Without boring you with my nerdy craft ventures which truly suit my newfound ‘ama de casa’ image, I wanted to share my first experience in a sewing/knitting/craft store in Madrid.
It was crazy.
Just off one of the many busy side streets in Puerta del Sol yesterday, I visited a store which looked promising. The display windows held all of the tell tale signs of everything I was looking for. A well organised structure of colourful wool, yarn, sewing fabric, needles, sewing machines etc. – all of the things that make our nanas happy.
Inside was chaos.
There were women everywhere. Old, young and middle aged. Some dragging their husbands along to help and give opinions on purchases. Everyone was constantly apologising for treading on each other (a new element of politeness that I hadn’t seen in Madrid before) and squeezing in and around each other to see stock and find a service counter. Hanging up high were all types of knitting needles, crochet hooks, face masks (to be painted for parties), stockings and tights. Every inch of the small space was covered in stock.
There were a few noteworthy things, if only because of their difference to Australia.
Most of the staff working there are men. Old, young and middle aged.
They readily assisted old Spanish grannies on their choice of yarn colour for their delicate knitting projects and discussed the positives and negatives of cross stitch patterns with young women. Some were measuring the length of fabric and discussing the ways in which in needs to be looked after. Others were pointing out the delicacy sewing with lace….
You have to seek the assistance of these gentlemen because all of the stock was stacked in shelves behind counters. One of my fellow Aussie expats aptly compared the experience to wand shopping in Diagon Alley (Harry Potter fans will understand).
But there doesn’t appear to be a queue – and there are a lot of customers…
So I spotted the products I was looking to buy and braced myself to forage through the masses to reach a counter. I was desperately hoping for someone on the other side to at least tolerate my broken Spanish.
And I was in luck… right on the end near the door was a lady, around my age, working on a modern project.
– Tú hablas ingles?
She looked up from her work and smiled.
– Yes, of course – what do you need?
Instant friends! Possibly my first Spanish friend!
She raced around and collected the things I needed and took them to one of the gentlemen. She explained:
– I am only a helper here, you will need to go to the end of the line now and be served by this man.
She pointed to her colleague.
I smiled and looked around confused… there was no line. Only a mass of people.
My helper smiled again and called out in Spanish.
– Who is the last in line? (I’m pretty sure that’s what she said).
A little lady smiled at me and waved. I would be served after her and the ten or so others milling around.
So…. I eventually made it to the counter and the gentleman placed all of the things in my bag. He then wrote down the cost on three tickets. One ticket was given to me, another was stapled to the bag and he kept the third for his books.
He then pointed towards another counter, with another mass of people who were waiting to be served at a cash register in another organised chaos type line. I took my ticket and he took my bag of things around the back of the store. I managed to find the last lady in line and waited to pay.
At the old register was a plump, unsmiling lady who was ferociously multi-tasking – serving at least three people at once, sorting out orders. She barked the cost at me and waited impatiently for me to find my change…. I rummaged through the coins and notes that are still foreign to me and eventually managed to pay… I could see her thinking silly foreigner…..
I had my order.
…and then I was weaving my way through people out the door when I saw my helper friend.
She smiled and waved.
– I am here every Tuesday morning if you need help.
It was by far one of the craziest craft stores I have ever visited.
I will embrace the chaos!
I will definitely go back!