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A tale of two flamingos

June 13, 2019

When I was all of 21, I bought this flamingo plate in a street market in New York.

06-13 flamingo plate

I bought it because it was so delightfully kitschy. A month or so later I bought a flamingo salt shaker in the same market. These two items have moved with me across oceans and continents multiple times over the ensuing decades. Over said decades, two other flamingo plates appeared, as did a flamingo vase and candlestick, amongst other items.

Yes, they’re kitschy, but kitsch can be fun. Kitsch can brighten your day.

Several years ago, during a visit to Vancouver, I bought a couple of garden flamingos in a Home Hardware. If you’ve been following for a while, you may remember that one of these flamingos was kidnapped in 2017. Fortunately it came back safely.


At the end of May I had the first proper vacation I’ve had in I don’t know how long: a wonderful week-long road trip to the Okanagan with my friend Irmani. We spent a day in Osoyoos, which has a rather unusual tourist attraction: its Home Hardware. It’s famous. My friend Catherine has waxed lyrical about it for many years. Odd, but true. So, of course I felt compelled to see what all the fuss was about.

Much to my surprise, when we walked in the door, the store was filled with all things flamingo: cushions, mugs, picnic hampers. You name it, there was a flamingo version of it. Such vindication after so much mockery. (Well, not that much mockery. My friends tend to appreciate the joys of flamingos.) The retail world had apparently caught up. Flamingos were in.

There were numerous schmancy and expensive flamingo lawn ornaments on offer, but I had no interest in these. You really shouldn’t take kitsch too seriously. I had a bit of difficulty finding the items in which I was interested, so asked an assistant if they had any of the ridiculous, cheap and cheerful lawn flamingos. “Yes!” she exclaimed with a grin. “I love those.” Me, too, I told her. Just because they are ridiculous, doesn’t mean they aren’t great. She led me to the  container. I bought two.

A few days later, Irmani and I found ourselves in Summerland, a small town rather lacking in joie de vivre. Summerland boasts a smaller, less eclectic Home Hardware. Should I, I wondered, go a bit mad and buy a couple more flamingos? Why not? I went in, looked around, then asked a salesman, who looked askance and emphatically informed me that no such (ridiculous implied) item was available for purchase. Oh, pardon me for living.

Back on Gabriola, I repotted the smaller of my two new rhododendrons in a nice, blue ceramic pot purchased for this purpose during my week away. The plan was to embed the two new flamingos on either side of it, but when I did, it just didn’t look right. Much better when I just stuck one of them in the pot.

06-13 flamingo 1

I suspect Rhodo Dave will be appalled at what he may consider my failure to treat my rhododendrons with the respect they deserve. Oh, well. I challenge anyone to look at this and not smile – or even laugh out loud.

This decision left me with a spare flamingo. Where should this one reside? Oh, wait a minute. I know.

06-13 flamingo 2

This flamingo should reside at the side of the house, where it can guard the Bambo-ravaged lilac. After all, everyone knows that deer are afraid of flamingos, right? Right?



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