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? 


  1. That pub!!!! The paintings----I swear that one with the purple velvet cloak is so realistic!!!!
    Gorgeous day ladies!!!!!

  2. Oh my word. That looks absolutely fabulous. I LOVE pre-Raphaelite art and the mummified cat is well worth a visit. Your dresses are absolutely gorgeous. I don't know which one that I like the best. What lovely interiors those pubs have. Very opulent and not at all like the pubs round here. Are you going to meet up again in Birmingham in September? I would be well up for joining you as I would love to meet you all in person. Besides who could resist coming home stinking of booze and garlic with a bag full of vintage loot? Xx

  3. I think Brums' museum is magnificent. Our very first meeting place too!!
    Love the outfits, but more that that, I can't believe how long Tania's hair is!! It would be great to meet up in a token man allowed, if Arthur isn't working?

  4. Loving your dress vix , Iwn o brum with niki last week and saw that shop in the bull , I gave it a wide berth Have you ever visited wednesbury museum we lived in wednesbury most of our life and only visited in the last few years we didnt know i was there , The paintings were amazing xxx

  5. What a wonderful day out. Both you and Tania are looking amazing. It's good to see Tania, I do miss her. You're quite right about Zara. They are currently the only high street shop which doesn't make me yawn. I never knew about Birmingham Art Gallery has such a collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. I love the Pre-Raphaelites! That museum would definitely be worth going to Birmingham for. xxx

  6. This looks like my kind of day out! A bit of culture, a spot of pub lunch/wine, and squeezing in some vintage shopping. I really love both of your dresses, but thank you for sharing the art collection - because I never knew this wonderful collection existed in Birmingham of all places!!

    I could be persuaded for the September meet-up, but we might possibly be on hols then. Keep me posted as to your plans xx

  7. Two gorgeous girls lighting up Birmingham. I'm chuckling about your comment on my jelly shoes. I zoomed in on your basket realising straight away what it was.
    You had a lovely cultural day and I've just had a virtual one thank you very much.
    Me please I'm up for a play day with you gals. Very excited. I'll have to keep it quiet from the wandering welder haha, you know he doesn't like to be left out (only joking)
    Lynn x x x

  8. You both look striking. The Egyptian amulet is beautiful (turqoise) and what a fabulous exhibition, well worth a visit.

  9. You both look striking. The Egyptian amulet is beautiful (turqoise) and what a fabulous exhibition, well worth a visit.

  10. Oh how fabulous!! Brightened my day to see the two of you beauties together among such awesome treasures.

  11. What amazing artworks! And some just dug out of a field! You live in a different world to us that's for sure.
    The mummies are crazy with their intricate wrapping. Never seen that before.
    What amazed me was how advanced their jewellery and mummy wrapping was and how basic their shoes were. But still ingenious. I did enjoy this visit, and you look amazing as usual. xo Jazzy Jack

  12. I've seen mummified cats before. They are spooky.

    I'm always amazed when someone can paint velvet that looks so real you want to touch it.

    LOVE that maxi dress you are wearing! And Tania's 40's dress is wonderful!

    I've had to cut back on buying bold vintage maxi dresses for my shop. It seems that you and I are the only ones that like them, at least in my neck of the woods. People don't know what they are missing.

    If there wasn't an ocean between us and over seven hours flight I'd be popping by for your meet-up.


  13. What a wonderful museum! Would love to visit it! And you both looks so gorgeous! :)

  14. I love that patchwork coat, and to think it's from the 40s, it looks so 70s! I love the Egyptian history, too, mostly because of the jewellery and amulets and things like that. Xxx

  15. I love your meet ups with the other gals! If you keep putting the invite out to join you, don't be surprised if some day a frumpy Midwestern American with no style shows up to greet you! You'd have carte blanche to make me over with your vintage finds as we tour the shops.

  16. Brilliant post and loving that art. Up for a meet up in Devon if you're ever around these parts. xx

  17. I felt like I was in the tv show "Bewitched". I was transported to so many wonderful and different styles and places,and Vix you were changing outfits to suit the backgrounds. What fun and how I wish I could have tagged along. The preraphalite period my favourite art period but Egypt close on its heels.
    Lucky lucky you having it all practically on your doorstep.
    While we freeze in a Polar blast with frost, snow,ice and stormy winds. Roads been closed all around New Zealand last week, this was such a treat. Thanks to you both. Xxx

  18. mememe!!!
    first - i looove both of your peasant dresses! you and tania look totally pretty <3
    the museum is absolutely gorgeous!! a have a weakness for the preraphaelites with all this opulence and drama..... but the other parts of the museum aren´t bad either! speaking of opulence - the pubs! i would like to move in - very "gemütlich"!
    much love! xxxxx

  19. What a great day out - thanks for sharing.

  20. I enjoyed the beautiful photos from your cultural day out.
    Saxon ladies had a raw deal when it came to fashion but you would have accessorised for an original look even then.
    Last time I visited Birmingham I was in my twenties, it's time for another look I think.
    I'm on my phone and having trouble commenting, it's Sally aka spicyphilosopy. xxx

  21. I virtually lived in the museum & art gallery when I was a teen! The city centre has all changed now, but I feel an overdue visit happening soon!

  22. An excellent day out. I bought some fabulous things in the Oasis market, and in those days the Rag Market had proper second-hand stalls with amazing bargains to be had.

  23. Oooo! how fun!
    What a lovely day. First time I've seen the Staffordshire Hoard too- Fabulous!

  24. Oooo, what a lovely day, starting with your glorious dresses! Seeing those gorgeous paintings up close must have been marvelous. I love a good sorceress too. The Egyptian artifacts are fascinating too. Most definitely a GRAND DAY OUT!

  25. Any day when I come home smelling of booze and garlic is a fabulous day! What a great museum, really fantastic displays.

  26. You are both are looking frocktastic... nice to see Tania again! What a bloody brilliant museum and art gallery, it looks absolutely fascinating, the Pre-Raphaelites are exquisite. What a treat to see the Staffordshire Hoard and the ancient Egyptian flip-flops, it blows the mind to think how long they've survived. xxxxxx

  27. that's far-out seeing the ancient Egyptian cosmetics. I can almost picture someone outlining their eyes with kohl.

    I'd kill for Tania's dress-what an extraordinary piece. Your meet-ups always sound like great fun.

  28. Shopping, art, history, booze, and food. With a friend. What else is there? You both are stunning and must have stopped gallery-goers in their tracks. The paintings are amazing. So many of the women in them look like men - maybe they were. And I love that there was an Anglo-Sazon dress-up box. Too bad I can't be there for your next meetup with Curtise!

  29. You and Tania both looked fabulous vintage frocks! Your flutter-sleeved 1970s maxi-dress and Tania's 1940s dress are both lovely! That artwork at the Birmingham Art Gallery is beautiful, and the museum's artefacts ... yikes. You had a very interesting 'Cultural Day Out'!

  30. I can just see Sally Tomsett wearing your dress in Man About The House lol! You look good even in sackcloth - I think your bangles made the outfit! That dressing gown matches your lampshade. xx

  31. I'd definitely be up for meeting you lovely ladies again depends on the day, we have some holidays booked in September. I actually studied The Pre-Raphaelites at college and shamefully still haven't seem the collection in Birmingham.

  32. It was so lovely to meet up and I enjoyed looking at everything; vintage, new and culture. I think they've regenerated Birmingham so well, and those pubs you took me to were spectacular. See, you can't beat a bit of local knowledge. Seeing all these lovely comments makes me want to come back to Blogland. I have to say, your dress was beautiful. You always looks so gorgeous. Those young girls in Zara were so sweet, coming up and asking you where you got your dress from so earnestly. They're not lucky enough to be on the Curtise list! I love that photo of you in front of Corporation Street. Cat Mummies, roman coins, and Pre-Raphaelites. We're certainly not predictable. Roll on the next adventure! Xxxxx

  33. I went to brum yesterday and it was an ordeal. J6 was closed off and diversion took us to J4 then on roads back into city centre. we then missed our timed tickets for the B2B houses :-( one of our favourite places of late is a Turkish coffee house called Damescena which is by the old joint stock, nice place better than the usual corporate starbucks coffee houses.

  34. I spent many a weekend in Birmingham and have never yet been to any of these places. I doubt I will now given how far away we live, I should have done it when it was all up the road. I would love to meet up with you ladies again, but I'm off camping that week. Xx

  35. What a fecking gloriarse day! Always jelly when you loves meet up.X

  36. Ha, I went to virtually the same places as you on my trip to Birmingham - drank in both those pubs, and visited the museum. I really enjoyed my mini-break there.

    You and Tania look fab in your long dresses. You're very petite, so Tania must be too - you must look like a pair of pixies wandering round the city.

  37. Thanks for taking us along on your adventure to Birmingham with Tania. You both look very stylish and the museum photos are very impressive. Can't wait to see your September post with Curtise! I would love to join you if I could!

  38. Oh what a wonderful day Vix! Museums and vintage clothing, my kind of day. Glad you two had such a great time.
    Take care.

  39. You are folks after my own heart!

    Nice that Lucifer has pride of place in the lobby now. He used to be in the tearoom until some old dears were affronted by the sight of his schlong over their tea and cakes.

    I absolutely have to go see the Pre-Raphaelites on every visit... and the Bacchus bar? Oh yes, underground and plush. Love having a glass of vino in there!

    I also still have some shoes I bought from COW about 9 years ago!

  40. What a feast for the eyes! So many awe inspiring things to look at, including yours and Tania's fab vintage dresses. But really, you even make the "shapeless sackcloth smock" look good! Love the art and artifacts. And the pubs look extremely intriguing. I would love to pop across the pond for a day out with you girls. What fun it would be :)


  41. Wonderful photos. I love the art. Some of those paintings you show there are some of my favorites. In fact, I have some of them framed. Some large and some tiny. I love your long dress, as usual. And I would LOVE being able to visit that pub.

  42. Mummies! Eeeeeew!! Looks like a dang fun day!!

  43. You make me want to go to a museum!!! Right now! LOVE this post, thank you for it! Art and artifacts are amazing to see, they show so much - so much better than reading dry textbooks...

    You and Tania look amazing! I am always in awe with your ability to dig your vintage wardrobe and pull off such a contemporary looking (and even, that dreadful word, trendy) outfit! A day with Curtise sounds like a dream, give her a huge hug from me!

  44. woaaa, you make me want to go to Birmingham and watch all those paintings, such a pre-raphaelite delightful collection!, and obviously, I love all the ancient jewelery, sometimes they look so fabulous that I would like to wear them just now!
    And you look gorgeous, dear ladies, such amazing dresses, and I'm glad that you enjoyed those magnificent pubs! I would love to have a drink in one of them!

  45. "Stinking of booze and garlic.." is an exceedingly odd description for two dainty culture vultures! Although I must admit wondering if those pre-Raphaelite females were consuming absinthe or something more exotic.

    I'd definitely have tried on the pre-Saxon muumuus, if only to imagine myself toting that glorious broach!

  46. Oh bugger, how I wish I could have been there with you two lovelies! Looks like a fabulous day of chat, art, history, shopping, booze and food - does it get any better than that? You and Tan look as beautiful as ever, and I am loving the museum and art gallery treasures. The pubs don't look half bad either!
    Roll on September - I miss you both!
    Love you!
    PS. Is it terrible that I have NO recollection of giving you that dress? Are you sure it was from me? If I didn't know your elephantine memory for all things sartorial, I'd say you were making it up, but you are never wrong about this stuff! Anyway, you look a bobby dazzler in it, so there! xxx

  47. Looks like fun and I love the pre-Raphaelites too, though my favourite artist from that time, who is often lumped in with them, but apparently isn't a pre-Raphaelite artist at all, is JW Waterhouse. I loved Desperate Romantics when it was on the telly.

    Love both of your dresses xxx


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