Friday 25 February 2022

I Felt The Earth Move

After Storm Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, on Monday night Walsall was shaken by an earthquake - not as big as the Dudley one of 2002 but unsettling nonetheless.

On Tuesday I donned my 1960s tissue silk Treacy Lowe dress, again with the vintage suede waistcoat Liz bought me years ago, and went charity shopping, finding a few interesting bits.

A 1980s Lesley Fay USA-made tartan jacket, a 1960s sheepskin coat by Scandinavian Furs, Anthropologie cotton biker jacket, a 1960s wool shawl, another Philippa Gregory novel, a Ralph Lauren chambray shirt, a 1990s cord blazer, a 1980s Stephen Oliver 100% snakeskin belt, a 1970s Prova safari jacket, a Rowan all-wool cropped cardi, a rayon leisure shirt 

And a vintage bud vase (for £1.25) to add to our growing collection.....

After lunch, I walked down to the beauty salon for a pre-eyelash allergy test before an afternoon of laundry and travel planning. We spent the evening watching the rest of the Art Nouveau documentary series we'd started watching last week as well as a couple of episodes of season two of Young Wallander,

On Wednesday after ticking some mundane household chores off my to-do list, Jon & I went for a walk around the block. I wore my trusty Dilli Grey block printed maxi skirt, a vintage Ayesha Davar shirred cheesecloth blouse and a fake fur gilet which was originally Zara but I bought secondhand.

I'm in the middle of Operation Wear My Shoes In. Although these Superga organic cotton platform plimsolls are secondhand and ridiculously comfy, I'm leaving nothing to chance and have been going for long walks in them daily to make doubly sure that my feet won't become a massive blisterfest after a day of pounding the Spanish pavements. 

We spotted the burgeoning signs of Spring in our garden. I've no idea where those tête-à-tête daffs came from, they popped up last year and their pretty faces are most welcome.

Leaving Lord Jon to clean the windows, I spent the afternoon engrossed in my latest Philippa Gregory novel and by teatime was a lot more knowledge on the Wars of the Roses. 

Wednesday was rum and cola night and one of those rare occasions where I cooked, nothing earth-shattering, just a cauliflower and broccoli mornay which was even better having worked out how to use the grill in the new oven. Later we watched the rest of Young Wallander.

With Thursday's bleak news of Ukraine's invasion and the grey skies, I was delighted when I did a blog catch-up after my Wii Fit workout and saw this post from my friend, Ivana. She's so talented. Check her out HERE.

All set to go charity shopping, Jon got a last-minute notification of an imminent delivery of car parts so our plans were abandoned. Instead, I sat at the PC for most of the day and worked my way through this year's festival applications with the news on in the background and snowflakes fluttering past the window.

Nothing new to see here, just one of my vintage Afghan dresses, a chazza shopped Art Nouveau belt and Mum's Biba boots. Jon's sorting out my roots at the weekend, they've not been touched since 3rd January and my parting's getting wider by the day.

We watched the excellent British spy drama Official Secrets before our weekly Apprentice fix (although it's probably more my fix than Jon's). I have to admit that my style of management was similar to that of Harpreet's, no wonder I burned out before I was 40.

Friday was charity shopping day and a bright, but cold morning. I wore my Dilli Grey birthday dress with a vintage suede jacket and my secondhand Doc Marten Divas.

What did we find? A 1980s rayon leisure shirt, a 1980s silk, cotton & lambswool beaded jumper, a 1970s tweed jacket, a strange fake fur-trimmed linen coat with pointed cuffs, a British army parka, a 1970s nautical handknit, Toast side-zip ankle grazers (the first time I've come across Toast in a chazza, and marked down to £1, too!) , a 1970s novelty print shirt, a vintage Jaeger midi skirt, a Joules wide-brimmed hat, a St Michael 1980s midi dress, a 1980s English-made leopard embellished jacket, a 1980s Bernshaw wrap dress and a vintage African basket.

I know I said I was on a book buying ban but Lawrence Durrell, Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth I for £1? I couldn't say no!

Here's some local street art I've not shared before, it's Women's Work by Rose Garrard, unveiled in May 1998 by the now-retired Labour MP Clare Short and situated in Bilston town centre, this morning's charity shopping spot. 

Standing four metres high this bronze sculpture of a female beside a pit-head gantry commemorates the impoverished women working in the 19th-century coal and iron industries of the Black Country. Women's Work is situated close to the site of a former ‘fold’, a cluster of small hovels where families lived and the women of which forged tiny items such as nails, chain links and pulleys, selling them to merchants in order to survive.  

These items have been fused into the clothing of the statue, her head is a small anvil and her forearms are the tongs used for holding the hot metal.  Her feet are flat irons, whilst the back of her skirt is composed of stacked cooking pots as local women were later employed in nearby factories making cast iron cooking pots and flat irons as well as in large laundries where they put the irons to use.  The figure is stooped over to support her burden of coal, the constant position of a ‘pit-bank wench’ paid to work bowed down all day to reclaim any usable lumps of coal from the slag heaps at the pit head.

After photographing and laundering our finds, I stripped off my makeup, walked into town and spent two hours in the salon having eyelash extensions applied, I've only visited beauty salons a handful of times in my life and on the rare occasion that I do, I wonder why I don't do it more often, it's wonderfully relaxing.

I'm off to drink rum. Sending love to you all. See you in March! 

Monday 21 February 2022

Stormy Weather

  Our favourite Black Country town was a hive of activity when we popped over on Thursday morning. With Storm Dudley on his way out and Storm Eunice imminent, the public had been advised to stay in on Friday so the world and his wife were making the most of their freedom.

I wore the Ankh earrings I bought from a charity shop in Tewkesbury the previous day along with the vintage cheesecloth maxi dress I'd bought from a charity shop before Xmas and a Dilli Grey reversible block printed jacket I'd found online for a third of the original retail price.

So what did we find? A very posh 1980s Louis Feraud gents wool overcoat which originally retailed at Harrods, an Agnes B teeshirt dress, an Indian block-printed cotton tunic by Anokhi for East's Artisan label, a vintage St Michael velvet blazer, a 1990s Indian cotton maxi skirt, a 1980s official Disney Winnie the Pooh teeshirt (I haven't gone mad, its festival stock, I loathe Disney), a 1960s Pakistani velvet shoulder bag (a mini version of my tote bag), a 1980s Wallis snakeskin print jacket, a 1960s Shamba English-made raincoat.

I spent the remainder of the day laundering my finds and catching up with Blogland. The previous evening we'd started watching The Frankenstein Chronicles, a marvellous Gothic horror set in early 19th Century London with a brilliant British cast led by Sean Bean.

On Friday morning Lord Jon nipped to the supermarket for booze and bread before Storm Eunice arrived. I spent the morning getting mundane stuff done, signing off my end of year accounts, cleaning, watering houseplants and replacing the handle of one of the Indian tote bags we always take charity shopping with us. In normal times I usually bring a few back from India and, after a two-year absence, the existing ones are starting to wear a bit thin. 

Eunice arrived at lunchtime and we held our breath, hardly daring to look at our hundred-foot tall London Plane trees battered by 80mph winds. With our getaway within touching distance, Jon took himself off upstairs to provisionally pack his bag.

We're off to South East Spain where the average daytime temperature is around 19°C dropping to around 7°C at night so it's short-sleeved shirts and shorts by day and jumpers, jeans and a jacket by night. He'll travel in the jacket, jeans, boots, hat, scarf and teeshirt and the rest (including socks and pants!) fit into the 40x20x25 John Rocha leather holdall which he bought for £5 in a charity shop about three years ago, knowing it would come in useful one day.

With Jon being so organised I thought I'd better follow suit, pulling out four Indian block printed cotton dresses from the wardrobe, my new reversible quilted cotton jacket, crochet beret, silk Kantha scarf, cowboy boots, some canvas plimsols, sunglasses and vintage leather bag. Does it all fit in my 40x20x25 bag? Yes!!

I'll travel in the jacket, the red maxi dresses (with a silk cami & thermal leggings underneath) along with the scarf, hat and cowboy boots.

We won't need many toiletries - soap (plus dish), bamboo cotton buds, eye-makeup remover wipes, a travel-sized sunscreen (which will also act as a moisturiser), bamboo toothbrushes and a travel-sized tube of toothpaste. As we're away for less than a week Jon won't bother shaving and I won't need to wash my hair. 

Also taking but not pictured - a small bottle of hand sanitiser, comb, a hair tie, tweezers and a nail file. We'll be wearing our facemasks and taking spares. I'm splashing out on eyelash extensions so it'll just be lipstick, blusher and eyeliner in my make-up bag. Jewellery will be kept to a minimum, put on once we've got through security - it's bad enough with my fake hip setting off all the alarms without all my metal!  

When Jon came back upstairs with mugs of tea on Saturday morning he handed over the camera. We'd had a visitor and he'd managed to take a few photos. Look at that face! We often spot this adorable ginger boy snuffling around the border at night, interested in the catmint that grows there. He looks off his tits in that first photo, doesn't he? We've called him Lewis after Damien Lewis, the other good looking ginger male. I expect he's another refugee from the colony. 

Saturday was local walk day and I posted photos of our wander around Heath Lane cemetery in the sleet over the weekend. Once we'd dried off we spent the day lazily, watching repeats of a Place in the Sun and wasting time on the internet. Later on, we drank rum and cola and watched the rest of the Frankenstein Chronicles.

Sunday brought torrential rain and icy temperatures. I was excited that the vintage Nigel Rayment hat I'd snaffled in Tewkesbury matched my 1960s green velvet maxi perfectly and the brim was wide enough to act as an umbrella although I did have to clamp my hand to the crown when we walked down to Wilko's as the wind was rather ferocious.

As usual, we popped to the clearance charity shop, handing over a pair of boots Lord Jon no longer required after finding an alternative the previous week.

We came home with a Gap ruffled cotton blouse, a pair of Bertie leather knee-high boots, 1980s St Michael midi skirt, an All Saints shirt, a raffia belt, 1980s Peter Martin cropped wool jacket and a shirt which had been hand-embroidered by the previous owner.

We'd not seen him for a couple of days but Cat turned up on Saturday, Sunday and Monday for his dinner. We've decided to call him Oliver, or Ollie for short, as he always wants more.

When we got back from town Jon noticed that some thieving scumbag had stolen the registration plates from our works' van, which had been parked outside the gates in the avenue. After informing the police and the insurance company, Lord Jon ordered a new set and tried not to get over-anxious about our number plate being used in a bank job and us being banged up.

Later we watched The Great Pottery Throwdown and the stylish (and fascinating) BBC three-part documentary series Bent Coppers whilst Storm Franklin raged outside. The winds kept us awake for most of the night and continued well into Monday. 

Our London Plane trees are still standing but the one on the right looks like it's leaning - eeek!

See you soon!

Saturday 19 February 2022

Cemetary Gates

A dreaded sunny snowy day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives
Where are they now?
With loves, and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived
And then they died
It seems so unfair
I want to cry

You say, "'Ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn"
And you claim these words as your own
But I've read well, and I've heard them said
A hundred times (maybe less, maybe more)
If you must write prose/poems
The words you use should be your own
Don't plagiarise or take "on loan"
'Cause there's always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
And who trips you up and laughs
When you fall

You say: "'Ere long done do does did"
Words that could only be your own
And then produce the text
From whence was ripped
Some dizzy whore, 1804

A dreaded sunny day
So let's go where we're wanted
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose
'Cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

Cemetery Gates by Morrissey & Johnny Marr

If being blown about on top of Barr Beacon hadn't been enough of a challenge, this week's local walk took us around Heath Lane Cemetary in West Bromwich the day after Storm Eunice hit, leaving driving sleet and icy temperatures in her wake.

Neither of us was aware of the Pauper's Memorial at Heath End Cemetary until Marjorie, a Canadian Facebook friend posted a photo she'd found whilst researching her family history and I was keen to see it for myself. The memorial was unveiled in 2008 and designed by artist Andy Scholes and commemorates paupers buried at public expense in unmarked graves. 

The oldest grave dates back to the early part of the 19th Century and the cemetery is still in use today. I found it rather moving to see graves of the recently departed alongside the Victorian residents who'd died almost two hundred years ago, offering eternal companionship from beyond the grave. 

There were memorials to many young men killed in the wars. I didn't notice that young Leslie had died in an attack by a German U-Boat on my birthday until I downloaded the photo.

Poor James Robinson, who died at the age of 35, A sudden chance at God's command he fell, he had not time to bid his friends farewell.

Here's a recently erected memorial. John Lesley Woodward was local lad & part of the quintet of musicians that went down with The Titanic playing on whilst the ship sank in an attempt to calm the passengers' nerves. His body was never recovered and, the youngest of ten children, until the public petitioned for him to have his own memorial his name was an addition to his family's headstone.

This is the first Zerah I've come across. 

I'm fascinated by the symbolism of the carvings on headstones. Oak leaves represent stability, strength and endurance, urns represent the death of the flesh, fruit represents eternal plenty and a broken pillar represents a life cut short.

The Archangel Michael, the Christian angel of death is always represented clothed in armour and standing on a dragon. His sword, along with his hands, has gone astray over the years. 


There's something life-affirming about wandering around a cemetery and reading the inscriptions of lives long forgotten. Don't waste your life worrying about the future, they seem to say, enjoy your life, live in the here and now, you'll be keeping us company soon enough.

Poor Lord Jon soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone. An afternoon of trashy TV, tea and biscuits await.

I cannot believe this track is almost forty years old, I remember buying The Queen is Dead on vinyl from John Menzies in 1986 like it was yesterday (and yes, I still have it!)

See you soon!