I have a complicated relationship with my jewellery.
Especially the things that hang around my neck; they all mean something to me, racked up together to give an accurate (if slightly pretentious) overview of who I am.
So, because I’m currently sicker than a badger in a measles ward and I’m feeling very guilty about doing nothing more strenuous than moaning to anyone who’ll listen about how I’m probably very near to death, I thought I should write a blog post; and I’ll write one about my necklaces.
It’s a very self-indulgent subject, I know. I wouldn’t blame you if you were to stop reading here and go watch an exciting film, or maybe fire a gun into the air, or whatever it is you do for fun. But if you adamantly want to continue, I can only thank you and do my best to entertain. Here goes.
These four pendants are varying ages, varying weights and metals, but each one has a special and convoluted meaning to me.
This necklace is possibly the most precious, and so I start this post with it. It’s a Lego block, made from copper, hung by a simple copper coiled loop onto a leather thong which is, I think, the 3rd one it’s had since I got it.
My older brother made me this.
He’s been many things in his life, my brother has; a brickie’s lad, a joiner’s apprentice, a coppersmith, and most recently (and most skilfully, I suppose) a potter. I bet there’s loads more things he’ll tell me that I’ve missed when he reads this; he’s an explorer, an inquisitive mind who peers at the things around him and seeks to create from them. I admire the hell out of his attitude. (He’s also a pretty good brother and a damn fine dad.)
He and I are of a similar age; 15 months between us, and growing up we used to play Lego an awful lot. So his gift to me, more than a few birthdays ago, was this Lego brick worked in copper. It’s cold-folded (which means no heat was used), beaten from a single sheet, and attached by a coiled copper loop. This isn’t a diamond ring, because then I’d almost certainly lose it.
This necklace holds the significance of Family for me. It’s the irrevocable connection I have with a group of people who are always there for me, a base layer of myself that I’ll never lose, a unit who are wholly and completely worth more than the sum of its parts. I can be reminded that I have my own fan club who are always around.
This necklace is entirely what I’ve made it to be. It contains stories, and histories, and some things I’ve adopted and some things I enjoy. It is my way of saying ‘I don’t care if a story is true, if it’s well told.’
The Story: This necklace is the Spear of Lugh, a Celtic deity who can be most closely compared with the Norse god Thor. This is a symbol of Celtic heritage, a pendant of mythology and mysticism. Lugh’s spear was a fearsome weapon which allowed him to vanquish the enemies of Ireland. He strode across Ireland & Scotland, protecting the Gaelic people who carved out their lives in the wild hills and dark forests below.
The Truth: Lugh exists in a lot of Scottish mythology (and his counterpart in Welsh mythology is Bran) but Lugh is mainly an Irish god. His spear existed as the stories told, apparently given to him by a King of Persia. And although I have gallons of Welsh blood bubbling in me, and although I’ve lived in Scotland now so long that only the hardest of hearts would deny me my right to call myself Scottish, I’ve no Irish affiliation and so my connection to Lugh is through the stories I tell, and his spear around my neck is a conduit for the pride I have in heritage.
The Necklace: I wear this necklace because I see a duality between the oral histories of the places I’m from; the Welsh Mabinogi, the Scottish/Irish Ulster Cycle, all of which tell rich and wonderful tales of heroes and heather, mountains and maidens, and the stories that we can tell today of equally ancient land. It’s so easy to tell stories; there’s no reason that the fraction of stories which have survived into history should all be trues. But that doesn’t matter. I’m proud of my ancient history, proud of my countries’ heritages, whether it’s rooted in concrete fact or not.
This axe, engraved with ravens and wolves, is a weighty reminder that travelling doesn’t have to sedate and thought-out, and adventure happens when I stop thinking.
This necklace is the most recent weight around my neck; a couple of months old at most. It has a raven engraved on the blade and the haft is bound in etched wrappings. It’s not the sort of necklace you forget you’re wearing; and that’s on purpose.
Before I came out to France to work in the Alps, a very dear friend (with whom I share another blog) gave me, for a birthday, a t-shirt with a Nordic raven on the front, flying far in search of something. Along with with was a letter which told me the story of Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s two ravens who would travel the world in search of news and adventure and return to their monocular monarch with their findings. I knew the story, of course, but it clicked with me and a few months later, I bought this pendant (along with similar earrings for the friend; we both have the travel bug and her gift is a promise that soon her itch will also be scratched).
Ravens are intelligent and wild creatures. They’ve been seen as good luck through the ages by many different people, and sometimes feared for that same intelligence. They roam and explore, and as a model for life I can’t think of a better one. So this rather heavy necklace is here to remind myself that sometimes being a little wild is a good thing.
Future? Perserverance?Pirates? Rain?
I don’t really know what to title this one, in all honesty. It’s linked to a true story; maybe once I tell you the story, you’ll understand the necklace.
I had just received some bad news. The sort you really don’t want to be receiving while you’re on holiday, but there we are. I sat, perched on the edge of a concrete seat, the blistering humidity cutting a path through the air like a sword through silk. Around me, holiday goers walked unhurriedly, herding small children like excitable chicks from ride to ride. A nearby sign proudly proclaimed that this was the entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – a ride I had just come from, blinking in the sudden sun and heat, only to check my phone to find the email.
That’s the problem with knowledge. It’s very hard to un-know something, especially when it’s something so monumental. I sat there, staring at my phone, and vaguely wished that I hadn’t opened the email. Then, in what I hoped looked like a dramatic and noble gesture, I put my phone away and stood up. I was here, it was hot and humid and beautiful and foreign, and I was going to enjoy myself. I walked off resolutely in the direction of our next scheduled attraction, shoulders set and only sweating a little bit more than usual.
I still clutched, in my hand, the small, fairly cheap pendant that I had picked up from the gift shop; a grinning skull like a prop from the first film. The films were the first thing I really obsessed over; the writing, the acting, the spectacle. I loved those films.
Then, as I walked along, a few paces behind my friends, I felt something on my arm. I looked down. A fat raindrop trickled down the side of my forearm, cool against the heat of my skin. Suddenly, it was joined by another, and then, like the opening of the supermarket doors on Black Friday, an innumerable host of raindrops started to fall, smacking the packed ground like the beating of a drum. Quickly, with the rest of the people in the park, I made my way to shelter; a mere 50 yards away, but I was drenched before I got there. The sky had opened and sheets of rain were falling, battering away at the veneer of magic that Disney World fights so hard to generate. The characters scuttled indoors, ponchos and raincoats were brought out by the more prepared guests, and suddenly the shops and cafes were packed, as if everyone had decided to stock up on plastic Mickey Mouse figures. I stood, as my friends disappeared into Disney Christmas Store, staring at the rain.
I have a name for this sort of rain. I call it ‘Fuck It’ rain. This wasn’t the light drizzle of back home, where you’d reach your destination and a quick shake of the head would leave you bone-dry again. Nor was it the harsher downpour, biting cold and whipping, during which you’d hunker down and think longingly of a nice cup of tea and a blanket. This was monsoon rain, sheets of water coming down with an inevitability which awed one. If you had to travel from A to B during this deluge, then you’d may as well say ‘Fuck It.’ and not bother with an umbrella or a hat – because you’re going to get wet anyway. It’s a true force of nature, and as I stared out at the wall of water before me, I made a strange connection.
In my head, this rain – this inevitable, unstoppable force, which had just sort of ‘happened’ in the same way that the email had just sort of ‘happened’ – this rain was stopping my day as much as the email had put paid to further plans. I couldn’t affect the email – the news I had got therein was final, and at least for now I couldn’t contest or work around it. But I could affect the rain stopping my day.
I gripped my backpack and strode out into the deluge. I hadn’t gone more than 3 steps when I was drenched, rivulets of warm water running down my hair, through my beard, pinning my tshirt to my chest and soaking my boots thoroughly. I walked, abandoning all effort to stay dry, face upturned to the sky, while around the lazy drops, as near to infinite as makes no difference, chased all the ‘normal’ people under verandas and into buildings. I closed my eyes, in no hurry to get anywhere, and by now so thoroughly wet through that it would serve me no purpose to go any faster. I walked, past the incredulous and bemused faces of the wrapped-up and sheltering guests, semi-wading through the rivers that now flowed down the gentle sloping pathways and into the carefully tended lake. Eventually, as I walked, lost in the downpour which enveloped and included me in its embrace, I saw my destination. The Haunted Mansion, a typically fantastic goal for such a quietly monumental journey. I walked on, changing worlds and changing nothing, silently laughing at the weather for trying to put paid to my holiday, and at the same time pushing down the feeling that I had been fighting ever since I received that email. I could meet these challenges head on, and while I hadn’t planned on getting utterly and gloriously soaked that day, I had done so with a smile and a spring in my step. Drenched, I arrived at the shelter under which my incredulous friends waited, with no part of me dry and the prospect of a wait in the cold fan-filled ride line, a smile splitting my beard and water falling off my nose. I had beaten the rain, and what’s more I had done it with a ridiculous sense of enjoyment.
Regardless of the news, I would just believe that little bit harder in myself and get where I wanted to be. Regardless of the rain, I would just walk that little bit taller and get where I wanted to be.
That’s the story of this pendant. It’s still there to show me that while parameters might change, while doors might close, when even the weather throws what it can in your face, I can just get wet and deal with it.
Special Mention: A Kilt Pin
I often have a large kilt pin attached through all of these necklaces. It is not a new kilt pin, it is not an overly-attractive kilt pin. If this kilt pin were a teddy bear, it would be missing an eye and possibly a limb. Estate agents trying to sell this kilt pin would call it a ‘fixer-upper’. But I wear it nonetheless, partly because it’s a surprise twist to anyone who asks why I have a nappy pin round my neck, and partly because a kilt pin is one of the most damn useful things you can have on you.
This kilt pin has helped me open doors (legally, of course)
It’s helped me reset phones and cameras
I’ve used it to extract a tooth in the public toilets in a zoo in Budapest. (A blog post for another day, perhaps.)
I’ve offered it to strangers to fix their clothes, used it to pin up tents and curtains, cleaned out engines and gears with it…
The reason I wear a kilt pin over all of this fancy-looking finery, quite apart from it’s actual usefulness, is to remind myself that form doesn’t have to come at the price of function. Function, sometimes, can be it’s own form, it’s own beauty.
So that’s my necklaces. This has been a very self-introspective blog post, a little pandering, so if you’re still here then I thank you for reading and – hopefully – enjoying what makes me tick.