Monday, 10 December 2018

Fifty-Two - The Birthday Epic

Thanks for the messages, comments and emails. My birthday was fabulous and turned out to be my favourite type of celebration, the sort that went on for days. I know fifty-two isn't a landmark birthday but I'm still pretty amazed that I made it this far.

Gifts included loads of Lush stuff, booze and posh foodie bits, an antique doll's tea set (demonstrated by my Mary Quant doll, Daisy Longlegs which I bought in 1978) and some dolls' house miniatures.


On Thursday Liz and Al whisked us off to Birmingham city centre's Wetherspoons where we had lunch and a few beers before making our way to the Alexandra Theatre for the matinee performance of Benidorm Live, the stage version of Derren Litten's legendary comedy tv series set at the all-inclusive Spanish resort hotel The Solana and featuring many of the original cast. It has hilarious.

After paying homage to one of Walsall's most famous sons, Noddy Holder of Slade, immortalised in Lego in New Street Station, 

 We proceeded to one of our favourite Birmingham pubs, the stupendously glamorous Bacchus Bar, for a few more beers where a gang of Scandinavians complimented me on my Victor Costa dress and wished me a happy birthday.


The following day we met our pal, and fellow member of the Dead Relatives Society, Tony in St. Matthew's Hall, Walsall's Wetherspoons, built in 1830 and originally the town's first free library. I'm not implying that we spend a lot of time in there or anything but we got staff discount at the bar. 


After a couple of pints we caught a taxi five miles down the road to The Vine in West Bromwich.


The Vine is one of the Black Country's famed desi pubs, boasting a fantastic selection of Indian food and real ale in a traditional British pub setting, available daily from 11.30am. We hadn't been before so were very excited to get stuck into a decent curry and we weren't disappointed.

What is a desi pub? Read all about these Black Country institutions HERE and HERE.

 I had Sri Lankan-style mixed vegetables (Madras-hot and cooked in coconut) whilst the boys had Rajastani-style chicken (for Jon) and lamb (for Tony) along with a peshwari nan, masala chips and plain rice. The food was delicious, spicy and without a hint of oil or grease. Even the chips were crisp and delicious.


Known for being footie-fan friendly, we weren't sure how raucous The Vine was going to be as West Bromwich Albion were due to play in a local derby against Aston Villa that same evening. When we got there the clientele was a mix of business people, shoppers and, inexplicably, a large party of Germans (West Bromwich is hardly on the tourist trail) but as the day progressed we realised they'd travelled to see the match. By early evening the place was packed out with supporters of both teams and although it was noisy the atmosphere remained friendly. On our neighbouring table were a party of Norwegian West Brom fans, again over for the match. 


With queues building up at the bar, at 7.30 pm we got a taxi back to The Wheatsheaf, an early 19th Century pub a five minute walk away from our front door, where we ended the night having spent 11 hours drinking .....who says you get more sensible as you get older? Not me!

The lads!

Both of us woke up surprisingly clear-headed on Saturday morning and, after breakfast, got stuck into some furniture moving and general rejigging of the house. Of course, a day in doesn't mean slobbing around in jogging bottoms (I don't own such horrors) and I wore one of the two vintage dresses Curtise had sent me for my birthday. This cotton maxi is by Frank Usher. For some bizarre reason the previous owner had removed the zip but the shirred bodice has plenty of stretch so it didn't affect the ease of putting it on. Needless to say I didn't wear the hat indoors, it hid my 11 hour boozing face.

After a mid-morning visit from a friend we settled down to watch, Iris, the film documenting fashion maverick, Iris Apfel's life which my lovely friend Lynn had sent me. As it was directed by Albert Maysles, who was also behind the legendary docu-dramas, Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens, I knew I was going to love it and I did. What an inspirational (and exceptionally stylish) woman she is. We spent the evening drinking some of my birthday rum, catching up with the excellent spy drama Berlin Station on More 4 followed by parts 3 & 4 of gripping BBC 4 thriller The Sinner.

Forget the god bothering, Iris Apfel, like me, worships at the shrine of the accessory!

After my brother had popped round on Sunday morning with my birthday present, a pair of vintage fashion advertising prints, we popped into Walsall to get a shaving plug for the epilator Jon had bought me. I feel like an outsider from mainstream society at the best of times but honest to god, the madness of Xmas leaves me more bemused by the normals than ever. What is it with those massive Primark bags everyone but us carries around? Is that where everyone buys their Xmas gifts from? No wonder the chazzas are stuffed with Primark clothes with the labels still attached - nobody wants the shit. Anyway, throwaway fashion aside and plug buying accomplished, we called into the new clearance charity superstore where we found a few vintage pieces for the stock room, a new keyboard for my PC, a 70s Indian cotton scarf & beach blanket for our India trip and two wooden frames in which to display my birthday prints and still had change from £20.

Sunday Girl - my second birthday dress from Curtise, a 1970s Robert Newman of London W1 dark floral maxi.

After lunch I braced myself for my first session with my epilator - I'd read a billion on-line reviews over the years describing just how unbearably painful epilating is. Following the instructions to the letter I used the more gentle first-timer's attachment, on its slowest setting and didn't feel a thing so I changed to head to the efficiency one (supposedly for experienced users), ramped up the power and did both legs without any discomfort - in fact, it was so utterly painless that I went on to do my bikini line as well. Disclaimer - like my mum, my pain threshold is ridiculously high, I once spent an entire day at school nursing a broken elbow in silence as I didn't want to make a fuss and walked around for 28 years of my adult life with a dislocated hip.

After Liz and Adrian popped round bearing gifts we ordered pizza and spent the evening watching the French subtitled historical drama, Resistance - this time run-free, our first booze free night since Tuesday...shocking!!

Normal service has been resumed today and I'm wearing a fabulously sparkly Lurex maxi my dear friend Ann (Polyester Princess) sent me for my birthday accessorised by a heap of brass jewellery (chazza-shopped and inherited from my mum) and a fringed bodysuit and platforms (also by way of a charity shop). After I've caught up with all I've missed in the blogging world I'm going to spend the rest of the day packing my India bag.

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The Lost World - Vintage Afghan Fashion

Coat of dreams, come to mama! 

So what is an Afghan coat? Usually made from sheepskin or goatskin with the fleece on the inside and soft, suede-like leather on the outside, they were developed from the traditional overcoat worn by the Afghan tribe known as the Pashtuns and originate from the Ghazni province situated between Kabul and Kandahar. Afghan coats were first imported to the UK in 1966 (the best year known to man, but of course I'm biased) by Craig Sams, who sold them through hippy boutiques including the legendary Granny Takes A TripBy the late 1960s, Afghan coats were Afghanistan’s biggest fashion export, frequently featured on the pages of Vogue and copied by designers for the chicest hippies longing for adventure along the Silk Road.


I've wanted an Afghan coat for as long as I can remember. When 1970s fashion had a revival in the early 2000s I bought a caramel-coloured fake suede one from River Island's sale, it was passable but, like all repro, lacked the integrity of the real thing and eventually got donated to the charity shop. I'd always had my eye on my Mum's which was off-white,colourfully embroidered and stunk of patchouli oil but, after she died, my dad had started to lose his mind and it vanished, never to be seen again. 

About eight years ago Jon and I spotted a beauty at a car boot sale but it was £100 and we didn't have enough cash with us. I've kicked myself ever since - after years of searching I rarely find anything for less than £150. 


A few weeks ago I had a bit of a tidy up and decided to stick a few of the bits and pieces I'd rescued from the parental home on eBay - figuring that I'd hardly miss stuff that had been stuck in a drawer for over a year. I was stunned at how much a few empty antique jewellers' boxes, eyeless teddy bears and tarnished EPNS sold for and decided that, after buying a few pieces for the house, I'd treat myself and placed a bid for an incredible blue Afghan coat that I'd spotted on Ebay. However, I'd forgotten that it's currently the silly season and most of the world are obsessed with buying Xmas tat, so I won my coat for less than half the price I'd been prepared to pay! Hooray!

WEARING: Afghan coat with a 1970s block printed Indian cotton maxi by Dagina (eBay), a 1970s felted wool hat (charity shopped in 2015) and a vintage tooled leather shoulder bag (Charity shopped in 2011)

It arrived yesterday and hasn't been off my back since. I suspect that, like the Afghan dress I'm wearing underneath it below, it'll be a permanent fixture in my Winter wardrobe for decades to come.

WEARING: Afghan coat with vintage Afghan dress, 1960s lace-up boots and a wool felt fedora (Originally Aldo, charity shopped in 2017)

I love that my coat was made by hand in a little shop in Afghanistan just like this one, snapped by intrepid traveller, Peter Loud in 1974.


Firmly on the overland trail in the 1960s & 1970s, I've spoken to many an old hippy who recalls with fondness the time they spent in Afghanistan. Once legendary for the quality of its hashish, the hospitality of its people and its stylish architecture, it's hard to imagine that it's the same Afghanistan we see portrayed today, decimated by thirty years of war, and now a broken, almost Medieval country. 

Kabul was once known as the Paris of Central Asia and pictured above & below is Afghan designer Sarfia Tarzi in the late 1960s.

In 1969, American Vogue, led by photographer Fred Maroon & accompanied by a team of stylists, flew to Kabul to shoot Afghan Adventure which featured both the sights and the fashions of Afghanistan and was published in the December 1969 edition.




The fashion story saw beautiful models posing in front of various backdrops of the hippie trail, blazed by an endless stream of young Americans and dope-smoking Europeans searching for alternative tourism since the 1950s*. 


In the background of photo above is the ancient ruin of the 175-foot-high Buddha statue, the tallest in the world, which was destroyed entirely in March of 2000 by order of the Taliban, on the grounds that they were an affront to Islam.
Where Genghis Khan had not succeeded in fully destroying the statue during his 13th century siege of the valley, the Taliban finished the job 8 centuries later, taking something from Afghanistan that could never be returned, leaving nothing but an empty shell. In the valley that once marked the cultural meeting point of East and West, its archaeology revealing a blend of Greek, Turkish, Persian, Chinese and Indian influence, the carvings and caves of the Bamiyan cliffs now only serve to house Afghan refugees made homeless by decades of war and chaos*.

 Another of the photos captured the model wearing sheer trousers and sitting for afternoon tea near the Russian with the elder Kochi tribesmen. For travellers of the Silk Road, the Afghans had a great tradition of hospitality towards visitors and valued the well-being of a guest over their own*.

*Courtesy of Messy Nessy Chic



Testament to the skills and
resilience of the Afghan people is how they turned their troubled history into an art form.

This is my War Rug (or Baluch) which I found in a charity shop a couple of years ago. Afghan rug makers began incorporating the apparatus of war into their designs almost immediately after the Soviet union's invasion of their country in 1979 and continue to do so today in the wake of the United States' 2001 invasion which ousted the Taliban government but sadly failed to bring an end to the violence.

By strange coincidence the dress shares its name with one of my favourite books, a Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, written by Eric Newby who was, like me, born on December 6th.

It's my birthday tomorrow so I thought I'd buy myself a present with the leftover funds I was intending to spend on my Afghan coat. I've worn my other Afghan dress such a lot that I thought I'd better get myself another just in case I wear the first one out (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) Luckily for me, it wasn't listed in the vintage section of eBay so it sneaked under the radar of the other collectors. I've got a couple of birthday outings to look forward to so it'll be worn in the next day or so (under my Afghan coat, naturally!)

See you when I'm 52!

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Beige Will Kill You - Adding Teal Appeal

Technically our lounge was never beige, it was painted Aged White, the colour of antique wedding dresses and heirloom bedlinen and a few years ago was considered worthy of a feature in an interiors magazine. While we'd lived with white walls for over a decade, Jon had longed for a teal room for years and, as he was the one doing the painting, I finally let him have his way.

For some reason the magazine said we that we lived in Cheltenham - I bloody wish!! They also described the house as a four bedroom 1820s cottage as opposed to a two-bedroom house built in 1750.

Beige will kill you were the words used by the fabulous Sue Krietzman in the TV advert for Valspar and by luck, they had the exact shade of teal Jon wanted in their vast range of over two thousand paint colours.

I'm not being paid to promote them but the quality of their V500 matt blend is incredible and a 5 litre tin was enough to cover the walls (and radiator) with enough left over to decorate a doll's house wall or two!

Finally a chair that keeps my hips and knees in perfect alignment - an essential for us creaky old arthritics. I did a general internet search for an armchair that matched my exacting specifications (velvet, a cool colour, button backed, elegant, dark wooden legs and, most essentially, the correct seat pitch) and found this beauty on a trendy furniture website. Making a note of the model name I searched eBay and, as luck would have it, I found one which been used for a photoshoot and available to Buy-it-Now for a third of the retail price. That was the opposite case with the floor lamp with the decadent crushed velvet shade, I'd found one on eBay but, on searching the internet, found the same one for £20 less on an interiors website and then got a further 10% discount for being a new customer. It pays to shop around! I found the 1960s cushion covers, made from Scandanavian fabric, in the 3 for £1 bin in a charity shop.

I bought this large (200cm x 270cm) Turkish kilim from eBay. Here's a tip for you - if you search specific categories (Antique Rugs, for example) and use the proper names (ie., kilim, tribal or Oriental carpet) you'll no doubt find what you're after but, because the seller is using all the right buzz words, everyone else will find it, too and you'll more than likely end up in a bidding war. Instead I searched using the word rug, selected All Categories, sorted by nearest first and in the Condition option I selected used. Yes, you'll have to trawl through some absolute dross but, with a little patience, you'll eventually get lucky - this was listed as a kililim so searching for a kilim wouldn't have brought it up in the listings - and, by searching nearest first, it was local so we could pick it up and avoid paying hefty postage costs. We're the third owners of our kilim, the chap we bought it from had also found it on eBay but got his measurements mixed up and it was far too big for his needs.

You may recognise the framed print behind me. It's Caroline by the British artist Michael Johnson and used to hang above the bed in the spare room. We bought it at a car boot sale from the original owner who'd received it as a wedding present in 1966 (good year, that) and had always hated it so she let us take it away for £2!

 When we were trading at Moseley Vintage & Retro Fair last weekend we both spotted these amazing 1970s ceramic modernist Facette lamps by Cari Zalloni and thought they'd fit in a treat with our teal lounge. As luck would have it they were unsold at closing time and, as we'd had a very successful fair,  we used some of the day's profits to treat ourselves. We found this vintage Indian hardwood sideboard online and immediately fell in love. The company are a small family business specialising in imported vintage Indian furniture & artifacts and although they're based in Hove, at the other end of the country, their delivery costs were very reasonable. Be warned though, you might be tempted to part with all your money when you browse their website (HERE). You may recognise the 19th Century Persian runner, I rescued it from my parental home when we emptied it.

The fire surround used to be white but Jon decided to paint it with blackboard paint and then apply a layer of cast iron effect paint over the top. We were use some green Victorian washstand tiles we'd bought from a car boot sale years ago around the fire surround but were disappointed to discover that we didn't have enough. After a frenzied search of the internet we found a British company who, after 150 years in business, were still making the same apple green tiles by hand and so our fireplace dreams became a reality.

Initially I was worried than anything other than white walls would overwhelm my vintage things but, in reality, teal seems to make them stand out all the more. The green genie bottle was originally Mum's, a 21st birthday present in 1963. The Mid-century oxidised bronze Athena ornament was a souvenir my Dad bought back from Athens in the 1950s and the Bitossi cat was a souvenir my parents brought back from their honeymoon in Elba in 1966 (my parents really did have great taste!) Everything else you see are decades of car boot & charity shop finds.

 This Bohemian gypsy chandelier was one of my fortieth birthday presents.

The Trechikoff era plaster heads are charity shop finds.

As was this starburst clock, snaffled for the princely sum of £1.25 - at 99p the batteries almost cost as much!

Luckily for me I've loved Trechikoff for a lot longer than the hipsters have, so I've never had to spend more than £20 on one of his prints. The Debbie Harry lookalike above the fireplace is an original oil painting, signed MG Walters '79 and came from a car boot sale.

When your curtains (and your upholstery) contain every colour of the rainbow there's no need to change them when you redecorate.

The room isn't quite finished as we're on the hunt for a two seater sofa. I suppose we could go to a furniture shop and buy one but where's the pleasure in that? I'd rather search eBay on a daily basis until the perfect used one comes along. 

Secondhand doesn't mean second best.

Joining Patti & the gang for Visible Monday.