09 November 2010 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Shopping 'mauls'

I generally don’t like malls. And malls at this time of year freak me out. The twinkling lights in broad daylight, the overweight men in red suits, the screaming consumerist kids, the aggressive advertising and,  the constant carols; “come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum…”

The whole environment is predatory.

You’re likely to leave with damage to your bank balance, your self esteem and to your person - twisted ankles, shoulder strains, chronic fatigue - I haven’t even mentioned the parking.

If you, like me, prefer to shop without getting mauled, you need to change your approach. It’s time to say “no” to airless air-conditioned interiors and explore al fresco options. We have lots of them in South Africa.

One of my favourite markets in Pretoria (my home town) is the Irene Market.  It has hundreds of stalls, spread out across the leafy grounds of the historic Smuts House museum. The wide range of products on offer, from home-made cakes, biscuits and preserves to furniture and clothing, has “all been vetted for originality and quality”. I recently bought a lifesize guitar and some tiny bicylces made entirely of wire, some organic spinach and some jewellery made of coloured glass. I also met some cool people, which is part of the fun when you’re buying things directly from the people who make them.

The market is open every Saturday until 16 December. In the New Year,  it will resume trade on the second and last Saturday of each month.

Other great places to shop outdoors in Pretoria include the Magnolia Dell Market on Queen Wilhelmina Street, open on the first and third Saturday of every month, and two of my personal favourites, the steps of the Union Buildings, and the pavement outside the Pretoria Zoo (check out the Zoo’s great holiday programme too). There are also lots of other markets around the country - with special Christmas markets running between November and early January.

Of course, any market’s mission is still to sell, and yours is still to shop. This is never risk-free. At worse may get sunburnt. Sometimes there is mud involved. And you need to have cash, instead of paying with cards. At best, you pick up original gifts at great prices combined with a fun day out in near perfect weather. That’s the kind of ‘mauling’  I can take.

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