• Michelle Vernal

A Passion for Preloved

This post first appeared in Book Mood Reviews as part of The Traveller's Daugther Blog Tour

I hold my hand up to being a magpie of the highest order when it comes to all things vintage. My passion for the preloved is an inherited thing. I get it from my mum who calls the Salvation Army shop, the Sally Boutique and is forever coming home with her little treasures. Some are useful, some are pretty and some she decides to pass on to me. It’s been proven you know, that shopping releases mood-lifting endorphins. The act of purchasing keeps your brain nimble and boosts your immune system. Don’t ask me how any of this works but the good news is I’m right on track for not getting so much as a sniffle this winter. I mean, how much more powerful must all these brain empowering goodies be when you’re not only shopping but getting a bargain in the process!

My treasures are conversation starters. I like to imagine the secret lives they’ve watched unfold from their dusty pews before they became surplus to requirement and wound up waiting for a new home on a thrift shop shelf. That is of course where I come in riding up not on a white charger but in a pale blue Toyota to rescue them. I’m fortunate too that when I bring these little collectibles to their new home, my husband can see the value in them. Or so I like to think, knowing hubby it’s more likely he’s enamored with the pittance paid! Either way, he never complains at the bits and pieces that once made up someone else’s home, now making up ours.  

It’s one of these interesting recycled gems that inspired The Traveller’s Daughter. The black and white print called Lovers at Avignon caught my eye one morning at the Sally Boutique. It’s now hung on the wall behind our bed, and each time I looked at it, it posed the question as to who the couple is sharing a kiss in it. They’re dressed in 1950’s fashion, both with bicycles, the hazy ramparts enclosing the ancient city of Avignon behind them. Google or Gurdle as my mum, the treasure hunter, calls it didn’t unearth much when I searched the print’s title. To my eyes, the couple’s story seemed unfinished. I mean what happened when they broke away from each other? I’ll never know for sure, but then I don’t deal in facts.

It was when I spotted a book at our local library called Tinkers no More by renowned photographer Alen MacWeeney that the characters of Rosa and Michael began to form in my mind. The book was a collection of black and white photographs Alen captured during his involvement with the Irish Traveller’s from the mid-sixties until the early seventies - a period of change in their culture. I contacted Alen, and he very kindly got back to me putting me in touch with a delightful man called Mervyn Ennis. Mervyn shared his childhood memoirs of the Irish Traveller’s camping on the outskirts of the village where he grew up with me. It was those tales that helped bring Rosa and Michael’s story to life. So you see I did find treasure at the Sally Boutique the day I bought my black and white print because along with a library book and a helpful Irish chap, the enigmatic couple frozen in time on my bedroom wall helped inspire my book, The Traveller’s Daughter.

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