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Rowell of Oxford: A review

Rowell of Oxford: A review

In March my partner and I made a big life decision. In a lovely pub by the river in a town south of Oxford we spoke about the future and decided to get married. We’d been discussing it for a while, as jobs in the Middle East and further afield would have encouraged such behaviour, but eventually decided that this was something that felt right for us regardless of our address or careers.

The next day we set out with a pocket full of precious jewellery I had inherited from my mother and grandmother to speak with the team at Rowell of Oxford, a quaint little jewellers which has been tucked away on one of my favourite streets in Oxford since 1797. We were greeted by Stephen, who spent some time with us discussing options and designs which could work with the stones and metal I had. I wanted to use a solitaire diamond ring from my grandmother, and five-stone diamond ring given to my mother by my father on their engagement to create a new ring for Sven and myself. In addition I had a sapphire ring which I thought would work nicely as a pendant, so we asked for a quote for this. Finally there were three gold rings to be valued, then the value deducted from the final bill for the new ring. Design agreed Stephen assured us the ring would be ready in 2-3 weeks, allowing time for the Easter break.

The original rings

Nearly 4 weeks later I popped into Rowell of Oxford and spoke with Mary who, unfortunately, could find no reference of our visit; it was not in the official log book on or around the end of March, or on any notices or folders around the desk. I left my details, and the following day Mary called to say she had found our information, however could offer no update on the status of the order for the engagement ring at this stage. However she did have a quote for the redesign of the sapphire ring, which was unfortunately outside of our price range. After this Sven took over the reins of corresponding with Rowell planning to present the ring to me when it was ready.

In July we ventured back to Oxford, Sven had some errands to run (that was code for picking up the ring!) after which we bought ice-creams from G&D’s and enjoyed a sunny walk along the river to Iffley Lock. There a group of teenagers and a boat full of tourists witnessed a tall German get down on bended knee in front of a woman in a red dress. We both knew it was a yes, but it was a lovely moment on a beautifully sunny day in our happy place.

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Shortly afterward at the Isis Farmhouse Sven presented me with another envelope which I assumed was the sapphire ring returned but turned out to be the five-stone diamond ring from mum, whose stones should have been on my finger. We were both very perplexed, and disappointed. After waiting 3 months rather than the promised 3 weeks the last thing either of us wanted was a further delay in sharing our news with friends and family. Unfortunately Mary could offer no explanation or apology when we called, but promised to speak with the designer and call us on Monday with more details.

Thus began a series of calls back and forth as we tried to rectify the issue. Firstly I had to return the incorrect ring to Rowell; as we had moved to London this meant entrusting the Royal Mail, however I was assured by Mary that any costs for postage or couriers would be returned to me. This refund was never received. Two weeks after we had collected the first ring Rowell expressed concern that the shoulders on the new ring would be too wide with mums diamonds, and so created a wax which I had to travel back to Oxford to approve. At no point had we seen any drawings, wax’s or similar prior to this, or at any point did we speak with the Birmingham business designing the jewellery. Whilst now I see that we were incredibly naive and should have done more research, at the time we were trusting that Rowell of Oxford was a well established and trusted business who ultimately would guide us through this process as first-timers. We placed ourselves wholly in their hands.

The original ring with the wax

I also asked Mary for an update on the sapphire, and was presented with a ring in pieces. The sapphire had been removed from its casing, and two of the smaller diamonds were also dislodged. We had only asked for a quote so I was very surprised to see the state of a much loved ring I had inherited from my grandmother. Mary explained again the options for turning it into a pendant, pointing out the worn prongs which would need replacing in order to secure the precious stones. However, in the interim period I had had discussions with Sven and friends about it, and explained to Mary and Stephen that in the interest of preserving heirlooms for future generations we would prefer to keep it as a ring for now, so please could they ensure it was put back as they had received it.

Finally a week later again our design was ready. Mary called on the Saturday morning, and as we were passing through the city en route to a party we agreed to collect it that day. Oxford was incredibly busy with tour groups and graduating students so there was no room to park, leaving me just enough time for me to run in to the shop whilst Sven drove around the block. I dashed in, retrieved the ring, hugged Mary in relief and left. It was so rushed I didn’t inspect it closely, nor did I ask about the sapphire, or for the receipt detailing all the work carried out and value of the gold we had left with them back in March. Needless to say the idea of a refund for the postage was most definitely at the bottom of the priority pile! I would later discover Sven had paid the full cost for the work, meaning Rowell had failed to account for the value of the gold we had given them, essentially over charging us by more than £500.

It wasn’t until the next day that I sat down to properly look at the new ring. Rather than the clean design of the first ring this new one had embellished lines cut into the metal at the top, there were also indents under the shoulders where the drill had been inserted to hold the diamonds above and (I assume) slipped through. After everything we had been through this pushed us over the edge, and we decided to speak with the Citizens Advice Bureau on the next steps. The team at CAB were wonderfully helpful, recommending letter templates, timeframes and managing expectations.

It took three letters and over two months to receive any form of response from Rowell. The eventual letter we received was incorrectly addressed to Kate, with typos and poor grammar, far less than I’d expect from such an establishment.

They refund offered came to around 50% of what we had paid, an amount which would sadly not come close to paying for the additional alterations required to fix the design flaws on what could be called one of the most significant pieces of jewellery I would ever own. I was also dismayed to discover my grandmothers sapphire had been redesigned into a pendant, despite no authorisation for the work to be carried out and the conversations we had had with Rowell communicating our change of heart on the matter.

I do not usually write reviews like this, but in this season renowned for engagements and happy times I feel I would like to send out this message of our experience with Rowell as a warning. Whilst at every stage Mary and Stephen were polite and friendly we feel utterly let down and ultimately cheated by the business we entrusted with such a significant event and precious heirlooms. Their poor attention to detail, communication, professionalism and record keeping turned what should have been a swift and stress free process into a 6 month headache, and left us with a ring I don’t much care to look at and an engagement story I do not like to tell. Any engagement should be a happy and stress-free time, so I sincerely hope putting this story out there saves others the same heartache we have had to endure.

Jucy “El Cheapo” camper: A review

With their reasonably priced campers and hire cars, Jucy is a popular choice for an Australian road trip. They offer a variety of sizes from compact four seaters to portable hotels, and what I particularly liked is that their initial quote includes all inclusive insurance, so you know the total cost before you begin rather than it being an add on later. Psychologically this seems better to me, I feel like I’m getting a deal!

We’d chosen the smallest and cheapest model “El Cheapo” (here after known as Cheapy McCheapFace) as the road trip was only a few days, but there are some you could spend weeks in with a couple of mates. During the day our little Cheapy sits two up front with belts for three more in the back.

6241739200_img_4772-minUnder the bench there is storage which holds the bedding and towels, and the top to this becomes a table which screws into the middle of the van for lunch and games.

6241739200_img_4773-minAt night everything unfolds into a double bed, with the front seats used to store luggage. There is a cavity under the bed if you had soft luggage (as recommended by Jucy) but our larger wheely suitcase was quite happy on the passenger seat, which also meant we had access to stuff at all times. Convenient! Each window has a rolled shade which clips into place offering privacy and protection from the morning sun.

6241739200_img_4770-1-minThere’s also a moon roof that completely opens; perfect for star gazing and ventilation (if you’re brave enough with all the Aussie spiders)! The bed offers plenty of room for 5ft 7 me to stretch out, however Sven’s 6ft 2 had to go slightly diagonally (means he got more of the bed…swings and roundabouts!).


There’s a stove, sink with pumped water, cool box and storage for all the cooking utensils you’d need for a mini adventure, all packed into a vehicle small enough to fit into the average parking space. Not bad!! Jucy gave us three gas cylinders for the ride and a hose in case the 10l water tank needed refilling.

We brought our own aux cable, but you can buy them for $5 from the Jucy office, as well as a car adapter for charging phones and USB devices. The radio has been pretty fun for roadtrip tunes, and if you were organised enough to bring CD’s then that’s an option too. There’s also AC which proved invaluable on the second day when the weather hit the mid 30’s.

img_8831-minOn the other hand there were days where the heating was useful too!!

Australia drives on the left (as a thousand road signs will tell you), which was great for me hailing from the UK, but the automatic gear box means an easy transition for those who may not be used to it.

Being the cheapest model you do get an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ as El Cheapo is not as shiny and modern as some of the other options. Our sliding door is a tad creeky and stiff, some of the poppers for the blinds have seen better days and the whole ambience of the van says “well used” with its stained ceiling, rusting bumper and non-opening sun roof (the moon roof works like a dream) however despite these few negatives Cheapy has earned a place in my heart as a throughly good adventure home for our trip down the Great Ocean Road ❤

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – part 2. (WARNING: may contain spoilers!)

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So it’s all over. 7 books, 8 films, 14 years of my life, fini! But oh what a way to go out!

Traditionally I have not been a fan of the Harry Potter films. As a lifelong bookworm I found it very hard to accept the differences and gaps which present themselves when a book makes its way to the big screen. Will the characters match those in your imagination? Will the set reflect the places you created? And more importantly will your favourite part make the cut? And with books as intricate as Harry Potter, you were always going to disappoint someone.

But something changed around The Order of the Phoenix in 2007. That was the first film which truly blew me away. I have 2 explanations for this; 1) I stopped reading the book immediately before going to the cinema. I found having the book fresh in my mind just led to expecting a standard the films could never reach. 2) David Yeates took over as director and changed the films for the better. Either way I’m glad it happened!!

So when it came to the final film I was very excited, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. From start (literally right at the start, you get the impression you’ve jumped in mid scene) to finish it takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, adrenalin and in one scene an actual rollercoaster! I believe this adaptation was actually quite true to the book, with only a few diversions, all of which still allowed the film to stand out on its own merits.

I’d like to discuss a few of my highs and lows.

Firstly the explanation of Snapes journey, a delicate matter which needed to reveal a lot of history and a massive turning point in Harrys life. In my opinion this was done tremendously. The snippets of Snapes memories of Lily contained a great deal of emotion, something we have not previously seen in Rickmans portrayal of the greasy Professor. At the same time the dreadful truth of the secret Dumbledore had kept from Harry were revealed. I don’t know about you but when Harry emerged from the pensieve I felt like I’d just heard the news for the first time. A superb scene with incredible acting from all involved. Something I do not often say about Radcliffe. Though I must say, Snape being the first on the scene at the Potter house did lead to some continuity errors in my mind.

One part I was not so enamoured with was Molly Weasleys shining moment. Did anyone else find this a little rushed? I remember the part in the book so vividly…Ginny and Bellatrix locked in a duel and Molly (who had not been there previously) rushing in roaring at Lestrange ‘NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU BITCH!’. It gave me Goosebumps. Molly, the quiet protector, the mother figure who practically adopts Harry…swearing?! This was her moment; it was so satisfying to see another side to her! So to see it sandwiched between scenes, essentially with Molly just standing behind Ginny as Bellatrix fires spells, and then a collection of Weasleys watching as Molly steps forward with the rather lacklustre line. I was so disappointed…and then disturbed as an evil, gleeful smile crosses Walters face after Bonham Carter was obliterated? It just didn’t seem right at all.

Another random moment was when Voldemort has Harry trapped in the flows of his robe. A stunning piece of cinematography, with Fiennes looking elegantly majestic while his archenemy struggles in vein. Then the next time we see them, Harry is running away! Seriously, he was pretty trapped, wrists, ankles, chest and throat all bound…how the hell did he get out of that?!

Harry and Ginny’s kiss? Painful!

Who could help but chuckle at Mcgonagall’s glee… ‘I’ve always wanted to cast that spell!’. I love her 🙂 Also ‘BOOM!’ Brilliant!

Then the ending, for me slightly anticlimactic. The decision to take the final battle out of the Great Hall and away from the crowd was an interesting one. It made the moment entirely about Harry and Voldemort, good vs evil, ‘as we started, together!’. But, once the deed was done and the Dark Lord vanquished…nothing. No cheering, shouting, no congratulations or praise from the friends who’s lives he saved? I understand the losses which had been sustained, it must be quite hard to both convey the pain and relief of that moment, but I feel it could have been done better. At least dub out the horrendous extras who can be heard having a ‘small talk conversation’ as Harry walks through the crowd! ‘How are you?!’ ‘I’m alright, how are you??!’ …oh well I just survived a fight with some of the most evil witches and wizards in the world…so I’m just dandy!! Give me strength.

While this post has been more negative and positive, I loved the movie! I’ve seen it twice already (it only came out on Friday!) and intend to see it again…though maybe not at the cinema. I would say more, but this is my first ever review and I feel I have gone on long enough.

My final point: the 19 years later. Honestly for some reason I wasn’t even expecting it to be the same actors, I found it quite funny to see the attempts at making them into parents. Did anyone else think that only Harry (and Draco, haha!) had been truly aged (short of being given a ‘grown up’ hair cut)? Not all loose ends were tied up, but I guess for that you’ll have to read the book. To be fair, you should have done that anyway!

(My first ever review…how did I do?)