I’m never naked, I’m never alone, I always have my friends around me. In bed, in the bath, on the beach. I always have my constant companions.
It started with a wedding ring in the early 70s. A three-band Russian from Anschels in the Kings Road, I lost it in a Hot Yoga session in Brighton, slipped off my finger, never to be seen again. My husband had died five years earlier and it had already had migrated to my left hand. Its disappearance didn’t surprise me – its time was up and I was ready to let go. Then, I lost an earring hung with Wright & Teague charms - all gifts from my husband - during a romantic encounter with a lover in a dark street in Hackney in 2015. I was bereft for a day or two and then realised, ‘Time for them to leave me as well.’
Lots of us have ‘lucky’ garments that empower us – pants, a flattering white shirt, a favourite pair of jeans. I miss Gareth Southgate and his iconic waistcoat, worn for every World Cup game. But I bet he took it off at bed time. Mine stay with me, like tattoos or piercings. Or the bright sunset orange varnish on my toenails in the winter that shouts, ‘Sandals! Summer! Spain!’ every time I step out of bed on these dark, dank November mornings.
For years, I’ve adorned my body with talismans and totems that I sense are are imbued with special powers as strong as Harry Potter wands or the stones with holes that are strung on rope in front of my bedroom window – hag stones that the Cornish say may protect me from witchcraft and witches.
Each ring, bracelet or necklace on my body has an emotional history and reminds me of my ability to survive despite what life may throw at me – the twisted silver ring that my son dug up in a garden in Brighton or the thin gold one with a tiny red gem that I bought in Spain, in lieu of an engagement ring from my ex. On my wrist I have memories of Crete, Thessaloniki, Essaouira, Monpazier, Brighton, Hackney, Oxford Circus and Cadiz. Of past loves, present offspring and dear friends.
In April this year, fearful of going alone to a wedding, all dressed up and knowing few others, I drew a tattoo on my wrist with a Sharpie – a triangle with two circles, an ancient symbol for “Widow with Children’ that a friend-of-friend had posted on Instagram. It was hidden under all those bracelets but its silent strength empowered me. I knew it was there and I plan to make it permanent - when I pluck up the courage. I once had a rabbit’s foot that dangled from the zip of my Parka when I was a Mod. But I’ve never carried a twist of a dead relative’s hair in a locket – I know my limitations - but the Hamsa, the hand of Fatima hangs in my hall and the Turkish nazar, the eye-shaped amulet believed to protect against the evil eye is nailed on my door.
In these times of uncertainty, a few extra tools in our armoury against life’s arrows may come in useful and to the bastardise the words of Jenny Joseph, who died earlier this year, in her famous poem, ‘Warning,’
‘When I am an old woman I shan’t wear purple but I will believe in magic.’
This post first featured on That’s Not My Age - the grown-up guide to great style — edited by Alyson Walsh