Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I'm No Teenage Icon - Mud & Madness Of Truck 2017

Last Wednesday we left home, bound for Oxfordshire, home to the teenage knees-up that is Truck Fest. Slightly wary, since we'd traded there last the event had been taken over by a different events company, the fifteen page booklet outlining the trader rules and regulations were pretty ridiculous and I'd read numerous posts on a festival traders forum complaining of poor security, over-trading and general inefficiency. Still, we'd paid the fee, our paperwork had passed inspection and off we went.

Most of Wednesday was spent building and setting up our stall and we were in bed by 10pm. Thursday, the day before Truck officially opened, we discovered that not only had the festival tripled in size but there were even more vintage traders than last year. On collecting our wristbands from the organisers we expressed concern that there was a four foot gap between our stall and our neighbour, enabling anyone to access the traders' so-called secure area where we park, sleep, keep our stock and our takings. We were assured that a security fence would be installed before the site opened to the general public. On Friday, with still no sign of a fence, Jon used our 1970s windbreak to fill the gap.

If we thought there were a lot of vintage stalls then it was nothing compared to the amount of glitter - even some of the clothes stalls, food stalls and festival supply stalls were offering glitter face painting & body art. In a bid to help our nearest glitter trader, Once Upon A Sparkle, next-door neighbour Amy and I took up her offer to paint our faces to promote her stall.

Friday's weather was abysmal, the day started with winds so strong a trader's stall blew away (so much for all those strict rules and regulations), then the temperature dropped and rain started and man, it was torrential! Within a couple of hours the grass had vanished and the site was a mud bath.Fortunately Truck is held on a farm and there were plenty of hay bales available to help soak up the water directly outside our pitches. As I mentioned in my blog post last year, Truck's crowd are extremely young and a huge number of them hadn't packed anything practical. By 8pm we were completely sold out of vintage 1980s sportswear, jumpers and waterproofs. 

With all most of our practical stock sold we shut up shop and headed over to our vintage trader friends, Bobbie & Suzy's stall. Pre-loading on gin we made our way to the Big Top tent and went crazy to Idris Elba's DJ set.

It's the third time we've seen Idris perform and he never fails to impress.

Although the four of us were probably the same age as most of the festival goers' parents it didn't stop us getting right into the mosh pit to risk life, limb and spilt gin. 

Staggering back in the early hours we quickly sobered up after discovering someone had removed our windbreak and broken into our stall. Nothing had been taken but we found discarded drug paraphernalia in our trade tent. With no sign of any security Jon stayed up until 5am, keeping an eye out for more invaders.

On Saturday we were up and open for business at 9am and the rain continued. To increase the capacity of the crowd the organisers had squeezed another campsite on the hill overlooking the site and anyone unfortunate enough to be camped at the bottom ended up flooded out with all their possessions absolutely drenched. If we'd have had a quid for everyone who asked for wellies we'd have been able to shut up shop and go home rich but sadly we didn't so we gave away our carrier bags for the shivering kids to use as socks.

I took a break between showers and briefly explored the site.

Leaving Jon and Bobby to shut up our stalls for the evening Suzy and I caught Saturday night headliners, The Libertines. As I've seen them numerous times in the past I was really looking forward to their performance but, although the music was great, Pete Doherty wasn't his usual self, barely acknowledging the crowd and spending most of the set with his back to us.  

Suzy and I spotted stock we'd sold being worn. The 1960s sheepskin was one of ours, bought by a lovely Aussie guy here on a two year working visa with his wife. Show over we headed back to our pitch, shortly joined by Bobby who'd just caught someone attempting to ransack their awning. He'd managed find a security guard and handed the culprit over.

As we sat chatting we watched a gang of black-clad, balaclava'ed men running at high speed through the traders' camping area. Minutes later we intercepted a drug deal going on in the gap between ours and the neighbour's pitch, stopped a drunken teenage girl being dragged off by two older men and a dodgy guy trying to break into next door's tent. We cracked open more drinks and waited for the arena to close, there was no way we could go to bed with all that going on. Last year all we had to contend with were drunken, selfie-taking teens, annoying but harmless, this time the vibe was a lot more menacing.

By 2.30 am with the arena finally closed, the crowds made their way back to the campsite. We managed a few hours sleep before re-opening at 9am. We looked out the fifteen page rule book, found a contact number for the concessions manager and called her to voice our concerns. She came over to our pitch explaining that she'd been drafted in at the last minute to manage the trading area when the events company realised they'd taken on too big a task. She told us that the company had neglected to employ more security guards despite making the festival three times bigger and had been overwhelmed by a gang of Eastern European pickpockets and a drug dealing cartel from London, both of which had been successfully apprehended last night. Several of our neighbouring traders had had enough and decided to pack up and go home early and she promised that although Sunday night shouldn't be so full-on, she'd make sure there would be security guards on hand to stop the public accessing the gaps the departed traders had left. After us clocking up over 90 hours of work between us the last thing we wanted was for some thieving scumbag to make off with our takings.

After a slow & tedious day of trading we closed the shop. Jon kept watch while I collected Suzy and caught Maximo Park on the main stage. Despite the mud being past our ankles we danced (my maxi skirt hitched in my knickers), sung along, swigged gin and waved at festival goers dressed in our wares. 

We said our goodbyes and left to pack up our stock. After all the clothes had been bagged up and the muddy stock quarantined ready for rewashing, Jon and I pulled our chairs outside, cracked open a can and listened to main stage headliners The Vaccines, who sounded incredible.

Then the fun started. The main stage shut, the kids then headed to the Market Stage opposite for a full-on rave. Wasted teens staggered about, wandering through the gaps the departed traders had left (still no fencing), pissing & vomiting on our vehicles and trade tents, pestering us for cigarettes and water. When told politely that the public weren't allowed in the trader's area, a group of lads turned aggressive and tried to fight Jon and boys from the stall next door. While Jon called the trading manager for help, Alex from next door doled out some hi-viz vests and we formed a human chain, turning away the drunken invaders by pretending to be security guards (although we probably didn't look very convincing with our glitter painted faces and colourful outfits). Eventually help arrived in the form of two massive security guards who erected a 10 foot security fence in the gap and stood with us until the entertainment finished and the kids had staggered off to bed.

With the alarm set for 7am yesterday, we disassembled the rest of the pitch and, after two hours of queuing, finally managed to get off the site littered with vehicles stuck in the mud. On the way out we were horrified by the state of the campsite. People talk about the wastefulness of the Glastonbury crowd but it was nothing compared to Truck. I've never seen so many abandoned tents, camping chairs and rubbish. If we weren't half dead we might have been tempted to rescue some of the abandoned camping gear.

Yes, we sold stock, made money, saw some great bands and met some lovely people but going back and trading there next year? You've got to be trucking kidding!

Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

This Old House - Stonecroft After The Paint Job

It's over! No more dodging ladders and scaffolding or having to walk around the house fully clothed. Stonecroft is back to her former glory, no more peeling paintwork or crumbling window frames. Not looking too bad for two hundred and sixty-seven years old, isn't she?

The plants (mostly) survived being rudely uprooted and relegated to the lawn to avoid being trampled.

It was a tough job, all four sides of Stonecroft's not particularly small exterior had to be scrubbed, hosed down and repainted. The decorators had to contend with not only blistering heat, torrential rain and high winds but also a highly embarrassing cat who, not yet over his years of foraging for food as a stray, made off with the contents of any lunchbox left unattended.  

I'm a bit reluctant to put my window boxes back on the pristine gloss black sills so I'm channelling a bit of Corfu and making do with vintage terracotta pots filled with gloriously gaudy geraniums instead.

Some I've had for years, overwintering in the utility room when the autumn's over....

The rest I bought from the clearance shelf in B&Q (12 for 90p and not one loss yet!)

The bloody stable door in the kitchen has been replaced by a half-glazed oak beauty in a far more aesthetically pleasing Georgian style which doesn't require a degree in engineering to open (a knack I've failed to master in the 11 years we've lived here).

Despite the neglect from a week long festival and our trip to Greece the tomatoes and courgettes are flourishing. 

More Scandi clogs, my treat from our Cornbury profits.

Have I ever mentioned by love for architectural antiques? I can't resist buying vintage knobs, knockers or escutcheons if I spot them at car boots. The cherub's been languishing in a drawer for years. It's about time he was put to some use.

WEARING: Gingham midi skirt with embroidered hem and pockets (New! From a proper shop in the sale!! Don't faint!); Off-the-shoulder gypsy top (made by me from an Indian scarf in the charity shop 3 for £1 bin); Vintage 1970s oversized Polaroid sunglasses (car boot sale); Stack of plastic bangles (various vintages from 1960s to last week, all charity shopped): Wooden rainbow beads (made by Tania)

We're off to trade at the Truck festival in the morning, see you next week!

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

Friday, 14 July 2017

A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever - A Cultural Day Out

Hand on heart I'm not Birmingham's biggest fan, fourteen years of working in the city centre pretty much put paid to that. But beyond the mainstream fashion stores and identikit restaurant chains there's some wonderful pubs and an art gallery & museum so good it'll take your breath away (and it's free). Tania and I decided it would be an easy place to meet (an hour and a quarter by train from her home in Nottingham and a mere 20 minutes from Walsall) and a good destination for a cultural day out so that's exactly what we did yesterday. How gorgeous is Tania's 1940s dress?

After meeting up in the labyrinthine New Street Station we headed to the handful of vintage shops left in the city. The first one, in the Bull Ring, was one of those re-purposed and retro-inspired places, fine for the kids but not really our thing. Cow in Digbeth is of a similar ilk although we found one or two proper vintage pieces and some gorgeous tooled leather bags to admire.  My only purchases were from Credit Crunchers, which doesn't claim to be a vintage shop but always has one or two authentic pieces at good prices - a 1960s pig skin waistcoat and a crazy 1970s Victorian-lady-on-acid blouse with a groovy Parisian label.

After a couple of hours of admiring clothes both vintage and new (we're liking Zara, all bright colours, ethnic embroidery and 1970s inspiration) the pub was calling. To ring the changes we had lunch in The Old Joint Stock, a regular haunt whenever Jon & I do a Brum pub crawl. Wetherspoons' prices they ain't but look at all that ridiculously over the top Victorian opulence and, if you sign up to the website, you can claim a pint or a medium size glass of wine for free. An independent newspaper poll voted it one of the 25 top pubs in the UK and you can see why. The grilled veg salads were massive, in retrospect we could have shared one and had a plate of chips on the side. 

My presents from Tania - Indian block printed fabulousness!

After exchanging pressies and the obligatory bloggers selfie in the ladies' loo we made our way to Birmingham's Museum & Art Gallery.

Photos of me courtesy of Tania

I've loved this Joseph Southall fresco of affluent shoppers on Corporation Street, Birmingham since I was a child. We even had a print of it on the wall at home.

Life imitating art

Lucifer by Jacob Epstein is another of my favourites, he's a bit of a looker, isn't he?

Birmingham Art Gallery has the finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world. Although it's been a few years since I lasted visited, seeing these world famous pieces in the flesh never fails to make me squeal with delight. Those faces! That hair! The colours! The detail!

Two of my favourites, I do love a sorceress! 

Morgan-le-Fey (1864) by Frederick Sandys

Medea (1886 - 1888) by Frederick Sandys

Once we'd exhausted the Pre Raphaelites we moved on to the Staffordshire Hoard. Despite it being found in the field adjacent to our regular mid-week car boot sale, other than seeing it on the news I'd yet to see any of it in real life.

It was phenomenal! We couldn't get over the intricacy of the craftsmanship or the profusion of garnets. I loved exhibit no. 2 the most, a huge gold brooch unusually worn by and buried with a woman. 

An Anglo-Saxon dressing-up box? Yes, please! Of course accessories are everything, wouldn't a leather belt with a bejewelled sword and that huge brooch would make the world of difference to our shapeless sackcloth smocks?

Pre-Raphaelite art and ancient jewellery? Could it get any better?

Actually, yes it could! With mummies, death masks and amulets from 7000 BC (I know, it blew our minds, too) Ancient Egypt was our next stop.

We loved the Eye of Horus amulets but were a bit freaked out by the mummified cat.

The dishes and tools for applying cosmetics and the sandals were over 3000 years old! The jewellery is incredible, almost contemporary in colour and style.

I'm wearing a 1970s cotton maxi dress Curtise sent me two years ago, it's taken me that long to fit into it. The Mexican-style retro basket is a recent acquisition (I'm blaming Lynn and her jelly shoe obsession!)

After exploring Ancient Greece, Rome, Cyprus, Iran and Syria we made our way back to Birmingham's more recent history, sighing over some of the clothing exhibits on display.

How fabulous is the 1940s patchwork dressing gown in the Make Do & Mend case? I'd wear that out. The bejewelled costume from the Handsworth Carnival was a triumph and the pieces commemorating The Oasis, Birmingham's legendary alternative market were, for me, a teenage flashback, perfect for a bit of Boy George stalking back in the 1980s.

All cultured up we made our way towards New Street Station stopping off at Bacchus, one of Birmingham's most glorious real ale pubs, for a restorative glass of plonk.


Arriving at the train station we hugged, kissed and ran to our respective platforms with minutes to spare, arriving home according to Tania's cheeky man, Q, stinking of booze and garlic

We're hoping to meet up with Curtise in the second week of September, who's up for joining us?