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! 

47 comments:

  1. I love Botanic Gardens, something of an endangered species in their own right these days, but such an important resource.

    I'm almost dribbling at your menu choices from Dishoon :-)

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    1. They're wonderful places, aren't they? We've stumbled across a few neglected ones in our travels in India, a hangover from the days of the Raj. I'd love to have the knowledge and resources to save them!
      I can honestly say that those gunpowder potatoes are one of the best things I've ever eaten! xxx

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  2. Hi Vix, glad you liked the goodies. I didn't know Birmingham had a botanical garden let alone glass houses - I asked steve to take me but he just told me no as it's about 100 miles from here lol!!! how fabulous, I would be in the glass rooms every week! I have a bottle similar to the one full of algae although I hadn't thought of filling mine with the same! yuk. but would take more than that to put me off that delicious Indian meal. Lovely pic of you/friend. Those culottes you found chazza hunting look pretty, I think they should be trendy for 2022 Summer as so glamorous and much nicer than trousers. Think they would look great on you but presume destined to the Kinky shed, also the M&S coat, very smart. I like your drinks globe - am looking out for one like that myself - one day I am sure it's going to turn up on Freecycle :)

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    1. Hello Betty! It's a shame Birmingham is so far away, the Botantical Gardens really are a treat. I used to work around the corner in the late 80s and we'd always have our staff Xmas dos there. I'd get bored with the party songs, sneak off and sit in the Tropical House amongst the bananas and Koi carp!
      Culottes are fab, aren't they? As you say, much nicer than trousers. I remember admiring the ones you wore in India. I might have to make myself a pair if I find any lovely fabric.
      That globe bar was a Xmas present from Jon about ten years ago, he spotted it in a charity shop and hid it in Gilbert for months so I won't see it! xxx

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  3. Fancy you spotting a cat at the Botanical Gardens?! I haven't been for years. I love the banana plants and exotics. Do you remember that woman on Gardener's World who managed to grow lots of exotic plants from her childhood home in Britain? Can't see them surviving in our garden. Gorgeous shopping outfit (those snakeskin boots are divine) and nice to see that Treacy Lowe dress again. It looks great with the waistcoat! I won't be sharing the contents of my bag any time soon - dread to think what's lurking in the bottom of mine! :-D I never tire of that Laura Mvula track. xxx

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    1. When I used to go to staff do's back in the 1980s I remember a cat in the hot house, I wondered if the handsome boy we spotted was a descendent.
      I loved that lady on Gardeners' World, we were straight online looking up some of the plants - she must have had her own microclimate, mustn't she?
      I don't know why I hadn't thought of trying that waistcoat with the Treacy Lowe dress before - too many clothes, I suspect. Those boots were absurdly cheap in Urban Outfitters sale last year, I didn't need them but £12 down from £95 seemed too good an offer to miss! xxx

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  4. What a lovely day out (sigh) I've been at our nearest town today and it looks so beaten-down :( The Laura Mvula track is 10 years worth of sunny summer's days - love it. Your new combos of old favourites is one of the great pleasures of wardrobe-keeping! I have resurrected so many things this year with my growing collection of sub £3 merino sweaters and a beaded waistcoat I found at the bottom of my mending basket. I am too - thoroughly intrigued by the Egyptian print culottes - as well as the neatness of your bags - mine are full of hairclips, odd earrings and sequins lol.

    Now, can we just have a warm weekend please :) Take care all xx

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    1. I was taken aback when there was a piece on the news today about how shop occupancy in our UK high streets had actaully gone up in the last 12 months, I haven't seen any evidence of it around these parts, it's all very despressing to witness, isn't it?
      I'm liking the sound of resurrected sub-£3 merino wool jumpers and rescued waistcoats. Buying stuff we love rather than following daft trends means our wardrobes are always a source of joy.
      I'm a very good girl, I tip my bag out every night and bin the scrunched up receipts!
      I'd settle for cold but sunny, I loathe these grey days with a passion! xxx

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  5. What a lovely day out you had and that food looks absolutely delicious.
    I just cannot get over how much stuff you manage to find in your charity shops, it's amazing. I went in one in our town today and nothing worth buying as usual.
    I love your drinks trolley thing! - it took me right back to my Grandads house and his drinks cabinet. It was a serious business, the doors would be opened and the little shelf pulled out - drinks were mixed, lemon was sliced and he even had an ice bucket with tongs! Lovely memories. I think once L is back from scouts I may well pour myself a glass of bubbles to kick off the weekend. x

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    1. I'm still dreaming of that food!!
      We do find some gems in our charity shops, loads of horrible fast fashion but also quite a bit of high end stuff and vintage treasures.
      What a lovely memory of your grandad's bar. I think you need to create one of your own!
      Cheers and have a lovely weekend. xxx

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  6. Happy Rum O'Clock Vix! I am allowing myself a bit of blog reading after a long week working and revising. Birmingham's Botanical Gardens look wonderful. I could quite happily live in those glass houses. Well done for snapping another bandstand! The restaurant food looks incredibly delicious..I am drooling a bit ;) Lulu xXx

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    1. Hope the revising is going well, Lulu!
      I thought the Botanical Gardens would appeal. The glasshouses were stunning!
      We're going bcak to Dishoon next week to celebrate a friend's birthday. I think I'll be ordering those potatoes again! xxx

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  7. Nothing like visiting a botanic gardens in winter!
    You both carry so little in your bags.

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    1. It's lovely to walk into that tropical heat aftre a bracing walk in the bitter cold.
      We never carry much with us, that's years of backpacking and festival going for you! xxx

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  8. chin-chin dear vix!
    looove tropical greenhouses! sounds like you had a fabulous day out..... and you found some pretty cool stuff in the chazzas. "what´s in the bag?" is interesting - only nessecities but especially your´s are glam and pretty! when the BW and i leaving the house together, i often go without a bag - sneaking my stuff into his rucksack/bag.....better for my shoulders :-D
    xxxxx

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    1. Thanks, Beate! I talked Jon into buying that bag as it was slightly bigger than the one he used to carry as I knew I could sneak a few of my things into it if I needed to. I hate lugging loads of things around.
      Chin-chin! xxx

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  9. You answered the question later in your post I was asking myself-"why didn't she call Jon to come get her after the gold mine of charity shopping." our day with Nikki sounds completely lovely. I just made a coffee and walking date with a friend that I have not seen in a year-shame on us both! You made me think there is a great 2nd hand shop with all kinds of interesting things we can meet near, walk, grab coffee, and then browse.

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    1. Your planned day out sounds lovely, Sam! It's scary how time flies. Have a lovely day out. xxx

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  10. Oh, I am craving that humid warmth from the greenhouses! How marvelous that you got to spend the day with Nikki. That food looks so delicious! The cat you spotted looks like a relative of Stephen and/or Vizzini!

    Have you read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"? Here, it's free on Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41/41-h/41-h.htm - it's the most famous thing Washington Irving wrote, and is deliciously spooky. The headless horseman used to terrify me as a kid - you would not catch me walking through a covered bridge!

    As always your outfits are superb, Vix. Isn't it funny how it never occurs to us to put two things together...until we do? I love the green maxi dress, and I'm drooling over that Sheffield steel cuff (I'd have kept it too!). Enjoyed the peek into your (and Jon's) minimalist bags! When/if I ever get a phone, it'll also be shut off and left in a drawer most of the time!

    Your booze globe is amazing! I wish my globe opened up. :)

    Have a lovely weekend!

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    1. Hello Sheila! I thought that handsome cat looked like a relative our our black and white boys. He was having a fine old time snuffling around the snowdrops.
      Thank you so much for that link. I saw The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at the cinema years ago, I'd love to read the book.
      Isn't it strange how wardrobe combinations suddenly leap out at us? The joy of a plentiful amount of clothing!
      I love all globes but ones containing booze are my favourites! xxx

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  11. What a fantastic outing! It sure was beautiful and I'm sure it was a lot of fun. I sure miss keeping up here on a regular basis but I'll be back to it before too long. Have a great weekend Vix!

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    1. Always lovely to hear from you, Martha! xxx

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  12. We have your bar's twin! Number one son is trying to move it to his house but he's not getting it, lol.

    I love seeing what other peoples bags contain. I am jealous of your purse/wallet. It's beautiful.

    Mine's a mess, clean out till tapes at least one a week. It's the epi-pen that's the problem. Just bulky.

    Enjoy your weekend. We're off to Spain next week just as our temperatures are plummeting.

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    1. Yay! Spain! I'm so glad you're now able to travel, I remember you mentioning that you were booked to go a couple of years ago until the world went to sh*t!!
      Hold on to that globe bar, they used to be cheap as chips and have started to sell for crazy money in recent years.
      Those epi pens are cumbersome things, aren't they? Not something you can leave at home. xxx

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  13. There is something magical about gardens indoors. I love the way they seem to just take over the place. That food looks awesome to spicy for me. But Paul would eat it. We have sucia cards that we top up at the ticket machines that we use to get through the ticket gates to get to the train platforms really handy and quick. You can use the card to buy groceries and pay for taxis.
    Another great haul. I need a new mixing bowl as mine a massive crack In it .but it is so pretty I don’t want to Chuck it out until it is dead. We got given a new microwave as ours died my friend didn’t like the colour so she gave us it. What an odd person she is. You would laugh at my bag it carries my life!! And it weighs a ton!! Have a great weekend love and huggs allie

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    1. It's a real thrill to step out of the stark Winter and into the tropics, we could have stayed in there all day although my camera and my glasses kept steaming up!
      I was so pleased to find an alternative to our cracked mixing bowls, they were becoming a health hazard. What a crazy - but generous - friend! We don't have a micrwave - I told you I was a luddite! Lovely to hear from you! xxx

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    2. Allie - I got my brother's old microwave because he thought it was "on its way out". Funny thing is, I still have that microwave, and said bro has gone through another two machines since then!!!

      Vix - I feel your pain with the steamed up glasses. I have this issue on cold days in the car!

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  14. Blimey I didn’t realise that song was so old. I started singing it as soon as I saw your heading. What a beautiful place the botanical gardens is to visit and roam round and catch up with a friend. Sounds like a lovely day out.
    The folk round your way are far more colourful and interesting In their dress sense than here I’m sure. Our charity shops are just full of the usual high street clobber and it’s rare to find anything of interest now.
    Saying that about the high street Im just in the process of buying an M&S dress that I’ll style up. I saw a dress online that was a whopping £399 and then came across the M&S one at £45. I’ll be doing a blog post about it.
    Lovely post Vix. Feel like I’ve had a day out xxxxx

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    1. Where has the last ten years gone?!
      There's a horrific amount of cheap fast fashion in the charity shops - so many with the labels attached, too. I wonder if its a hangover from lockdown when people were ordering online to pass the time?
      I'm liking the sound of the M&S dress and can't wait to see you styling it up. xxx

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  15. Oh my goodness that food sounds amazing. My mouth is watering and my stomach rumbling. A thought crossed my mind the other day... Do you drive? You mention catching the train and I wondered if you are a car driver.

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    1. Honestly, that food is some of the best I've ever tasted!
      I can't drive. I had 12 lessons in my early twenties and was utterly useless and too easily distracted. xxx

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    2. I passed my test first time... drove for about six months, got divorced and only drove once or twice after that. I haven't driven in nearly twenty years and think I too would be too easily distracted. The road is probably safer with me as a passenger

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  16. The Botanical Gardens looked magnificent! It was great to see colourful plants and as for the birds how gorgeous were they? Dishoon looks like a most wonderful place to eat and your menu choices had me salivating...

    Fabulous outfits. I loved the maxi coat with the snakeskin boots and as for the Treacey Lowe dress with the suede waistcoat - a match made in heaven no less! Isn't it funny how sometimes you just get an idea about making an outfit out of things you'd had forever. It just shows that your creative streak was on form!

    Such fabulous chazza finds. The Danish glass candle looked gorgeous and I fell for the maxi culottes with the Egyptian scenes in a big way. Do you know I've never seen a Welsh tapestry handbag ever on my charity shop trawls?

    I enjoyed seeing the contents of your's and Jon's bags. Mine contains glasses, purse, phone. keys, tissues, notebook, pen, lipstick, mini mirror and fold up shopping bag; and usually a couple, or at least, one liquorice and blackcurrant sweet as I often have a dry mouth and like to suck on a sweet!

    It's been a beautiful day here today and I saw snowdrops on my walk...
    xxx

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    1. I think the Botantical Gardens need to go on your list next time you're in Brum. The birds were gorgeous, not at all balding and depressed like some of those poor things you used to see in zoos. They were very chatty, too!
      I rarely find Welsh Tapestry handbags in chazzas, lots of purses, capes, coats, caps and waistcoats but not bags. People must hang on to them!
      You sound very well prepared with the contents of your handbag, Vronni. We have a stash of Indian tote bags for our charity shop finds which Jon carries separately.
      We've got crocuses peeping out of the lawn - isn't it exciting? xxx

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  17. What a treat Birmingham's Botanical Gardens are! I love botanical gardens, the most fantastic ones we ever visited were Hortus Botanicus in Haren, in the North of the Netherlands.
    Your description of your lunch at Dishoon is definitely making my mouth water, even if I've just had dinner ... or tea as you would say.
    I'm loving Thursday's outfit, and that coat you nicked from the Kinky Shed is magnificent. As is your vintage suede waistcoat worn over the 1970s Treacy Lowe dress.
    I've lost count of the number of times I'm putting things together which I've had for years, wondering why the combination never occurred to me before.
    And oh my, your chazza finds were plentiful and interesting yet again. Ours tend to be quite hit or miss lately?
    While Jos only carries his man bag when we are out for the day and taking a picnic, but I don't think one blog post will be enough to cover what I'm carrying in mine on a daily basis. I'm always prepared for any eventuality ..
    Love that song by the way, hadn't heard it in a while! xxx

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    1. I loved the Botanical Gradens, it had been years since I last went. It wsa the perfect choice for a winter's day although we had to go outside to cool off!
      Isn't it weird how you can own clothes for years and yet the combination has never occured to you before? Its rather exciting!
      I hate carrying too much stuff with me, I struggle to find what I need in the depths of my bag with the few bits in there. I think I need to see what you carry in yours, go on - I dare you! Let's bring back the "what's in my bag" blog post! xxx

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  18. You and your friend look alike. The Alienist is really a good show.

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    1. We do! We have the same taste in clothes, too. xxx

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  19. There is a beautiful old Greenhouse in downtown Toronto that I used to love visiting in the winter as the warmth and greenery were very restorative. Alas, I haven't been to Toronto in two years, and it's only two hours away. The botanical gardens you visited are lovely - I would have chatted with all the birds too!

    I watched The Alienist when it was first out on Netflix, and enjoyed it, then I read the book afterwards. There is a second season with two of the main characters that wasn't as good, but still worth watching.

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    1. I loved the Botantical Gardens and their delicious heat. I can't go anywhere without chatting to birds and cats, luckily Nikki's on the same wavelength!
      We're into season 2 of The Alienist now, I was pleased to see that Lazlo, Sarah and John were still in it. xxx

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  20. Those are such SPARSE bags! I carry the kitchen sink and a load of detritus with me!
    You really did well in the chazzers! I really like the maxi dresses you found and that dressing gown looks good enough to wear as a dress!
    Ooh, the Botanical gardens look wonderful! I'd love to visit some again- I really like visiting them and it reminds me of my Grand Parents as we used to go with them! So nice to see Nikki. Oooh, I really would like to visit Dishoom- it sounds sensational!x

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    1. I've always been a light packer, I hate being encumbered by stuff when I'm out and about!
      That dressing gown in gorgeous, I was very tempted to keep it and wear it as a coat.
      Dishoon is amazing, I'm going again this week! xxx

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  21. The botanical gardens look to be an absolute gem - a wonderful place to visit! There isn't anything like that locally - might need to look further afield :D
    I'd heard that the Alienist is good - I've not seen it yet but it is on my to watch list - enjoy your week x

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    1. You would absolutely love them, so much to admire - and a very reasonably priced plant shop, too!
      The Alienist is excellent. xxx

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  22. So lovely you had such a nice outing with your friend. Those botanical gardens look beautiful...and very green indeed. Smart move to go catch an earlier train and avoid the commute madness. Avoiding crowds is something that always makes sense but especially so in these times. You are always so stylish. The Bianca dress is lovely. I haven't seen The Alienist, sounds interesting. That vintage suede waistcoat is amazing and it matched the maxi dress you wore perfectly.
    Have a lovely evening!

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    1. It was a fab day! There's nothing worse that being shoulder to shoulder on the train with non-masked commuters, much betetr to cut the day short and get home safely.
      The Alienist is fantastic, well worth a watch and/or a read. xxx

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  23. So fabulous Botanical Gardens (I've a weakness for them!, so beatiful photos!) and so lovely that you visited them with a friend and have a delicious meal too!, totally my kind of Fun too!.
    So lovely Dilli Grey dress with matchy mittens and hat, and fab coat!. And lovely waistcoat and dress ensemble, you rock it and love your accessories!
    I enjoyed those 'what's in my handbag?' posts back then!, there were lots of different personalities and lifestyles. Most people don't use a pen anymore, they don't write anything, they just take a photo! (I do it sometimes too!).
    besos

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Lots of love, Vix