I Shopped With A Zombie: the return of SHOPWATCH

I Shopped With A Zombie: the return of SHOPWATCH
Legendary (snigger) Christchurch shopping column SHOPWATCH is back from the dead and gone all internetty for the new millennium, a full decade after everyone else. Didja miss me?

About six years ago I wrote what was to be my last shopping column for Presto magazine. It never went to print, due to the massive earthquake of February 22 2011, which put paid to the publication’s usual source of advertising – Christchurch’s small CBD retailers. Presto, like town, was dust, and Shopwatch had nowhere to go.

I considered taking it online, but then  Neat Places  appeared, doing such a good job of profiling Christchurch’s quirker retailers that I couldn’t really see the point. By then, too, it had become clear that writing for publication outside my place of employment was frowned upon. 

Now I think it’s time to bring it back. Still independent and unrepentantly underperforming on SEO, here’s Shopwatch!

Beer-loving friends of the internet! Do you love a tasty, hoppy brew, but fear all the horrid headaches you’re bound to wake up with after all the obligatory annual get-togethers with old buddies for backyard cricket and beers this season? Then let me recommend Garage Project’s Fugazi. Flavoursome and delicious, but clocking in at a mere 2 per cent alcohol, it’s excellent for the long session. It’s on tap at Pomeroy’s and may still be available to buy in a can at  The Beer Library  in Sydenham. Or you could order online.

Smoke with your beer? There’s not much nicer than a apple-scented shisha of a summer evening, the Middle East’s finest invention since hummus. However, if you’re a fan of the hubbly  bubbly but not wild about the attendant mess and fuss, why not get it delivered direct to your home or party by Shisha 2 Go? Nicotine and nicotine-free options are available by the hour, with all the setup and cleanup carried out by staff onsite. For restaurant shisha you can’t do better than Boteco  in Kilmore St – the food is variable but the dancer’s great and a shisha in the garden there is just lovely.

Surreptitious cellphone snaps do not do these Plush garments justice.

Fans of Carolyn Barker’s late-lamented Plush – rejoice! The last of Carolyn’s stock – including her covetable coats – is on sale at Paua of the Pacific in Re:Start, a newish shop with an abundance of wearables, alongside its core product of paua prints. It also stocks the most delicious glitter jelly shoes seen since I* brought my silver pair home from London in 1995. They are a perfect frivolous match for Hapa’s frivolous fairy dust necklaces.

Glittering prizes for your feet at Paua of the Pacific.


Hapa remains a favourite, although The General Store often nips at its heels for giftware and random stuff for your house. When you’re looking for gifts for the world’s coolest infants, though, Hapa is hard to beat. Recently spotted gems include onesies with Oma Rapiti on them, snuggly little Ewoks complete with hooded cloaks, and adorable felt tiger booties.

I said ADORABLE! Even out of focus, am I right?


Meanwhile, Cosmic Corner has pulled out a few more fashion stops with the addition of some Hell Bunny wear for the pin-up crowd, and reborn 90s “global traveller” threads for everyone else. With the 90s being largely a reworked 70s, it’s therefore somehow appropriate that Cosmic is also a spot where you can still buy Kama Indian Love Oil, to give you that authentic hippy miasma. Rather than share my scuzzy cellphone snaps, I’ll  let Moses and pal alert you to Cosmic’s general fashion coolness in this slick promo:

Also spied and worth pursuing:

  • Anodised aluminium pendant lights with a 70s vibe, LED clip lights for displaying photos and chalkboard tape at South City ‘s Just Incredible
  • Brightly coloured fish-shaped bags, fresh casual summer frocks in every shade, and utilitarian but always useful Thai fisherman’s pants in camel, at a South City stall
  • Moana Rd gift/decor products at Paper Plus, including an LED string light nestled in a lightbulb inside a mason jar, which surely takes Airspace styling to new heights
  • Plain black suede-look ballet-style slip-ons with black and white heart lining at the Warehouse, which will allow you to run around pretending to be Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face on a serious budget
  • Victoria St’s new 24-hour convenience store, Symrose’s Superfresh, which claims to contain a “Cafetaria”. This obvious bit of ESL in the heart of the fancy  rebuild makes me happy, because it’s nice to see something so clearly not corporate in the city alongside the big money options.

In the last, never published, Shopwatch column for Presto, I made reference to post-quake chic, unaware that we were about to get a belting that would knock our charming “dinner party under the table” stories into a chasm. It seems only fitting, therefore, that I dutifully point out the remnants of this fad spied at Merivale’s Corso di Fiore: mismatched dinnerware that suggests two differently-sized items have been glued together. It’s a love-it or hate-it product. There are glasses, too.


Stay tuned for more Shopwatch whenever the mood takes me, probably shorter and more link/pic heavy as ye olde print shopping column creaks its way into the 21st century!

Till next time, some time….

Shopwatch is not supported by advertising and all products and stores mentioned here are included because I like them, think other people will like them, or occasionally find them hilarious. From time to time advertisements appear below this content: this is supplied by WordPress and is not related to Shopwatch in any way.

*I’ve given up calling  myself Shopwatch. You know who I am, right?

Black mood

I think I was ten when my mother adopted a particular outfit that would become my lifelong style inspiration. It was the early/mid 70s, so the outfit comprised a tight-fitting knit top and a pair of gigantic loon-style pants, to be worn, naturally, over enormous wedges or platforms. The pants had a yoke and cuffs – I remember this because my mother sewed, and the pattern was reused at least once – and the top had a 3D-look embroidered rose on it, but these were not the things that made it stay in my mind.

The outfit was entirely black. It got many compliments from Mum’s friends and I remember distinctly thinking: “When I am an adult I’m going to wear black all the time.” In my 30s I realised that I had done it. And I still do.

Black is my favourite colour to wear. Periodically of course one tries to adopt a “new black”, for a change,   or just wear some colourful skirt or dress because a piece of pretty fabric or aspirational fashion shot has urged one to. But without fail, that coloured garment winds up living in the wardrobe. Clothes I actually wear spend more time on the floordrobe. The fact that every single one of them is black makes it quite hard to sort through. But at least I know they all match. (Well, to a point. All black-wearers know there are hundreds of blacks.)

It may be no coincidence that I also started drinking my coffee black at 11. I don’t remember what time of year it was, but I do remember that it was a weekend, and there was no milk in the fridge. My parents had been drinking their (instant) coffee black for as long as I can remember, and because it was the 70s nobody had yet informed people that children should not drink tea or coffee, so I was given the option of taking mine black too, or having none at all. I piled in the sugar and discovered a new taste sensation.

I gave up sugar in hot beverages a few years later (for Lent: Catholicism is useful for cold-turkey quitting) but I’ll still add sugar to coffee if I’m feeling unwell. And to Arabic/Greek/Turkish coffee of course, because cardamom coffee sludge just ain’t the same without it.

I started dyeing my hair black at 18, kept it some variation on very dark brown for decades, and committed to natural platinum (ahem) at 42 or 43. What that decision made clear was that the time of messing round with non-black garments was also over. Nothing sets off my hair better than black. Since then I’ve travelled to foreign countries with just cabin baggage and an all-black capsule wardrobe. Bliss! Living through a natural disaster – which saw me turn up in Timaru for three months with  a duffel bag containing several pairs of tights and undies, plus one bra, a cardigan, a pair of leggings, boots and my leather jacket – reinforced for me how far one can stretch a personal uniform with a few cool accessories. (OK, and more than one bra. And a dress or several.) Black allows one to disappear, yet make a statement at the same time. It’s protective, and practical, and effortless. Jewellers put pearls on black velvet for a reason. It allows you to glow, quietly. It enhances your creamy depths.  It carries you from office to cocktail party to funeral to scuzzing round in the garden with a simple change of shoes. And it also carries with it a suggestion both of authority and discreet servitude, which is why , black-clad, you occasionally get mistaken for bar or retail staff. But this is a small price to pay.

Of course it annoys me that rugbyheads have stolen black on the fragile premise that “the All Blacks wear it”, but I’ve never worn black to be cool. Even though black is cool, of course. I know full well that not so many years back, these people sported double denim and polar fleece when they went to the Church in London and attended their so-called “games” of “sport”. Their adoption of black can only be a good thing for our nation’s sartorial reputation abroad.

Now if only we can do something about their shoes.