Sunday 31 December 2023

A Twixtmas Mosey Around Moseley

On Friday morning, after days of relentless rain, the endless precipitation had dwindled to a mere drizzle so we hastily knocked up some cheese sandwiches, filled a flask and headed off to Moseley Old Hall which, at just 25 minutes drive away, is the closest National Trust property to home.

Built in around 1600, 
Moseley Old Hall was originally half-timbered but after falling into disrepair, in 1870 the building received a typically brutal Victorian makeover with the Elizabethan windows replaced and the outer walls cladded in brick although, mercifully, the Tudor chimneys remained intact. 

King Charles II by Gerard Von Hondhorst (c.1650)

 Known as The House That Saved A King, this compact Elizabethan farmhouse on the outskirts of Wolverhampton famously offered shelter to King Charles II after he fled Cromwell's troops following defeat at The Battle of Worcester in 1651. The hall was owned by the Roman Catholic Whitgreave family who were wealthy wool merchants and remained occupied by the same family until 1925. In subsequent years the hall was used as a farmhouse which again fell into disrepair with the owners eventually handing Moseley Old Hall over to the care of the National Trust in 1962. 

Charles II by John Michael Wright (1617 - 1694)

As I've mentioned before, I was mad about Charles II as a child, even keeping a scrapbook with pictures of the glamorous raven-locked 6' 2" monarch and stories I'd copied out of library books. 

Hieronymus Janssens, Charles II Dancing at a Ball at Court, c. 1660

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II decided that he would need to impress the public and therefore his appearance was his first priority. Realising that the French fashion which he'd worn when he lived with Louis XIV during his exile in France would not be popular in Britain he banned French fashion from his court. Instead, the king adopted the "Parisian vest" and wore a suit jacket over the top thus inventing the three-piece suit. He also insisted that all the fabric and other material that made up his clothes must be English, making Charles II the first person in British history to start a fashion revolution (another reason to love him!)

Hear, hear! 

Wandering the grounds of Moseley Old Hall we were sad not to see the peacock who'd befriended us on previous visits but were rather enamoured by the ginger ducks.

Mercifully there weren't many visitors around, always a bonus, nothing spoils a photo more than someone dressed in a day-glo fleece & a Santa hat emerging through a 17th Century topiary arch.

Despite some rather ominous looking skies, the rain stayed away for the duration of our visit but it was tremendously soggy underfoot and we congratulated ourselves on having the foresight to wear our Docs.

Are those blue skies I see?

Although the Trust were running guided tours, we'd followed both the 17th Century Christmas and Charles II's flight from Cromwell's New Model Army fairly recently so opted to look around the house under our own steam. 

Upon entering the hall a volunteer told me how much he'd enjoyed the blog post I'd published after our last visit a year ago (that's me, once seen, never forgotten!) and suggested we start upstairs to avoid getting caught up in the tour groups. 

Charles II slept here!

Two of the volunteers were dressed in the 17th Century fashion of the day. The chap in the bedroom told us about the evolution of flatware, why spoons were laid with the bowl facing the table (to avoid the devil leaping inside and being swallowed by an unsuspecting diner) and that it was Cardinal Richelieu who introduced the dinner knife in 1637. He just about managed to tell us that it was Louis XIV who was responsible for the Roman numerals on a clock changing from IIII to IV before the tour group caught up the bedroom and we had to move on.

We peeped at the priest-hole where Charles II had hidden.

After a wonderful couple of hours of wandering around and not getting soaked to the skin we retreated back to the warmth of Patrice (our elderly Citroen) and enjoyed a car park picnic accompanied by Craig Charles on 6Music and, unusually for us, failing to guess the Time Machine (2002). 

Moseley Old Hall
Wolverhampton WV10 7HY

Open daily from 10am  (house from 11am)

Thanks to you all for following my rants, ramblings, roamings and misadventures over the last 14 years and wishing my fellow bloggers, followers, friends (and the shy ones who read but never comment) a very happy & healthy 2024. Needless to say, we'll be celebrating the New Year in our typical, not normal, fashion. 

See you on the other side!

Vix & Jon

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Feliz Navidad!


Feliz Navidad! For us, still on a high from our trip to Tenerife, Xmas Day had a Spanish flavour. I wore a vintage navy blue hand-embroidered cotton maxi dress I bought from the charity shop we'd stumbled upon in Puerto de la Cruz (€8!) and enjoyed a glass of chilled Manzanilla whilst putting the finishing touches to the dinner table.

Lord Jon wore one of his presents from me, a Wrangler denim shirt. Behind him is our concession to Xmas, our Ian Snow globe baubles strung on a log rescued from the wood pile and a 99p handmade woollen deer I felt sorry for in the charity shop, the lights are up all year round.

The dinner table is covered with an ancient purple velvet curtain, the centrepiece is a vintage wooden bobbin salvaged from an Indian textile factory and the Santa boxes came from The Works (£2 for four) which I filled with toy cars, jet balls and sweets. I made my own paper crowns from old wrapping paper and hand wrote terrible Xmas jokes on gift tags. 

What does a frog wear on his feet? Open Toad Sandals!

Rather than going out for an Indian, the Dead Relatives Society (which this year consisted of Tony, my brother, Marcus & us) dined chez Kinky. 

The lads started with melon drizzled with balsamic vinegar accompanied by Iberian ham (I just had the melon). I spotted these vintage Denby Arabesque plates in the clearance charity shop priced up at £1 last week (I've got the matching coffee service, which was Mum & Dad's wedding present in 1966).

The carnivores had Spanish chicken (recipe HERE) served with patatas bravas, padron peppers, carrots baked with sesame seeds, honey and wholegrain mustard and shredded, roasted Brussels sprouts with chilli flakes and vegan bacon bits. I swapped the chicken for ratatouille (made using a Katy Beskow recipe). In keeping with the Spanish theme, Tony donated a case of Tempranillo, a gift from a supplier, which Jon and I made short work of. 

After we'd demolished dinner we spent the rest of the day playing a hilarious booze-fuelled game of Trivial Pursuit. Tony and Marcus bade us farewell at 8pm leaving us to doze in front of the TV with a glass of Limoncello.

It was William's first Xmas as a house cat and he behaved impeccably, well, apart from leaping on the table and trying to wrestle Tony's Iberian ham off him. He was spoiled with gifts, a bagful of catnip toys, feathers on sticks and jangly balls, a cat tunnel and Dreamies galore.

We even treated him to a sparkly new collar from Cool Cat Collars (linking 'cos we love them!)

And it wasn't just William who was spoiled. Here's our gifts to each other and from Tony, Marcus, Liz & Al, Liz's mum Hazel, Liz & Adrian and lovely neighbours, the Aslam Family. 

Art and baking.

Food and drink galore.

Secondhand kitsch.

A bespoke hat and crochet sun top, Mdina glass bottle stopper and Snag tights (the best!)

A vintage Indian hand woven silk throw & a modern woven shirt, kitschy cushions, colours and scents.

 Lord Jon excelled himself with the jewellery buying (as if he didn't spoil me enough on my birthday) and the vintage Pluto tin in one of the previous collages was crammed with vintage Kuchi gems.

Here's three of the new old rings in situ.

Liz made me this amazing feather headband, I cannot wait for the festival season!

Xmas is very much a one day affair in our house. Each to their own but the thought of lolling about for a week in pyjamas guzzling chocolate makes me feel quite ill. 

Boxing Day kicked off with a Wii Fit workout and a brisk walk, we had noodles for lunch and a salad for tea. 

We were hoping to go on a National Trust adventure today (Wednesday) but the weather was atrocious. I got up at 6am, did my Wii Fit workout and went back to bed carrying two mugs of tea and William slung over my shoulder and read for an hour instead. It's been a pottering around type of day - hence the blog post. As you can see from the headdress, I've been playing around with my tin of tribal delights.

So far this week we've watched House of Gucci (Dec 23rd), Belfast (Xmas Eve) and A Haunting in Venice (Xmas Day). 

My favourite film by far was last night's, Saltburn. With some outstanding acting, a darkly comic plot, a banging Brit Pop soundtrack and the most spectacular cinematography, it's gone straight into my top three films of the year. Barry Keoghan was amazing in The Banshees of Inisherin but his performance as the unreliable narrator, Oliver Quick, left me speechless.  

I'm glad I stocked up on books, I'm already halfway through my third this week. At this rate I might make it to 100 by the end of the year.

Thanks so much for all your kind comments on my Winter Solstice post. I hope Xmas was everything you hoped for (and bearable for those of you dreading it). See you soon!