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!