I read a lot of catalogues at the moment. Each day, a wad arrives in our little letterbox, and the pile is big enough that, if you had a log cabin in the forest and no toilet paper, you could stack it there as a replacement and it would last you a week. Or maybe two or three days, because the shinier catalogues are useless for that kind of thing. But I digress.
I have often halfheartedly toyed with the idea of putting a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on our letterbox, but I shamefully admit it has now become a guilty ritual to extract The Wad, take it upstairs and browse. Before I go into intimate details of the secret pleasures it brings me, please allow me hand you a torch, and together we shall illuminate some of the dusty recesses of my childhood.
When I was a lass, and went to get the milk out of the letterbox (YES! Our letterbox was big enough to put the milk in, and yes we used to have a milkman. I’m saving this nugget for my memoirs), there would often be a sodden Woolworths catalogue stuck to the bottom of the tetra pack, and I would wonder to my prepubescent self, surely no one actually pays attention to the price of pork neck at Woolworths versus the same per-kilo value at Coles? Or rather, I probably didn’t wonder so much as automatically chuck out all catalogues that did not contain Lego and/or sports equipment.
Then followed a transition stage. One of my parental units has been known to think that The Price Of A Bottle Of Coke at competing local grocery stores is a legitimate conversation topic, bless his their cotton socks, and in general would expound upon items featured on the glossy pages. So as I grew older, I came to realise that the perusal of advertising material did in fact go on in earnest behind the fibro facades of suburbia. Fine. Whatevs. That didn’t prevent the catologues from going on a one-way trip into the recycling bin as soon as I moved out and began to receive unsolicited mail of my very own.
Fast forward many years, and a curious coincidence emerged. Firstly, I moved into a new, unfurnished apartment, with 78m² of sheer possibility, no idea what was available, and a fervent desire to impress myself with my undiscovered interior design potential. How could furniture catalogues not become my reference bible?
Not long afterwards, I witnessed one of my potential in-laws settle back against the tiled oven after a hard day’s work, and, armed with a pair of scissors, snip out the colourful representations of blocks of Milka (2 for 1) and crates of beer (28c per bottle, strictly one crate per customer), with an air of such satisfaction that I set aside my cynicism.
Once, gentle reader, I was as naïve as you. I, too, scoffed at the arcane practice of researching so as to save at the maximum of a couple of gold coins. Time is money, and the minutes spent perusing marketing copy at least equalled the paltry savings afforded by a couple of pseudo half-price offers. Now, though, I have come to savour the joy in keeping up to date with the haberdashery section of four major furniture stores without leaving my (newly-furnished) quarters.
I cut out little pictures of gifts I could possibly maybe buy for my best friend’s kids (which I then for some reason or other don’t, but at least I have a little illustration of my good intentions). And as I flick past the hideous new spring dustcatchers on offer (indoor lanterns are big this year), I get to feel slightly superior to the faceless masses who will get sucked in by the percentage-off specials.
Then I will pretend that I will buy all of my ‘feature decorations’ from etsy, or from crusty oldtimers getting their nephews to sell that awesome trunk I want for a coffee table on ebay. And I will ignore the fact that thus far, 99% of my furnishing inspiration has come directly from the ikea website.