There was a time in my life when I shopped needlessly and endlessly. I bought stuff I couldn’t afford, stuff I’d never wear, stuff that would eventually end up in the charity shop. I hadn’t yet learned to distinguish between want and need, particularly when travelling. I battled with a compulsion to visit local craft shops and choose something to take home as a souvenir. Whatever flat I lived in was full of an eclectic mix of tat devoid of any sense of taste or style.Trolls battled for shelf-space with porcelain figurines. Walls sagged under the weight of framed prints and photos that mirrored my indecisiveness. I once returned home from somewhere with a set of flying witches that I planned to suspend from the ceiling; it was then that I knew I had a problem.
For my next birthday, I asked de wimmen to get me a silver charm bracelet. I figured I’d found a way to satisfy this need to shop and at the same time put a stop to the tat offensive. I promised myself that next time I went somewhere, I wouldn’t buy anything until I’d bought a silver charm. Inspired. Gold charms are easy to find – silver charms less so. And not just any charm would do; it had to speak to me and if none are talking, I get to go back.
Since 2002, I’ve been collecting silver charms. Initially, I had to limit myself to countries I’ve been to rather than cities, as there are only so many charms a bracelet can take. But over the years I’ve snuck in one that reminds me of an old friend who lives abroad and I’ve accepted three as gifts. But they were exceptions. Essentially it’s what I’ve come to think of as my travel bracelet.
Polishing it has become a meditative ritual, one that takes me back in time and place and reminds me yet again what I charmed life I lead. I’ve saved myself a fortune in excess baggage charges and kept the jeweller in the village amused, trying to guess where I’ve been since last he saw me. And if ever I need reminding that it’s the simple things in life that make me happy, it does that, too.