I'm not sure if you know this, but there is a time warp in Coolangatta. Sunny, tree-lined Griffith St, brims with the bustle of a modern, urban, beachside lifestyle. Nestled at its northern end, however, is a small pocket of yesteryear. Step inside and feel the stillness in the air as the past wraps itself gently around you. Softly, slowly, the afternoon will slip from your grasp, as the past wraps its misty fingers around the present and pulls it out from under you like a magician with a table cloth…
When you walk through the doors, you will not immediately fathom just how far back the store goes. As you are drawn further and further in by new treasures and oddities, you will feel as though time has been suspended, as though one hour is five minutes, as though perhaps you have entered an enchanted labyrinth. I have never yet been obliged to fight a Minotaur at the end.
The maze-like character derives from the organisation of different seller's wares into different sections, separated by screens, bookcases, racks of dresses, piles of records and anything else which can be used for partitioning. The crammed, willy-nilly, product placement gives a privileged, almost illicit air to the afternoon. It feels like getting a sneak peek into someone else's life. It's like Granny's attic, although without Granny there to explain how to work all the ancient contraptions. In fact, I have excitedly come across a couple of china artefacts identical to ones owned by my Granny, which felt like I was running into childhood friends. Perhaps we shan't dwell on the fact that as a child I looked upon my Granny's tea-cups as friends.
At the back of the store, you can peruse old pictures of Coolangatta. Images of wooden surfboards and stubby holders, elegant women in fitted cotton dresses, will make you nostalgic. Possibly, if you are of the younger generations, it will be that strange and wistful kind of nostalgia you can feel for a time you have never lived in, and never will.
I have purchased some rather fetching headscarves from the clothing section, not to mention a delightful flowery flock which made me feel like a real 1950's housewife. I had a sudden and terrifyingly compelling urge to iron embroidered handkerchiefs. I could almost smell the tender, fragrant lamb roast I would be pulling from the oven as I vaguely wondered if there was more to life than hosting dinner parties for my husband's colleagues. Such is the magic of true vintage wear.
There is also jewellery, records, cake tins, scales, tea strainers, couches, bicycles, novelty ash-trays, records, magazines, sheet music - everything you could imagine. Buy a rusty tin sign advertising coke circa 1960 to hang on your wall. Buy an antique cabinet to keep your DH Lawrence and Oscar Wilde books in. Buy one of those quaint old cake tins with handles on it to lend your picnics a vintage atmosphere.
Several hours later, when the past has your afternoon safely secreted in its misty pocket, you will emerge, blinking, onto the sunny street. For a moment, the high-rises will disappear, and shadowy forms in spotted A-line dresses will clickety-clack by, bee-hive hairstyles resisting the wind. A hazy figure carrying a wooden surfboard, dressed in stubby shorts, may run past you towards the beach. With a shake of your head, they will fade, and the strolling holiday-makers and cruising locals will return. But, no doubt, you will be carrying a little piece of the past home with you, perhaps in a bag, perhaps somewhere about your person, to remind you of the afternoon that time stole.