Sunday, 31 March 2013

Oh What a Glorious Thing to Be

 A healthy grow-up busy busy bee, not sure it's glorious but I have certainly been a busy, busy bee this week!

Monday I should have had as a day off work to compensate for working the weekend but my boss asked me to come in as we were so short staffed. Bah, it was a crazy busy day and I was a little late leaving to make an assignation with Soo. We were heading over to our friend Simon's house, via mine, to celebrate his 40th. The detour was to collect his present which we assembled on his doorstep before knocking on the door and wheeling it in. To say he was left speechless would be an understatement!

We have had a long standing joke about a hostess/drinks trolley so decided with another friend Roz to track one down for his birthday.
All I can say is, if I would have realised how fricking difficult that was going to be I would have suggested something else!?!
Who would have thought how near impossible it would be to buy a trolley for less than £40 on the bay of E?
Who would have thought they would be so popular that they were selling for crazy money and that I would get outbid again and again and again!

Finally I won one! finally.

It arrived and had clearly been owned by a very heavy smoker who couldn't be arsed with cleaning.
I like to imagine some glamorous Norma Desmond type, lying on a chaise drinking neat gin from her trolley set at arms reach.
All I know is it took me over 3 hours and a lot of elbow grease to get it into the state you see above.
Sadly we couldn't find any Babycham, so we bought Cinzano and some splendid charity shop glasses to serve it in.

A marvelous night was had by all, drinking and laughing and eating Chinese takeaway until our eyes bulged.

Tuesday, I thought it was Wednesday. In a panic I worked like a woman possessed, to such an extent I actually frightened my colleagues! (Got to keep them on their toes or something)

I got home ate some soup and headed out to the cinema to see 'Oz - The Great and Powerful' I loved the start and I loved the end, but sadly I had to sit through the bit in the middle.

Wednesday was my last day at work (WooHoo) as I had negotiated Thursday off instead of Monday.
It was also another night out, this time dinner with girlfriends. The company was fantastic but the food was lacking and the restaurant absolutely fucking freezing!
 I was actually glad to get home into the warm and have a mug of Ovaltine, I know, I know, I'm just so rock and roll.

Thursday and the Easter holidays have begun!

It was bliss to begin with, a lie-in, mug of tea in bed with a good book. Mosey on into town to browse the shops. Home with a cream cake to a missed phonecall from my Mum, I ring back.
 'We thought we would come over for a visit this afternoon'
'We' is my Mum and Dad, plus my Aunt, her partner and my cousin's daughter all of whom are visiting from Germany.

SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT the house is an absolute pigsty, there is stuff everywhere, I mean everywhere!
 and I have an hour and a half to clear it..........
 I spent that time in a demented frenzy shoving as much stuff as would fit there into cupboards, doing the washing up, cleaning the toilet etc.
By the time Himself gets home they have left  and I am a pathetic shell of a woman whom he thankfully feeds with lots of pasta and wine.

Friday I did bloody nothing. Oh apart from watching all the BBC4 programmes on David Bowie, eat chips and drink wine. Now that is what I call a Good Friday.   

Having established she is a huge Jane Austen fan, I decided to take my cousin's daughter (my second cousin?) Chiara to Bath for the day. Unfortunately my carefully laid plans go badly array thanks to First Great Western trains. Which means poor Chiara gets to experience not just Bath but the English train service at it's very finest.

First train is cancelled  with no explanation which meant a 45minutes wait at the station.

Second train caught but we have to change at Swindon, cue another hour's wait between trains in the bitter cold!*&%!

We finally board a train to Bath so full of rugby fans we were actually crushed against the door unable to move!
Thankfully it was only a 20 minute journey and we were crushed on the right side of the train which meant we were off the train first, and very glad to be so.

Bath was as lovely as ever, but absolutely packed. I have honestly never seen such a queue at the Roman Baths in all the times I have been, even in the height of summer.

We headed straight to the Jane Austen Centre and spent a blissful time.

We then visited the Circus, the Royal Crescent and The Assembly Rooms.

We shopped and stopped for a much needed spot of 

before heading to Pultney Bridge to browse the second hand book shops. Finally we headed for home. Thankfully the journey home went like clockwork.

Today we headed over to Mum and Dad's with my brother and his family. My Sister and her other half were visiting for the day, so along with the German contingent it was a truly full house.
It's weird because whilst I love my family very much, I always seem to get to a point in the day where I have had enough. I just need to get away from all the people and all the noise and have some quiet time.

So here I am back home, having some me time in front of the t.v with a bag of crisps.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Handbags From Amsterdam.

It's already nearly a week since I was in Amsterdam. Instead of having lots of extra time to sight see around my work commitments I ended up with just three and a half hours bah.
 4 people out of 9 were off sick in our department so instead of catching a morning flight of Friday I ended up having to work until 3pm then dash off to catch the coach to Heathrow with my colleague Paull. Typically our plane was then delayed so it was gone 11pm by the time we checking into the hotel, it was a case of heading straight to bed having agreed to meet for breakfast at 8am rather than dumping bags and heading out to see the sights.

Paull had chosen to go to the Anne Frank museum, which I have to say only made it to 2nd on my must see list, it was beaten by the Museum of bags and purses! I do love history and culture but I'm afraid I just love handbags more. If you recall I saw some of the collection last year when it was loaned to The Lightbox Museum in Woking and was in sheer heaven.

I caught the tram to the museum rather than walking to give myself more time there. I arrived right on cue for the unlocking of the doors and raced in. The guy behind the desk took one look at me and said 'You're from England aren't you?' Still not sure what it was that gave that away, waiting on the doorstep for opening maybe?
 Anyway I paid and sauntered casually up to the 3rd floor where the exhibition begins when all I wanted to do was belt up the stairs full pelt to start drooling.
The museum is small and exhibits not even a 10th of it's magnificent collection but oh it was utter bliss, and this time I could take pictures providing there was no flash used.
As you may expect the ones I really loved were from the 1920s and 30s but it was fascinating to see how styles and materials changed over the centuries, and also the manufacturing techinques. Like this almost finished beaded bag.

First the teeny tiny beads are carefully threaded onto cotton in the right order so when the bag is knitted, (yes you read that right I said knitted!) the picture is formed, they used 4 incredibly thin metal needles to knit the bags and goodness know how many ladies lost their eyesight working on these bags.

I could post a million pictures but instead I will just share a few of my favourites.

 Two 1930's clutch bags that I cannot find the words to tell you how much I want them.

Stunning lucite bags.

Mobile tea service!

This bag is mental but I love it, mice having a tea party.

The Art Deco corner of the tea room.
and finally even the ladies toilet had a shine to the clutch bag.

After all that swooning I decided to walk back to the hotel via the vintage shops, flea market and accidentally part of the red light district. I'm no prude but there was something incredibly sad and rather unpleasant about walking past window after window of blank faced, dead eyed and horribly young girls wiggling about in underwear whilst baying groups of young men shout and leer.
I can't understand why everyone was telling me you MUST go there, you must see it, though I gather it has gone downhill in recent years and is not what it was.
Here's a lovely Dutch canal instead.

Sadly the vintage shops were frighteningly expensive, as was most of Amsterdam to be fair which was a bit of a surprise. I mean I know it's a capital city and a tourist attraction but the prices were seriously eye watering.
Blast from the past! I did go in for a quick browse on my way back to the hotel.

It was painfully cold with an added bitter gale force wind so I was actually pretty happy to get back to the hotel to change into work clothes and warm up.

The rest of the day was spent working (boo) I had to sit on a panel (eek!) and then work at a stand between 3 - 6.30pm.
After which a group of us retired to the roof top 'Sky Bar' to enjoy a glass of wine with a heart attack inducing price tag and the amazing views.
After that it was back to the hotel room for a quick change and then out into the elements again as we had a table booked at 'Pasta Basta' a highly recommended Italian restaurant.

Oh my did it deserve it's reputation!

The best Italian food I have ever eaten, good god the food was stunning, the kind of food that makes you weep with joy just to see it let alone taste it.
On top of that whilst you eat the staff walk through the tables singing, from Opera to Whitney Houston we heard it all, it was a bit mental really but amazing fun and well worth the long and freezing cold walk there and back.

If you are ever in Amsterdam you would be a fool to miss it.

We were up again at an obscene o'clock of the morning to get to the airport and flew home to yet more snow *sigh*

All in all I would definitely go back, with more time, more money and when it is much much warmer.
My overall impressions were of bone numbing cold, stunningly clean and beautiful toilets, and shocking high prices.
Oh and elephants.
Yes there were a lot of elephants. What more could a girl ask for?


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Drama, Rock Music, Frocks and The Big Bang.

When I re-started blogging after a bit of a non start I promised myself I would blog at least once a week. There have been a couple of times in the past where this hasn't happened, and with valid reason, but lately this blog is becoming fortnightly at best and this does not make me happy.
 I also hate the fact that the main culprit is work, notwithstanding that I was in London all day last Saturday for work and without whining on too much (which I could do believe me) I will just say the office seems to be crumbling under the strain of too much work, too many deadlines and not enough people to cover it. I'm fed-up of working through lunch and working late for no extra pay or even gratitude from the boss, and worse still with no visible results on the workload. I come home exhausted and depressed and the last thing I want to do is blog.

As of next week though, no more, I'm taking my lunch breaks firmly back and intend to leave the office on time no matter what.

On a side note I found out on friday courtesy of the boss, that the halcyon state we should all aspire too is not Nirvana as I had always thought, but actually Nevada, so now we all know!

Anyway it's been a busy time out of work too. Monday night I noticed some water on one of the kitchen work surfaces. Didn't think anything of it really, moped it up and went to bed. Tuesday morning I went to make the essential to me functioning of a morn cup of tea and the kitchen ceiling was raining. Not pouring water in great torrents or bringing half the ceiling down (thank god) but never the less water was coming through like steady rain in half a dozen places and it was all very wet.....
I spent a frantic 40 minutes before I had to leave for work clearing and cleaning and placing bowls, jugs and pots in hopefully the right places. Himself said 'Go to work, I will cal, the agency etc' so I did.
What followed next was the kind of farce that we used to have with our rental agency but had thought was long passed (the whole of one November with no heating springs horribly to mind!). I know I have ranted about both agency and landlady here in the past, but for those who missed it, in a nutshell she lives in Italy and is letting this lovely 1930's semi fall to bits around our ears because she is a miser and resents spending a single penny. On top of that the agency change staff more often than I change my knickers and each seems as clueless as the last!

Suffice to say it took over 3 hours before a plumber was finally called out. During this time calls were made both too, and from, 2 different agency offices to establish whether water coming through a ceiling classed as 'serious' enough for emergency action!
I kid you not.

Then the Landlady's 'preferred contractor' had to be called out first, who is in fact her cousin and lives up the road, lovely guy but a full time fireman and NOT a contractor of any kind. (He always has to come first to see if it is a job he or his mates can do for free so saving our landlady money.)  It was he who finally decided that a plumber was required urgently and took the step to call one out.

Anyways you know how I said back last year that according to the plumber my cistern was old and corroded? Well it had finally given up the ghost, turns out the toilet was leaking and badly. In a way this was good because thankfully the bathroom floor didn't need to come up, but it did mean we were without a toilet for 36 hours and it is the only one in the house........I'll draw a veil over that time, but it did involve a bucket.

To cut a long story short I got to clean the one bit of the kitchen I hadn't done in my mad spring cleaning of a few weeks ago, clearly I must have subconsciously known!

You may imagine my shame I felt when I took down the sopping wet net curtain and saw the colour of it. It has now been washed, soaked in glo-white and washed again and is now back up and positively glowing as the packet said it would.

Other than that I have managed to fit in just a touch of socializing and shopping, I hope you would expect nothing less from me!

I went out to The Big Bang in Oxford with some girlfriends last Friday. The restaurant has moved to new larger premises at the Castle complex and thankfully the quality of the food, in particular the rose mash, has survived the move. Basically they only serve bangers and mash, hence the name, and you make your own unique dinner by choosing between a dozen different flavour sausages, 8 different flavours of mash and 6 different flavours of gravy = YUM. I had lamb and mint sausages, rose mash (beetroot flavour but called rose because it's a delicate pink) with rosemary gravy and ate so much I felt a bit sick. Bliss.

I also went out this Friday with Soo to see a one woman show called 'Female Gothic' at the Burton/Taylor theatre in Oxford.

Basically it was the telling of Victorian ghost stories by candlelight. I really wasn't sure at first because she did come on full tilt with the first story, very over the top acting and I thought 'oh dear' I was actually starting to snigger. It really would have been far more effective told in a quieter less hysterical way, you know less is more. I was even imagining how other well known actresses might have done it in a way that would send shivers up your spine.


By the second tale things settled into a much less dramatic and therefore far, far more effective pace. As you know I am a fan of ghost stories especially the Victorian ones so I thoroughly enjoyed it there on and would recommend it highly if it comes to a theatre near you.

From this I rushed across Oxford in the pouring rain to The Wheatsheaf pub with minutes to spare before Nephew Number One's band Mordecai took to the stage.

 and very good they were, always room for improvement of course, but as this was only their 4th gig they did damn good. I am biased of course, but my boy was excellent (seen above on vocals) I'm not even his Mum and I was bursting with pride!
I'm sure it also has a bit to do with the fact I have secretly always wanted to sing in a rock band but I can't actually sing, so I now live that life vicariously through him instead. Oh and doesn't the bass player look like Gary Numan in this picture!?!

I shall wrap up this post with a couple of purchases I have made lately. Himself has a big birthday coming up and I have been busy getting inspiration for gifts on the net and of course that means a bit of Ebay browsing which is always going to result in me buying things for myself!

Two Oasis dresses. I do like Oasis dresses but would never buy them full price far, far too expensive but on Ebay it's allowed. The yellow dress is in the wash even as I type, another purchase that arrived smelling less than fragrant!
The blue dress is in the ironing pile and was whisked out of it for the picture above hence it looking a bit scruffy! I love it and it is very comfortable on.

Finally yesterday I had to go to Wilkinsons and Sainsburys but it kept raining so I ended up dodging into shops between heavy showers which resulted in a little metal duck for a pound from a charity shop and a dress for £7 in the New Look sale!

Last purchases came via the lovely Alex at Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks who shared a discount code for the online shop 'Cheap Frills' on Twitter. I had a glance as you do and ended up buying a rather bizarre bunny brooch and a 6 wives of Henry the 8th bracelet that I bloody LOVE.

Having wittered on about posting weekly at the very start of this long ramble, I'm not sure how soon I'm going to be able to post again, as I have to go to Amsterdam for work next weekend.
The only consolation being I hope to go early in the day on Friday so I can get some sightseeing in before I'm needed in the evening and also fly back later on the Sunday so I can squeeze in a little then too. If nothing else there is a handbag museum in Amsterdam that I am DETERMINED to get too no matter what! 


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Brooch Overload.

It's been a few weeks since my last post and my excuse is I have been seriously lacking in motivation. I have most definitely slumped and you'll be pleased to know that due to this my house cleaning frenzy is over, for the time being anyway!

The sitting room looks like we are packing up to move with 2 dead televisions, a bubblewrapped tea trolley, a shrink wrapped amp, an electric guitar in it's case and various other piles of crap filling what floor space there was. I'm hoping the majority of it will be gone before our next house inspection in 2 weeks time! Hopefully by then the tv's will have been taken to the tip and the amp tested to see if it actually still works or it's going to the tip as well. Himself was rampaging a bit yesterday because he got his beloved Warlock (electric guitar) out of the loft and what was once white is now yellow......seems it's not unheard of for the lacquer to go yellow with age but still, he was not a happy bunny.

As it turned out Soo was unexpectedly free yesterday so I took the opportunity to escape the house and go browse the charity shops and have a good catch up. This was also where the title of this post comes from. Seems I went a bit mad on the brooch front whilst we were about it.

The most expensive one was £1.49 and a couple are for other people so it's not quite as bad as it appears! I love the little scottie dog and the white heather with a tartan ribbon (not that you can really see it's a tartan ribbon unless you are right up close and personal.)

I also got another navy blue handbag which I need like a hole in the head *but* it's real leather rather than faux, it is in immaculate condition, the snap is a little heart and it is so solid & heavy you could seriously brain someone with it when empty let alone with contents! It's a proper clout 'em round the head handbag, oh yes! Finally it was made for Boots that great British institution. There have I justified it enough yet?

                                                    Handbag £4.99 scarf £1

I found a lovely navy blue crimplene jacket by Miss Lady Bird for £2.99 which I very much doubt will fit me  but I didn't want to leave it!

The big excitement of the day was there is a new charity shop in town!! so of course we went to check it out and there I struck hideous ceramic gold. Behold really rather horrible elephant planter for 50p, he's going straight out into the garden.

    Bizarre fruit print cat 50p, yes those really are pears and grapes painted on it's back!

Little piggy with fascinator 20p
and a fruit print glass for my sister's cabinet. As you can see I have a habit of putting strange ceramic creatures in my house plants!

All in all not a bad haul.

 I also finally finished reading 'Serious Pleasures' Philip Hoare's biography of Stephen Tennant.

 It's a funny one because though it is incredibly well written I really struggled to finish it, mostly I think because it was quite hard to actually like Stephen, especially in his later life. I became oh so slightly obsessed with him in particular when I became fascinated by the Bright Young People of the 1920's. He was one of the major figures of that set, a real trendsetter and the kind of person I know I would have slavishly followed if I would have been around at the time! I think I felt sad that instead of being the incredible person he had the potential to be, as he became older it's like his bad character traits took over and mostly outweighed the good and he became very embittered. I still would have loved to have met him in person though!

I have added some of Philip Hoare's other books to my mammoth reading list because I do like the way he writes and if they are all as well researched as this and his biography of Noel Coward, which I have also read, I suspect I will enjoy them.