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SWB gets Déjà Vu, in Second Hand September

Scarves by Moschino; Louboutins in bubble gum pink, brogues by Paul Smith. Yes, you are on the SWB site and yes, I know I never mention labels. Usually I’m Mrs Kill-The-Craic, Mrs Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, sack cloth and ashes and all: that’s me.

But today it was all change: wait til you hear.  Didn’t I take myself over to Déjà Vu on the Lisburn Road, where I spent a cracker of an hour chatting to owner and style guru Ruth Seaby. Jeez Louise: by the end of it I was nearly asking for a job, such a lovely time was had. She knew most of the customers by name, and when they came in it was all, ‘would you keep an eye out for…’ and Ruth was right back with, ‘if anything comes in that’s black and a size ten I’ll be straight on the blower.’ It was ever so convivial.

This end of the Lisburn Road a glitz and glam fest. Déjà Vu is tucked neatly between a coffee shop and Sumo-cat Sushi, just down from a pretty blow dry bar, (La La Salon, if you don’t mind, it’s very Rodeo Drive, baby) and a funky little brow bar next to that. Now, I don’t give two hoots about brows and lashes, but if it makes you happy, knock yourself out. This year’s been shite, so who am I to say what you do with your face?

But back to the clothes. Déjà Vu is where to come if you’re looking something swanky and different, but minus the designer price tag. Yes, I’m quite aware I’ve pinched TK Maxx’s marketing slogan, but this is an entirely different experience because here, you get the benefit of Ruth’s expertise. The shorts I bought in Galway (remember the three euro ones from Oxfam?) were a bit loose, (how the hell that happened I don’t know) and she had found me a blue Guess belt and shown me how to do the French tuck; (try saying that after a few mojitos) within a few minutes of my entering the shop.

This is the perfect place if you’re looking for a couple of unique items to spruce up your wardrobe and I got lucky.  I was mid-chat with Ruth when I squealed: ‘Is that a Diane Von Furstenburg?’ and indeed it was, a stripy dress in the trademark wrap over style that flatters the tum of a 42 year old who’s had two caesarean sections. Unbelievably, it was in my size, and I was even more chuffed than I was last week when the child’s PCR result came negative and I could send her back to school.  I’ve always fancied a Furstenburg piece, but wouldn’t fork out for a new one and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of doing E-bay. Here I was able to try and buy, with no pesky packaging or trips to the post office. Hurrah, says I.

Here’s how it works should you have any items to sell. Ruth takes clothes which are in season and in pristine condition and keeps them a few weeks to see if they goes, and if not, you can come and retrieve them. Should they, you get fifty percent of the sale prize. Sounds fair to me.

So there you go, a #secondhandseptember win for me, (two actually, if you count the belt). If you like your more exclusive brands, then keep this place in mind, as it takes browsing to a new level. There are clothes to suit everyone: Ruth told me that increasingly she sees students coming in, on the look-out for quality items that they will re-wear again and again. ‘Far more savvy than our generation,’ she says. ‘These girls do it better.’ I think she’s doing pretty well herself, is our Ruth.







SWB’s Christmas Gift Guide

You know my mantra by now everyone- don’t go buying more stuff you don’t need, for yourself or anyone else! We have been dramatically scaling back on gifts of late, but this doesn’t mean we can’t still  spoil ourselves.

We’re buying less but buying better, trying to support local businesses and seeking out experiences to make the New Year brighter.

With that in mind, I am excited to say that some of my FAVOURITE places are offering a discount if you buy online.

Deja Vu on the Lisburn are kindly offering a 10% discount up until December 22nd, if you are looking a gift or seeking a ‘new to you’ outfit for the festive season. For those of you unfamiliar with the shop, Ruth sells excellent quality second-hand clothes, shoes and accessories, many of which are designer brands. Shopping here is one of my greatest pleasures, as to me, few other stores can compete for service and I always find something surprising and original on the rails. Use HELEN10 to avail of the discount online or you can mention me in-store.

Little Love NI is an Etsy shop run by my friend Emma, who is a member of my Shared Threads Group. Emma sews a range of items such as purses, blankets and festive decorations, all exquisitely finished and beautifully packaged. She uses Liberty fabrics and the vibe is cosy, classy and jam-packed with love. Emma is a self-confessed eco-nut and LOVES reusable products, so look no further for pretty snack and sandwich bags which can be used time and time again. Use the code HELEN10 to receive a 10% discount from her Etsy Shop. Offer only available though until DEC 10th when her online store closes for Christmas.

Now on to treatments and experiences…

Betty’s Place is my go-to if I want a massage. My preferred way of doing it is to book in later in the day so I can come home, slip straight into pjs, zen out and channel my inner sloth. Betty works intuitively with your body to zone in to wherever she deems needs it most. I find a session particularly good after a running event, as she incorporates stretching into her treatments which are a balm for my hips when they feel stiff and clunky. Between January and March you can enjoy a relaxing shiatsu massage, with floor work and stretches with a 20% discount using HELEN20.

Now listen up -this one is a game changer if you’re a woman of a certain age. Recently I booked three treatments with  Jo-Anne Colgan in Rosetta Acupuncture Clinic for trigger point and acupuncture. Now, some folk immediately dismiss acupuncture because they hate needles, but these aren’t needles as you know them, I would say filaments, less of a prick more of a tickle. Plus, once Jo-Anne popped them in, I wasn’t even aware of them, especially as I was lying in a warm room, listening to Tibetan music under a blanket. Bliss. She also worked on my troublesome neck and shoulders, and brought immediate relief. I’ve been telling all my friends to go, because she definitely performed some sorcery with my hormones. Jo-Anne is an anaesthetist, so the woman knows her way around a needle. The discount code HELEN10 entitles you to a 10% discount, and this also applies to E-gifts.

And finally, who doesn’t love a donkey at Christmas? (Or anytime?) Kindale Donkeys in Ballynahinch has brought us JOY over the years. The girls don’t feel it’s a holiday without a trip to see their mates down at the farm. And it’s not just for the littl’uns either, check out their page to see everything they offer. Use the code, (you’ve guessed it by now), HELEN10 for a 10% discount on any activities booked in December.


SWB gets stung

Last week I was subject to the vicissitudes of life. It all began well enough. On Tuesday, I took myself and my friend Irene to the Lisburn Road for a recce of the second hand shops. I’ve hardly shopped at all recently so I was all excitable. The first thing one notices on the Lisburn Road, is the number of people wearing gilets. ‘Shall we count them, just for the craic?’ I asked Irene. ‘Yes please,’ she said, ‘T’wud be a shame not to.’ We parked at Oliver Bonas and had already spotted three by the time we hit Action Cancer, in which we saw a gentleman in a very fetching waistcoat in vivid hues. ‘Double points for that,’ said Irene.

At what point, we pondered, do gilets stop being bodywarmers? Is there some sort of demarcation line between county borders where one adopts the term gilet? It was always a bodywarmer for me growing up in Bangor. Anyway, this is the sort of thing that keeps me up in the wee hours.

Things got serious then in Déjà Vu. I couldn’t be kept from the rails of absolute loveliness – dreamy dresses and fantastic frocks. I had left the house with a plan, which was to purchase ONE brightly coloured dress. Needless to say, I didn’t stop at one and plundered through the rails like a creature let out of a cage. It was marvellous. I may have bought three, and a cardigan. Plus a necklace. It’s as well I go to my work, as the Mothership would say.

Later on I poured a G&T, and did an online poetry workshop with the brilliant Anne McMaster from up the country in Garvagh. This summer I’ve given myself over to hedonism in these sweltering days, which aren’t conducive to concentration; this was just the ticket and it breathed life into my writing routine which had all but flatlined.

Tuesday then, was a delight in every way. On to Wednesday. ‘I shall walk the dog,’ I told LSB, since he’s been doing everything of late, including walking her early during the heatwave, so she didn’t roast the paws off herself. Off I set, with the Radio Four book of the week, (Flatmates by Beth O’Leary, great fun and beautifully read) in my Airpods. Tilly stopped at the bottom of the hill and fixed me with one of her beseeching stares, which is dog-speak for, ‘Could we take a wee hike up the glen?’ Sure why not? I told her, since it’s beautiful, especially on a bright morning when the sunlight filters down through the trees, creating what the Japanese call ‘komorebi’.  As far as natural phenomena go, it’s ever so lovely, and uplifting even to a spirit as jaded as mine.

So up we went and down we came and were rounding the corner towards home when horror of horrors, the dog let a powerful cry and took a leap and I yelped myself, for hadn’t a wasp, or some other fiendish bastard of a creature come flying out of the hedge. It attached itself firmly to my lip and couldn’t be shifted. The dog stood cowering, tail between her legs, while I swatted and leapt, all in vain, even dropping the bag of litter I’d gathered. A man in a van drove past and slowed down. ‘Thank God!’ I thought, ‘this gent has come to my aid.’ Alas no, he sunk his foot on the accelerator and roared off. Finally, I dislodged the wasp and felt my lip throb and tremble. Still the dog shook. I lifted her lead and proceeded up the road, Radio 4 still blaring in my ears. Peering in a car mirror I saw my lip was twice its usual size. Then I spied a kindly local lady walking her dachshund (also called Tilly). Seeing my dishevelled state, she asked if I was alright. “No!’ I wailed, bursting into gulping sobs. I’m still terribly embarrassed when I think of it. I had been stung by a wasp, (twice, I would discover later as there appeared to be two sting marks,) but it’s not exactly a trauma. ‘I’m not usually such a dickhead,’ I stuttered between sobs, but to be honest she didn’t seem to think I was being dickish at all.

Anyway, it was horrendously sore. Later I wanted to nip over to an event in The Duncairn Centre in North Belfast. ‘I’ll take you,’ said LSB, clearly thinking I shouldn’t be let behind the wheel in my distress. Over we went to find it strangely quiet. ‘It’s the 24th this thing is on, isn’t it,’ I asked the lady at the desk. ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘but today’s the 17th.’ I was a week early. Not only that, but I was actually a week ahead of myself, thinking it WAS the 24th. LSB was lovely about it, but it can’t be easy being married to a cretin.

Anyway, watch out for wasps. I have in the past, been a bit dismissive by people who overreact to them, but now I want to say ‘I feel your pain, shout all you like.’ And if you do get stung, head over to the Lisburn Road. That’ll cheer you up.


SWB Feels the Squeeze

I rang The Mothership yesterday and she had a quare laugh to herself, at my expense. I’d called to tell her that on Saturday morning I’m going to be chatting to Will Leitch on ‘On Your Behalf’ at Radio Ulster at half past ten. We’re talking ways to reduce spending, as the gas and electricity prices rocket and we all feel the pinch. You should have heard the laughs of her.

‘Is this an April Fool’s joke,’ says she. ‘You, on the radio, talking about SAVING money?  Who’s going to listen to someone who’s never off the Ormeau Road, having her dinner?’

‘Well, that’s just where you’re wrong,’ I told her, ‘because while I love an evening out, I’m very good a cutting corners elsewhere.’

That much at least is true. On Thursday night I had a dress on me that I bought in 2018 off a sale-rail in a Dublin boutique, with a pair of boots I picked up for a fiver in the Hospice Shop. ‘Rewearing is caring,’ I told the Mothership. ‘You’re telling me,’ she said. ‘I’ve clothes up there in the wardrobe that our twenty years old, at the very least.’

But it’s not just The Mothership’s frugality when it comes to buying clothes that she’s passed on. She’s also runs an EXTREMELY energy efficient home, and has passed those traits along to me.  I’ve LSB’s head turned as I run round the house switching off all the lights when he leaves them blazing away. He has the place lit up like Blackpool Illuminations, and also never turns off the radio when he leaves the room. It makes me twitch.  I, on the other hand,  won’t run the tumble drier unless it’s absolutely essential. I pluck chargers out of their sockets as soon as my devices are at full capacity and I only ever half fill the kettle for a cup of tea. I also eke out all our curries and pasta sauces with lentils and hidden vegetables to bulk them out so we get an extra lunch or dinner.  ‘I’m really very conscientious,’ I said, as I regaled the Mothership with all of this. She made a non-committal ‘Hmm’ sound.

Hard woman to please. Anyway, here’s another few suggestions below, some of which I’ll be mentioning on the programme.

Car-pooling. The week before last I travelled to work with a friend, thus saving money on petrol and reducing air pollution. A happy by-product of this was that it eliminated the stress of parking. I hate parking, and didn’t realise just how much until I was spared the ordeal of it for a week.

Eating out. Of course we want to support our local cafes and restaurants, but if you feel like trying a more expensive venue, opt for going out for lunch instead of dinner, or go for a pre-theatre menu. If you fancy a tipple along with your meal, it’s also much easier to get a bus during the day instead of paying for a taxi later in the evening. Often the quality of the service is much better at a less busy time and your can actually hear your dining companions, if you’re like me and are a bit deaf. I HATE having to shout to be heard over blaring music. (Yep, I’ll lift my zimmer on the way out.)

Spending time with friends. Seeing people you care about shouldn’t be about wowing them with a four-course meal with fillet steaks and a bottle of Bollinger. (As if. Come to mine and it’s invariably a chicken curry, though there may be a nice piece of cheese from Indie Fude.) But seriously, going all out when you have people round only piles on the pressure and makes them resistant to hosting in return. If you’re a busy person and perhaps a working parent, just keep your expectations low and enjoy being with your guests.

Birthday gifts. Well, these can be an arse-ache when the kids are at primary school and you have half the class coming to the party. A mum in our daughter’s class suggested giving a fiver in a hand card card. How we embraced it!  It saves the aggravation of trailing round Smyths  and your stay mercifully clear of wrapping paper and plastic shite your child never wanted in the first place.

Check out Freecycle on line before you buy. There is a brilliant Freecycle scene here in Northern Ireland; and it’s where I got most of my hall furniture and a child’s bed.

Changing how I shop.  ‘Swap don’t shop’ and ‘rewearing is caring’ have become my favourite mantras. It’s important to dispel the notion that people, (usually girls,) feel that they have to have a different outfit for every evening out, and this has been exacerbated by Instagram. As a result, many young people subscribe to the notion that if it’s been worn once, then it’s finished with. What a nonsense! The earth can’t keep up with this idea, and so it’s time we consider other options. I love a good clothes swap, and recently attended one at the Lyric Theatre, hosted by  ‘The Homeless Period.’  It’s also an opportunity to do a clear out, and who doesn’t need that? ‘The Wardrobe’ on the Newtownards Road also hosts these, and it, along with Déjà Vu on the Lisburn Road, are excellent options for good quality second hand clothes. They are also on the look out for decent outfits which are still in good condition, so it’s worth approaching them with that outfit you bought for a wedding and know you’ll never wear again.

Recently I’ve become  obsessed with selling clothes via the Vinted app. It’s easy to use and I post the items off in recycled packaging, which gives me no end of pleasure since our house is full of it. My best (and only purchase from Vinted so far) was a warm winter coat from Next which I bought for £10. The buyer pays for the postage and I find this an easier way to sell than e-bay.

Insurance. Another quick way to keep a few extra pounds in your pocket is to challenge your home or car insurers when they send you the renewal letter. I never pay automatically; I pick up the phone, tell them I’m one of their loyalest customers and ask if they’ll do me a better deal. I usually save about £40 immediately, which I feel smug about for approximately five minutes until I remember that I need to get petrol. Back to that car pool idea then…

Seriously though; this is a dire situation for many and I appreciate that the struggle is going to be real. We will definitely be staying in more, especially if we want to afford a holiday. With that in mind, there are some lovely ideas in today’s Guardian about making your home a calmer place where you feel happy and relaxed. I know those adjectives may seem at odds with our current world climate, but as I said in last week’s post, we have to grab the good vibes where we can, and as programmes like The Home Edit can show us, some bright colours and a bit of organisation may just give us a tiny bit of the peace we crave.


SWB On Being ‘Ironing Bored’

We’re back to the grind, the weather is bat-shit crazy and the children are coming in wet and sodden. As the laundry mounts, how do you stay on top of it? Is it possible to keep up with domestic drudgery without losing your mind?


Ironing. That can be bitch, can’t it? But my advice is this: if an item looks like a pain to iron, then leave it in the shop. It is not deserving of a place in your wardrobe or a place in your life. Same goes for an item with ‘special washing instructions.’ Items such as this can GET IN THE BIN. A professional organiser once advised to clear your home of any objects which give you work; need your time or make your feel bad. There are things aplenty in this life to fulfil all these roles. Clothes shouldn’t be one. It’s #SecondHandSeptember so if any of the above applies to something you own, then this is an ideal time to drop off to our nearest charity shop.


Thankfully,  ironing pile in our house is greatly reduced these days, but this didn’t just happen by accident. I try to treat our recently laundered clothes with respect, i.e., I don’t adopt LSB’s approach which is to pluck the stuff off the line or out of the tumble drier and chuck them all crumpled into a basket. I’ve taken @tidydad’s advice, and started to enlist all the family’s help with laundry, sorting into piles and folding pronto before sending them off to put away. Doing laundry is lonely! Nobody should be sifting through a basket of socks, fruitlessly looking for a match. I now pull the basket out when we’re watching an episode of Modern Family and set to it.


I also don’t tend to iron much of LSB’s stuff anymore. Often he works from home and just wears a tee-short. Also, to my absolute delight, in his present job he doesn’t have to go to London and look smart while he talks to a lot of pretentious pricks. It’s taken a load off.


My mother-in-law ironed EVERYTHING. Pants. Towels. Socks. Sheets. No, no, no and HELL NO. The Mothership used to stand and iron fifteen shorts on a Sunday night for the week ahead, so my dad, my brother and I had a clean shirt everyday. I must admit that I will never reach this level of domestic prowess.


Occasionally though, I might need to iron something. Say a dress I really love, or if the kids have left their uniform in a heap and a quick fix is needed to take the bad look off it. My mantra is this, ‘never perfect, always better.’ Same goes for all the housework chores. But say, like on we ta day like this and I’m not teaching, I might say, iron a few things. This  is the ideal opportunity to embrace ‘luxury ironing.’ This is where you make a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine should it be later in the day. Say 11am. (JOKING). Then I pop on a podcast such as The Uncanny* on Radio 4. Honestly, sometimes I get so engrossed I start looking for things to run the iron over. Who doesn’t love a spooky story with no rationale explanation?


This is how I deal with the monotony of household chores if no one is around to help. Earphones in with spoken word radio or a decent podcast so I feel my brain isn’t turning to mush. (‘Everyday’s a school day with you,’ says LSB.) But it works a treat and makes it all that bit easier. And should you be stressed out as the chores accumulate and need some sensible tips delivered by someone with a compassionate but no-nonsense air, then I recommend listening to KC Davis’s audiobook, How to Keep House while Drowning. 


The bottom line is this- whatever you have to do, make it more fun, whether you’re listening to @U105, Radio 4 or feasting on a new episode of The Bear. Happy Tuesday everyone.


*Show in The Grand Opera House coming to Belfast in November. Keep an eye out!