Thursday, 30 October 2014

Rock, Shops and a Lovely Cup of Tea.

Well my action packed October continues apace.

So far I have been to Paris for work, been to London for work and been to Walsall for pleasure.

I have been out for dinner four times, been to the cinema twice and to the theatre once. I have shopped much, eaten much and walked far.

Quite frankly I am skint, fat and knackered!  

Last weekend was no different. I crammed in a visit to good old Witney with Soo, to oooh and ahh over Melissa and her other half Dan's gorgeous new house and to visit the shops (of course!)

We three shopped up a storm, stopping only for a bite of lunch. We did all the chazza's where I found this magnificent teapot in one for the princely sum of £2.

It was filthy but I loved the shape. A bit of elbow grease later, it's gleaming and I'm thrilled with my purchase. Sadly no genie with wishes for me so it's back to work.
I also found a couple of Christmas presents, yes, yes I've said the 'C' word but it's always a relief to get the first present out the way. Oh and my Dad's birthday present too which is even more of a relief to find.

Soo and I went to see the stage version of Rock of Ages, but please don't hold that against us.
It is a lot cruder and much darker than the film version. As far as musicals go it is truly appalling but we laughed our heads off and had a great night out.

I also took a day off work last week to catch up on some much needed sleep and to try and get my chaotic home under control again.
I blitzed the place, I have 4 bags ready for a charity shop of my choice in town and have listed a shedload of stuff on the Bay of E.

I feel relieved, like I am gaining that control again, there is more to do but much progress has been made.

October ends tomorrow and goes out with a bang. It's not just Halloween, it's our Anniversary.

We are off to London.

First up the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition at the Museum of London followed by The 39 Steps at the Criteron Theatre.

I am very, very excited but as Himself quite rightly pointed out how middle aged does it sound? Spending our anniversary at a museum followed by a theatre show? 


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

As Days Go This Was Second To None.

Late for once but fashionable so I hope! Here is my take on the Bloggers Meet-up in Walsall.

What can I say?

After wanting to go for a few years now I finally made it to the legendary 'Second To None' and what bloody magnificent company to visit it in.
I just had to take a few minutes to drink in the window and yes that was a brimming box of sparkly brooches I spied, oh be still my beating heart!
To say the shop is crammed would be an understatement, I was actually a bit overwhelmed and kind of flipped through a few rails without even seeing things until I spotted a really rather lovely black floral evening bag for £3 and suddenly the fog cleared and I was looking with the keen clear eyes of the hunter.

Vix our ever thoughtful and glamorous hostess had brought drinks, but as by this time I was up the top of a ladder rummaging through handbags I decided to wait until I was back on solid ground before cracking open my can!

Next stop for me was the box of brooches, once a magpie always a magpie! It took some effort but I got my choice down to one or two,
or maybe three or four.....
Look shoes!

I was going to ask about buying a flying duck to join my repro ones but I got distracted (not difficult in this Aladdin's Cave) and forgot.
My brooch habit quenched I suddenly realised everyone else had gone upstairs, oh yes there was more.
First thing to greet me was this C&A jumpsuit. 
How do I know it was C&A? Because my mother had the very same one, she also bought me one in pale blue. That was my early teens, a time when my Mum was still buying my clothes and I was just starting to take enough interest in clothes to realise this bothered me - A LOT.
Especially as she had a habit of dressing me in things that really did me no favours, like pastel blue jumpsuits.
Not a good look when you are short, solid with puppy fat and pastel shades make your pale skin look like a corpse risen.
These days I am a foot taller and the puppy fat that I was delighted to lose has crept relentlessly back on as what the magazines call 'middle age spread'. I should be bothered, and to be fair I often am, but as I've said before basically I'm greedy and I hate exercise so I can't see me going back to my teeny tiny days any day soon.
The downside of this is 99% of the wonderous stock in this shop wasn't going to fit.A couple of frocks I dearly would have loved to slip into were these.

Instead I just took pictures, and thank you to the lovely Lyndsey for holding up the green frock and keeping me company in the back room whilst we made some space for the others to try on the things that caught their eye.
I did grab a couple of shots
Curtise risking life and limb next to the teetering fabric mountain
and Emma trying on a pimptastic hat that was too small for Vix or me.

Purchases made it was time for refreshment so off to Wetherspoons we went.
Chips, drink and much laughter later we did a tour of the town, chazzas and all.

Following the Bill Bryson rule I made sure I looked up as well as around.

The OBD was found and photographed
as was the famous Walsall hippo

then there was time for one last much needed drink in here before we headed to the station
My train was cancelled so instead I got to join Emma on hers and bleat on at her all the way back to Oxford.  She bore it bravely.

So do you want to see my purchases?
The kind of handbag that makes a collector's heart skip a beat or two. Early 1940's and in IMMACULATE condition. I did not let this out of my clutches until I had secured it as mine!
The pretty black floral one for £3 and another lovely brown fabric and leather one.
just one or two brooches........

I did also buy a kitsch tartan headscarf with scottie dogs on it but it's in the wash.

Finally without too much persuading from Vix a genuine Scottish Tam O' Shanter (it said so on the label)for £2 in a charity shop.
Thank you to Vix, Curtise, Emma, Fiona, Tania, Vanessa, Annie and Lyndsey for such a fabulous day out. Here's to the next one.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Paris Mon Amour.

It's not exactly a hardship when you get sent to somewhere like Paris for work and this is the view from your hotel window.
let's use the zoom on my new camera (the one that I still haven't figured out how to use properly)
Well I've seen worse views that's for sure.

The journey there was quite an experience. It was the Arc De Triomphe horse race the same weekend and our Eurostar was packed with race goers, most of whom were Irish, all busy drinking and eating and consulting Racegoers Weekly.
 It was like one lively but very good natured mobile party.
My colleague Alex got given a glass of red wine and a sandwich by the guys she was sitting with and when I was offered some and said "thanks so much but I'm ok" and when pressed admitted I don't really like red wine, the people opposite me promptly gave me a glass of champagne instead!

It's the only way to start a work trip I'm telling you.

We finally got to our hotels around 6pm, unfortunately we had to stay in different ones but thankfully only a 5 minute walk apart. Checked in, freshened up and headed out for some sightseeing and dinner.

The weather was gorgeous, really warm in fact, so we sat and watched them light up the Eiffel Tower. Which would have been great if it wasn't for all the touts hassling you every 30 seconds.

We grabbed a quick snack and headed back to our hotels, getting a bit lost on the way, but in the centre of Paris that really doesn't matter somehow.

When you are on a work trip making the most of your spare few hours is vital so we were up before 7am, breakfasted and off to Les Marches Aux Puces, the famous big flea market in Paris.

I would also say pre-trip research is vital too.

Having found many many posts on the internet about the very aggressive touts and numerous pickpockets at the main entrance to the market.
As advised by the locals I took us via the metro to the far side of the market which avoided all of that. We did get to see the famous swap meet which frankly was like some vision from hell and to be avoided, before we found our way to the bits we wanted to see.

As the internet had warned the prices were stupidly 'foreign tourist trap' high but we had great fun window shopping and soaking up the amazing vibe of the place. I seriously can't believe there were ever that many big houses in France to account for all the massive chandeliers! there were hundreds!

Sadly a vast majority of the vendors had 'No Photography' signs up and got arsey if you did try to sneak a pic. I did get a few though.

We found the bit with the vintage clothes, it's great when you can travel with a colleague who likes the same things. I would have been more than happy to go alone but Alex was well up for a visit and we both bought a couple of bits.
Again prices were tourist high but it was fun to nose around.
Alex bought a very cute, very Parisian navy jacket from this shop. We both loved the deep blue evening dress on the dummy.

So what did I buy?
A silk scarf that I have already worn.
and this 1970's leather bag, I paid 30 euro for the pair. Again I think they both have quite a French feel to them.

Sadly time flew and we had to head back to our hotels to get changed and get to work, it was the reason for the trip after all!

These graffiti cats were all over Paris, personally I loved them.

After a long and briskly busy recruitment fair, we got freshened up and headed out to a tiny little bistro as recommended by a guy at Alex's hotel.
They only had 12 tables and didn't do sittings so you got to sit over a very leisurely and very, very delicious dinner.
Alex ordered a creme brulee, I was full. They brought it out but with no spoon so we asked for a spoon and got 2 spoons plus another 2 creme brulees.
As no one spoke English and our French is very poor it took us a little while to establish they were all that was left so we could have them for free.
The owner also wouldn't let us leave until we had finished them!

He kissed us warmly on both cheeks when we left. I have to say in all my years I don't think I have ever been kissed by the owner of a restaurant but there's a first time for everything.  

I dropped Alex at her hotel and headed back to mine. En route I saw a bidet with a baguette in it.Just sitting there, out on the street.

Only in France....

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Zoo of His Own

So this is a post I have been thinking about for a few weeks now. All inspired by the gentle BBC 1 drama 'Our Zoo' which is based on the recollections of June Mottershead who’s father George founded Chester Zoo.

 It was the trailer that did it. When June looks in the back of a van and exclaims in awe ‘What is THAT?’ and her father points and replies ‘that is a monkey and that is a parrot’ 

I turned straight to Himself and said ‘Granddad!’ I swear in another life my Granddad would have been George Mottershead. He always had a thing about animals, I honestly think he liked them more than people.
His first job as a boy was delivering groceries by cart. Only my Granddad being my Granddad didn’t ride a bike or pull it himself, oh no he used his goats to pull the cart, yes you read that right he kept goats and used them to pull a cart. 

I found this highly amusing when I first found out because of course I pictured him as the Granddad I knew and not a young boy walking with a goat driven cart.

At 15 the First World War was in full swing so he lied about his age and joined the Navy. He saw action, got a medal and was badly wounded. We don’t really know much about his war time experiences because like so many others he would never talk about it.
He did stay in the Navy for nearly 20 years though and quickly took on the role of looking after the ship’s mascot on whatever boat he happened to be on. This included the kind of animals you might expect, like various varieties of dog and at one point a donkey.  

Only my Granddad didn’t leave it there though, oh no, he used to bring animals home with him. There was a big blue and yellow macaw who lived in the corner of the sitting room and was a vicious bugger by all accounts. Except to my Granddad that is, they adored each other to exclusion of anyone else, my Granddad wept buckets when the bird finally died in his arms of pneumonia after 35 years of swearing and biting people, the bird not my Granddad that is, Granddad definitely swore but didn't bite.

There was the monkey who ran riot round the house (much like Mortimer in Our Zoo) The final straw being when some ill-afforded brand new curtains got shredded, the monkey had to go.

Like lots of working class families in the 20’s and 30’s there were chickens, rabbits in the garden and a dog or two in the house, but this being my Granddad there were also lots and lots and lots of exotic birds. Rather than growing much needed veggies, half the garden was a huge aviary full of canaries, love birds, cockatiels, green parrots and budgies, it must have been quite a sight and driven the neighbours mad with the noise!

Anyway Episode 2 of Our Zoo shows George heading off to Matlock to acquire two black bears. Yes you’ve guessed it my Granddad had one of those too!

For some reason better known to himself when his ship docked in Canada he thought it would be a good thing to bring a bear cub on board. There was a romantic story of the mother bear being shot by hunters and my Granddad bravely saving the cub, but I suspect far more likely was some dodgy drunken deal in a bar when it would have seemed like a great idea to buy a bear. Why on earth the captain let him keep it lord only knows but Granddad nursed it to adulthood and it became a great favourite with the crew.
The bear knew all the crew members by scent, and should a stranger board the ship it would rear up on it’s hind legs, put a paw on each shoulder and lean in to get a good sniff of them.
As you can imagine this was a pretty terrifying experience and when he managed to escape and do it to the Admiral of the fleet one inspection day chaos ensued!

On reaching dock said bear was dispatched with haste to the zoo where my Granddad used to visit him until he left the navy. I honestly have no idea what would have happened if there hadn’t been the incident with the Admiral. I’m guessing some zoo would have still gained a bear.
As a man with an elderly father, a wife, a mistress and 6 assorted children all wedged into a council house in Kent there was no way this was ever going to be a happily ever after me and my bear just chilling story.  
My Dad still remembers a family outing to Portsmouth Zoo as a small boy many years later. Without a car it was no easy journey from their home in Kent but my Granddad was determined to go after an old Navy chum popped in to visit one day and mentioned in passing that he had seen ‘your bear at the zoo the other day’.
Apparently the bear rushed straight over to the edge of the enclosure as soon as it saw my Granddad even though many years had passed.

So there you have it, the story of my Granddad and his mini zoo, not quite Chester I grant you!

*Edited to add

My Dad and Uncle who told the tale of the zoo visit were both small boys of 6 and 7 at the time of the visit.
 My Uncle said it was Bristol my Dad says it was Portsmouth, I plumped for my Dad's version because that's what good daughters do.
As it has been kindly pointed out to me that that there is no Zoo in Portsmouth I'm guessing Dad was wrong and my Uncle Gerald was right!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Calm Before the Storm.

The last weekend in September and hasn't it been glorious? I have pottered about and you'll be pleased to hear also tidied the house a bit .

We also went for another long walk today. Himself is full of cold and was hoping for a kill or cure, as he is currently upstairs lying down I can only assume it was the former! I'm also wearily aware he is sure to pass it on to me before the week is out which is very, very bad. I can't afford to get sick right now which is exactly why I will as that is always the way.
but for the time being I shall focus on beautiful views on a beautiful day like this.

I didn't get a chance to get a picture on Monday but the sash was every bit as awful as I thought it would be, bright green satin, oh dear, oh dear.

That is not the end of it either, this Tuesday I have to go to the programme launch dinner. It's going to be in Keble College which instantly means it's black tie.
The problem is technically I am working so I can't go glammed to the nines with sequins from arse to elbow much as I would like too.
Instead I have to find a frock that not only fits (eek) but will pass muster as both a cocktail dress and workwear. I believe this is what is called a first world problem and not one I would ever have thought I would ever find myself pondering!

On Wednesday it's the first of October and the start of a mad busy month for me, half for work and half for pleasure.
On Friday I'll be off to Paris for work, with a few hours of free time on Saturday morning this time round and plans to take in a flea market at the very least. A friend from America's younger sister has just gone to Paris to study for 6 months so I am very much hoping to catch up with her, I haven't seen her for over 5 years and she was still a shy teenager then. It would be so lovely to catch up.

Home on Sunday and then it's back to work on Monday for a week of interviewing before heading to London next Saturday, yet again for work.
See why I really don't want to be catching Himself's cold!

I have to say I do resent when work hijacks my weekends, it's very difficult to claim the time back and we don't get offered overtime. Bah.

Anyway other than having panic attacks about the amount of work I have coming up I have found time for a wee bit of shopping.

It's Nephew Number One's birthday on the 11th so when I was out getting him a few bits I also ended up buying this lovely green cardigan, not that it has been cold enough to wear it yet.
Apologies for the creases, yes it was screwed up in the bottom of a bag, I do hate how a lot of shop assistants these days just ball up you item and bung it in a bag!

No respect.

I also bought him something on Ebay which meant I ended up browsing and ended up buying another Hell Bunny dress that was absolutely cheap as chips so I couldn't not really.
Haven't tried it yet, it will probably be hideous on then I will end up reselling it!

Finally I got this gorgeous owl print dress in Peacocks. It's the same style tea dress as the rose print one I bought the other month and love.
Following the Vix rule as I have bought new ones a few dresses have gone out of the wardrobe, not that you can tell.....

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hedges and a Harvest Festival

Work has been crazy busy so my lovely relaxing holiday is already a distant dream already.
I'm sitting here drinking tea and marveling at the sheer level of chaos I have let my house get into since I've been back, am I going to do anything about it? Nope the sun is shining so I'm off out for a walk after breakfast and a food shop, housework be damned.

This gorgeous weather has meant I'd rather be out than in and we even had a departmental meeting outside at work. This did result in me getting bitten by some unidentified creature which quickly started to swell and form an ominous red line up my arm. I don't know what it is about me and bug bites at the moment usually I rarely get bitten and now it's like it's open season. I'm not happy I can tell you.

I raked the first lot of leaves in the garden and attacked the hedges ready for winter. I had to go and buy a heavy duty saw and some extra long telescopic handled loppers which I got a little bit too excited about (I really need to get out more.)
When the lady in the shop checked I was over 21 and the were actually for me. I replied in the affirmative with so much enthusiasm she narrowed her eyes and said "I see" with such emphasis on the 'see' I thought she might call over the manager and suggest detaining me until the police could be called!
 Luckily I left with my purchases and spent a happy few hours chopping things down out side.
 My bingo wings certainly got a workout!

Yesterday Soo and I went to Grey's Court near Henley for a visit and because they had a 'Big Harvest' festival on. The house and gardens were absolutely gorgeous but the festival was actually more of a small farmers market with a few Morris Dancers for entertainment.
The house had a wonderful homely feel, like it was still lived in.
 This is probably down to the fact the family agreed to leave all their grandparents belongings in it, so it's a wonderful mix of old and valuable with cheap and cheerful. There are books and photos and toys scattered about but it doesn't feel contrived. I wish I could have taken pictures but you weren't allowed. There was a lovely Steiff elephant who caught my eye and an amazing yellow Art Deco bath which made me exclaim out loud with delight.
The guides are very friendly and informative, to the point where we got trapped in a bedroom for about 20 minutes but one who kept going 'but' or 'and' just when you thought she might have finished and you could slip away. 

Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
How amazing is this bench? there seemed to be a theme of Owls and Hedgehogs throughout the house and garden.

My only complaint £1.95 for an small cup of tea that was gone in two mouthfuls, £1.95!?! seriously! bloody outrageous.

Other than that Himself and I went to see 'Before I go to Sleep'
I haven't read the book it's based on though quite a few people who have, said it is amazing. I'm not sure I could now because I know the big plot twist! I really enjoyed the film and hats of to Nicole for going through most of the film with not a scrap of make-up on or flattering lighting.

This week we are planning to see 'The Riot Club' which is loosely based on the elitist Bullingdon Club at Oxford University. Apparently it shows the university in a very poor light so I am intrigued!

Talking of the University we have enrolment day on Monday. This year is different because they have brought in an ex-student with her own PR company to 'manage' the day.
We all got emails telling where we should be and when, (like none of us have ever done this before!) and much worse told we MUST be wearing either a black or navy suit.......
Well that nearly caused a riot club there and then!
Let's put it this way most people are like me, in that as we are not a corporate environment my work wear is casual smart. This goes up to smart/formal on special days like this, but from the way it was worded we all felt the insinuation was that we don't know how to dress appropriately for more formal occasions.

That being said I don't actually own a black or navy suit and as it turns out neither does anyone else in my office, it seems we all prefer a bit of colour. I emailed back saying just that and was told a formal black or navy dress would be fine instead as we will be wearing a 'branded' sash. WTF? I said we will look like Miss Undertaker of the year contestants, it all descended into chaos after that with threats of bikinis and tiaras.
Anyway the long and the short of it is I don't own a formal black or navy dress either so they will have to make do with my black and white spotted Pearl Lowe dress and like it.

Think of me on Monday parading round in my sash..............  

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sun Sea and Sand What More Could you Want?

We are back from our long weekend by the sea. Mentally refreshed and restored, physically tired, aching and a little sunburnt and in my case with a massive unidentified insect bite on my leg.

We arrived on Thursday and had to go straight to the shops because Himself managed to only managed to bring one pair of jeans. Trouserage purchased we headed to the beach with a bottle of wine and sat until it was dark watching the sea and the people.
 I do love people watching. A surfer dude who loved himself very much and spent more time posing for photos than surfing and some drug addicts in a tent with a fishing rod kept me entertained the most, though the later did rather spoil the idyll, I know it's life but it's not a part I was looking to be reminded of as I sat on a beach relaxing.

On our first full day we decided to hike to Hengistbury Head, a 15 mile round trip the thought of which I did find more than a little daunting. As it turned out the terrain was pretty gentle on the whole and it was worth it for the views.

It's a long way up and judging by the flowers and the odd wreath dotted about clearly a suicide spot which was another sobering moment of the holiday.
We sat on this bench for a while to admire the view, and because frankly, we were knackered. It was absolutely silent and still with no breeze, just gorgeous.

After a restorative dinner we decided on another quiet night chilling on the beach so called in at Tesco on the way back for more wine.

As we headed through the park the siren call of the crazy golf was too much so we did a detour.
Himself kept score but didn't tell me who won so it must have been me ;-)

We sat watching the dusk fall and the moon rise, drank wine and played with some of the settings on the new camera and no I still haven't read the manual yet!

I made a collage with what was in reaching distance around me
and in doing so found this stone which made us both laugh
A perfect day.

Saturday I was nowhere near as knackered or stiff as I expected. Himself had managed to break the toilet in our en suite so we took ourselves off for a beach walk whilst it was fixed.
I picked up about a hundred weight in pebbles and shells which I insisted on bringing home but made him carry in his bag (hehe).

In the afternoon I met my friend Alison for cake and much gossip. We chatted about various things including the fact you sometimes get dolphins around the area, a creature I have only ever seen in an aquarium and would love to see in the wild.
Next day she sent me a link to the BBC news website about a pod that had been spotted at Sandbanks right where we had been sat in a bar discussing seeing dolphins in the wild. I imagined it being just like the Kit-Kat pandas advert!!

That evening Himself was determined to go out. Saturday is probably not the best choice of night to sample the delights or Bournemouth's bars because it is the time the stag and hen parties are at their full and terrible height.
 I lost count of how many staggering shrieking groups of girls and baying groups of blokes we saw, it was like being plunged into a horrible dream.

This is the side of Bournemouth I hate, the seedy strip clubs and pissed up punters. Just to bring it all home and to remind me how very happy I am my drunken clubbing days are far behind me I will describe what happened in Yates's.

 They had cleared the floor for dancing and there were 2 girls right next to where we were standing minding their own business  and having a dance. One was tall and very slim in a black crop top and skater style skirt. Next thing this bloke from a stag party takes off his shoes and socks walks over to the girl pulls her top forward so all the lads get an eyeful then stuffs his socks down it because "you're not bad but your tits are too small and you'd look better with bigger tits"

 Himself and I couldn't decide whether the worst bit was what the bloke did or the fact that she just stood there and didn't punch his lights out for doing it, personally I wanted to kill him but it's not wise to get into anything, you don't know what might happen which I think is probably why she didn't react other than to remove the socks and leave.
Horrible, it really ruined any fun I might have been having so we also left and headed back to a quieter Wetherspoons off the main trail.
I had brought my Hawaiian Hell Bunny dress for an outing and I feel sorry for what it had to witness.

As Alison says on the one hand the whole Stag/Hen do reputation brings money to the town but on the other the amount of damage and anti-social behaviour it also brings might just outweigh the benefits.