Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Smell of Winter

I came from my Sister's house just now. Her and my Brother-in-law had put together yet another outstanding dinner! Today they served this particular season's traditional Norwegian sea-food, so fresh from the ocean that it was almost alive. They had hinted that after dinner it would be very welcome with a hand with some of the refurbishing they're doing. Having grown up in a family of many skilled crafts-men I've always enjoyed the pleasure of swinging a hammer. And so we did; and we were very happy with the results; both of the eating and the work.

The night was over so I wrapped up, said goodbye, strolled out and rounded the corner. A couple of deep breaths of the cold mid-winter air filled my lungs and it put a smile on my face. I've always loved the winter. Two breaths and I get this funny feeling: "what's up with my nose?" The answer came as quickly as the question. I wouldn't think twice while skiing, but after that warm house in the city... The hairs in my nostrils instantly froze to one bundle after breathing out warm air from my lungs. It feels funny at first. Way up North they can determine the temperature when it's really cold by spitting on the ground. If it freezes before it hits the ground it makes a particular sound. I can't do that yet.

Guess I've been out of the country for a few years already.

Fashion shops, the meaning of life and such...

You know how it's like when you're in an over-crowded shop with too many people?

In Leeds I like to walk by the window of Heaves & Curtis to just marvel at the latest in shirts and the odd Italian suit. Sometimes I walk through Victoria Quarter and pop by Vivienne Westwood or one of the traditional (and way too expensive for a student, read: "me") classic gentlemen's shops. I must admit I have left a decent amount of money for silk ties at Tie Rack in the UK, Robbinson's in Singapore and good old Marks & Spencer's. I think it's kind of a genetically inherited "want a decent tie-collection" passed down through my father's line (though I might have taken it a bit further than anyone before me).

Even H&M on Kirkgate in Leeds springs to mind as a cool clothing shop. Scandinavian clothing in the first place, it has become kind of a mainstay up here. Fashionists never used to look to H&M for quality, but rather for the quantitative aspects of their wardrobe. And if they were not on a particular budget they would easily skip it for something more exclusive. While that might have changed a little bit over the years (with Madonna launching her own H&M collection etc.), the big display windows on Leeds main promenade just down from Harvey Nic's, Zara and oposite M&S makes this old Scandinavian company look suspiciously more up-street than how I used to remember it. Not that Leeds is that much "up-street" in itself, but they've put in the effort.

I walked into one of the local H&Ms here today and I got bored after a few seconds. No clear division between the styles and a bit too generic. Yes, I know it's a smaller city, but with creative front-windows like you can find in Leeds (amongst other places), you are geared up to look for stuff before you enter the shop. It's all there, well presented in the window. When you go inside, suits don't mix with Rock'n Roll, you do that job yourself. The clothes and styles promotes themselves because of the layout of the shop. Here the lines were more blurred. I walked a quick stroll through the shop. I even saw some items I own from the UK, but didn't think they looked exciting here. (To their defense I probably have to point out that there are bigger and better shops in town.)

Then I walked into a suit shop. The staff there are trained to say the same blooming lines when you enter. I have trained myself to reply the same boring rejection of the offer to help me find what I'm looking for. Never mind I seldom do know what I'm looking for, I know what it is when I see it. Never mind I'm out of college not long ago and don't have any money right now. I was just curious anyway. I walked to the end of the shop where the main suit collections hang. I looked at all these glorious items and I thought: "my goodness, how bored I am!"

You know how it's like when you're in an over-crowded shop with too many people? As much as you'd like to kick them all out, maybe they just make it more exciting being there. If it's one dude folding shirts at the entrance and you looking around, the sense of living in a vibrant community is dead. At the heart of it all I dress like I do because of me, and people can take it or leave it. I never really ask for advice and I never care what others think and I never did. But maybe much of the point of dressing up a personality is lost if there's no sense of community to present a personality in. It's never quiet in a fashion shop in Singapore and although it's sometimes more noise and stress than you'd like, today I really missed it.

I'm really sorry about all the tedious reflections. The bottom line is: "I walked into a fashion shop today and got mad!" I'm usually not like that. Maybe it's reflecting the fact that I'm not sure where to go and what to do next and I don't want to be trapped in one country, but are trying to look to the world. Maybe a small fashion shop in a mall in Norway was threatening me with the same spirit as the ghosts in the basement (read: in the mind) when we were kids, saying: "now you'll stay here forever and there'll be no more adventures! HAHAHA!!" I've heard (not really though) that the best way to conquer threats like that is the old tactic of burning down the evil's premisses! Maybe I should burn it all down! "HAHA back at ya'!" Or maybe I should just stay away from there for a while! Like really, that does sound healthy!

Frankly, I could probably have chosen a more busy part of town to judge from. It's not like there's no life here! I might just be missing a new adventure to get occupied with.

Funny thing. I have always loved my country a lot, and I will until death! I was never any keen on leaving, but now I'm not too keen on moving back for too long neither. I guess big moments of your life changes you forever, even fashion-shops in Leeds might (yes, I see the artistic, socioeconomic and other contradictions and I don't care). Even if everything is the same when you return from your adventures, you yourself will never be the same again.

To balance this madness; I had a great "cake-lunch" with my friend Hilde on one of the nicer hotels in town with a view to the sunlight from up the river. Later I walked into a big music gear shop with an in-house studio. They had stacks of amazing studio speakers, instruments and general yum-yum! They even had two classic Universal Audio pre-amps casually stuffed away on a shelf. I know from my retail experience that you don't stock more than you think you'll sell. If they think keeping more than one 1000 GBP pre-amp in their shop at anyone time is a good idea, maybe I'm over-looking some of the life that's going on here. Maybe this city has grown in ways I haven't seen while I've been gone. I'm hoping on it, cause it all looked damn nice in the mid-winter light earlier today!