Monday 31 January 2022

A Walk In The Woods (and Other Stories)

On Saturday we continued with our weekly walks from home, exploring Walsall on foot and this week we visited Reedswood Park, just under two miles from our front door.

Reedswood Park might not have a bandstand or the interesting sculptures that other parks we've visited have but it does have an ingenious set of markers that visitors can follow in order to get fit, with routes ranging from a ten-minute walk to a more ambitious 60 minute one. There's also a skate park, a kids playground, tennis courts and an outdoor gym. All the main pathways are wheelchair-friendly with plenty of places to sit down and take a breather.

The Anson Branch runs alongside the park, a defunct mile-long canal that once connected Walsall with the neighbouring cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton and was used to transport coal and limestone from the pits and quarries in the town. It was surveyed by Thomas Telford in 1768 but not built until 1830 and abandoned in 1961 after the opening of the M6 motorway.

Wandering through the woodland or clambering up the steep hillock to a wildflower meadow, which will be home to bee orchids in a few month's time, it's hard to imagine that there's a bustling retail park 100 yards away, a Desai pub serving up authentic Punjabi cuisine opposite the gates or that the main road to Wolverhampton runs adjacent to the park. 

People seem to think that one has to drive to the countryside to be amongst nature, if only they'd open their eyes and realise that nature is everywhere, even in sprawling, post-industrial towns like ours - from the birdsong which starts up at dawn to the weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement and the urban foxes that knock over the bins at night. I even caught sight of the pale grey of an owl's underbelly swooping down on an unsuspecting wood mouse when I let Stephen out at 6am last week.

 Other than a bracing walk and some vigorous rug sweeping, Saturday was spent lazily, a late breakfast of veggie sausage & Dijon mustard sandwiches, an afternoon of reading and cheese salad pittas with sweet potato wedges for tea....oh yes, and we booked a cheeky trip away, a few days escape from the UK in a month's time. 

The evening was spent with rum, cola and a film - the wicked political satire, Don't Look Up.  

I'd finished reading The Heretic's Daughter the previous day, the book based on the true story of Martha Carrier, one of the first women to be sentenced to death during the Salem Witch Trials. I think it must have subliminally influenced me as Jon said Sunday's outfit, with my ruff, cape and tall hat, made me look like a Puritan.

WEARING: Vintage Wetherall of Bond Street wool cape (charity shop, 20 years ago), Zara jumper (charity shop, 2022), 1970s Phool midi skirt (IG, 2018), 1960s-does-Edwardian boots (car boot sale, 2010) and plum fedora (retail buy, 2017)

Forget Puritanism, I think I'd probably have more likely been hanged as a witch back in the 17th Century. The Puritans would have been shocked by my godless ways and unbridled hedonism. Not only did I have a biscuit with my Sunday morning bed tea but I also went charity shopping (again!) May I burn in hell! 

Bar a few things for the Kinky shed (not pictured), the rest was for us - a whopping £12 worth of treats! Jon snaffled a vintage Welsh wool shawl-collared cardi and some antiqued leather, fleece-lined boots which match his man bag perfectly. We ignored our self-imposed book buying ban, bagging a couple of books set in the Med, Eric Newby was one of the greatest travel writers and was born on 6th December, just like me!  In a bid to mix up my wardrobe I grabbed these brand new & boxed white plimsolls with glittery toecaps and an elasticated vamp (no laces required) and also some Zara premium denim jeans (no lycra, 100% cotton). The price tag is in rupees, they were bought from the flagship Zara store in the hip art district of Kala Ghoda in downtown Mumbai, I've never been in (I prefer FabIndia next door) but they're a sweet reminder of my most favourite city on earth!

Cat came for lunch, much to Stephen's annoyance, who stood on my desk yowling through the window until we picked him up and deposited him to the kitchen table where he lay in a puddle of sunlight, grumbling away to himself. 

Walking down the garden to the compost pile I spotted the first of the crocuses peeping through the lawn.

I also spotted Stephen's nemesis, beautiful Kitty from next door, basking on the shed roof until we disturbed her.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon curled up with my latest read, A Nasty Piece of Work by Robert Littell. The Guardian describes him as "The American John le Carré", which may be pushing it a bit, but he can certainly tell a good story, I've nearly finished it.

After tea, we watched the final episode of the first series of The Alienist, this week's Pottery Throwdown and the first episode of the second series of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness.

Monday kicked off with a Wii Fit session, some parcel wrapping and a machine load of laundry which I hung to dry in the utility room. It was porridge for breakfast as we'd run out of fruit. Our visitor turned up for a double breakfast just before Lord Jon nipped out on the Post Office & supermarket run.

WEARING: Naked Generation dress, Lotta from Stockholm clogs (both eBay), Vintage Phool quilted waistcoat (Eyewood Vintage @ Stockport Vintage Village, 2017), Zara jeans, wool cap (both charity shopped)

Hold on to your hats (and your hemlines)! Although the West Midlands escaped the wrath of Malik over the weekend, the next Winter storm, Corrie, followed on its heels, bringing high winds and rain. Thank goodness for yesterday's Zara jeans - which I'd hacked off at the hem - to preserve my modesty. 

 I also wore the 1970s Sheffield steel cuff & peaked wool cap I'd found on Friday's charity shopping mission.

Between gusts of wind and rain showers, we managed to take a few photos and list some stock on eBay. We've got a busy week ahead and I was hoping to do more but hopefully, it'll be dry tomorrow afternoon when we get back from our annual eye lists. We've both got a family history of glaucoma and the NHS recommends that we are tested every 12 months but, on the plus side, it's free.

I was so tempted to keep that chestnut leather bag but it was soon snapped up and I know that it's going to a very good home!

The MyHermes man came bearing a parcel, a dress I'd spotted in the January sales with my name written all over it. After playing around with some wardrobe combinations I retired to the lounge and finished my book, picking out the next one in readiness for bedtime.

Tonight we'll be watching more of The Alienist, I'd tell you what we're having for tea but Jon hasn't decided what it is yet.  

See you soon!

Friday 28 January 2022

Take Me Outside, Sit in the Green Garden

On Wednesday I caught the train to Birmingham, to meet up with my friend Nikki. From New Street station, we walked to the leafy suburb of Edgbaston, a leisurely two-mile stroll in the January sunshine.

Our destination? Birmingham's Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1832 and are now home to over 7000 varieties of plants. We explored the Victorian glasshouses and basked in the deliciously humid Tropical House, established in 1852, imagining we were back in India before venturing into the Subtropical House which opened in 1871.

We wandered outside, an area encompassing 15 acres, walking across lush lawns and down twisting, shrub-lined paths, listening to the breeze rustling through the grasses, the bubbling of the water in the Italianate fountain and the squawks of the exotic birds, spotting snowdrops...and a cat!

We chatted to the parakeets, macaws, cockatiels and peach-faced lovebirds and admired the peacocks from afar, safely tucked away due to an outbreak of Avian flu and simply had to capture the bandstand for posterity. 

 Walking back into the city was noticed a blue plaque dedicated to Washing Irving, the American essayist who lived in a house demolished many years ago. We admired a gorgeous Gothic gatehouse available to rent but on further investigation discovered that the interior didn't live up to the exterior - all grey paint and clean lines...yawn. 

We'd been given discount vouchers when we'd visited Dishoon, the Bombay-style Parsi cafe we'd eaten at on our last visit so it would have been madness not to use them. 

Along with bottles of IPA we shared another vada pau (hot potato vada, crunchy titbits and chutneys, tucked inside a soft homemade bun. sprinkled with the red spicy masala and green chillies) along with gunpowder potatoes (new potatoes smoky-grilled, broken apart, tossed with butter, crushed aromatic seeds and green herbs) and chaap pineapple tikka (Spiced soy kabab marinated and grilled with pineapple), again the food was so good our toes were tapping with joy.

Keen to avoid commuter hell we said our goodbyes and caught our respective trains home, arranging to meet up again very soon.

Jon picked me up at the station. Being a Wednesday the drinking continued with beers to accompany our pizza and rum and cola in front of the TV where we started watching The Alienist which I'd read during the first lockdown. I'm pleased to report that the TV adaptation is every bit as macabre and dark as Caleb Carr's book.

Unusually for me, I slept until 7am on Thursday. I wrapped parcels and caught up with Blogland before breakfast. In contrast to Wednesday, it was dark and drizzly and utterly hopeless for eBay photos. Jon was otherwise engaged with music stuff so I left him to it and walked into Walsall for a look around the charity shops. 

I wore my Dilli Grey "Bianca" dress (purchased last year via eBay) with my thermal polo neck, fake snake boots, me-made hat, Liz-made beer mittens and a vintage St Michael fake-fur trimmed wool boucle maxi coat I'd nicked from the Kinky Shed.

The mask mandate had been lifted but pretty much everyone was still wearing them (including me). Walsall used to have loads of charity shops but, since the pandemic, we're down to just four but the pickings were good and, weighed down and somewhat overdressed for the positively balmy 11°C temperatures I was a sweaty mess when I got home.

Clockwise from top left: Vintage flutter-sleeved maxi dress by Slimuette, a 1970s embellished maxi dress by Trina Lewis for Marjon Couture of London W1, tie-neck vintage maxi dress, amazing 1960s-era handmade wool dressing gown, a trio of scarves - Tootal, Ness of Scotland and a 1930s satin foulard, 1980s Arancrafts, Ireland all-wool cable knit jumper, 1970s deadstock CB London gents brushed cotton checked shirt, a cheery Boden midi dress, contemporary scarf-print kaftan (for lounging around the house) and a 1970s English-made embellished chiffon cocktail top. There was something else but it's already found a new home and may pop up on a friend's blog very soon!

 Talking of friends, there was a lovely parcel waiting for me from my lovely friend Betty (who blogs HERE) when I got back - incense cones in my favourite scent and a gorgeous wood bead necklace.  The evening was spent with another couple of episodes of The Alienist followed by The Apprentice.

Friday was another chazza day and we drove over to our second favourite Black Country town for a rummage, coming home with: a pair of Danish Mid-Century glass candle holders for our collection; a huge wool scarf; Maxi length culottes with scenes from Ancient Egypt; a Superdry fringed cardi; 1980s rayon culottes; a 1960s Dunn & Co car coat; an Italian-made peaked wool cap; a 1970s Welsh tapestry handbag; a vintage plaited leather belt; an Italian-made mixing bowl by La Primula (to replace our two cracked ones); a 1970s Sheffield Steel cuff (and now mine!); a 1960s Mod mini dress; a 1980s Richards jumpsuit and a gents 1970s St Michael velvet jacket.

I've owned this vintage suede waistcoat for over a decade and the 1970s Treacy Lowe tissue silk dress for at least seven years and yet today was the first time I'd worn them together. I'm not sure why the combination had never occurred to me before but I'm glad it has now. 

After my last post, Beth asked what Jon kept in his bag. Years and years ago, What's in my handbag? used to be a popular choice for a blog post so here's the updated version for the 2020s - What's in my Man Bag?

Phone, wallet, pen, tissues, hand sanitiser, a couple of throat sweets and a face mask with replacement filters. There's usually a set of keys as well.

And here's the contents of my woman bag, reading glasses & case, facemask, purse, a notepad and a pen. When I'm travelling by train I take an old mobile phone Jon gave me so I can show my virtual tickets to the guard but the rest of the time it's switched off and kept in a drawer in the kitchen. #luddite

Friday means....rum. I'm off to catch up with Blogland (and slice some limes) before the bar opens. Chin-chin!

I'll leave you with the inspiration for my blog title from Birmingham's finest, the beautiful Laura Mvula. I cannot believe this song is ten years old!