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