Sunday, 16 August 2015

It's Charity Shop Shopping, but on a Mammoth Scale.

So I finally made it to the sheer madness that is the Sue Ryder Sale at Nettlebed. Of course I forgot my camera *sigh* so you'll have to make do with a couple of crappy shots from my phone - sorry!

Held in the grounds and out buildings of their gorgeous care home in Nettlebed (most lately used in The Imitation Game as the exterior of Bletchley Park, in case it looks familiar)
the Sue Ryder sale is absolutely legendary in the Oxfordshire area.
It happens every 3 weeks for just 2 hours and the rule is to get there early, in the case of the clothes sale, very, very early.
It starts at 10.30am so we got there at about 9.30am and there was already brisk trade going on at the garden bric n brac table, as well as in the book and picture areas.
That queue you can see starting to form in the back of the picture is for the furniture area.
This one is for the clothes room, and it already went on way behind me, snaking past the tea shop and right round the grounds!
This final queue was for the china and glass area. I think you get the picture. People come prepared with huge bags and lots of cash, the queue in an orderly fashion until they are let through in batches, then all hell breaks loose!

I kid you not I was in one of the extremely busy, but tiny rooms, full of chinaware and a very pompous woman tried to snatch something up and barge to the front of the queue, she nearly got lynched, seriously I've never seen anything like the women already waiting to pay when they turned on her, they were savage!

The weary lady serving sighed and said "Every time, she comes to every sale and every single time tries to barge to the front" she then nodded over to the door and said "We have to have security you know" and sure enough there was a brick outhouse of a man dressed from head to toe in black with a walkie talkie and an earpiece!?!, at a charity shop sale - mint!

I'm not entirely sure how much very valuable stuff there is to be had as I imagine they sort the quality stuff out at the donation stage for sale via auction, they are about making the most money they can for charity after all.
They certainly had experts in each area as we found when we asked about donation some stuff to the book and periodical team. I'm sure there are still treasures to be had and you got the impression a lot of the people who got there very early and only to hit a particular area were trade.

It was a gorgeous day so the place was absolutely packed with well over 1000 people, it was hard to get about and you did have to indulge in a certain amount of pushing to get to things you wanted to look at. I'm not sure what happens when it's wet, or in the winter, as the majority of the sale was outside. The furniture and toys were set out in the stable yard for example.
You have to buy a ticket for 50p and show it to get into each area and they were very strict on the opening and closing times and only letting so many people through at a time.

 We finally got to the clothes area at11.40 and STILL had to queue for a while before we got in, even at that late hour.

I have to say the clothes sale was a really poor location for being able to search through and see what you were looking at, it was a small barn of all places with hardly any lighting.
When they shut the doors at 12.15 you were pretty much groping round in the dark! There were rails all round the wall with things like long dresses, coats and trousers but the rest was just piled high, oh so very high, on trestle tables jumble sale stylie.

Anything left at the end is chucked into black sacks which they ask the customers still in the room at 12.30 to help fill and sent off to Africa. It was £3 a coat £1.50 - £2.00 for a dress/suit/trousers and 50p everything else.
Frankly we were a bit overwhelmed by this point and only did a bit of halfhearted rummaging, it was fascinating to see the people on a mission working their way with steady determination through the piles from one side to the other.

We left the room before 12.30 because we had to go and pick up some glasses and a mirror Soo had on reserve. She had bought a box of crystal and cut glass champagne flutes for the princely sum of £2. On later inspection it turned out to be a matching set of 4 glasses, 2 sets of 2 glasses and one odd one so she was very pleased. I did a last minute purchase of a wicker picnic hamper full of crockery for £6 including the hamper. 

Now my Mum had lured me to the sale in the first place with the promise of a "Room full of handbags" I tell you was dreaming of that room full of handbags and panicking 2 hours would not be enough time to go through them all.
Sadly it was all a lie, I was badly mislead and I'm not letting her forget this one either hehe.
I was very disapointed to find just one long table of bags,and all modern and naff ones at that. Bah.

Anyway we retreated a bit battered, very thirsty and piled with treasures. After loading the car we headed to a lovely pub for a much needed drink and well earned lunch. What an experience, it was sheer madness but great fun.

Without further ado some of my treasures included;
An Art Deco-ish jug and sugar bowl for £1
The £6 china tea set minus it's hamper.
A huge bunny cotton wool holder £1 plus a quirky little plate for 50p (not pictured)
and various brooches. The stone one at the top left cost me £6 the rest were £10 in total, there was another cat but it sadly got decapitated in transit!

I also bought a book on Pilates for £1 and couple of huge pyjama tops with a quirky dog print for cutting up and making into something else.
A sage green checked shirt, a red 60's sleeveless top and a long brocade 60's dress, but didn't get round to taking pictures of them before they hit the washing basket and or the ironing mountain.

Not a bad haul for less than £30. We will definitely go again at some point, just not every 3 weeks! 



Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Fashion on the Ration and a Baby Rhino Called Ian

Last week we had to have a huge planning meeting at work that started at 9am and instead of ending at 4pm as advertised overran by an hour and a half. We were all losing the will to live by lunch time so by the time I was finaly released to get the train home I was practically speaking in tongues.

This was swiftly followed by a Team Building Day!

As luck would have it this took place at The Cotswold Wildlife Park because that was what won all the votes.

It was great fun and some of us who hadn't been there for many many years got a bit excitable to say the least.(yes that would be me.)
 The weather was gorgeous, there were amazing animals to see, with a few babies including the star of the day, a baby rhino who went the magnificent name of Ian. 

I can only imagine they did a competition to name the rhino and someone picked a name from the hat to *big drum roll*“ AND THE NAME IS………Ian!!”
Yaaaay! wait what? did you say Ian? The rhino is going to be called Ian?? Oh!

Anyway personally I think Ian is a great name for a rhino and he was just the cutest thing, especially when he decided to wake up and gallop about a bit.

All in all a far more successful day than the one before. Even if I did manage to mistake a pigeon for a penguin. Unsurprisingly I didn't have my glasses on at the time.

This excitement was followed by another day off work to head to London with Soo to visit the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition Fashion on the Ration.
The exhibition has timed tickets and we were booked onto the 12.30 entry.
We got there a little early and whilst walking through the peace garden at the side we spotted an ice cream van. 
Well that didn’t take much deciding, we were quick to justify it by the fact it would stave off the hunger pangs whilst we browsed the exhibition, very sound reasoning as I'm sure you will agree.
The guy was very apologetic and said he had only just filled the machine so it might be a bit soft and then proceeded to make the most mammoth 99 by way of the apology (to those not in the ice cream know, a 99 is a soft whip ice cream cone with a chocolate flake stuck in it)     
You really can’t beat sitting outside on a sunny day eating an ice cream.

I will never get too old to eat ice cream.

From there we ambled into the museum and as we still had about 40 minutes we thought we would take a look at the Holocaust exhibition. It’s on the 4th floor so we took the stairs to work off a few of those ice cream calories, which also really reminded me we had done a lot of leg exercises at pilates the night before.......owwww.

As far as the Holocaust exhibition goes and on the whole for what I saw of it, it looked an excellent exhibition. We didn’t really have enough time to look round it all though.
The thing I had a problem with was the audio. I absolutely hated the propaganda broadcasts and film reels of nazi speeches. 
They were just too loud, like really invasively so, and as they were on constant loop you couldn't get away from it, I found I couldn’t concentrate on what I was trying to read due to Joseph Goebbels ranting about the master race over and over and over again.
I ended up scooting through to slightly quieter part of the exhibition, frankly I couldn’t get away fast enough.

Before we got all the way round it was 12.30 so we took the quick exit and headed down to level 3.
As we walked towards the entrance I was busy rooting in my bag for the e-ticket when the man on the door greeted me with
“Ms Collins, you can go straight in but no photography”
Me taken completely by surprise “Er yes, what?, right, umm, how did you know who I am?”
Man on the door completely deadpan and without missing a beat
“ You have the air of a Collins about you”
That did make me laugh but I was honestly so completely wrong footed I went straight in without asking how he actually DID know who I was! 

Himself said I should have turned and looked at the people around us pointed at myself and gone “See I’m important me” then waltzed in.
We surmised we much have either been the only 12.30 booking, or we were the last 12.30 booking to arrive. Or maybe it's just that I really AM that important ;-)
What a total joy Fashion on the Ration is. No photos allowed inside (Boo) so I have none to share with you but I cannot talk more highly of this exhibition, it’s just fantastic.
You find yourself completely immersed in the life that was uniforms, rationing, Make Do and Mend and CC41 utility clothing.  

I only have one little niggle, and that is that there were many fascinating hand written letters included in the exhibition, but often the handwriting was very difficult to read. It would have been nice to have a typed transcription of the letter next to the original. Other than that I would have to say this was one of the best exhibitions I have been to in a while. It’s well curated and wonderfully engaging.

I have always been interested in the social history of war so this exhibition really ticked all the boxes for me. It was fascinating to see the letters from one lady who was almost delighted when rationing first began because she had 'masses of clothes that could be made over' and would be good for new things to wear for years to come. Right through to her weary letters from the late 40's wondering if rationing would ever end because her outfits had been made over so many times they were literally disintegrating and falling off her in rags, and that at this rate 'we will all be walking round naked'

Or the beautiful wedding dress made from fabric meant for petticoats that was knocked up in a few days for a speedy wedding then loaned to another 14 girls for their special day too.
I know it’s not on for much longer but I highly recommend a visit if you can fit it in before the end of the month.

Oh and whilst I bought a tiny wee lemur at the wildlife park (called Mahjong after the Eltham Palace lemur!) I didn't buy ANYTHING in London. 

This is getting a tad worrying people. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What Would Audrey Do?

Well not get told off by her Mother for mismatching her outfit I'm sure! (more of that later)

I had the whole of last week off work, what bliss. and for once I had lots of fun plans rather than just slothing round the house.
On Wednesday I went to The National Portrait Gallery with my friend Charlotte to see their exhibition on Audrey Hepburn.
First we went for a wander around Covent Garden, I haven't been there for ages so it was fun to poke about. I was very tempted by some of the jewellery on the craft stalls but in the end I only bought myself this picture as an early birthday present.
 I was very taken with this smiley octopus so I decided to buy him, Himself however is not at all keen, oh well.

Stomachs started growling so we decided to give Five Guys a go and how glad am I that we did. This was everything Mucky D's and BK's wishes they were and more.
I went for a cheese dog and fries, and thinking of the portion sizes in other burger places I asked for regular fries. The girl serving helpfully pointed out this was actually meant for 2 people, recommending I go for a small. Turns out that even the small was a mammoth portion.

As anyone who knows me well will confirm I am not a woman to ever leave a chip uneaten, but even I had to admit defeat on these deliciously gorgeous fries.
No 'reformed from mashed potato' here, only freshly cut, skin on, double fried in peanut oil, real potato! MmmmMmm.

We waddled out of Five Guys and headed through Leicester Square. There was a big crowd gathered so we went to see what the fuss was about.
 turns out it was all for a Frank Sinatra dancing skeleton in a natty silver bow tie and green sneakers.
 Ok so he was puppet, but goodness me that puppeteer was good!
 He had clearly watched Frank Sinatra do his Vegas shows many times, that puppet was not just word perfect but move perfect too.
Admittedly that was probably lost on most of the teenage tourists in the crowd but as someone who HAS watched those shows, every gesture and every movement was captured to a tee. Very clever and unusual street entertainment for sure.

We reached the National Portrait Gallery a bit early (the exhibition tickets are timed) so we mooched round the exhibition of the 'Portrait Artist of the Year' finalists. No photography sadly but wow, just wow.
All I can say is they were all well worthy of their place in the final.

And so to Audrey.

Again no photography so we both had to satisfy ourselves with buying postcards afterwards.

It is was a small but perfectly formed exhibition mostly made up of unseen pictures owned by her family. You were struck over and over again by just how photogenic she was, and for me, not just the overall luminous quality she had but by her stunning eyes, truly windows to a beautiful soul.
One critic was quoted as being distracted and captivated by the amazing eyes of one of the impish girls in the chorus, so much so it took his attention away from the main players, she was an unknown in an early background stage role at the time, there was no doubt she would go on to be a star.

Personally I find something very calming and joyously uplifting about gazing raptly upon great beauty, be it male, female or in nature, and this exhibition was just a joy to behold.

 Friday was my birthday and the day began earlier than I had hoped because our front door lock had broken the night before, I had visions of my Mother (who was due over) having to feed me cake through the letterbox!
Anyway this meant getting up to call the rental agency as soon as they opened for the day. As it turned out the man who could fix it was just around the corner and would come straight over, which in turn meant abandoning my cup of tea to belt upstairs and fling some clothes on just in time before he arrived. Thankfully it was just the barrel and not the whole mortis lock that had broken so once he got a new one it was a matter of moment s and all was fixed.

I had another cup of tea before going upstairs to wash and dress properly for the day ahead, well I say dress properly, clearly even though I'm now the great age I am my Mother still thinks I'm not capable of putting an outfit together!
She arrived and looked me up and down, tutted and said "the worst bit is your necklace it doesn't go with anything else you are wearing"
Me " that's the whole point"
Her with narrowed eyes "Hmmm". We went to leave and I put on my silver brogues,
 Mum "Good lord no you are not planning on going out in those shoes? No, no, no they do not go at all"
Me "Fine I'll take them off"
Mum "What do you have instead?"
Me "Green converse? I have green in my outfit"
Her horrified "No! even worse!" 
I ended up in sensible black just to keep the peace. Outift sorted to a passable level we went into town to buy some goodies for lunch which we took round to the nursing home and ate with Dad. From there we went to my brother's house to get our hair done and finally home to prosecco and presents.
The necklace was a massive unsubtle hint from me to Himself heh heh it worked.

Saturday I was up and off to Oxford with my friend Simon to see Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.
It was held in a wee tent in University Parks and was great fun. Performed by a small repertory company from London what the young cast lacked in polish they made up for with enthusiasm in spades.

So all in all a fun week.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Sheep Shape and Bristol Fashion.

Well it's been a while I know. The first 6 months of 2015 have been shit, I had hoped things would get better by now. Instead work has been completely relentless recently, on top of which more health dramas have happened and frankly it's all been getting to me. It's hard to stay positive when life keeps kicking you in the balls. Hard.

So I've kind of been keeping my head down plodding on through and hoping for better times.

I have a lot to look forward too in July though, lots of plans, good times already had and many more still to come.

Himself and I went to Bristol for a couple of days which rather than being restful saw us pounding the pavements doing 5 of the different Shaun the Sheep trails.

You can find out more here

We managed to see 47 of the 70 Sheep dotted around the city and surrounding area. We got absolutely soaked to the skin and chased by a demented drunk man in the process but you can't have it all.

As ever the one thing you can't guarantee is the British weather. Occasional showers were predicted, but rather than this being the dry spells with an odd shower here and there that I expected from such a forecast. It turned out to actually mean relentless steady rain with occasional torrential downpours just for good measure.
When it all got too much we retired to the pub where I managed to knock beer all over my lap but luckily the endless rain rinsed that out for me so I didn't smell too much like a brewery by the time we decided to go out for dinner!

Thankfully by then the rain had stopped so we were able to amble back to our hotel whilst enjoying the sights.

After a very comfortable night (thumbs up to Ibis Hotels) we were up early and off out to find more sheep before catching our train home.
I discovered I had forgotten my hairbrush but as all the rain had turned my head into an insane professor style mad mop it hardly mattered. Unlike the girls posing outside the cathedral I wasn't looking for a pinup shot.

We spotted this skeleton on our travels, clinging on by it's fingertips. I know that feeling well.
Whilst photographing this Arthurian sheep outside the Cathedral
we were fascinated by the girls I mentioned above. They were clearly taking part in a graduation ceremony though not from a university I have heard of before. Our fascination came from their appearance.
We could only conclude they had all passed their degree in nightclubbing with flying colours, because to a woman (there were no boys) they were in teeny tiny skintight mini dresses teamed with a regulation minimum 6 inch heel and as much make-up as their face could manage.
I'm all for each to their own but in all honesty it just looked rather bizarre on a grey wet Monday morning!

From there we walked to Clifton. I thought it was beautiful but for the relentless rain.

In the end it defeated us so we gave up and caught the bus back to the train station where we decamped to Wetherspoons until it was time for our train home.

The most amazing bit of the whole trip?

 I didn't shop at all!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bath, bags and being a bit blind.

As those of you who have read Vix and Emma's posts before me will already know that Vix did a vintage fair in Bath last Saturday and we decided to visit it.
Even though Bath is a mere hop and a skip away from me, somehow I still ended up getting up stupid early so much so I got to sit around and people watch at the station for a bit.
I got to to do that in Bath for a little while too as my train got in first.
There was rugby on, it was all very festive, and I nearly got caught up in it and came away with a flag and a plastic centurion's helmet. Thankfully the girls arrived before I did decide they would be a great idea!
We went straight to a cafe for a drink and a catch up. It was lovely to finally meet Dee after years of reading her blog.Emma kindly gave me the evil world domination plotting rabbits I had admired on her blog.
It seems they have either had a disagreement or their plans are made........

It was a glorious day made even more so by the company and of course being able to have a good gossip with Vix whilst watching John hard at work.
Pictures were taken

and the fair was thoroughly worked.

As it goes I didn't buy any clothes, though one or two items caught my eye none really spoke to me, unlike the handbags.I firmly kept my handbag purchases down to just (just!) 3. I could have easily bought about 10 if I'd had the spare cash.

There was an ace home ware stand where I also made a couple of purchases.

How fab is this tray? It had a quick clean when I got home and I ate my breakfast off it the next day.
I also bought Himself this lighter. Neither of us smokes but he does have a thing about dice so I knew he'd like it. It looks great on our coffee table.

Without further ado here are the bag purchases.

The final one is the second Corde bag in my collection and a size I've been after for a while, usually they sell for more pennies than I am prepared to pay but this one has been well used and was pretty grubby too.
This picture is it part way through being cleaned. Personally I'm not after pristine condition only, I don't mind worn corners and faded or marked lining they just show the bag has had a history and been well used and well loved.

As Sunday was a grim day I spent it cleaning these and a couple of other recent bag purchases. I've been asked by a couple of people how I clean my bags and toyed with doing a post about it but I'm not exactly an expert so have shied away from that, I would hate for someone to ruin a bag copying what I do.
There are probably bag conservationists who will have a fit but for those who asked what I use

The tools are:
A toothbrush
Antibacterial wipes
Washing up liquid ( I prefer Fairy)
Bar Keepers Friend
A good leather shoe cream or polish
Brasso wading metal cleaner

The antibacterial wipes are perfect for cleaning the inside of handbags and I also use them on the insides of second hand shoes. Not only to they lift dust and dirt, most importantly for me they sanitize!

The toothbrush is the next most used item. Before plunging straight in with your warm soapy water, always test on a less obvious part of the bag like the bottom for colour fastness.

I used the toothbrush and warm water with a splash of Fairy to gentle scrub the Corde bag which had some grubby marks on it.
Never, ever, soak the bag, many have cardboard in their lining. Just dip the brush in the water shake off any excess water so it's not too wet and then use, dabbing the bag dry with paper kitchen towel afterwards. Try to follow the grain of the fabric when you clean.
Let it dry thoroughly and then check whether as in the case of the Corde bag it needs a second going over.
Always be gentle never use elbow grease! Far better to do it a couple of times than scrub like mad and wreck the bag.

I prefer the wading type of metal cleaner because you can pull off the tiniest bit for carefully cleaning metal frames without getting metal polish all over the bag you have just cleaned.

Anyway I've digressed! Back to Bath.
Sadly it was time to leave the fair and even sadder we couldn't take Vix with us.

We browsed the indoor market where I made my final purchase of the day.
How could I resist this sparkling greenness?

Emma took us to the most amazing place for lunch Cafe Lucca. I've walked past it a few times but never been in which was a mistake because the food was delicious.

We ambled about Bath taking in the sights which included a wedding at the Abbey where the bride clearly had something against her bridesmaids, it's been a long time since I have seen such hideous frocks.
Male majorettes shaking their booty and twirling their pompoms and a skeleton riding a bicycle.

All in all a wonderful day out.

The being a bit blind bit. Well age is catching up with me and I now have 2 pairs of specs, reading and distance. It means I suddenly have to remember to have the reading glasses with me at all times or mistakes can be made.
We popped into Sainsbury's to get a few bits and they had some clothes on sale. They had an amazing aubergine print dress which I didn't buy full price but I was happy to buy half price.
Let's just say their dress labels a writ small and I didn't have my glasses.
When I returned with said dress the next day to exchange it the girl asked what was wrong and I had to confess nothing at all, I just hadn't been able to see the label properly and picked up the wrong size!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Outings and an Alteration or Two.

Last weekend I had to work so it was lovely to have a bank holiday to look forward too this weekend.

Soo had found an offer for The Rococo Gardens at Painswick in the cotswolds so we headed off there on Monday morning. We had to take a detour because of the annual cheese rolling, probably a good job as I might have felt obliged to leap out of the car and steal the cheese....mmm cheese.

Anyway the gardens were an absolute joy. We were greeted by a charming black and white puss cat who joined each group of people in a effusive "welcome, welcome to my gardens, do please enjoy your time here, and please do feel free to pet me before I move on" fashion.
graceful as ever I almost lost my balance and plummeted down this slope!

There were follys
Wild gardens
Formal gardens
A stunning wooded area
Look at all that wild garlic, what a shame there isn't smellovision!

 There was a maze which we found our way into and out of using Soo's Dad's formula of first left, second right.
By the time we had seen it all we could no longer ignore the fact it was lunchtime.
There is a little cafe at the garden advertising 'delicious homemade lunches and cakes' so we decided to find out if they lived up to their word.
I'm very happy to say they most definitely did. We both had cauliflower cheese made with local cheddar. It came with ciabatta and a spoon (as the lady explained for getting all of the sauce scooped up) on the side.
It was absolutely gorgeous as was the slice of cake that we forced down after it.

We decided to walk, or waddle in my case, down into Painswick itself after lunch to burn off a few of the million calories we had just scoffed.

It was very beautiful but it strangely quiet. We expected it to be full of tourists but no there was hardly a soul to be seen. Surprisingly there were no shops to speak of and only a couple of pubs. Mind we did pass one
where else would you ride the horse to the pub?!?

We headed to the church which legend has it can only ever have 99 yew trees in the churchyard
apparently the 100th tree just never grows......

As we ambled back to the car exclaiming over the views, we laughed over the fact that if we were to meet our twenty something selves, they would be shocked and appalled that these days we seem to get together to visit gardens and not go pubbing and clubbing!

Mind I say that, this is the picture I took on Friday night when we met up with some other friends down the pub.
We still got it!

I shall sign off with frock news.
Remember the turquoise Hell Bunny dress that was on the at risk register?
I just couldn't get on with the collar bow combo but as I liked the cut and fit of the dress I chopped them off.

Just don't look too closely at the finish!

Also I have a confession. So I was talking to someone about how you admire the style of friends or fellow bloggers, try it on yourself and realise it's not to be.
Last year I bought this 1970's dress because I admire the style on Vix and Curtise.

I have to confess every time I wore it I just didn't feel quite right (sorry ladies) However I liked the fabric and neckline so I took a bit of advice from my Ma and have shortened it to just on the knee.

Talking of frocks thank you all for telling me I'm not mad for getting rid of those dresses, I feel better for knowing it's not just me.  

My other outing was with Soo again (people will talk!) and our friend Melissa to see The Jersey Boys.
First we had a delicious pre-theatre dinner at Cote in Oxford before heading to the theatre. The show was fantastic but we were equally entertained by the audience. There were many ladies of a certain age who clearly don't get out much.

The ones next to us sang along very loudly and distressingly flatly, clearly forgetting this was a theatre production and not a real Frankie Valli concert! The lady behind us looked a very ordinary lady of advanced years but once the cast started singing she started whooping and whistling and...well.. what can only be described as howling like a dog. Most disconcerting, then at the sad bit a lady in front of us started sobbing uncontrollably.

But as I say, they kind of just added to the evening.