I’m not big on picking up souvenirs when I travel, at least not of the tourist trap gift shop variety. Instead I try to find things that are unique to the place and people I am among. So when I found myself in Paris a couple of years back I eschewed plastic Eiffel Towers (except for a few brightly coloured and fanciful miniatures that now adorn my Christmas tree each year).
I stayed in an apartment just across the road from Le Bon Marche, the high-end Parisienne department store (think Harrods, but with French élan). The store had every item that one might need in one’s pied a terre, and none of it cheap. Or likely to fit in my hand luggage for the long trip home.
I was, however, taken by the feather duster department. Yes, the store had a section devoted to the sort of cleaning apparatus that one simply does not find at Godfreys. Feather dusters of all shapes and sizes – short ones for getting around bookshelves to great long ones on extendible poles for (presumably) giving one’s chandeliers a good going over, all extravagantly constructed of ostrich feathers, sufficiently long and luxurious enough to adorn the headress of a Pigale showgirl.
I was sorely tempted. I had not seen a feather duster in Hobart since the one owned by my grandmother that I had admired as a child – and it had had a very hard life indeed. These magnificent dusters were very lightweight, and thus unlikely to cause excess baggage issues at check in, and they were sublime, nothing like the sad plastic neon-hued excuses to be found at home in the average supermarket or discount store. But then I imagined the discussion with the customs and biosecurity officer on arrival back in Australia, – ‘yes, officer, this is made from real feathers’ – thought better of the whole idea and sadly put my chosen plume back on its shelf.
I had forgotten about the whole episode until last week when an idle search on eBay found The Australian Duster Company, specialising in ostrich feather dusters! While their range was not as comprehensive as that at Le Bon Marche (perhaps Australia has fewer chandeliers requiring regular maintenance than France), they did offer a ‘premium’ ostrich feather duster at a quite reasonable price, and without the need for explanations at immigration. A quick application of the credit card and the item was on my doorstep just two days later.
And here it is. It would have put grandmother’s sad specimen to shame. It does a fine job, ideal for gentle dusting around the TV and computer, and may also come in handy one day as part of a fancy dress outfit. Next time I visit Paris I shall be seeking out a French maid’s uniform to complete my domestic arrangements. I am certain that Le Bon Marche has a department for that.