A Belfast Story

Ceramic seahorse brooch, £2.75, NI Hospice

I love Belfast. I love walking its streets and looking for the things that aren’t often noticed. The streets named after horse races, the inscriptions on our bridges, the decorative details on our red-brick buildings, the hidden symbols…It’s a city that is made of so much more than the history most people know. Belfast may wear the scars of its past, but the brilliance of its past shines through too.

Titanic Museum, Belfast

My love of vintage has often helped me to learn more about the city. From the old photos I’ve found in books to the labels inside bags and coats, I’ve happily stumbled into long lost stories. It’s one of the great things about collecting bits and bobs of the past, there’s always something more to learn.

I found this seahorse brooch in my local hospice shop. The volunteer said that someone had looked at it just before me and dismissed it as it wasn’t made of jade and therefore worthless…She reckoned it was just waiting for me. I agree!

I’ve always wanted a piece of seahorse jewellery – the humble seahorse and Belfast have a very special relationship. Look around our city, in particular at our street furniture, and more often than not, you’ll see a shiny gold seahorse. There are two on our city’s coat of arms representing our maritime heritage.

The Celts associated seahorses with the power and strength of the gods of the sea. It’s also a symbol of ‘protection, recovery and health’. If you arrive or leave Belfast by our docks, a glorious 8 metre steel seahorse, commissioned to mark the 400th anniversary of Belfast Harbour bids you well.

How lovely to own a piece of jewellery that quietly connects with all of this local heritage. What makes this brooch even better is the little bit of damage on its ‘cheek’. It’s been used, it’s been worn and to me that’s more interesting than anything that’s been sadly kept-for-good.

It’ll be on my jacket tomorrow!

Rosie xx

‘Beside the lake, beneath the trees….’

Wordsworth Country

It was our first time in the Lake District. How ridiculous to read this on the page! We love big landscapes. We love to walk. We love fresh air. We love four seasons in a day. And for all of these reasons we now love the Lakes.

Ambleside was our base for a few days enabling us to scoot around as we pleased. It’s a pretty little town with plenty to entertain after a day’s meanderings. Breakfast at the Apple Pie served us well every morning, particularly in advance of our walk to Helvellyn summit. A full tummy helped to keep us grounded in the 60mph winds 🙂 We saw nothing but cloud but while big, dramatic views would have been great, a great big hike in the fresh air was the point.

We explored Wordsworth’s home at Dove Cottage too a few miles down the road on a rainy morning – sounds like the Museum is getting a (necessary) facelift soon from some overheard conversations, but the Cottage was worth the ticket alone. The guided tour was a sweet, gentle exploration of not just the building, but the times and the poet. There’s an eternal magic about walking in the footsteps of people long gone. If you do find yourself there, look out for the portrait of Pepper the pup and I dare you not to get the giggles!

I stumbled across a really unexpected treat in the town too – the joy that is Bath House, a fragrance and skincare brand founded by artists and designers who live in the Lake District.

Bath House, Ambleside

After a real ale (or two) one evening, we passed the door of this lovely store where some body lotion samples were waiting to be tested. Roll forward a day or two and I was back, craving the scent of Velvet Orchid. I’m really hard to please with skincare products. Sadly I’m an over-sensitive ginger in so many ways but the body lotion is possibly the loveliest I’ve ever tried. Soft, beautifully scented and quite literally like velvet on my skin. I picked up a couple of treats, both the body lotion and purse spray for £36 in total – really well priced.

Velvet Orchid by Bath House, Ambleside

I did check out the delivery FAQs pretty quickly, expecting that age-old NI delivery issue. I needn’t have worried – the Bath House folk know that Royal Mail exists in Northern Ireland too 🙂 Which is good news as I don’t think my purse spray will last too long at the rate I’m going through it.

And so our travels continued to Cartmel for one specific purpose – food! 10 years married to Mr GLV and 20 years together, such milestones need celebrated in style and so we did. While in the village, my vintage antennae picked up a lovely little shop.

Cartmel Village Vintage

I left Mr GLV to sample the wares at Unsworth’s Yard Brewery and found myself in vintage heaven. Bags and brooches and books and trinkets by the bucket load. I could have stayed the whole day and I couldn’t leave empty-handed could I? So I picked up these lovely Deco butter knives for £5. I have some navy and cream handled versions but you can never have too many butter knives, especially in such Technicolor green.

Talking of green, there was a beautiful, emerald-coloured enamel Danish leaf brooch by Meka. I resisted. It took a lot of effort but I’d really love some of the yellow enamel leaf jewellery by David Andersen in the future so I held fire. The lady in the store offered me a great deal on the ticket price though so if you’re visiting, have a chat about the prices.

But I did mention bags… So many lovely vintage bags, including some stunning Mappin & Webb snakeskin. There was such a giddying selection that I could have filled the ferry home. I gave in to this beauty for £20 and it’s worth every penny. An Ackery. An Ackery clutch that’s also a handbag complete with hidden handle. I love a multi-purpose bag 🙂

And the truth be told, I don’t own a red bag so it was a necessary purchase…or so I tell myself…

I do have another beautiful Ackery bag (cheers baby sis) so it is a nice addition to the collection. But moreover, it’s a lovely reminder of more great holidays. Not a souvenir you’d usually associate with a week in Lake District but a treat that will always evoke memories of good times ‘beside the lake, beneath the trees’, in the words of Wordsworth himself.

Rosie xx

Sit at peace

Peacock marcasite brooch, £6 from Oxfam, Ormeau Road, Belfast

Mr GLV and I are just back from holidays, a glorious week in the Scottish Highlands where the mountains wrapped around us like a big tight hug. It was a perfect break. People were scarce, the landscape was wild and 4G coverage was a distant memory. It had been an incredibly busy few months with work and a big project before we drove off the ferry and made our way along the high roads and low roads in our own version of carpool karaoke!

It’s an interesting choice, to take yourself off to a quiet space with little to do but enjoy the silence. Our holidays are usually frenetic, in a good way – interesting cities with museums and restaurants and shows and tours and trips and days filled with activity. This trip was different.

Ardvreck Castle along the North Coast 500

It’s not until you find yourself in the quiet that you realise how much noise has gone before, and just how much you missed being still. My Dad used to tell us when we were young and being hyper to ‘sit a’ peace’. Drove me mad back then! I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood the real meaning of his words until recently. There is something to be said for sitting at peace, whatever that means to you. There was a lot of it on our holiday – sometimes in the car mesmerised by the view; sometimes on the beach, watching the water; sometimes in the grip of the mountains, in awe of their scale. ‘Peace comes dropping slow’, in the words another equally wise Irish man.

And oddly, that brings me to my latest charity shop find. I hadn’t been out and about in the charity shops much recently. I was beginning to feel that I’d lost my love of the treasure hunt. I always know there’s something wrong when I can count my last vintage brooch purchase in months, not days 🙂 But I think I’ve realised the root cause of my malady. Through the summer, I’d been so busy, so focussed on details and deadlines that I just didn’t have any room left – no room at all for the warm fuzzy stuff that gives me joy. I’d forgotten that it’s the simple pleasures in life that keep us sane.

So, thank you Scottish Highlands for giving me back that fuzzy feeling.

On my first charity shop jaunt after the holidays, the stunning peacock brooch pictured above was waiting for me in the Oxfam store on the Ormeau Road. Just luck some might say. I have another theory – when your mind is open to good things, then good things will happen, be that as simple as finding a beautiful brooch or as important as spotting the job of your dreams.

Sometimes we all need to just sit at peace.

Rosie xx

Space to Sparkle


Vintage sparkle, 99p from eBay

This year I had the joy of a two week break over the festive season and how did I spend part of it? Tearing through the house with a mania never before witnessed by poor, bemused hubby.  3 boxes and 6 bin liners later, one of my local charity shops got a bumper door drop.  And me? I felt like I did in the first week of the new school term when your new pen hits your newly margined page with an absolute, unwavering commitment to writing neatly…

Decluttering can be overwhelming when you like to collect things. It can be awkward knowing how and where to start; time-consuming going through cupboards and drawers that overflow with things that were once useful; and even guilt-inducing because you’re afraid to part with the lowliest of treasures. But, ultimately it’s important to make room now and again for new treasures, physical and emotional.

I’m a big fan of the past – its secrets and stories. This year though, I’ve started the new year, not just with a big old clear out, but with a new adventure too. It’s not easy, embracing change, creating space for the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable and the strange. Ultimately though, it’s rewarding and it’s important. Space allows us to grow in new directions. Change allows us to find bits of ourselves we never new existed – strengths and weaknesses both. That’s how we learn.

There’s probably something in one of those boxes or bin liners that I’ll  recall one day and wish I’d kept. That’s ok – I’ll content myself with the knowledge that it’s in a better, more loving home! The important thing is that in my clearing out I found space for a new treat, the pretty vintage brooch pictured above.  It was tarnished and shabby before I attacked it with gusto and a good dose of Autosol :)) Now it sparkles.

Therein lies the moral of the tale – don’t be afraid to create space, in your head, your heart or your home. Space is good – it gives you more room to sparkle 💖

Rosie xx


Remember Me

I fell in love with this pretty silk scarf the moment I saw it. It jumped out at me from the well stocked rail as often happens when awareness is heightened. I’d spent the weekend in the garden, shovelling two tonnes of topsoil and tidying rose beds. Not everyone’s favourite way to spend a few valuable days off work but I love it. The smell of the soil, the soft texture on your skin as you crumble oversized chunks over the ground, the sense of satisfaction when you’ve finished and know that you’ve given all your beautiful plants the best possible nutrition.  As I said, I truly love a few days in the garden!

Most of all I love roses. I suppose that’s not hard to understand given my name! But there’s one rose in particular that gives me lots of joy. When we bought our house, we became the first people to own it outside of the original family who had purchased it in 1914. When the mother and father of the house died, their daughter Nancy remained the sole resident until her death and that’s when we became custodians of not just a house, but I firmly believe, its soul.

The garden was so pretty and in a circular bed at the front, there were a number of beautiful blooming roses. As I made my way around them, one still had its label attached, the pretty one in the picture. ‘Remember Me’ it read.

To this day, almost 5 years later, I cherish that rose. It’s looking sturdier and happier than ever and I can’t wait for it to bloom again soon. It’s a welcome reminder to me every time I open the front door that we really are mere custodians during our time here. Whether it’s the pretty vintage scarf, bag or brooch, our home, or even a beautiful rose, these treasures are here for us to love and protect for as long as we can, and to pass on to others to cherish when we too are gone.

Vintage, in all its guises, isn’t just a trend or fashion for most of us. It’s an opportunity to play a small part in the protection of history and heritage. The rose at our front door, just like that pretty rose scarf I picked up from a charity shop rail, make sure that we do indeed remember the people and times that came before us.

Rosie xx

Lunchtime Vintage Fix

I’m really lucky that I work close by one of the best streets in Belfast for vintage and charity shopping – Botanic Avenue. It’s full of clothes and book shops that fill my lunchtimes with thrifty pottering.

One of my favourite shops is The Rusty Zip, a pre-loved treasure trove full of dresses, skirts, scarves and more. I’ve had more than my fair share of vintage bags from the shop, and most recently this beautiful navy dress.

It was on a mannequin when I popped in, but after drooling over it for a few minutes with shop Manager Laura, the poor mannequin was naked! Did I know if it would fit? No! Did I even ask the price? No! I just knew it needed to be in my wardrobe.  Lucky for me, when I tried it on at home, it was a perfect fit at waist, shoulders and legs. At £16 it’s over my usual vintage budget, yet the spend-versus-wear ratio has already worked itself out in my head! It’s perfect for work with cute black t-bars and I plan to dress it up for a summer evening out with a bright yellow belt, bag and shoes. Versatility overcomes all spending guilt!

I love my visits to The Rusty Zip. It’s a shop that can brighten any lunchtime and I love how the range of stock changes frequently. It’s known locally as the place to go for fancy dress / Halloween outfits but it’s much more relevant than that. It’s a vintage girl’s heaven. Items are really well priced with beautiful vintage bags at £5-£8 for instance so I don’t mind at all paying a bit more for something really special. I think this dress fits the bill.

Rosie xx

Back to Black

img_0405I try not to wear too much black any more, and to be honest, at this time of year I’d rather not anyway! When the sun comes out to play, so do all my brightest, most colourful clothes. That said, every wardrobe needs a few black staples. Where would we be without the ubiquitous LBD? And where would I be without my gorgeous, black vintage Brands & Normans winter coat?

Strangely enough, I was missing a go-to-for-every-occasion black jacket. You know, the trusty old faithful that never lets you down, something I could throw on with jeans, a skirt or a dress and feel perfectly dressed. So, there I was on a lunch-time browse in my local Save the Children shop and in that store, there’s always a £1 sale rail for bits and bobs. The lining of the jacket caught my eye as I loved the geometric print. I thought it must have been made for barbie doll proportions, hence it not having sold. But lo and behold it was a perfect fit! It took me a minute to realise that the reason for its retail rejection – look closely in the pic and you’ll see it’s missing a button!

I look at buttonless charity shop rejects as an opportunity! It’s the chance to add a personal touch to an item of clothing with minimal effort. I have a beautiful wool TopShop coat (gazillions of years old) that I love to accessorise every few years with new buttons-it’s almost like getting a new coat each time! There are soooooooo many unusual and interesting button choices out there. I find it a bit mad that people avoid an amazing piece of clothing because of a few small stitches…

Needless to say, I bought the buttonless jacket. I haven’t updated the buttons yet as I’m still deciding, which is all part of the fun.  I have worn it anyway, as the lack of button isn’t obvious and it’s a truly great fit. Moral of the story is, be button brave and bag a bargain.

Rosie xx

A Vintage Belfast Tale

img_2118Elegance. It’s not a word usually associated with Belfast, the place I call home. Our reputation often precedes us for all the wrong reasons-sectarianism, violence, racism, and most recently the utter ineptitude of our so-called politicians. What, I hear you ask, has any of this got to do with charity shopping, vintage brooches and preloved handbags?! Good question! Belfast’s past, present and future is made of much more than its negative headlines. It is a city with a fascinating history and a future full of potential, and sometimes an unsuspecting vintage find serves to remind me of that.

Belfast was once the shining star of the Victorian era. With its ship-building, linen-making, engineering and rope-making, the city was alive, confident and prosperous with industry. In 1861, slap bang in the middle of that Victorian success and affluence, the seed was sown for a retail empire that would exist in Belfast until 1994. That empire was the department store known as Anderson & McAuley.

I didn’t arrive in Belfast until 1995, a year after it had disappeared from our city centre so I sadly never crossed its threshold. From the stories I’ve heard and the information I have found about it, the store was the epitome of elegance and a Belfast icon for more than a century. My husband was just telling me this evening how much I would have adored the huge floor dedicated to haberdashery and my friends @BallywalterPark (give them a twitter follow!) recently told me that it was essentially the Harrods of Belfast. I love this image of Anderson & McAuley staff, looking very serious indeed http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/exhibition/belfast/social_conditions/5.html – it looks like a still from the ITV series Mr Selfridge!

So, given the distinguished history of Anderson & McAuley, how excited was I to find this stunning vintage bag on my charity shop travels last week! It seems almost unused, but I imagine it has seen some incredible dinners, dances and dalliances in Belfast and has just been lovingly looked after by its previous owner. Who wouldn’t care for such a pretty bag.

I’ve never owned anything from Anderson & McAuley before and I’m so delighted to now have this beautiful bag in my possession! It’s not just another vintage bag to add to my collection. It’s a reminder, if only a small one, of Belfast’s fine Victorian past, and its ability to be the best in the world. Sometimes, we forget what a force of nature this city has been, and just how capable we are of achieving, succeeding and impressing. More of that please!

Rosie x

Small Screen, Big Impact

img_2112Now and again someone comes along on the big (or small) screen who ticks all your ‘wannabe’ boxes. And no I don’t mean Geri Halliwell! I think about the impact of actresses like Audrey Hepburn, who continues to epitomise grace and elegance to this day. People like the inimitable Lauren Bacall who was strong and seductive. Female characters like Wonder Woman and Angela Chase! They each captured our attention in different ways, they influenced our wardrobes, they were the women we admired and wanted to emulate in look and life.

Lately, I’ve been watching Season 6 of Mad Men. Now finished (and wildly craving the final season), the impact of the captivating character Joan Harris (Holloway) lingers on. There are obvious reasons for my love of this fictional character – her glorious red hair and stunning vintage wardrobe for starters! And yet, this character runs much deeper than mere hair and clothes, fabulous as they are.

Joan is living in a world quite literally full of mad men. Men for whom the times are changing very quickly, shifting their position in the world, yet for women not quickly enough. Joan wears her femininity boldly and her intelligence quietly. She’s fair and fastidious, and at times it’s difficult to watch her negotiate the chauvinistic hurdles of the times. For all her expertise and ability, her charm and guts, she’s consistently treated like the little woman despite the latent and clear understanding of her male counterparts that a Joan-free zone would be a shambles.

There’s something about Joan’s appearance that I’ve always loved because it sums up her character to a tee. Of course, it’s the secretary necklace that twitter friends have heard me rabbit on and on and on about. It’s elegant and operational, feminine yet functional. It represents the dichotomy that Joan presents to us-the girl we can admire for her style as well as her sass and savvy. We love her directness and and despise the reaction she gets. She’s the girl who despite all the knock-backs is always ready and prepared for the next challenge, pencil (although creatively concealed) in hand.

fullsizerenderSo I scoured eBay, miraculously found a working mechanical pencil and added an old silver chain.

I’ll be honest, it has hardly left my neck, though sadly my assets don’t provide the same awesome platform for display that Joan’s do! It’s a very beautiful item, unique and unusual and I’ve yet to bump into another soul in Belfast who’s wearing one. When I wear it, I feel like I’m channelling a little of that sass and style and I rather like it.  If I had half of what Joan has got, I’d be doing well!

Rosie x

Mix & Match

I’m really lucky that where I work, I’m surrounded by some really great charity shops and vintage stores. So, often on my lunch break I’ll go on a merry treasure hunt and last week I was really lucky to find this gorgeous top (£2.95, Marie Curie).

The print looks as though the BabyCham deer has gone for a carefree gallop! I love it. And the neon red, violet and black shades work really well together. So well together in fact that although I suspect this lovely blouse is quite a few seasons old, the colour combination couldn’t be more SS14.


The jacket also pictured above is from Zara (http://www.zara.com/uk/en/woman/outerwear/fabric-blazer-c358002p2054503.html) and I’d be hard pushed to find a more perfect match with my bargain blouse. I tried it on with the top, in navy skinnies and skyscraper Mary Janes and it looked really cute! Even though it was a damp, grey day in Belfast I felt as though I was wearing sunshine.

At £49.99, the Zara jacket isn’t as thrifty a purchase as my blouse (or most of my clothes to be honest) but there’s definitely room to mix and match current fashion with bargain buys. I haven’t bought the Zara jacket…yet.

I suspect I will though. I’m a jacket and jeans kind of girl and I think this is a bright, versatile wardrobe staple in a classic shape. It will probably earn its keep and accompany many a thrifty find in the months and years to come. I’ll hang on a while longer though…just in case there’s a wee sale on the horizon.

Old habits die hard!

Rosie xx