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Posts Tagged ‘h&m’

It’s been a while since I posted on here – almost a year, in fact.

Stopping writing was a conscious decision, albeit one that I didn’t announce. When I got back from China, I decided to really make a go of living in Perth. I didn’t think my whinging about the place on here was helping me settle, so I stopped – simple as that.

I started to try getting more involved in my community. I tried to organise more social events. I made friends with my neighbours. I started volunteering. I missed my online rants but got my writing fix at work and writing comedy reviews.

I was busier – but still something was missing.

A trip to Melbourne to celebrate my birthday in October made the decision for me. I simply felt drawn to the place.

Sitting in a laneway cafe (yes, it’s a cliché , but they are cool), I considered the reasons why.

Some were understandable, and disappointingly predictable:

There are people in the streets of the CBD at night, and they are not all homeless.
It looks a bit like Europe, at least in the centre – there are old buildings, lots of them, and trams.
It’s the cultural capital of Australia, and has an amazing comedy festival.
There’s a wider choice of restaurants than in Perth, and they don’t tend to shut their kitchens at 9pm.

But my other reasons, well…no rational person would move to the other side of Australia for them:

It rains, and gets properly cold.
You mostly have to cycle on the road, rather than on nice, safe, segregated paths – especially if you’re heading to the CBD.
There’s a choice of daily newspapers.
In most restaurants, you don’t have to queue at a till to pay your bill like you are in a school canteen – they’ll let you pay at your table.
It has Aldi, with its twice-weekly special buys, a huge haberdashery shop right in the centre, and it’s fairly safe to assume that if H&M is ever going to open in Australia, it will be in the Bourke Street Mall.

Of course, there’s more to these reasons than meets the eye.

The weather would allow my wardrobe to be more varied (I miss boots and opaque tights, goddammit!). This, when combined with the cultural nature of the city, would mean that on bad fashion days (which I have frequently) I am more likely to get away with pretending I am just being quirky and eclectic in my clothing choices. I’d also get to use the jackets that have been in storage since we brought them from Bristol to Perth.

The relative lack of cycle lanes is countered by the massive number of people who actually use bikes for transport, rather than recreation – and despite the constant risk of doorings, the sheer quantity of people on two wheels makes on-road riding relatively safe. And perhaps because car drivers are used to sharing the road with bikes, they seem to drive less like maniacs than those in Perth.

While I would always choose The Age over the Herald Sun, at least there is a choice. In Perth – at least in terms of actual physical newspapers – there is only The West Australian.

As for the restaurants and the shops, well, I just miss the UK.

So the decision was made to move. My husband knew he would have to find a job first – his job is very specialised, and he doesn’t have a lot of choice in terms of employers. We thought it would take a while, so didn’t get too excited. But within a few weeks he found a job – so the move was on.

His new employers wanted him to start work four weeks later. A plan was hastily formulated to minimise the stress of moving yet again. He would move to Melbourne at the end of January to take up his new position. I would stay in Perth, earning as much as possible and wrapping our old life up, until the beginning of June, when we would fly to Europe for a month’s holiday. I’d find a job in Melbourne when we got back.

And so here we are, in April. Just a couple of months to go until I find out if I really want to be in Melbourne – or just don’t want to be in Perth.

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I’m not known for my sense of style. No-one will ever ask me for fashion tips. I’ll never appear in the Sunday Times Magazine summing up my personal style in two words*.

I do actually adore clothes, just not generally so much that I let what I wear get in the way of more practical considerations. I love funky shoes, true; but I also love to walk everywhere so end up alternating between flat sandals, Converse All-Stars and Merrell walking shoes. I look at my trendy colleagues with envy; but resent spending money on work clothes so tend to choose more classic officewear that will span the seasons.

So why, when fashion isn’t that much of a concern for me, do I spend so much time thinking about it in Perth?

It’s probably just homesickness in another guise, but I have really struggled to get used to clothes shopping in Australia.

In the UK, I was a chain store girl. But what chain stores we had to choose from! Top of the list was H&M, which allowed me to indulge my love of the quirky for minimal cost. Miss Selfridge kept me in casual tops with interesting features (I’m a big fan of unusual sleeves and pockets), and I was enjoying the previously-rather-staid Marks and Spencer and Next, which were beginning to really up their game around the time I left.

There are several Aussie chains that I suspect think they are a kind of down under H&M. Cotton On and (the horrific) Supré spring to mind. But there’s no originality in their goods, and with the hugely inflated prices we suffer in Australia I just can’t bring myself to buy. They would probably claim I’m not their target market, but I missed the memo about having to restrict yourself to Witchery and Country Road‘s oh-so-boring and oh-so-expensive beige creations when you pass 30. Myer and David Jones do their best, but they’re no match for Debenhams.

Locals tell me that city centre chain stores are not the way it’s done here. All the best clothes come from suburban boutiques, they say. That may be true, but when one of the biggest proponents of that theory used to turn up to work in…well, let’s just say outfits that weren’t exactly my style, I began to have my doubts.

Maybe I’m foolish to expect things to be as good as back in Blighty. Our isolation and smaller population must have an impact. In the UK, the sheer quantity of merchandise available meant that with some clever styling, you need never see anyone in an identical outfit – even if it was purchased from a store with a branch in every high street. Here, I spotted others wearing my first Australian purchase – a maxi dress from Just Jeans – numerous times within my first few weeks of owning it.

The weather has an influence too. Is it really any surprise that in summer, the shops are full of denim shorts and vest tops when the temperature doesn’t drop below 40 for weeks at a time? 

But understanding those factors doesn’t help. So while I continue to ask for suggestions for stores I might like in Perth, I shop online, and look for any opportunities to buy European.

I left space in my suitcase when I travelled to Sydney recently, knowing that Gap had recently opened a branch in the city and Top Shop had a concession in trendy store Incu.

Gap was a huge disappointment. Yes, I appreciate that they are known (in the northern hemisphere at least) for their jeans and in a Sydney summer it must be hard to sell heavy denim trousers to shoppers, but only two styles to choose from? A range of candy-hued cotton crew-neck sweaters didn’t have me reaching for my wallet either.

Top Shop was better. Its concession in Incu’s Paddington store is clearly aimed at the fashion-forward crowd. A pair of dogtooth woollen shorts caught my eye, as did a long-sleeved chiffon blouse, but I frankly don’t have the kind of social life that requires such things. And woollen shorts should really be worn with opaque tights and boots, but unless you really crank up the aircon, you can only do that for a few weeks a year.

I’m heading to China in a couple of months, and will be spending the last few days of the trip in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has eight branches of H&M and the same number of Marks and Spencers. Let’s hope there’s also somewhere that sells suitcases, because I think I might need an empty one.

* Although, for the record, they would probably be ‘clean’ and ‘comfortable’.

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The internet is full of ex-pats banging on about what they miss about Britain. Indeed, importing Persil and Bisto gravy granules is something of a competitive sport here in Oz.

There are of course some things I miss about the UK.

My pining for H&M is well-documented elsewhere, and I will no doubt revisit the subject here sometime.

Following the Persil theme, I haven’t found any washing powder without optical brighteners. For now, I have to put up with the double-bleaching effect of the washing powder and then the sun hitting the washing line. I may wear less black in future (and more grey).

Dairy products have proved problematic, not because you can’t get them but because the Australian descriptions of what they are tend to be rather odd. Cheese of the non-mild variety is described here as ‘bitey’ or ‘tasty’. They’re not even very good at giving their cheese brands sensible names (I hesitate to say inoffensive names as I have a friend with the very same surname, and the presence of a popular ice cream known as a Golden Gaytime suggests Australians are not too concerned about what connotations their brands have).

My famous lemon and lime cheesecake has suffered due to a lack of double cream. I am sure it is available – there are too many overweight Australians for it not to be – but it will be called something so utterly unrelated that I fear I will never find it. I think it’s a conspiracy to make me eat Tim Tams instead.

And prawn cocktail crisps just don’t exist here (outside the Harry Enfield ‘I saw you coming’-style shops for ex-pats), despite the huge quantity of real prawns consumed. Which leads me to think that there may not be any real prawn in prawn cocktail crisps.

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