dinsdag 23 mei 2017

Leave your cares in the parking lot

What with all my daydreaming about our upcoming holiday in Wales, I completely forgot to tell you what we did on Sunday before last!

So, what did we do? No prices for guessing: we went to a flea market!

It was our last indoor market of the season (the last one is in June, but we'll be in Wales then), and in spite of the time of year, there were quite a few interesting stalls, which I was especially glad of, since we'd taken along our friend Inez for the very first time.

Dipping again into my spring wardrobe, I chose a forest green Diolen dress with a - surprise! - floral print, in orange, light green, white and beige.

There's something to be said for having two distinctly different seasons, as you get to choose from a fresh set of clothes every six months!

The dress was one of my last buys from a sorely missed vintage shop which closed down last June.

The brooch is one of my oldest, in terms of ownership, and came from H&M, and the ochre beads were from Think Twice.

Sadly, the string broke when we were getting out of the car, scattering beads everywhere. I think I was able to retrieve most of them, so all I need now is replacement string and the patience of a saint. The latter will be the most problematic, I'm sure.

The sun played hide-and-seek for most of the day, so that we were happy to be inside but, although I started out wearing both my orange leather jacket and a cardigan, it turned out too warm for both, so I wisely removed the latter before leaving the car.

Almost immediately upon entering the venue, I spotted some vintage lime green beads, which I wore as a replacement.

I was lucky enough to find two more strings of green beads - not an easy colour to find - as well as a vintage pair of clip-on daisy earrings.

This delicate brooch, which was made in France (and bought from a nice French speaking lady), features a lady walking along the beach, carrying a basket and wearing clothes fashioned from real fabric.

We happily browsed and browsed, pausing to chat with some of the sellers, and marveling at some of the unusual objects for sale, as there are, a Princess Diana paper dress-up doll (left) and a clever device designed for ironing ties (right).

This cute little Scottie dog bookend, which had sadly lost its twin, came home with us, and is now playing with the other dog ornaments which live on top of our 1930s display cabinet, watched by the haughty Idina, named after Idina Sackville as I think she is kind of a lookalike.

There was a huge stall with an eye-catching display of kitchenalia, trying to lure us into making an impulse buy. We did keep our cool though, as space in Dove Cottage's kitchen is at a premium.

Our next find was this colourful little plaque of a Mexican boy, happily shaking his maracas, another addition for our by now unstoppable collection of head plaques adorning the mantlepiece and wall of our blue room.

The owner has promised us first dibs at another wall plaque, which she will bring along for our next visit in September.

Further purchases were, clockwise from top left: green embossed tumbler, to be used in our bathroom as a toothbrush holder (two for € 1,-), porcelain light fitting (one of Jos's foibles), daisy embossed mug (€ 0,50), which I'm using for my morning and evening cup of tea, and two classic Belgian comics.

Then there was this OXO cup and saucer set. Although it's not unusual to find OXO cups and mugs from different eras, this is the first one I've come across complete with its saucer.

I was particularly enchanted by this delightful blue toy washbasin, complete with accessories, which I would have loved to have played with as a child.

Our last purchase were these old Belgian 5 Francs pieces which, although I remember them from my youth, became obsolete long before the introduction of the Euro.

Obviously, they aren't worth anything, so you will probably be mystified why we have been buying these.

Well, here's the reason:

Jos was given this vintage parking meter by a friend. It dates from the late 1950s, early 1960s, and in its former life it lived on the streets of Antwerp.

Pre-dating Pay and Display, you could turn the dial for 10 minutes' free parking, while 5 Belgian Francs (the equivalent of about € 0,12) paid for 30 minutes' parking.

Those were the days!

In spite of suggestions of putting it in front of our house as a nice little earner (it takes € 0,50 which are approximately the same size!), it will somehow find a home in our garden!

I will keep you posted!

vrijdag 19 mei 2017

Wild about Wales

Once again, the weather has been playing yo-yo. After we were treated to two days of 27°C and more on Tuesday and Wednesday, a nosedive of at least 10°C followed on Thursday.

So far, Spring has been a disappointment, and it hasn't been easy to get into holiday mood. No time to dither, though, as in only four weeks time we will be making our way to Wales again.

Over the years, I must have made well over a thousand photographs, which I've been browsing through to get me in the right frame of mind, and I thought I'd show you some of my favourites places in the process.

Why not start with this one of me, masquerading as a Welsh lady in traditional costume, at Devil's Bridge in Ceredigion?

For those of you who have been watching Hinterland, Devil's Bridge is where the body of Helen Jenkins was found in the very first episode.

We have been going to the same area, always staying at the same delightful little cottage-for-two, since 2011.

We have twice tried to break the habit and go somewhere else, but here we are, on the brink of our seventh visit.

Our first visit was in May 2011, and the minute we stepped over the cottage's threshold, we felt right at home. With its thick walls, the old cottage keeps out the day to day sounds of the outside world, while keeping it warm and cosy on a cool day, yet deliciously cool on a hot one.

Waking up under the eaves, the plaintive calling of the gulls drifting up the estuary is the first sound you hear, and from the bedroom's skylight window the ever-changing view of the estuary, over the roofs of the cottages which tumble down the hill, always invites you to stand and stare. And then stare some more!

The village, St. Dogmaels, is a delight too, its houses climbing the hillside above the meandering River Teifi making its way to the sea. and boasting the ruins of a 12th century abbey.

We are in Pembrokeshire, if only just, with the neighbouring county, Ceredigion, almost literally on our doorstep, on the other side of the estuary (the meadows and fields we can see from our windows).

Nearby is the large expanse of Poppit Sands, perfect for blowing away the cobwebs on the first day, when we're not inclined to venture too far, or for a short evening walk, watching the sun disappear behind the horizon and lengthen the shadows.

One of our favourite places is Mwnt, just over the border with Ceredigion, waiting at the end of a narrow country lane. Down a steep flight of steps is the beach, overlooked by the green hump of Foel y Mwnt, while at the other end there's a lonely whitewashed little church.

It was at the end of a blustery June afternoon, and ours was the only car left in the grassy car park.

Vying with Mwnt for my favourite nearby beauty spot is Ceibwr Bay, along winding up-and-down lanes from St. Dogmaels. Surrounded by tall, spectacularly folded cliff formations, it feels wild and remote. Another place to stand (or rather, as I did here: sit) and stare, wondering at the forces of nature which must have been at work to create a place of such drama.

About a mile along the coast path is the Witches' Cauldron, a collapsed cave where in rough weather the sea comes surging into, creating a boiling mass of water and spray.

From here, the nearest town of any significance is the small seaside resort of Newport. About two years ago, I made this nostalgic collage of photographs taken in and around the town, which our cottage's rental office, which is based in the town, liked so much that they posted it on their Facebook page.

We are skipping along in a south-westerly direction, rounding a couple of headlands, until we arrive at Aberreidy, famous for its Blue Lagoon, a small slate quarry flooded by the sea. It is the slate which makes the water appear such an unfathomable shade of sapphire blue.

Onwards to Whitesands Bay near St. David's Head. The sky was looking ominously grey on our first visit, giving the wet sand an unearthly colour. St. David's Head itself can be seen beckoning in the distance.

The weather was glorious on our way up for our second visit one year later.

Nearing Whitesands, however, we could see mist drifting in from the sea. As it wasn't looking too bad, we decided to proceed with our planned walk up to St. David's Head, but visibility became worse the higher we got.

We were supposed to see Coetan Arthur, a 4000-year-old Neolithic burial chamber, silhouetted against the sky, but we didn't, and in the end roamed from one rocky outcrop to another, getting slightly panicky until a gap appeared through the cloud, through which we could see the path we had come up on.

A shortcut down a bracken covered slope put an end to our attempted walk. We have plans for a third attempt next month!

Inland to nearby St. Davids. Although only the size of an average village, St. Davids is in fact Wales' smallest city, a status it has been granted because of its cathedral, which they have cleverly hidden in a little valley of its own, so that it cannot be spotted from the sea.

Further south, there is a choice of castle ruins to visit.

Carew castle (top) is standing on a ridge at the head of a tidal inlet of the Carew river.

Pembroke Castle (bottom), idyllically set on the banks of the river estuary, is a mighty fortress steeped in British history. Exploring the castle, you will meet figures of its former inhabitants, telling you their story, either in English or in Welsh. 

We often pushed the Welsh button, especially when there were other people around, so that they would think we were Welsh and actually understood what was being said.

Here I am in conversation with a brave Welsh archer: Bore da! Sut dach chi?

I'm definitely beginning to get into the mood for more Welsh adventures by now ...

However, the weather seems to be in a Welsh mood too, as it's started raining.

 Oh, well, here's what I think of that ...

maandag 15 mei 2017

A fickle minded real live girl

Right, that's it! I've had it with my Winter stuff. Come rain or shine, from now on, I'll be wearing my Spring/Summer wardrobe. After all, I've only got a couple of months to wear all those gorgeous frocks, and as it's Mid May already, I haven't got a minute to lose!

The problem is, where do I start? I want to wear it all. Opening my wardrobe doors, there are all these dresses calling, wear me, wear me! I wish they'd shut up and leave me to decide in peace.

Now, let met think: shall I wear pink? Purple? Green maybe? Or blue, perhaps? I'm a fickle minded girl, you know! Well, why not wear a dress that combines them all?

Short sleeved, the fabric not too flimsy (it isn't summer just yet!), elegant but comfortable, slightly quirky with its riotous print, round neckline and pointy collar: it was ticking all the right boxes for Saturday!

So far, so good: I'm dressed. That didn't take too long, did it?

Clockwise from top left: Argenteuil, Bernadette, Paradiso and Rambouillet

Breakfast offers yet more choices. And I'm not talking about the food, which on Saturday morning is a given, as Jos is doing a Belgian version of a "full English".

No, I'm talking about cups and plates here. We have several sets of Boch china (Boch is a Belgian pottery whose vintage stuff is very collectible) dating from the late 1960s. None of them are complete, but breakfast plates and cups we have a-plenty.

We started out collecting their Rambouillet pattern, but picked up pieces of Argenteuil, Bernadette and Paradiso along the way.

Our cupboards are full of vintage china.

Our first vintage set was this classic flower printed one. We bought a box consisting of four full place settings, including two serving dishes, for € 5 at a flea market about 15 years ago, and added several more pieces, all bought from charity shops and flea markets.

They date from around 1963, and they could be bought by saving up tokens which came with a washing powder called Tide. The ad came from the July 1963 edition of a magazine.

The cup on the right is part of a set which belonged to my paternal grandmother. We brought a set of four cups, saucers and plates home from my dad's, as a keepsake, as I couldn't bear parting with them.

After breakfast, I donned a sturdy denim apron and a pair of gardening gloves bought from a cheap high street shop last week (to allow for my fickleness, I bought them in two colourways).

The narrow paved area next to our kitchen was in a right state, but I had plans!

The little table has seen better days, the top having lost one of its slats, and it was partly hidden by a thick layer of overhanging ivy.

Last year, Jos had been given a vintage wash set, complete with bowl and jug, as well as covered soap and comb dishes, by one of his village lady fans. The set had been languishing in our garage ever since, as we do not really have the space to display it properly inside Dove Cottage.

A couple of weeks ago, I hit upon the idea of creating a little outdoor room.

After I'd given the ivy a good prune (and found a white stone cat and a decaying bird house underneath), I covered the table with an old vinyl tablecloth, put a redundant bathroom mirror against the wall, and decorated it with the wash set .

Doesn't it look fab, with the potted plant on a rickety old garden chair next to it? The pot already contained a Hosta, but the fern - they self seed like mad in our garden - decided to keep it company.

Total spend: nothing! But the cheerful sight which is greeting us now when we look out of our kitchen window is priceless!

In spite of the imminent wilderness, the garden is looking its exuberant best this time of year.

Phoebe loves exploring all its nooks and crannies.

And look, one or two ancient Alliums have opened their purple bee-magnet globes, and there are some Lilies of the Valley - inherited with the garden - too!

Oh, and this is our giant white currant bush (left), planted the first summer after we moved into Dove Cottage 18 years ago. It's higher than our shed! I wanted to show it to Sally, whose white currant bush is having its first crop of currants this year.

The gooseberries are coming along fine as well, and one by one, the numerous pink flowers of our ground covering Geranium are showing their little faces to the world.

Task done, it was time for a light lunch, after which we decided to hit some charity shops.

I added a green new wool jacket (part of a suit bought at a vintage market last year), to which I pinned a brooch which somewhat echoes the colours of the dress. The brooch came from a local flea market. The blue, pink and white scarf was probably charity shopped.

Yes, I was wearing tights! My bare legs really are in no fit state to be shown to the outside world yet, and will require a few more coats of self tan before I feel confident enough to go tightless.

The shoes, comfortable Clarks, came from a flea market held in our very own street, and cost € 7.

In spite of the quiet times at the charity shops, we ended up with eight scarves (€ 0,25 a piece), a brooch (€ 0,50), and a hat (€ 1,-) for Jos, who admits he's gone a bit hat mad!

Total spend, a whopping € 3,50.

Jos's hat, which you can see him wearing, seated at our outdoor dressing table, is vintage, made in Italy for a local hat shop which has long ago closed its doors, and is exquisitely lined.

These suitcases are new acquisitions too. They'd been hiding in my parents' attic and will be put to good use after getting rid of the slightly musty smell inside.

That was it for Saturday, which ended with our outdoor bathroom being rained upon.

Sunday was a fun day too, visiting our last indoor flea market of the year.

But that, my dears, will be for another time ...

donderdag 11 mei 2017

I'm keeping flowers in full bloom

Finally, it was time for our first outdoor flea market of the year, which, as you can well imagine, we had very much been looking forward to.

Enjoyable as they can be, however, events as these, of course, depend heavily upon the weather.

Having the choice of going either on Saturday or on Sunday, we opted for Saturday, which turned out to be very fortunate, as the contrast between the two days couldn't have been greater.

It was still a bit chilly when we set off, so I abandoned my idea of wearing the summery dress I first had in mind, and which I'd hung out all ready to go. Oh, well, it's too early for poppies anyway, isn't it?

Instead, I wore a midi skirt in a textured polyester, turquoise with touches of red, green,white and black, and combined it with a long-sleeved fitted black blouse printed with summer flowers.
I bought the blouse back in December, and it has featured here before. This time, I wore it over the skirt and added a turquoise belt, echoing the turquoise of the skirt.

At first, I wore a little cardigan on top, but that was soon discarded. Instead, I wore the orange leather jacket I recently bought.

We parked our car just under a kilometer from the flea market's entrance, as parking can be a bit of a problem, but we had the sun, which had come out in the meantime, accompanying us on our walk up.

Our first buy was at the very first stall we came across: a seat pad in yellow, green and orange, with pompoms! I am using it on my "office chair" and here I am sat on it while writing this post, although Phoebe already has her eye on it too ...

Turning the corner into the next aisle, we were met by the sight of a stall which was right up our street! I was just starting to browse a box full of vintage buttons when I clocked I'd met the owners, Ilona and Wannes, before. They are regulars at the indoor flea markets we go to in the winter months.

Apart from some buttons, we bought a gorgeous round royal blue tin decorated with orange flowers, as well as a small tin which used to contain photographic developer. It's from local company Gevaert, where both my grandfathers used to work, and it will be an interesting little addition to our vintage camera collection.

The old motto of starting as you mean to go on was clearly lost on me, as these were the only photos I took of the flea market itself.

I do not often buy clothes at flea markets but I couldn't leave behind a vintage emerald green quilted dressing gown and a hand made green blouse featuring ....yes, you've guessed it: flowers. The contrasting orange flowers on a dark green background made it stand out on the rail of otherwise run of the mill clothing. The fabric is a Diolen polyester and the bright green buttons are cleverly hiding press studs underneath.

I struck gold again a couple of aisles further on, where I found this skirt in a favourite combination of navy and green on white. The skirt is in waffle pique fabric and has slanting patch pockets, finished with a blue button. It isn't vintage but from Belgian retro label Wow to Go. Its retail price would have been around € 70 but I paid only € 3. Bargain!

Yet again, it's a flowery print, albeit a naive one.

I must admit that I am quite often drawn to flowery fabrics, in particular of a bold 1960s/1970s variety.

I have fond memories of a flower printed dress I had when I was in fourth grade, which was handmade by my paternal grandmother.

This is the only photo I could find of me wearing it, sat on a white horse for a school photograph, aged 10.

Funnily enough, I had to wait more than twenty years for the prince to come along too!

A quick glance at the contents of my wardrobe and linen chest is rewarded with all kinds of flowery fabrics vying for attention:

I can't help but feeling cheerful wearing a colourful flower print and I dream sweet dreams when sleeping under a flower printed sheet (top left and bottom right)

But let's go back to that flea market, where we were about to have a picnic in the shade of a tree.

It felt great being out and about in the sunshine after the dismally cold weather we've been having of late. Hello, weather gods, it is MAY for goodness' sake.

The second half of the market wasn't nearly so exciting, but I still ended up finding a couple more things, like this chocolate brown 1950s handbag ...

I wasn't going to buy any more brown, black or navy handbags, but hey: some rules are meant to be broken, surely?

... and some little bits and pieces: Lucite brooch, pearly earrings (to be worn for my next Bertha impersonation), ring and vintage necklace, pictured here together with the buttons I'd found before.

Before walking back to our car, we picked up a rhubarb plant we've bought at a plant stall. We always had rhubarb growing in our garden, but we lost it last year, and hadn't got around to replacing it yet.

Back at home, I sat and pottered a bit in the garden, taking photographs of various blooms. I was thrilled to find that one of the Aquilegias which had self-seeded turns out to be a deep purple double flowered one (bottom right).

We finished our pottering by refilling our miniature pond, which only had a bit of mud left at the bottom, with fresh water.

One of Dove Cottage's secrets is the old-fashioned hand pump which is living in our bathroom, giving us a ready supply of fresh water, free of charge, from a water well. It is actually taking up too much space in our already cramped little bathroom, but surely it would be madness to get rid of it?

We've never had the water tested to find out if it's fit for consumption, but we use it to water the garden and keep the "pondette" topped up.

The pumped up, ice cold water is a welcome treat for hot and weary feet in summer too.

Ah, summer: will it ever come?