Monday, 20 October 2014

A winning Walsall weekend

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go to the West Midlands, buy something fabulous in the vintage shop Second to None whilst getting quietly inebriated, then adjourn to the pub to drink some more, chat, laugh and eat chips.
Look how many accepted the challenge!

There's Vix, Fiona, Vanessa, Curtise, Gisela, Em, Lyndsey and Annie.
Gisela won the medal for Top Bag Buyer, Vix won Hostess with the Mostest AND hottest in a bikini, Em won the Early Bird award...
Fiona won Most Professional-looking Photographer and Chief List Maker..
Curtise scooped Most Likely To Be A Character In Jane Austen Whilst Taking Lots of Photos, Vanessa and Annie jointly won Most Adept At Avoiding Being Photographed...

Lyndsey won Best Newcomer. I think I might have won The Hey Big Spender award.

All winners!

I love this action shot, you can just see how much fun we were having. I feel I've gone for quality rather than quantity (ahem!) on the picture front...and the Winner of the Lazy Blogger Award is...
Easy peasy lentil loaf to go with Sunday dinner. I put that robe on as soon as it was dry.

That's my haul of goodies on the line. I got up on Sunday morning and put them straight in the washer. There's a folksy wench dress, a Dollyrockers geometric print beauty and a housecoat by Fifth Avenue Robes. Probably the least flattering shape of the three, but lovely soft cotton in a fabulous print means I am going to wear it to death.

Vix took us into the local wig shop. Simply cross the threshold and find yourself in 1975. Hair bobbles! 99p!

A day out with the girls on Saturday, washing on the line, a bit of gardening and a roast dinner on Sunday. That was a top weekend. Thank you everyone for all the laughter. xx

Friday, 17 October 2014

Great Dixter and a party

It seems such a long time ago that I took these photos at Great Dixter, this perfect little Elizabethan manor house and garden, most famous for its last incumbent, Christopher Lloyd. It's only actually three weeks since we visited, but goodness, everything looks so different here now.

Summer came to an abrupt halt after Autumn elbowed it to one side.

This was a family home for many years. The last inhabitant died 8 years ago, but lived here his entire life without any of the home comforts we find so indispensable.

I coined it Ascetic Aesthetic. It may not be quite right, but it's not a life of coffee machines and central heating. I am such a nosey parker, I love to see how people live on an everyday basis.
Everything is done in the best possible taste.

Oh look here, it's Top Cat. He marched straight past me, ignoring my pitiful attempts at small talk. That face has purposeful written all over it.

The very last of the summer sun. What a place to enjoy it.

Those are Oast Houses, very typical vernacular architecture found in that part of the country, used for drying hops out before they get used for making beer.

This to me could be the very place where the opening pages of The Portrait of a Lady are set. Quintessentially English.
Well of course, once all that beer has been produced, somebody's got to drink it. And that is what parties are for.

Another 50th. They are starting to come thick and fast now, even though I am still only a VERY youthful 47, who has years to go before it happens to me.

These are my girls from college. We have known each other since we were 18. It's always quite a raucous affair when we get together.

The theme was Hollywood glamour, so I wore a 1960s long chiffon evening dress described by the girls as 'very yellow, very booby and very glam'. They nicknamed me Canary for the evening.

'Nobody puts Canary in a corner.'

My last nickname from this group, after a conversation about my snaggle tooth, ended up as Tanny McPhee. Even now it makes me snort with laughter.

I've had a cold, but it's on its last legs now, so I feel ready to go out into the world again. Hmmm. I think I might go on a rail journey tomorrow...

Monday, 6 October 2014

Charleston House, East Sussex

Another day, another artists' garden. This time Charleston House, that remote farmhouse used by some members of the Bloomsbury set as respite from their town life.
I know some of you aren't keen on the various personalities involved, and you may have a point, however they did create a lovely living and working environment, and I've long wanted to experience it for myself. 
The main inhabitants were Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and David Garnett. Vanessa and Duncan had a daughter together. Duncan and David were lovers. David eventually married the daughter of Vanessa and Duncan, Angelica. Poor girl wasn't told who her real father was until she was 18. She grew up believing her father was Clive Bell, her mother's husband.

I seem to be turning into the kind of person who shares juicy gossip over the garden fence. 

I sound a bit flippant about it, but actually I was shocked and rather put off them.
Why don't we take respite from all these shenanigans by admiring some blooms of Bloomsbury? 
That's another homemade frock there. It was a pair of curtains we inherited when moving in to this house, then it became a rather unflattering kaftan, so I remade it into a romantic looking frock. 

It's a really lovely, soft fabric, there's plenty of tummy room for eating and you can wear wooly tights with it to transform it into an all year round outfit. That ticks a lot of my boxes.
The interior of the house was decorated by Vanessa and Duncan as an art project and it really is full of charm, character and colour. However, visitors are not allowed to take photos, so you just have to absorb it and appreciate it in the moment.
I really enjoyed their approach to interior design: experimenting with painting pieces of furniture, and murals on the walls and doors. There's a mish-mash of furniture, patterns, colours. They embraced imperfection and that fits in with my aesthetic.
Glorious colour on a late summer afternoon.

The ladies in the shop and house at Charleston were all dressed in a really arty way. Long grey hair with bright red lipstick, big funky jewellery, unusual dresses, possibly homemade. They looked wonderful.
This is where we stayed: a beautiful little cabin at the bottom of a lovely lady's garden, found on airbnb. Have you tried it yet?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

Right then pop pickers, ready for the next installment of our escapade darn sarf?
Recognise this place? Yep, it's Prospect Cottage, previously home to Derek Jarman the film maker, situated on the slightly otherwordly place known as Dungeness. 

He managed to create a garden in an ostensibly barren and inhospitable environment. Now he's no longer with us, appearances suggest there is no longer the will to keep it up in the same way, but it still felt magical to see it in real life.
Dungeness is a very distinctive environment, apparently the largest open shingle beach in Europe. It's a weird mix of discarded fishing paraphenelia, massive moody skies and an ethereally utilitarian beauty created by the odd mix of Heath Robinson type buildings randomly dotted about. 

I found it charming and compelling. It reminded me of my idea of places like Newfoundland. Separate and romantic in a tough bleak way.
When Derek Jarman bought his place, it was just him and the fishermen, but now I get the impression that the money is moving in. We saw a very luxurious beach house being built. 
All the wandering around in the sea air did the trick. We took our appetites and repaired to the Pilot Inn for a massive plate of dinner. It was almost bigger than me. A great icebreaker. Several of the other punters engaged me in fish and chip based conversation. 

And no, that is not a load of codswallop. 

The other place we visited by the sea, was Hastings. That part of the country is so historic. They call it 1066 country, because that is the year the Battle of Hastings was fought. There is actually a little town called Battle, where the fighting took place. Loads of places are mentioned in the Domesday book, which was commissioned just 20 years later by William the Conqueror, the Frenchman who won the battle and became King of England.

I've heard mixed things about Hastings. I think it had become very run down, but it has had a lot of regeneration over the last few years and the Old Town in particular has been reinvigorated with lots of charming quirky little vintage shops. The buildings are amazing, a lot dating back from Elizabethan times.

I can imagine the narrow alleys and back street pubs filled with sailors and pirates in years gone by.
We only had a bite-size taster, but it has whet our appetite.
I do love it when a pussy cat throws itself at me whilst I go about my business. They always have the most interesting secrets to tell.