Tuesday 29 June 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 28th & 29th June, 2021

 I awoke on Monday to rain, grey skies and gloom, in short, a typical British Summer's day. I braved the wet to gather a few strawberries, did my WII Fit workout and put away the previous day's washing. After breakfast, Jon went shopping and, as the new-to-us range was arriving later, I set to work on cleaning our cooker. I'm no domestic goddess and a cursory wipe-over has done the trick over the years but as it's in good working order it needs to be in tip-top condition before it goes to a new home. When Jon got back he disconnected the cooker and we moved it into the middle room. He scrubbed the empty alcove whilst I mopped the floor.

After a sandwich - no gas for noodles - Liz popped round and we caught up with her tales of adventure as she'd just returned from her first solo art exhibition in St Ives. By now the rain had stopped so we had a meander around the garden as she'd not seen it since we'd laid the turf outside the front gates. Whilst we were wandering Jon, the neighbour, his son and a mate manoeuvred the range into place and by the time Liz had left it was plumbed in and working.

As I'd run out of oven cleaner I had a play in the garden. Do you remember the packet of wildflower seeds we'd found hanging in the forest when we visited Attingham Park last month?

On 8th May, where our garden becomes wild and woody, I'd cleared a space, dug the ground over and scattered my found seeds, planting a newly-acquired scabious in the middle. Jon had made wigwams and planted out the sweet peas we'd grown from seed alongside the hardy native wood peas that have grown wild in the garden for decades. He'd used some of our stash of logs to edge the border.

Seven weeks later...

We have the makings of a wildflower corner! 

Alongside the still-blooming scabious, the wood peas, Empress of India nasturtiums and the foxglove I'd rescued last week we have cowslips, corn marigolds, lady's bedstraw, great leopard's bane, honeywort and oilseed poppies.

All this rain is causing new things to pop up all the time and it's all rather exciting.

If you're thinking I'm some kind of an expert in identifying British wildflowers - I'm not! To travel I need to show proof of my double jab status so Jon's given me an old mobile phone to access the NHS app. Needless to say, it lives in a drawer, I never take it out with me and haven't even sent a text but I've downloaded a free app called PlantLife with which I can take a photo of what's growing in the garden and it'll tell me what it is.

Tea was early - quiche cooked in the new oven and accompanied by a salad - as it was a big night for the Euros, starting with Croatia vs Spain and followed by France vs Austria, six thrilling hours of football. No wonder we call it The Beautiful Game, both matches were incredible and we were emotional wrecks by the time Mbappe missed the last penalty. 

On Tuesday I gathered a few strawberries on my early morning wander spotting the first of the geraniums & the imminent arrival of an agapanthus. Afterwards, I did my Wii Fit workout and wrapped my eBay sales parcels ready for Jon to drop off at the post office before he visited Tony, who'd swapped his day off to coincide with England vs Germany game.

After breakfast, to take my mind off the match, I touched up my roots at the kitchen table and dyed my eyelashes. After Jon left I headed outside and spent the morning in the garden. After I'd sorted out the dead leaves on the Yukka I weeded a couple of beds, planted out my artichokes and potted up some red basil and tomato seedlings.

When Jon got back we had noodles for lunch and while he tinkered with Gilbert I watered the garden and basked in the afternoon sunshine.

It was the first time I'd worn this embroidered Indian cotton cami I'd snaffled for £1 from the charity clearance shop back in October. I'm loving it with my Anokhi skirt.

It's been almost 25 years to the day since England lost to Germany on penalties in Euro '96. We were in Tunisia as a terrible terrorist attack in Sri Lanka meant our original travel plans were cancelled. We were the only Brits in a swanky, French-owned hotel in Hammamet and, with no pub culture and no residents at the hotel interested in the England match, we sweet-talked one of the room boys into let us watch the match with them in the staff restroom, which was the size of a broom cupboard. I'd share some photos of our Tunisian adventures but the album is at the back of a spider-infested shed behind two bicycles and a cast iron fireplace (hoarders, us?!)

I'm off to change into my lucky red bikini. I'll leave you with the greatest football song of all time and New Order's only ever number one. 

See you on the other side!

Come on, England!

Sunday 27 June 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 25th, 26th & 27th June, 2021

It had rained heavily throughout the night and Friday morning was soggy and grey with a distinct nip in the air. I booked next weeks' National Trust trip, did my Wii Fit workout and wrapped my eBay sales ready for Jon to drop off at the Post Office. But that could wait, after breakfast, we drove over to another of our favourite Black Country charity shopping spots for a bit of a rummage.

Another day for sleeves! I wore a vintage Indian cotton midi dress from trading pals, Olds Cool Traders with the brown wool fedora I'd bought on eBay from a Shropshire-based milliner having a clearout. I've wanted a decent pair of brown leather western boots forever and found these Italian-made beauties from the high-end label, Toast on eBay a couple of months ago. They are absurdly comfy and I love them to death (the marks are from the rain, they're perfect).

One of our finds was this Indian-made block printed cotton cross-body bag for £1.95 which went with what I was wearing perfectly. Luckily the obnoxious leather label was easy to unpick and didn't leave a mark.

Much better!

These gorgeous Kurt Geiger 1980s shoe boots came in their original box along with the dust bags. The glass oil and vinegar bottles are stamped Mod. Dep, the Italian registered trademark, and something Jon's been after for ages. The 1970s poison green leather clutch bag is made in Britain by Yolanta.

 I adore the colours of this set of mid-century owl mugs by SECLA, established in Caldas da Rainha, the Portuguese town famed for its ceramics, back in 1947. SECLA stands for "Sociedade de Exportação e Cerâmica, Lda" meaning their creations were destined for the foreign market, namely the UK and USA. At the beginning of the 1950s, SECLA opened a pottery studio where artists could experiment with new shapes and techniques, including Ferreira da Silva, who went on to be one of the most important Portuguese ceramists of the 20th century.

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know that I'm obsessed with tiles - I even spent my birthday at Jackfield tile museum a couple of years ago (HERE). I'd sell my soul to get my hands on some of these wonderful SECLA azulejos but in the meantime, I'm happy with our set of mugs and even more so at the price - £5 for the lot! 

These tiled stairs in Fontainhas, the Portuguese quarter of Goa's state capital, Panjim, always make my heart beat faster no matter how many times I've seen them.

This pewter silk maxi dress by Agnes B has a train and a boned collar and is really quite incredible on, the 1970s Sammy gents silk pyjamas feel amazing and the 1970s Dupois for Jack Bryan black chiffon cocktail dress is rather glam.

We'd had a delivery whilst we were out. In the postbox was a book on loan from Lynn, I love Grayson so this should be a good read.

And a postcard not posted from Glastonbury from a member of our festival family, Lily. Of course, if we were living in normal times we'd have been at Glastonbury this week and we miss our friends and our festival life desperately.

Sir William Fitzwilliam (1460 - 1534)

After our noodles, I washed our finds and hung them to dry in the utility room as, once again, it was peeing down. When I'd booked next week's National Trust trip the location rang a bell, it was a village where a branch of Jon's family had lived for over ten generations so I had a trawl through Ancestry.com and made a note of the names thinking we could search the local graveyards for their headstones. 

Needless to say, it didn't take me long to find another noble ancestor in Lord Jon's family tree, his 15x great grandfather, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Sheriff of London (1526 - 1599). Sir William was treasurer and chamberlain to Cardinal Wolsey and purchased the family seat, Milton Hall in 1506. The impressive house that stands today (above) was built by William's grandson, also William, in 1594. William the sheriff's son, Sir William Fitzwilliam II (1505 - 1576), was Jon's 14x Great-grandfather. His daughter, Agneta married into a prominent Shropshire family and the family remained in the same area until the late 19th century. 

When I went for a shower on Thursday evening I realised that my right boob was totally exposed (I'm not a bra wearer!) I've mentioned before that the recycled sari top is held together with more patches than fabric, hence the reason it's been relegated to gardening attire. Using the sleeve from the Anokhi for East top Helena had kindly sent me, I did a bit of visible mending. 

I used the remainder of the sleeve to make a mask.

After half a pizza and some salad, we cracked open the rum and spent the evening watching Gardeners' World (sorry Monty but I love it when Adam presents) and some of the Beeb's Glastonbury special (trying not to cry into my beer).

On Saturday Jon got up, made tea and we lay and read in bed till just gone 9am. When Jon went downstairs to make a start on breakfast I stripped and changed the bed, chucked the bedding in the washing machine and pegged it out to dry before joining Jon for sausage sandwiches and coffee. Although overcast and dull it was mercifully dry so we got stuck into our respective tasks in the garden. I pruned the buddleia, replanted a loganberry bush, re-sited the bags of potatoes and dug up another patch of bastard bamboo.

Don't the potatoes look pretty growing in these bags? 

Jon cut down some of the railway sleepers we'd had delivered last week and bolted them into place ready to accommodate the mother of all sheds he's hoping to get built before the Autumn, thus eliminating the need for the other three (never fear, the Kinky Shed remains!)

Cheryl popped round bearing Jaffa Cakes and we sat in the afternoon sunshine chatting and drinking tea. After she left we quickly cleared up, cracked open a beer and watched Wales vs Denmark before tucking into skin-on oven chips, mushy peas and a three-cheese melt (for me) and battered haddock (Jon). The rest of the evening was spent drinking rum and watching the thrilling Italy vs Austria.

 I'm not sure if it was the previous day's physical activity or the rum but we didn't wake up until gone 8am! I made tea and brought it back to bed where we read for half an hour. We watched Andy Marr, ate toast and I painted my nails in Barry M's Blueberry, my go-to festival colour.

Gathering our donation bag (two vintage melamine cruet sets, 6 x 1970s glass coffee beakers, a set of shot glasses and a couple of paperbacks) we drove down to the clearance charity shop and had a rummage then walked down to Wilko to stock up on some essentials.

What did we find? A 3-Suisses Madras check jacket, a 1990s western shirt; a Carhartt jacket, a whopping great pile of books and this fantastic Hovis industrial loaf tin, which I reckon came from the Harvestime bakery that closed in the noughties and was once one of Walsall's biggest employers. 

After a bowl of noodles, I washed the latest finds and hung them on the line. Anxious to fill the bamboo cleared border before the weeds took root, I planted an Azalea from elsewhere in the garden and a Tanacetum that had caught my eye in Wilko earlier. I then reorganised my pots and gave the new additions a good watering.

I don't care if they're old fashioned, I'm madly in love with my Alpines!

Meanwhile, Jon replaced the knackered bathroom taps, any swearing drowned out by a Dutch punk radio station he was listening to at full-blast.

Sunday's outfit was another of my buys from Olds Cool Traders, a vintage block-print Pakistani kaftan worn with my recent chazza shop finds, an Art Nouveau buckle belt (£1) and Pierre Cardin snake sandals (£1.95) 

 The Czech Republic vs The Netherlands match kicks off at 5pm, Jon's making a curry for tea (and there may be a cheeky glass of vino to accompany it) and then it's Belgium vs Portugal at 8pm. It ain't Glastonbury but we're still having fun.

See you soon!

Thursday 24 June 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 23rd & 24th June, 2021

 Wednesday got off to a glorious start and it was already warm when I got up and wandered around the garden. After my Wii Fit session, we had breakfast, Jon made sandwiches and we jumped into Gilbert and headed off to The Cotswolds for our weekly National Trust adventure, this time revisiting the utterly wonderful Snowshill Manor.

We'd last visited Snowshill in September 2020 - see HERE for the full history & background to Charles Paget Wade's masterpiece.

With foreign travel pretty much off-limits (fingers crossed for some good news from BoJo later), a lot more people are having to holiday at home at the moment and with The Cotswolds already a popular tourist spot, I was lucky to snaffle the last two slots when I booked our trip last week. A lovely couple on holiday from Newcastle Upon Tyne offered to take this photo of us together. It's the first wearing of this 1970s Sidgreene of London maxi dress, one of the fabulous garments my friend Cheryl gave me earlier this year. It's the maiden voyage for Jon's bostin' bird shirt too, found in the clearance charity shop at the back end of last year.

 Snowshill is a sixteenth-century house best known for its 20th-century owner, the marvellously eccentric Charles Paget Wade, who spotted the property advertised for sale in Country Life magazine whilst in the trenches of France during WWI and bought it upon his return in 1919. Fascinated by his grandmother's cabinet of curiosities, Charles made it his life's work to collect beautiful handmade objects. He used the manor as a showcase for his collections, living in a tiny cottage elsewhere on the estate.

Charles was adamant that Snowshill wouldn't be a museum. It would be a dramatic theatrical space to display his remarkable objects. He would greet visitors to the manor dressed in one of his two thousand theatrical costumes. Sadly his extensive wardrobe wasn't on public view when we visited but it's the perfect excuse to return later in the year. What a fabulous looking man and, to further add to his appeal, he was a cat-lover as well as a clothes lover!

A trained architect, talented painter and skilled craftsman, Charles confessed that he was no gardener and he wasn't interested in collecting rare and exotic blooms, he just wanted a garden that looked beautiful and gave pleasure to all who visited and he certainly achieved that.

When we'd visited last September Covid restrictions meant that we weren't allowed inside the house, although I vividly remember my visit as an eleven-year-old schoolgirl on a snowy Easter Tuesday back in 1977. Forty-four years later and the house was just as exciting as it was the first time around.

Charles wasn't widely travelled and almost all of his treasures were found in England, some picked up for pennies or rescued from destruction and others he paid small fortunes for. He spotted this collection of ancient Samurai armour hidden beneath a tarpaulin in a derelict shop in Cheltenham! 

 Charles believed exquisitely handmade objects like these held stories which connect us to the craftspeople who made and used them, a tangible link to the past that he thought should be appreciated and preserved. 

A minimalist's nightmare and an absolute dream to me! I know I've said it many times before but our £10 a month National Trust joint membership fee is worth every penny.  

We ate our picnic in the 24°C sunshine lounging on the grass in the orchard and even took a middle-aged selfie for posterity! 

We'd been invited to a bit of a soiree and were back in Walsall drinking ice cold beer in one of the neighbours' gardens within ten minutes of getting home. Having had a few nibbles with our drinks, when we got home we didn't bother with tea, cracked open the rum and watched the thriller that was France vs Portugal, staggering to bed emotionally drained shortly after 10pm.

On Thursday, after a day's respite, it was back to the mirk and gloom of earlier in the week. I'd left the bathroom plants soaking in the bath overnight and, after putting them back, did my Wii Fit workout and had a wander around the garden to harvest a few more strawberries.

After breakfast, I managed to do some deadheading, cut back the Candytuft in the chimney pot, pinch the side shoots from the tomatoes and stake some of the nasturtiums & sunflowers before the heavens opened and I had to scuttle back indoors. If the utility room sink leaking wasn't enough, we had more water problems, the tap in the bathroom had stopped working so Jon had spent the morning sorting that out. Old houses, eh? You've got to love 'em!

I spent the remainder of the morning catching up with Blogland until Jon called me for noodles. After lunch, we spent a while pottering around a somewhat damp garden accompanied by the lads.

I'm dressed from head to toe in clothes bought on my travels in India - although I should say head to ankle as my feet were bare. 

The recycled sari silk top was bought in Jodhpur last year and the organic cotton, block printed maxi skirt was from Cotton Cottage in Margao, Goa back in 2016.

After trawling through previous posts to find out how long I'd owned my skirt I spent the rest of the afternoon reading about our past adventures on my blog and giggling at how Jon nearly fainted with fright watching me scale the side of the stepwell in my bare feet for a photo (more HERE). Oh, how we miss travel - although I shouldn't really moan, it's only been 9 months since we last escaped these shores! I'm keeping everything crossed that the bargain flights to Greece I booked in a moment of mad optimism in the midst of lockdown go ahead in the Autumn.

Tea was a Spring Garden vegetable (broccoli, broad beans, leek & mint) Higgidy pie for me and a steak & ale one for Jon & Frank. Euro action returns on Saturday which means that we've got two football-free days so we'll be catching up with East European cop drama Zadasa Przyjemnosci (The Pleasure Principle) later.

See you soon!