Saturday, 15 January 2022

Out of Africa and Off to the Park




I was up at silly O'clock on Thursday morning (just after 5am) but used my extra one and a half hours wisely, sorting out the overflowing laundry basket and mopping the kitchen floor before my Wii Fit workout and the daily parcel wrapping. After walking to the postbox on the corner, Jon & I dedicated the day to eBay, ironing, photographing and listing our recent finds. 


 The charity-shopped Monsoon coat is proving very useful. Thursday was brilliantly bright but icy cold and I spent the day wrapped up in it. Underneath I wore a vintage Mayur Indian gauzy cotton dress, cashmere fingerless gloves (via a cat-rescue charity) and my 1960s sheepskin boots & hat.


On Friday I gave the weird Zara jumper an outing, combining it with a vintage Anokhi maxi skirt and anchoring it with a charity-shopped leather belt.


We popped over to our second-favourite Black Country town for a bit of charity shopping and although pickings were slim we found a few bits for the Kinky Shed...


A 1980s Champion waterproof jacket, a Lee denim jacket, a 1980s Stonewall Jackson wool jacket, a vintage Wallis peplum-waisted jacket, a Dents fake fur hat and some absolutely gorgeous unworn East espadrilles which I was seriously tempted with but they're already found a very deserving new home!


I've mentioned before that we almost always come back with a piece of Mid-Century Art glass whenever we visit this particular town and Friday was no exception. At £4, this Polish (or possibly Czech) beauty is a welcome addition to our ever-growing collection which has now taken over the mantlepiece & sideboard in the lounge, the window ledges in the lounge and dining room and now they're creeping into the bathroom!


I was amazed to spot this primitive African stool in another of the charity shops. At first, I thought it was an Ashanti piece but the geometric form and the handle weren't quite right. After some research, I discovered that it originated from the nomadic Tonga tribe of Zimbabwe and is at least a century old. 


Hand-carved from a single piece of wood, these stools were a status symbol for the tribal elders, incorporating unique lines, shapes, and patterns with a handle to make them easy to transport to important meetings. Traditionally, only the head of the household could own and take his place on a Tonga stool. Women were prohibited from sitting on them although I have to own up to sitting on this one - and very comfy it was, too! If the stool was unoccupied the owner would lean it against a wall to prevent a passer-by from using it and diminishing its powers.


After a liberal application with the Lord Sheraton's Wood Balsam, it's taken pride of place on the hearth. I shall have to track down a fatter, three-wick candle on my travels, the Wilko church candle looks a bit lost on it.


Our new favourite thing to do on a Saturday is to take an urban walk and this week we visited Walsall Arboretum, or "The Arbo" if you're a local, just over a mile from our front door.



Spanning 170 acres, the Arboretum is Walsall's largest park of the thirty-six in our borough.


Originally belonging to the wealthy Reynolds Family, the Tudor-era hall and the subsequent land was seized by Cromwell following the Civil War. After Charles II ascended to the throne the land was given back to the family but in the late 18th Century the then-owner, John Walhouse decided to demolish the hall and destroy the gardens to exploit the limestone beneath.


 Mining began in 1800 but by 1835 most of the limestone had been removed and the mine proved uneconomical to run. Once the steam pumps were turned off the mines flooded and lakes quickly formed, used by the townspeople for fishing, boating and ice-skating in the Winter. In 1845 tragedy struck when the Mayor of Walsall drowned in Hatherton Lake after taking an evening swim and a second man drowned attempting to rescue him. Forty-foot deep in places, the lake was abandoned and the area remained wild and untouched.


The Arboretum was founded in 1870 by The Walsall Arboretum & Lake Company and with capital of £4000 made plans to turn the area into pleasure grounds, taking out a 99-year lease. The grand opening ceremony took place on 4th May 1874, when the park was officially opened by Lady Hatherton in front of 4,000 people. The original park consisted of two lakes, a boathouse, a bandstand, two lodges, and several summerhouses. There was a tree-lined promenade, space for dancing, croquet lawns, and a cricket ground. Despite an admission charge, the company made a loss in its first year. 







The company continued to lose money, eventually declaring bankruptcy in 1877. In 1881, due to public demand, the Council agreed to take the Arboretum over as a public park on a three-year lease, and in 1884 purchased the freehold for £4,000. It officially reopened on 21st July 1884 and admission became free.


Along with Lulu & Claire, I'm a member of the Bandstand Appreciation Society. This beauty in the Arboretum opened in 1924 and was built by Walter McFarlane & Company at a cost of £1,550.



The lake continues to claim lives. These floral tributes are for a young woman who tragically drowned on Wednesday morning.


Used as punishment for crimes such as drunkenness and swearing, offenders would stand at the stocks whilst townspeople pelted them with rotten fruit. Walsall's old stocks were removed from the town centre and put on display beside the lake in 1904.



Designed by artist Marjan Wouda as a tribute to Walsall’s Saddlery and leatherwork trades, Fluffy the 'Oss* has stood in the Arboretum since 2017.

*Horse in Black Country vernacular.





The Green Man by Robot Cossey, the chainsaw artist behind the animals in Palfrey Park (HERE).


Round and Round the Garden by Liz Lemon, 1988




One of the bridges over Hoar Brook.







The Pavillion, built in 1902.





A park is
The kick of a ball
A red brick wall
A first kiss, 
A moonlit wish,
Saturday mornings bold & bright
Frosty winters huddled tight
Springs come and Autumns go,
Children play & children grow,
The circle of life in plant and soil
Full of hope & full of toil,
There for us through thick & thin
When we lose or if we win
We may change but it will stay
In darkest night & brightest day
Always here always giving
A park is for life
So let's start living!
Peadar O'Donoghue




Jerome K Jerome, one of Walsall's most famous sons.
 

The Lodge, the entrance to the Arboretum since 1874.


Cobwebs well and truly blown away, we walked back to defrost with mugs of tea in front of the fire. 

Thanks for reading, see you soon!

61 comments:

  1. How sad for that young woman's family.

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  2. Oh the joys of having an arboretum nearby to visit regularly and clock the turning of the seasons - I used to visit the arboretum at Clumber Park in the East Midlands regularly for that very reason, enjoying the individual trees and the shaded walks, the swirling of the leaves in autumn, the crackle underfoot in winter. I wonder who first thought 'Wouldn't it be nice to have an example of all the trees in England in one place?' I salute them, as it's still one of my favourite pastimes, but I no longer live near enough to one to visit regularly. As a child I lived on the cliffs by the River Trent in a village which, surprisingly, had its own arboretum, just a few minutes down the river walk from my back garden, and when I was slightly older my school looked onto Nottingham Arboretum and I walked there most lunchtimes... I hadn't considered that until your post. Walsall has some rather good municipal sculpture if the examples you showed are anything to go by; so many cities and towns do not! My namesake, Jerome K Jerome, looks exceedingly dour for a humourist. I do love your potted histories of the places you visit, especially the urban history, so please keep them coming. I have just started looking into the histories of the lost villages of the East Riding coast, which are now somewhere out to sea. It's surprising (not to mention somewhat worrying) how many there are that have been lost to the sea.

    I have never heard of the Bandstand Appreciation Society but I am tempted to join just because it is such and odd, and yet very English, organisation to exist. My local bandstand is, alas, a modern replacement and very pedestrian, as is one at our local outlet mall, but it's very welcome to shelter under so I won't complain.

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    1. Hello Fifitr and a happy new year to you! Its wonderful that so many of our post industrial towns still have these wonderful green lungs to escape to. I visited Nottingham Arboretum many years ago and have discovered some amazing and surprisingly English-looking parks and arboretums in Inda intruced by the Victorians back in those Colonial days.
      We are really lucky with the wealth of interesting artwork in Walsall's Arboretum. Unusualy it seems to have improved over the years, I don't remember it being quite as lovely or as well-planted when I hung round there as a cider-swigging teen!
      I'm not quite sure why the sculptor chose to portray Jerome K Jerome like that, he looks rather forbidding.
      We've unofficially called ourselves the Bandstand Appreciation Society, I've yet to discover if one really exists but I'll be first in the queue if it does! xxx

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    2. Re. Lost villages of the East Coast - very interesting Fifitr. I lived in the East Riding of Yorkshire for a while. Driving from Hull to Spurn Point one day, I took a right turn to see where the road went - it seemingly went straight into the sea! Then my work colleagues told me about the village that used to be there, and was now submerged under water. I find Sprun Point to be a strangely haunting place.

      I googled Band Appreciation Society and couldn't find anyone else using that precise name, yay! :)

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  3. What an amazing park, so big with so much to see. Our parks are all tiddly around here in comparison. We've just done what we call our lockdown route around our village. It was only Lois here so she rode her scooter and I walked. It takes us down to the bottom of our village, up through our park and back along the main street of our village past our village shop and post office.
    I absolutely love all this glass your collecting - so pretty and unusual.

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    1. Hello Emma! I suppose our huge park makes up for not having the sea and beautiful beaches on our doorstep. It's a gorgeous place though and I think it was an absolute godsend during lockdown for Walsall folk not lucky enough to have a garden.
      It's lovely to have a familiar route, I bet you and Lois enjoyed your walk.
      I've always collected glass but I seem to have found more in the last six months or so that I have in years! xx

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  4. That Monsoon coat is very stylish. I love that vintage Indian gauzy cotton dress too. Gorgeous sheepskin boots and hat. This outfit feels very 'Vix'. I also like your Friday outfit with the Zara jumper and lovely statement collar, completed with a pretty maxi and a belt. Your hair looks nice with the waves (I'm assuming the waves are from plaits).
    P.S. I enjoyed taking an urban walk with you and Jon. The Pavillion is beautiful and I enjoyed seeing the sculptures and statues along the way.

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    1. Thanks, Ivana! I love it when a cheap charity shop fits seamless into my wardrobe, breathing new life into old favourites! I used my curling irons to get those curls,sometimes sleeping in a plait doesn't quite get the right amount of waviness in my poker straight locks! xxx

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  5. I'm sorry such a beautiful space has the sadness for the young woman. Shaking cobwebs is a good phrase. I look forward to exploring on my future Saturdays. Even on your less than trips, you find gems for the Kinky She'd.

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    1. Its so sad that young woman lost her life so tragically a few days ago, a few of us stood and quietly relected on a life ended too soon.
      Saturday feels like a good day for a walk with most people occupied with food shopping or running errands. xxx

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  6. Oooh what a lovely walk! If ever I came into a fortune I would plant Arboretums (Arboreta?) galore! The floral tributes are very very sad. The story of the Tonga stool is amazing and viva bandstands everywhere.

    Reader, I bought the absolutely gorgeous unworn East espadrilles!!

    The velvet jacket in bottle green of two post comments ago went back to the shop this morning - much as I loved the colour, the fit was not flattering on me.

    I had a rummage through a box due to go in the attic and found ... a velvet jacket in a beautiful claret colour - lightly quilted, shorter, fitted, beautifully-lined and a tad too small. Delighted to find that it now fits really nicely - so hence the return of a boxy horror, the discovery of a new favourite and those gorgeous espadrilles.

    I'm furiously listing things on sBay this weekend and boxing up more books to trade on Ziffit. Things are sprouting and stirring in the garden pots so I'm hoping Spring is on it's way.

    Take care all and wrap up! xx

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    1. Hello Elaine!
      Those espadrilles couldn't have gone to a better home. Such a shame that your new jacket wasn't quite right but brilliant that you rediscovered your claret one. Boxiness has no place in my wardrobe either!
      I blows my mind how things like that stool end up in charity shops. How on earth did it get there?
      Good luck with the eBay listings and book selling. It's rather addictive when you get in the mood, isn't it?
      Our magnolia tree is in bud, how mad is that? xxx

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  7. Hi Vix what a lovely park although sad that the young lady died there. The glasswware you collect is beautiful, I am always looking out on your behalf in chazzas. Your stool is a very special find, I hope it brings luck for you. I had some death masks from my travels which eventually I realised were causing very bad vibes in our home and they were removed from the house by a church and our house, a new build and us the only owners, was exorcised .. woo hoo just saying, good therefore that you check the meaning/purpose of the magical things you find. Anyhow, You look lovely in your coat and reminded me to dig out my furry hat as its brass monkies here. Betty x

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    1. Hello Betty.
      Wednesday was such a beautiful day, its heartbreaking to think of that young woman dying on that lovely sunny morning. I hope she rests in peace.
      Oh no, I hope that's not why the stool ended up in a charity shop, evil spririts! Maybe me sitting on it has broken the spell or maybe it's made matters worse. I shall keep you posted.
      It's definitely furry hat weather, it's been so cold here today! xxx

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  8. I have never seen a top quite like that Zara top, but you have styled it beautifully. I was also quite pleased with my hole ridden old enamel jug we discovered discarded by the pond in the grounds of a local stately home today until I saw that stool. How on earth do you find these things? Brilliant as a plant stand or as you have used it to display a church candle. I wonder how many important decisions were made on that stool? Love the bandstand - it's a stunner. Your photo of the avenue of trees brought back a memory of visiting Walsall Arboretum as a five year old to see the illuminations. I don't think I've been back since. Must remedy that. Lovely post! xxx

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    1. That top is such a curiousity, I've never seen the like of it but it's lovely and warm when it's on!
      Your jug sounds like a marvellous find, I wonder how it ended up there? The stool blows my mind, how does a thing like that end up discarded in a charity shop. There was one very similar on the Antiques Road Trip this week so when the staff asked me what on earth I was able to tell them.
      I miss the Illuminations so m,uch, they were magical and a lovely part of my childhood. You'll have to come back for a revisit, there's a lovely cafe there these days! xxx

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  9. Hi Vix, what a lovely visit to the Arboretum, a beautiful place, so sad about the young woman. There's really so much of interest on our own doorsteps, just need a little curiosity! Love the African tribal stool and the glassware you discovered. I love the way you research the history of these finds! I remember the bandstand in Belper River Gardens when I was a kid. Love the hat, could do with one myself. We're still living outside Barcelona at the moment at an altitude of 1,200 metres, minus 7 degrees this morning! I'm working online so don't need to be in any particular place. Keep safe and keep these wonderful posts coming!! Lots of love! xxxx

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    1. Happy New Year, Diana! It's lovely to hear from you.
      Minus 7°C! Wow! I bet you're relieved to be working from home with those temperatures. My hands were numb after wandering around the Arbo in -2°C today!
      It is rather exciting being a tourist in your own backyard, the Arboretum was a big part of my childhood and my grammar school was directly opposite the entrance, we were alawys getting into trouble with the teachers for loitering there at lunchtimes!
      Stay safe and warm! xxx

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  10. What a fascinating stool. You do find just the most unusual pieces.

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    1. Isn't it the strangest thing to end up in a charity shop? xxx

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  11. Hi Vix, another lovely outing you've had. I love the new piece you've added to your gorgeous glassware collection. I have a green one exactly like the tall orange one in your photo. That tribal stool is such an amazing find! How has it been there as far as Covid goes? it has spiked to record heights where I am. Stay safe out there!

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    1. Thanks, Martha! I bet your green version of my orange vase is gorgeous!
      I'm sorry to hear about your Covid spike. The numbers have been crazy here for weeks but finally seem to have started coming down. Loads of our friends tested positive over the festive season but all were triple jabbed and luckily the infection was mild. Stay safe. xxx

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  12. Beautiful scenery. Rather mystical.

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    1. There's something about cold Winter mornings. xxx

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  13. Literally a wonder-filled walk in the park! The Arboretum reminds me of the grand city park that was my childhood playground. My parents and their siblings also romped there and we all shared memories of "the castle/bandstand" and "the sea/lake". Sadly, the neighborhood has changed and the area where we kids played unsupervised "until the street lights came on" is now unsafe even to drive through with locked doors. Your photos of centuries-old walls and buildings undefiled by gang graffiti continue to amaze me: different strokes for different folks, indeed.

    That stool does have an Ashanti vibe. Our metro art museum has several such pieces in its collection, and one notices a smell of smoke (but not sulfur. Point taken, Betty!) in that gallery. Can't recall viewing any items from the Tonga tribe. Shall have to look them up.

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    1. That's really sad about how your former city park has become a no-go area.
      Until you mentioned it it hadn't occured to me how litter and graffiti-free the Arboretum is, that certainly isn't the case for a lot of our town, maybe beciase it is so well-loved and somewhere all Walsall people can enjoy, the locals hold it in such high esteem and respect it.
      Betty's got me thinking about that stool, if only inanimate objects could talk! xxx

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  14. As a Zimbabwean long time reader, very jealous of your stool! Great find!!

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    1. Hello and thank you so much for commenting! I shall treasure the stoll, I was so excited to find it! xxx

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  15. Oh that stool is just amazing - the history, the traditional and belief behind it - and the poor thing ended up in a charity shop. Thank goodness you were there at the right time to rescue it.

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    1. Isn't it fab? It sounds a bit daft but I can feel 100 years of magic just by polishing it! I'm so glad the charity shop put it out on the shop floor and didn't bin it thinking it was cracked and rubbish! So mnay shops would. xxx

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  16. ice on the lake? it is cold at yours!
    i too feel refreshed from your walk!
    wonderful photos of the beautiful park - and love to learn from your historical knowledge..... thanks for taking us with you.
    feel sad for the young lass that left life in the water......

    the zara sweater suits you and the indian maxi very well - would call it *victorian aprés ski wear* :-D - fabulous!
    xxxxx

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    1. Yes! It's been a while since the lake iced over, it's been really cold her for days but bright and beautiful!
      I'm glad I spotted that jumper, I love it's strangeness! xxx

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  17. Bring back the stocks and pelt all the ne'er do wells I say. They'd think twice before doing it again. Must admit I love the weird jumper and would wear it with a pair of slim fitting brown or camel coloured jeans.

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    1. I'm with you there, Cherie! Let's round up all the fly-tippers and antisocial idiots and pelt them with rotten tomatoes! xxx

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  18. And I like to get up so early sometimes, because I will do a lot to myself when everyone is asleep and then I can start the day calmly.

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    1. It's rather magical, being the only person awake! xxx

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  19. I'm admiring that you're up at silly O'clock, particularly as I seem to have a hard time dragging myself out of bed every morning.
    I'm swooning over the weird Zara jumper and love how you wore it with the Anokhi skirt and leather belt. The Mid-Century glass looks amazing and what are the odds of finding that primitive African stool in a chazza.
    The Arbo looks absolutely delightful, I thoroughly enjoyed tagging along on your urban walk. I love the artworks and the poem, and Jerome K Jerome always makes me think of my Dad and his curious copy of Three Men in a Boat.
    I'd love the join the Bandstand Appreciation Society, but there aren't many around in our neck of the woods. They completely ruined the one near my office in Antwerp. xxx

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    1. I absolutely love being up early although I don't remember feeling the same when when I had to catch the first bus to Birmingham back in my days of corporate hell!
      Isn't that jumper interesting? You'll have to keep your eyes peeled for one popping up in a Belgian chazza. The stool blows my mind.
      What a shame the Antwerp bandstand has been ruined, you and Jos need to plan your next trip around the avaiability of lovely bandstands! xxx

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  20. So great that this coat is matching so nicely your dresses and keeping you warm too!, You Look Gorgeous in this lovely ensemble!. The 'weird' Zara jumper looks really romantic with the maxi skirt, and so brilliant idea to add a belt!
    I'm admiring the magnificent Arboretum, its history, its details, sculptures, bridges and paths!. I'm a huge fan of urban parks, particularly Arboretums and Botanical Parks are my favourite ones!.
    besos

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    1. That coat is like wearing a dressing gown, its so lovely to wear, I never want to take it off! xxx

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  21. When I saw Fluffy the Oss I thought how similar one of my dogs looks-I always say he looks like a pony as I don't know what mix he is and that's what he reminds me of with his gentle eyes-Your visits seem to be more exclusive at this time of the year x

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    1. I wish you blogged, Flis, I'd love to see your lovely dogs! xxx

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  22. The park looks like a lovely place to clear the cobwebs, but it's very sad that the lake continues to be a source of tragedy. The bandstand is beautiful - I love the graceful lines of the roof and colourful embellishment on the pillars. The "oss" is a delightful addition.

    I can barely get out of bed at a reasonable hour these days so the fact that you are up at 5 am is unimaginable to me! The wood stool is an amazing find, more so because of the history of the piece. It is a wonderful addition to your hearth.

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    1. Isn't it sad that the beautiful lake continues to claim lives?
      The bandstand is magnificent and hosts a big open-air festival every summer - one day we shall get to it!
      I love my early mornings, being able to potter around without interruption or noise! xxxx

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  23. Ahh! I see you have found another fine bandstand Vix and The Bandstand Appreciation Society is going from strength to strength! (Thanks for the shout). The chainsaw artist has been busy - his sculptures are great. The lodge is quite an imposing entrance isn't it. Beautiful as the lake is, any large expanse of water has unseen dangers. It is very sad that a young lady lost her life there on Wednesday just gone.

    Fantastic find with the Tonga stool - what a fascinating object.

    Lulu xXx
    P.S. I call any time before 07:00 'Arse O'Crack' in the morning ;)

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    1. Hi Lulu! Arse Crack of the morning, I think you've been chatting to Lord Jon! He thinks I'm an absolute nutter. xxx

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  24. Happy New Year Vix. I can't help but envy you. That art glass would be 40x that price here.

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    1. Happy New Year!! The charity shops don't seem to have cottoned on to vintage glass being desirable, I almost wish they'd increase their prices to stop me buying it, I'm running out of space! xxx

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  25. How fab to have an arboretum on your door step! It looks to be a wonderful place. I loved the bandstand and the wood and metal sculptures; especially Fluffy! A most unlike fluffy creature I have ever seen; instead being the epitome of sleek; muscular strength....

    Loving the Monsoon coat - it looks very snug on you and the furry hat was fab, too.

    Your glass collection is amazing and the stool was a totally brilliant find. It look gorgeous with the church candle on it.

    Have a great week and I hope it warms up!
    xxx

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    1. Hello Vronni! I know, Fluffy looks a right old bony 'oss! He was in the town centre for a while but the chavs kept climbing on him so he's safe behind railings now! xxx

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  26. Evening Vix, so much to comment on. Ahh Lee denim jacket I used to wear one back in the 80s a mens one but loved it. I love the photography as usual, I love taking back shots so the one of you walking away and the lovely tree roots(my if trees could talk). Thinking of the young lady's family how sad. The African stool has got to be one of your most unique finds - it is amazing what you can find in the chazzas. Well have a great evening it is a cold one here that's for sure. Shazxx

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    1. Hello Shaz! Lee denim was proper iconic, wasn't it? I think James Dean made it so desirable. It was always Wrangler until those Levis adverts and then we'd wear nothing else!
      Brrr! It's gone proper cold again, hasn't it? Glorious full moon and sunrise this morning but goodness me, it's chilly! xxx

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  27. What an amazing piece to have picked up from the charity shop. Well done on bringing it home, and yes ... I would have sat on it too.

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  28. What a fabulous post. I have many happy memories of our local park in Manchester where my dad would organise games for all the local kids in the summer holidays.
    That poem sums it up beautifully.

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    1. What a lovely memories and what a fab dad to organise games for the local kids, proper old-fashioned community spirit. xxx

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  29. Oh! That glass piece of twisty sculpture reminds me of a similar one my grandmother used to own. Funny how those things come back.

    Lovely walk, Vix - what a gorgeous park! I smiled at the Canada geese (nasty birds).

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    1. We're not allowed to feed the Canada Geese at the moment, there's an outbreak of Avian Flu in the area. They were very well-behaved though, they can be evil things! xxx

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  30. Your Monsoon coat is beautiful and how wonderful is that stool!
    xoxo
    Lovely
    www.mynameislovely.com

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Lots of love, Vix