Thursday, 1 October 2015

Free At Last - Goodbye, Dad

When the phone rang at 6.48am this morning I already knew. Dad had gone. It was no surprise, we'd made the decision not to proceed with a feeding tube any longer. The kindest thing was to allow his failing body to naturally decline. It was only a matter of time. The doctors told us days or maybe hours, but he clung on for fourteen days, diminishing before our eyes, always a slightly built man but towards the end, his form was almost skeletal.

Dementia is a cruel disease, robbing sufferers of their personality and their dignity. My father, intensely private, a man of few words, with a past packed with adventure, globe trotting, fine wine and fast cars* disappeared. Just weeks after Mum's death he changed almost overnight. Haunted by hallucinations and terrified, he'd turn up on our doorstep begging us to help him to get the intruders out of his house. He'd ring the police in the middle of the night, convinced that Mum was being held captive in the house next door and that I was part of the plot. Neighbours and visitors would complain about his odd behaviour.

The day I spent with a team of medical staff and social workers, trying to calm him while he ranted, raved and foamed at the mouth, culminating ten hours later with him being sectioned under the Mental Heath Act as being a danger to himself, taken away against his will and held in a psychiatric ward, is the day I finally felt like a grown-up.

After weeks of tests his condition was recognised as dementia rather than schizophrenia. His behaviour was modified with drugs and he was eventually calm enough to be transferred to a nursing home for his own safety, never again to return home. There he was cared for, treasured by the staff and treated with love and respect but the person we visited wasn't Dad. The man who disliked physical contact, popular music, commercial television, baked beans and sweet tea relished full English Breakfasts in front of This Morning, he'd hold hands with the staff, sway to songs on Radio Two and drink mugs of tea with three sugars. At first he vaguely recognised my brother and Jon but with me he was clueless, getting agitated and wandering off, preferring to march up and down the corridor in his own world.

Over the last five years his condition continued to deteriorate. Conversation was impossible and if he sat still long enough he'd simply mutter a jumble of words, often related to the RAF, Interpol, missed flights and border control. The staff suspected he was once involved in some form of military intelligence, something we'll never now know.

Towards the end he stopped eating and refused to leave his bed. For the last month he hadn't opened his eyes or even spoken.

How do I feel? Is it awful to say that I'm relieved? For the last fortnight I've gasped every time the phone rung, fearing the inevitable. Finally that awful knot in my stomach has unravelled, the overwhelming sense of guilt that I don't visit him as often as I should and the feeling of utter powerless when I did and he turned his back on me and walked away.

My Dad died today but we lost my father five years ago.

Norman Ernest Brearley

29th May, 1929 - 1st October, 2015

* Dad's adventurous past HERE

Monday, 28 September 2015

Border Crossing - Kinky Takes A Trip

Saturday took us to Wales' fine capital city, Cardiff and, due to last weekend's camera cock-up, I was able to get away with wearing the same dress for work twice in a row. From the house of high-end designer Ricci Michaels of Mayfair, I bought it from Vintage Relics, our neighbours at the End of the Road festival. It got loads of love on each outing.

The British Heart Foundation* bag Jon was carrying in Friday's blog photo contained the Savile Row shirt (with cuff-links still attached) he's wearing. 

*We're not environmentally irresponsible, we'd already filled the two cloth bags we'd taken with us and had no choice!

Em was visiting her lovely mum and popped into Cardiff's magnificent Portland House to see us. Check out the she gave me. Does she remind you of anyone? She took pride of place on the Kinky pitch all day. I think she brought us luck.

As she came from Wales she's staying close to Sir Tom (this was his second album, A-Tom-Ic Jones, released in 1966).

Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair in Cardiff was phenomenal. Customers turned up in their thousands and business was brilliant. As we discovered at Kaya, the Welsh really appreciate their true vintage. 

Portland House is Grade II listed building, a former bank built in 1927 and recently restored (full history and great photos HERE). Belinda, one of the team who work there, took me on a tour of the amazingly atmospheric underground vaults which play host to a nightclub.

Clockwise from top left: Three x 1960s duffel bags; Crimplene jacquard blazer; Denim cropped jacket; psychedelic chiffon maxi;1970s wool cape; 1970s buttercup yellow midi; Cropped puppy tooth jacket; 1970s STAX midi; Green print maxi; psychedelic midi; Tissavel fake fur; Geo-print maxi skirt; Crochet waistcoat; Psychedelic maxi skirt (now Em's!); 1960s scooter dress; 1970s floral midi; Astraka fake fur; Psychedelic penny collar 1960s tunic, Purple maxi dress

We'd had a bumper week of vintage finds and sold a lot of them on Saturday. The orange chiffon maxi is a keeper! 

Clockwise from top left: Cuban Guayabera shirt; Suede belted coat; Leather brogues; 1950s fedora; 1960s tweed suit; Camel overcoat; Slip-on platform loafers; Campri 1970s windcheater; Cashmere & wool car coat; Green leather blazer; Campri 1970s windcheater; 1950s fedora; Cue by Austin Reed belted raincoat, 1980s leopard print leisure shirt.
As most of South Wales seemed to be in the buying mood it rubbed off on us, too. 

I treated myself to this 1970s Pippa Dee beach dress (quick drying nylon with padded boobs) and fringed & studded 1960s suede waistcoat from the fabulous Make Do and Vintage.

Jon harnessed his inner Starsky and snapped up this Icelandic knit cardi.

We're joining Judy's again this weekend, trading at Bethnal Green in London on Sunday. I'd better go shopping, those gaps on our rails need filling.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.

Friday, 25 September 2015

From My Hometown

Walsall's changing. Some call it progress but I can't get excited about yet more fast food outlets and a massive Primark dominating the skyline. 

I barely visit town any more. Half the charity shops have moved out and the stock in the remainder is depressingly shoddy, little wonder as parking outside to drop off donations is nigh-on impossible with the one way system and double yellow lines. In a couple more weeks it'll be nothing but clapped-out Atmosphere dominating the rails once the town's population tire of the purchases they made when Primark opened its doors eight weeks ago.

There's a few interesting indie shops holding out against the retail giants. The Curio Shop opened in 1969 and remains packed to the rafters with all manner of antiquities, junk and house clearance curiosities.

Eerie Ink is just one of many tattoo parlours in the town. If you ain't got a tattoo you're considered a bit weird round here although THIS local chap might have taken the ink loving a bit too far.

Market House has been beautifully restored but stands empty.

I'd love those Corinthian columns outside our front door. (Identifying Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns, my grammar school education wasn't a total waste).

The modern building to the left replaced Shannon's Mill, a clothing company which, at its height in 1887 employed 600 people and made almost 180,000 garments. It was destroyed by arsonists in 2007. The gate house with the chimney is the only part that remains, for years Ace of Hearts, a tattoo parlour run by a mother and daughter.

Walsall's always had a huge Mod scene. We've even got a dedicated club.

The School of Art opened in 1908. It was built in 1859 and was originally the town's Free Library. 

My Grandma took a few courses here in the early 1970s. One of her classmates was the notorious serial killer known as the Black Panther

 Directly opposite the old college is fabric shop, The Hole in the Wall. Back in the early 1980s most of this area was derelict and occupied by squatters. The coolest of the bunch was Boy George who lived with Walsall lad Martin Degville, later to become lead singer of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Seeing him walking around town dressed in a silver spacesuit or an Elizabethan ruff with his dog dressed to match was a familiar sight. Nobody really batted an eyelid - or if they did they didn't dare say anything, he was built like a brick sh*thouse.  

A middle-aged woman in a psychedelic catsuit is tame by comparison.

Jon's standing outside a derelict sandwich bar. Who can afford to compete with The Pound Bakery? He's anxious to get back home, if you can't tell by his face. He did manage to find a few treasures in the chazzas after all.

Just time to capture the fabulous interiors shop that is 34a

A mix of French antiquities, industrial chic, retro and salvage. It's like someone burgled our house and put it all in a shop window.

WEARING: Sportaville 1960s catsuit (Second To None, Walsall's legendary vintage emporium), Bertie platforms (charity shop), Fringed leather bag (made by my friend Fran), 1970s sunnies (Moseley Vintage & Retro Fair)

We're trading in Wales with Judy's in Cardiff tomorrow (Details HERE) . Come and see us if you can!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

V Dubs in the Avenue

After setting up our pitch at V Dubs in the Valley and opening for business I discovered that the camera was as flat as a pancake and that I'd left the charger on the kitchen table so not a single photo was taken all weekend. You'll have to take my word for the last festival of 2015 being fantastic with good sales, great weather and cool customers, spent with some fabulous people in a glorious setting.

Instead let me bring you V Dubs in the Avenue, a celebration of vintage VWs in our own front garden.

Yes, we are those neighbours, the ones with a drive full of vehicles in varying states of road worthiness.

There's Ebbie, our 1970 Type 4 411 LE Variant, believed to be one of only 200 left on the road in the UK. She passed her MOT this morning so here's to another year of motoring.

WEARING: 1970s German-made psychedelic maxi (Gem's Bits n Bobs @ Stockport's Vintage Village), 1930s Liberty, London silk scarf  & Indian tribal pendant (car boot sales)

Next to Gilbert (our faithful T25) is a 1969 VW T2 camper, apparently a much sought after "low light" model. She's awaiting work (unless Jon gets an offer he can't refuse!) There's a third campervan in a friend's garage, what is he like? He collects vehicles like I do maxi dresses.

Bertie Blue is our workhorse. He takes us and the Kinky stock to vintage fairs up and down the country. Not much of a looker but roomy, reliable and cheap to run.

This zippy little white cabriolet is a 1984 Golf MK1 Karmann GTi. Considered a classic these days, he's looking for a good home (Find him HERE).

Not one of these is my ride. I can't drive! I've had 15 lessons in my life. I'm brilliant at parallel parking and three point turns but get me on the open road and I'm a danger to society, clipping kerbs & driving over roundabouts, screeching to a halt at pedestrian crossings causing mass panic amongst the public.

Trust me, I'm much safer in the passenger seat.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

My Vintage Life - Secondhand Shopping & Sewing

I love buying second-hand. Shopping retail holds no appeal. Racks of identical dresses, row upon row of the same pair of shoes, clothes displayed in suggested outfits, no imagination required. There's nothing to beat the adrenaline rush when you spot an extravagant sleeve or wild print peaking out from a rail in a charity shop or from a pile of tat heaped up on a tarpaulin sheet at a car boot sale, getting it home and trying it out with pieces you already own .

Wearing: Vintage rose print maxi (courtesy of Heather), Customised leather jacket (Charity shop, £5), Topshop canvas platform boots (Charity shop, £2.95), Tribal necklace (Ila Pop)
I never tire of second-hand shopping, which is just as well, considering I make a living from it.

Here's last week's finds, freshly laundered and ready for new homes. Recycling at its most groovy.

Clockwise from top left: 1970s English Lady pussy bow blouse; a pair of 1930s carved Gentian brooches; 1980s crazy daisy wool jumper (ready for next year's festivals); Vintage scarves galore; Quilted 70s waistcoat; 1960s Hawaiian midi dress; West German fake fur jacket; 1960s rainbow suede mini skirt; Bell sleeve dragon print maxi; Hippy-tastic sheepskin jacket; more knitwear for next year's festival season; Groovy Lurex tank top; Art Deco inspired 1980s jacket; Tooled leather bag; 1970s polka dot halter dress
Clockwise from top left: 1970s velvet blazer; African leisure shirt;1960s Hepworths car coat; Tootal velvet tie; Luigi Rossi casual shirt; 1970s wool flares; Vintage prescription glasses; London Fog jacket ; fab 1960s Tootal & Sammy scarves; Leather ankle boots; All wool Aquascutum jacket; Harris Tweed blazer; Failsworth of Manchester Fedora.

A walk to the opticians yesterday led to the inevitable browse around the chazzas, resulting in this red 1970s maxi with a super cool label accompanying me home. Meant for the stockroom but once tried I had to keep it, but, sticking to Vix's wardrobe law, several maxi dresses (and a pair of boots) have been donated to the Kinky rails, ensuring my collection doesn't get out of hand.

What's as much fun as shopping? Sewing! This week I put a day aside to get to grips with the bastard massive mending/re-purposing/rescuing pile threatening to take over the stockroom.

I love getting my mitts on tatty vintage clothes and giving them a new lease of life, like the oil stained 1980s suede trousers which I refashioned into shorts (How good would they look with opaque tights, f*ck-off lace up boots and a skin tight band tee?) . The suede offcuts became elbow patches adding interest to a nondescript 1960s blazer, giving it a Country Mod vibe. The leather "football" buttons on the jacket were salvaged from a moth-eaten cardi.

A bed cover became a mini dress and a curtain, a kimono, trimmed with fringe ripped off an old tablecloth. I can almost close the fabric trunk now.

We're off to V Dubs in the Valley tomorrow for our final festival of the Summer 2015 (sob!) Better get packing.

See you soon.