Saturday 28 December 2019

So That Was Xmas...

Despite an eight hour session in 'Spoons the previous day I was up and on the Wii Fit before 7am the following morning. After fruit & yogurt for breakfast my brother popped round with our Xmas present and stayed for a cup of tea. The rest of Xmas Eve was mostly spent cleaning the almost-finished bathroom, keeping out of Jon's way while he wrapped my presents and delivering the last of the cards to the neighbours. Amid much excitement I took delivery of my Vintage Pony Awards which are now taking pride of place on the mantelpiece in the middle room.

WEARING: 1970s Tori Richard psych maxi (swapped with a fellow trader), Vintage blue velvet marabou trimmed opera coat (£20, vintage shop in Birmingham city centre, 2013), orange fedora (retail buy)

I cooked a cauliflower cheese with roasted carrots and parsnips for tea and we watched Defiance on the i-Player, the final episode of A Christmas Carol and Martin's Close, a brilliant half-an-hour ghostly courtroom drama on BBC4 set in the 17th Century. As is usual on Xmas Eve we abstained from the booze so we'd enjoy it all the more with our curry the next day.

On Christmas Day Jon got up and made tea and we opened each other's presents in bed. We had our usual fresh fruit and yogurt breakfast, opened the rest of our Xmas presents and then showered and got dressed. I wore a 1970s gold lame Victor Costa Romantica dress ex-blogger Joyatri gave me when we first met back in 2012 along with my Egyptian Revival necklace and bracelet.

Jon whizzed off to pick up a Dead Relatives Society member and after exchanging presents we grabbed some booze and walked down to the curry house where we met up with the usual suspects, pulled crackers, groaned at the dreadful Xmas soundtrack and tucked into our Indian feast.

After poppadums, me (the sole vegetarian) tucked into vegetable pakoras and a stuffed Romano pepper while the carnivores ate chicken tikka, sheikh and shami kebab. For my main course I had stuffed aubergine with tikka Quorn pieces and the others ate slow roasted spiced lamb shank. The fragrant turmeric & coriander potatoes were to die for. There was gulab jamum with vanilla ice cream (Jon ate mine) and a choice of coffee or chai but I'd put my camera away by then. 

We said our goodbyes to the staff and the rest of the crew and spent the evening watching three Luca Zingaretti (Italian actor of Montalbano fame) films accompanied by rum & cola (Jon) and rhubarb & ginger gin with Indian tonic (me). We didn't eat again.

WEARING: 1960s nylon maxi dress (£5, charity shop, October 2019), Vintage enameled Moroccan pendant (Stockport Vintage Village, 2014)

On Boxing Day, after cheese on toast for breakfast (how very decadent!) we spent a lazy morning reading. At midday we walked into town having lunch and a couple of beers in 'Spoons (Mediterranean vegetable lasagne and salad for me, fish and chips for Jon). A large proportion of the clientele seemed to consist of couples carrying huge Primark bags intent on arguing with each other. Xmas, the season of goodwill to all men, my arse. 

After a wonderful few hours spent making rough plans for our forthcoming Indian adventure and reminiscing about previous trips, we walked back and spent the evening watching the entire BBC political drama series from the Nineties, House of Cards. Still stuffed from our lunchtime treat we just had a slice of Stollen for our tea.

WEARING: Early 70s Dollyrockers maxi (£5, charity shop, 2018), vintage 1950s Tyrolean souvenir belt (gift from Helga, 2011)

Yesterday morning, after a two day break, I was back on the Wii Fit and discovered I'd lost weight since Tuesday. I never overeat at Xmas. After breakfast (fruit & yogurt) we moved the pictures around in the bathroom to accommodate a new print and a handmade plant hanger that we'd been given for Xmas. Jon wanted to replace the bathroom door but the replacement (another Edwardian four panel skip find) was slightly too big and his ancient saw wasn't up to the job so he suggested we pop into town to get a new bit of kit. Utter madness! The main car park was full with a queue stretching halfway down the road and hoards of crazed looking people, laden down with shopping bags and rolls of Xmas wrapping paper, thronging the streets. 

We picked up the replacement saw and decided to pop into the charity clearance shop to deposit the two books I'd read over the last week. The chazza is next to a huge sportswear emporium and we were amazed to see hundreds of people rifling through what looked like endless rails of identical greige synthetics like their lives depended on it. As we entered the charity shop a gang of men clad head-to-toe in sportswear stood at the store threshold yelling, "Wanna look in there?" "You can f*ck off" and laughed hysterically before heading back into the safety of the sports shop.

Their loss! While they tussled with the masses over dodgy sports attire I scored a Miu Miu mohair and wool Italian-made tank top from their hugely successful 2003 collaboration with the legendary French cartoonist, Raymond Peynet (1908 - 1999) for £2. It would originally have retailed for around £700. Who needs sales when there's charity shopping?

 One of my Xmas presents from Jon was this beautiful fair trade Frida Kahlo Day of The Dead crewel work cushion cover which was handmade in India. As it's an odd size, he was planning to track down a cushion pad after the seasonal retail madness had died down, but I saved him the trouble by spotting the perfect sized cushion displayed on a settee in the furniture department. I removed the pad from the cover, handed my £1 and the cushion cover back to the lady on the till and left delighted.

After a lunchtime bowl of vegetable chilli noodles, I spent the remainder of the day taking up the hem of my Pakistani block printed kaftan and replacing the handle on one of our jute shopping bags whilst Jon acquainted himself with his new gadget. Jon made roasted vegetables with haloumi for tea and we started watching a subtitled Dutch crime series called Blood Pact accompanied by rum and gin.

WEARING: Vintage wool housecoat, Antique Moroccan Hand of Hamsa beaded necklace (£1, car boot sale, 2013. 

Today, like most Saturdays, started with a vegetarian sausage sandwich. Jon successfully cut the replacement door to size and rehung it. I've done three loads of washing, trimmed my hair and was contemplating starting my India packing but I've just taken delivery of a parcel that's come all the way from Lahore and might just have to do some house-y style stuff instead. Plans for tonight include a pizza, a little more rum and watching the new Norwegian thriller, Wisting.

Hope you've spent the last few days doing exactly what you wanted to - we did.

See you soon!

Monday 23 December 2019

The Festive Wrap-Up

The presents have been wrapped, the Xmas cards posted and we're off for a festive all-dayer in 'Spoons - which is basically the same as our normal all-dayer but with my brother accompanying us -and I'm wearing a vintage gold crochet wedding dress, as you do.

I snaffled it for the grand sum of £5 from a car boot sale in 2009. It did come with a flesh coloured full length slip but I much prefer it worn over leggings and a bodysuit. The velvet ankle boots and felted wool hat are old charity shop finds and I bought the 1970s Pakistani velvet and mirrorwork tote bag from a jumble sale in the 1980s.

Jon's giving his £1 Alexander McQueen shirt an outing. He's wearing a pair of Levi's 510 jeans I scored on eBay for him for the princely sum of £3.20 and a 1970s Italian-made cord jacket.

Did you know that if you were to lay out the Xmas wrapping paper we Brits chuck out every year it would reach the equator and back nine times? To make matters worse, most shop-bought paper is a composite of synthetic inks, plastic film, chlorine and metal-based foils and glitters and can't be recycled. On average the UK buys 6 million rolls of Sellotape in December, which is made from polypropylene and also can't be recycled.

As usual I've made my own gift wrap using recycled brown paper which I've block printed with an Indian wood block and leftover paint I'd found in the cupboard. In an attempt to do away with Sellotape I've used biodegradable garden twine. 

I posted a photo on IG which led to a discussion about other eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts ranging from using architects' plans, incomplete dressmaking patterns, fabric off-cuts, jute tote bags and vintage scarves to recycled gift wrap saved from Xmases past embellished with salvaged ribbon and broken jewellery. Vintage pillowcases tied with old ribbon make for great pressie sacks.

It may be too late to implement this year but lots of inspiration for next time. Xmas doesn't have to cost the earth!
WEARING: Vintage Phool quilted waistcoat (Eyewoodwake Vintage), Vintage Phool block print midi dress (Second to None, Walsall), Wool trilby (originally Reiss, via eBay), Clarks' Orinoco Club boots (eBay) 

This is my rosemary door wreath - photographed on the garden wall so you can see it a bit better. The ring is made from heavy duty garden wire that I wound around a large mixing bowl. When it dries up I'll chuck the rosemary sprigs in the compost bin, unravel the wire and reuse it in the garden.

A friend mentioned that rosemary helps keep the moths at bay and, as my brother has a bit of a Lyle & Scott addiction and terrible trouble with moths I made him a couple of rosemary bags as an additional Xmas present (my secret's safe, he doesn't read my blog). I used some muslin which I salvaged from a parcel I'd had shipped from India last year and block printed it using a holy cow wood block (bought in India) and some fabric paint from a job lot I got from a car boot sale over a decade ago.

As always, Xmas Day will be a low key affair. The Dead Relatives Society, our band of orphans, will meet up for a lunchtime curry and a glass of wine or two (not to excess, one of our gang works in retail and has to be at work the following morning) and we're usually so full after our Indian feast that we don't eat again till our Boxing Day lunch in Wetherspoon's.

We generally loathe the usual festive offerings on the TV (Hollywood blockbusters, animations, anything with celebrities and any sentimental sh*t) and have a stock of films to watch but we're making an exception this year as the BBC, in conjunction with Tom Hardy & Steven "Peaky Blinders" Knight, have created a new version of A Christmas Carol to be shown over three successive nights. We watched the first episode last night and neither of us to each other spoke for an hour - we loved it.

And that's it from me, the pub is calling!

Have a fantastic 25th December however you choose to spend it.

Loads of love from Vix, Jon, Stephen Squirrel and Frank.

Friday 20 December 2019

Nothing New To See Here - December's Charity Shop Finds

This time of year wears me out. Talk about mithered, I'm already looking forward to a drink later.
Don't be mistaken into thinking I've driven myself daft over Xmas, though, as far as I'm concerned it's just another Bank Holiday and certainly not worth getting my knickers in a twist over. For us mid-December is when we have to apply for our Indian tourist visas and despite having done it for the last twenty years the process never fails to stress me out. It took the best part of four hours to submit our application forms this morning.

On the plus side the Indian Government has slashed the visa prices and five year tourist visa is now cheaper than we used to spend on a six month one. On the minus side my passport only has four pages left so when the times comes to replace it I'm going to have to cart two passports around India with me. I was going to renew it when we got back from Greece but discovered that the Home Office sneaked through an amendment to the law during the Summer and the time remaining on British passports is no longer added to your renewed one, meaning I'd be paying for an eight year passport rather than a ten year one. Gotta love the Tories.

WEARING: Janet Wood for Monsoon Afghan waistcoat, Eastern European embroidered folklore blouse, Ayesha Davar block printed midi skirt (all vintage, all eBay finds), 1960s-does-Edwardian boots (car boot sale) and tooled leather belt (charity shop) 

It's been pissing it down since yesterday afternoon so you'll have to excuse the blurry indoor photos. Everything I'm wearing today has been seen before, just in different combinations. 

Whilst I'm no fan of Christmas, I'm a huge fan of charity shops at this time of year. While everyone else and his wife seems to out trawling soulless shopping centres and bankrupting themselves buying tat presents, Jon & I have the chazzas to ourselves. Jon's found some ace stuff for himself including an Alexander McQueen skull print shirt which currently sells for £360 for just £1 and a Roderick Charles of Jermyn Street overcoat, priced at £495 on their website, for £2. Seriously, who needs to set foot in some depressing fast fashion emporium?

These are a few of my finds over the last couple of weeks. There is more but by the time I'd ventured to the Kinky shed and back twice I was a tad on the soggy side. (Click on the collages to enlarge.)

Biba beaded silk flapper dress (don't get too excited, it's from their contemporary label, which I'm not  particularly keen on but the sparkle should appeal to a festival goer), 1980s velvet and tartan oversized parka and a 1970s black midi coat by the Leather & Suede Centre, London.

1970s sequinned Indian silk butterfly top, an amazing quilted kimono jacket and a 1970s angel sleeved maxi dress by Peterson Maid.

1960s groovy floral polo neck by Keynote (which was Littlewoods' in-house label), a 1960s lamé evening dress and a 1970s polyester midi dress.

Snazzy Korean-made 1970s anorak (with concealed hood), a 1970s backless lurex maxi dress and a 1960s tartan wool waistcoat. 

1970s Reldan, London russet cord jacket, 1970s tassel-trimmed kaftan by Eastex and a 1960s plush jacket in the wildest shade of green ever.

WEARING: Vintage Adini block printed maxi (charity clearance shop, 2018), Clarks' clog boots,, plum fedora

Another of my finds was this fringed cape. The charity shop manager told me that I could have it for £3 as it had been in the window for a week and I was the only person to show any interest it in whatsoever (I insisted on giving her more).

Andrew Stewart was based in the Scottish border town of Galashiels. In Victorian times, at the height of the town's prosperity, Galashiels had twenty textile mills and 44% of the population was employed in wool weaving. Andrew Stewart filed for bankruptcy in 1989 after the then USSR cancelled a very substantial order for scarves. 

I've sold a fair number of Andrew Stewart tartan capes over the years but this is the first plain one I've come across. It's deliciously cosy and a keeper.

Before you ask if that's a Xmas wreath - it isn't. It's my handmade rosemary wreath, said in Old English folklore to deter thieves and encourage elves at least, I hope I've got that the right way round or we're doomed. Rosemary grows in abundance in our garden, it seems a waste just to use it to season our roast veg.

Talking of which Jon's doing roasted veg for tea, I'd better rush off and have a bath in readiness.

See you soon!

Monday 16 December 2019

It's My Obsession - Afghan Nomad Dresses

 I've only gone and found myself another vintage Afghan nomad dress to add to my collection.

Worn by the Kuchi, Afghanistan's nomadic tribe, these dresses - usually made from heavy cotton - feature a hand-embroidered bodice with a notch opening than can be worn at the front or the back and have wide sleeves and a very full skirt. They were traditionally worn over trousers that gather at the ankle with a chador (headscarf) to cover the hair. The dress with the black skirt and the one alongside it with the mirrored inserts on the bodice are traditional dresses that would have once been worn by the tribal woman themselves while the others were produced especially for export to the West, when the hip and trendy became obsessed with ethnic fashion in the late '60s/early 1970s.

Ethnic dresses are hugely popular and deservedly so, even Zara do passable imitations, but the original versions can go for crazy amounts of money. It took me a few years to find an Afghan dress at an affordable price but, as any collector will tell you, as soon as you finally find the item you've been searching for, like buses, others soon start turning up.

I could gaze at images of Kuchi women in their traditional dress all day. I was definitely born in the wrong country, tweed, tartan, pearls and Burberry raincoats in endless neutral shades, the clothes we Brits are well known for, have never appealed.


Give me rich vegetable-dyed cottons, intricate embroidery, sparkling mirrorwork and lashings of heavy metal jewellery that clanks when you move.







Despite their bastard massive size the oxidised tribal earrings I'm wearing aren't visible in my photos. Like the dress they're vintage Kuchi and were a lucky find on eBay.

WEARING: 1970s Afghan nomadic dress & Reiss wool fedora (both eBay), 1960s cranberry suede & patent leather go-go boots (car boot sale over a decade ago)
Unless you live under a rock you'll know all about Thursday's UK general election results and, like 99.9% of my friends, I'm utterly devastated but here's a vote with results that made me very happy indeed.....

Not only did I win Best Blog in the Vintage Pony Awards 2019 but also Vintage Guy/Gal! I can't promise that I'll change anything with my win, I shall just continue in the way I always have done, dressing from head-to-toe in vintage clothes and writing about stuff that interests me to anyone willing to read it.

Thank you so much to everyone who was kind enough to vote for me and for putting a smile back on my face for the first time in days.

See you soon!

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Lucky Lucky Lucky Me!

This dress was waiting for me when I went charity shopping last week. It wasn't hard to spot, a beacon of colour and grooviness in a sea of manky stretch jersey and feeble High Street prints that generally dominate the rails of chazzas up and down the land.

The previous owner had made some odd adjustments, opening up the side seams and adding a two inch strip of black polyester on each side and taking the hem up so much that it was midi length (fortunately she'd just sewn the hem and not chopped it off). It took the best part of a day to restore the maxi to her previous glory. The poor thing was so dusty that the colour looked completely different after a spin in the washing machine. 

Polly Peck was a small British fashion house which gained prominence in the Swinging Sixties with Sybil Zelker's bold designs on ground-breaking modern fabrics. The label was bought out by disgraced businessman, Asil Nadir in the 1980s and collapsed in 1991 with debts totalling £1.3bn. 

WEARING: Vintage 1960s Miss Polly for Polly Peck maxi (British Heart Foundation), Orange fedora (new, retail), Lamani coin belt worn as a necklace (India, 2000), Clarks' Orinoco Club boots and 1970s tooled leather bag (both eBay) 

 After finding a polo neck that perfectly matched my hat the previous week, what were the chances of finding a dress in the same shop seven days later!  I wonder what'll be waiting for me this week? People often tell me that I have great charity shop luck but the secret is to go regularly and with a clear head. Don't go with a wish list in mind, you'll see past the potential of everything else in the shop in your mission to accomplish wardrobe nirvana and more often than not miss some chazza shop gold. Do I need another vintage maxi dress? Of course not. I've probably got enough dresses to wear a different one every day for months but that's the rail I always peruse first. 

Talking of lucky, I thought I'd share my birthday presents. I have been spoilt.

This spoon and bangle were made from the bombs that devastated Laos between 1964 and 1973.  Something beautiful from something so ugly. 

Do you love Inspector Montalbano as much as I do? Here's the entire back catalogue of Luca Zingaretti's other work. I'll be fluent in Italian by the time I leave for India!

William de Morgan porn!

Did I ever mention my teenage love for Blondie? I have every piece of vinyl they ever issued. Looking forward to reading this.

I've been meaning to try some beeswax wraps for ages. I've got no excuse now.


I'm a coffee table book! Thanks to lovely Lynn & Philip for creating this masterpiece!

Artisan made beachy necklaces from my favourite fair trade company.

 Jon managed to track down a vintage silk sari. I'll be taking this to a tailor in India, I have a plan!

A pewter ring stand ('Scuse the cat hair, it's an unavoidable evil in our house).

Ethnic textile heaven.

This bottle of Rosé will be coming to the curry house with me on Xmas Day (I know, aren't I restrained?) It did come accompanied by a box of baklava but that didn't last long enough for a photo!

I've heard great things about Snag tights, a British independent company who make tights in a variety of sizes and leg lengths. I'll let you know how I get on with them.

This ceramic jug should be full of blooming crocus by the Spring.

My birthday card from Curtise is a piece of original artwork from an arts project she supports. I've already framed it and hung it in the bathroom.

She also sent me the blue maxi skirt and the pansy print dress I'm wearing below.

Aren't I a lucky girl? All I need now is for Jon to finish the bathroom and I can use the shower for the first time in three years! Maybe there'll be news about the bathroom by my next post (or maybe we'll be running for the hills if the general election doesn't go our way tomorrow....arghhhh!)

See you soon.