Sunday, 8 January 2017

Traveling Light(ish) - What's In My Bag?



If I was travelling in true vintage style I'd be carrying pre-war luggage and a copy of S Reuben's 1939 Travellers In India*, the essential guide to the subcontinent written during the Days of the Raj. With the book's help we'd be able to find a suitable Europeans-only club, hire a man with a horse-drawn carriage and avoid any petty hotel run by Hindus and Mohammedans.  We'd be embarking on a four month voyage by sea with a chance we'd succumb to cholera on the way.

*Courtesy of dear friends, Lynn & the Welder.

While the luggage isn't half as attractive, the guide is a lot more PC. The flight takes 9.5 hours and the worst ailment we're likely to suffer is a stiff back and swollen ankles. Fully packed, my bag weighs in at 12kg (and Jon's at 10 kg) so a simple tuk tuk should suffice.

So what's in my bag?


Buddha print vest, butterfly top; vintage zig-zag halter; cotton bustier; Rajasthani mirror work top; gypsy top made from silk sari; 1970s Falmer waistcoat;  black printed 1970s tunic - all bought secondhand (except the vest) 

If you're wondering, the mysterious eBay buy was the vintage denim waistcoat. My trusty original, despite being patched last year, was still more hole than denim. I'm tempted to burnt it and scatter the ashes in India.
Four maxi skirts: Cotton Cottage block-print wraparound (bought new in India last year), black cotton gypsy skirt; Vintage Chelsea Girl block print wraparound; 1970s Dollyrockers skirt

I've knocked the vintage maxi dresses on the head, I wear separates more. These cotton jersey dresses are easy and lightweight and perfect for slinging on for our early morning beach walk.

 
Bikinis: Fringed blue (bought from eBay in 2014), Top Shop Peace bandeau (car boot sale), heidi klein (freebie, 2013)



Birkenstocks, Indian rose gold chappals, Charity shopped Converse (with gel insoles, they're utter bastards for people with dodgy joints)



This Rajasthani fringed beast will be my carry-on bag, the Jaipuri leather cross-body bag used for day trips and nights out and the huge tote (I made from a vintage curtain) is for the beach and shopping.


A pile of sarongs (which we use as everything from a cover-up, a makeshift beach shelter, curtain or towel), a couple of  block-printed silk scarves and an oversized, foldable straw hat.

Bags that can hung up are a must when you're staying in teeny tiny rooms and beach huts and I always buy them if I see them going cheap. This spotty one stores my jewellery, make-up and hair bands. I carry two pairs of sunglasses in my hand luggage as it's inevitable I'll break one. 


Beauty stuff: I only bother with make-up at night and even then its kept to the bare minimum, creme blusher & black kohl. The lipstick is just in case, I rarely bother but this Barry M one is quite sheer and makes me feel a bit more "dressed up" just in case we have a night out in a city and dine somewhere fancy. When we're away I only paint my toenails, which I'll touch up if it chips. I do my own lash extensions and pack a few spares if and when they fall out.


Jewellery : You've already seen what I'm wearing to travel in, this is the rest of it and trust me, this is the least I've ever taken. Four pairs of earrings, tribal anklets and an armlet, a coin belt, 10 silver bangles, a couple of toe rings, three rings (I'm wearing the other three to travel in) and four necklaces. I know you can buy silver in Goa but over the years the prices have rocketed and, as we're not in the touristy North, the choice in the Southern villages isn't usually great.


Another bag that can be hung up and my groovy holy cow bag. What's inside?


Other than sun protection and the solid Lush Karma shampoo (brilliant for washing not only my hair & body but also our clothes) & Jungle conditioner (which doubles up as an ace shaving cream when I do my legs) we never buy toiletries specifically for our travels, we take what we've got and replace them when we run out. Most major brands are available in India for a fraction of the price we pay at home and we're doing our bit to support the local economy.


We use once a day sun cream. It costs more but you can pack less so its ideal if, like us, you travel around a lot. Calypso is a British budget brand and, unlike a lot of the costlier stuff, it passed all the British Standard tests for sun protection. We've used it for years, even in the blistering heat of pre-monsoon Goa and never burnt. (Wilkos seems to be the cheapest stockist). My face used to get horribly spotty in the sun until I tried this Once sun cream. I found a new, still sealed tube on eBay for £5, half the price it retails for in Boots. We usually buy our Aloe Vera after sun in India but this was leftover from the Summer.

First Aid & Essentials: Plasters, painkillers (just one strip, Indian pharmacies are cheap as chips), after bite cream, a nail kit & sewing kit, sink plug (pretty much non-existent in India, even in posh hotels) and a nail brush. In my hand luggage I'll carry the anti-bacterial hand gel and the almost empty Odomos mossie repellent as we land at the peak biting time (we'll buy more when we run out.). The tissues are another hand luggage essential, the toilet attendants at Goa's Dabolim airport are notorious for hiding the loo roll and demanding cash before they'll hand over a few sheets. Best to be prepared and beat them at their own game.

Block print bedspread we'll as a beach blanket, a silk double sleeping bag (a welcome luxury in our £5 a night budget rooms), a journal and pen, an up-to-date Rough Guide, camera and my (new to me but secondhand) E reader plus chargers. I've downloaded over 200 free eBooks so I should be okay.

Packed - but not snapped - mosquito net, torch, travel kettle, travel plug, enamel camping mugs, a set of fold-away vintage travel hangers and a cheap mobile phone (with an Indian sim card) so we can call and book rooms in advance. We don't travel with Smartphones, laptops and the like, if on the rare occasion that we need the World Wide Web, we go to an Internet cafe. We've also got multiple copies of our travel insurance documents, passports and tourist visas.As always we split our clothes between our two bags. That way, if a bag goes missing, we've got something to wear.


So what are our plans for the next month? Absolutely none. Tropical beaches, bustling cities, ancient monuments, vibrant markets, trains, Ambassador taxis, tuk tuks, boats and buses.....four weeks of adventure await!


See you in February!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Adventures In Charity Shopping - The 2017 Edition



My first charity shop buy of the year....and, shock, horror it's not even vintage!


Aside from being younger than the contents of my spice cupboard, this TopShop floral tee ticks all the boxes, the right fit (which is madness considering it's a UK Size 6 - no wonder there's an obesity crisis, nobody has a clue what size they are anymore), super soft velvet devoré, the £36 tag still attached and priced at just £1. I'd been pondering on what to wear this vintage quilted maxi skirt with and, combined with these Mary Portas Armery sleeves Liz gave me for Xmas, it all came together quite nicely.

Topshop tee (clearance charity shop), 1970s quilted maxi skirt (free from a fellow trader at Vintage Village at Stockport Market Hall as the zip had broken), Fringed suedette waistcoat (clearance charity shop), Vintage Pakistani bullion work velvet tote (jumble sale), Armery sleeves (gift), floppy felt hat (car boot sale)  
What else did I find on my travels? A fairly decent vintage fix which should tide me over until I next hit the chazzas....in mid-February!

Clockwise from top left: Spanish souvenir glasses and ice bucket set; "Feminine" 1970s maxi dress; Jaeger pleated wool midi skirt; 1950s Lotus leopard boots; "Feminine" blazer which matches the dress but a different size; Repro spice tin; 1980s Empress leather knee boots; 1960s patchwork leather bag; 1950s Clarks' boots; 1960s vinyl handbag

I'd drafted a post on the contents of my travel bag but I'm still waiting for the elusive eBay item. I've had an email confirming that it's on its way so hopefully I can publish it before I leave. 

Other than the last minute purchase I'm pretty much packed and ready to go. I've even sorted out what I'm wearing to travel in, which is a first. Deciding what to wear on a long haul flight takes more effort than choosing the entire contents of a month-long travel wardrobe. A normal person can wear a winter coat and boots to the airport, board the flight, arrive at their hotel, stick the lot in the wardrobe and forget all about it until they fly home. As we never stay in one place we have to lug all our belongings around with us, so what we take has to be as lightweight as possible but also keep us from freezing our tits off on the 4am drive to Manchester, the car park courtesy bus to the airport and the hideous air-conditioning at both the airport and on the flight.

I've gone for layers - cotton jersey maxi dress, a long sleeved Hindu print cotton tee, a cashmere cardi and a huge velvet scarf with baseball boots and knee-high socks underneath. Its complete madness to think that if I'd bought the Miu Miu cardi, Whistles scarf and Converse All Stars at their full retail price, they'd have cost £550 (pretty much the same as I paid for our flight to India). Luckily, all three came from charity shops for a combined total of £5. Fancy labels or world travel? No competition, really.


I'm the idiot at security who always holds everyone else up by pulling all my jewellery off at the last minute (I feel naked without it). This time I'm being sensible and wearing the bare minimum, my 3 favourite rings, a cuff I had from Liz's Mum for my 50th and this plated bronze, Turkish abeque bracelet.  



This was from philanthropic American company Accompany, who sell artisan made, fairly traded, global goods. A few weeks ago they emailed me and asked if they could send me a gift, with no obligation to write about it on my blog and I was thrilled to receive this. Their website is a joy, a virtual trawl of the best foreign markets in the world. I'm more than happy to promote an ethical business - it makes a change from all those "Dear blogger" emails I'm bombarded with trying to get me to flog dodgy Chinese-made dresses.


Hooray! The postman's just been, my travel bag is complete and there will be a packing post before I go. Before that I've got a celebratory date at Wetherspoons, it's my prosthetic hip's 11th birthday tomorrow.

See you soon!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Block Rocking Beats


The things I do for my blog...like posing in a backless halterneck dress when it's 3°C outside.

It's the budget version of Bollywood Helen's Piya Tu Ab To Aaja routine

As I'd mentioned sewing like a demon I thought I'd better model one of my creations. The delicate pale green fabric was part of a parcel sent to me by a lovely Facebook friend, Pauline, after she'd had a pre-Xmas clear out. I loved the weighty, silk-like feel of the material but felt like it was lacking something so, after cutting out the pattern pieces, Jon & I block printed the fabric using some car-booted fabric paint and a couple of wooden printing blocks we'd bought for a few rupees in Goa years ago.


I fixed the paint with a hot iron and sewed it all together. Hopefully the cows and lovebirds won't come out in the wash.


Using the same dressmaking pattern, I made another maxi using this synthetic devoré-type fabric, also in Pauline's parcel.  The Red or Dead carpet bag was £2 and my last charity shop find of 2016. I'd only popped into town to go to the bank but you know how it is.


The Lamani gypsy choker I'm often wearing is one of a pair of anklets but the string was on its last legs (and starting to throttle me) and, over the years, several of the coins had lost their bells so I got rid of the broken ones, added a few Afghan dress clips I'd had for ages and strung them on a couple of shoelaces. Much better, tribal bling without the asphyxiation. 


The Kinky shed is getting a cheery paint job in the Spring so I've Vix-ed it up in the meantime. I made the garden bunting from a broken roller blind a neighbour was chucking out. The psychedelic bird house was hand painted by Liz. I'm hoping "S", my cheeky little Robin, shows it some love soon. (That's after Robin S, if you're not into your 1990s dance).


I finally got round to hanging the Bob Peak "French Line" print I'd dithered over spending a quid on in a charity shop.  It's only been propped up against the bathroom wall since last April . To mark the occasion I knocked up a mini pom pom garland.



Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

Hope your 2017 has got off to a bostin'* start. Ours has! This week will mainly be spent packing our bags (keep your fingers crossed that my cheeky last minute eBay purchase arrives before D-Day!)

See you soon.


*Black Country for excellent.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Walking In A Winter Wonderland




It's the middle of winter, there's two inches of ice underfoot and it's zero degrees centigrade. I know, let's go and visit a garden.

For larger images click on the photo

Don't worry, I haven't taken leave of my senses. This is Biddulph Grange and no ordinary suburban garden. To be honest, who wouldn't be intrigued after reading Behind a gloomy Victorian shrubbery there's a gloomy Victorian mansion, but behind that lurks one of the most extraordinary gardens in Britain...it contains whole continents, including China and Ancient Egypt – not to mention Italian terraces and a Scottish glen


Biddulph Grange was home to James Bateman (1811 - 1897), the son of a rich industrialist. Bateman moved into the once modest rectory with his wife, Maria, in 1840 and used his wealth to enlarge the house and to purchase specimens bought back from the great Victorian plant-hunters. Assisted by his friend, Edward Cook, an artist, keen designer and son to the owner of one of the largest plant nurseries of the day, together they set about creating a garden worthy of his collection.



The house was rebuilt after the original burned down in 1896. From 1923 until 1991 it was used as a hospital, originally called the North Staffordshire Cripple's Hospital (not very PC), renamed The Biddulph Grange Orthopaedic Hospital in later years. Over time the gardens fell into disrepair and were taken over by the National Trust in 1988. The house remains privately owned.

For larger images click on the photo

Midwinter it might be but there's nothing bleak about Biddulph Grange. Even on a day like today,  blighted by freezing fog and biting cold, it's still bloody gorgeous.


Colour, texture and interest wherever you look.


 Hidden away down well-worn stone steps and secret tunnels lurk a world of secret gardens.

For larger images click on the photo

Travel to Italy to meander down neat avenues, admire the topiary and the marvelously ornate planters.



Visit China where gaudy pagodas and golden icons are reflected in the frozen lake,

For larger images click on the photo

Climb tiny steps cut into the rockery, ring the brass temple bells and watch the sunlight streaming through the trees.
For larger images click on the photo

Wonder at the weirdness of Britain's first stumpery - an almost lunar landscape created from felled oaks.


Explore an Egyptian pyramid, cut from privet and flanked by a pair of handsome sphinxes.

In summer, with its famed Dahlia walk, banks of Rhododendrons and Wellingtonias (whatever they might be) and, apparently, the oldest golden larch in Britain, Biddulph Grange must be beautiful but there's something hauntingly lovely about it in winter (and having the place almost to ourselves was pretty special.)

Get your coat, love, you've pulled.
Biddulph Grange Garden, Grange Road, Biddulph, Staffordshire ST8 7SD


I turned my PC off on Xmas Eve and, not owning a Smartphone, I've been off-line for almost a week. The only TV we've watched has been films we've downloaded & DVDs and our news has been via Radio 6Music. We've caught up with friends, tidied the garden and tackled some DIY. I've sewed like a demon & cleared the pond and Jon's mended the van & reupholstered the bed. Thank goodness we're going on holiday soon, we need a rest! 

See you soon.



Linking to Judith's Hat Attack & Natalia, Beate and Tina's Russian Winter Fairy Tale