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

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

Time to reflect 

Vintage cocktail watch, eBay £4

‘Why don’t people want to keep such lovely things?’ I asked hubby. ‘Because they don’t work!’ he (rightly) replied. 

This was the conversation upon arrival of my latest eBay purchase, the prettiest vintage cocktail watch with pearlised face and original leather strap…which doesn’t work 🙂

It’s a fair point. What need is there to hang onto bits of the past that don’t fulfil their function any more? I suppose that’s why our house is full of bits and bobs that are being used for things that weren’t their original purpose – the teacup soap holder, the mechanical pencil necklace, the plant-pot bread holder…the list goes on 🙂  I just can’t leave beautiful things behind or I end up with vintage abandonment guilt and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there!

That’s also why there’s such a market at present for vintage – for those who want to get rid and those who want to rescue!  For every person who is decluttering there’s another just like me who wants to rehome.

This watch is a project though. Rather than repurposing, I’m hoping to find a Belfast jeweller who can either get it back to its original working order or who can replace the movement with a modern quartz one. It’s far too pretty not to be on my arm! Watch this space…

Rosie xx

Space to Sparkle

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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

 

Cure for a Broken Heart

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I see so many pieces of vintage jewellery on my charity shop travels and I always wonder about the story behind them. Why have they not been passed on to family or friends? How did they end up in a random box of junk? Who on earth priced something so beautiful at 50p?!

I suppose the answer is that not everyone applies the same value, sentimental or otherwise, to jewellery. I probably invest too much of myself in my special sparkle. The necklace my boyfriend (now husband) bought me when I graduated; the bracelet my brother and sister bought me for my birthday; my ‘Big Sis’ silver charm (I’m the eldest of five); my little purple heart ring from my Mum and Dad. All special. All important. All tangible little bits of love and thought and happiness.

That gold ring with the purple heart adorned my young hand for many years. I loved it so much. It was a special gift from Mum and Dad at the age of eleven (nearly 28 years ago), but over time it became a battered and broken heart, and soon its home was a cold, dark jewellery box filled with other broken bits and bobs. Other rings arrived to take its place and I packed it away…but it was never forgotten!

So, when I first saw the work of Susanna Hanl on Twitter (@SusannaHanl) well over a year ago, I had one thought – my purple heart ring. Susanna is a self-taught jeweller based in Edinburgh and her work is stunning. Have a look at http://www.susannahanl.com and enjoy every page. Every time Susanna tweets, she posts yet another unique piece of art. And part of what is so special about her work is that she also loves to rejuvenate old, broken pieces of jewellery and literally put new heart into them. My kind of girl!

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This month, thanks to the kindest ever husband, I’ve had the chance to commission Susanna to breathe new life into the purple heart ring for my birthday. It’s been one of the most magical experiences…ever. I ADORE Susanna’s ‘Arresting’ range so that’s where we started and ended…after some perfect blue-tacked models to help me visualise exactly what I wanted 🙂 Not just a great listener, and incredibly considerate of my sentimental musings, Susanna is sublimely talented. Her jewellery is so sculptural. She mixes metals and creates shape in a way that looks like it can’t possibly be man-made! It’s so fluid and organic, just stunning.

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And so, today, after many entertaining chinwags and fabulous picture updates of its journey from ugly duckling into beautiful swan, my ‘Arresting’ ring arrived in Belfast. Suffice to say I’m more than a bit emotional. My gift from Mum and Dad is now once again on my hand, thanks to my husband. It’s a beautiful, unique piece of jewellery and a tangible reminder of all the love and kindness that’s in my life. No one else will ever have one the same.

That broken little heart has been mended and by a very kind and talented lady too. Thank you Susanna!

Rosie xx

Happy Reunion

It’s really lovely to reunite that which has been separated for a while, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as my sister is getting married next week and my siblings are travelling from London, Vancouver and Melbourne for her wedding. It’s a really special time not just because my fab sis is marrying a gorgeous boy who adores her, but also because it’s the best reason for the five of us to be together again after a few years apart.

It’s somewhat easier these days to be away from friends and family. The world is smaller thanks to FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, email etc. We can ‘see’ each other through our phones as often as we want. It’s not quite the wrench it was to travel away from home as it might have been for loved ones in the 60s/70s/80s. We might be far apart, but thanks to technology we’re still very close. All the same, there’s no amount of video chat that can replace a brotherly or sisterly hug.

The Coro bracelet and necklace I’m featuring on the blog today have been reunited too – the bracelet from a charity shop (£5) in Scotland last year and the necklace (£7.99) from an eBay seller in England this week. Now they’ve finally made their way to N Ireland where they will be staying for quite some time! It’s a stunning set. I’ve no intention of letting it go off on another adventure!

Vintage items have often been on their travels and have plenty of tales to tell about the people and places they’ve seen. Some come with a great history and provenance, others we fill in the gaps for with our vivid imagination! Something I love about this Coro set is the fact that after all its travels, its story now has an ending here in Belfast. Reunited at last! But with the end of its travels, there is also a beginning as it starts a new life in my collection. It’s very likely, for instance, that bracelet and necklace will make an appearance at the wedding.

When our not-quite-famous five, along with Mum and Dad, are gathered together next week, the story won’t be very different from that of my beautiful Coro set. After all the travelling has finished, we too will be reunited under one roof, for a very special occasion. It will be the end of a significant chapter for my sister and the beginning of a bright, new one for her, her husband-to-be and their family.

What better reason to be reunited with the people you love.

Rosie xx