Monday 27 February 2017

The Sweetest Taboo - My Charity Shop Find Of The Week

There I was rifling through the rails in the clearance charity shop on Thursday....Primark, New Look, George at Asda, Matalan,....blah, blah, blah...and then, finally, this. 

A velvet, hand-stitched jacket with leg 'o' mutton sleeves, painstakingly neat smocking to the shoulders and silk lined - 1920s or Victorian? Who cares? At £3 it was coming home with me.

The splendidly dark BBC historical drama Taboo has had an effect on me ...and it's not just Tom Hardy rasping I have a use for you at the end of episode 7....I loved the Steampunk meets Regency costumes so my new-to-me jacket inspired me to create something Taboo-esque by mixing it with some old 1960s & 1970s favourites I've had for years along with Jon's vintage top hat.

Talking of chazzas, we've been out and about, scouring the Black Country for treasure.

Clockwise from top left: Gents silk waistcoat, 1980s red leather shorts; 1960s Richard Shops coat; snazzy 1980s waistcoat; Crushed velvet cape; Scottish country dancing waistcoat; Witchy sleeved 1970s maxi; 1960s St Michael raincoat; Gents smoking jacket; A Line wool midi; 1960s gents West German wool cardi; Midnight Blue braided velvet jacket

Clockwise from top left: 1960s Ban-Lon knit; Crimplene midi; Fake fur beret; Beaded evening jacket; Clarks' Wallabies; Matador-style hat; Tapestry cat make-up bag (mine!); Red leather trench coat; Suede front cardi; Fake fur coat; Tiger head bag (Mine!); 1970s leather jacket; American felted trilby; Tour tee; Crimplene blouse; Barracuda gents raincoat; 1970s tartan maxi skirt

Did I mention our lack of internet? It's all fixed now. Hooray! It wasn't all bad though, the last time the house was this tidy was when it featured in an interiors magazine two years ago (HERE).

I spotted these Indian-made cushion covers reduced to a £1 each on a right-on, fair trade website the other day. They're the size of pillow cases so I made some new cushion pads for them by combining the filling from our old tatty cushions and sewing them into some old pillow cases. Does this mean I'm an armchair activist now? 

This antique Persian runner came from my maternal Grandfather's family home. Believing it to be quite valuable and with nine cats and two kids, my Mum was scared it would get ruined so it was stuffed in a trunk and shoved in the boxroom where it languished for decades.

Grandpa as a boy outside his family home in Stone, Staffs, circa 1920

Those are the original customs seals.

It seems almost a crime to have been be hidden away for almost forty years so we rescued it and rolled it out our the lounge although, at over 15 feet long, it's longer than the room itself. Trouble is, now we've done some research into the value of 19th Century rugs I'm scared of ruining it, too. 

Wearing: Antique velvet jacket worn with top hat (car boot sale), 1960s go-go boots, Biba choker & St Michael ruffled blouse, 1970s lurex maxi
I don't think I'll be hanging about outside without a coat for the rest of the week, apparently we've got snow on the way...not that it'll stop us going on a chazzing mission or two!

See you soon.

Linking to Visible Monday where the gorgeous Patti is also dressed head to toe in secondhand gear and the fabulous Judith's Hat Attack.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Viva Goa - Travels To Goa and Beyond

As always I wore every piece of clothing I'd taken to India with me .... over and over and over again.

Unlike Jon, who packed his charity shop finds without trying them on first, only to get to Goa and realise his bargain shorts were two sizes too big.

Not that they went to waste. There's one charity shop in the entire state and, as luck would have it, it's less than a hour's walk from our final destination of the trip, the village of Benaulim in South Goa. So the shorts got re-donated, we got our daily beach walk and I managed to pick up a few bargains (three glass bangles and two printing blocks.)

More importantly was that we did our bit for the street/beach animals of South Goa. The Goa Animal Welfare Trust (GAWT) are a wonderful charity who not only treat and neuter strays but also hold weekly immunisation & adoption clinics and run educational programmes - this week they're highlighting the dangers of littering by taking a orphaned calf , who's mother died from ingesting a plastic bag, around the local schools . If you see an animal with a chunk missing from their ear you'll know that they've been neutered by the organisation.

Although Benaulim has developed quite a lot since we first visited over a decade ago, away from the main street it still retains a traditional Goan village feel.

The beach is still very much a work place for the local fishermen.

...and water buffalo graze on the banks of the village's numerous lotus lakes.

The bird watching opportunities are pretty special.

And the local women still dress in the traditional Portuguese way.

Walk past the sunbeds and shacks thronging the entrance to the beach and you've pretty much got the sand to yourself, all 25 kilometres of it. Yes, that is a bull being taken for a walk - Benaulim is the only place in all Goa where you can see the ancient sport of Kadamba (bull racing).

The area surrounding Benaulim is not only littered with old ancestral homes (which I've written about HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE) but there's also some decent museums, too. Ashok's Vintage Car World (admission £1, open daily) was a short tuk tuk ride away and, as we'd never been, thought we'd have a look.

The burgundy car in the top photo was driven by Roger Moore in The Sea Wolves. Apparently all the vehicles can be hired out - although we wouldn't recommend tackling the Goan roads unless you've got a death wish.

We stayed at Caphina, a family-run guesthouse on the main beach road. Rooms cost £6 a night.

 Ever wondered about the type of people we meet when we stay in rock bottom budget places...stoners, teenagers on a gap year, scruffy backpackers? You might be surprised. Our neighbours included psychiatrist Barbara, originally from upstate New York but practicing in Paris and Dr George, an eminent archaeologist with a heap of books to his name. Not everyone wants wi-fi, room service and a pool even if they can afford it.

We only ever eat Indian food when we're away - pav bhaji or masala dosa for breakfast, locally grown fruit and cashews for lunch and curry & rice for dinner. Occasionally we'll indulge in our favourite sunset street snack - Mumbai-style Bhelpuri (available between 4 - 9pm) straight off a cart on the walk back to our room.

After almost twenty years we don't bother much with shopping - clothes-wise Jon bought two block printed, hand loom shirts (the black and the blue collarless shirts in the collage) and I bought five (!) block printed maxi skirts a shopkeeper friend had found for me. We stocked up on Himalaya heel balm (£1), ayurvedic licorice-flavoured tooth paste (60p), coconut body oil (£1.35) and turmeric face wash (20p) as well as dried chillies and some Goan dry spice mixes. I'd regretted not buying a peacock feather fan when I saw them in Mumbai last year so was excited to see a street hawker selling them at the bus station when we went to Margao. The tin ware is from an elderly gent with a market stall in the covered market in Margao - he recycles other people's junk into useful household goods and I'd probably buy the lot if I had a bigger bag - there's a letter box (£3.50), a money box (60p), an tiny oil can (40p) and a kerosene lamp  (50p).

And that was India! Thanks so much for reading and for indulging me, writing about our trip helps extend the adventure that bit longer.....and makes the grim reality of a knackered internet connection (less than 2 hours access in the last 72 - how's a woman supposed to run a website?!) and the crap weather a whole lot more bearable.

Normal service of charity shop finds, outfits and the usual chit chat should be resumed next week (depending on whether Talk Talk get their arses in gear). See you soon!

More photos can be seen HERE.

Sunday 19 February 2017

From The Estuary of the Wolf to The Village of the Cow - Travels To Goa & Beyond

Ten hours and some 411 kilometres later the Malabar Express pulled into Mangalore Central station. Although we'd booked the most basic of sleeper classes the journey was comfortable and, being the only Westerners in a carriage of 76 berths, our fellow travellers made every effort to help us, using the torches on their phones to find our bunks in the dark and making sure we were settled before attending to their own needs.

We'd decided to stay at the Adarsh Lodge, described as A bit of a dive, but cheap and clean in the Rough Guide. Trying to find a tuk tuk willing to take us took an age as drivers get baksheesh from the swankier hotels when they drop off guests and there was little chance of a pay-off from a £4 a night room. Eventually someone took pity on us and dropped us off for 50p. 

Despite only being built in 1984, with the institutional maroon and custard yellow colour scheme, granite floor, squat toilet and threadbare bed covers, the Adarsh wouldn't have looked out of place in a 1960s Cold War film. We could have hired a TV from reception but chose not to, so the focal point was the empty glass case where it should have been. 

After a quick shower we set off to explore all that Mangalore had to offer. Within minutes we'd seen a man barefoot, dressed in a loincloth and covered in orange paint walking up the central reservation.

We took a seat in a pure veg canteen, ordered a "meal" and minutes later were served two huge veg thalis for 40p each.

After lunch we found the Cosmopolitan Club and the splendid Art Deco Prabhat cinema, both of which are mentioned in S Reuben's 1939 Travellers In India which Lynn had sent us before we left. 

In a bid to escape the punishing heat and humidity we thought we'd head to the park we'd seen marked on the street map in the Rough Guide. Assisted by what seemed like the entire population of Mangalore keen to help the two fools wandering around aimlessly in the heat of the midday sun, we finally found it, only to discover that it didn't open until 5pm and that most of it had been carved up by a development company.

So what of the historical Mangalore written of Pliny and Ptolemy and so beloved of Ibn Battuta? Sadly buried beneath one of the monstrous concrete shopping malls dominating the city and filled with the likes of McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Subway and KFC. 

Of more interest were the advertisements for astrologers adorning every corner of the city.  If the future is tower blocks and junk food I think I'll stay in the past.

Sweatier than sweaty things we headed back to our room. After another shower and a futile attempt at a siesta, interrupted every twenty minutes by the over-enthusiastic room boy ringing our doorbell and shouting Sir! Madam! Pani, pani*, chai, chai, coffee, coffee! Dinner was a bag of Malabar chips (fried banana crisps seasoned with chilli) and the remains of an over-ripe bunch of bananas we hadn't eaten on the train, washed down with rum and coke from an enamel camping mug. The ceiling fan had two settings, off or blow your eyelashes off so Jon used his trusty Indian Army knife to prise open the paint-sealed windows for some fresh air.  At 3am, we shook the man sleeping on the floor behind the reception desk awake to let us out, found a sleepy tuk tuk driver on the street outside and headed back to Mangalore Central to board a passenger train to Goa.


 The Konkan Railway route is said to cut through some of the most beautiful scenery in all India
What should have been an six hour train journey ended up taking nine but, when you look at the view from our carriage window, it was no real hardship. Could there be a lovelier Monday morning commute?

Finally,  the train pulled into Canacona station in South Goa and we flagged down a tuk tuk to take us to Agonda, the village we've stayed in years before it became the hip, chill-out destination it is today.

Main street, Agonda
Accommodation in Agonda comes at a premium but, as luck would have it, there was a room free at our favourite haunt, Our Friend's Place. Set in lush gardens behind their popular restaurant, home for the next week was a thatched coco hut with a sit-out area, bedroom and a huge bathroom. As we opted for room only (you can have breakfast) it cost £10 a night.

It didn't take us long to fall back into our Goa rhythm.

An early morning walk along the beach.

Breakfast in the tiny roadside cafe, Reshma, where for 30p each, we dip fluffy white bread rolls (pav) into saucers of fiery vegetable curry (bhaji). 

Here's Reshma's boss shopping for fresh veg for the lunchtime thali.

When wandering the shady, sandy lanes behind the beach something interesting always takes our eye - ancestral homes painted in deliciously gaudy colours, garden shrines planted with sacred Tulsi (from the basil family), colonies of fruit bats and quirky, hand painted signs.

I had to laugh at the barefaced cheek of the most expensive hang-out joint in town, they'd only gone and nicked a photo from my blog to advertise their bar. I always knew I belonged in Goa.

Armed with bottled water and a bag of fruit, afternoons were spent basking on the beach...

Being townies, we know nothing about cows, they're simply creatures in fields glimpsed from the van window when we're travelling up and down the motorway on the way to vintage fairs. Until we went to Agonda we had no idea that they loved sunbathing and paddling in the sea or galloping along the shore or even that they had a passion for bananas - several times they've mugged us when they've caught a whiff of banana from my beach bag and we've had to forfeit lunch as they won't take no for an answer. In the evenings they'd wander into restaurants and stand beside the tables, staring dolefully at diners with their huge brown eyes until the proprietor sees them off with a squirt from a spray bottle of water . If I wasn't already a lifelong vegetarian after a week here I don't think I'd ever eat beef again. 

After sunset it's time for a quick shower, a rum and coke on the balcony and ponder upon trickiest decision of the day...where shall we eat tonight?  

Me in action! Jon was trying to take my photo when we were in the bar next door to Our Friend's Place but inadvertently pressed the record button on the camera. Middle-aged people and technology, eh?

 After seven nights in Agonda it was time to move on and, as we'd already travelled by plane, train, tuk tuk and ferry it was time we took the bus. I wish British buses played an Indian filmi soundtrack!

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

More photos of Agonda & Mangalore HERE