Homesickness disguises itself in the most ridiculous forms. Today I had a pang of longing for catalogues. The ones that choke your mailbox on a Sunday morning – K Mart, Big W, Harvey Norman – all the big stores trying to woo you into their bargain lairs.
Growing up on a farm meant we had a P.O. Box instead a postman. So no catalogues! The Mothership would poach them from friends and we’d fight over them even if they were a month old. I’d spend hours gawking at all those crazy discounts; the weird prices like $5.49 or $9.87.
There were horrid appliquéd frocks, cordless drills, potted ferns and The World’s Largest Cotton Undies. I loved the models with their expressions permanently set to “delighted”. Toddlers tottered across the page with their pudgy fists in the air. Women with sensible bobs grinned despite their elasticated skirts. The blokes, chisel-jawed and wavy-haired, all looked like the Gift Shop models on Sale of the Century. It was so unsettling to see them in polo shirts and khaki shorts, instead of besuited beside the BMW and Cash Jackpot.
The Retravision and Harvey Norman catalogues enthralled me with their gleaming whitegoods and small appliances. Multi-disc CD players were all the rage in the mid-90s, so each stereo had a little logo indicating its capacity. I’d frantically flip through the pages trying to find the beefiest machine. 3 discs! 5 discs! 10 discs! Sweeeet! It was no wonder I ended up with a 25-disc changer for my 21st birthday. Which is really the stupidest invention ever, for by the time you feed it you can never remember what you put in.
Best of all were the fridge and freezer pages. I would stare longingly at the carefully styled shelves, trying to pick my Dream Fridge based on its contents. I loved the rows of condiments and posh bottled water, the celery lounging in the crisper, the watermelon wedge smiling on a platter. And there were always elaborate parfaits in tall glasses. I wanted a fridge with parfaits, dammit. And a freezer full of Ski frozen yogurt. They always had Ski frozen yogurt! We had half a cow and Home Brand Choc-Coated Ice Creams in our freezer. Meanwhile in the fridge, vegetables turned to liquid alongside the brown orange juice and last year’s salad dressing.
I daydreamed that somewhere out there, these pristine perfumed devices really existed. You just don’t get catalogues like in the UK. I’ll be home in three months, would someone save a few for me?