Thursday 30 April 2020

Our Lockdown Life - Day 40 & 41

Day 40 was another soggy one, albeit with intermittent showers rather than the incessant rain of Tuesday. I was so cold the previous evening that I'd opted for a long soak in the bath as opposed to my usual shower, the first time I'd had a bath this year. We'd watched another episode of Museums in Quarantine, this time a tour of the Young Rembrandt exhibition at Oxford's Ashmolean, closed due to the pandemic.

 After Wii Fit, breakfast & a quick blog catch-up, I got dressed, opting for an embroidered 1960s Indian cotton-gauze kaftan by Ayesha (found on eBay last year), some Afghan Kuchi earrings and my vintage tooled leather lion's head belt (from the 3 for a £1 basket a couple of years ago).

Jon braved the rain to fetch the compost from the greenhouse enabling me to repot the globe artichokes at the kitchen table.

 A couple of days ago I was sweeping the kitchen floor and discovered three new potatoes which must have fallen from the vegetable rack, rolled under the cupboard and sprouted so, as an experiment I potted them up to see what would happen. While I was at it I decided to repot our spider plants as well. Jon finished what he'd started on Gilbert yesterday, returned the compost to the greenhouse, reporting that both the beans & courgettes had shot up overnight.

After he'd emptied the bins (I can't believe it's been a fortnight since our collection), Jon suggested we go for a walk before our noodles so we had a brisk stroll around the block in the rain.

After lunch, I polished the pendant that had once been a button and looked up the silver mark online. It was made in 1902 by Arthur & John Zimmerman, silversmiths based in Regent Place, Birmingham and registered at the Birmingham assay office. Isn't she beautiful?

In the mood for a bit of restoration, Jon dug this out of the shed to attempt to strip off the varnish. It's the panel from a stagecoach door, bearing the coat of arms of General Thomas Grosvenor (1764 - 1851), who succeeded his father as Whig member of parliament for Chester. In 1820, following a snap general election triggered by the death of George III, an angry mob attacked Grosvenor's stagecoach, overturning it into the River Dee.

Mum's mum (my grandma Joan, who owned Stonecroft before we did) came from Chester where her great-grandfather retrieved the panel from the River Dee, shortly after the murder attempt, and it has remained in the family ever since. Years later, one of Grandma's sisters painstakingly researched Lord Grosvenor, attaching the information she'd unearthed to the back of the panel.

It isn't in the greatest condition but it's two hundred years old and spent time in a river, so it's hardly surprising really.

I dusted the bookshelves on the landing a few weeks ago but thought I'd attempt to tidy them up a bit - I didn't get far, I got distracted by a book. This isn't our only bookcase, there's a glazed Victorian behemoth in the dining room, a pile of paperbacks in each of our bedside tables and there's also my arts & fashion collection on top of my crafting cupboard further down the landing.

We're fairly disciplined when it comes to books, most of the paperbacks on our shelves are those we haven't yet read (or one of us has and thinks the other one would enjoy it.) Once they're read they normally donated back to the charity shop, at the moment they're piling up in the cupboard of doom.

I used to save any Indian themed novels to take when we travelled there, passing them on to fellow travellers once we'd read them. I regretted my actions far too often, wanting to re-read certain passages when we've actually been to the place they were set so that I now read them at home & I keep them. I don't know how many times I've read Shantaram, The God of Small Things & The White Tiger and if you've never read them then you really should.

The Woman at Home book at the far left of the shelf was published in 1912 and is a selection of articles taken from the magazine of the same name. We found it in the parental home when we moved there in 1970, in amongst the belongings of the lady who lived there before we did.

Even though it's been part of my life for fifty years it still holds me in thrall. The Edwardian Belle Epoque fashions are incredible and the articles fascinating, tips on holidaying in a horse-drawn gipsy caravan, interviews with the Russian royal family and Indian Ranis along with extracts from the diary of an Anglo-Indian housewife dealing with wayward servants - which I re-read this afternoon.

After a shower & pizza with salad, we retired to the lounge, opened the bar and watched Museums in Quarantine and The Great British Sewing Bee with our Wednesday night rum ration.


After my Thursday Wii Fit session, we had breakfast and watched the truly inspiring Captain Tom's 100th Birthday celebrations on the BBC. I then caught up with Blogland and got dressed.

Day 41's lockdown outfit was a vintage crushed velvet embroidered maxi dress worn with some Vietnamese Hmong earrings and a pendant I bought in Goa a couple of years ago.

I swept the carpet in the middle room, pulled out the desk and scrubbed the radiator behind it. I can't remember ever cleaning it before, it certainly didn't look like I ever had! Tut, tut! On a bit of a cleaning roll, I swept and mopped the hall floor whilst I was at it.

When I had a bath on Tuesday night I looked across at the wall opposite and wasn't keen on how plain it looked. I can't be doing with clean lines and uncluttered spaces, they depress me.

 After a couple of drinks last night, inspiration struck, I remembered a Victorian picture frame we'd rescued from the parental home and a vintage Italianate gilt shelf I had stashed away in a drawer.

Combined with one of the spider plants I'd repotted yesterday, Jon made my idea a reality.

After a break for noodles, swathed in the 1920s silk kimono I'd wrapped myself in earlier as an alternative to switching the central heating on, armed with my vintage brolly I went for a wander around the garden.

After a dry & sporadically sunny start, today had descended into yet another damp and dreary day. I know us Brits are mildly obsessed with the weather at the best of times but, with nowhere to go other than a quick walk around the block, a rainy day doesn't half impede one's activities.

Still, as my elderly relatives always used to say, all this rain is good for the gardens.

The skies may be grey but the shrubs, tubs and borders are blooming.

The plants in the greenhouse are coming along nicely, as well. Check out Jon's French beans (and his snazzy jumper).

A lot of my blogging friends refer to our tortoise Jacob as a turtle*, if the rain continues he'll be in danger of becoming one!

*Tortoises and turtles are both reptiles but from different classification families. Tortoises are entirely land-dwelling whereas turtles live in water. 

We've just got back from a walk around the block, timing it just right as the rain has started again. After a mug of tea to warm up, Jon'll crack on with making a paneer curry for tea.


Tonight - after clapping for our carers - we'll be watching the new BBC series of The Real Marigold Hotel where a group of well-known pensioners (including the fabulous Zandra Rhodes) check out retirement options in other parts of the world. They're in the former French colony of Pondicherry in Southern India, a place Jon & I liked so much that we visited twice (in 2006 and 2010). If you want to see it through the eyes of normal people, as opposed to wealthy celebs, check out my post HERE.

Stay safe, stay positive and tell me what you've been up to.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Rainy Days & Mondays - Lockdown Days 38 & 39

After my Wii Fit session on Monday morning (day 38), I logged on to my PC and placed another order with the garden centre for delivery later this week. Over breakfast Jon & I compiled a shopping list and, once he was dressed, he drove down to the Co-op and swung by Johal's on the way back for a couple of missing items.

I left Jon in the kitchen disinfecting the shopping and dusted our bedroom, brushed the floor and scrubbed the tea stains off the bedside tables.

 I went into the spare room and pulled everything sparkly, feather-trimmed or overly flamboyant out of the wardrobe. I emptied my Summer suitcase, hung up my wraparound block print skirts, ethnic blouses and a handful of lightweight cotton maxi dresses with sleeves. Not so much a seasonal changeover as a lockdown lifestyle changeover.

I moved a couple of carexes that had grown too big for their pots and then gave the patio plants a watering. Jon popped out to inspect the seedlings, coming back with a handful of rocket and lettuce leaves to have on our lunchtime sandwich.

After lunch I searched eBay for cottage garden type flower seeds, finding a seller with a huge variety and treated myself to black-eyed Susans, cornflowers, candytuft, calendula, evening primrose and columbine which came to just over £8 including postage.

Jon pottered around the greenhouse, replanting the lemon cucumber that had become waterlogged along with more aubergine, French beans and courgettes and potted up a few peppers.

Then he finished off building his black box to house the electrics for the outdoor lighting. Who needs DIY shops? Jon's got most of it stashed away somewhere.

I repositioned a passionflower as it wasn't happy on the wall outside Jon's music room. I removed the supports it had previously climbed up and touched up the wall with some masonry paint.

We locked everything up and went for a walk around the block, bumping into a friend on the way and chatting - at a safe distance - for a while.

 Despite the forecast being for a much cooler day, it was still pleasantly warm. I wore a 1970s embroidered cheesecloth blouse bought from eBay last year and the reclaimed patchwork maxi skirt again.

Tea was jacket potatoes with coleslaw and cheese (I'll start looking like a potato soon!) After a blog comment catch-up, we watched BBC4's Museums in Quarantine featuring the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate and Grayson Perry's Art Club.

At bedtime, I read another chapter of the book I'd started on Sunday. It's been years since I read anything by Margaret Forster, I'd forgotten how much I love her writing.

This morning (day 39), for the first time in weeks, we woke to torrential rain. After my Wii Fit & our fruit and yoghurt breakfast, I had an epic blog catch-up over a mug of coffee. Jon braved the rain to wire a solar-powered control panel to Gilbert while I went upstairs to clean the spare bedroom. With the temperature plummeting to 8°C there was little to tempt me into the garden.

Recently Vronni, Beate, Monica, Ann, Sheila & Fig have shared photos of their dressing tables so here's mine. If you've been following me for a while you'll no doubt already be acquainted with it, an Edwardian scumble-glazed piece I picked up in a charity shop about 15 years ago.

Using a car boot sale picture frame, a piece of plywood, a posh wallpaper sample and some cup hooks, Jon made me the necklace holder.

It's sturdy enough to accommodate my big tribal pieces.

My earrings live on this wired mannequin, another chazza shop find.

I used to have three times this amount of earrings but came to my senses last year when I realised I only ever wore the same few and donated the rest to the charity shop.

These small banks of drawers lived on my Mum's dressing table. I decoupaged them with vintage Bollywood film posters when I inherited them.  The smaller set contains my makeup, false eyelashes, bindis and eyelash dyeing kit. The larger ones house my bangles.

The 1920s train case came from a car boot sale, I store all my hair accessories in there (combs, brushes, hair & headbands, hair sticks, clips, grips and slides.

This monogrammed silver dressing table set is dated 1929 and was my Great-Auntie Maud (her first name was Alice but she went by her middle name) 21st birthday present. The boar bristle hairbrush is the best thing ever, I use it every day.

Ann has the same piece of 1970s plastic partyware on her dressing table. Hers contains her perspex rings, mine holds my nail stuff - Barry M nail paint, nail varnish remover, toe spacers, nail files and a couple of orange sticks.

The hands were both charity shop buys. My Mum wore the orange ring when she was expecting me in 1966 and the two clear perspex rings were also hers. The silver bags (one containing a miniature prayer book) were my great grandma's. Like my earrings I've given away most of my rings in recent years, I nearly always wear the same ones anyway. The three biggest are Lamani tribal toe rings, the gilt coloured ones are Afghan, I bought the silver & aquamarine ring for my 30th birthday and the silver thumb ring was a souvenir from Morroco in the 1990s.

The amber ring was a 50p charity shop find in the 1990s and is marked Denmark. Several years ago I came across a photo of George Best taken in 1969 with his Danish girlfriend, Eva Haraldstad, and noticed she was wearing the same ring.

I do love an old set of drawers! This is not so much an apprentice piece as something a grandad might have knocked up in his shed but at £1.50 it's ideal for storing the earrings that won't hang off my mannequin. The hand was a present from my brother and the solid silver tribal bangle was bought in Jodhpur back in January (a lifetime ago!)

My handsome maharajah contains my brooches, not something I normally wear as I've got enough going on with my long hair, pendants, bangles, earrings and rings. I used to collect Victorian jet jewellery as a teenager - it was easy to come by at jumble sales back in the 1980s. The chap in the middle is my great-grandfather, it was my great-grandmother's mourning brooch (there's a piece of cloth cut from his suit at the back), the silver monogrammed brooch was another inherited piece as was the Victorian heart-shaped brooch, the enamel bluebird and the silver butterfly wing brooch. The Victorian ammonite and both banded agate brooches were all charity shop finds. The turquoise brooch is by Ruskin and came from a jumble sale.

My dressing table has small drawers beneath each side mirror, the perfect place for storing the stuff that rarely sees the light of day, like Alice Chapman (Grandpa's mother's maiden name) monogrammed silver locket.

Here are two Victorian bog oak mourning lockets, each containing a lock of hair from a deceased sweetheart.

Mum's engagement ring, a few nick-nacks I collected from junk shops as a child and a hallmarked silver button from an ancestor's dress made into a pendant (and in dire need of a polish).

Great-great grandmother's enamel fob watch, a Victorian silver vesta case and mirror from a chatelaine, a gold, diamond and turquoise ring I inherited as a child, a jet locket and a butterfly wing pendant. I found the Italian micro-mosaic bar brooch wedged under the carpet when I cleared the parental home, it must have belonged to the original owner of the house (the only other person to have lived there) as girly, dainty and pretty certainly wasn't to my Mum's taste.

What with cleaning, sweeping, dusting and taking photos, other than a break for noodles, that was how I spent the best part of the day. We do have some growing news to report, however, namely the Ruby Red Swiss chard, purple cauliflower, lemon cucumber I planted last week have sprung up overnight.

Jon has also taken delivery of a couple of packs of paintbrushes he ordered last week. If the weather continues to keep us housebound maybe we'll start decorating.

We're having curried chickpeas and salad filled pitta bread tonight, I haven't checked if there's anything decent to watch on TV but I'll let you know if I find anything.

Stay safe, sane and positive!