Monday 29 November 2021

October - Days Out, Walks & The Beautiful People

 In my excitement writing about the Chelsea Flower show I completely forgot to mention I had my second face to face physio appointment towards the end of September, 2 months after the last with it's scary prognosis. Since then I had been doing my exercises like a crazy woman and it seemed that had paid off! 

Not only was my physiotherapist surprised with my progress she said there was definitely no need to refer me back to the fracture clinic for a procedure, which as you can imagine was fantastic news as far as I was concerned. She also told me she had resigned and would be leaving at the end of October. It seems even the staff are fed up with being forced to do at least 60% of their appointments as phone consultations. She did say if that policy changed she would probably come back. Unfortunately my next appointment was cancelled and then I had to wait for another slot, after 3 weeks of ringing on a Monday to find nothing was available I finally got one on the 24th November! I shan't go over again how farcical I have found all of this...

Anyway I left with a new set of (why do they have to be so painful) exercises feeling very positive.

I started October by going to see the new James Bond my first cinema trip since 2019. We deliberately waited a few weeks for the initial rush to die down, I didn't fancy going to a completely packed cinema on my first visit back. We were the only people to wear masks the whole time SIGH. I loved the film though, it was good to be back.

The following weekend I was off into Oxford to meet my friends Alex and Charlotte to celebrate Charlotte's birthday. We took a slow stroll down to the botanical gardens where we wandered about enjoying the Autumn colours before finding a bench in the sun and having a good catch up. From there we headed to Comptoir Libanais where we had a table booked for lunch, after which we had a browse around Blackwell's bookshop and the indoor market before heading for home. 

It was so lovely to see them both. I miss Alex not living in Oxford anymore, and I really miss not working with them both anymore.

Charlotte and I met again the following Wednesday to head up to London for my first live exhibition since 2019. It was certainly a month of firsts!

We chose The Fashion and Textile Museum's exhibition Beautiful People: The Boutique in 60's Counterculture and boy was it good to be back. We had timed entry and got there a bit early so had a mooch around the neighbouring streets until it was time to go in. It wasn't very busy and everyone was in masks so you felt quite comfortable browsing at leisure.

I won't share all my pictures but we had a great time. Charlotte's Mum was clearly quite the fashion plate and there were a couple of the Quant and Biba outfits or prints Charlotte recognised, she can remember her Mum taking her to Biba when she was tiny. 

For me it was more about recognising the styles. My Mum was a seamstress before she married my Dad so made all her own clothes, many from patterns she drafted herself from things she saw in magazines.   

I found myself attracted to several outfits that turned out to be made from either repurposed 1940's dresses like this red outfit

or based on a 1930's pattern like this green and black one, or the floral one below, or reusing genuine 1930's fabric like the jacket next to it.. 

I really do have my era lol.

I have to share this outfit which made me I gasp in recognition when I saw it. I have seen several times on a Friday evening when I tend to watch those compilation music shows on BBC4 like 'Glam Rock at the BBC' with a large glass of wine. It was donated by the lead singer of the New York Dolls and he wore it on the Old Grey Whistle Test to sing Jet Boy!

After we had had our fill of amazing outfits, we had a browse round the shop and I treated myself to a book, I'd rather buy it full price there where I know the money will go towards the museum itself than cheaper on Amazon or the like.

It's called The Dressmakers of Auschwitz and I really wanted to read it after listening to one of the Museum's fascinating online events given by the author Lucy Adlington. 

I know I've mentioned them before but do check out their website for their on demand events, they are amazing, cover so many different subjects and eras, and only cost £5. I've watched loads of them now and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

We headed to Borough Market for lunch and after we had filled out faces from some of the amazing food stalls we decided to walk along the Thames. We ended up keeping going all the way to Westminster trying to find somewhere to have a drink. We crossed Westminster bridge in the hope of something and finally ended up in the cafe in a branch of Waterstones. 

The day was a little marred when we got back to Padington and I was told by the chap at the information desk I couldn't get a train home until after 7.30pm due to my off peak ticket!?! I was told I could upgrade it and as I didn't fancy hanging around at Padington for 3 hours I duly queued up to upgrade. When I got to the counter I thought I would just check again and thankfully it turned out the information I had been given wasn't strictly true. I could in fact catch a slow train to Reading and then a train home from there - Phew. Luckily I had a good book with me so I bought a drink in M&S and hopped on the slow train. 

The next weekend as the weather was still mild Himself and I went for a long walk culminating in a large glass of wine for me and a pint for him sitting on a balcony over the Thames in the nearby town of Abingdon. We took a slightly different route this time and I was amazed to come out in a part of the town I didn't know walking alongside the river. I went to college in Abingdon many many moons ago and thought I knew the town well from all the times I was out and about instead of in lectures! 

We also did a Halloween trail in a nearby village which is always great fun, some of the residents really go all out with their decorations

I took Malcolm Monkey and his funeral director's hat with us

The month ended with our anniversary or nonniverary as I believe Vix called it (24 year's on we are also not married.) We went to Nephew Number One's house for drinks on the 30th which ended up being very late as well as a rum experimentation so our actual anniversary day was very low key.

I'll finish up this rather mammoth post with some purchases. I bought another new zip free dress, partly because it was zip free but mostly because I loved the fabric.

I also bought some Halloween brooches from Erstwider's two seasonal ranges.  


Sunday 28 November 2021

The Month of September - Part Two

 September continued with me returning from holiday and meeting Soo in Oxford for a long overdue catch up. This saw us taking a walk along the canal tow path to Wolvercote, then managing to get slightly lost walking back across Port Meadow. I'd say this is itself was actually something of a feat considering it's basically a huge open space!

We also had the life scared out of us by an idiot on a mountain bike who decided to speed up behind and past us with no warning when there was a whole rest of the field to cycle on, including the actual pathway, which we weren't on at the time!

 Anyway once our heart rates had returned to normal we found our way back to Jericho in time to hunt for somewhere to eat. Which turned out to be surprisingly difficult given the number of eateries there are in Jericho! After finding several places were either closed or full we ended up at the Jude the Obscure. Where perched in their walled garden we caught up some more over a bottle of wine and in my case a very tasty three cheese toastie.  

My next adventure was The Chelsea Flower Show. 

Now this has been on my bucket list for years so I was very excited when Charlotte suggested we go 2 years ago. Of course covid happened and it was cancelled, then postponed before being rescheduled for September instead of the spring. I gather it wasn't as big this year, covid & brexit both having an effect so there were less show gardens and the marquee had lots of empty space. 

Not that that stopped the crowds, it was absolutely heaving when we were there. The weather was fabulous all week so pretty much everyone was floating around in floral frocks, both of us included. 

The first thing we saw on entering was a camera and a crowd of people round one of the gardens. It turned out to be Joe Swift doing some filming for Gardener's World.

In fact in terms of GW presenters you name them and we saw them at some point during the day. From James Wong and Frances Tophill  to Rachel de Thame, . Typically the only person I didn't see was my Mum's favourite Adam Frost!

Couldn't not have a picture of Monty. 

We browsed the show gardens first before doing the main marquee

After which we decided it was food time. They had a whole area dedicated to different food vans I plumped for a truffle and parmesan potato dish whilst Charlotte got an amazing vegan street food medley. This is where we encountered my main criticism, considering the amount of people allowed in, and the age of most of them, there were very very few places to sit. We ended up walking round eating which wasn't ideal and eventually just sat down on the pavement when we did need a rest.

My other disappointment was there were barely any plants for sale. I have since been told by a couple of people the Hampton Court Flower Show is better if you want to buy plants, and funnily enough Charlotte said she was told the same thing, so that one might have to be added to the bucket list. Which will be no hardship at even though it's been a few years since I was last there, it is definitely one of my Happy Places.

So what did I buy? Well absolutely nothing in the avenue of shopping stalls. They were all high end, money no object stores and not for me. I bought a sky blue perennial salvia from one of the few stands selling plants and 

this sort of Nordic metal squirrel, which is meant to hang up outside but is currently in the conservatory.

By this point we had seen everything we wanted too and were footsore, weary and very much in need of refreshment. We decamped to Peter Jones department store for a pot of tea and a sit down. I also made my purchase of the day in there.

 I spotted something as we went up the escalator which I went for a closer look at on the way back down and

I couldn't resist his face.

So yes I went to the Chelsea Flower show and came home with a cushion!

Saturday 6 November 2021

The Month of September - Part One.

 So September started with our annual long weekend in Bournemouth. We stayed in a new to us B&B back up on the East Cliff which is our favourite side of the town to stay. The B&B turned out to be a turn of the centuary house and the former home of 50's matinee idol Stewart Granger. It must have had amazing gardens down to the cliff top back in the day but now it sits on a tiny plot dwarfed on all sides by massive modern hotels. It's probably a miracle it hadn't been torn down at some point.

It only has about half a dozen rooms which suited us just fine. We were on the second floor, in the only room in use up there as the rest are currently being renovated which suited us even better. It was lovely and surprisingly spacious considering it was under the eaves of the roof. We soon settled in and headed out into the town. 

We have a tradition now of mooching round the gardens and the shops, seeing what's new and sadly what has gone over the year since we were last there. Having a couple of drinks in the 4 Horsemen (which is now a 90's themed pub because of course we all need reminding that the 90's are long enough ago now to be a thing!?!) before going to Harry Ramsden's for take out chips to eat sitting on the beach as the sun goes down, then it's into the Tesco Local to buy a bottle of wine to either drink on the beach, or as it was drizzling and cold this year back at our B&B.

Can you tell we were eating chips? 

Friday we had a walk planned. This year we had decided to walk from Shell Bay on Studland to Swanage via Old Harry Rocks. It's about 10 miles and is pretty much all National Trust owned land with some amazing scenery and surprisingly a naturists beach! I loved the fact the literature states "You may be the only person wearing clothes on this stretch of the walk." 

The weather was meant to be drizzly again but as it turns out by the time we got off the chain link ferry it was cloudy but otherwise warm. Perfect walking weather in fact, not too hot and not too sunny. 

There were a surprising amount of people out walking though some of them did quickly turn back the way they came when they reached the signs for the naturists beach and they were greeted by several middle aged men striding about the beach wearing nothing but a smile. Personally I've never understood the attraction of being naked on a beach, I mean sand gets everywhere at the best of times, but each to their own. 

There is an alternative path you can take through the sand dues if you want, but the more hardy/not so easily embarrassed hikers, us included, just kept to the waters edge and were soon on the next part of the walk. It was worth it for a different view of one of my favourite landmarks.

Old Harry Rocks.

We got a little bit lost but eventually found our way back onto the right path and started the climb up to the top of the cliff above the rocks. Again there were a lot more people than I had expected. I gather in the summer it was very busy and they had had to post wardens up there to stop all the idiots taking cliff edge selfies after some people fell and were badly injured. There were none there in September but we did watch a few youngsters taking stupid risks just to get a picture. What is it with some people? That seems to be my mantra these days!

We took some safe pictures then carried on climbing up to the summit of the hill that then takes a long, narrow and sometimes hairy route down into Swanage.

I love looking back where I have been. This was us about halfway down and yes we had walked all the way from the very edge of the land in the picture. 

Swanage was as lovely as I remembered and it was so heartening to see a town centre with only 2 empty shop units. It was equally heartening to see so many of them being little independent shops too. We had a drink and some of the best gelato I've ever had in Fortes, a Gelateria opened in 1926. I had a scoop of black cherry & kirsh and one of  malt with crushed Maltesers which was to die for. We mooched around the town buying some bottles of local beer in a tiny deli, some homemade fudge for my Dad and an art print of Old Harry Rocks before catching the bus back to Bournemouth. We had ended up setting out a bit later than planned in the morning and the traffic was quite heavy on the way back, meaning we didn't have time to go back to the B&B and change before our table booking at the Harvester at Branksome Chine. I'm not a huge fan of Harvester restaurants as it goes but this one is right on the beach with views across the sea so it's a great place to have a drink. From there we called into Tesco for another bottle of wine before heading back to the B&B for a hot shower. Nothing like lounging in your PJ's drinking wine and watching Gardener's World instead of hitting the town.  

Saturday I went off to meet my friend Alison for a day of antiquing and eating cake whilst Himself went off for a long walk (he was still doing his Route 66 challenge at that point so wanted to clock up a good 15 miles!). Alison and I had a fab day and ended up at a garden centre where I had to resist very hard becasue it's not so easy to take plants home on the train!   

We were booked into an Italian restaurant we hadn't tried before that evening in a bit of the town we don't usually frequent as it's on the main stretch where all the hen & stag parties tend to go. The food was fine but not outstanding. From there we were going to take a taxi to Westbourne for a drink, in these covid times we are all about avoiding super crowded pubs but happened to pass a pub called The Anvil that had it's doors open and some great music playing. I know of The Anvil, Bournemouth's rock and metal venue but had never been in it before. In fact we thought it had closed because we had walked past the empty premises when we arrived, as it turns out it had simply moved down and across the street to a smaller venue. I persuaded Himself to check it out for one drink and of course we ended up staying in there all night. If nothing else they had a bottle of Deadman's Fingers banana rum behind the bar with my name on it!

 At one point we were the only people in there, people seemed to come and go but it was not particularly busy until about midnight when the place suddenly filled to bursting. I'm assuming because it clearly had a late license. We took this as our cue to go and headed back to the B&B. I suspect we will be visiting it again now we know what it's like. If nothing else I need to investigate the jukebox further. 

Typically on Sunday the weather was utterly glorious so we ended up wheeling our suitcases along the cliff path into town and sitting outside at the Aquarium cafe people watching until it was time for one last ice cream before the train home. 

I took two new dresses with me as I am still having to avoid back zip fastenings which eliminates most of my wardrobe. I bought both of these online from an independent boutique called Jabba Yard. I can't remember how I first found them now, but I have bought a few things from them over the last couple of years and would definitely recommend the quality and service. 

I've nicked the pictures from their website because it's dark right now so no good for pics at home even if I could be arsed to run upstairs and get them out of the wardrobe! 

I wore the blue dress for my day out with Alison and the red velvet for our night out that evening. The blue one actually does have a back zip but the cut is loose enough that I could easily pull it on over my head and hurrah for pockets.

So that's September part one. I'll be back anon with The Chelsea Flower show and more.

Saturday 2 October 2021

An August Round Up.

 Well I had hoped to at least blog monthly but here I am in October and 2 months behind, I can't believe I used to blog weekly at one time!

As usual it's work, we have too many students, like 30 too many. As with many other university courses all over the country and even the world, these unusual times have found us oversubscribed. You always over offer because people go elsewhere, drop out etc but this year has been a strange year in more ways than a pandemic. They tried everything to reduce the numbers, even offering money to defer but nope they all wanted to come. 

So we have been frantically trying to adjust class sizes to fit them all in and ensure they can all be taught. I said we there. This is usually the job of the programmes team, I work in admissions and recruitment so ordinarily once they are here the students are no longer my worry, but the programmes team are drastically short staffed, so I have been seconded to help out. I use the word seconded very loosely here, actually I'm still expected to do my own job as well the extra so to say it's been a crazy time would be an understatement. There was some logic behind me agreeing to do this, but I'm not going to go into that on a public platform or at least not yet...

Anyway August was a pretty cold and miserable month, I felt sorry for the school kids this year they had such a crap summer break. I met some friends for lunch at the start of the month and we tried sitting outside the restaurant but soon gave up and scuttled inside!

Mid month I went to Birmingham with my friend Charlotte to visit Alex. She has been working for Birmingham City University and had finally been asked to go into the office in person a couple of months before which meant committing and moving to Birmingham. She had done a couch to 5k urban art run not long before and as none of us wanted to be in the horribly crowded city centre she offered to retrace it as a walk.

The weather was grey and miserably and turned to rain but it didn't dampen our enjoyment one tiny bit. The art work on the canal paths and streets around them was stunning and I've struggled to narrow this down to just a few pictures for the blog!

Weirdly the whole time we were walking round the streets under the railway arches all you could hear was pounding music. Turns out it was from various nightclubs, all open and doing a roaring trade judging by the queues outside. I guess people were making up for lost time? but I can't imagine going clubbing at 11am even if it was a Saturday!

We headed to the Custard Factory for pizza at Baked in Stone. It certainly deserves it's fantastic reputation the food was amazing and I'd highly recommend it if you want great pizza.

I know it's been a fair while since I was last in this part of Birmingham for a blogger meet up guided by the one and only Vix, but I was sad to see that not a single vintage shop remains at the Custard Factory now. In fact the only one we could find nearby was Cow. 

It was properly raining by now so we decided to try and find somewhere to have a drink but eventually ended up back in the city centre and cutting through the Bullring. It was horrifically busy, like Oxford on the last Saturday before Christmas. People everywhere pushing and shoving and not a soul wearing a face mask! Just horrible. Other than that it was such a fab day out and so lovely to catch up with friends and eat out. I'm happy to slowly start easing back into things but that level of risk was a step too far for me, no wonder the numbers are going up again.

On the Bank holiday at the end of August Mum and I ventured out to the Stonor Park Craft Fair. Last year was the first time we haven't been in the best part of 30 years, not that it really counts because it was cancelled, but still. The tickets were limited and you had to show either your double vaccination card or a negative lateral flow test and were advised to wear a mask in the tents which we did, we also chose to go on the Friday as we thought it would be quieter. There weren't as many stalls as in past years, in fact there was one whole tent less, and a lot of it seemed to be jewellery, but never the less it was lovely just to go and browse. I bought this crab stamp to go on my nautical themed window sill and a gorgeous labradorite pendant which I will share next time as I have just bought a chain for it.

After a good browse we headed back over to Mum's village and had lunch at a cafe on the small industrial estate on the outskirts. It's one of those hidden gems that all the locals know about, serving huge portions of delicious homemade British classics like cottage pie. 
I'd stayed the night with Mum on Thursday and got to sample the joys of her air fryer in the shape of delicious salmon steaks. She is a complete convert after getting one for Christmas and says she never uses her oven any more!

On the way home we detoured towards the town of Abingdon where there was a sunflower field on the outskirts grownfor charity  so all proceeds from visitors go to a local hospice.

We had a blissful hour or so mooching through and I chose a few stems for a £1 each to pick and take home.   

I FINALLY had a face to face physio appointment. Every phonecall  since breaking my shoulder has been with a different person which is so frustrating, you constantly have to start again each time and some have definitely been better than others! I had a call at the end of June with a female physiotherapist this time, who actually listened and agreed with what the consultant at the fracture clinic from way back in March that I needed face to face treatment. She booked me a slot for 5 weeks time (which was the earliest one they had) in the neighbouring town to me so I could get there by bus as we don't have a car, in fact she even told me which bus to catch and where from! I know I'm being sexist but I swear often it takes a woman to get things done. 

Anyway I had been feeling quite good about my progress but when I got there the physiotherapist (also a woman huzzah) was shocked at how solid my shoulder joint was and thought it likely I would never gain full range of movement back. She gave me some different exercises to do and booked me in again for the end of September even though ideally she would have wanted to see me within 2 weeks but as ever there were no available slots. She explained I would likely need to be referred back to the fracture clinic for a procedure which she warned would be painful and sadly does not always work as well as they would like. Her plan is to get me to the point where I can dress myself without difficulty and I'd be fine with that.I came out feeling thoroughly deflated and depressed and headed into Oxford for a colleague's leaving do. It felt very strange to be back at work with all the team.

The next day I decided I'd be damned if I was going to have a painful course of treatment if I could avoid it and started doing my new exercises religiously. Dear god they hurt, so I figured they must be doing some good! The physiotherapist had advised using a traffic light system for the levels of pain. Green and amber is fine but if it gets to red, stop you are doing too much. I gritted my teeth and went amber as much as possible.

I have carried on walking as much as possible too and started to try and go out at lunch time rather than just sitting on at the kitchen table. I wish I could say it has made a difference to my waistline but annoyingly it hasn't, my stamina levels are better but I remain stubbornly fat. 

The menopause has certainly distributed that fat in different and sometimes unexpected places (armpit fat any one??) I might currently be the same weight as I was a couple of years ago but I'm most certainly a different shape! I never have had curves, I used to be tall and thin. Now I'm tall and solid, kind of rectangular like a wardrobe.

Talking of wardrobes I did buy a couple of new dresses. Not being able to do up back or side zips means the vast majority of my work dresses were out of the picture for as and when I did start going back into the office. Himself goes to work much earlier than me and I'm not about to sacrifice an extra 2 hours of sleep just to get zipped into something! I was also of the sneaking suspicion they probably wouldn't zip up anyway even if I had asked him, we'll have to see about that at some point I suppose, but now is not that time.

I bought this black dress with gold embroidered suns and and stars in FatFace. It's not somewhere I usually shop but I walked past when I was mooching in town and noticed they had a sale on. As I say it's not a store I usually go in, it's just not somewhere I shop, but for some reason I felt drawn to go in. In fact I dithered outside so long anybody watching me must have thought I was up to something! In the end I thought sod it and went with the feeling and was delighted to find this dress on the sale rail in my size. I love it and have worn it several times now including to Birmingham for my day out.

I then found this Seasalt dress on Ebay. It's ideal as you just pull it on so not even buttons to fasten.

Finally I treated myself to this lovely dress off the Collectif website and wore it to the first day of the students being in. (It's a much more vibrant turquoise that it looks here.)

I finally got to wear one of my Snoopy Erstwider brooches out in the world too. I bought a couple of handbags in their sale too.

My Mum has finally stopped asking me why I keep buying handbags and instead said thoughtfully "When do you think you might have enough bags?" Now there is the million dollar question!