...on shopping around
AS AN ASPIRATIONAL philosophy for life the 10 commandments are pretty sound. I thought about this the other week when I was, as usual, coveting my neighbour’s goods. It was actually a bigger sin than coveting the goods of a neighbour, I was coveting the worldly possessions of my good friend F. Ever since we first met pretty much every conversation we’ve had has started the same way. I don’t even bother with “hello” it’s just: “That’s gorgeous. How much? Where’d you get it?”
Silver cutlery, pretty teacups, the elegantly corroded metal advertisement for Nestle’s Milk hanging on her sitting room wall. I am a vintage-wannabe version of Veruca Salt, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I want it all.
Worse again, I want something she can’t give me: her aesthetic, her eye for a bargain and her easy way around an auction house. From chaise longues to beautifully lined silk curtains, practically everything she owns was acquired while rummaging through vintage stores or sticking up her hand in a dusty sales room.
She bought a bible recently – huge, ancient and leather-bound – “a book,” she says “every home should have”. It cost €40at auction. One of her other prized possessions is a gravy boat she bought for 10p. She goes into a reverie about the boat before issuing the bargain hunter’s mantra: “I just couldn’t just leave it there”.
I’ve been on at her for a while now about my search for a door stop. For the past three years getting the pram out the front door has involved an intricate bit of engineering involving a door mat placed at exactly the right angle. I keep seeing door stops in various shops. Door stops that would do the job okay, but okay just wasn’t good enough. I knew that if F was looking for a doorstop she’d find something incredible like an old anchor from a ship and when I asked “how much?” she’d say “a fiver”. I wanted that, or something similar, to happen to me.
The last time we met she told me about some fabric she’d seen in her latest haunt The 3rd Policeman on Rathmines Road, Dublin. She insisted I go there and buy it immediately. The ABC-motif fabric would make a good duvet cover for a child’s bed or a nice lot of pillow cases, she reckoned. So I went and seriously, if you like lovely, interesting, surprising things and want an uplifting experience you must drop everything and go there (from Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 7pm).
This junkster’s paradise is a proper ye olde curiosity shop. Soft jazz calling from a battered record player, shelves spilling with scarves and furs and knick knacks and zip-a-dee doo-dahs: treasures twinkling from every corner for prices that won’t make you cringe.
I only had 15 minutes to spare on my first visit but I could have happily spent the day there. I’ve already added it to the list of shops in my life that do something other blander-than-thou commercial outfits cannot, which is to bestow instant joy on all those who enter. Elsewhere in this magazine you will read about our campaign to find the best of these shops in Ireland. We want to hear about the places that have the power to put a smile on your face for the entire day. In short, shops that make you happy. You know the ones.
F loves Stanley’s in Clifden for childhood memories and because it sells everything from “wool and wellies to underwear”. Another favourite is Veldon’s of Letterfrack, formerly known as the “Harrod’s of the West” because it stocked olive oil back when it was more commonly confined to the chemist.
The first shop I ever fell in love with was Miss Roddy’s in Sandymount. Nowhere else will ever come close. The smell of fresh cut ham, the brown paper packages, the penny sweets, the slabs of sponge cake with pink icing all doled out by Miss Roddy resplendent in her shop coat. The shop is now called Mira Mira and – though it couldn’t be more different than its predecessor – this is where you’ll find essential items such as a cheese grater with a ladies head on top or a heart-shaped bath mat – it’s still a shop that makes my heart soar.
Where I live in Dublin 3 I love the quirky Quack + Dirk boutique and the excellent greengrocer’s Fresh Market and my brilliant, friendly local butcher Brady’s in Fairview. My mother can’t say enough good things about Decwells, that emporium of everything on South Great George’s Street in Dublin.
And now The 3rd Policeman has come in to my life making my bid to fill my home with stuff that has a story that bit easier. The first day I bought a delicate Minton teacup and saucer and a small oil painting of a lake scene in Glendalough. But my star buy was a brass dog. I knew as soon as I lifted him and discovered him to be heavy as well as handsome, that he was going home with me. He is called Oscar and when he isn’t holding the door open he’s doubling as a book end on the sideboard in the hall. He cost a tenner. Reader, I just couldn’t leave him there.
In other news . . .
Hospice Sunflower Days volunteers are out in force selling everything from pins to nail files to shopping-trolley tokens. This year the aim is to raise up to €1 million for local hospice care facilities across the country. For more information, see sunflowerdays.ie