Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What Would Audrey Do?

Well not get told off by her Mother for mismatching her outfit I'm sure! (more of that later)

I had the whole of last week off work, what bliss. and for once I had lots of fun plans rather than just slothing round the house.
On Wednesday I went to The National Portrait Gallery with my friend Charlotte to see their exhibition on Audrey Hepburn.
First we went for a wander around Covent Garden, I haven't been there for ages so it was fun to poke about. I was very tempted by some of the jewellery on the craft stalls but in the end I only bought myself this picture as an early birthday present.
 I was very taken with this smiley octopus so I decided to buy him, Himself however is not at all keen, oh well.

Stomachs started growling so we decided to give Five Guys a go and how glad am I that we did. This was everything Mucky D's and BK's wishes they were and more.
I went for a cheese dog and fries, and thinking of the portion sizes in other burger places I asked for regular fries. The girl serving helpfully pointed out this was actually meant for 2 people, recommending I go for a small. Turns out that even the small was a mammoth portion.

As anyone who knows me well will confirm I am not a woman to ever leave a chip uneaten, but even I had to admit defeat on these deliciously gorgeous fries.
No 'reformed from mashed potato' here, only freshly cut, skin on, double fried in peanut oil, real potato! MmmmMmm.

We waddled out of Five Guys and headed through Leicester Square. There was a big crowd gathered so we went to see what the fuss was about.
 turns out it was all for a Frank Sinatra dancing skeleton in a natty silver bow tie and green sneakers.
 Ok so he was puppet, but goodness me that puppeteer was good!
 He had clearly watched Frank Sinatra do his Vegas shows many times, that puppet was not just word perfect but move perfect too.
Admittedly that was probably lost on most of the teenage tourists in the crowd but as someone who HAS watched those shows, every gesture and every movement was captured to a tee. Very clever and unusual street entertainment for sure.

We reached the National Portrait Gallery a bit early (the exhibition tickets are timed) so we mooched round the exhibition of the 'Portrait Artist of the Year' finalists. No photography sadly but wow, just wow.
All I can say is they were all well worthy of their place in the final.

And so to Audrey.

Again no photography so we both had to satisfy ourselves with buying postcards afterwards.

It is was a small but perfectly formed exhibition mostly made up of unseen pictures owned by her family. You were struck over and over again by just how photogenic she was, and for me, not just the overall luminous quality she had but by her stunning eyes, truly windows to a beautiful soul.
One critic was quoted as being distracted and captivated by the amazing eyes of one of the impish girls in the chorus, so much so it took his attention away from the main players, she was an unknown in an early background stage role at the time, there was no doubt she would go on to be a star.

Personally I find something very calming and joyously uplifting about gazing raptly upon great beauty, be it male, female or in nature, and this exhibition was just a joy to behold.

 Friday was my birthday and the day began earlier than I had hoped because our front door lock had broken the night before, I had visions of my Mother (who was due over) having to feed me cake through the letterbox!
Anyway this meant getting up to call the rental agency as soon as they opened for the day. As it turned out the man who could fix it was just around the corner and would come straight over, which in turn meant abandoning my cup of tea to belt upstairs and fling some clothes on just in time before he arrived. Thankfully it was just the barrel and not the whole mortis lock that had broken so once he got a new one it was a matter of moment s and all was fixed.

I had another cup of tea before going upstairs to wash and dress properly for the day ahead, well I say dress properly, clearly even though I'm now the great age I am my Mother still thinks I'm not capable of putting an outfit together!
She arrived and looked me up and down, tutted and said "the worst bit is your necklace it doesn't go with anything else you are wearing"
Me " that's the whole point"
Her with narrowed eyes "Hmmm". We went to leave and I put on my silver brogues,
 Mum "Good lord no you are not planning on going out in those shoes? No, no, no they do not go at all"
Me "Fine I'll take them off"
Mum "What do you have instead?"
Me "Green converse? I have green in my outfit"
Her horrified "No! even worse!" 
I ended up in sensible black just to keep the peace. Outift sorted to a passable level we went into town to buy some goodies for lunch which we took round to the nursing home and ate with Dad. From there we went to my brother's house to get our hair done and finally home to prosecco and presents.
The necklace was a massive unsubtle hint from me to Himself heh heh it worked.

Saturday I was up and off to Oxford with my friend Simon to see Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.
It was held in a wee tent in University Parks and was great fun. Performed by a small repertory company from London what the young cast lacked in polish they made up for with enthusiasm in spades.

So all in all a fun week.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Sheep Shape and Bristol Fashion.

Well it's been a while I know. The first 6 months of 2015 have been shit, I had hoped things would get better by now. Instead work has been completely relentless recently, on top of which more health dramas have happened and frankly it's all been getting to me. It's hard to stay positive when life keeps kicking you in the balls. Hard.

So I've kind of been keeping my head down plodding on through and hoping for better times.

I have a lot to look forward too in July though, lots of plans, good times already had and many more still to come.

Himself and I went to Bristol for a couple of days which rather than being restful saw us pounding the pavements doing 5 of the different Shaun the Sheep trails.

You can find out more here

We managed to see 47 of the 70 Sheep dotted around the city and surrounding area. We got absolutely soaked to the skin and chased by a demented drunk man in the process but you can't have it all.

As ever the one thing you can't guarantee is the British weather. Occasional showers were predicted, but rather than this being the dry spells with an odd shower here and there that I expected from such a forecast. It turned out to actually mean relentless steady rain with occasional torrential downpours just for good measure.
When it all got too much we retired to the pub where I managed to knock beer all over my lap but luckily the endless rain rinsed that out for me so I didn't smell too much like a brewery by the time we decided to go out for dinner!

Thankfully by then the rain had stopped so we were able to amble back to our hotel whilst enjoying the sights.

After a very comfortable night (thumbs up to Ibis Hotels) we were up early and off out to find more sheep before catching our train home.
I discovered I had forgotten my hairbrush but as all the rain had turned my head into an insane professor style mad mop it hardly mattered. Unlike the girls posing outside the cathedral I wasn't looking for a pinup shot.

We spotted this skeleton on our travels, clinging on by it's fingertips. I know that feeling well.
Whilst photographing this Arthurian sheep outside the Cathedral
we were fascinated by the girls I mentioned above. They were clearly taking part in a graduation ceremony though not from a university I have heard of before. Our fascination came from their appearance.
We could only conclude they had all passed their degree in nightclubbing with flying colours, because to a woman (there were no boys) they were in teeny tiny skintight mini dresses teamed with a regulation minimum 6 inch heel and as much make-up as their face could manage.
I'm all for each to their own but in all honesty it just looked rather bizarre on a grey wet Monday morning!

From there we walked to Clifton. I thought it was beautiful but for the relentless rain.

In the end it defeated us so we gave up and caught the bus back to the train station where we decamped to Wetherspoons until it was time for our train home.

The most amazing bit of the whole trip?

 I didn't shop at all!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bath, bags and being a bit blind.

As those of you who have read Vix and Emma's posts before me will already know that Vix did a vintage fair in Bath last Saturday and we decided to visit it.
Even though Bath is a mere hop and a skip away from me, somehow I still ended up getting up stupid early so much so I got to sit around and people watch at the station for a bit.
I got to to do that in Bath for a little while too as my train got in first.
There was rugby on, it was all very festive, and I nearly got caught up in it and came away with a flag and a plastic centurion's helmet. Thankfully the girls arrived before I did decide they would be a great idea!
We went straight to a cafe for a drink and a catch up. It was lovely to finally meet Dee after years of reading her blog.Emma kindly gave me the evil world domination plotting rabbits I had admired on her blog.
It seems they have either had a disagreement or their plans are made........

It was a glorious day made even more so by the company and of course being able to have a good gossip with Vix whilst watching John hard at work.
Pictures were taken

and the fair was thoroughly worked.

As it goes I didn't buy any clothes, though one or two items caught my eye none really spoke to me, unlike the handbags.I firmly kept my handbag purchases down to just (just!) 3. I could have easily bought about 10 if I'd had the spare cash.

There was an ace home ware stand where I also made a couple of purchases.

How fab is this tray? It had a quick clean when I got home and I ate my breakfast off it the next day.
I also bought Himself this lighter. Neither of us smokes but he does have a thing about dice so I knew he'd like it. It looks great on our coffee table.

Without further ado here are the bag purchases.

The final one is the second Corde bag in my collection and a size I've been after for a while, usually they sell for more pennies than I am prepared to pay but this one has been well used and was pretty grubby too.
This picture is it part way through being cleaned. Personally I'm not after pristine condition only, I don't mind worn corners and faded or marked lining they just show the bag has had a history and been well used and well loved.

As Sunday was a grim day I spent it cleaning these and a couple of other recent bag purchases. I've been asked by a couple of people how I clean my bags and toyed with doing a post about it but I'm not exactly an expert so have shied away from that, I would hate for someone to ruin a bag copying what I do.
There are probably bag conservationists who will have a fit but for those who asked what I use

The tools are:
A toothbrush
Antibacterial wipes
Washing up liquid ( I prefer Fairy)
Bar Keepers Friend
A good leather shoe cream or polish
Brasso wading metal cleaner

The antibacterial wipes are perfect for cleaning the inside of handbags and I also use them on the insides of second hand shoes. Not only to they lift dust and dirt, most importantly for me they sanitize!

The toothbrush is the next most used item. Before plunging straight in with your warm soapy water, always test on a less obvious part of the bag like the bottom for colour fastness.

I used the toothbrush and warm water with a splash of Fairy to gentle scrub the Corde bag which had some grubby marks on it.
Never, ever, soak the bag, many have cardboard in their lining. Just dip the brush in the water shake off any excess water so it's not too wet and then use, dabbing the bag dry with paper kitchen towel afterwards. Try to follow the grain of the fabric when you clean.
Let it dry thoroughly and then check whether as in the case of the Corde bag it needs a second going over.
Always be gentle never use elbow grease! Far better to do it a couple of times than scrub like mad and wreck the bag.

I prefer the wading type of metal cleaner because you can pull off the tiniest bit for carefully cleaning metal frames without getting metal polish all over the bag you have just cleaned.

Anyway I've digressed! Back to Bath.
Sadly it was time to leave the fair and even sadder we couldn't take Vix with us.

We browsed the indoor market where I made my final purchase of the day.
How could I resist this sparkling greenness?

Emma took us to the most amazing place for lunch Cafe Lucca. I've walked past it a few times but never been in which was a mistake because the food was delicious.

We ambled about Bath taking in the sights which included a wedding at the Abbey where the bride clearly had something against her bridesmaids, it's been a long time since I have seen such hideous frocks.
Male majorettes shaking their booty and twirling their pompoms and a skeleton riding a bicycle.

All in all a wonderful day out.

The being a bit blind bit. Well age is catching up with me and I now have 2 pairs of specs, reading and distance. It means I suddenly have to remember to have the reading glasses with me at all times or mistakes can be made.
We popped into Sainsbury's to get a few bits and they had some clothes on sale. They had an amazing aubergine print dress which I didn't buy full price but I was happy to buy half price.
Let's just say their dress labels a writ small and I didn't have my glasses.
When I returned with said dress the next day to exchange it the girl asked what was wrong and I had to confess nothing at all, I just hadn't been able to see the label properly and picked up the wrong size!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Outings and an Alteration or Two.

Last weekend I had to work so it was lovely to have a bank holiday to look forward too this weekend.

Soo had found an offer for The Rococo Gardens at Painswick in the cotswolds so we headed off there on Monday morning. We had to take a detour because of the annual cheese rolling, probably a good job as I might have felt obliged to leap out of the car and steal the cheese....mmm cheese.

Anyway the gardens were an absolute joy. We were greeted by a charming black and white puss cat who joined each group of people in a effusive "welcome, welcome to my gardens, do please enjoy your time here, and please do feel free to pet me before I move on" fashion.
graceful as ever I almost lost my balance and plummeted down this slope!

There were follys
Wild gardens
Formal gardens
A stunning wooded area
Look at all that wild garlic, what a shame there isn't smellovision!

 There was a maze which we found our way into and out of using Soo's Dad's formula of first left, second right.
By the time we had seen it all we could no longer ignore the fact it was lunchtime.
There is a little cafe at the garden advertising 'delicious homemade lunches and cakes' so we decided to find out if they lived up to their word.
I'm very happy to say they most definitely did. We both had cauliflower cheese made with local cheddar. It came with ciabatta and a spoon (as the lady explained for getting all of the sauce scooped up) on the side.
It was absolutely gorgeous as was the slice of cake that we forced down after it.

We decided to walk, or waddle in my case, down into Painswick itself after lunch to burn off a few of the million calories we had just scoffed.

It was very beautiful but it strangely quiet. We expected it to be full of tourists but no there was hardly a soul to be seen. Surprisingly there were no shops to speak of and only a couple of pubs. Mind we did pass one
where else would you ride the horse to the pub?!?

We headed to the church which legend has it can only ever have 99 yew trees in the churchyard
apparently the 100th tree just never grows......

As we ambled back to the car exclaiming over the views, we laughed over the fact that if we were to meet our twenty something selves, they would be shocked and appalled that these days we seem to get together to visit gardens and not go pubbing and clubbing!

Mind I say that, this is the picture I took on Friday night when we met up with some other friends down the pub.
We still got it!

I shall sign off with frock news.
Remember the turquoise Hell Bunny dress that was on the at risk register?
I just couldn't get on with the collar bow combo but as I liked the cut and fit of the dress I chopped them off.

Just don't look too closely at the finish!

Also I have a confession. So I was talking to someone about how you admire the style of friends or fellow bloggers, try it on yourself and realise it's not to be.
Last year I bought this 1970's dress because I admire the style on Vix and Curtise.

I have to confess every time I wore it I just didn't feel quite right (sorry ladies) However I liked the fabric and neckline so I took a bit of advice from my Ma and have shortened it to just on the knee.

Talking of frocks thank you all for telling me I'm not mad for getting rid of those dresses, I feel better for knowing it's not just me.  

My other outing was with Soo again (people will talk!) and our friend Melissa to see The Jersey Boys.
First we had a delicious pre-theatre dinner at Cote in Oxford before heading to the theatre. The show was fantastic but we were equally entertained by the audience. There were many ladies of a certain age who clearly don't get out much.

The ones next to us sang along very loudly and distressingly flatly, clearly forgetting this was a theatre production and not a real Frankie Valli concert! The lady behind us looked a very ordinary lady of advanced years but once the cast started singing she started whooping and whistling and...well.. what can only be described as howling like a dog. Most disconcerting, then at the sad bit a lady in front of us started sobbing uncontrollably.

But as I say, they kind of just added to the evening.    

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Highs, Lows and a Frock or Two.

Well there are many adages for this last week 'Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse' or 'It never rains but it pours' spring to mind.
2015 seems determined to give us a shoeing one way and another!

So it's been a roller coaster week of stressful overlapping work deadlines, cinema trips, a birthday dinner, care home visits and a late night phone call from the police.

It all started innocently enough. It was a Bank Holiday which of course means an extra day off work and a delicious boiled egg breakfast in bed and yes I did get egg yolk down my front but would you expect anything less from me?

We went to see 'Far From The Madding Crowd' which we were surprised to both have thoroughly enjoyed. 
Thomas Hardy is one of those authors I struggle with, just too damn depressing for my liking. My friend Murray (who was Dorset born and bred) always encouraged me to give him another go, he said the way Hardy describes the Dorsetshire countryside is just lyrical, but I just can't seem to bring myself to try his books again.
Having said that the film is stunningly shot, all on location in Dorset, and superbly acted. Even if Matthias Schoenerts has the poshest accent of any shepherd ever!

Talking of films yes, yes OF COURSE we went to see The Avengers - Age of Ultron when it opened, that's a given

and yes OF COURSE I bloody loved it!

So back to Monday, we also went to my Brother's to a.) Both get hair cuts and in my case a much needed colour.
 b.) Give my Sister in Law her birthday present and say goodbye & have a lovely time to them before they headed off on holiday..
c.) For me to help my brother finish up his garden which we had spent the previous weekend re-landscaping.
Talking of which I may have mentioned before that my SIL doesn't garden at all.
So I had to laugh when we staggered in after 6 solid hours of hard graft, digging, lifting and wheelbarrowing top soil, and she grumbled at my brother for not making her dinner because she had been 'working hard all day' whereas we had just been 'outside in the garden'.

Anyway it's looking pretty good out there even if I did end up in the flowerbeds wearing a hairdressing smock with a plastic bag thing on my hair colour, only to get shouted at for risking getting my head cold and turning my hair yellow.

From there we visited my Dad in hospital, came home and had dinner before settling in front of the TV, then the phone call came.

I'm not going to go into great detail because if nothing else it's not my tale to tell, but suffice to say Himself's Dad had been rushed to hospital and his Mum had been left alone with no care.
Cue Himself rushing off to Margate for the rest of the week and me not being able to go and help because I had important appointments booked for the planning of my Dad's future care.

So what do you do when you are worried sick about Himself, your in laws and even more so about your Mum who is exhausted and barely holding on? Oh and you have to make a decision that will determine the rest of your Dad's life?
You paint on a face, you put on a pretty new frock that you couldn't resist because you fell in love with it's spring blossom print,
take a deep breath and put your best foot forward.
Or in my case get distracted when you discover your new dress has pockets. Pockets! I do like a frock with pockets, doubly so when you weren't expecting them.

Decision day was full of the unexpected. The weather seemed to match our emotions and kept having dramatic torrential downpours followed by glorious sunshine. It was certainly a day of tears and smiles as it turned out.

I'm at that age in life when a few friends are in the same situation and I have been so grateful for all their help and advice about choosing a nursing home.
The need to visit first was made abundantly clear when the top choice on paper turned out to be just horrible, and as it goes the one Mum and I both loved, was one that wasn't even in the running on paper! 

Of course the home we loved had no spaces but Dad was top of their list for when one did become free. Which meant in the meantime he would have to go temporarily into the horrible one as unsurprisingly they did have spaces available.

Not ideal but doable.

We made the calls, spoke to his occupational therapist and social worker and were just sitting with Dad explaining when by some happy stroke of luck we were told Dad could go straight to the lovely home after all!
 We hadn't been able to meet with the assistant manager when we visited because she was out assessing a patient for the one room they did have free. As it turns out they couldn't match that person's care needs so as Dad was next on the list he could have the room.

For the first time in a while now it felt like things were going in our favour. I cannot even begin to describe to you the relief.
As it goes this seems to be the turn in the tide. Himself managed to arrange the right care and support for his parents too and came home yesterday knackered but positive. There is a way to go in both situations but we are on the right path.

We had to postpone our trip to Greenwich for Himself's birthday but that is easily rescheduled. Instead I have bought all sorts of yummy treats to spoil home rotten with.

Before I go. One thing I'm wondering, and this may be just me, but I have been having a bit of a clearout of the wardrobe and the first 2 dresses that just had to go, were the one I was wearing when Dad had his stroke, and the one I was wearing at his care plan meeting. I just can't bear to ever wear them again.
Is that just me? Is it a bit weird?

Anyway I'm going to sign off with another new frock, because when life is throwing you lemons buy a novelty print, especially if it's in the sale, which this was.
 Whales! who could resist?
 Cirencester bargain necklace
And if the novelty print doesn't do it, how about a 99p bargain vintage handbag of Ebay?

Monday, 20 April 2015

A Sunny Cotswolds Outing and a Bit of a Shopping Frenzy.

This gorgeous weather has been hanging around hasn't it? Soo and I were long overdue a get together and we decided an outing was in order.
It was Soo who picked Cirencester from the list of possible options because I have never been any good at making a choice.
It's somewhere neither of us had been before and visiting in the glorious sunshine certainly showed it at it's very best.

The shops are an interesting mix of expensive boutiques, independent, charity, and just a smattering of high street chains.
Indeed many charity shops had 2 branches in what is not a huge town centre. The prices were higher than your average, but then this is an expensive/touristy area.

Cirencester also gave me a few firsts.

One of them being in all my years of chazza shopping, never did I think I would ever find myself singing along to The Sisters of Mercy whist rooting through the rails!!
There was also a woman in the Red Cross shop who was so damn rude we very childishly flicked v's at the shop when we drove past it later. Nothing like being a mature adult hehe.

We had been recommended 'Handmade By Bob' for lunch but it was packed and with a queue so we carried on shopping and stumbled across 'The Cotswold Artisan Coffee Shop' in the Bishops Walk arcade.
What a find! The ciabatta's were delicious, but the star of the show was the chocolate and salted caramel brownies, handmade by the lady who runs the shop with her husband.




I don't think I will ever be able to eat another brownie again, nothing could possibly compare to the sheer heaven of this chocolaty caramel filled delight.

I liked Cirencester, and what was really lovely to see was the sheer number of independent shops and things like good old fashioned greengrocers and butchers, this was most definitely not a high street in decline.

On the way home we decided to stop off at Bibury.
Tiny, very beautiful and overrun with tourists!

There was a wee antique shop run by an elderly couple who clearly just buy bits and pieces at jumble sales and flog them to tourists for a decent profit.
Mind when we went in the lady was having kittens at the fact a young German couple were looking at teapots for the girl to use for flower arranging and NOT drinking tea from!?!

So what did I buy on my lovely day out? A couple of floaty tops.

A starfish sunburst brooch.
A cheeky blue cat for a pound.
A lovely patent kelly bag that turned out to be real leather and came up beautifully after a good polish.
and a couple of sale necklaces in Dorothy Perkins £3 each that I couldn't resist.

Ok, ok I know you all really want to know about the shopping frenzy. I've been going a bit mad, I don't really know why but on the whole it's been bargains and I'm pretty darn pleased with my purchases.
There been the nautical

There's another striped top but that is in the wash.

The floral 

The bardot top

and finally this gorgeous waistcoat from Kinky Melon (aka Vix) which I am doing battle with Himself over.
The best bit? Not a single item cost more than £20 and most cost significantly less.