Sunday, 6 January 2019

Have Love Will Travel - Packing For India

My happy birthday to me dress hasn't featured on my blog before. I wear it loads but always have so much fun when I do that I never remember to take a photo so here she is in all her Afghan glory, off for Sunday brunch at Wetherspoons, a pre-India get together with friends. Linking to Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.

My trusty travel bag - bought in 1999.

Talking of India (and when don't I?) what a chore this year's travel packing has proved to be, I seem to have been at it for weeks. Starting in the north where it's still very much the depths of winter and finishing in the tropical paradise that is South Goa, I've not only had to pack with the weather in mind but I've had to consider cultural sensitivities for when we venture off the beaten track and also bear in mind the weight of my luggage - all internal flights within India have an allowance of just 15kg and I certainly don't want to be hauling a massive bag of stuff along with me on trains, tuk tuks and buses.

Clockwise from top left: Vintage Phool maxi; Chiffon kimono sleeve kaftan; Vintage Adini maxi; Crochet top; Custom-made block printed maxi; Vintage Third Eye wrap skirt; Embroidered off-the-shoulder top; Handmade (by me) gypsy top; Black cotton tiered maxi skirt; Phool quilted jacket; Zip-up bustier top

Anyway, it's finally done and Jon's padlocked the bags so there's no sneaking any extras in now.

For the first couple of weeks travelling around the north I'll be living in these three cotton maxi dresses topped with my vintage Phool quilted jacket. I'll fly in the red block-printed dress I had made at a tailor's shop in Goa last year - minus the belt which is packed away in my bag - what with my prosthetic hip and all my rings it's just another faff on the way through the X ray machine.

 Underneath I'll be wearing these crepe soled suede boots by Jones the Bootmaker which I found in a charity shop a couple of days after I bought the black Kurt Geiger boots I was originally intending to take. These are a lot lighter and I'm hoping that the crepe sole (along with my orthopaedic insoles) will be easier on my hip if it decides to have a moment.  Packed, but not photographed, is a pair of leggings, a jersey bodysuit, a woollen hat and some alpaca wrist warmers - just in case.

The spice coloured scarf at the bottom of the pile (the twin of the green Gujarati one Jon wears) and the vintage silk one in the centre will provide a bit of extra warmth if necessary. The huge fringed lurex scarf and the sarong won't see the light of day until we get to Goa.

I was going to take the leather bag I'd recently bought from a charity shop but decided to go with my tatty old sweat-stained Indian favourite instead. 

My 50p sunhat for Goa.

A couple of pairs of buffalo leather chappals which I bought in Mumbai last year. I don't expect them to be worn until I reach Goa.

Excuse the grumpy face. I bought this chiffon maxi from one of my favourite boutiques in Mumbai last year for a whopping £7. I'll wear this to the beach.

A couple of bikinis.

The bling!  Four pairs of earrings, my silver Afghan hoops, some Bollywood chandeliers, tasseled birthday beauties from Curtise and my tribal earrings from Rajasthan via Walthamstow (which I'll wear to travel in).

Necklaces - Sponge coral beads, Lamani coin neck piece, two "antique style" pendants and a Gujarati tribal necklace. I'll put the bangles on once I pass through departures, the armlets will stay in my bag until Goa. You've seen my rings already, I rarely take them off.

I'll spare you the list of toiletries as I pack the same every year. Other stuff we take includes our fully loaded E readers, a cotton sleeping bag, some vintage travel coat hangers, a torch, a penknife, the travel kettle, a large cotton throw for lying on the beach , the camera, sunglasses and reading glasses, a notebook and pen, an MP3 player & speakers and a guidebook. We've split our clothes and each bag weighs in at just under 13 kg.

So after last year's adventures in Gujarat, Goa and Mumbai where are we planning to visit next?

Who knows. We've got a bed booked for the first three nights and a flight to Goa a fortnight later and apart from that your guess is as good as ours. Let the adventures begin!

See you in February!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Meet Me In Morocco - The Decorating Continues

Finally we've redecorated our bedroom, all that's missing is a kilim or an old oriental rug which I'll hunt for when we're back from our travels. 

Who Killed Bambi? rug (£1, car boot sale), 1930s bentwood armchair (£2, jumble sale), Victorian French mannequin (rescued from a friend who was chucking it out)

There wasn't much wrong with it before but, after painting the lounge a magnificently moody shade of teal, we decided to take the bedroom over to the dark side, too. Inspired by our shabby bentwood chair which, you may remember, we recently reupholstered with a vintage pair of Jonelle "Marrakesh" screen printed curtains, we painted the walls a spicy colour Valspar call Meet Me In Morocco.

I'm wearing a modern mustard bodysuit I bought new (!) from a sale in a proper shop in 2016, a vintage plaited leather belt from a charity shop and an acetate 1970s maxi skirt by Country Casuals which I swapped for a scarf with another trader at the last fair we worked. Country Casuals were known for their prim and proper Maggie Thatcher-esque tailored suits and smart blouses - I had no idea they'd ever ventured into psychedelia. You may notice that my skirt is a mixture of reds, oranges and browns, when it comes to interior design you wont go far wrong if you decorate your home in colours you love to wear.

Like the poor old bedroom chair, both our vintage French Corbeille bed (a ridiculously cheap eBay find back in 2006) and our charity shopped Lloyd Loom blanket box, had been ragged to buggery by the cats so we recovered them using a pair of red cotton velvet curtains Melanie, a lovely blog reader, had given me when she and her husband Ray came to see us when we were trading in London a couple of years ago. Forget diamonds, a staple gun is a girl's best friend.

You can see our previous wallpaper on my blog header, a rather posh, hand-printed Cole and Son metallic pink design. We'd enjoyed it for ten years but as it had only cost £7 for two rolls (RRP £95 a roll) we didn't feel too guilty about covering it up. The replacement is a reissue of an original Art Nouveau wallpaper design by Crown from 1910. It was love at first sight when I spotted it - I can't resist a metallic finish as it's perfect for deflecting the attention away from our lumpy & bumpy two-hundred-and-seventy year old walls. The design reminds me of the end papers in antique books only on a larger scale.

Here's the Lundby Stockholm house all lit up and looking much prettier against the darker backdrop. The mahogany chest of drawers is Victorian and has stood in this corner since the dawn of time. Neither of us are particularly keen on it but it's a whopping great lump of furniture and I've no idea how we'd ever get it out of the house - I think it was in there when my Grandparents moved into Stonecroft back in 1952.

The vintage block printed bed cover was made in Iran, I found it in a £1 linen bin in the charity clearance shop. I considered chopping it up and making it into a caftan but was scared to in case I buggered it up. I did made the bolster cushions and the pom-pom trimmed patchwork covers.

You've already seen my me-made curtains - sewn from scrappy secondhand curtains, vintage dresses too tatty to sell and any pretty fabric remnants I could lay my hands on. The curtain rail was one of those horrid 1970s orange-y pine things but a coat of white paint soon sorted it out.

Jon made this lamp from a 1960s Lady Schick hairdryer we found at a car boot sale for £1. I love how it throws circle-shaped light on the ceiling, a bit like being in a disco.

The Trechikoff-era plaster lamp was 50p at a car boot sale back in 2010 - I couldn't hand my cash over fast enough! The vintage granny lampshade was liberated from a skip.

We bought these modern Colonial-style white wicker wardrobes from a catalogue clearance shop in Walsall when we moved to Stonecroft in 2005 and I'm amazed that they're still intact. Jon keeps his clothes in them (and a few of his guitars on the top!)

Kingdom Come by JC Ballard is my current bedtime read, a dystopian tale of flag-waving patriotism and rampant consumerism in middle England.

Art on our walls -  Trechikoff's Hindu Dancer and The Rose in the Workshop, Louis Shabner's Gail, three typically bucolic prints by Vernon Ward, a painting of Jon & I at Glastonbury in 2014 (a 50th birthday present from Liz) and another of me by my friend Clare.

I treated myself to these cacti from B&Q last week.

The handmade 1950s rose print quilt was £2 from a charity shop a few weeks ago, the cats love it.

We've been to Morocco a couple of times. Here I am on my first trip as a fresh-faced 25-year-old back in 1992. We stayed at The Hotel Continental in the heart of the souk in Tangier where, two years previously, John Malkovich had stayed and filmed The Sheltering Sky. Abdul, the fez wearing head waiter, had worked there since the Second World War, during breakfast he'd wind up the gramophone and play big band tunes. We visited the Bond baddie's Tangier villa in The Living Daylights, dodged a legion of touts who'd line up outside the hotel each morning and attach themselves firmly to our sides as we walked around le petit socco pointing out the obvious and demanding cash for the privilege. We sat in cafes bedecked with graffiti supposedly daubed by The Rolling Stones, payed homage to the Marrakesh rooftop where Talitha Getty posed for that photo, marveled at Yves St Laurent's beautiful blue garden, trekked the Rif Valley, swam in icy cold mountain streams, crossed the country on the overnight Marrakesh Express where we shared a couchette with the locals and accidentally ended up in an illegal strip joint in downtown Marrakesh with the chief of police (as you do!)

Here's a little slideshow of our twenty-seven year old adventures. Jon's got hair and everything! I know I'm going to sound like like a moaning old bat but travel was so different a quarter of a century ago. There weren't the cheap flights you get today and you'd often had to save up all year to travel,  none of those tedious bucket list types either, ticking stuff off and blocking your view of the sights with selfie sticks, instead travellers thoroughly immersed themselves in the culture of the country they were in. Pre-internet, we interacted with one another, exchanged tips, loaned out well-thumbed guidebooks and shared meals and taxis. These days the majority of your fellow tourists have their faces stuck to their phones, updating their Facebook statuses and constantly checking how many likes their latest selfie gets on Instagram. The only downside was that, pre-internet, you'd often end up losing the paper napkin on which you'd scrawled your new friends' phone number upon so you never managed to keep in touch with the couple you'd spent that night in a strip joint in Marrakesh with - Facebook does have its advantages.

Anyway, enough of that! Not only have we finished decorating the bedroom but I've finally managed to pack my India travel bag (despite Idris Elba doing his best to distract me with the new series of Luther). I'll be back soon!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Turn Off, Tune In, Drop Out - My Internet Free Week

How time flies! After publishing my last blog post on 23rd December I switched off my PC and it stayed off until last night when I needed to amend a booking for our forthcoming trip. I achieved so much in those seven internet-free days! While Jon painted the bedroom and built a new shower cubicle, I re-potted all our houseplants, made lemon verbena bath bombs, cleaned my jewellery, tackled the mending pile, restrung a couple of beaded necklaces, painted a fireplace, sorted out the kitchen cupboards, the freezer & our bookshelves and cracked on with my travel packing. We even came up with an itinerary for our first couple of weeks in India (virtually unheard of!) With the exception of Xmas Day, I was up and exercising by 7am, there's nothing like having an imminent date with a bikini to keep you on the straight and narrow over the festive season. still fits!

I even found the time to read three books. All three are worth a read but, as an espionage novel obsessive, my favourite was Charles Cumming's Trinity Six, a gripping thriller about a hard-up academic stumbling upon the Cold War's most closely guarded secret, the undiscovered sixth member of the infamous Cambridge Spy ring. I was especially excited to read a description of one of the women central to the plot as having long black hair, blue eyes, a silver ring on each finger and being a wearer of vintage dresses and platform shoes. Hmmm, have I ever met Charles Cumming?

I'm a Xmas jumper, glitter & sequin free zone! I wore a vintage Indian silk maxi dress I bought from eBay in October on Xmas Day.

We spent a wonderful few hours in Nessa's, our local Indian restaurant. I feasted on baby aubergine stuffed with a julienne of spiced vegetables and a duo of Romano peppers stuffed with masala cauliflower, the boys had a mixed meat platter starter and curried lamb shank, accompanied by steamed basmati rice and Bombay potatoes.

The food was so delicious and plentiful that neither of us ate another morsel until Boxing Day!

I'd lost my sewing mojo of late but, with no internet to distract me, I cranked up the sewing machine and got stuck in. When I originally made the bedroom curtains I'd lined them with fabric salvaged from another pair of curtains but over the years it had perished and the windows looked terrible when viewed from the outside so I took the curtains down & unpicked the lining. I love how the light shines through them now, they remind me of stained glass windows.

I made myself a new shopping bag from a 1970s curtain Jon had found in a charity shop a fortnight ago. And no, you don't need to tell me that your nan used to have those curtains, I've heard it a million times before....

I knocked up this off-the-shoulder top from a vintage cotton sari we'd found in a charity shop back in the summer. I made a couple of these tops a few years ago from a tutorial I'd found online but, in my desire to prove that I could live without the internet, relied on my memory and it didn't let me down. Both the top and my skirt will be travelling with me next week.

I made another bag using more of the sari - this will double up as both my hold luggage and a beach bag. I've cut the reminder of the fabric into squares for future patchwork projects.

We had to take a trip to B&Q (an out-of-town DIY superstore) on Friday as Jon had run out of paint and made a quick diversion into the charity shops on the way, after all, it had been over a week since we'd last set foot in one. Finds included a fantastic 1970s bubblegum pink belted wool coat, a gents' fake fur trimmed 1960s car coat, two 1970s ladies' velvet blazers and a boxy 1980s Indonesian batik jacket (all sadly too big). I did keep this crushed velvet scarf with a marabou feather trim as it matched the knitted dress I was wearing perfectly!

I'll be unplugging again shortly as we're off to a Desi pub for a curry and a few drinks with friends this afternoon. 


Jon's wearing his Xmas Levi's. He hasn't owned any new jeans for over a decade but we were both impressed when we researched their ethical policy  and decided they were worth the investment (although I did find a 50% discount code before I ordered them, making the purchase a little less painful!) Jon's also wearing a 1960s American prison jacket, one of a dozen bought from Wayne Hemingway at August's Classic Car Boot Sale, which we dyed, changed the buttons and pimped up with vintage patches. They proved so popular that he had to grab one before they all went. The Doc Martens were from a charity shop (£3!) and the block printed scarf was bought direct from the factory in Gujarat last January.

Talking of the Classic Car Boot Sale, look who's advertising the next one in April (details HERE)...little old me!!

Today I'm wearing my Shubette of London mythical beast print maxi (bought from another trader at Walthamstow's Pop-Up Vintage Fair in October), a 1960s gilt chain belt from a jumble sale and my 1970s purple suede platforms from a charity shop.

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and see you in 2019 when - hopefully- I'll have finished my India packing and we might even have the bedroom completed.