It’s 1974 and I’m sitting in the back of the white Holden Commodore almost peeing my pants with excitement. We’re driving home from Lautoka with something very special all boxed up like a Christmas present, on the back seat.
Dad has just bought a TV!
I’ve never watched one before, but he has explained patiently that it’s like a radio with pictures. I’m so excited at the prospect of finally seeing my favourite comics coming to life I’m about to explode – at both ends! I jiggle in my seat all the way home desperate to finally see this magic box.
What I didn’t realise as I chatted excitedly and squirmed in my seat was that I was learning something very important about my family, and my own genetic endowment. Bargain hunting is in my genes. If it’s cheap and ‘a good buy’ we have to buy it!
Dad had clocked the electronic duty free bargains in Lautoka and after a bit of deliberating about the exchange rate, decided now was the perfect time to snaffle his own treasure.
My delight was soon rained out with tears as soon as we arrived home and the TV was relegated to the storage cupboard. And not – sniff -plugged in!
It was 1974, Fiji had electricity supply, water mains and an international airport where they greeted tourists with leis of flowers. It did not have however, a television station.
Years later, when I started my own travelling adventures, I picked up from where Dad had left off and started scouring the world for my own bargains with the same calibre of dedicated enthusiasm. I remember buying an Arabian (styled) mat in Singapore and hooking it onto the back of my backpack. It wasn’t original and had seen more of a nylon manufacturing factory in Malaysia somewhere than it ever had of an Arabian country, but I had decided it was a good buy. I lugged it all around Asia with me for the rest of my trip, even after spying the washing instructions tag!
Then there was the two metres of Thai silk in an emerald green colour that I picked up in Bangkok. At the time I had nowhere to wear Thai silk, and as I didn’t sew, I had no idea how much silk I needed to make anything from it. But it was cheap. And obviously, so was I.
I picked up cassette tapes of artists I’d never heard of on the streets of Banglamphu (because they were cheap) and a box of makeup from Marks and Spencers in Singapore, simply because they were M&S (and cheap) not because I fell in love with the palette of vivid turquoise blue and purple eyeshadows.
And I came that close to buying a sexy little harem outfit, with jingly bells for my jiggly bits, from the Old City in Jerusalem…
Other spectacularly clever purchases over the years have included; a bag of pasta shapes that look like penises from Venice, a string of camel bells that I need to hang at the opening of my tent to sway in the sultry breeze coming off the Jordanian desert (just as soon as I get that tent in my nomadic sand camp) and the world’s tiniest bottle of Ouzo.
All brilliant buys. Which makes me – undeniably- the world’s best shopper.
Wouldn’t you say? I’m laying down the challenge now.
What was your best travel buy? Do you have a bargain buy to beat the world’s tiniest bottle of Ouzo?