Friday, 16 August 2019

A handful of Summer outfits

Remember those days when Summers seemed to last forever? School was out and you were feeling giddy at the thought of two months' worth of freedom to be spent doing whatever you wanted.

Looking through rose-tinted glasses, it seems we had more days of proper Summer weather too. Cloudless days segued into balmy evenings, on which we begged to stay up just that little bit longer. Rainy days were few and far between and heatwave temperatures much more bearable. At least that last bit isn't far from the truth, as those crazy +40°C we've just experienced were of record-breaking height in our moderately climed little country.

But those days are long gone and nowadays the Summer months just seem to whizz by, leaving a blurry trail of indistinguishable days, most of which I spent working. But, even if nothing very much has been happening, at least in years to come I'll know what I was wearing!

In those post-heatwave days, we were blessed with some gorgeously sunny but not too warm days.

On the Tuesday (oh my, this is two weeks ago already!) I wore one of my all-time favourite dresses. This delicously swishy 1980s does 1950s dress is such a joy to wear. It came with a belt of its own, but I prefer adding an off-white vinyl one, which is another favourite. If the brooch I pinned to it, with its vase full of embroidered flowers, looks familiar, it's one of the three I found in that Shrewsbury antiques centre. The cardigan was a recent charity shop find.

It was a bit of a stressful week, work-wise, as the bosses were visiting from Miami. I'm not sure if you remember, but earlier this year, I traded in my old boss for two new ones! On the plus side, they are the nicest guys ever, but life is always a bit more hectic when my normal office routine is being disrupted.

Another plus is that they love my vintage outfits! These are some more of the outfits I wore that week. On the bottom left, a floral Diolen dress with a plastic swallow brooch pinned to it, and worn with a navy belt. And on the top right, another 1950s style dress with an abstract print and a tie collar. I wore this one with red accessories, including a plastic butterfly brooch.

When time and weather allows, we take outfit photos in the morning, with me posing in a picturesque corner of our village church. 

The church's origins are 12th century, but only the white sandstone west tower (not pictured) remains from that period. It was extended and renovated in the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries, with the latest adaptations daing from 1928-29.

After leaving me at the bus stop, Jos is going for his morning coffee and croissant. It's all right for some, isn't it?

I choose green for Friday's outfit, This was actually my first wearing of this solid green and chevron print frock. Again, I replaced its plain green self-belt with one from my collection in contrasting tan with a cream lacy overlay. The lace theme was repeated in the reddish orange and cream slingbacks.

A vintage orange beaded necklace and faux mosaic butterfly brooch were my other accessories.

When I posted half of the above photograph on Instagram, Goody remarked that I looked like a garden goddess!

Speaking of Instagram, I think I am quite done with it. It was fun posting my daily outfits and reconnecting with people who are no longer blogging, but for the last week it has been giving me more trouble than it's worth, as for some reason it keeps preventing me from liking photos and making comments, giving me Action Blocked messages, as supposedly I have been doing things which are not according to their policy. Heaven knows what they are. Anyway, those of you I am following and are following me on Instagram, it's not that I don't like you anymore!

But I digress, so let's proceed with the matter at hand.

After the week I've had, I was more than happy that the weekend had arrived, even if Saturday greeted us with a blanket of grey.

Raring to get out of the house and walk off the Mid-Summer blues, we went for a stroll in the park which has the added bonus of being near one of our favourite charity shops.

I was wearing the striking midnight blue dress with a heady white and orange flower print, which followed me home from Think Twice in my first week back at work.

On top, the blue blazer with its sprinkling of orange leaves. Charity shopped last year and hardly worn for months on end, it's been making regular appearances these last few weeks. I'm really quite surprised at the number of outfits it seems to work with.

The faux wicker bag was a naughty retail buy from well before #fastfashionseason, and it has been used so many times that I'm no longer feeling guilty about its purchase. The blue flats were a sales bargain from two Summers ago, and almost rival my Cloudsteppers in comfort.

We've reversed roles here, and it seems I'm married to a natural model! The muted browns of Jos's trousers and jacket contrast beautifully with his blue floral shirt. Both the jacket and shirt were charity shop finds. And so was the belt, which he picked up in Shrewsbury!

Here's a closer look at the exotic print of my dress. I added an additional orange flower for further oomph, a tan belt at my waist and the same orange beaded necklace I wore on Friday.

The orange enamel of the ring had a little chip, which I repaired by painting it all over with orange nail polish in a slightly different shade.

I'm making a concentrated effort to wear more bangles and bracelets. During the week, this usually falls by the wayside, as when I do wear them, they have to be removed when I'm at my desk as they hinder my typing.

But as I have more than a box full of them, not wearing them is a bit of a shame, don't you think?

From the park, we ambled towards the charity shop, where pickings were slim but still included some books and a pair of Italian made shoes. And some bracelets, but you'll get to see those later.

On Sunday, the sun was out in full force again, presenting us with a glorious Summer's day. 

It was the first Sunday of August, the day a huge flea market is being held in a nearby village. It used to be a highlight of our Summer season for many years until two years ago, when we were more than just a little disappointed with the quality of the stalls.

After giving it a miss last year, we were now prepared to give it another go.

Sadly, it was another disappointment but although this became clear soon enough we stubbornly persevered, passing stall after stall selling cast-off clothing, toys and general tat under the glaring midday sun.

I was glad I was wearing a hat but forgot to bring a scarf to protect my neck, so that I was forced to buy a reasonable looking one for € 0,50.

As the market wasn't too far from Saturday's park, we decided to return and sit on a bench under some trees, while listening to the gurgling of the stone fountain, which added some additional coolness. 

Playing around with its mirror image, it seems there's a mythical figure hiding in the green!

I was wearing a gloriously cool 1970s cotton Summer frock. When we left the house that morning, one of our opposite neighbours remarked that I looked very "English". 

My accessories that day included a red belt, red and white beaded necklace, vintage metal flower brooch and a stack of bangles. Both the bracelet with its different coloured squares and the ivory coloured carved one were the ones I charity shopped on Saturday

For the longest time, my only find - apart from the scarf - was the vintage plastic brooch depicting Hansel and Gretel. And Phoebe!

Then, as we were nearly at the end of the market, I found two more brooches (top and bottom left) and a Bakelite, Art-Deco style tie pin!

Finally, there was this little vintage crochet handbag. I've used the other handbag, which has been in my collection for a couple of years, for sizing purposes. This one is regular handbag size, so that you can see how tiny the new one is. Too tiny to carry much in it, but surely too cute to be left behind?

Linking Saturday's dress to Nancy's Fancy Friday!

Monday, 12 August 2019

Two castles and a dragon

On Tuesday the 2nd of July, the day after our aqueduct adventure, we decided to stay a bit closer to home and go to Shrewsbury for the day, once again making use of the excellent Park and Ride system.

The bus dropped us off at the Barker Street stop, which is only a short walk from both the town's main shopping streets and the river. And the river is where we were headed.

A blanket of grey clouds, with just a watery sun playing peek-a-boo once or twice, prompted my outfit of choice for the day, which you'll get to see in more detail in a minute.

So, from the bus stop, we walked into the direction of the river, which we crossed by way of the Welsh Bridge. On our right, on Frankwell Quay, loomed the Theatre Severn, a contemporary riverside theatre which was opened in 2009.

Looking behind us, we caught a glimpse of the The Quantum Leap, the coil-like sculpture in the middle of the photo on the bottom right, which was unveiled to mark Darwin’s bicentenary in 2009.

Charles Darwin is Shrewsbury's most famous son, who was born in the town on 12th February 1809.

Frankwell, one of Shrewsbury's oldest suburbs, is lying adjacent to the River Severn.

We were off to visit Rosie, at Rosie's Emporium, an eco-friendly, zero waste grocery shop. I befriended Rosie on Facebook after following her shop's progress on a page called For The Love of Shropshire, so we thought it was time we got acquainted in real life.

The shop is a delight and so is Rosie who, upon learing of my blog, presented me with a funky polyester top! 

Having purchased some juicy peaches and a glass-bottled drink, we re-crossed the river and had what Vix would call a "slap-up 'Spoons lunch" at the local Wetherspoons, The Shrewsbury Hotel.

After walking off our lunch with a stroll around the town and taking in some of the by now familiar sights, we went in search of an antiques centre we'd spotted last year, but hadn't had time to visit.

And here's a peek of what I was wearing! The maxi skirt was making its second appearance of the holiday, this time combined with a long-sleeved tunic top. The top, with its little bow tie, started life as a mini dress. It was languishing in my wardrobe as I never wore it, so I gave it a little make-over. I'm quite pleased with the result, just don't look too closely or you'll notice my wonky stitching!

I added a yellow, round-buckled belt to accentuate my waist and pinned a large, blush pinkand green flower brooch to it. On top, the delightful Zara blazer I picked up on Saturday in a Welshpool charity shop.

It's at this antiques centre that we spotted the boring beige version of that fabulous red telephone we'd found that weekend. We were especially chuffed that this one had a considerably higher price tag!

After some browsing, I bought three brooches and an intriguing looking book with lifestyle lessons from the 1930s. 

The pair of pink and floral sneakers were just £ 5 in a charity shop and must have been waiting for me as they weren't only my size, but perfectly suited to my taste and style. Plus, no white soles!

On the bottom right is Rosie's funky top.

We ended the afternoon at the redundant St. Mary's church, with one of the tallest spires in England, which has been dominating Shrewsbury's skyline for over 500 years.

The church is the only complete medieval church in Shrewsbury. Its origin dates back to Saxon times and it has beautiful additions from the 12th century onwards.

At the back, there is a café, where we indulged ourselves with cakes and the inevitable cappuccinos.

The sun was out in full force again on Wednesday, when we planned to revisit some old favourites.

We first visited Stokesay Castle, an English Heritage property in the town of Craven Arms in South Shropshire, many years ago when we were staying across the border in Herefordshire.

Our visit back then was marred by rain, so this one was in total contrast.

Picturesque Stokesay Castle is one of the finest and best-preserved fortied medieval manor houses in England.

One if its most striking features is the 17th century timber-framed gatehouse, which has beautifully ornate carvings in its frame.

The magnificent Great Hall has remained unchanged for over 700 years. The fine timber roof and staircase, with treads cut from whole tree trunks, all show the same carpenters' mark from 1291.

Inside the solar, there is an exquisite overmantel carved with fruit, flowers and figures, which you can see on the bottom right of the below collage. Once brightly coloured it still has traces of the original red, green and gold paint. 

It's quite a climb to the top of the fairy-tale South Tower, the most castle-like part of the site.

Emboldened by my excursion on the aqueduct, I confidently climbed its narrow, winding staircase, but was nevertheless relieved to find high battlements and a solid, non-see-through, wooden floor.

Breathtaking views of the property and the Shropshire Hills beyond were our reward!

The photo above also offers the opportunity of a better look at my outfit, consisting of a 1940s style floral Summer frock, accessorized with a blue belt and necklace and a pink plastic ring. 

Wearing my new-to-me sneakers for the first time, I can tell you that not only do they look fabulous, they are fabulously comfortable as well!

After lunch - we'd brought a picnic - a 15-minute drive took us to Ludlow, a bustling black and white market town which is another old favourite. In fact, our last visit only dates from last year.

Our last visit to its castle, however, dates back to our Herefordshire days, so we thought it was well overdue another visit.

I'm left in no doubt that the weather wasn't up to scratch back then, but on this warm and sundrenched afternoon we took shelter within the coolness of its walls.

Guarded by both the Rivers Teme and Corve, the castle stands prominently on high ground, able to resist attack from would-be invaders from across the Welsh border.

Ludlow Castle, which started life as a Norman fortress, was extended over the centuries to become a fortified Royal Palace, passing through several generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.

It became crown property in 1461 and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years.

The round tower-like structure are actually the romantic remains of the 11th century Norman Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene. 

Abandoned in 1689, the castle quickly fell into ruin, described as "the very perfection of decay" by Daniel Defoe, most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe.

Since 1811, the castle has been owned by the Earls of Powis, who have arrested further decline, and allowed this magnificent historical monument to be open to the public.

Tired after exploring the exentensive ruins, I climbed into this giant wooden throne to rest my weary feet.

In a shady corner, this fierce but rather comical dragon was guarding its lair. She turned out to be the protagonist of the Great Easter Dragon Egg Hunt held back in April. I thought she looked quite at home in the castle ruins!

After the obvious refreshments, we walked back to our car, which was parked at the other end of the town. 

I couldn't resist a quick look inside one final charity shop, where I unearthed this gorgeous Phase Eight jumpsuit. It poses logistical problems, as it closes with a zip in the back, but hey, it's got pockets!

The hat on the left, made in London for a Ludlow shop based on The Bull Ring, was picked up in another charity shop earlier that day.

I'm sad to say that my travelogue is nearing its end, so before regaling you with our final adventures, I will return with another outfit based post next time.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Heatwave woes

I'm giving you - and myself - another break from the travelogue, which is nearing its final stages, by treating you to another outfit based post.

The weeks keep hurtling by at what feels like the speed of light, come and gone within the blink of an eye, and it's mind-boggling at times to look at the calendar and find that it's August already and that the summer months will soon be just a distant memory.

But enough already with being maudlin, let's proceed with a round-up of the outfits I've been wearing when we were in the throes of the Big Heat.

It's good to have a photographic record courtesy of Instagram, as left to its own devices, my mind is drawing a bit of a blank.

Sunshine and showers played a game of tag on the Saturday before the heatwave. I was wearing a butterfly sleeved Diolen dress with a dense flower print in blue, green, yellow, white and pink. 

I accessorized it with a green belt, necklace and ring, but opted for a bright blue soft leather handbag, which I found in a charity shop in Bridgnorth. The brooch I selected features tiny embroidered flowers. 

I took the blue handbag on its very first outing, which included a trip to the optician's to pick up Jos's new multifocals. Aren't they snazzy?

Then we made a slight detour to the nearest charity shop, where I found the blue suede shoes I'm wearing with my outfit, as well as a lovely lemon and lime curtain.

There was a flea market on Sunday 21st of July, which was Belgium's National Holiday, but we were both feeling a bit sluggish and not up to the 30-minute drive and one kilometer walk it would involve.

So, we stayed at home and pottered instead. 

Being a bit apprehensive about the heatwave which was forecast to hit us in the next days, we were thinking of ways to keep it cool inside the house. This would involve living in semi-darkness while it lasted. However, up until now we had no means of obscuring the sunlight streaming in through our front door's window and fan. This is where the charity shop curtain came in. All that was needed was an extending shower curtain rod and some sturdy safety pins!

A day pottering at home doesn't mean being a slob in my book, so I wore a sleeveless vintage dress in sky blue with a floral print in orange, green and white.

I pinned my Bohemian brooch to its collar and wore an orange and white beaded necklace and sparkly plastic ring.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention my main accessory, Phoebe! She wasn't too pleased to be picked up, though, and I soon had to let her go for my own safety.

I was wearing these new Clarks sandals for the very first time. Yes, you've read that right, and I'm pleading guilty: they are new and I bought them while I was in the UK.  Jos usually buys a pair of Clarks shoes when we're there as it's right in the middle of the sales, and I couldn't resist having a little browse myself.  I wasn't actually allowed to buy them as I'm participating in #slowfashionseason, but Jos said he'd buy them for me, so that they were a gift! 

I had Monday off as well, and here I am enjoying my morning coffee in the relative coolness of the garden before the sun was out in full force.

Temperatures were bound to climb into the high twenties that day, so I combined the Indian cotton skirt which I charity shopped in Shrewsbury with a stretchy cowl-necked top bought at a local charity shop last Summer. 

The massive seagull brooch was a gift from Vix and, staying within the seaside theme, I wore a shell necklace found in a Ludlow charity shop last year.

The chunky cups and saucers were made in Italy and were a lucky flea market find.

The heatwave started in earnest on Tuesday when the mercury kept rising towards the mid-thirties.

We have mobile A/C units at the office and I was fine wearing a sleeveless cotton frock until I hitched a ride home on a tram which turned out to be a mobile sauna. As I could wring a puddle of sweat from my frock by the time I got home, no outfit photos were taken that day.

None were taken on Wednesday either, when I was forced to face the heat for a hairdresser's appointment . I was wearing Monday's maxi skirt again, combining it with a cotton top which was another holiday charity shop find. You can catch a glimpse of it on the top left and bottom right. I wore colourful wooden beads with it, and this time I remembered to bring my Spanish fan.

Not that this was needed, as it was mercifully cool inside the salon. On my way there, I took some random snapshots. At least the 17th century street corner Madonna and her baby have a roof over their heads to shelter them from the heat. The inscription on the house on the bottom left made me think of Vronni!

Thursday was the hottest day ever recorded in Belgium, with temperatures leading up to and over 40° Celsius. I soon felt like a wilted flower, in spite of the fact that I was wearing this cool 1970s pink cotton sundress trimmed with broderie anglaise.

Even with all three A/C units going full blast, things started heating up in the afternoon. By 3.30 I had a splitting headache, which wasn't helped by the eternal racket these machines make, so I called it a day. Just walking the short distance from the office building to the underground literally made me gasp for non-existent air.

A slight drop in temperature on Friday, but still well over 30° Celsius. This cotton 1950s frock, in normal circumstances a joy to wear, was quite clingy by late morning. I wore it with my shell necklace and a fishy belt to create some seaside illusion.

The weather turned on Friday night and cooling rain made the temperature drop considerably. But the heat had completely depleted my energy, so that our weekend was spent not doing very much at all. Oh, what exciting lives we're leading!

Saturday's outfit was built around this cute cotton 1960s dress I found in a vintage shop in Bridgnorth. I accessorized it in white and blue, including a sailing boat brooch and the blue handbag, which I found on the same day as the dress. A match made in heaven!

I was feeling lethargic and fuzzy-brained, so that I had to literally drag myself away from the sofa and go outside for a breath of fresh air. 

In the end, the rain drove us inside a charity shop we hadn't been to since we came back from holiday. I was in luck as I found, clockwise from top left, a light blue cardigan trimmed with white and lurex, a long sleeved vintage blouse, a funky Zara top and a long sleeved top by French retro brand Mademoiselle YéYé.

On our way to the till, I spotted a rail full of new-in clothing, which contained my find of the day, this rather lovely and seemingly brand new King Louie frock!

With leaden skies and intermittent rain on Sunday, it was another day to be spent inside rather than going for a walk as we'd originally intended.

But I still wore clothes, even if it was just to step outside into the garden between showers. 

I've had the dress I'm wearing for many years, sourced from a vintage shop which has sadly stopped trading. It's got a tie and a self-belt, and this is actually one of the only dresses I'm always wearing with its own belt. The brooch is one of many bought from the Brooch Lady.

So, that was our heatwave and its aftermath.

I'll be returning with the penultimate episode of my travelogue in my next post!