Saturday, 11 August 2018

All That Monkey Business Makes Cake a Good Idea.

So July is not only my birthday it's my Mum's as well and 26 years ago my brother wisely got married on my Mum's birthday joking it was so he would never forget his anniversary!
As it happens it was also the day of my mystery birthday outing. I had told my friends and family that there wasn't anything I wanted or needed for my birthday (let's face it when it comes to having lots of stuff I pretty much own the rights) so I would rather do things and create memories.
I have to say this is where I have been truly blown away by just how thoughtful, kind and amazing these people are.

As you know from the previous post Himself took me out to Eltham Palace as well as buying me a new CD /tape deck (old school!!) and some other lovely bits and pieces.
My Brother and Sister in Law have treated to me to an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea in London which they presented to me the day before my birthday when we all gathered to take my Dad out for lunch.
As it was another hot day we all met at Dad's care home, slathered him in sun cream and took turns to push his wheel chair into town. We have a Prezzo in town so the whole family gathered there and stuffed our faces before then pushing Dad round the new bit of the shopping Centre. I think Himself pretty much ended up guarding Dad as we all disappeared off in various directions as we spotted things in shops. My Nan always joked our family needs a sheepdog to round us up when we get together!
Anyway we ended up in the M&S food hall where my brother kept piling snacks and treats onto my Dad's lap until he had all but disappeared!
It was such a lovely day and the good news is we called in at the mobility shop and it seems there is a motor system that is compatible with my Dad's huge chair which once fitted will make pushing it a breeze (it's pretty hilly around here) so trips like this can happen more often and Mum can even take him out on her own.

The fun just kept on going because on my Mum's birthday my sister in law arrived to collect us to head out for my birthday surprise from Mum. Nephew Number One and his girlfriend were already in the car so I let Himself sit in the back with them! My brother then arrived driving my Mum's car with her and my cousin and his wife who were visiting from Germany inside, and we were off.

It was a very scenic route to our destination as we went via Stonehenge because my cousin has always wanted to see it! As it happens our only view of it was from the road as we were slightly horrified to find it was £5 per car to park and £20 per person to see the stones and there was also a massive queue. We borrowed the facilities bought a drink and headed off again.

Up until this point I had no idea where we were going but as soon as I saw Bournemouth on the road signs I had an inkling and when we turned off for Bere Regis I knew for sure.

Monkey World!

I love monkeys almost as much as I love elephants but I've never yet been to Monkey World as it's too off the beaten track if you don't have a car. I love the TV show and especially enjoy watching it with my Dad, in fact I had watched an old episode that Sunday about collecting an orphaned orangutan called Mimi from Russia and settling this terrified little thing in to the Orangutan Nursery so imagine how it felt to actually see her in the flesh charging around and playing happily.
I'm getting ahead of myself though! We arrived at lunch time so first stop was the cafe as we were all gasping for a drink. I was then informed I had an hour and a half before we had to be back at the gates. So we had a wander and watched one of the groups of chimps being fed
but the majority of the animals were spark out as it was another hot hot day
We arrived back at the gates for 2pm and it turned out the next part of my treat was a personal tour of the park. It was amazing, our guide was so interesting and answered our millions of questions.
At one point we were passed by a guy in shorts, DMs and a band t-shirt, sporting a shaved head, tattoos and earrings he paused from pushing his wheelbarrow to make a joke or two at our guide's expense so of course we just assumed he was another one of the many staff, only with hindsight he didn't have on the Monkey World polo shirt they all did. Once he had passed our guide said " Do you know who that was?" when we all said no he casually said "Jeremy the owner!" 

Monkey World really is an amazing place, it's not a zoo, it's a rescue centre and my word does it wrench your heart when you hear story after story of the terrible, horrific things these poor creatures went through before finding peace and safety here. 

From the capuchins who came from a medical lab in Chile with the tiny metal cage on show outside their huge leafy enclosure to show the solitary, claustrophobic space these very sociable creatures had been forced to live in 24 hours a day.
To the Orangutan who had been forced to wear human clothes and shoes and only knew how to walk painfully upright on her poor deformed feet.
Or the one armed chimp who had been bought by a family on a night out at the circus who were so horrified to see her trying to perform with a gangrenous arm they bought her and took her straight to a local hospital where a surgeon agreed to help and managed to amputate the arm and save her life. 

It broke my heart to hear that most of the chimps were rescued from beaches where they were used for tourist photos. To get just one baby chimp they kill on average 13 adults as they live in family groups and the whole group will try desperately to save the baby. Once stolen the baby will first have it's teeth pulled out so it can't bite the tourists then it will be drugged to keep it docile finally it will be dressed in human clothes. After a few years of this abuse they get too big and too strong, so many got put on a boat and taken out to sea where they are just thrown in because chimps can't swim.
Due mainly to the work of Monkey World chimps have now been banned on beaches in Spain and Greece. You do still get them elsewhere though, Mexico for example, so they are still working tirelessly to get more countries to ban the practice.
Your mind just boggles at man's inhumanity.

In captivity a chimp or orangutan's lifespan is similar to ours, on average 50-60 years. There was one enclosure of 'Old Gents' none of whom were under 30! So as our guide pointed out they have to constantly think and plan long term to ensure long and happy lives in comfortable surroundings with plenty of food and water.

Monkey World is also part of a world wide breeding programme for woolly monkeys and orangutans. There are 18 woolly monkeys and apparently that is 2/3 of the world's captive population, just think about that for a moment, that is just how endangered they are!

There were a couple of babies who were so cute!
There is actually one clinging to it's Mum's tummy in this picture, poor thing.

Our tour finished at the memorial to Jim Cronin one of the park's founders. From there we went to Malagasy enclosure which is full of ring tailed lemurs which are one of my favourites.
As you can see even they were finding it too hot! After a blissful wander round this enclosure we headed out for another much needed refreshment break.

We walked slowly back through the park for a quick browse around the shop before heading off for the final treat of the day, dinner at Chez Fred in Westbourne an award winning fish and chip restaurant that is always fully booked.
We met my Sister in Law Caron's parents there as they live in Westbourne which was a lovely surprise. After eating our fill (they do unlimited chips!) we headed back to their flat for cake and prosecco then took a stroll down to the beach before heading home.
I can't begin to say how much I enjoyed my day out such an amazing and thoughtful gift. 

Monday, 6 August 2018

July - Still Nifty

Well July has passed in a blur of fun, food and fizz. By the Friday before my birthday I had already amassed these
I may be predictable and with that said I was predictably delighted with the above and no I haven't drunk them all yet!

We headed to Bristol that weekend to do some of the latest Gromit Unleashed Trail
and just bimble around the city, well that was my plan, Himself was far more determined to do it ALL! It was great fun but unfortunately I have been having problems with my right achilles and that combined with the wrong shoes meant by the end of the 2 days I could have wept with pain, every step was agony so I had to give up (and yes I have a doctor's appointment booked next week)

We haven't been to Bristol for 3 years now and I was really shocked by the massive increase in homeless people, I mean Oxford is bad enough but this was on another scale, it's heartbreaking, I also saw my first Spice Zombie, very sobering.

Anyway I digress, just a couple of my favourite statues

The last one is called Space Oddi-Tea!
Please forgive the demented hair it was fiercely humid so my carefully styled hair lasted all of 5 minutes  *sigh*
On the plus side the weather broke which helped with the humidity but on the down side we had no umbrella or coats so spent a lot of time dodging showers or waiting about whilst it hammered down.

After dinner in a cute little Italian restaurant we trawled the streets for a pub that wasn't booming out deafening music or packed with hen and stag dos. We finally found a decent Fullers pub where we settled in for the night before trundling back to our Travelodge.
 When we had checked in earlier in the day the girl had asked if we wanted one or two keycards, we said one was fine but the girl on reception said "I'll give you two as they are the only way to get in the main entrance at night and they don't always work" (It was one of those Travelodges where you have to go in a door at the back and up two floors to the reception desk.) 

Anyway we got back just before midnight and there were 3 girls sitting on the steps outside in their pyjamas having a cigarette, we tried first one card then the other and neither worked, the girls on the steps were stuck as well having come out for a ciggie and then not been able to get back in. A taxi arrived and the guy who got out of it also had two cards and yes you've guessed it neither of them worked either!
He sighed and said "this happened to me the last time I stayed here" which didn't fill me with hope. He turned to us and said "Are you here for Pride?" (well we were both in colourful Hawaiian print) We said no and admitted we hadn't realised it was on. Anyway we had a lovely chat until another girl arrived, thankfully not very long afterwards, and her keycard actually worked Huzzah so we all trouped in.
As the hotel wasn't in the greatest part of town I did email the next week to report the door issue and all they did was refund my money with no mention of fixing the door which of course was very nice, but I wasn't after a refund I just wanted the door fixed!?!
Once in our room we checked out Bristol Pride and decided to go before heading out to Clifton and the Suspension Bridge.We got up in good time and found ourselves a prime spot
the parade took well over an hour to go past us and was fantastic I'm so glad we caught it.
By the time we had walked to Clifton it was baking hot and by the time we walked back I was in agony so we headed home where I dosed up on anti-inflammatories and slapped on the Deep Heat as we had another day full of walking planned for my actual birthday. Weirdly by Monday my heel was back to it's usual dull roar, hard to believe you could go from such screaming pain you actually feel sick to barely anything in less than 24 hours with just a couple of ibruprofen hmm.

Anyway at least it meant I got to thoroughly enjoy my day out to Eltham Palace. It was lovely to go and see the house again especially as this time it wasn't packed with school kids.
 It has the sort of gardens that make me want to give up everything and work in them. We ambled about them enjoying the beauty and the peace and quiet.
but the house beckoned so we headed inside.

They have opened up more rooms since we were last there and randomly you were allowed to take photos inside this time, so I did indulge but I won't bore you with too many!
but here is Virginia Courtauld's bedroom
and oh my word do I need her built in wardrobe in my life!!

It was whilst I was browsing the bedrooms I lost Himself, I headed back the way I came and one of the staff said "If you came up this way you need to go down the other way" so I explained I had lost my other half she looked me up and down and said "Is he is the man in the flowery shirt by any chance? he went that way!"
I guess we were dressed just a bit louder than everyone else in the place!
Anyway here is a table and room you will have seen many, many times if you watch any dramas set in the 1930's it is a location that has been used again and again.
as is the stunning entrance hall, sadly I couldn't get a better picture as there was always someone in the way!
This doorway amused us both
as did the toy lemur.
The Courtaulds had an adored pet lemur Mah-Jong that Stephen bought for Virginia as a wedding gift in 1923 from Harrods. He lived for 15 years and had the run of the house, apparently he liked to nip guests on the ankles at dinner parties!

Once we had refreshed in the new cafe in the grounds we headed back into London and Canary Wharf
Himself wanted to take me to a pub there called The Tea Merchant as it happens the pub had changed names, but we had a pint anyway relaxing in the setting sun watching all the city types, a splash of colour in the ocean of identikit blue and white shirts.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

June and it's Purchases.

Not quite as late as the May Purchases post but only just!

June was a busy and fun month. I ate out with friends more times than is good for my waistline, I went to the theatre with Himself to see a really rather dreadful play about Sherlock Holmes and I took my friend Alex from work to see the magical Giffords Circus.
It's the first time I've felt able to go since my Dad had his stroke and I'm so glad I did because it was fabulous.
Dad LOVED Giffords and we always went together every year, so up until now, I somehow couldn't face it, but this year felt different.

We had a great view and as ever the acrobatics and tumbling were breathtaking. Having said that one of the best bits was the lady with the 7 dachshunds who were meant to be doing tricks but basically just ran around doing what the heck they wanted the minute she stopped looking at them.

I had to do a dinner for work in the stunning setting of St Peter's College in Oxford which would have been amazing only it was possibly the hottest night of the month and obviously old colleges don't really have windows that open let alone air con, oh and I was in a plain light frock of man-made fibres...
 I can't remember the last time I sweated so much, it was literally running down the sides of my (bright red) face and you could wring my hair out! My dress was so wet in places I was too embarrassed to go to the toilet because I would have had to walk through the room like that. Grim. The food was lovely though.

 I had another dinner last Friday and this time lesson firmly learnt, I wore 100% cotton in a colourful print on a dark background and pinned my hair up!

Anyway on to the purchases. First up my early birthday present to myself from the Ocean Liners exhibition. I had thought I might get one of their reproduction bags but they turned out to be very expensive yet very cheaply made, so disappointed, I thought I would come back empty handed. I then spotted this beauty in the jewellery cabinet and it had to be mine.
As Soo said I was literally pawing at the glass as soon as I saw it. *happy sigh*

I've bought a few frocks
This whist I was doing the food shop at Sainsbury's.
This halter neck dress on Ebay.
It's a Hell Bunny I've been eyeing for a while and not wanting to pay full price for. I got it for less than half on Ebay  and with a free red elasticated belt too!

I got these two sale dresses from Lady Vintage. As you can see the blue one is currently drying on the line as I wore it to my Bosses leaving do yesterday. It's a tad shorter that I expected but I still like it.
Finally this tropical print which I may well wear to Bristol tomorrow as it's meant to be another scorching hot day. It was in the sale on Tiger Milly so another bargain.

Like Mim I have been suffering in the heat, don't get me wrong I like the sun but once it gets over 25 and there's no breeze I am not happy. I've spent the last couple of weekends wilting indoors and again like Mim took the opportunity to do a bit of clothes sorting, though in my case not to hunt down and exterminate moths.
When we moved 2 years ago I just took the drawers out of my chest of drawers and moved then as was contents intact, so I decided it was about time I emptied them out. I took a huge bag to the charity shop and also listed some things on Ebay but not before I gave my friends Sophie and Alex first dibs, with the only proviso being they didn't judge me on a) my taste in clothes or b) the amount of things that were new and unworn and also were under no obligation whatsoever to take anything.

I had tops from the late 80's onwards and in sizes ranging from 10 - 16 for them to choose from. Indeed I sort of wept a little inside when I found one of my all time favourite skirts from the early 90's that now only fits neatly round my thigh.
Anyway I was thrilled that both girls (I call them that because they are much younger than me and both gorgeous to boot) took various vintage 80's-90's tops. I love to think of them being worn and enjoyed as they should be worn and enjoyed.
There were of course items like said teeny tiny skirt, that were lovingly folded and put back in the drawer. Too many happy memories attached for me to bear to part with them.

Anyway this freed up much space for the new tops I have been buying at quite a rate. As I just mentioned I can't do heat, I'm nearly 'officially old' so I get hot and I sweat at the drop of a hat and my office has no air con. Also I can't do bare legs in summer because of the dreaded (and bloody painful) chub rub, not to mention the blinding glare my lily white legs give off when bared so on the whole I resort to capri or cigarette pants with a nice top.
These are just some of the ones I have purchased in June. Ranging from the expensive Seasalt breton top (middle right) via the red Debenhams gypsy top (bottom left) to the cheap and very cheerful orange & white Primark number (bottom right).
Also these from M&S and Peacocks.

Finally Accessories!
These from the Accessorize sale
and these brooches from an online vintage sellers group I'm part of.

these two bags also came from that site, they are both cleaned though the bamboo one is waiting for new lining.
This was from Ebay and is in need of more restoration. I cleaned it thoroughly and bought some leather renovating cream from Ebay which turned out to be utter shite so I have now purchased some proper dark green leather shoe cream instead, lets hope that works better, obviously I also need to stitch the handle back on too. A job for another baking hot day no doubt.

Finally randoms.

As long time readers of my blog will know I am a HUGE Snoopy fan. I don't collect memorabilia avidly but I do have a fair bit, including some 1970's Snoopy mirrors. I buy them as and when I come across them and I won't pay loads for them but these two are recent purchases for £6 each as I recall.
I have 7 or 8 of these mirrors now, all different, and have had them all re-framed in this same smart black wood by the lovely man at Oxford's Wednesday market. One day when we finally find somewhere to settle I plan to hang them up as a group.

My last and most magnificent purchase of June was a squirrel baffle. As more recent readers of my blog will know I wage a war against squirrels on my bird feeders.
The original squirrel and I had come to an uneasy truce with me hanging a separate feeder of just peanuts in a squirrel easy spot meaning he left my other bird feeders alone.
All was well, then came That Fucking Squirrel!(TM
A skinny little monster with no moral code who proceeded to decimate all in his path. He destroyed 3 bird feeders in quick succession, he actually bit one feeder right in half, I kid you not. I don't think he even wanted the sunflower seeds inside, he just wanted to destroy!

Enough was enough

I ordered a squirrel baffle online. It arrived at my work and was absolutely massive! Much bigger than I expected, I got some looks taking it home on the train I can tell you.
Anyway it has worked like a dream. It took the birds a few days to get used to it but now they are perfectly happy and the squirrel is livid. We shall see if he plots revenge or moves on to pastures new.
Finally a picture of the one thing in our house that is enjoying the heat.
So very randomly last autumn I had gone to hang some washing out and I spotted this little green blob on the lawn near the washing line, it was about an inch long and turned out to be a cactus. I have absolutely no idea where the hell it came from there is no way anyone could have thrown it in, I can only think a bird must have dropped it? Anyway I mixed a little sand and compost together and stuck it on the top where it say quite happily all winter, doing nothing. In the last few weeks of baking heat it has started to grow at a visibly rapid rate of knots. I fully expect to come home one of these days to find it has taken over the conservatory and is bellowing "Feed me Seymour".

Well that's all for June. As of today I am on the count down for my 'you are now officially old' birthday next week. Himself and I are off to Bristol for the weekend, then we are taking my Dad out for lunch on Monday with the rest of my family.
Tuesday we are off to Eltham Palace again which I am SO excited about as they have opened more rooms since we were last there.
Finally on Wednesday the NHS have decided to help me celebrate in style by having my boobs squashed. What with that and having to come off the pill so I can start the menopause who said turning 50 wasn't fun?? 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Ocean Liners : Speed and Style.

If you bear in mind that on my list of 'my idea of a holiday from hell', cruising would be number two behind a beach holiday it seems ironic that earlier this month Soo and I went skipping off to the V&A to visit their Ocean Liners exhibition.
However when you consider cruising reached it's height of luxury in the 20's and 30's it's no real surprise at all and yes I was in absolute and utter Art Deco heaven.

The exhibition was fantastic, indeed it took us the best part of 3 hours to browse at a leisurely pace, also going towards the end of it's run meant it wasn't as busy which is always a plus. It began with travel posters and the history behind how cruising came about, basically as a way to take a holiday and also reach your destination in the days before air travel. Of course the levels of luxury between the classes (as shown in the film Titanic) were stark.

You saw how the design of the ships evolved and the mind blowing size of those first original boats through scale models. Which saw Soo and I both living dangerously to kneel/squat down to get a good look inside as this took considerable time because the detail was astonishing. All I can say is it's a good job I do pilates otherwise I'd still be there now, knees locked, weeping. Anyway I digress.

 It was astonishing to see how everything in 1st class was designed bespoke, from the furniture and specially woven carpets, to the cutlery and lightfittings. Master craftsmen made every item and even the artwork was commissioned from the leading artists of the day.

There were some wonderful clips of old film footage from the very earliest days of film through to the 1970's where if I'm honest everything just looked tacky. Even though it was still meant to be the very height of luxury the fact that everything was bright plastic just made it look like a bus station waiting room!

The frocks in the clips from the 30's had me swooning, I'd like to think I'd have been slinking about like those glamorous ladies but I have no illusions, lets face it, if I would have been there at all it would have been down in the hold sweating like a navvy whilst washing the dishes.

Indeed that was my only tiny criticism of the exhibition it was all about the upstairs so to speak. It would have been interesting to know just how many staff it took to maintain such luxury and how they lived.
I mean they even had live cows on board to provide fresh dairy produce!?! (You only learned that because of a graphic description of a near fatal voyage through desperate weather where one of the poor unfortunate creatures ended up hanging half through the dinning room ceiling.)

From the inside we moved on to life on deck and then on to the outfits, spanning from the 1920's to the 1960's they were a snapshot of leisurewear, swimming costumes and of course full on evening glamour.

There were also accessories
I had to resist doing a smash and grab for this clutch bag!

Oh and one of Marlene Dietrich's suits and a clip of film of her wearing it!

What I also liked was all through the exhibition there were sobering reminders, it wasn't all OTT glamour.
Like when the ships were requisitioned for both world wars to carry troops or do other war work which was fascinating. Or of tragedy, like the priceless tiara that was saved for one Lady by her maid as their ship went down. A bitter reminder that she and it survived but her daughter didn't.

Or this
A deckchair from the Titanic.

Finally we got to see the mechanics so to speak, inside the engine room as well as some of the designs showing how they made these huge beasts actually float. Finishing with some more recent interiors and art work and rather strangely clips from various Hollywood disaster at sea movies on loop.

All in all a fascinating exhibition.