It is nearly 40 years since I bought a teapot,
1890s, American, cobalt blue, shape reminiscent of Aladdin’s lamp. And it came apart in me hands, mum, three weeks ago. I knew it was irreplaceable but not in such terms. Wal, on line wizard, offered to help me. He sent me pictures of a dozen perfectly serviceable teapots which didn’t do anything to me, or him. So we abandoned that. I looked in the John Lewis flagship where they were ugly and expensive, at a name kitchenware store – ditto, and another – same again.
I went to Wilko -no, Robert Dyas – no and Zara Home – no (they all cross referenced each other). I found what I wanted but I couldn’t order it and neither could the only young person I felt able to ask.
Coming back from an outing, on a different bus, I passed what we used to call a hardware store, leaped off. Charming girl, mean teapots. (This teapot has to meet the needs of Wal who is multi cup, runs on builders’ brew, and me – though the days when I drank a lot of tea are gone. And I pass on the pretentious overpriced rubbish that people call coffee, preferring water).
Further down the road however I hit a home run – size, price and colour OK and a woman who wrapped it properly. It is not distinguished but it will do.
Then I went on line to try and buy the replacement for a face cream I discovered last summer.
”On sale in store” it said. Well, not in the two stores I went into – nor could it be ordered by those stores although that is how I first got hold of it. Nailing it down on the on line part of the manufacturer without newsletters, offers, and the rest of the paraphernalia of modern marketing (pause for gnashing of teeth) took a while but we got there. I have paid for it, so I assume it will arrive. I could have called this annalog “How Not To Shop”. What a miserable business, useful only for the competitiveness of finger speed.
It’s like easy peelers, sounds like a stripper. Perfectly acceptable, available everywhere, tastes of nothing very much. I mean, you know it’s a fruit because you can see it is. I wind up buying delicious expensive satsumas
which I eat one a day because they taste of something.
You will notice that this is not about the cost of things, of which like most of us, I am only too horribly aware. It is about getting what you want, about the difference between what somebody wants to sell you and what you want to buy. And why. What hit me after some thought was, of course those neighbourhood stores don’t keep teapots – no demand. It is the age of the tea bag and the polystyrene cup.
The online experience seems to be easy, provided your wishes chime with what the website wants you to do. Misinformation on websites is rife though they would say, that in the aftermath of a pandemic, they are in a holding situation over manufacture, supply and demand. I could understand that, if that was what whoever it is told me, as a customer. But what is there is the breathless exclamation of how wonderful they are – and we are for using them. Oh tosh.
Whatever is going to happen in Ukraine, I’d like lessons in communication and public speaking based on the presentation of the head of National Security in the US, one Jake Sullivan –
whom I watched for some considerable time last night, speak fluently, clearly and with candour about a terrifying situation and resist the temptation to simplify it or talk up the side he represents. He even managed to say “I don’t know” and it played like honesty instead of confusion.
I remember the Bay of Pigs (April 1961) when my mother, a pragmatist if ever there was one, shook me rigid by saying “This is truly terrible and I should never have had you – how could I bring a child into a world like this ? “
We used to value communication, whether it was about a packet of gravy browning or a gun. Now we are so busy scoring lingual points off each other, we’ve forgotten what’s really involved. Life and death, that’s what.