Monday 30 November 2020

The Distancing Diaries - 29th & 30th November, 2020


On Sunday morning I was first up, seeing to the lads and bringing mugs of tea back to bed where we read until 8.30am. We had toast for breakfast and watched The Andrew Marr Show. I painted my nails with Barry M's Black Cherry.

It was another dull and dreary day. Jon popped out on a grocery run before doing some measuring up for our next DIY adventure. I hand-washed the me-made crochet blanket we keep in the shelter, spritzed a few of the house plants, caught up with Blogland and cracked on with some more crochet.

After our noodles we went for a walk around the block via the derelict Highgate Brewery at the end of the avenue. 

Opening in 1898, at its peak Highgate brewery employed over sixty staff and, by the 1970s, produced over 2,500 barrels of mild a week. After unsuccessful mergers with the Bass and Davenports breweries it closed in 2010 and has remained empty ever since.

The grade II listed building failed to sell when it went up for auction a few years ago. Although trendy apartments seem like a great option, the brewery is sited at the end of a narrow lane in the middle of a conservation area so vehicular access would be a problem. Its so sad to see it deteriorating and I expect, like many of Walsall's historical buildings, it will mysteriously burn down one night. 

How cute is this Sikh musician, one of a pair that flanks the gates of a huge new built down a track off our usual route? Walsall has a large Punjabi Sikh community, hence the reason we've had a guruwada at the end of the street since 1964. November 30th marks Guru Nanak's birthday and normally there's a big procession through the town but sadly not this year.

WEARING: Vintage India Imports of Rhode Island maxi, 1970s suede jacket (both eBay), pom pom hat (made by me)

When we got back Jon set to work tuning a couple of guitars for a friend whilst I, finding a couple of episodes of Money for Nothing on the i Player to have on in the background, continued with my crochet.

I bought a couple of balls of this wonderfully lurid Aran wool for 99p in a charity shop last year, I used one ball to make another hat, topping it off with a bastard massive pompom made from the leftover yarn from Jon's beer mittens.

After a tea of baked beans, vegetarian sausages & jacket wedges topped with grated cheese I did a load of washing, hung it up in the utility room and joined Jon in the lounge for a few episodes of The Antiques Road Trip whilst restitching the crochet blanket I'd washed earlier.

Earlier in the day I'd put a snipe bid in for a vintage dress I was watching on Ebay but as there were thirteen other bidders I didn't fancy my chances but, when I went to turn my PC off before going bed, I was excited to discover that I'd won it for significantly less than my maximum bid. My rivals must have been distracted by something on the TV.

On Monday after the first Wii Fit session of the week I wrapped up the weekend eBay sales before joining Jon in the kitchen for fruit & yogurt. After breakfast Jon whizzed the parcels round to the Post Office. My Superdrug order arrived with our friendly MyHermes driver and we had a chat on the doorstep before I unpacked the parcel, giving the contents a wipe over before putting everything away. 

It was another wet, drab and grey day and, with no need to leave the house, I settled into my next project determined that by teatime I'd master the dark art of double crochet.

In the olden days BC (before Covid) Jon & I mostly spent Mondays either tazzing round the chazzas or indulging in a boozy all-dayer down the pub but there's no point in whingeing that we can't do either of them any more. I'm confident that life will eventually return to normal but in the meantime I'm loving having the time to learn a new skill.

I'm wearing the 1970s Dagina Indian block printed maxi dress whose zip I'd replaced last week. I've winterised it by adding a recycled sari silk wrap top. 

After our noodles Jon tucked himself away in the music room for the afternoon while I made myself a pair of wrist warmers/beer mittens with the rest of the charity shopped rainbow Aran wool in double crochet! I would have given them a trial run with a walk around the block but it was pissing  down and Jon was in a creative world of his own.

Wool and hooks packed away, I took myself off upstairs for some self-care. Meanwhile Jon prepared halloumi, roasted vegetables and potato lattices for tea remembering to take some bread out of the freezer for our sandwiches - it's National Trust day tomorrow, the highlight of our week.

Stay safe and see you soon!

Saturday 28 November 2020

The Distancing Diaries - 27th & 28th November, 2020

On Friday morning, just before my final Wii Fit session of the week, I booked next week's National Trust visit and then did a load of washing, hanging it up to dry in the utility room. After our breakfast I caught up with blog comments while Jon measured up the radiators in the lounge and middle room and placed a click and collect order with B&Q which we went and collected before heading over to Liz and Al's.

Liz and Al live in a Victorian toll keeper's cottage on the banks of the Wyrley and Essington Canal in the middle of a nature reserve in the village of Pelsall, a four mile drive from the centre of Walsall. In line with current lockdown regulations we are allowed to meet one friend to go for a walk, so Liz and I went on ahead and the boys followed at a 20 metre distance. There'll be no rule breaking here!

The West Midlands has an extensive canal network and Birmingham is said to have more miles of canal than Venice. Round these parts we call the canal "the cut" and if anyone tells you that they're going up the cut, it means they are walking along the canal towpath. It's an expression frequently used in Peaky Blinders.

After just being made redundant from her 25 year visual merchandising career (bloody Covid!) Liz is now a full-time artist. Check out her website HERE or on Instagram HERE

It was another eye-wateringly cold, bone-chilling day but it felt good to out amongst nature.

After a bracing walk we were sent on our way with a mince pie each , the first we'd had in years, and a pleasant change from noodles!  I spent the rest of the afternoon crocheting. Tea was the other half of the pizza we'd had on Wednesday along with a bottle of ale. Later we opened the rum and caught up with BBC4's new thriller series, The Valhalla Murders which is wonderfully dark and chilling, just how we like our Scandi Noir. 

On Saturday morning Jon was up first. The lads insisted on going out despite the torrential rain and soon joined us back in the bedroom where we lay drinking tea and reading till 8.30am. While Jon started breakfast I stripped and changed the bed, loaded the washing machine and put away yesterday's laundry.

Breakfast was veggie sausages with poached eggs on a slice of Jon's home made spelt bread along with lashings of French's mustard. As the rain showed no signs of stopping I sat in the lounge with  A Place in The Sun on the TV and spent the rest of the morning crocheting. 

A couple of hours later and I'd finished my latest project - a pair of wrist warmers (aka beer mittens) in a super chunky sea green yarn. As the rain had finally stopped Jon put them on ready for a walk around the block. I wore the crochet creation I'd spent Thursday working on, a winter hat with a bastard massive pom pom in the same super chunky wool from Shaw's (a bargain at £1.25 a ball!)


Walsall is wonderfully diverse especially Highgate, the area where we live. You'll pass enormous Arts & Crafts mansions, ten-bedroom Edwardian villas, Victorian gentlemen's residences, 1930s bungalows, '60s tower blocks and tiny back-to-back terraces, a Sikh gurdwara from 1964, a cricket pitch, a huge Indian supermarket (Johal's), derelict buildings, numerous postboxes (including this one which is a designated Covid test drop off point), an empty pub, two-hundred year old cobbled alleyways and an early 19th Century windmill all within a couple of streets. 

The nicest thing about walking around here though is the famed friendliness of our fellow Black Country folk. Everyone, without exception, smiles and says hello. When Jon was taking my photo a dashing  gentleman told him what a beautiful view he was capturing. I thought he was talking about the wall - Jon said he meant me! 

Vintage Swedish army parka & Rockport desert boots (charity shop), Levi 510 skinnies (eBay), wrist warmers (made by me)

Vintage navy suede jacket (eBay), Van Allen mittens on a string (bought new in 1971), 1970s Mayur Indian gauze dress (local selling page), Ilse Jacobsen handmade rubber boots (new, retail, 2018), pompom hat (handmade by me)

When I mentioned my collaboration with the Swedish design company on my last post I was surprised by what a couple of people saw as Swedish style mentioning word like minimal, white and festive.

When I got home from our walk I thought I'd better give one of my Lundby doll's houses a dusting down (a 1971 Gothenburg) and show you what I imagine Swedish style to be.

The furniture is mostly original Swedish designed pieces, many made in collaboration with Ikea in the 1970s. 

 Several room are furnished in the Gustavian style, after King Gustav (1771 - 1792), very similar to the French & English Regency style of the same period.

There are nods to the painted folk art furniture that was big in the 1970s.

Lot of the wallpaper and textiles I've used are by Josef Frank (1885 - 1967) an Austrian designer who became a Swedish citizen after fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. He was the Swedish William Morris.

Rest assured - like my Swedish doll's houses - there'll be no minimalism or pared-down style in Stonecroft!  Going by the Scandi dramas and films I've seen Swedish people decorate their homes as eclectically as we do.

All that doll's house dusting took me up to teatime, which was spinach and ricotta tortellini with Jon's homemade sauce and plenty of freshly grown basil. Tonight will involve lashings of rum and some grisly Nordic Noir.

Stay safe and see you soon!

Thursday 26 November 2020

The Distancing Diaries - 25th & 26th November, 2020

Torrential rain greeted me when I got up on Wednesday morning but the lads insisted on going outside and came back just after I'd finished my Wii Fit. I'd just about caught up with my blog reading when Jon got up and, after a break for fruit and yogurt, I settled back down to reply to comments.

Although the rain had stopped by 10.30 am neither of us were inspired to do a great deal. Jon had bought himself a new mobile phone which arrived the previous day so he spent the morning setting it up and scaring the bejesus out of me with the ring tones. I harvested a crop of winter radishes and more peas for the salad we intended to have for tea and then potted up the cuttings that I'd started in the propagation station a couple of weeks ago.

After lunch Jon did a post office run and I delved into my dressmaking patterns looking for inspiration but sadly didn't have enough fabric in my stash to make what I wanted. I sorted out the dressing table drawers weeding out a vintage polo neck jumper that was a bit itchy and three pairs of TopShop socks I'd bought new from a charity shop but hadn't worn and added them to the donation bag. 

WEDNESDAY: Vintage Kate Beaver hand painted maxi dress (99p, charity shop, 2016), Amulet pendant (Gujarat, 2018)

A delivery from DHL arrived while Jon was out. After my lockdown kitchen post a Swedish design company got in touch saying that they loved our interior style and wondered if we'd be interested in choosing a product from their website in exchange for a review. Like many bloggers I'm often approached about promoting things on my blog & I usually say no as the products are usually totally irreverent to me & my lifestyle (I had an email earlier from a company offering me shapewear!) This invitation couldn't have come at a better time, the overall look of one of our rooms has been niggling me for a while and this offered us the perfect opportunity to tweak it. We have a two week window to get it done and write a blog post. Thank goodness for Jon's DIY skills!

Meanwhile here's today's Swedish clogs with Nordic socks.

I spent a delightful forty minutes listening to 6Music while sorting out my roots. Nothing's a chore when you've got some good tunes to keep you company. 

WEARING: Black satin dragon embossed kimono, given to Jon by a fan when he toured Japan with the band back in 1990 & as it's 30 years old it's officially vintage!

As it was the last box of dye I went along the bathroom shelf to see if we needed anything else before placing an order with Superdrug. Back in the days BC (before Covid) we never bought more than we needed, living so close to town it was no problem if we ran out of anything, we'd walk to the shops and be back within the hour. These days I have to plan. In addition to the hair dye I ordered eye make-up remover, Jon's post-shave balm and some nail varnish remover as we were down to the dregs. Buying toiletries this way saves us money, delivery is free for loyalty card holders spending over £10 and now we can't browse the shelves we only buy what we need rather than being tempted by Barry M cosmetics (me) or nice smelling shower gels (Jon!)

Tea was salad with a bottle of ale. Wednesday night means rum night so we cracked open a new bottle and watched this week's Antiques Road Trip on catch-up having caught up with the entire series of DNA the previous evening.

There was a heavy frost overnight and I had to prise open the wheely bin lid to get Wednesday night's beer bottles in before it was collected. After my Wii Fit workout and our usual breakfast, Jon brought the seed trays in from the greenhouse and we potted up our Mother-of-Thousand babies before repotting the plants themselves as they'd outgrown their pots.

THURSDAY: Vintage Janet Wood for Monsoon afghan blouse (eBay), Crochet maxi skirt (handmade by Liz for my birthday four years ago), patent Doc Martens (charity shop, 2018)

Jon needed to pop out for a few groceries and I braved the bitter cold by filling the garden waste bin with three sacks of leaves, leaving one to mulch down over the winter.

At 11.30am I turned on the TV to find out which tier Walsall would be placed in when lockdown ends on 2nd December. As expected we're in the highest tier, number 3, along with most of the West Midlands. Looks like I won't be celebrating my birthday in the usual way this year - no pubs are open and meeting indoors or in private gardens isn't allowed. 

1970s Indian block print maxi dress by Dagina (eBay, 2017)

When I put this dress on last week the top of the zip snapped off so I unpicked it, replacing it with a another from my stash, sewing it by hand. I could have done it on the machine but I've got all the time in the world at the moment and it's rather satisfying to take ages over something.

Jon returned from his mission bearing my Shaw's order which Izzy the postman had just dropped off. In addition to my wool they'd sent me a free (and very cute) tote bag. After our noodles Dave came round to check his work and gave the paintwork a tickle knowing Jon's fear of heights. When he'd finished we went for a walk around the block and armed with a posh coffee I tuned into YouTube and followed the tutorial for my latest crochet project. A few hours later and I'm getting there. I might be able to finish it off in front of the TV later as long as we're not planning to watch anything subtitled!

Tea was some homemade potato wedges, curried veg and an onion bhaji eaten whilst watching BoJo's latest missive. 

Stay safe and Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the USA!