Thursday 28 October 2021

Pachyderms, Pompeii, Patchwork & Charity Shop Finds

After my Wii Fit session, a blog comment catch-up and a flurry of eBay parcel wrapping, I spent Tuesday morning ironing, photographing and listing stock on eBay, leaving Jon to do the accounts - pretty straightforward this last tax year as all our sales were online.

After lunch, I spent the afternoon in the garden, sweeping up leaves and planting the 2kg bag of narcissi bulbs we'd bought from Wilko on Sunday. Lord Jon was far too distracted to take an outfit photo so I had to make do with a mirror selfie after sunset. That's the vintage Annabelinda wool pinafore dress I found in the clearance chazza a couple of months ago, worn with a 1970s Ayesha Davar cheesecloth blouse and my Rhodes Town beads. 

After half a cheese and onion quiche and salad we watched Monday night's 24 Hours in Police Custody and another episode of When The Dust Settles.

Wednesday was charity shopping day and we drove over to one of our favourite Black Country towns for a rummage via the Post Office to drop off our eBay parcels. Although the rails in all the shops we visited were absolutely rammed, pickings were slim. I found a lovely conker coloured leather belt and a couple of Philippa Gregory books (for me), a 1960s velvet & wool jacket, two 1980s suede jackets with the manufacturer's labels still attached, a 1970s Viyella House blazer (by appointment to HM the Queen!), a 1980s leather waistcoat, an unworn 1970s tweed Norfolk jacket by Dunn & Co, a 1990s Benetton tartan wool bomber jacket and a beautifully cut dress from the Nordic label, Arket. Jon treated himself to a wool cap for £1 (photo later on in the post!)

It was another unseasonable mild day (not that you'll get any complaints from me!) I wore possibly one of my favourite charity shop finds ever, a vintage Indian cotton block printed maxi dress by Adini. In the four years I've owned it, it has popped up regularly on my blog and even travelled around Rajasthan. Every time I wear it I feel like a goddess.

If I did the cost per wear thing, at £3 it probably owes me money by now.

After lunch, I did a load of washing and replaced the buttons on the 1960s black jacket I'd bought earlier before dying my roots (my bedroom mirror selfie the previous day was horrifying!) Wednesday was rum night so, after our half a pizza and sweet potato wedges, we poured ourselves a glass or three of Captain Morgan's finest white rum and watched more of When The Dust Settles....fine acting but, goodness me, it's a harrowing watch.

Thursday's breakfast fruit and yoghurt included a handful of absolutely delicious raspberries from the garden. Afterwards, we walked around the corner to drop off my completed accounts. Jon waited while I masked up and went inside to hand them over. As always I ended up chatting to Michael, my elderly & thoroughly charming accountant, for ages and Jon was practically nodding off on the wall outside by the time I came out. From there we walked the mile or so to Jon's accountant, handed his paperwork over and carried on into town.

Nobody knows why we have a lifesize concrete hippotamus in the town centre. What on earth does an overweight, aggressive mammal have in common with the people of Walsall? (On second thoughts, don't answer that.) He was unveiled in 1972 and has become a much-loved resident. Until he was moved to outside the library ten years ago he took pride of place in the high street and was a popular meeting point, "See you by the hippo." 

This is officially Lord Jon's last week of wearing shorts, he informs me that he'll be packing them away on 1st November. He's wearing the cap he found yesterday and the leather bag he bought in Rhodes Town.

A few yards away from the hippo is a statue honouring John Henry Carless, one of three young men from Walsall to be awarded the Victoria Cross, built from money raised by the people of Walsall and unveiled in 1919.

Born in Caldmore in 1896, John, like his two sisters, was employed in one of Walsall's many leatherworks and was also a promising footballer. During WWI he tried repeatedly to join the army but was turned down on four occasions due to having a "weak heart". His application to join the Royal Navy was more successful and he enlisted on 1st September 1915.

In November 1917 British ships battled German forces in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight. During the action, John took a fatal shrapnel wound to the stomach but kept loading his gun, and encouraged his colleagues to do likewise. Once relieved, he collapsed and died. He was buried at sea the following day.

The commander of HMS Caledon, H.S. Harrison-Wallace, subsequently wrote to Carless's parents:

He was a most gallant lad and very promising. We feel his loss on the ship very much and all send their sincere sympathy to you and his family in his loss... You will be very proud to have the satisfaction of knowing that he did his duty so bravely and gallantly, fighting his King and country's enemy – the finest death a man can have. I buried him at sea and he had a very impressive funeral, attended by all his shipmates and the commander.

Sandwiched between Walsall library and 'Spoons is Walsall's town hall. Built of sandstone in the Baroque style, it opened in 1903 and despite living in the town all our lives, we're still mesmerised by the wonderful stonework. 

Today was the first time I'd noticed this fella's six-pack!

Here's the derelict Imperial. 

It opened as the Agricultural Hall in 1868 but was given a makeover in 1899 & renamed The Imperial. It started screening films in 1908 and continued to do so until 4th May, 1968 when the last film it showed was Cat Ballou with Jane Fonda & Lee Marvin. After decades of use as a bingo hall, it closed in 1996 and reopened a year later as a Wetherspoons, our favourite pub chain! 

Yes, up until 2016 Walsall had the honour of having two branches of Wetherspoons. We used to call The Imperial Rough 'Spoons because of the number of fights that used to break out and St Matthew's Hall (the pub we often spend all day in) as Posh 'Spoons as the beer prices were slighter higher to keep the riff-raff out. When we used to have blogger meet-ups in Walsall, I'd take my friends to both to get a proper taste of Black Country life. That's me and Curtise in Rough 'Spoons back in 2012.

Of course, we had to pop into the town's charity shops (although we gave the clearance chazza a miss as we'll be going on Sunday). We found a gents 1950s reversible moleskin waistcoat, a 1970s flecked wool coat, a 1960s Meritus paisley satin smoking jacket, a rather insane looking 1980s Kangol hat and a stunner of a vintage leather bag with the Penny Lane Casuals tag still attached (it's already in my wardrobe!)

We walked back up the Hill of Doom, calling into the chemist to pick up a box of lateral flow tests so we can continue to test for Covid at home twice a week, responsible adults that we are! After lunch, we pottered around the garden with The Lads.

There's no seasonal swapover at Stonecroft. I don't really have a winter wardrobe, I just wear coats, hats and boots with my cotton dresses (with thermals underneath if it gets particularly cold). Today I wore one of my Dilli Grey block printed midis (via eBay) with the vintage suede coat Cheryl gave me and a hat bought from a charity shop back in 2018. That's the belt I found in the charity shop yesterday.

Remember that roll of West African waxed cotton offcuts I bought in a charity shop before we went away? A few people commented that it had something to do with quilting - which is all very well and good if you're into all that stuff but it's not something that floats my boat.

Here's what I did with a few of the strips, glued them to my knackered 1960s Worcesterware wastepaper basket to create a patchwork effect and trimmed it with some pompom braid from my stash.

Tonight we're taking a break from bleak Scandi Noir and watching the new documentary series on Pompeii with one of our favourite TV historians, Bettany Hughes.

See you soon!

Monday 25 October 2021

Life Lately

I was astounded to wake up on Saturday morning and discover it was 8.50am! After tea in bed, courtesy of Lord Jon, I stripped and changed the bed and hurriedly got dressed as we were expecting visitors, a lovely couple we met at a festival seven years ago who were passing by on their way to Birmingham's NEC and asked if they could call in. After an hour's catch-up, we had a late breakfast of buttered crumpets and spent the rest of the day in the garden, planting bulbs, sweeping up leaves and planting up the Kinky Shed windowboxes with the Goldcrest mini conifers I'd used last Autumn, ivy dug up from the garden and four cyclamens Jon had snaffled for £1 from Morrisons when he'd done the shopping the previous day. 

The garden is still blooming madly, another showing for our Dusky Maidens delphiniums, dahlias galore, and Choca Mocha cosmos going berserk. I can't believe the 10p begonias, petunias & penstemon we'd bought from Wilko back in May are still all in flower, too. 

Half of our geraniums are still blooming, too. We cut down the spent ones, repotted them and moved them to the utility room windowsill where they'll hopefully survive the winter.

As promised, here's Patrice, our newest old car, an 18-year-old Citroen C5 in Lucifer Red with two owners from new and a full-service history. We discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd's greatest hits still inside the CD player so we reckon he's a bit of an old rocker on the quiet. Jon's come over all Gallic with his Breton top and beret - it's either Patrice's influence or the anticipation of seeing The French Dispatch later this week.

After pizza and potato wedges roasted in a homemade salsa sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, chillies, onions, garlic and capsicums, we cracked open the rum and finally rewatched O Brother Where Art Thou? which was just as brilliant as we remembered.

Sunday started off with tea in bed and a leisurely hour of reading. I was very excited to see a reference to poor Margaret Pole, Jon's 16x great aunt, in my current book (courtesy of my friend, Dawn)- another of his ancestors executed by Henry VIII. After veggie sausage sandwiches eaten whilst watching the Andrew Marr Show, we gathered our bag of donations and headed to the clearance charity shop to drop them off and were pleased to see that a lot more people were wearing masks. 

Of course, we left the chazza with more stuff! 

Clockwise from top left: Quiksilver surf shirt featuring ladies astride rockets (now in Jon's wardrobe), a made in Fiji surf shirt, 1980s cotton playsuit, 1980s cropped stonewashed denim jacket, 1980s pure silk Greek Urn print shirt, handmade cable knit flecked wool cardi, quirky cactus print shirt, 1980s Harrington-style jacket and a pile of paperbacks.

We popped into Wilkos and bought soda crystals, bulbs (of the electrical and botanical variety) and some rather intriguing looking compost made from coir to which you add water and it expands to 10 litres. 

Sunday started off mild and dull and rapidly descended into miserably wet, putting paid to our plans to plant more bulbs. I wore the 1960s Ayesha Davar embroidered cheesecloth dress I'd found on eBay back in August & used the amazing vintage leather bag Lynn had given me when she & Philip visited us last month. (As you can see, the Empress of India nasturtiums show no sign of dying off.)

After an afternoon of eBay wrapping and blog reading, we had toasted sandwiches for tea and caught up with Ambulance on the i-player.

After Monday's Wii Fit workout I washed the vintage glass and scrubbed the window frames ready for Jon to fit the poor man's double glazing (plastic window film) at some point this week. 

As the weather was playing nicely, I photographed and listed some coats while Jon did the Post Office run. As you can see, we use the garden wall as a backdrop for our eBay photos and to reach it involves walking over a border, which invariably leads to muddy feet. Jon had laid cardboard down but I had a better idea. Back in the summer, I'd spotted some stepping stones on special offer at our local garden centre so we had a drive up after lunch and were pleased to see that they were still there. 

Et voila! Hopefully no more muddy feet. We'll be planting daffs in this bit soon and keeping the bees happy when Spring arrives.

My skirt's new (well, new to me, not new new!) When I was away I saw a Greek woman looking fabulous in a sun-bleached, vintage-looking denim skirt and scoured eBay for something similar when I got home. Mine's 100% cotton (no horrible lycra) so it should get better and better with age.

Frank's already making use of the stepping stones. Mud and white legged cats aren't a good combination.

I couldn't resist snaffling this terracotta pot from the garden centre's bargain corner.

Tonight we've had roasted halloumi and veg for tea and cracked open the wine, Rioja for Jon and Revolutionary Rose for me.

Tonight we'll be watching The Outlaws. I hope it lives up to the hype.

See you soon!

Friday 22 October 2021

Back To Life, Back To Reality

Where does the time go? I can't believe we've been home for a fortnight. Thank you so much for indulging me and allowing me to relive our trip to Rhodes over the last five blog posts.

So what have I been up to since we got back? It's been pretty much business as usual, kicking off with daily Wii Fit sessions, selling on eBay and lots of rummaging through rails in charity shops. We've had an all-dayer in Spoons and finally been to see Daniel Craig's final outing as 007 in No Time To Die at the cinema - which didn't disappoint. We've binge-watched BBC4's incredible Paris Police 1900, a visceral & visually stunning French-subtitled period drama set during the time of the Dreyfus Affair and, last night, started the Danish thriller series When The Dust Settles. Being a huge Wes Anderson fan, I was mega excited about seeing The French Dispatch at the cinema this weekend until I discovered that Walsall isn't screening it so it looks like a trip to Birmingham. We've finally had our new bespoke hardwood front door fitted, Jon's traded in Young Kim  (our knackered Hyundai runaround) for an 18-year-old Citroen which we've called Patrice in honour of one half of the French-Swiss couple we hung out with in Lindos. If you know us in real life you'll already be familiar with Jon's daily rides - they're always cheap, bought with cash and driven until they fall apart. Patrice cost less than some people spend on a coat but he's quite the looker - photos to follow!

Glastonbury have been in touch to ask if we'd like to trade there again next year (that'll be a big fat yes!) I'm so excited that I've already started working on my Handmade by Kinky festival collection, making a dress from a vintage tablecloth, virtually identical to the one I made (and sold to this gorgeous girl) below. 

Last weekend our lovely MyHermes driver arrived with a huge box. Perplexed as to what it could be - I'd not bought anything from eBay in weeks - I ripped it open and found a wealth of goodies (see collage above) and a beautiful letter from Cee, a lovely blog reader. Anything not already snaffled by myself will soon find deserving new homes over the coming months. 

Despite masks not being mandatory in England since 12th July we still wear ours when we go shopping. I don't care if we're in the minority, we're used to being stared at! Talking of shopping, here are a few of our latest finds.

Clockwise from top left: 3 pairs of 1970s deadstock kids trousers; a 1970s Hepworth's leather jacket, a Kangol beret, a 1950s St Michael satin foulard, a pompom trimmed kaftan, a mustard cord jacket (claimed by Lord Jon), an Italian-made velvet artist's beret, a 1980s men's floral shirt, a hummingbird printed cotton dress with huge pockets from a posh Italian womenswear label, a 1980s St Michael bomber jacket, a 1970s Taube fake fur jacket, a handmade cardi, a 1960s suede jacket, a brocade rucksack and an Indian Kantha jacket.  

Monsoon embroidered Indian cotton skirt, 3 more pairs of vintage kids' trousers, 1970s Welsh wool tapestry cape, All Saints coat, Lochard of Scotland mini kilt, five handknitted jumpers/cardis, vintage bud vase (keeper), 1970s chopping board (mine!), 1980s Mandy Marsh midi dress, 1970s Heather Brae mohair scarf, 1970s tan leather jacket and a Monsoon maxi dress (keeper!)

Over the last week or so, we've had temperatures in the high teens and low 20s, warmer than August! Jon thought I was mad for going out with bare arms on Wednesday morning but soon changed his tune when he nearly expired from the heat in the final charity shop we visited. I'm wearing the Monsoon cotton maxi I bought from the charity clearance shop on Sunday (£2!) with the vintage Kashmiri woolwork waistcoat Cheryl gave me along with some mirrored earrings bought from the roadside in Goa last year.

On Thursday the temperature plummeted to 12°C which gave me the opportunity to wear my absurdly comfy, new-to-me, black leather clog boots which I'd spotted on the Lotta from Stockholm website a couple of years ago and had searched for on eBay ever since. They're still available online for £178 but needless to say, I paid a fraction of that! As our tomatoes are still ripening,  I thought my tomato dress was seasonally appropriate, made cosier with the addition of my Masscob velvet jacket (another eBay find, it retailed in Liberty for £480, I paid £20). The tribal earrings were in the box of goodies Cee sent me.

Friday's been another chilly day and, like yesterday, I've been working outside taking photos of the stock. I layered my Indian cotton block printed midi dress (from the charity clearance shop) with a vintage quilted jacket bought from my friend Liz at Easy Tiger along with some Nordic socks (nicked from Lord Jon) and some eBayed Lottas.

The garden's gone crazy, it's still blooming like mad. The roses are having a third flowering, the nasturtiums are still taking over and I'm picking strawberries for breakfast every morning. Tomorrow is bulb planting day!

I'm off to drink rum and watch TV. I'm undecided between Danish noir or a repeat watch of O Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coen Brothers retelling of The Odyssey and utterly brilliant.

Cheers & see you soon!