I like quirky things, and pretty things and things no one else has. It’s why Vie and I are such a fan of vintage stores and independent boutiques. There used to be a cute little boutique in my university town but one day when I was out shopping, not caring whether I had to eat Sainsbury’s Basics fish fingers for two weeks, I saw that it had closed down. I could take a trip to London to look down the seven dials but money is never in my favour for that option. There is also an inherent lack of individuality back home, the local public was elated that a Primark was opening and the only “boutiques” we have our chavvy shops run by women with fake-tan and all they sell is neon green and leopard print. All hope for fashion dies at home.
I am therefore very grateful for the trip I got to take to Norwich with my boyfriend and his family today to hunt down pretty boutiques and cafes and book shops, and perhaps go to the Roman Britain exhibition if we had enough time at the end, and although we didn’t go the exhibition it was still a very successful trip. We loaded into the car at 09:00 am…approximately…and off we were. Norwich is only an hour away by car, if I was to go last week it would have taken two by bus, but I would have had more money to spend. When we got there with minimal rowing we were hungry so first we found a kitschy cafe. Objective number one was fulfilled.
The cafe was the best I had ever seen. Pastel furniture sat primly all over and bunting hung from the walls. Fresh flowers were put onto the table in little glass vases and the menus were messages in bottles. I was in love with the place and stealing ideas for my house (when I ever own one). This was all before the dark chocolate mocha and the salted-caramel brownie, and the rose lemonade that tasted like Turkish delight.
Objective two was met when we found a little bookshop that only sold one copy of what they had. They even told us that Magaret Atwood had came to the shop specially to buy something and a picture of her was pinned proudly to the display near the door. I was chuffed with it, though was torn between an essay on dystopias (by Margaret Atwood) or a book on Rome that covered everything I had just studied. In the end I didn’t get any, with the idea that I could come back if one plagued my mind. But the shop was almost as cute as the restaurant with letters tacked to the ceiling as if the books had been whispering.
And then we found cobbled streets with more independent little shops and each one we entered was mesmerising. One sold vast numbers of unique and rare bears that looked beautiful but not appropriate for children with grubby hands. The most expensive one I found was marked over three hundred pounds! Another sold vintage books no longer printed and one sold games though we didn’t go in, especially not when a horrified Pookie came out squealing over a spiders nest.
“They were really big as well!” I shuddered. I imagine it is home to the spawn of Aragog from Harry Potter.
What was great was that in each of these shops the vendors were passionate about their trade and could chat to you about it until the subject was exhausted or the person fell asleep (though I doubt it, their excitement would have kept them running longer than my Mocha). You don’t get that passion in Primark.
Upon further exploration my boyfriend found a custom 1950’s bass guitar, with paint chipping off to expose the wood and dog eared edges that could only suggest it was bashed around a stage a couple of times.
“You don’t have a spare £1250 do you?” he asked his mum..and his father..and me. If only I didn’t have to use my student loan to pay my next rent. Then I would have said yes. We went to the quirky boutique and after trying on eight dresses I found two that I adored, and am even being made a ring specially because they didn’t have it in stock. Again, you don’t get that in Primark. It was also successful because I got fabulous new shoes. They don’t go with my dresses but my fashion sense does spring from girly to rock star with a blink of an eye. Jem even managed to nab a green parrot lamp on sale.
“My husband will hate it” she gleefully said as she was paying. “But I don’t care.” After eating at Ed’s diner and having peanut milkshakes and glorious burgers that only the OK! Diner on a motorway to Manchester cold surpass it was joyful. And on the drive home we even had a good laugh, the good ole self-deprecating British way. I am very happy.
I return to Norwich on Monday for rollerskating. Perhaps we might be able to squeeze the exhibition in then.