Monday 31 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 29th, 30th & 31st May, 2021

On Saturday morning, despite the forecast for a gloriously sunny day, we woke to grey skies and drizzle. Jon was up first and made tea which he brought back to bed where we lay and read till gone 8am. While he started on breakfast I stripped and changed the bed and filled the bathtub with houseplants.

After our sausage sandwiches, although it was still grey and miserable the drizzle had abated and I was able to peg my washing out on the line. Once dressed I set to work on the area outside the gates which we'd weeded and seeded last Saturday. Sadly, the torrential rain of the past week seemed to have washed the grass seed away and the ground elder had taken root so I spent four hours on my hands and knees with a trowel ridding the area of the bastard stuff once again. Meanwhile, Jon spent the morning in the greenhouse tending to the veg plants, sowing more seeds and potting up.

I found buried treasure, the remains of a Victorian Minton tile.

Over a cup of tea, we searched Facebook and found a nearby farm that grew and cut turf to order so Jon called them and arranged delivery for Tuesday morning. The cost was half the price of the local DIY superstore. Hopefully, we can get it down before the evil weeds take root again.

By mid-afternoon, the sunshine had finally broken out from behind the clouds and after feeding all the plants with an organic liquid seaweed feed (21 trips with the watering can before I lost count) I stripped down to the bikini I'd optimistically put on earlier in the day and spent the rest of the day on the lawn.

After tea (pizza!) we cracked open the rum and watched three hours of The Killing. I love the characters but I'm beginning to wish they'd get a move on and crack this case.

On Sunday morning Stephen had me up at the crack of dawn. Again it was grey and overcast and my teeth were chattering as I wandered down the garden at 5.30am to peg out the tea towels I'd left on a 90°C wash before I'd gone to bed the previous evening. I put the kitchen plants in the utility room sink to soak & mopped the floor before taking mugs of tea back to bed and reading until 8am. 

By the time we'd had breakfast and watched Andrew Marr the sun had broken through the clouds and I decided to give the skirt I'd bought from the clearance charity shop last October its first outing. 

The only Finewear garment I've found online is a 1950s nightie. I love that it's a model, a sample taken to boutiques and possibly the only one in existence if the garment didn't get approval for a large production run. The cotton is crisp, the print insanely fabulous (cacti, flamingoes, antelopes and tigers, what's not to love?) It's even got pockets.  

With the exception of my vintage 1960s Dior sunglasses (an eBay treat from Jon), Rajasthani silver snake bracelet and my orange nubuck Lotta from Stockholm clogs, everything I'm wearing is from the charity clearance shop - the off-the-shoulder top, the hammered silver bangle, the pom-pom trimmed basket and the copal beads. The top is going back to the chazza next week, I'd forgotten how annoyingly voluminous it is to wear.

As usual, the charity shop had its usual banging soundtrack and, beneath my mask, I was singing at the top of my voice, which if you've ever heard me sing, is truly terrifying. I hadn't heard D.I.S.C.O by Ottawan since school!

Charity shop karma, it never fails! We donated a box of ceramics and a bag full of surplus camping gear and were rewarded by the chazza shop gods. We came back with a 1980s beaded jacket by Directions; Vintage Indian cotton midi dress; Wooden-framed clutch bag; 1970s tooled leather souvenir pouch; a Paul Smith denim blazer ; a pair of framed tapestries (only bought for the frames, the contents will be donated back next week)

Vintage English-made mustard tweed jacket with leather patches and trim; handmade 1970s cotton dress; 1970s Leygil of London knife-pleated midi dress; set of 1920s pamphlets and advertisements; John Rocha wool waistcoat and a cotton knit Polo Ralph Lauren jumper that I forgot to photograph.

These mohair 1980s handknits must have come from the same home. I love them and I think the hip festival goers will do, too.

After nipping into Wilko for a few essentials we got home just in time for our lunchtime noodles. We spent the afternoon in the garden, pottering, planting, pruning and basking in the heat of the afternoon sunshine.

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend (like we need an excuse) we had a beer with our halloumi and roasted vegetable tea and moved on to the rum when we watched more of The Killing later.

On Monday morning I had a wander around the garden and pegged out the washing I'd left in the machine overnight and was thrilled to discover that three of the Oriental Poppies had finally flowered, almost a fortnight later than usual! I forewent the Wii Fit for tea and an hour and a half in bed with my book. 

After breakfast, I dragged out the suitcase from under the bed and swapped a handful of heavier maxis for some strappy sundresses and happened up this Anokhi kaftan I'd bought at the end of last year and promptly forgotten about.

I often admired these lightweight cotton kaftans when I'm in Anokhi but never got around to buying one as there are always other gorgeous garments to distract me. They pop up on eBay regularly at around £70 so I was amazed to see one listed as a Buy-it-Now for £7. When life returns to normal I'll be wearing this when I walk to a Greek beach, in the meantime meandering around the garden in Walsall will have to do.

I sat in the sunshine winding garden wire around some of my pots of nasturtiums so I could suspend them from the gazebo.

Jon built a composting area using the remains of the old shed he'd demolished last month and spent the rest of the morning clearing an area at the bottom of the garden to accommodate the shed that will replace the three rotten ones. I emptied out the compost bin, wheeled it up to the new store, then washed out the old plastic bin and dragged it outside the gates with a "FREE" sign. The lovely Singh family from round the corner were delighted to take it off our hands.

After noodles, I moved the terracotta pots to where the compost bin was used to bed, swept up the mess, and retreated to the lawn for the rest of the afternoon while Jon levelled off the ground ready to lay the turf tomorrow. 

Tea was a nan bread pizza with salad accompanied by a glass of wine. 

At 25°C it's been the warmest day of the year and the lads have spent most of the day sleeping inside, Jon's taken them for a walk around the garden now the heat's died down and I expect we'll have trouble getting them in later.

With all this boozing, lazing about in the sun and being totally decadent blogging's fallen by the wayside. I shall get up early tomorrow and endeavour to have a gargantuan catch-up before the turf arrives.

See you soon!

Friday 28 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 27th & 28th May, 2021

 Just as we'd been promised, I woke early on Thursday morning to sunshine and blue skies. I wandered around the garden with the lads, did my Wii Fit workout and after we'd had breakfast and Jon had made sandwiches we headed down to the gorgeous Cotswolds for our weekly National Trust adventure.

Our destination was Hidcote, the UK's best known and most celebrated Arts & Crafts gardens, a drive of just over an hour away from Walsall. We'd previously visited at the height of last summer (HERE) and a few weeks later in the autumn (HERE). Due to lockdown, missed visiting Hidcote in her winter finery and were really excited to see what spring would look like.

Americans, Lawrence Johnston and his mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop, moved to the UK in 1900.  Lawrence immediately became a British citizen and fought in the Boer War with the British army. In 1907 Gertrude purchased the Hidcote Manor Estate, situated in a part of Britain with strong connections to the Arts & Crafts movement. 

Lawrence, by now a Major, became interested in turning the fields around the 17th Century manor house into a garden. By 1910 he had begun to lay out the garden's key features, and by the 1920s he had twelve full-time gardeners working for him. After World War II he spent most of his time at Jardin Serre de la Madone, his garden in the south of France and in 1947 he entrusted Hidcote to the National Trust.

Lawrence was influenced in creating his garden at Hidcote by the work of Alfred Parsons and Gertrude Jekyll, who were designing gardens of hardy plants contained within sequences of outdoor "rooms". Hidcote's outdoor rooms have various characters and themes, achieved by the use of box hedges, hornbeam, yew and stone walls. These rooms, such as the 'White Garden' and 'Fuchsia Garden' are linked, some by vistas, and furnished with topiaries. Some have ponds and fountains, and all are planted with flowers in bedding schemes.

The first time we visited Hidcote I declared that it was the most beautiful garden I've ever seen and it still holds true. The planting, the colours and the scents are almost overwhelming. I can't imagine anyone not loving it as much as we do.

As you can see I got carried away with my camera and had trouble whittling down my favourite photos so apologies for the image-heavy post!

After a picnic lunch in the heat and sunshine, we slowly made our way back to Walsall. I say slowly because the traffic was terrible, something we've not experienced in over a year. 

We were so inspired by our visit when we got home that we immediately got changed and spent the rest of the day in the garden. Tea was a Greek salad with spelt bread and a cheeky beer followed by an evening of The Antiques Road Trip on catch-up, easy telly for tired eyes.

On Friday, like the rest of the week, I was wide awake by 5.30am. Conscious of the water being turned off at 8am I did a load of washing and pegged it on the line, repotted a plant, booked next week's National Trust visit and did my Wii Fit workout before wrapping the latest eBay sales. 

We'd made an executive decision to go charity shopping so after breakfast we headed off. I gave my latest eBay acquisition a whirl, teamed with a vintage block printed maxi skirt, my Banjara crescent pendant and some 1970s French deadstock sunglasses.

Although the forecast wasn't great I decided to wear sandals, to go out beyond the garden gates, for the first time this year. The last time I wore these Lotta from Stockholm clogs was when I flew home from Crete last September (sob!) 

A combination of the start of a bank holiday weekend, market day and decent weather meant the Black Country town we visited was rammed but almost everyone wore masks and kept a respectful distance so it wasn't too scary. 

ABOVE: Clockwise from top left: 1970s stack-heeled English-made shoes; Clarks' Originals suede mules; 1960s cotton warehouse coat; Deadstock 1980s American Union-made cap; 1960s worsted wool three-button jacket; 1980s Chinese brocade jacket.

BELOW: Cat in the Hat print shirt; 1960s quilted satin smoking jacket; 1950s quilted coat liner; Another 1980s deadstock American Union-made cap; 1960s tonic-effect, wool-lined mac; 1980s suede waistcoat.

I think these unworn Clarks' Originals might be keepers, they're absurdly comfy and look pretty cool, too. If you're not familiar with the iconic Originals range, it features modern interpretations of their classic footwear designs, often in limited edition designs with some retailing in excess of £300.

 I've only just found out about the connection between Clarks' and Jamaica. Since the desert boot hit the streets of Kingston almost 60 years ago the brand became intertwined with everyday life on the island and is synonymous with the country's musical history. This short film released last month explores what it's like to wear Clarks' in a land that adopted the brand like nowhere else. It's a wonderful watch and you'll probably be straight on eBay hunting for Clarks' Originals as soon as you've watched it.

We got home to discover a note in the letterbox. Due to a problem, Severn Trent had encountered the water would now be turned off on Tuesday. It looks like another charity shopping day might be on the cards! After a lunch of a sandwich made from last night's Greek salad leftovers, Jon went shopping and I got stuck into the gardening.

I couldn't resist this mint grapefruit for sale in Hidcote's plant shop. I can't tell you how amazing it smells and the assistant told me that it's absolutely heavenly in a G&T...sold! I planted it up in my herb bed (keeping it in a pot as it's supposed to be terribly invasive).

Yesterday we'd planted up chard, cauliflower and lettuce and some mystery things Jon had grown from foraged seeds. This afternoon I staked the Greek beans, banked up the potatoes and when Jon got back, we replanted spiky bastard after Beate suggested it would act as an excellent barrier to invaders of our area outside the gates.

Tea was a homemade veg Punjabi tikka masala for me and a chicken one for Jon, with half a garlic & coriander nan and some lime-infused basmati rice. Tonight it's Gardeners' World, lashings of rum and the exciting prospect of a gloriously hot & sunny long weekend.

Cheers & see you soon!