Being a writer is an unpredictable (albeit unbeatable) career path. Getting paid on time in the world of freelancing is something that seldom happens, and chasing after money that has been rightly earned is something none of us enjoy doing.
Even though you’re the one in the right, asking for money you’ve worked hard for, you do always feel shitty, and about the size of Thumbelina when sending that initial email, trying to chase the coin that you need for your bread and butter.
Then, when the email is sent, you feel even shittier and, for some inexplicable reason, greedy. You wonder how much longer you could make that loaf of bread last for, and if you could add some water to your cleanser so it can keep you clean(ish) for a few more days. Or is that just me?
Anyway, the other week when I was eventually paid for a job, I thought to myself ‘Katie, you deserve a bloody treat.’ So, I celebrated by marching to one of my favourite (the cheapest) thrift stores in Borås with a 100 krona budget (just under £9). I felt so rich.
For those of you who haven’t followed my writing before, I exist (mostly) to thrift. I’ve honed my thrifting skills over the past thirty years – for generations my family has always shopped second hand so it’s in my blood – and can say, with quiet reassurance, that I’m pretty well practiced in the art. And yes, it is an art.
We were in desperate need of a candle holder at home, so I went with the intention of finding one that would see us through into old age. I’m not one of these people who needs a new candle holder each season. I want one that will work in spring, summer, autumn and winter. I want one that will outlive me, and my children and my children’s children.
I believe the universe listened to me on that day because, about thirty seconds after walking into the thrift store, I found a handcrafted iron and glass candle holder for 25 krona. I picked it up and we literally fused together. I’m one of these paranoid thrift shoppers. I think if I put something down for just a second it’ll be swiped up and someone else will make if their own.
Fate was on my side that day because, the next thing to catch my eye was a glass polar bear. If something would have said to me even an hour before I went in the store ‘So, you like glass polar bears or what?’ I would have been like ‘You mean those tacky ornaments they usually sell in Scandinavian airport gift stores for the price of a small house? No. No I don’t.’
I never would have envisaged myself actually ever buying one. But my heart. My heart opened up all the way for this glass bear. And, at 30 krona, he was well under my budget. I’ve been researching into, and writing about polar bears for at least a decade, and consider my spiritual relationship with the Lord of the North and his cold realm integral to my creative and emotional well-being.
The polar bear symbolizes perseverance, something which I need to embrace on a daily basis to deal with my mental health, and to move forward as a writer and creative. I was supposed to find this glass bear, and he was supposed to come home with me and watch over me while I write.
He went carefully into the basket, and I walked around the store like I was carrying a newborn elfling. When the time came to pay, I put him down so, so gently, and watched, eagle eyed, as the cashier handled him with an aggressive roughness, like he was made of stone.
In my head I was screaming WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? I don’t know, I always expect people in thrift stores to have some kind of extra respect, like they understand that one persons trash is another persons treasure. Thankfully he wasn’t broken, and I left 65 krona poorer but more content than I’d felt in days.
My glass polar bear took up residence on the window sill next to the kitchen table when I do most of my work. His back faces the forest and he looks over me while I write. I pondered over what to call him for hours. I wanted to go with Nanook which means polar bear in Inuktitut.
But then little Tyra, my man’s three year old daughter bounded into the kitchen after daycare and saw him standing on the window sill. She shouted ‘Isbjörn!‘ which means polar bear in Swedish and that was that. I decided Nanook would be saved for when we get our husky.
As for the candle holder. I would marry it if I could.
My favourite thrift stores in Borås