Thursday 23 September 2021

And Away!

What with lockdowns, travel restrictions, eye-wateringly expensive Covid tests and a passport no longer recognised by the EU, the trip I was beginning to think would never happen is now within touching distance and we're packed and ready to go.

As we're travelling around on public transport we're keeping the luggage to a minimum, opting for a single 20kg travel bag to fly with. It also saves ££s, too, money which we'd rather spend in Greece. We've got everything in with a few kilos to spare.

Jon's taking six shirts, a long-sleeved top, three pairs of shorts, a hat and a cross-body bag. He's travelling in toffee-coloured shorts and the recently acquired tiger print shirt. With the exception of the mustard shirt, and navy & toffee shorts, everything else was charity shopped.

There's a fringed cotton hammam towel (bought in Crete last year), two pairs of swim shorts, two pairs of sandals and some blue cord Clarks' Originals which he's travelling in.

We're taking bamboo cotton buds, once a day sun protection in factors 40 and 30, Jon's razor, blades and a travel-sized shaving gel, bite cream, a 30x magnifying mirror, my Tangle Teaser, plasters, Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, my razor, painkillers, antiseptic cream, bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste, insect repellent, soap, nail polish remover wipes, my pills and eye-makeup remover wipes.

I'm taking six dresses, a silk top made from a recycled sari, my maize hat, a straw cross-body bag and my trusty gold leather bag. I'm travelling in the blue silk kaftan and I'll be wearing my hat and carrying the gold bag. With the exception of the olive maxi dress, sari top, gold bag and the hat, everything else is vintage and/or second-hand.

I'm flying in the same outfit as I did last year, even down to my me-made William Morris mask!

I'm taking a fringed cotton hammam towel (also bought in Crete), two bikinis, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of sunglasses. I'm travelling in my Lottas. People always ask me about underwear - something I've never been that bothered about. I wear a pair of decent knickers to travel in as my prosthetic hip always sets off the alarms when we go through security. Although I carry a card to say that I have a bionic hip it's easier just to pull up my dress and show them my scar! 

Make-up wise I'm taking two new - and fantastic - discoveries, Maybelline's Brow Extensions and their Colossal Big Shot mascara, Barry M's black waterproof eyeliner pencil and sharpener, Barry M's Matte Me Up in Shocking Pink (discontinued but often available on eBay), Maybelline's Matte Ink in Heroine, tweezers, eyeliner brush, transparent hair bands and grips, lip balm, Lush's Karma solid perfume, Sleek's creme blush in Crimson, metal-free hair bands, Hard as Nails and Barry M's nail paint in Damson (a proper Greek blue).

I'll put my rings, bangles and turquoise bird earrings on once I've gone through security, the two pendants, silver torque, Nepali hair stick and remaining two pairs of earrings are in the travel bag. Also taking, but not pictured: A Indian block printed bedspread, a sewing kit, a manicure set, mobile phones (even I'm having to take one!), a shedload of paperwork (as back-up), books (Jon), Kobo (me), a map, plug adaptors, prescription glasses/sunglasses, masks & sanitiser, camera, various chargers, a torch, a notebook & pen and mozzie plug-ins.

With the house cleaned from top to bottom and the garden tidier than it's been in months, I've spent a lazy day in the sunshine reacquainting myself with Rhodes, rendered even more beautiful by the power of Lawrence Durrell's words. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I've visited the Greek island of Rhodes twice before. The photos below, taken in 1991 on a Club 18 - 30 holiday with a girlfriend, are 30 years old!!! Where did the time go? My naturally blonde hair went over to the dark side many years ago but I'm still the same wide-eyed traveller, giddy with excitement at the prospect of leaving England's shores. I didn't go abroad until I was old enough to pay my own way, my Dad worked overseas and would only entertain holidays in England (or Wales) when I was a child. 

I was 21 when I left the UK for the first time and the beauty of Barcelona simultaneously blew my mind and reduced me to tears. I made a promise to myself there and then that I'd find a way to travel abroad & see more of the world every year for the rest of my life and so far I've managed to do just that. Long may it continue.

Yammas! See you in October!

Monday 20 September 2021

Something for the Weekend

 It's been a busy weekend here at Stonecroft with a large portion of it spent attempting to sort out the garden which is still blooming madly. Despite a forecast for torrential rain, other than a few sharp showers on Sunday morning, it's been glorious for days.

My plan for growing tomatoes in the Kinky Shed windowboxes failed miserably so I emptied them into the compost heap and Jon repainted both the boxes and the window frames. We'll plant them up with some Autumnal blooms when we're back from our travels.

Over the weekend, we planned an itinerary for our trip (very grown-up!) and booked our accommodation.  As usual, we'll be travelling around on local buses and staying in different places, this time in a heritage hotel in the heart of the Medieval quarter in the island's principal town, in a tiny beachfront cottage 50 yards from the Aegean Sea and in rooms that stand in the shadow of a 2,500-year-old acropolis. It'll be my third visit to this particular Greek island. I first went 30 years ago (on a lairy 18-30s holiday with a girlfriend) and more recently, in 2001 with Jon although we were there in August and it was 40°C in the shade so we didn't venture further than our 7th Century stone house and the beach.

Following the recent government update, the over 50s were urged to have an annual flu jab to stop the strain on the NHS this winter so Jon booked us in at Boots the Chemist on Sunday. We were expecting to pay but discovered that it's free for us old folk! 24 hours later and, just like the last time, we've suffered no ill effects. We had to pop into the clearance charity shop on the way there, donating a hi-fi system, three shirts and three pairs of shoes from the stockroom, a blanket and a box of hair dye in a colour I no longer use.

Needless to say, we came out with a bagful of goodies, which included an amazing Versace-inspired tiger print shirt for Jon (it's already in the travel bag!), a super-funky 1970s zig-zag knit maxi skirt in a rare larger size, a stunner of an Indian block printed midi dress, a roll of West African waxed cotton offcuts and a 1980s button-thru' midi skirt.

There was also a 1960s hand blown glass vase, an Indian silk brocade coat, a John Le Carre novel, a 1980s blouse, a new-with-tags protective case with a fab print and Valley of the Dolls denim midi skirt.

I left the house in a block printed midi skirt but felt the need to try on the skirt as soon as I got back as it reminded me of the one worn by Monique in The Serpent.

 I've not worn a denim skirt in years but there was something rather pleasing about the kick pleats and cleverly positioned pockets and, a massive plus point, belt loops large enough to accommodate a wide leather belt. I don't do skinny ones, go big or go home! 

WEARING: Valley of the Dolls denim midi with 1970s cheesecloth blouse (eBay), Lotta from Stockholm clogs, a vintage silk screen print Indian scarf, wooden beads & leather belt (all charity shopped) and a 1970s tooled leather shoulder bag (eBay).

Our Autumn raspberries were having a growth spurt so, after lunch, we moved the arch by the pond to the veg bed opposite the Kinky Shed to support the plants.

On Monday morning it was business as usual with a Wii Fit session and a couple of loads of washing pegged out in the sunshine before 8am. 

I was keen to give yesterday's chazza-shopped dress a whirl but, to be honest, it wasn't on for long, I was in a bikini by 10.30am watering the parched patio pots and cutting back the red and blackcurrant bushes. 

WEARING: Contemporary Indian block printed cotton midi dress with purple fedora (retail buy, 2017) and Toast cowboy boots (eBay)

I love living in such an ethnically diverse area, where Indian and African textiles are as commonplace in charity shops as the more mundane high street cast-offs. 

After lunch, I lay on the lawn with my latest read, Reconstruction by one of my favourite authors, Mick Herron. I would have done so earlier but the sun's really low in the sky at this time of year and the grass doesn't get any sun till gone midday. 

Jon finished his packing, taking out a couple of things. I followed suit, whittling my choice down to six dresses (one of which I'll be flying in), two bikinis, two bags and my straw hat (I'll sort out footwear & jewellery tomorrow). Our combined baggage allowance is for a single 20kg bag and, as we're travelling around, we're trying to pack as lightly as possible. A couple of the towns we're staying in are traffic-free, the last thing we want to be doing is lugging a massive bag up this hill in 32°C heat. (Packing post fans - there's one coming up very soon!)

Awww, look at The Lads, fast asleep under the rosemary bush. The dreaded bag is out from under the bed and they know something's afoot!

I'm off to drink wine and eat pizza. Later, we'll be watching this afternoon's The Antiques Road Trip on catch-up and Silent Witness.

See you soon! 

Friday 17 September 2021

It's All Greek To Me!

On Wednesday morning, after my Wii Fit workout & wrapping the eBay sales, we had breakfast and drove over to our second-favourite Black Country town for a bit of charity shopping. We'd been forecast a couple of days of sunshine and heat and I wore my Wyse, London dress I'd found in Barnardos a few weeks ago. 

We picked up a few decent bits and pieces....Two Duke, London western shirts in denim and black canvas, three I Love souvenir teeshirts (Krakow, Amsterdam & Brighton), a 1960s crochet cocktail top, a 1980s mohair cardi, an '80s leather pencil skirt, a 1980s white cotton sundress (with tags still attached), a 1970s St Michael chocolate brown blazer, a Canada top, a 1980s Gina Bacconi silk & sequin top, a Bob Mackie kimono (with tags attached) and a Levi's cowboy shirt.

At £4, Jon couldn't resist snaffling this incredible 1970s psychedelic bedspread from Vantona's Mediterranean Range.  I can see why they were inspired by the Med, the colours remind us of the glorious sunsets. Vantona was established in Lancashire in 1929 and are still producing bedlinen. It'll be perfect for Gilbert.

On the way back we called in on our friends, Lynn and Brendan and their handsome 19-year old cat, Ferdi. After a coffee and a catch-up, we headed home. I spent the afternoon laundering and photographing the morning's finds whilst Jon, buoyed up by an email letting me know that my passport had been despatched, had a look at his holiday clothes and decided that as the shirts he was planning to take were all patterned, he needed plain shorts. I  went online and managed to snaffle two pairs of shorts in a British high street store's end of season sale, reduced by 68% to a tenner.

No, we're not all dressed up with nowhere to go, for the second time in a week we were going out! Jon's wearing second-hand Levi's with an African print cotton shirt and Clarks' Originals in blue cord (both charity shop finds). I'm wearing another of Cheryl's old garments, a 1970s cotton halterneck by California Charmer of Hollywood and used my chazza-shopped Babyliss Pro-styler to create Medusa waves.

As part of Al's birthday present, we were taking them to Kouzina, the Greek restaurant we'd been to for Jon's birthday. We'd booked a table for 7.30pm and they picked us up at just after 7. The staff were delighted to see us again and had gone overboard with the birthday stuff, there were banners, signs and Happy Birthday confetti scattered across the table. They even stuck a sparkler in his baklava! 

The bouzouki soundtrack, delicious home-cooked food and warm welcome from the waiting staff couldn't have felt more Greek, the only difference was the early hour at which we ate (it's rare to eat before 10pm in Greece). We were back at Stonecroft drinking coffee at 9.30.

When I got on my Wii Fit on Thursday morning it announced that it was our 4,300th session together. It looked like turning into another gloriously sunny day and I had a wander up the garden, cutting some sweetpeas and harvesting courgettes and a few strawberries. After breakfast, we sat outside with our coffees. The MyHermes driver arrived with the new shorts and a couple of Gabicci polo shirts from Gregory Isaacs' vintage collection which Lord Jon had found going for a song on eBay (ha!) a couple of days earlier. 

I'd had an email letting me know that my passport was out for delivery so I went on to the Kobo website and treated myself to 6 new ebooks for just under £12 - I can't go anywhere without plenty to read! 

I weeded the cracks in the pavers outside the gate and pulled up the Empress of India nasturtiums which, after months of flowering, had started to look a bit ragged and tatty. I was just sweeping up when a van pulled up and a man asked if I was waiting for a passport. I could have kissed him when he handed it over but restrained myself. He seemed more enamoured with Frank than me, telling him how gorgeous he was.

A blue passport!

Back in the depths of the Spring lockdown, I'd optimistically booked flights to Greece for the Autumn but had to delay them a couple of weeks due to the passport crisis. Now it was all systems go! Whilst Jon sorted out the PLFs (passenger location forms), airport parking and the first three night's accommodation, I checked in online and uploaded the completed PLFs and copies of our vaccination certificates onto our flight booking details. After lunch, I got into practice and lay in the sunshine with my current read.

Tea was half a pizza and a large glass of wine. Later we caught up with two days of The Antiques Roadtrip and Tuesday night's A House Through Time.

On Friday I wrapped the eBay sales and did my final Wii Fit workout of the week. After breakfast, we popped out for a bit of charity shopping although pickings were slim; a 1980s Frank Usher silk and sequin cocktail top (I'm finding a lot of these of late, the chazzas are stuffed with high heels and going out clothes). We also found a vintage handknitted cardi, a leather belt with a ponyskin buckle and a 1960s Kangol cap.

WEARING: Vintage St Michael prairie dress, Toast cowboy boots (eBay), vintage tooled leather belt and 1970s navy wool hat (both charity shop finds)

A few months ago, I'd shared some of our charity shop finds and Kezzie had messaged me, asking if I'd be interested in swapping a vintage Grecian-style dress with a 1980s St Michael cotton prairie dress I'd loved when she posted a photo of her wearing it on her blog. 

Today was the first outing for Kezzie's dress and it was a joy to wear. My hair had been piled up on top of my head since Wednesday night and I was delighted to discover that my Medusa curls had stayed in when I'd undone my top knot. HERE'S Kezzie looking beautiful in the dress I swapped for mine.

After lunch, the sun had finally emerged from behind the clouds so I changed into my gardening gear, started planting the Spring bulbs and swept up the leaves which Jon wheeled up the garden and deposited in the dedicated leaf mould bin he'd made from the old shed. 

We spent a lovely couple of hours pottering about, ably assisted by The Lads.

With the transport secretary due to announce changes to the travel restrictions, we've been on tenterhooks all day. Within the last 15 minutes, we've discovered that, from 4th October, all countries are either green or red (no more amber!) and that the fit to fly test for fully vaccinated passengers returning to England will be scrapped thus saving us £60 (more money to spend on Greek salads and Mythos) - maybe that passport delay happened for a reason!

We've just poured ourselves a large glass of wine to celebrate...chin, chin!