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First Post

October 26, 2012

Since this is my first post let me introduce myself. My name is Jane and I am an Autolycus, going through life picking up those things which others find mundane or simply can’t be bothered to get excited about. I am interested in everything and everybody, particularly the life of the ordinary man or woman. This was last Saturday.

I went with my son to Birmingham to see the Staffordshire Hoard, part of which is displayed at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

David Brian Smith and a Saxon Warrior

David Brian Smith and a Saxon Warrior

The Hoard is magnificent. Small gold pieces, many inlaid with garnet, finely worked filigree, a piece from the Psalms written on a strip of gold no more than 1 centimetre wide. Every piece broken, but why? ‘The Anglo  Saxons liked to be buried with their bling’ the commentator says, perhaps the only incongruous thing in the whole show is that word. For these exquisite pieces are beautifully displayed, with characteristic lack of show. In the background, on a video, there is the finder, Terry Herbert, saying. ‘And I asked, Why me, was it my destiny.’ I loved that, this man with his broad Midlands accent, who you would pass in the street without a glance. It may have been your destiny Terry who knows but I would go with a different explanation, that you did your homework, knew you were in the right place, went with the right tools and knew what you had found when you found it. And you followed the correct procedure in notifying the archaeologists. I believe that when the archaeologists arrived you already had the finds itemised and identified! This was no chance find, this was a talented historian at work but perhaps even Terry doesn’t realise the skills he has.
There were a lot of people looking at the exhibits but it could be advertised. There is no sign saying that the Hoard is here. If you were a visitor you might not know of it at all and go to the rest of the Art Gallery without even visiting Gallery 16. I was uncertain whether the display was on at all and on asking was told, ‘yes it’s still on, but there are only a few pieces there.’ It is true that many of the pieces are being cleaned and worked on but how many pieces of this quality do you need to see to make you go, ‘Wow?’

Sack Sales on New Street

New Shop on New Street

On our way down New Street we spotted a shop which had the same wow factor. No, it wasn’t a high class shop with beautiful shop fittings, elegant assistants and stock on racks with no price tags. Take a look at this for a new shopping experience! As much as you can fit into a bag for a fiver. The man in the shop is dressed in hat and outdoor gear. Warm clothes are necessary for there is no heating in here and it is a bitingly cold day. But one doesn’t feel cold in here, the owner makes you smile – the whole shop makes you smile. You look around and everyone is enjoying it. ‘There is a man trying a cap on. He looks in the mirror. ‘I like it, he says to his wife as he cocks his head to see how it looks from different angles.’ ‘But it doesn’t fit.’ says his wife smiling ‘But I like it,’ he answers, having another look in the mirror.

Sack Sale on New Street Birmingham

Sack Sale on New Street BirminghamSack Sale on New Street Birmingham

This is not a concept which has been thrown together, this is as clever and intuitive as Terry Herbert finding the Staffordshire Hoard and as carefully (but uncynically) put together. The music, the art work on the walls and the casualness of the shop mean people feel comfortable in here. ‘People come in and have their lunch upstairs,’ the owner tells us. Even he is surprised by the way people enjoy the shop but less surprised by its early success. ‘The first week we sold 23,000 items of clothing and had to go back to our suppliers for more. They were amazed.’ We weren’t, Harper and Lewis, the two people behind this venture deserve all the success they get. Check out www.harperandlewisvintage.co.uk

 

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