Friday, 18 October 2019

Stone Love - Do or D.I.Y

Couples who lay together, stay together - isn't that what they say? Never mind date nights, mini breaks and surprise gifts, twenty seven years of unmarried bliss is down to us tackling all manner of projects together such as this week's gargantuan task - laying ten tonnes of gravel.


When we bought Stonecoft back in 2005, re-graveling the driveway was on our to-do list but after laying the initial hardcore somehow we never quite got round to finishing it. In recent years it was in such a state that we were probably the only household in the UK who had to mow their drive. Enough was enough. After a friend kindly donated some excess weed suppressant membrane we were spurred into action, Jon laid it out, pegged it down and we flew off to Greece leaving it to do its magic.

 Inspired by Corfu's beautiful pebble beaches, on Tuesday morning we ordered ten tonnes of ocean flint chips from a local builder's merchant and forty eight hours later it was dropped off by grab lorry.

Between the two of us we managed to lay the lot in two days. Not bad considering it took us 14 years to get round to it!

Oh, the glamour!! 

We live in an affluent part of town where the residents usually employ people to do their manual jobs so, as you can imagine, we've been the talk of the neighbourhood this week. Passers-by came to see what we were doing, the local minibus slowed down so the passengers could get a closer look and even the bin men and postman gave us their opinions (a thumbs up from both!) 

Now Stonecoft looks more like it did when my maternal Grandparents lived here....

Taken in 1954. 

Mum on her 21st birthday in 1963.

Those gates are still standing.

Dad admiring Grandpa's new Rover.

Mum and Dad showing off their new baby (me!) in December 1966

I'm off for a long soak in the bath followed by a congratulatory beer or three.

See you soon!

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Winterising My Wardrobe

Living in the UK there's no real need for a dedicated Autumn/Winter wardrobe, apart from the odd blip here and there, we never really experience the extremes of temperature my blogging friends in other parts of the world have to cope with. Despite the incessant rain, the past couple of weeks have remained a steady 17°C, pretty much the same as we had throughout August. Whilst my skimpier dresses and bikinis have been stowed away in the suitcase on top of the wardrobe in readiness for January's Indian adventures (which we booked last week - yay!) and the peep toe clogs & sandals packed away in my straw basket at the bottom of the wardrobe, with a bit of creativity there's no reason on earth why I can't keep wearing the rest of my wardrobe all year round. I love my vintage clothes far too much to mothball them for six months.

At the height of the summer I wore this 1970s Rumak cheesecloth dress, which I found in Oxfam, with clogs, sunglasses and a vintage straw basket.

Fast forward two months and I've added a 1970s deadstock skinny rib polo neck (eBay), my vintage lace-up boots and tooled leather bag (both car boot finds), a charity shopped wide-brimmed wool hat and a tooled leather belt from out of the three for £1 basket in the charity clearance shop. I bought the enamel Rajasthani earrings in India. 

I swapped this vintage Phool block printed midi with a trader friend the week that Slow Fashion Season kicked off back in June. 

Showing uncharacteristic restraint I decided to wait until I was back from Greece to wear it - which cheered me up no end.

I teamed the dress with an early 1970s Phool quilted block printed waistcoat (EyewoodWake Vintage), Aldo wool trilby hat (charity shop), a late 1960s Pakistani mirrored velvet bag (jumble sale) and the chazza shopped olive green velvet boots I acquired the same day, they seem destined to spend their lives together. I'm not a typical blogger in that I get no pleasure from wearing tights and I'll prolong the agony of having to wear the hateful things for as long as possible. I spotted a basket of brand new TopShop lurex lace-trimmed ankle socks in a charity shop last year and, at three pairs for £1, bought the lot. The lace trim is perfect for filling that annoying gap at the top of the ankle boots.  

This gauzy Indian cotton dress was a £10 bargain from eBay back in March and worn with clogs was a go-to dress for much of the Summer. On closer examination, it appears by the ginormous hem that she's actually a maxi dress but I'm keeping her midi length, I think she'd look a bit nightie-like if I mess around unpicking it.

This morning I've popped a bodysuit and a pair of leggings underneath and treated her to an exciting visit to the builder's merchant!

The 1950s leather bag was a jumble sale find and the lion buckle leather belt another bargain from the 3 for a £1 basket. The silver Turkoman earrings were a lucky eBay discovery as were the Doc Marten oxblood Darcie boots. I've been kicking myself not buying these boots when they were launched back in 2006, I've only had to wait 13 years to find a pair within budget! Of course the best thing about buying your Docs secondhand is that someone has already gone through the agonies of wearing them in so they're insanely comfy!

During Slow Fashion Season I made a decision not only to refrain from buying new clothes, which as like-minded women, I'm sure you'll agree wasn't really that much of challenge, but not to buy any new cosmetics, instead using up what I'd already got.

Talk about good timing. Just when the challenge came to an end my beloved Barry M launched their new 70% organic Green Origin nail paint, so I splashed out on three classic Vix colours.

Apart from wearing clothes, booking flights to India and embarking on a DIY project (more on that soon!) life's pretty much as normal as our life ever can be. Now that the festival season is over we can go back to buying our fruit and veg from the market - look at all this for less than £10! There were actually three cauliflowers but I couldn't fit them all in the photo....

We've found a few proper vintage gems in the chazzas. Last Tuesday BBC's Bargain Hunt did a feature on the desirability of 1950s Horrockses dresses (HERE) and the following day I found one in a charity shop, talk about a bizarre coincidence.

On Sunday we traded with the fantastic Pop-Up Vintage Fairs in London's super posh Hampstead. Both my late 1960s psychedelic maxi dress and Jon's Leon Patton 1970s wool blazer were charity shop finds during the week both of which we decided needed to be in our wardrobes rather than on the Kinky rails.

Photo courtesy of Pop-Up Vintage

The venue had changed since we'd last traded in Hampstead and our hearts sunk when we were told that we'd be trading on the fourth floor! Luckily the ground and first floors were below street level so the fourth floor was actually the second floor and with a ramp, two lifts and our trusty sack truck (bought after Jon injured his back last year) we were set up and ready to go in less than an hour and a half. Phew!

We had a fantastic trading day selling to vintage enthusiasts from as far afield as Canada, Australia, Japan, India, the USA, Italy and Spain and, of course, the Horrockses dress was one of the first things to go. We chatted to film makers, Helena Bonham Carter's next door neighbour, Johnny Marr's best mate and spotted a few celebs. As always I was thrilled to see these two incredibly stylish women and, as always, they found a few pieces to tempt them on our rails.

Thanks so much for all the 10th blogoversary wishes and all your lovely messages and emails, I promise to reply individually as soon as I can!

See you soon.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Style Vs Fashion - No Contest!

Isn't it great to look different? A fellow charity shopper said to me as we rummaged side-by-side through the rails this morning and it really is. Having individual style makes us memorable. Strangers strike up conversations and my appearance commented upon everywhere from the dentist's waiting room to the self checkout in the supermarket. I love that charity shop bosses keep things aside for me while other shoppers will pick out clothes they think will suit me and shyly pass them my way.

WEARING: Vintage 1970s Afghan dress (eBay), Russian folklore belt (Cancer UK), 1960s Edwardian-style lace-up leather & suede boots (Car boot sale, 2012)

My blog is ten years old this week so I thought I'd go back to basics with an outfit post and share my thoughts on personal style that I'd written for a friend's blog and still hold true almost a decade later..... 

To own your style you'll have to find it first. For me this came about by ditching buying retail completely and only shopping second-hand. Buying from fashion stores limits your choice to what the professional buyers consider fashionable (the same shaped trousers and skirts, in-season colours or "it" prints)  whereas second-hand shops are a hotch-potch of absolutely everything and you just have to learn to trust your eye and instinct. After six months of limiting yourself to second-hand shopping you'll soon get a taste of what you're attracted to.

Regularly cull your wardrobe and give away/donate/sell anything that doesn't make you feel fabulous.

 If you have to ask others whether something suits you then it needs to go.

Never allow an item of clothing to "wear" you, own it by adding tried and trusted pieces so that the real you shines through.  A necklace fiercely haggled over in an Indian village, a 20-year old denim waistcoat roughly patched together, a tote bag hand-made from a curtain salvaged from a relative's rag bag or a top remade from your boyfriend's old band tee shirt add personality, substance & texture to any outfit I dress in.

My trademark style includes statement pieces of tribal jewellery, vintage suede, dresses in bold colours with interesting prints and a wide-brimmed floppy hat (thanks for the reminder, Sarah!) Including just one of these elements to any outfit means that everything I wear always looks and feels like me. 

I've worn that lapis lazuli ring since my Dad bought it me for passing my Eleven-Plus in 1977, the agate bracelet was a 21st present (almost 32 years ago!)

Fashion? Forget it! All that means is following what is currently popular and who wants to be part of a herd? Finding your own style means you'll never feel inadequate, out-dated or boring ever again. As Quentin Crisp once said, Fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are

New to me! Huge stylised snake earrings made by the Hmong tribe of Vietnam, a lucky eBay find

 Over the last ten years I've met some incredible fellow bloggers, many of whom I've met in real life and can now call friends. Some have vanished without a trace while others defected to the dark side, preferring the ease of Instagram. I'm sure I've pissed off many more with my endless tales of festivals, foreign adventures and my uncompromising vintage lifestyle. Huge love to the women that remain in the blogosphere, entertaining me with great writing, gorgeous photos and inspirational secondhand outfits.  

Here's to the next ten years!

Big love to Tracey who no longer blogs but sent me some Iris corms from her garden - along with a photo of them in full bloom - after I'd admired some when I posted about out trip to Tewkesbury back in the Summer (HERE). Tracey, the email address I have for you no longer works but thanks so much for your kindness!

Friday, 4 October 2019

Village People - Exploring The Hill Town of Lákones

After all the tourists return home, there's only around fifty people left in Paleokastritsa, most of the Corfiots who work there live in the hill town of Lákones, a 4 km hike from the seafront.

With the finest views of Paleokastritsa said to be seen from Lákones, we took advantage of our hire car and visited this precariously perched balcony-village via a twisty paved road with a terrifyingly sheer drop into the Ionian Sea beneath it. Not the most relaxing of driving experiences for someone who hates heights as much as Jon does, I think we'll take the less lazy option next time! 

 Our first stop was for a nerve-calming iced coffee, served on the terrace of the village bakery and, with Lákones not being a tourist spot, the bill was a fraction of the price of the tavernas at the bottom of the hill. From our seats we watched as a number of villagers tended to their plots on the slopes beneath. Most Greeks are self-sufficient, growing their own produce and, when the short five month tourist season comes to a close, their only income is generated from their olive trees but this year has been drier than usual and poor for olive production . Sadly, it looks like being a harsh winter for the Corfiots.

All over Corfu you'll find these death announcements pasted up on telegraph poles. Sadly our knowledge of written Greek is non-existent so I'm unable to tell you if the locals live long lives but judging by the locals we passed in Lákones, I think they probably do.

I have an obsession with photographing old doorways and windows, have you noticed?

I don't use the internet on my travels -  you'll never find me posting on social media when I'm away - but when I got home I googled houses for sale in Lákones and was amazed to find this pretty 18th Century stone dwelling that I'd photographed up for sale at just €55,000. I'm seriously tempted, imagine that view every day of your life and being able to escape bloody Brexit! Fancy joining me?

Meanwhile, back in Paleokastritsa.....

WEARING: 1990s Diesel shirt, 1950s novelty print leisure shirt, contemporary striped shirt with pastel coloured shorts (all charity shopped) and his beloved Birkenstocks.

The Paleo Inn had a perfect little spot for posing before going out for the evening. Packing-wise, I wore everything I packed - I could have got away with taking less but after years of backpacking it's fun to have options!

WEARING: Vintage Mexican maxi dress (2016, birthday present), 1970s Indian cotton block print halterneck (June, 2019, eBay), 1970s Dollyrockers maxi (2011, vintage fair) with a Moroccan tasselled clutch (2018, charity shop)

None of the other (predominately Brit) residents used this terrace, preferring to lie round the swimming pool downstairs - our idea of holiday hell. On the way back from the beach we'd buy a can of beer from the local shop and sunbathe undisturbed up here until sunset.

Although a basic breakfast was included in with our accommodation (toast, butter, jam, juice and coffee or tea) we preferred to buy fruit & Greek yogurt from the local shop and eat breakfast on our terrace and, as we always travel with a kettle and Pukka tea bags, made hot drinks whenever we wanted them. On the days we went exploring we ate Greek salad for lunch and on our beach days took a picnic of village bread, tomatoes, tzatziki and olive pate.

Each and every taverna in Paleokastritsa offers wonderful food (and we've tried most of them!) Sometimes we'd forego a big dinner and order a variety of vegetarian appetisers to share - cheese sagnaki, plaka gigantes, courgette fritters, stuffed vine leaves, oven baked feta cheese, aubergine salad, village mushrooms and the ubiquitous Greek chips! Vegetarian food was plentiful so if Jon, a carnivore, fancied a meaty option (slow roasted lamb shank or mixed gyros which he'd share with any passing cat) I'd have vegan moussaka, briam (roasted, seasonal vegetables) or herby rice stuffed tomatoes & peppers ...yum!

A new discovery for us was the village red wine, served chilled with added ice cubes. A carafe cost around €4.50. It went down a treat.

Cheers, Corfu - you were a joy!

Now we're back to yet more political turmoil, rubbish weather and depressingly dark mornings & evenings not to mention spiders the size of saucers and armies of slugs & snails creeping up the windows. Between downpours we've been working in the garden like demons as well as getting stuck into some serious vintage hunting and subsequent laundering and mending in readiness for this Autumn's vintage fairs. Hopefully I should have booked our next flight outta here before the end of next week.

See you soon!