Friday 20 June 2014

Get thee to the workhouse!

Southwell in Nottinghamshire is a small town with a lot of history.

We went for a trip around the workhouse, which is one of the earliest (1824) and is the most complete example remaining.
Southwell Minster showing the vegetable garden and Bramley apple tree in the foreground.
I learned some really interesting social history. Up until the early 19th century, if you were destitute, you went to your parish leaders and asked for help. You would be given 'poor relief' which would pay your bills and allow you to stay in your own home.
On the right is the toilet. Situated in the back yard and roofless.
After 1834, when you asked for help, the parish leaders would contact the workhouse and subject to assessment you would be offered a place in a workhouse. If you wanted to leave at any time, you were free to go, you just had to sign out, but you would not be given any help, you would have to find paid employment. During your stay there, the sexes were segregated at all times, and children were in their own wing.
At the discretion of the master, children may be able to see their parents for a short period on a Sunday, after church. All able-bodied inmates worked from dawn to dusk and in return, they were given three meals a day, a bed and a roof over their head. For many, it was a choice between this and starvation on the outside. Plus there was the bonus of free health care and education for the children. Workhouses were an effective and financially efficient way of providing relief to the poor. They saved the taxpayer a lot of money compared to financing the poor to remain in their own homes.
This lady was wonderful. She played a real character from the 19th century who managed to get herself into a bit of trouble for inciting others to sing normal songs instead of hymns and other misdemeanors. She found herself in financial difficulties after her husband had an accident on the farm where he worked and she was thrown out of the tied cottage. 'He got caught in the thresher. Cut to ribbons" she told me. "So you see, it's not my fault I'm in here." She also told us that matron was off to see the butcher again. Never came back with any meat, only a smile on her face. And as for Master, he kept going off to see his sick sister. She never got any better or any worse, but he was always in a much better mood after his visit. Fancy!
The two types of inmates. Idle and profligate. Blameless and deserving.

Although in a slightly different way, the poor lived here right up until the 1970s. Here is a one roomed apartment which housed a family of five.

Out and about viewing the other claims to fame, here is the Saracen's Head in Southwell, where Charles I spent his last night of freedom before surrendering at Newark Castle.

Southwell is also the birthplace of the Bramley apple, the first tree having been planted from a pip by a schoolgirl named Mary Brailsford. It is a really pretty little town, with the feel of a village, but with a majestic church plonked in the centre. The scale and contrast never fails to surprise.
Finally, here is a stained glass window in the Minster, designed by my friend's Dad, Patrick Reyntiens.
What did I wear? The Master's hat and a 1960's Hawaiian jumpsuit by Janet Lynn. When I first got it, it would have looked good accessorised with a red nose, a squirty flower and some big shoes, but I put in some darts, took out the side pockets, got rid of the green fabric additions, added some patch pockets on the front, and changed the neckline. A bit of decorative ric-rac completed the job.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Your aunt Millicent died and left you a portion of her wardrobe

Is it me or is there a 1930s vibe in the air?

We have Desiree as the beautiful bohemian artist, Helga as Mademoiselle X, the most irresistible figure of the Resistance, and then there's delightful Lally bringing a marvellous exoticism to the proceedings.

So when I saw I capture the Castle a few weeks ago, I felt as frisky as you please. I needed to dress up in period. I went straight to my dressing up trunk. Do not stop. Do not pass Go.

The 1930s were my first vintage love, back when I was a slip of a girl. I bought this beautiful silk satin bias cut dress for £4 at my first ever visit to Glastonbury (or Pilton as we used to call it) in June 1984. It's Madeleine Vionnet all the way. I wore it a lot.

This outfit of a jumpsuit and cardigan worn by Rose inspired what I wore when we went to Sheffield. I prefer the character of Cassandra, but Rose definitely gets the best clothes.

There's my favourite actress, Vivien Leigh as my namesake Titania in 1937. I wore this 1930s floral printed chiffon dress to the private view of my final project at Art School in 1988.

Can you guess what I'm doing here?

That's right, I'm saying 'Pool boy, go and make me some tasty tea!'

He's a good fellow. Beetroot tart with thyme and garlic roasted tomatoes.
There's something rather 1930s about foxgloves. Very English cottage garden and often in those watercolour children's illustrations of the time.

Finally, here is Vivien in 1938 as Aurora by Angus McBean.

I look like the lights are on but nobody's home. That's not quite right, I was actually concentrating on getting my arms right. And thinking about beetroot tart.

Friday 6 June 2014

Sunday Girl

The perfect Sunday can take different forms, but for me, there are certain key components.

Firstly, you get up when the world is sleeping, creep into your car and enjoy quiet roads while you travel out into the near countryside. You park in a field and seek out treasure! Do you know what I'm talking about?

Yep, it's carbooty!
This lady's stall was amazing. I bought three things from her. I was tempted by more, but didn't take enough cash. 

The first thing, a vintage port box which has now found its place as a bedside table. That little Dortmund ornament was a present from Vix.

When you get back, you have breakfast in the garden and think about how to incorporate all your new treasures into the house.

Then you potter about doing bits of jobs. Hang washing out in the sunshine. Catch up with family on the phone. Mow the lawn, cut flowers from the garden to put all around the house, that kind of thing.

After that you need a bit of lazy time, doing not very much, wearing no make up, and something comfortable. In this case a Hawaiian house dress. It looks a bit Hattie Jacques on, but is that such a bad thing? You eat tasty treats. A nice fresh lunch, savoury snacks in the afternoon, followed by a slap up tea. Cooked by him, of course.
The remains of a snack on a picnic table is the second thing bought from the aforementioned stall. The tambourine with gypsy girls dancing across it is the third thing.

A detail from the picnic tray. 
A miniature Sicilian wedding cart
Finally, you watch a film, with a glass of wine, and then roll into bed at a nice reasonable hour, so you wake up ready to face the week. 

What about you? What are your hot tips for a perfect Sunday?