Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I Capture The Castle

Bloody hell, I must be getting old! When Jon asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, rather than suggesting an all-day bender, I opted for an outing to a National Trust property, Powis Castle in North Wales.

Yesterday was exactly ten years to the day that we'd visited St George's Fort in Chennai, once the official residence of the Governor of Madras, Edward Clive (1754 - 1839). Powis Castle was Clive's British seat. Okay, Wales wasn't quite as tropical as Tamil Nadu but at least we didn't have to run the gauntlet of street vendors, beggars, pi dogs and Madam, Madam, just one photo, please.

First stop was the Clive Museum located in the old library, housing over three hundred Indian artifacts acquired by Edward Clive and his father, Robert (better known as Clive of India). I shan't go into the ethics of how a large part of the collection was acquired, if you've read much Indian history you'll already know that Clive was a complete and utter Tory bastard (William Dalrymple's essay is a wonderful starting point) . It was great to finally see Tipu Sultan's tent, previously on loan to the V&A for their Fabric of India exhibition, although I did think I could make a fab dress from it (it's massive, surely they wouldn't miss a tiny corner?)

The castle dates back to the 13th Century and, unlike nearby castles which were built by the English to subdue the Welsh, Powis Castle was the fortress of a dynasty of Welsh princes.

Like many properties, inside photos weren't allowed. It can be a good thing, I think. You can enjoy the moment rather than feeling pressurised into taking decent blog photos.

When we arrived there were deer loitering around the car park, like a gang of teenagers outside a chip shop. The volunteers told us that they get fed during the winter as conditions make it tough for them to forage for food, so they hang around all day waiting for tidbits. Of course, the moment we attempted to take a photo, the little sods did a runner. 

The peacocks were also ridiculously tame. One of the volunteers had to keep chasing them out of the castle with a broom.

Pom-pom alert! Look away now, Frank!

In the month leading up to Xmas the castle's gardens are illuminated. I loved how even the tiniest of spaces were strung with fairy lights and wicker baubles, it must have taken them months.

 The Baroque style of landscaping apparently caused a sensation back in the day. Even on a damp, foggy day in the depths of winter the garden remained extremely beautiful.

It was good to see traces of India in the planting with banana trees and palms dotted around the more traditional foliage.

These yew trees apparently date back to the 18th Century. I love how they've been clipped.

Guess what? We had such a fab time exploring that we only went and signed up for a years' National Trust membership. Middle-aged respectability albeit in false eyelashes, 4 inch heels, junk jewellery and a psychedelic wardrobe.

Cultured out and freezing cold we made our way back over the border, home. Later on we met the gang in town and went for a bostin' slap-up dinner at Basil of Anatolia, Walsall's new Turkish restaurant, which led to a few too many in 'Spoons afterwards and not rolling out of bed until 11.30 this morning. (Don't tell my brother there's a photo of him on my blog, he'll kill me!)

Judging by yesterday, I think 50 is going to be fun.

Thank you so much for all the birthday messages, you lot totally rock!

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Years Of Living Dangerously

Where's those 30-odd years of my adult life gone? I'm 50 next week. Not that I'm in the least bit bothered about reaching my half-century, I'm simply amazed that I got this far.

All those things we're advised not to do, travelling abroad alone, accepting lifts from strangers, accompanying strange men to their flats for that after-the-pub coffee, walking back from nightclubs barefoot, pissed & oblivious, wading in to break up pub brawls, skinny dipping on remote Asian islands, gatecrashing the Hells Angel clubhouse, being stopped in the street by a man I only vaguely knew and becoming his flatmate 24 hours later.........I've done it all (& more) and come out the other side, battered, bruised but still here to tell the tale.

And will reaching what can only be described as late middle age (in the highly unlikely event that I live to see my 100th birthday) make me calm down? Hell, no! In less than five weeks time we'll be flying halfway around the world, landing at 2am with neither accommodation or any plans whatsoever. That's if we survive the week ahead, I'm already out for four of the next seven nights.

It's just as well us old 'uns have got some get up and go as I'm not seeing much action from the town's youth. We were out last night, braving the cold to fight against austerity, protesting against the proposed cuts in education, libraries, arts and culture which will massively affect the next generation and where were they? Conspicuous by their absence. Not doubt guzzling fast food and moaning on social media about boring Walsall is. They'll be even more bored in a few years time when everything has been sold off or put into storage and there's nothing but a massive Primark and 14 branches of McDonalds (I kid you not, read THIS) left to entertain them. On the bright side we've made The Guardian and have Noddy Holder, Andrew Tift and Grayson Perry on our side.

Frank's op went well although he wasn't too happy about it (the above photo is his post-surgery face) and has just been back to the vet for a check-up. I stayed in and kept him company for the first 48 hours then made up for lost time by going out on a charity shop spree. I love charity shops in December, most shoppers are so caught up in the madness of Xmas that they're often deserted and usually bursting with stock due to people having a massive declutter to make room for all the tat they're expecting on 25th December. 

Clockwise from top left: Susquehanna Hat Company "Marlowe" Fedora; Fringed lurex & velvet shawl; 1950s Dunlop plimsolls; 1980s velvet mini dress; Alexon wool coat; St Michael cord blazer; Fair isle hand knit; 1980s crushed velvet body suit; Mustard tartan midi; Huge 1960s "Tatton" screen print curtains; fake leopard hat; fake fur hat; Derby tweed cap; 1950s Tootal scarf; St Michael tweed jacket; Jaeger jumper. 
I've been living in these metallic Chelsea boots since they arrived last week. The fad for them must be well and truly over as they're already on eBay and half price on the website. To make room on my shoe rack I stuck four pairs of car booted/charity shopped and handed-down boots from my collection on eBay which not only paid for my new ones but yielded enough money to buy all of Jon's Xmas presents, a couple of maxi dresses for me and some factor 30 facial sun cream. Not bad considering all four pairs only cost me a total of £12!

WEARING: 1960s suede mini (Second To None, 2014), Big sleeved blouse (made by me using 1970s Rose & Hubble fabric bought from a charity shop), mustard tights (charity shop), Vintage pendant (the fabulous Em)

We're trading at Dee's vintage fair (Kinky's final one for 2016) in Taunton on Sunday and, as it's a three hour drive away, we're travelling down tomorrow and staying overnight.  It'll be the first time we've left Stephen Squirrel and Frank together in the house. I've invested in some Feliway Friends to reduce the risk of any skirmishes and the cat sitter is popping in twice.  I hope we've still got a roof over our heads on our return.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday

Monday, 28 November 2016

Ain't Going To Goa...Yet!

Today is sunglasses and big coat weather, which I like...
....but nowhere near as much as I like sunglasses and no coat weather.

10 months ago today, Benaulim beach at sunset. My recycled sari dress came from the 99 rupee shop in the village (99 rps was equal to £1 at the beginning of the year, not so now, bloody Brexit!)

Fed up with being told to buy nothing on Black Friday I went and booked a couple of flights to Goa. While I agree with not spending for the sake of it, I loathe being told what to do. I'm such a middle-aged rebel. I'm flicking my pigtails in defiance.

Sunshine or not, after yesterday's 17 hour day sunglasses were a necessity this morning. While Camden was no record breaker trade-wise we took as much as we normally do at the locally-based vintage fair we turned down in London's favour. Although the alternative was only twenty minutes down the road and the pitch fee was the same, there's acts doing covers of songs from the 1940s & 1950s and a large proportion of visitors who delight in telling you that their Nan/mum/auntie used to have one of those. 

Life's too short to spend doing fairs that feel like a chore. We opted for a six hour commute, sung along to 1980s dance music and hung out with people with a genuine understanding of vintage like our friends Fiona, Melanie and Ray.

I'm wearing a 1970s lurex catsuit (bought from a jumble sale in 2011 for 20p), silver Chelsea boots and a 1960s chain belt from my friend Eileen (who blogs here)

We even got presents! Melanie & Ray give us some vintage china, scarves, jewellery, Alan McGee's book, vintage velvet curtains, a Kangol velvet beret and a sparkly purse as well as some The Face magazines from the early 1980s. (And you don't need to tell me that you used to have some of those, we all did!)

Despite being half dead this morning we wrapped up and walked into town to blow away the cobwebs.  There's something wonderfully subversive about standing at the checkout with a basket of sun tan lotion when everyone else is loaded down with wrapping paper, celebrity perfume and naff gift packs. We're not going for weeks but I'm buggered if I'm venturing into mainstream retail shops any closer to Xmas.

Check me out - I'm not wearing Barry M lipstick. This is Flaunt It from Sleek. I bought it when Superdrug had a three for two offer on make-up. (Don't worry, the other two purchases were Barry M!) I've been looking for a cruelty-free true orange lipstick most of my adult life, I think this is the one.

WEARING: 1960s vinyl & fake fur coat (£1, clearance charity shop), Vintage psychedelic maxi (swapped with another trader at a fair last year), 1960s Clarks' Fireflies gold pumps (nicked from the stockroom), Primeta, West German sunglasses (20p, car boot sale)

This week we've got Frank's pom-pom removal, a massive demonstration against council cuts, an art gallery preview and preparation for our last vintage fair of the year (HERE) but all that can wait. Tonight is pizza, booze, a roaring log fire and the latest BBC Scandi-Noir on catch-up.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday

Thursday, 24 November 2016

My Life In Orange

I know, I'm so behind the times. Vintage by name, age & wardrobe, hopelessly outdated by nature, that's me. I've finally read Caitlin Moran's book, How To Be A Woman. Being the thrifty chick I am, I didn't buy into the hype and thought I'd wait until it turned up in a charity shop. It only took four years. 

I'm a bit crap when things get hyped up. I still haven't watched Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Game of Thrones because I'm scared I won't like them and be even more of a freak than I already am. Luckily I loved How To Be A Woman, parts of it made me laugh out loud while others had me nodding away to myself, agreeing with every word. Off for a night out dressed in something from a jumble sale,I'm sitting at the back of the bus applying Barry M nail polish which cost £1, could have been written by me. Of course it helps that Caitlin Moran's a Black Country girl and shares the same self depreciating sense of humour. 

You should never describe your look as being "a mixture of high street and vintage" Caitlin writes, Remember how angry it makes you when Fearne Cotton says it. Don't let the abused become the abuser, so I won't. Instead I'll say that everything I'm wearing is somebody else's cast off, except the bag, which I bought new in Goa for £1.50. Well, a girl's gotta treat herself occasionally. 

Wearing: Lurex cardi (Mango via Beacon Centre for The Blind, £1.99), Felt hat (Car boot sale, 20p), Jane Shilton boots (Car boot sale, free), 1970s satin paisley print maxi (courtesy of Helga), Glass dragonfly choker (Originally from Biba in 1967, inherited from my Mum)

Talking of second-hand, here's this week's charity shop finds:

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hawaiian novelty print shirt; American-made fedora; 1970s Collier Campbell skirt, blouse and headscarf set; Icelandic style wool jacket; American-made fedora; Punjabi waistcoat; St Michael cropped fake fur; Navy leather bomber jacket; Gents scarves; 1980s New Romantic style shirt; Midnight blue velvet blazer.

People often stop me when I'm out and about and tell me that they're followers of my blog (which still amazes me) but for years Jon was the recognised face of the relationship from his time as lead guitarist with indie legends, The Charlatans. If you want to know more about his days as a pop star either get him pissed or read THIS in-depth interview with top music blog, Louder than War. It's ace!

Insane-sleeved 1970s velvet jacket (Liebchen Vintage), Velvet scarf trimmed with pompoms and tassels (99p, Whistles via a charity shop) ...more high street mixed with vintage.....please don't call me Fearne....
 We're trading with Judy's in Camden on Sunday (details HERE). Do come and see us if you're in London town. It's our penultimate fair of 2016.

Work means we've had to postpone Frank's op as we've been warned that he'll need painkillers for 48 hours and, as we've got an 18 hour day ahead of us, we won't be around to administer them properly.  The marvelously monochrome pompoms are safe until Tuesday!!

See you soon and Happy Thanksgiving to Americans everywhere (with one notable angry & orange exception who shall remain nameless.)

Updated to link with Judith's Hat Attack.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Bollywood & Beyond

It's truly horrible outside, it's been lashing it down for hours, freezing cold, dark and windy but you'd never guess from these photos. With the glow from my riotously colourful patchwork, it's always sunny in our house.

I thought I might have been in danger of blending in with my surroundings, sitting on the chaise in my quilted patchwork maxi, but I think that you can just about make me out. 

My fabric stash is running on empty so sewing was a no-no this weekend. Instead I had a massive jewellery sort out and made some earrings with the cast-offs.

I'd had these Tiger beer bottle tops stashed away for ages and combined with some 1960s images of Bollywood goddesses, Helen & Sharmila Tagore, pinched from the internet & printed out on photo paper, a rusty Lamani tribal necklace and some broken earrings bought in Mumbai I made these (I say me, Jon did the drilling, I'm not great with intricate stuff).

Ta-dah! I'm going to have to drink more beer so I can make's a hard life!

WEARING: Bri-nylon blouse (made by me using a 1970s pattern & vintage psychedelic fabric ), Vintage quilted maxi skirt (Vintage Village @ Stockport Market Hall), 1980s Finnish-made suede boots (bought from a blogger), Urban Outfitters neon & perspex belt (present from Liz)
In other news Frank's been for his check-up and is booked in for pom-pom removal on Friday. The vet reckons he's about three years old and in remarkably good nick considering he's been living rough for at least a year, he's also very impressed with the size of his plums. We've had him chipped and keep following him around the house saying, You're my cat now, in an evil League Of Gentleman way. Poor boy. 

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday and Natalia, Tina & Beate's Midlife Fun.