Monday 31 October 2022

All The Leaves Are Brown....

It was chucking it down on Thursday but unseasonably mild so I didn't bother with a coat when I went out charity shopping. It remained murky and depressingly gloomy all day but my block printed Dilli Grey dress, vintage Janet Wood for Monsoon Afghan waistcoat and Aldo fedora (all secondhand) succeeded in bringing some colour to my fellow shopper's lives, or so several of them told me. 

Pickings were slim but we found a few bits.....

Clockwise from top left: Superdry "Black Hawk" motorcycle jacket; Mint Velvet zip utility jacket; Billabong snow jacket; Beaded earrings; Clarks Victorian-style leather knee-high boots; 1960s Harrods gents dressing gown; Schott NYC recycled polyester snorkel; 1980s Domino batwing jumper.

Halloween isn't my thing and I absolutely loathe all that plastic themed tat that'll doubtlessly end up in landfill on 1st November but I couldn't resist this Liberty Hera print fabric pumpkin, handmade to raise funds for a local charity for the visually impaired. 

Named after the Greek goddess whose sacred animal was the peacock, Hera has adorned Liberty designs ever since the mid-1890s. Keeping it classy, that's me!

Without much to occupy me in the clearance chazza I had a look through the denim rails. These Levis jeans grabbed my attention as they looked like they'd never been worn. Labelled Superior Quality and priced at £2 I thought they were worth a punt, if they didn't suit me they could go on eBay. Back at home I did some research on the 311 "Shaping Skinny" label which claims to Slim tummy and contour curves. Features an innovative tummy-slimming panel. Lifts seat and lengthens legs. Despite the fact that my tummy doesn't need flattening or my seat lifting - that's what exercise is for - I love them! I wore them to walk down to the baths on Friday morning for the second of our twice-weekly swims. They retail at £80 and I'm not surprised, they feel wonderful.

With them I wore a Miss Selfridge Victorian-style ruffled cotton blouse, my River Island olive green velvet boots and a vintage tooled leather belt with a lion's head buckle (all charity shopped) along with a vintage Indian block printed waistcoat Liz bought me and a sari silk tote bag bought from a festival neighbour at Beautiful Days. 

We've been watching Ivalo (Arctic Circle) a subtitled Finnish thriller on Walter Presents. As is not always the case, the cast are all likeable and it's been compulsive viewing over several nights. 

I haven't photographed them recently but we're still getting great value from the Lidl £1.50 Waste Not boxes. The contents of last week's included two punnets of English button mushrooms of which Jon used a handful for Saturday morning's breakfast along with sun-dried tomatoes, poached eggs, wholemeal sourdough and a generous sprinkling of oregano seeds from George's parents' garden on Rhodes.

This denim boiler-suit has become my Saturday staple. Bought from a chazza at the beginning of the Summer for £2, with a long-sleeved top underneath, my Nordic socks and Clarks Orinoco Club boots (eBay find) I'm cosy and comfy for all my tasks. I spent the day pottering around, listing stuff on eBay, gardening, reading and baking....if I was married you could almost call me a proper little housewife!

There were two bunches of bananas in the Lidl box so I made a vegan banana loaf - half of which I wrapped up ready to send off with Tony and Marcus to keep them going on their early morning flight to Malta. 

I also made another tray of vegan flapjacks. No medjool dates this time, I used some sultanas left over from our chutney making earlier in the month.

The previous day Gisela (who blogs at Miss Magpie's Musings HERE) messaged me to ask what size shoe I took. Someone she knew was helping her 94 year old mother have a clear out and she'd seen a pair of boots she thought I'd luck would have it, me and the lady were both size 7 and these 1960s suede beauties arrived on Saturday. Was there ever a boot more perfect?

On Sunday Jon was up at the crack of dawn to take the boys to Birmingham Airport although, with the clocks going back at hour, it wasn't quite as early as he'd originally thought. After breakfast we nipped over to the clearance chazza.

Needless to say, I wore my new old boots with my vintage Ritu Kumar for Monsoon block printed midi dress. 

In Greece, Lord Jon often fondles the linen shirts by Greek label, Moraitis but is reluctant to splash out £80 on one so he was really excited when we found one of their granddad shirts for £3. 

We also came back with a Y2K Topshop shift dress in a very groovy Mid-Century print ( I bought this the first time round!); a Topshop crochet top (new with tags); a pair of 1990s Flower Power ankle boots by Picnic; a 1980s "Poppy" bejewelled batwing jumper and some snake print workout leggings. The printed 100% pima cotton jacket is by Peruvian Collection and originally retailed at £395! 

Using more of the Lidl mushrooms and some of our home-grown potato crop, Lord Jon knockered up a  delicious Punjabi style tikka.

After a cup of tea and a catch-up with Liz, I spent the afternoon working on eBay whilst Jon booked a cheeky European getaway for next year. We love having a trip to look forward to! Later we watched the compelling Netflix documentary Tinder Swindler. Last week we'd watched Trainwreck, Woodstock '99 and are still utterly gobsmacked by it.... and we thought our experience at Truck (HERE) was bad! Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting the late great Michael Lang, what on earth was he thinking?

As a perpetual early riser it was lovely to see a bit of daylight whilst I got myself ready this morning, thanks to the clock change. I wore my vintage block printed kaftan (from our mates, Old's Cool Traders) along with a charity-shopped Monsoon beret and Accessorize leather belt. I did wear a coat but after our half-mile swim I was glowing and had to carry it home.

This afternoon will mainly be spent sweeping up the carpet of Autumn leaves and then bolting the gates to keep out any Trick or Treaters - bah, humbug! 

See you soon!

Friday 28 October 2022

More Tales From the City - Handsworth Revolution

On Wednesday I caught the train to Birmingham and met up with Nikki. At New Street Station I bumped into an old friend I'd not seen in over a quarter of a century - so long ago that he'd forgotten my name. He admired our outfits and asked if we were off to a Country and Western event - it's not the first time we've been complimented on our cowgirl chic but there's about as much chance of us attending anything remotely country as there is hell freezing over. 

After catching up over a chamomile tea in hipster cafe, Medicine, we started walking to Handsworth, two and half miles away from the city centre.

Vanley Burke, Handsworth (1981) SOURCE

During the Second World War, many West Indians arrived as part of the colonial war effort, where they worked in Birmingham's munitions factories. In the post-war period, the city's rebuilding programme significantly increased the demand for both skilled and unskilled workers and lead to the direct recruitment of workers from the Caribbean with Handsworth becoming a centre for Birmingham's Afro-Caribbean community. Handsworth produced many successful musical acts including Joan Armatrading, Apache Indian, Ruby Turner, Benjamin Zephaniah and Steel Pulse who named their first album, Handsworth RevolutionHowever, to many, Handsworth will always remain synonymous with the riots of 1981.

As always, we found plenty of interesting stuff to get distracted by.

On the outskirts of Hockley, home to Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, a couple of older ladies stopped us and asked if we knew the area. It turned out that we were all heading the same way so we invited them to follow us. Shortly afterwards a Rastafarian gent pulled up in a smart motor and asked if we were lost. When we told him where we were going he invited us to hop in and he'd drive us the remaining mile and a half as he lived in Handsworth and was on his way home. I think our new friends were a bit taken aback when we accepted his kind offer but we soon persuaded them to join us. 
Paul, if you're reading this, thank you!! 

Soho House was the home of the industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton from 1766 to 1809. If you're not familiar with this Birmingham icon, you might know him and his partner, James Watt, from the back of the £50 note (withdrawn from circulation earlier this year).

Matthew Boulton acquired the lease on the 5-year old mill in 1761 developing it into the Soho Manufactory, which produced buttons & buckles as well as clocks, vases and small pieces of furniture made in silver and Ormolu, fashionable with wealthy Georgian society. Boulton expanded the cottage next to the manufactory, naming it Soho House and moved in with his family, furnishing it with the items made in his factory and inviting potential customers to look at his products in situ, rather like a modern day show home.

Soho House became the favourite meeting place of the Lunar Society, the leading Enlightenment group. The Society would meet every month on the night of the full moon to dine, conduct experiments, and discuss philosophical matters of the day. Members of the society included Erasmus Darwin, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestly who all gathered around the Lunar Room table and engaged in a lively exchange of ideas which inspired many new discoveries and inventions. It is here that Boulton formed a partnership with Watt, improving on the steam engine he'd invented in 1772 and making it economically viable.

Matthew Boulton was responsible for founding the Soho Mint, seeking to improve the poor state of Britain's coinage, obtaining a contract in 1797 to produce the country's first copper coinage in over a quarter of a century. His large copper penny remained in circulation until decimalisation in 1971. He also successfully lobbied parliament for assay offices to be set up outside of London, rewarded by the Hallmarking Act of 1773. Birmingham silver can be identified by the mark of an anchor, widely believed to be the symbol chosen by Boulton as he was drinking in the city's Crown and Anchor pub at the time.

Matthew Boulton (3 September 1728 – 17 August 1809)

In the 1770s Boulton introduced an insurance system for his workers that served as the model for later schemes, allowing his workers compensation in the event of injury or illness. The first of its kind in any large establishment, employees paid one-sixtieth of their wages into the Soho Friendly Society, membership in which was mandatory.The firm's apprentices were poor or orphaned boys, trainable into skilled workmen; he declined to hire the sons of gentlemen as apprentices, stating that they would be "out of place" among the poorer boys.

Our visit to Soho House was purely to see a photography exhibition in the visitor centre but while we were taking photos outside, the ladies we'd arrived with asked if we'd be interested in seeing the interior of the property. There wasn't a scheduled tour until the afternoon but as there were four of us, the young historian on-site had offered us a private viewing. 

Matthew Boulton wasn't hugely wealthy so employed some clever tricks to give his visitors an impression of affluence. The exterior of the house was brick-built but skimmed with paint mixed with sand to look like sandstone, the "marble" columns were made from alabaster imported from Derbyshire and the encaustic tiled floor was actually cloth that had been painted and varnished.

Famous visitors to Soho House included US president, Thomas Jefferson and Admiral Lord Nelson.

These codestone sphinxes once stood in the grounds of Soho House back in the days of it being part of a hundred-acre estate. 

After the tour we made our way to the on-site visitor centre for the exhibition we'd travelled to Soho House to see. Godfather of black British photography, Jamaica-born Vanley Burke, developed a passion for photography after receiving a Kodak Brownie as a parting gift from his mother before she left for the UK. In 1965, at the age of 14, he joined his parents in Birmingham and opened his first photography studio in Handsworth a few years later.

In his exhibition, Blood and Fire, Vanley Burke's images join archival material from his personal collection. The exhibition focuses on his journey to illustrate a wider, connected history of Black British experiences using the communities of Birmingham as a lens. Burke has focused on re-examining his personal collection after he lost a number of archival materials to a house fire. The fire served as a turning point for his practice and this exhibition questions what it means to put these objects into a curatorial and historical context, gathering the past to pave the way for the future.

The exhibition is part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival and is supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund. It closes on 30th October, 2022.

Image by Vanley Burke

Image by Vanley Burke SOURCE

Image by Vanley Burke SOURCE

Image by Vanley Burke SOURCE

Image by Vanley Burke SOURCE

With no kind gentlemen offering to drive us back into the city centre, we hopped on the number 74, in the shadow of the Soho Road gurdwara.

A be-tracksuited young bloke followed us off the bus, saying that he'd overheard us mentioning going to Livery Street and, as he lived there, did we want to go back to his flat and hang out. We politely declined. Who says you're invisible after 50? 

Rather than party with a stranger, we popped into the Indian Brewery for Chaart Attack (vegetable samosa topped with spiced chickpeas) and a pint of Birmingham-brewed IPA and were welcomed like old friends by the staff.

Declining a second pint we made our way back to New Street Station to catch our respective trains home narrowly avoiding commuter hell.

Thanks for a fab day, Nikki! See you soon.