Sunday, 1 May 2016

Trials and Tribulations

Not much to report from Magpie Towers. It's been a very trying week I'm glad it's over.

Thank you for all the outrage over the builder next door nicking land, I should have clarified we rent not own, otherwise believe me I'd have been in there giving him what for!
Instead I took pictures and reported it to our rental agency who came out on behalf of our landlady on Wednesday to measure and take more pictures. Apparently a cease and desist letter will be winging it's way to the builder very shortly, so there's mud in his eye.

We did a little bit more of the mammoth patio clean. This time round it wasn't so bad as I was prepared for just how much mess Himself was capable of making!
Only the last strip at the side there to go. No idea what that big grey splodge in the middle is, clearly something of a different mix got spilled at one time!

Work has been a bit of a nightmare, we had an interview day on Monday and I wore a new frock. New in that it hasn't managed to have an outing since I bought it a little while ago.
It's a bit big around the boobs but fine under a cardigan until I get round to taking it in.

Anyway to set the work scene, we have one head of department and 3 managers in my office. Of those the head of department and one of those managers in on long term sick right now, one other manager finishes on Friday for a year's maternity leave and the last one goes on holiday for 3 weeks on Wednesday. We also have 2 empty posts right now, so to say those of us who are left are feeling the strain is a bit of an understatement.

I also realised I had managed to lose a stone out of my engagement ring at some point. It's one of the pinprick sized diamonds so not something I'm likely to ever see again but very upsetting none the less. I've had the ring 15 years now so I'm kind of attached to it.

I took it in to get a quote on replacing it and came away thoroughly patronised. I think the girl thought she was being friendly and chatty, well she was certainly chatty.
When I said it was Miss not Mrs for the name she went "Oh you're STILL just engaged" "Oh bless you" in such a pitying voice I couldn't decide whether to burst out laughing or punch her.

She clearly thought that I have been stoically waiting with my upper lip stiffened for Himself to finally come to his senses and marry me.When the truth of the matter is he'd gallop down the aisle faster than his feet could touch the ground if  I'd only agree to it, so it's actually been me who has balked at the idea all these years!  

In fact a couple of friends joked that maybe this was a sign and I should finally replace the engagement ring with a plain band, but frankly that seems like a very expensive and excessive way to replace it to my mind.

Then on top of that our washing machine died, and being the notorious tightwad she is, our landlady replaced it with the cheapest piece of junk she could find. I'm absolutely gutted. We have gone from a very reliable workhorse to something that barely scraps a 1 star review on various sites on the internet and even the washing machine engineers call it 'cheap and nasty'.

 It has such a small drum capacity I can't even do the bedding in one load!?! That's only a duvet cover, 2 pillow cases and a sheet by the way, it's seriously that tiny.
The average 40 degree cycle also takes a whopping 3 hours and 20 minutes from start to finish. So not only am I going to have to do many more washes than before they are going to take me forever.

We don't have the spare cash at the moment but if we did I would seriously look at buying our own machine and asking for this thing to be taken away. It really was a shit way to end a shit week.

Having said that we did go out for drinks on Friday night. Someone I used to work with at the library was leaving for pastures new. We met in the K.A (King's Arms) which was kind of weird, I haven't been in there since I left the library 5 years ago. It's the pub right opposite the library so always full of students and library staff.
The funny thing was they have clearly redecorated and yet they have just put all the old pictures back up in exactly the same places, right down to the incredibly faded Guinness adverts above the noticeboard!
 I remember them doing the black and white photo shoot of all the staff and regulars back in 1989 so in a way it's quite cool that they still have those pictures up nearly 30 years later but god it made me feel old.    

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Spring Cleaning

and getting some of those little chores done that have been left languishing for ages. I've had a couple of crazy busy and frankly pretty shit weeks but I'm not going into that. Thankfully the weekends have been free for pottering about quietly at home.

I did a little bit of gardening in, thankfully not too much now it seems the weather is going to get artic again! What has happened to spring? *sigh*

With spring cleaning in mind I decided to buy a pressure washer. Our neighbour has one we have borrowed in the past, failing that we could always borrow my brother's......but I wanted my own. Himself made lots of valid arguments against but he's known me long enough now to recognise when I'm not going to be moved, and I was not going to be moved. I had found a good deal on a Karcher for a start.
Last weekend Himself set too on one side of our huge ugly concrete patio. It took him about 2 hours to do and then me twice that to clean up behind him, who knew a pressure washer could simultaneously clean and make a mess?

Where once there was greeny sludgy brown there is now a sort of cream.

The lawn got it's first cut which gave this self seeded cowslip the room to flourish

Pootling about outside revealed there has also been some cheeky land grabbing going on by the builder next door. Don't get me going on how I feel about the block of flats going up at the bottom of our garden!
 They are using part of what was next door's garden to be the car park. Not only did they remove our fence, as in the one that belongs to our property, they also dug out the soil right up against the trunks of our hedge stealing between 1-2 feet of our garden into the bargain, (the hedge isn't planted in a straight line) the thieving bastards!!

It's enough to get the calmest gardener raging.

On top of that my pilates teacher has been on holiday for 2 weeks so I haven't even had that release. Of course I haven't done any at home, I always say I will but I never do because truth be told I'm a lazy git.
I have to say I am struggling with the advanced pilates class, I feel my teacher was perhaps a tad over confident in my abilities. I'm basically the dunce of the class, I seem to spend my time alternating between trying to keep up and flailing around like an upturned tortoise.
Having said that it's clearly had some effect. The other week I sat on a wet chair on the train to work, (thankfully it was nothing more sinister than spilled water!) and ended up with a wet bottom. I was able to bend right over with ease and dry myself under the hand dryers in the ladies toilet so I'm clearly more flexible than I once was. Something at least.

Anyway I digress.

I finally got round to framing a couple of prints

 and putting them and a few other pictures up around the house.

I sorted and tidied one wardrobe and had a good tidy and clear out in the small front bedroom.
I even dusted my handbags.

Talking of handbags
I picked up this raffia beauty on Ebay, it turned out to be of epic proportions, much bigger than the slightly daintier bag I was expecting that's for sure. However great for any future outing where I might be required to bring the kitchen sink!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Films, Specs & a Dress Dilemma.

So what else have I been up to lately?

Well I've been to the cinema twice to see two fairly dreadful films.

In both cases I enjoyed the first film so thought I'd give the sequel a go, and yes this was probably a mistake. I didn't hate them as much as Himself, but they were both a disappointment.
Having said that I tend to hold all bad films up against the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers and I can safely say neither where anywhere near as bad as that, but they were pretty bad.

I also got a new pair of reading glasses. I have to have my eyes tested annually due to a hereditary condition.
I've worn distance glasses since I was 15 and that prescription hasn't changed for years but 3 years ago I got told I needed reading glasses for the first time. Basically every year since then has meant new reading specs. *sigh*

Apparently this is quite common, the optician assured me your eyes deteriorate rapidly at first and then plateau. Here's hoping my plateau is soon, I don't fancy my eyes getting any worse as this year it's been a pretty drastic deterioration and difference in prescription, also it's not exactly cheap getting new Geps every year.

The girl asked me what sort of frames I like so I showed her my current pair, which are turquoise with leopard print arms and said something colourful, like red or purple, but NO PINK!!
She looked a little taken aback at my vehemence but then set to suggesting options. We settled on these.

 So this is me in my new purple frames, just in from FINALLY being able to get out in my garden for the very first time this year, and for a good 7 hours solid too which was absolute bliss. Hence the happy but weary make-up free face, and the mental wind swept hair!

Wilkinson's had marked all their bedding plants down to half price so I filled my boots and now all my tubs are looking colourful and springlike. I also decided this year I wanted a pressure washer, we usually borrow our neighbour's one but once I have decided that is that. Himself made all the right arguments against and then took a look at my face and said there's no point arguing is there? You are just going to buy one aren't you? to which I replied "yes, yes I am!" So I did and then felt very middle aged.

A month or so ago I bought us some Rocky Horror Show tickets, (we see the show every time it tours.) then last week I got a letter to say they had changed the dates for the show.

This meant I had to pop into the theatre and choose a different date, which I did, and as I just happened to have a £3 off voucher for Debenhams, and as they just happen to be on the same street, I stepped in.

Once there I was instantly presented with a dress dilemma! A sale bargain = tick, Plus an extra £3 off = tick, Teacup & teapot print pattern = huge double tick, Pink accents = Eek.

It probably has just about the most pink in it I've worn since my Mother stopped choosing my outfits,but, it's got teapots.
 I dithered until my lunch hour was almost done but knew I just had to have it. Everyone at work knows about my extreme lack of love for the pink so when I got back to the office I voiced my dilemma to my colleagues and they insisted on seeing the dress.
They then basically told me I was being a mentalist because it was the bluest pink dress ever seen.

Himself agreed when I got home that it was indeed the bluest pink dress.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Ride a White Horse.

To Banbury for a shopping trip as it goes, and actually it was Soo's car that got me there and not a horse which is a good job really I'm not really a fan of the horse.

It's been many, many years since I was last in Banbury. They now have a new shopping centre called Castle Quays which is built in a sort of star shape so it gets very confusing, especially for a couple of old ducks like us, somehow you seem to leave a shop, walk forward for a bit, only to see the same shop again in front of you.
This level of confusion continues in the town centre too.Banbury is very old and still keeps it's medieval layout, with lots of alleyways off the streets, so you can find yourself distracted by an interesting shop or building down an alleyway head back to where you thought came from but actually suddenly find yourself on another street completely.
Or maybe you step into a charity shop, which unbeknownst to you actually has 2 doors, so you browse round, maybe buy something, then step out into a completely different street to the one you stepped in from! In the end we gave up trying to figure it out and just embraced it.

There are some absolutely gorgeous buildings in Banbury and I loved all the suns around the city. It turns out the 'sun in splendour' is the coat of arms for the council so they are to been seen everywhere from buildings to, wrought iron to even the bins.

The main plan of the shopping trip was to buy presents for various upcoming birthdays but I seemed to keep finding things for either myself or my Mother, and neither of us have birthdays for months yet!
Eventually after a delicious lunch in The Bay Tree tea shop we found the Banbury Museum Shop (as recommended by Soo's Mum) and I hit my present buying stride. I'm not going to show you any of those but I will share with you my other purchases.
From one of these stalls at the mini flea market I bought the appropriately giant sunburst-like brooch.

The green scarf and bunny came from one of the 2 door charity shops and were £1.49 and £1.99 respectively.

From the St Katherine's Hospice shop. I bought this blue dress for £5
Look at the amazing deco building the shop is housed in....
but dear lord was it carnage inside! A jumbled mess of stuff in no particular order laid out in a way that seemed to detract from, rather than make a sensible use of, the layout of the rooms. Sadly no vintage I'm guessing that must get sorted and sent elsewhere.

I also bought this mini coffee/chocolate pot for 95p
and this lovely green blouse for £4
There were a couple of scary parts of town, but then what town doesn't have it's dodgier areas? On the whole though it was a fun and successful day out.

* Yes, yes I changed the first line of the poem but I want to avoid the kind of traffic the C word would bring to my blog!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Vogue 100 and Some Leopard Print

Last week was a short week anyway due to Easter, but Charlotte and I took a cheeky extra day off work to visit the VOGUE 100 - A Century Of Style exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery.
Being a lover of fashion and photography I genuinely don't know what I liked this exhibition for the most, the pictures, especially the black & white ones, or the fact that a large majority were pictures of fashion. As ever no picture taking was allowed so I can't weigh this post down with all my favourites, and there were many, it really is an extraordinary exhibition.

I loved the fact that it was deliberately set up to lead you from the present day back in time, decade by decade, to 1916 when the first issue was released. Each decade had it's own room and what a difficult and amazing job it must have been to choose the most representative pictures of each era. I'm afraid I'm guilty of dismissing Vogue as one of those coffee table fashion mags made up of 80% adverts and no proper articles, so it was good to also be reminded of some of the groundbreaking photo-journalism they have produced.

The exhibition clientele was almost as fascinating as the pictures themselves. An interesting mix of young and old, including unexpectedly, quite a few young men, and some very, very glamorous and well groomed ladies of a certain age, who for the most part clearly came from the industry. We spent quite a bit of time ear-wigging their conversations, particularly in the room that had two long cabinets with glass cases displaying open copies of various issues of Vogue.  Being such a lover of history it was interesting to go from things I've lived through (1980's supermodels darling) to eras I've read about voraciously (The Bright Young People & WW2)  In fact we got quite lyrical about our own youth, what we wore and the celebrities and supermodels of the day.
All in all a fantastic exhibition and one I thoroughly recommend.

Conversely on Friday I had to work late as we had a yield event at the school which meant I had to be on my very best behaviour ALL DAY!
The only plus to this was there was a college dinner involved so not only did I get to eat some lovely food I got to do it in the stunning surroundings of Harris Manchester College in Oxford.

Mind I would have loved to have seen a picture of the horror on my face, when on arrival, I was told the drinks reception would be in the library! Food and or drink near precious books goes against every fibre of my being. Having said that what a gorgeous library it is,

I also think I am little in love with their librarian who ever they may be, they are clearly a librarian after my own heart allowing quirky touches like a skeleton in a hat and a sleeping bat to take their place among the stained glass and polished oak. Apologies for the crappy phone pictures.

I shall sign off with the leopard print. I bought this frock from the Lady Vintage sale
I dithered for some time over whether to buy it or not as whilst I have always loved the leopard, even back in my rock chick days I never dressed in it head to toe, and lets face it a swing style dress equals a LOT of leopard print. *but* it is a style of frock I love and it does have sleeves which is always a Brucey Bonus when you get to a certain age/weight in life. So I took the plunge and hit the 'Pay Now' button.

I ordered it to be delivered to my work address as there is always someone on the main desk to sign for it and sure enough I soon got an email to say there was a package for me. I didn't half get some looks when I scooted down to collect it and here's why

 A huge expanse of leopard print clearly visible through the packaging!

 Let's just say my work wardrobe would never lead one to suspect I might be a full on Bet Lynch in my spare time!!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Flights of Fancy and a Little Shopping.

I hope you have all had a magnificent Easter so far? The weather has certainly thrown everything at us here in the last 3 days, sun, snow, hail wind and rain but sadly not the thunder and lightning they have had in London. I do love a good storm!

Magpie Towers has been a pestilent plague pit for the last week with both of us full of a post holiday cold. I can't really grumble it's the first one I've had for a long time and thankfully it hasn't lasted long or driven me to take to my bed. Which meant on Good Friday I was up and out for the day despite the sniffles.

For my brother's big birthday last year I was a bit stumped because he's bloody hard to buy gifts for at the best of times. I finally decided to take a punt on an experience day that came highly recommended by Soo, and bought him a Falconry Experience at a local centre. There were a couple of different ones you could choose from but I decided to go with hawks.

It's taken him nearly a year to get round to using the voucher but finally we headed off on the one gorgeous day of the long weekend. We got there in time to have a look round
(Twoo was having a much deserved rest and digest after having flown in the 11.30 display!)

 and then watch the 1.30 display. Which featured a stunning 4 yellow tailed kites and Ronnie the turkey vulture.
This is very much a get right in it sort of display with the birds flown literally right over your heads and landing right next to you as you can see.

Nearly all the birds here have been hand reared from eggs, the owners have a license to hatch and rear chicks from stolen eggs that have been retrieved as well a to buy eggs legitimately. They also take birds where the owners can no longer look after them.

It was interesting to hear that kept well fed and properly exercised in captivity these birds can live for up to 5 times their lifetime in the wild. I don't particularly feel comfortable to see animals or birds in cages but I guess if the emphasis is on the well fed, happy and helping conservation I see the need.

Apparently the oldest bird of prey in a centre is a golden eagle who reached the ripe old age of 86! There's a goal a lot of us would happily wish to reach.

It was time for my brother to get hands on. He was shown how to hold the birds properly and then we were given a private tour with a bit more information about some of the species they keep. I have to say I did particularly like Loki the raven, very unusual to see a raven and yes they do use him in displays! though apparently he only likes to do shows in the summer and won't cooperate if he doesn't want too. He had all sorts of equipment and toys to play with, ravens being very intelligent birds they get bored easily.
We didn't get to see it, but his favourite trick is to hang himself upside down by his feet from the netting wings akimbo terrifying the unsuspecting public as they walk around the corner, which made me like him even more.

After this my brother got to fly a couple of birds
 before the 3.30pm display began, we stayed for that one too.
Final bird of the day was this gorgeous owl who's name I have forgotten!
 All in all an amazing, fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience, though I was gasping for a cup of tea by the time it was all over, but then what's new??

I shall end with my latest internet purchases. I mean what else does one do when one is ill?
This very pretty beaded and embroidered bag I have stalked on Ebay for a while. It was listed as 'vintage' but I wasn't convinced and I was quite right not to be, it's about as vintage as last night's dinner.

It was listed for much more than I was willing to pay, or anyone else it would seem because it didn't sell. The seller kept relisting and relisting it. They did drop the price a bit but not enough to tempt me so in the end I deleted it from my watch list.

When I was browsing last week, there it was again and this time at a much more realistic price, so I went for it.

Next up is a bargain leather bag I bought absolutely ages ago but keep forgetting to share, but now I shall for it deserves it's day in the sun too.   

Finally an absolute stunner and another demonstration of why it is worth checking misspellings if you are looking for something in particular.
This gorgeous little brown Corde bag was only £6 because the seller had spelt the name wrong, what an absolute belter of a bargain and a belter of a bag. I am one happy bunny.

How about a frock or two? both Hell Bunny (who else?) and both under £20. Bargains that definitely made my cold more managable.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Travels in The North and a Vintage Fair.

I hope you are sitting down for this but Himself and I have actually been on holiday!?! It seems miracles do happen sometimes.

It's been 5 long years since we last went to Newcastle but when 2 birthday invitations arrived right when we were looking for a vacation destination, tickets were firmly booked. It was lovely to be back, when we finally got there!

The plan was to catch a direct train from Oxford on Saturday morning to arrive about 3pm, check in the hotel, have a couple of hours to unpack etc then get ready and head out. Instead we had just settled into the sandwiches when the driver announced that Sheffield station was shut so our train was terminating at Birmingham.
We arrived at Birmingham and for 40 minutes hung around with about 10 million other people, all trying to head North, watching train after train being cancelled. *sigh*

In the end we were advised our best shot at getting to Newcastle was to head to Manchester and see what we could catch from there.

So that is what we did.

From Manchester we were advised to head to York, so we off we went to York with about 20 million other people who were all trying to travel North. We arrived at York and finally, after a couple more cancellations, a train for Newcastle was announced, it was delayed, but it would arrive!

We piled onto that with the 50 million other people who were trying to get to Newcastle and spent the whole journey wedged uncomfortably against the train doors, the only consolation was when we finally arrived in Newcastle we were the first off the train.

All in all this meant we arrived at our hotel with just 40 minutes to check in, change and dash back out. Good grief.

Anyway we had a bloody fab night, despite being a bit fraught and a tad knackered The night also ended with the added frisson of the night bus back to Newcastle.

Sunday dawned gorgeous and sunny so we headed out to the Quayside for a mooch alongside the Tyne before meeting friends for lunch.
I was delighted to find the added bonus of a food & flea market to browse. There I bought myself a vintage Rupert annual for the bargain price of £4
Of course I didn't have a bag with me so had to spend the rest of the day carrying it under my arm.
The sight of which made a busker break into "Rupert, Rupert The Bear, everyone knows his name"  much to the amusement of everyone else.

We ate lunch sitting outside in the sun before dropping into Wetherspoons for a quick drink before heading in our different directions. We finally staggered out at 9.30pm *cough*

We had already planned to head over to South Shields on Tuesday so spent Monday reacquainting ourselves with Newcastle and taking artsy fartsy pictures.

 There really are some gorgeous buildings, sadly many were empty and in gentile decay.
Like the cinema above which is where Himself first saw Star Wars, it was sad to see it it still boarded up as it had been on our last visit 5 years ago. Another gorgeous sunny spring day, so much so Himself had to go and buy sunglasses!

We ate a delicious dinner at Harry's Bar opposite the theatre before meeting more friends for a drink. We headed back to our hotel along the quayside after another great night out.
Tuesday was seaside day, so of course it was raining, freezing cold and generally miserable. We managed exactly 3 hours from the moment we stepped onto the Metro to the moment we stepped thankfully back off it again!

South Shields is not somewhere I would hurry back to if I'm honest.Bleak is the only word to describe it.
However I was determined to go to the beach despite the bitterly cold wind coming in off the sea. I think we lasted about half an hour before admitting defeat and going to buy some chips.

Wednesday was the day of the second party so after a walk and a big lunch I gave my poor liver another battering.

I had done a bit of research before I left but can only conclude Newcastle is a wee bit crap when it comes to vintage. Two of the shops mentioned on Google had closed, 2 just didn't seem to exist at all and one was just men's clothes. Bah, so I didn't get to buy any lovely goodies, I was hoping for at least one handbag, but it was not to be.

At least I got to go to a vintage fair with Soo today to make up for it.

Bizarrely set in the upstairs restaurant of an out of town garden centre it was small compared to many I've been too.
It also meant you got an interesting mixture of families and pensioners as well as the usual vintage fans.
Soo was a vintage fair virgin but thoroughly enjoyed popping her cherry. We both bought some goodies.
For me
  The elephant brooch was £6 and the two gold tone ones were £1 for both! (The cards and super cute buttons came from the nearby town where we headed for lunch.)  
The floral jug was £4 and the quirky barrel one £1.99, I just had to put daffs in it. (yeah that's my toaster in the background! I'm all about classy settings me.)

Finally I shall sign off with brogues.

They are knocking down a shopping centre in Oxford, to build a bigger and better one of course, I picked these up in the New Look closing down sale.
Well how could I not?