Wednesday 12 June 2024

A Belated April Review.

April started with the Easter weekend. I know technically Good Friday was March, but I’ll start there.

Himself and I had a very lazy start then went out for a walk, we took a hip flask in his case and a mini bottle of prosecco in mine, which we raised to my Dad as we sat and looked at one of my favourite views. 

On the Saturday I took advantage of finally having some nice weather and started to re-pot and rearrange my mobile garden (so all the plants I moved here with me.) I also did some weeding and tidying up at the front of the house.

Being a big fan of ice cream, I was delighted to find we have an ice cream van that stops near this house. When I heard it go past, I took the opportunity to nip down the road and buy us both a 99 as I happened to have a fiver in my pocket! I can’t remember the last I had one, so it was a lovely treat.


The following week I was due to have my routine mammogram on the Thursday and go out for lunch with two old friends on the Sunday Friends I had sort of lost touch with over the years but we had recently reconnected. 

The NHS mobile breast screening unit comes to town every 3 years and takes up residence in the local leisure centre carpark for 3-4 months and offers screening to all women over the age of 50 and those under 50 who are high risk. Well one of these friends of mine had been for her scan 3 weeks before me. Within 4 days they had rung her and booked her in for further tests at the hospital and much to her shock and horror she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is the 4th person I know this year being treated for breast cancer, thankfully in her case it was incredibly early and contained.

In the 2 months since her diagnosis, she has had surgery and is now recovering before starting safeguarding treatment. God bless our NHS and long may they remain (despite this damn government’s best efforts!)

I would say to anyone reading this who gets their call, there is no need to be embarrassed, they have seen it all before a million times. Yes it’s bloody uncomfortable, but only for a mere moment and it might just save your life. So go and get screened! I am very grateful to say my results were clear.


On the 19th April I had the day off work to meet Charlotte in London for the Biba exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. 

I caught the train to London and was due to meet Charlotte in a café near the museum which in itself was risky. Normally we meet at Paddington, from where I just follow her because she grew up in London so therefore knows where she is at. 

I was slightly thrown by the TFL website trying to send me via the Elizabeth line and in the end plumped for what I knew (Bakerloo/Jubilee line) and got there unscathed!

We were so busy chatting we managed to miss our ticketed entry by 10 minutes! Thankfully they still let us in when we dashed across the road. 

The exhibition was extremely busy, we figured it would be given how full the café had been with ladies of a certain age.

Having said that we were still able to get around and didn’t have to wait too long to get near enough to read the information cards or get a closer view of certain outfits. 

If I had one disappointment it was that it was a very small exhibition, I know they have many more examples in their collection so I would have loved to have seen more. Charlotte and I did recognise several outfits courtesy of our fashion-conscious mothers. Indeed, Charlotte can remember being taken to Biba by hers on several occasions.  

As an exhibition it certainly gave me food for thought, you couldn’t help but see the inevitable crash and burn coming when you saw just how quickly the company expanded. It was also the rather sobering to realise Biba was the precursor to our current horrifying fast fashion industry, with Barbara Hulanicki insisting that new ranges came out weekly, and that they actively encouraged people to buy a new outfit every week to go out in. 

An ethos she seemed to subscribe to herself. There is only one item in the exhibition that belongs to Barbara herself, an absolutely gorgeous leopard print coat it must be said. 

The rest she says she threw out, indeed when she sold the company, apparently she threw all her Biba clothes in the bin and ‘moved on’ as she put it.

I also really disliked the fact she would only make the clothes in tiny sizes, indeed there was only one size at first which was a small!

The arrival of the huge Biba department store saw her reluctantly give in to pressure and stock a range of dress sizes. They finally stocked sizes 8-12 which is hardly wide ranging. As someone who has always been tall, and whose size has been anything from a 10 to an 18, and everything in between, I bloody hate with a passion designers who think anyone over 5ft 2 and a size 0 are a freak.   


Having seen our fill, we headed out with the plan of grabbing lunch at Borough Market. Only to find it absolutely pouring with rain so instead we decamped to a nearby pub for something to eat and drink somewhere warm and dry. 

After a lengthy lunch we walked along the river, over Westminster bridge and all the way to Ole & Steen at Piccadilly for a drink and slices of their to die for cinnamon social. If you have never tried it and love cinnamon, I strongly recommend it if you are ever near an Ole & Steen!

Again, we were so engrossed in talking that Charlotte suddenly realised her train was leaving in 10 minutes and there was no way she would make it! Thankfully, they let her on the next one. 

This also meant I was stuck getting home too, as I had an off-peak ticket. Usually this means you can catch one slow train an hour but for some reason even this slow train said no off-peak tickets. Meaning I either upgraded or waited 2 hours!?!  In the end I thought I’d take a punt and jumped on it, figuring if they came and checked the tickets then if I had to upgrade I had to upgrade. Luckily for me no one did come round checking tickets.


That Sunday I was up bright and early (for a Sunday) and off to London with my sister in law Caron, her friend Michelle, and Michelle’s friend Carla for Abba Voyage. To say I was excited was an understatement! Ever since I was allowed to stay up late and watch them win Eurovision in 1973, I have been a huge Abba fan, something that never diminished even when I discovered my later love for Heavy Metal. In fact, as I was an uncool person anyway, I had no qualms about admitting I loved Abba and being mocked for it by my other Metal loving friends back in the day.

This was a (very) early birthday present from my brother and Caron to me. Carla was also taking Michelle for her birthday, though they were in the seated area whilst Caron and I were standing. We had tickets for the lunchtime concert and got to Stratford underground with enough time to take a slow wander to the Abba Arena. There is a closer station at Pudding Lane which would involve a change from underground to DLR. 

We agreed a meeting place and joined our respective queues. It was a slick process, and we were through security very quickly with time to stop at the bar for a glass of prosecco and bottle of water to take in with us. The later at £6 was typically priced for a gig but came in a branded reuseable metal bottle so got a big tick from me.

The atmosphere once we were in the arena was just incredible and the age range of the audience was vast, I had read an article saying Abba are one of the few multi-generational bands with fans from my age bracket, our parents and also our children, but then due to the success of Mama Mia on stage and later on screen so many years after their music career had ended a whole load of later generations also know their music. Sure enough, I saw a range from octogenarians in sequins and stars, right down to some very excited mini dancing queens resplendent in feather boas.

I have had quite a few people say to me they would never go because who wants to see holographic avatars instead of real people, and I will admit I was wondering how real it would look. The show is so cleverly done though, mixing a live band and backing singers, with an incredible light show you genuinely forget at times it’s not all real people. I think it really helps that the band re-recorded the songs, so they aren’t just the produced album tracks.

The avatars also chat between songs and have instrumental interludes when they change costume. It’s just all incredibly clever and I properly welled up when The Winner Takes it All came on.

In short, it’s just so joyous and uplifting with everyone singing and dancing you would be hard pressed to get a better endorphin hit. I absolutely loved every minute of it.


We met up with Michelle and Carla outside where we asked someone to take our picture

Before deciding to try the aftershow party which is not to be missed apparently. 

A work colleague was very excited to hear I’d gone and was eager to know who the DJ was. Apparently they have many famous DJ’s doing a session, but as I don’t listen to the radio unfortunately I had no clue who the guy was!

It was hilarious, and a great mix of Abba and other 70’s and 80’s disco classics, I danced non-stop for nearly 2 hours. 

Again, a real mix of age ranges were there I danced with some teenage girls and at one point a whole family from great grandmother down to great grandson. It was just so joyful; I love dancing but I’m absolutely terrible at it, but no one judged and you could just have a great time without worrying.


Finally, it was time to go and find some food so we headed back towards Stratford where we found a pub doing all day Sunday lunches though I went with the fish and chips. Then it was back home for a couple of hours chilling before bed.


The following Friday I was out for dinner with Soo and Melissa, I was very happy when Himself got in and I could head off and leave him to deal with the plumber who was making alarming hammering noises upstairs. We had been having on going issues with the toilet upstairs since we moved in, thank the lord this house has more than one toilet because it has broken twice. The first time the plumber came out and said there was nothing wrong with it but one of the parts was just a bit old and it was fine if you pressed the flush VERY firmly! The agency got him to change the old part anyway, and we would just had to put up with the flush.

The second time it just wouldn’t stop running so we had to take the panel off (it’s got a built-in unit) and turn the water supply to it off.  That time he got it working again but admitted that actually, the inlet pipe was cracked, which he hadn’t spotted that the first time he’d been round. He then announced that the whole cistern needed replacing and would send the agency a quote. About 2 months later he suddenly rang and said could he come round and fix it. Would you believe about 2 weeks after the cistern was replaced it broke again!?! This time he blamed one of the new parts failing, we shall see how that replacement goes…


Anyway, back to dinner. Soo, Melissa and I had originally arranged to meet in Oxford, but when Melissa heard I was staying over at Soo’s that night because we had a bluebell walk planned for the next day, she suggested we go out in Soo’s or around village, it’s also much easier for her to get to as she was working from home that day.

Soo met me off the bus and we had a cup of tea and a catch up before heading out to the lovely Talbot Pub once Melissa arrived. The food was amazing, absolutely delicious and I’d definitely recommend it. Too full for pudding, we split the bill and waddled back to another pub near the bus stop for more beer and chat before seeing Melissa onto her bus home. A fab evening and a long overdue catch up.


The next day Soo and I got up had breakfast before walking to Wytham Woods. The day was overcast but thankfully the rain had stopped, though it was very wet under foot and my poor walking boots were soaked through by the time I got home. I grew up near some bluebell woods and it’s one of my favourite sights and smells. It’s been many years since I was last in one and I was just craving that solace for my soul. Wytham did not disappoint.

They are ancient woodlands and a site of special scientific interest which have been owned and maintained by the University of Oxford since 1942. The University have been doing continuous ecological research there since the 1940’s and the woods are very carefully maintained; you can’t walk in the woods without a permit and dogs are banned. 

Because the day was pretty miserable there weren’t many people about so we got to really enjoy the habitat and the gorgeous bluebells pretty much undisturbed. I took about a million pictures it was utter bliss.

A hint of what was to come...

Our route took us down towards Oxford, joining at the top of the Botley Road. We stopped off for a sandwich in a café in Botley and then tea and a shared peanut butter brownie before I headed to the station and home.

I did also end April by finally sorting out my brooch storage. The glass dishes I was usuing were too full for comfort with my ever growing Erstwilder collection if nothing else. 

I had aquired a set of drawers that were used to store coins before I left the Bodleian. I had been using them to store fabric and haberdashery bits. 

I cleared out the drawers lined them and had a blissful time arranging!

I will try and be back very soon with my May round up before it is July!



  1. I'm so glad your friend is recovering from breast cancer, how scary for her.
    You have been busy. I like the look of the Biba exhibition. My Mum, who regularly took the train down to London to buy Biba in the 1960s always said it was the first form of fast fashion. I find it hard to forgive Barbara Hulanicki for producing that god awful range of clothes for Asda, appalling!
    The girls night out looked like fun, your hair is looking amazing! xxx

  2. So glad your friend's breast cancer was caught in time and that your results were positive - God Bess the NHS, indeed.

    April seemed pretty busy for you but full of nice things. I think the space at the Fashion and Textile Museum is too small; but the Biba exhibition looked fab. I used to save my wages for weeks to buy something for Biba and only managed once to buy one entire outfit in 1970. A pair of abstract patterned culottes; with a Bishop sleeved brown satin top ; a cloche hat worn with lace up 'granny' heeled brogues. Happy days...

    I've had reports from several people about the Abba experience and everyone has raved about it. The bluebell woods were wonderful; one of the best things about April I'd say!

    Those drawers are just perfect for brooch organisation; what a brilliant idea!