Monday, 8 September 2014


       When I was a child, my mother told me that the huge; flat, rosewood box in her bedroom under the spinet (both there for safekeeping from a family of curious children ), was to be mine, as it had been a wedding present  to her from an elderly Professor in the nearby town of Bangor who had a connection with our family.  When I was finally allowed to open this treasure box, it contained a truly wonderful collection of shells all carefully sorted into blue velvet-covered compartments,  I was allowed to sort them into their different groups and I loved the pale mother of pearl linings of the big ones and the exquisite mouldings of the little ones.   I wanted to add to the collection so we went to Trearddur Bay on Anglesea to pick up cowrie shells on the beach there and I was fascinated to learn that they were used as money in faraway foreign islands.
  When I started furnishing my own house, I left the big box behind to stay in the Welsh family house and tried to find my own shell treasures - they were still around in the more junky antique shops.  I found a pair of decorations made of hundreds of shells to look like a bouquet of flowers under a glass dome and then hunted for the sailors' valentines which were made with a pair of octagonal, hinged, walnut -framed display boxes with wonderful, multi-coloured, mosaic designs and mottoes in the centre saying 'love mee' sic
                                                    Sailor's Valentine from Barbados
 or 'home sweet home' and were sold in Barbados to returning sailors for their wives and sweethearts.   I saw some in smart shops in Sloane Street, London, because by this time it was known that Princess Margaret collected them for her wedding present house in Barbados!  So I rather gave up because they were now several hundred pounds each.  However, by chance, I found a pair in Aberystwyth where the news had not spread, and I was also offered a pair at an antique fair by a visitor who wanted some cash to buy a dolls house and was happy to part with  "these old shells - would anybody want them?" I did, my good luck!  Since then I have added a couple of charming sea-weed pictures from the Isle of Wight and my shell corner is complete.  I don't believe in mass buying and collection, as I like to make a nice arrangement and then leave a few examples for other people to acquire!
"I do like to be beside the sea-side" - two  decorative vases of shell flowers up top, a sea-weed basket from the Isle of Wight and a large Sailor's Valentine with heart centre and a small hinged pair (Home Again) hung from scallop shell hooks which were originally clasps for a dress.  A pair of bracket shelves I found in France already painted in a good gray colour and I found, at a junky bricabrac stall, two small pressed brass scallop shell plaques to stick on them and finish the ensemble.

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