through to the complex multi ingredient stack, I had never imagined a life without a toasted sanga. But now I have. Seeing our friends total lack of familiarity with the form absolutely floored me.

The pud. A land of no pudding? Can you imagine? Where cake as we know it is a relatively new thing and the ubiquitous outing for cake and coffee is the pastime of only the wealthy and worldly younger generation? And a self-saucing steamed pud with cream is an uncharted territory? And where no matter how many courses your meal has there will almost certainly only ever be fruit for desert? Unthinkable!

It's a wonderful think to get the occasional jolt out of complacency, to remind us what we love so much that we sometimes forget is even there. To suddenly see the world through the eyes of someone who has experienced such a different life to your own. So when was the last time you had your jaw dropped by the gulf of human experience?

On a totally separate note, I get quite a few enquiries about where I get my felt, wool rovings and other doll making supplies because the stuff I use is really, really, really nice. I know, I get to touch it everyday. I've been holding off because my dealer (as I like to call her coz you know, she's got the stuff) is in the process of setting up a website. But she does run a mail order business, so really there's no reason you can't shop with her now.

Her business is called Winterwood and it sells Steiner inspired craft supplies, as well as books, some toys and wool. It's a small business run by a small group of very dedicated crafters, so don't go expecting some kind of glossy brochure corporate identity deal. They are strictly into handmade.

There are a few things I really like about this store:
:: the people who run it are really nice, with good values and ethics. They form real relationships with their customers and take a real interest in their craft work. They make me feel special and cared about.
:: their stuff is quite simply the best. Top quality everything. And if they haven't got what you need they can often get it, make it or suggest an even better alternative. They are not cheap, but I think they are very reasonable for what they sell and I am happy to pay their prices.
:: they can dye wool and felt to order without charging you a bucket load of cash and they can often sell you small quantities of things for specific projects instead of upping their sales by making you buy loads of everything.
:: they have really good kits and packs of mixed colours in felts and wools if you want a range of options, or if you want some guidance on getting started.
:: I learn stuff when I am in the store, I feel inspired, refreshed and free to ask for advice and help. They know their stuff, they make things themselves and have lots of feedback from customers so they will give you honest and useful insight into materials. Including the drawbacks and things to watch out for.

Quite simply I can't say enough good things about them and the stuff they sell. Their turn around time is not quick on mail order and they aren't open full shop hours because they have lots of felting and dying and order packing to do, so don't go hassling them for instant gratification and plan ahead for purchases. If you live in Melbourne go there - the shop is really magical. Seriously magical. If you can't get there, buy a little piece of magic through the mail.

Winterwood is at 32 Heads Rd Donvale Vic 3111, or their postal address is PO Box 4043, Croydon Hills Vic 3136, Australia. Call them on (03) 987 3013 or email winterwood@bigpond.com.au for shop hours or to get a catalogue sent to you.


samantha said...

such a thought provoking post - it is one of the nice things about coming home from being o/s, you really appreciate what you have, and we do have a beautiful country - so lucky.

thanks also for the winterwood info.

African Kelli said...

I love this post. When I lived in Cameroon, I distinctly remember the three showers I took in five months time. Otherwise, I was bathing standing in a bucket with a small cup to douse myself. I'll never take warm water for granted. I simply love it. Washing clothing by hand is no fun either. Then again, living/visiting some of the places in the world where such luxuries are uncommon makes the adventure that much more sweet.