Monday 29 September 2014

Vita Sackville-West and Sissinghurst

I came across Vita Sackville-West, the author and gardener, for the first time about thirty years ago when I first started wearing vintage clothes and being interested in historical females who had achieved something in their field. I find I like hearing about history from a female perspective, it's often more interesting. I love reading biographies, and hers was one of the first I picked up.

She led me onto other biographies and people of the time, the first of which was her lover, Violet Trefusis, for whom she briefly left her husband.

Violet was the daughter of Mrs Keppel, who herself was the lover of the King, Edward VII. Mrs Keppel was the great grandmother of Camilla Parker-Bowles, and the King the great grandfather of Prince Charles. Apocrypichally, CP-B said to Charles when they first met, 'my great grandmother was your great great grandfather's mistress, so how about it?'

What an opener!

I bought this Victorian brown bear's head when I was 19, believing I would one day live in a castle. I named him Sackville. By my early 40s, it had become clear that I was more terraced or semi-detached material, which rarely feature minstrel's galleries, so he went off to live out his days in a stately home in the South West.

Anyway, to come back to the subject in hand, Vita was quite masculine in appearance and liked to dress as a man. This watercolour, by artist unknown, which lives in one of my old sketchbooks, shows Vita in pursuit of Violet. I produced a homage showing me and my cat Wellington. He lived to the ripe old age of 18.
I still have that red dress, somewhere in the dressing up trunk. I must dig it out and give you a twirl if I can squeeze into it.

So I think it's fair to say my recent visit to Sissinghurst, the amazing garden Vita built in Kent with her husband Harold Nicholson, has been in the pipeline for quite some time. 
Me-made sheet sun dress and necklace, clogs by Lotta from Stockholm, and bag from lovely Krista
It was worth the wait.

Originally I had my doubts about visiting gardens in late September, but I needn't have worried. The weather was extremely kind and the planting is clever enough that there is still plenty of colour. I'm talking dahlias, woodland anenomes, decorative sages, lavenders, black eyed susan vines, roses even.

It is actually called Sissinghurst Castle, because that's precisely what it is: the reclaimed ruins of an Elizabethan castle. At one time it was used as a prison for French soldiers captured during the seven years' war. 
When Vita and her family went to live there, there wasn't a lot remaining, but they lovingly put it back together. In an unconventional arrangement, Vita had her rooms in the tower, Harold had a cottage and their two sons lived in another little house. What a great arrangement!

We went and visited a few other places, mainly house and gardens, on what was a rather cultural trip. I'll be writing about them soon. I hope you'll join me!

Monday 22 September 2014

Going, going, gone!

From what I can tell, the current zeitgeist is all about culling, clearing the decks, making space and a bit of money as a side order.

Well, I'm in. In like a greedy mouse in a cheese factory. In like a...oh I don't know, you tell me?
My Spanish Senorita reigns supreme in the spare bedroom. I've just noticed she has a guitar and I think she might have just noticed the layer of dust on that mirror which is making my photos look all soft focus

However, unlike Curtise, who has set about things with a clear head and a great system, I've done things the wrong way round. I've sold things and then tried them on just before sending them out. And sometimes I've thought, 'Oh, I rather like that. Too late'.

But the fact remains, that I have only got rid of things I don't wear very often, so I've done right, right?
I got that gingham duvet cover in a charity shop about a month or so ago. But I'm really torn. I want it on the bed and as a dress on me. Decisions, decisions
This 1960s Kenny's of the Philippines kaftan was comfy and when I wore it to a party recently, it got a lot of love, but the truth is, navy isn't really my colour, and it's polycotton, which is not my favourite fabric.
This on the other hand, is in my favourite colour, green. It's a beautiful empire line brocade evening dress with a train at the back which made me feel very regal, by the English brand Blanes, but the fact is it was a bit too big for me and there was no way of making it smaller without ruining it. Plus, I only wore it to go out to dinner once, and I have a not dissimilar dress shown here

So I paraded round the house in for the afternoon before packing it up and sending it on its way.
Unlike Edith Piaf, I may have some regrets.

How about you, what's your approach to getting rid of stuff? Got any tips?

Friday 19 September 2014

Chinese lanterns at dusk

I love to have flowers in the house, and my favourite kind are those collected from the garden.

So at dusk I set out to fill some vases. The nights are drawing in fast now, so by the time I had finished the solar powered exterior fairy lights and Chinese lanterns had come on.

I love twinkly lights outside. It's like dressing the garden with sparkling jewels.

He put up lengths of wire which run the width of our patio, and then we tied solar powered fairy lights to them. When all the lights come on, our back garden and patio look like Las Vegas.

Viva La Bling.
The vases get distributed around the house. This looks a rather holier than thou still life. Or maybe we're all just praying that the lovely late summer weather continues.
I look at Miss Wong and she looks at me. We never tire of one another.
A few weeks ago I had a craft day making this Vix and Dee style lampshade. I have the house to myself today, so I had better go and make the most of it!

Thursday 11 September 2014

A la recherche du temps perdu

I was the type of child who didn't say all that much, but on the inside I was quite fanciful and spent a lot of time daydreaming and imagining.

I had my future planned out in quite some detail. I was going to be a famous ballerina to begin with, like my heroine, Dame Margot Fonteyn. Then, after a tragic love affair, I was going to retire from public life to live in a tiny cottage in the forest with my faithful dancing bear, Angelina. We would live off berries and fruits which we were able to forage in the forest and hedgerows. I was also very certain that I was going to grow up to be a Princess (Curtise will love this). My full title? Princess Proserpina, after the ancient Roman Goddess.

Precocious? Moi?
So anyway, when we went out brambling at the weekend, I thought about Princess Proserpina with her cottage in the forest and her foraging ways. I thought about the bear too. Big, hairy and partial to sweet treats. 

Hmmm....sounds familiar.
I still love a bit of nature's bounty and forests are my favourite habitat, along with mountains.

That's a cheap and cheerful 60s shift dress there, home made by someone 50 years ago. It's been lurking in my wardrobe for some of them. Nothing special, just one of those wardrobe staples. 

He suggested it was impractical for brambling because I wouldn't be able to get right in the bushes. 

I told him not to worry, I'd be using my superior managerial skills to do some delegating.
You see this old man on the right here?  Well it's him we're after next. Sweet chestnuts are my absolute favourites. We'll be back for them next month. Apparently you can tell them from that distinctive bark pattern.
He laughed when I said I had brought four tubs along. Said there was no way we'd fill them. Well, Princess Proserpina knows a challenge when she hears one. As soon as the first blackberry went in that fourth tub, she said, 'Phew, thank goodness we brought four tubs'.

I know what you're thinking. Bet he wishes she'd grown up into the type of adult who doesn't say much. 

Well, I've only got two more things to say. Firstly, thanks to Q for the crumble. It was delicious.
Finally, thank you so much to lovely Krista for sending me this amazing embroidered folk handbag all the way from Portland Oregon. It is gorgeous. Fit for a Princess!