Tuesday, 22 December 2015

'Tis the season to be sociable, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

The invitation said come any time after 5pm. But we have insider information. Experience has taught us that there are two distinct phases to Jane and Paul's parties. I like to arrive somewhere between eight and half past. When I hear the words, 'You've just missed all the kids, it was very noisy', I nod silently, knowing I've done the right thing.
This is my pub quiz crowd. We've known each other for twenty years, since we were neighbours in our previous house. Jane and Paul used to live three doors away, but then eventually they moved. Once they'd settled in and established that it was a nice neighbourhood, we followed them and now we live four doors away.

They can run, but they can't hide.
Last night the gang was being lippy. Saying things like, 'It's getting late, must be time for Q and Tania to arrive soon'. 'She's probably just pulling down a pair of curtains and whipping up a dress to wear'. 'Yes, and taking some photos for her blog'. Cheeky beggars. :)
The boys, being cheeky.
I went as the Christmas Fairy. Oh look, there's me taking a photo of my dress before going to the party! It isn't a curtain, but I did partially sew it. Originally it was a 1960s handmade child's first holy communion dress, hence the bodice was made for a very flat chest. I needed to remodel it to be able to fit into it.
After all that talk of blogging, I decided the least I could do was feature them all.
Here it is before I tinkered with the bodice. It reminds me of Vivien Leigh's dress in Waterloo Bridge and Moira Shearer's frock in The Red Shoes. I'd love to have hair like either of those two.
I've also been out and about catching up with people. Like my lovely friend Angela. I've known her even longer. The first time I ever saw her was when she came and did a talk on my teacher training course. She was warm, funny, intelligent and insightful and I took to her immediately.
Not long after I qualified, I was invited to teach a group of visiting Professors from Minsk University. Angela was one of the other lecturers, and over the next few years teaching at the University together, we became great friends.
The Market Square in Retford, with market in full flow and Christmas lights up, all twinkly and lovely. We had a good rummage round the chazzas and various other shops then repaired to a very plush new restaurant for lunch. 

She lives up in the north of the county now. Since I always get lost when I drive anywhere unfamiliar, when I turned up half an hour late with a sorry tale of wrong turnings and poor road signage, she welcomed me in with lots of laughter and great hospitality. She has cream carpets, so like the good girl I am, I took my shoes off. She immediately offered a huge cow slipper for my feet, sat me down on the lazy boy sofa, and produced coffee and cake. Now that's what you call a welcome!
Spencer's with lovely chandeliers and plush velour upholstery where my favourite Christmas Elf very kindly treated me to lunch.
At my current rate of blogging, we'll be well into 2016 before I trouble you again, so eat, drink and be merry, and I'll see you on the other side.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

I've got the key to the door, never been 49 before!

Last week I turned 49. I don't normally bother much on my birthday, mostly what I want to do is to do nothing, guilt free, but with my 50th next year, for which I really want to go on a special holiday, I thought it would be good to get my backside out of the house and do a dress rehearsal.
I settled on a night away in a hotel with dinner. You can find some good deals, especially at this time of year when it always rains and anyone sensible stays at home, wearing jumpers and slippers.
We were very lucky to get an upgrade to a superior suite. What a bathroom. Massive tub, mirror and twin basins (no good for me, I want to brush my teeth in private, thanks). The combination of a magnifying mirror and good lighting meant I was able to see my eyebrows properly. What a shock. Good job I took my tweazers. Emergency deforestation required.
Here's where we went, Charingworth Manor, a 14th century manor house in the Cotswolds. Our package included afternoon cream tea on arrival, a two course dinner, an overnight stay and breakfast. I feel podged just thinking about it.

After our cream tea, Q settled in with his Jo Nesbo while I went for a swim and sauna.
A few weeks ago my elder sister turned 50 and amongst the celebrations, it struck me that on that day 50 years earlier, my tiny mum had become a mother for the first time, changing her life forever. It had never occurred to me before that any birthday is as momentous for the mother as it is for the birthday celebrant. So I wore this dress in celebration of my Scottish mother, who used to dress us in kilts and taught us how to dance the Gay Gordons.

Whilst our suite, in an outbuilding, was all light and modern, the main house was cozy and atmospheric, with flagstone floors, mullion windows and open fires. This was the drawing room, above. Such a nice room to relax in. I'm a sucker for an open fire.

Dinner for two. I had melon three ways and mushroom risotto. Q had goat's cheese mousse and salmon with a chocolate surprise for dessert.
The tartan Hogmanay dress is by Cornell, and there's a very handy label saying 1976. No Miss Marple detective work required.

The next day we went to Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare HQ, for a mooch round. There are some amazing 15th and 16th century buildings. I love the half-timbered winky-wonky look of them.
Since we arrived too late to do the Shakespeare tour, we decided to just meander, going for lunch, visiting some charity shops and some high street shops. I don't often visit 'normal' shops so I am out of touch with retail prices. Fair to say I was shocked at how expensive everything is. I bought a Jaeger cashmere jumper for £6.29, new it would cost £175. Within the last couple of months I've bought Q a couple of tweed jackets, both for under a tenner. New they would be the best part of £200 each. Crazy. That's nearly £600 for three items of clothing.

I came away wondering, how do people who don't shop in charity shops actually afford anything?

I was so touched by all the well-wishers this year, so many lovely messages on social media, so many cards in real life and some lovely presents. Here below is what was in the exciting looking parcels given to me by Curtise and Vix.
From Vix, an amazing 1970s psychedelic blouse by Jantzen, made in Canada, 1950s Ber-nia made in Spain apron with tags still attached, a folksy embroidery panel with prancing horses to add to a craft project, vintage red and blue tights (blue ones already worn) hair soap, Spanish style hair decoration, which also came with castanets (but Q hijacked them as soon as they were out of the paper). 

From Curtise, a beautiful folk embroidered skirt by Toast, a vintage tapestry lipstick holder with mirror (already used on a daily basis) and a novelty sign for the milkman.


Thanks so much for your kindness and generosity. x

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A cheeky day out

Went out, didn't we?
Photo 'borrowed' from Vix, oops, sorry, thank you.

I bought that sheepskin coat on our day out. I thought it might be a bit football manager circa 1976, so I asked Q what he thought. He had two words for me.  Del Boy  :D

Went for a day out to get away from all the boring stuff and have a laugh. It was just what the doctor would have ordered if we'd explained the symptoms:

Too many days spent at work

Too many things getting on our nerves
Not enough boozy lunches
If you've ever wondered how Vix manages to find quite so much vintage, quite so easily, we now know the secret. She has magical powers. She doesn't so much look for vintage as divine for it. It's like Moses with the Red Sea, she just walks into a shop and the hangers on the rails part to reveal treasures. We trot along behind, open-mouthed.

If you suffer from these ailments, what you need is a girly day out.
Sparkling beauty!
Go and chat through your dilemmas, try on something sparkly and fabulous, egg each other on and eat chips for lunch. Then, five minutes after leaving the pub, turn around and go back in again for more wine, just to seal the deal.
The perfect Jean Varon wedding dress, empire line, maribou trimmed and with a train fit for a Queen

I promise, you will feel much better.
Two exciting looking parcels for later in the month and look! A sequined boob tube disco dress from Curtise. Are you all crazily jealous?
Trust me. I'm a blogger.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Treasure Tuesday

Two exciting things happened this week.

I got home from work on Tuesday to find one of our friends in, chatting. She was delivering a parcel of treasure for me from another friend who she'd met up with a few days earlier.

What a lovely surprise! Thank you so much lovely Gina! X
Wendy Wales is behaving herself in company, but Claudia Capri is giving a bit of side eye. She'll need to pack that in.
My parcel of treasure included a 1960s shift dress and a 1940s style dress, a polka dot skirt, age unknown, two cardis, a couple of tops, a pair of dolls and some sparkly beaded necklaces!
I've already worn the shift dress, but forgot to take a photo, and the cardigan hasn't been off my back
The very next day I started wearing my goodies; first up the skirt. It's an acetate fabric, handmade. I feel it could be anywhere from the 40s to the 60s, but I just don't know.
Things will look even nicer once they're ironed, but I don't do that type of thing willy nilly. It's purely on a needs basis in this house.
She also delivered an invitation. 'We're going out on Saturday. There's a halloween party on in the pub. We're all dressing up. Are you coming?'
Well, why not?

The party turned out to be an Oasis tribute band with an amp so powerful I could imagine little green men singing along on Mars. Well, if they knew the words.

I stuck tissue in my ears, like the old fogey I am. Mainly we smiled at each other for a couple of hours, and did the odd bit of sign language, but when the band had a break, we did some intensive chatting and agreed to a rematch later on this month.
A disco. We're going to a disco. That's going to need an outfit. Can't wait.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Autumn update

A lot of the time I don't have much of interest to share, and therefore don't post, but I've noticed that I still enjoy it when other people post about everyday stuff, so, here's a little catch up, just to say hello.

I had to pop down south last week to deal with some family stuff. My big sis still lives down there so it was a lovely opportunity to go and see her.
My sis works in the cafe at a vintage bazaar. She's always been good with food and is very sociable, so it's the perfect job for her.

After she finished work, we went to visit a relative in hospital. I knew it would be the last time I would see him, so it was the chance to say goodbye. Now he's gone, the last of his generation. As kids we adored him, he always made us scream with laughter. Even to the end, he retained his sense of humour. When the nurse came in, he said with a massive cheeky grin, 'I've got a present for you' and produced his bed pan.
My accommodation and me, the morning after the night before, feeling a little bit delicate. The cheeky tenants took the bathroom mirror with them when they left, so I had to use my ipad as a mirror. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I was staying in my mum's empty house and was a bit worried about how it would be, whether memories of how she was when she was living there would make me sad and keep me awake. I needn't have worried. My sis took me out on a pub crawl. Turns out it wasn't maudlin thoughts which kept me awake, it was the wine headache! But we did have fun. A friend from when we were teens has a wine bar in town, so we ended up there, having a good old laugh with him.
Get home, take shoes off, drink coffee, eat toast, go to bed. There's our newly tiled fireplace in the background there, still getting used to it.
I spotted this dress in the vintage bazaar. It's a paisley maxi dress, probably late 60s or early 70s. I wore it out last Friday night when we caught up with friends for drinks.
Then on Saturday after work, my lovely friend Angela came over, bearing gifts! This mirror belonged to her uncle. When his house was cleared out, she discovered it and thought I might like it. She's not wrong!

Thanks Angel-face! xx

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A few days in the Dordogne

At the back end of September we had a few short but lovely days in France, in the Dordogne. It's wine-growing country. We had quite the eventful journey out there, but when we finally landed, the first thing we noticed was that even the tiny airport was surrounded by vines.
The number of vineyards is only equalled by the amount of castles. We only had time for a taster, so our three remaining days took in a chateau, a vineyard and a few little bastide towns.
We went with our friends Claire and Serena. They had the genius idea to do a wine tasting, and since it would have spoiled the experience if one of us had to drive, we found a vineyard near to our gite, strolling down country lanes to get to it.

Chateau Terre Vielle, that's our wine drinking table right there

There we spent an idyllic afternoon in the autumn sunshine, drinking red wine and having big fat juicy psychology discussions. The only thing that was missing was some tasty snacks. We spoke of olives and crisps and cheese. All that talking made us hungry, so we bought another couple of bottles and skipped off home all perky, to eat and drink some more.

Chateau de Beynac, Dordogne
The castle we went to featured in a Luc Bresson film called Jeanne d'Arc. It was everything a castle should be; huge and imposing, and the view over the river Dordogne was beyond compare.
The stables containing three old nags :)

It turns out that the village below the castle was used in the filming of Lasse Halstrom's Chocolat too. I'm going to have to rewatch it to see if I recognise anything.

We spent three days chasing markets. The booklets and the tourist information clearly stated where they were and on which days. We travelled expectantly here, there and everywhere. No markets to be seen!
We finally screeched to a halt at the market in Bergerac just as they were packing up. With minutes to spare, Serena and I both managed to bag ourselves a straw basket. Our dedication and tenacity paid off!
We had a nice mooch around Bergerac with its half-timbered buildings and impressive church. We even found Cyrano, lurking in the undergrowth.
Other than that, we ate, drank, chatted, laughed, basked in the sunshine, swam in the pool and generally enjoyed just being together at our gorgeous gite.

 A wonderful time was had by all. I generally only have one question after a holiday, and that is, where to next?

Sunday, 13 September 2015

A summer trip to London

Back in August, we went down to London to stay with my little sis in her very stylish flat for a couple of days. Liv's a wonderful hostess and great cook, who keeps the food and drink coming; just how we like it!
She's a bit camera shy, but somehow I managed to get a few snaps...
We spent a bit of time mooching around, a little trip up to Herne Hill and Brockwell Park, with a nice walk home through all the back streets, admiring the lovely old houses and gardens. London's a great city for walking, especially if you have time and it's a summer's day.
This is a park straight from the 1970s, the glory days of English parkland! You could just see that photo on a coaster, couldn't you? Crazy paving and the miniature houses. That's especially for you, Em.
We had tickets to go and see the Elvis exhibition at the O2. I think I'm right in saying this is the biggest exhibition of artifacts they've ever had, outside of Graceland, from whence they were borrowed.
Such a little cutie. Did you know his 3x great grandmother was a full blown Cherokee? Morning White Dove. Isn't that a beautiful name?
Elvis died on my dad's birthday, when I was ten. They immediately scheduled a season of programmes about him including a selection of his films. Our parents let us have the black and white portable TV up in our bedroom, which we plonked on a chair. My sisters and I spent most of the summer holidays laid on our beds, with the curtains closed, kicking our legs, singing along to the songs and debating who fancied him the most.
Pestering the poor fellow in my 1960s Hawaiian jumpsuit. You have to dress the part.

Looks like it was me!
There was some fabulously groovy posters, but the lighting was such that it was difficult to photograph anything well. But look at this one. The girl to the left of Elvis is in a bikini which looks like it's made from exactly the same print as my dress! 

It's a sign. Of what, I just don't know.

I really like what this telegram says about Elvis as a person:

'Dear Colonel

Please convey my thanks to the various groups in Memphis who have suggested a special homecoming for me when I return to Memphis. However I wish to return to Memphis the same way that any other serviceman returns to his hometown, without ceremony or fanfare. I served as they served and was proud to do it. Seeing the city of Memphis, my family, friends and fans will be the most welcome sight in the world to me. I appreciate their kind gesture and know they will understand and I am glad you are in agreement with me on this.'

It was a great exhibition, with a really happy feel to it. There were loads of fascinating things to look at. You heard his voice, both speaking and singing. It felt like a celebration and everyone came out smiling.