When I found that at the the end of 2000, because of M.E., I could no longer work, I had to adjust to living the life of the chronic invalid. I was mostly bed-ridden, and relatively poor. My teaching life was over, and I had to work out a way of coping, living on my own, and managing for myself. Difficult, even for the healthy.
Fortunately, I have friends. Ross and Craig had introduced me to the computer to help me cope with reports when I was still trying to teach. I couldn’t write on the multi-copy carbons then used and had to find a way of submitting reports. In the face of protests from the school administration, I gave an ultimatum – computer generated reports or none. They caved, and followed me a couple of years later. I could tick boxes on a template, and use Dragon voice operation to dictate comments. I learnt to love my computer.
Then, when I was out of teaching, my friend Jill introduced me to eBay and Trade Me (New Zealand’s equivalent). Suddenly, it didn’t matter quite so much that I could no longer leave the house without help or without planning a major campaign. I could buy clothes, books, all kinds of things, online, and they were delivered to my door.
So, how could I have fun and bring a little excitement to my life without blowing my very limited budget? In the years just before I hit the wall, I had bought a brooch from a vintage clothing store in Christchurch. A pretty little brooch, in pleasing colours, made by a firm called Exquisite. Meet December, holly and helebores, from the birthday brooch collection. (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Exquisite-brooch-Christmas-Rose-and-Holly-/171978951513)
I decided I would collect Exquisite brooches. (http://www.jewelsandfinery.co.uk/blog/2014/10/24/exquisite-jewellery-history-of-w-a-p-watson-ltd-solihull/) The firm had been in production for much of the twentieth century, but it was after World War II, when money was short, but the desire for a little frivolity was rising, that they came into their own. They produced enamel brooches on what my mother would have called ‘muck metal’. But they were often well designed, mostly featuring leaves and flowers. They came up with the cunning marketing plan of making a flower brooch for each month, then a succession of leaf brooches, so that people could be encouraged to buy more than one. I am here to tell you, it worked!
Thanks to Exquisite, I had a new life. One in which I sat up all hours waiting for UK auctions to close on eBay, so that I could pounce on a brooch for a pound or so less than if I had put my top bid in early. The costume jewellery crowd brought me to a whole new world, one in which superlatives and exclamation marks were sloshed around with abandon, not used sparingly, as had been my English teaching rule. And I made a new online friend, Kim, who also had some space in her life at the time. We chased jewellery in the UK and the US, learnt about the different makers, and drooled over the biggest, most fake, and sparkliest jewels we could find. They were kind, that community. I was never ripped off, met only the occasional idiot, and amassed a collection which has, at very least, kept its value. And I wear the odd one, from time to time.
It grew from there. Most of my clothes have been bought on eBay, and then there are the books. So many auctions in the wee small hours, where I sat with my cup of tea, waiting to put in that last-second bid.
I don’t go there so often, now. Face it, if I spend most of my time in nighties (bought on eBay), how many clothes do I need? And lack of shelf space, and economy (those postage rates!) have driven me into the arms of e-books. I stay in touch with Kim, and we share our admiration for pretty things. And I know that if I need anything, it will be out there on eBay.