Saturday 29 October 2016

Shaped by years of memories

Last weekend, my sister and I had another stab at clearing the contents of my dad's house.

My parents moved into the house, me as a toddler in tow, in 1964.

As my dad lived there until just a few days before he passed away, I am sure you can imagine the accumulated stuff after 52 years!

My childhood home's front door in the 1960s

This was our third session at the house, sorting through mountains of paperwork, getting rid of things like out of date medicines and most of my dad's clothes, as well as emptying drawers full of assorted junk.

Odd socks, candle ends, broken Christmas ornaments, boxes full of picture postcards, half-finished crosswords and scribbled notes: what are they but sad reminders of a lifetime of day-to-day living, carelessly abandoned or saved for the rainy day which will now never come.

Being of the sentimental kind, there are some things, valueless at first sight, which I am keeping, even if purely for their vintage appeal.

These booklets of stamps were the loyalty cards of their generation. The stamps were obtained when one bought certain products at the corner shop, and they were kept in a silver and blue Tetley's tea tin, until my mum had saved enough. In my mind's eye I can still see us, my mum and I, sitting at the dining table, diligently sticking the stamps into the booklets. Full booklets were saved up until November, when my mum used them to buy us the presents Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas, who is the primary source of the popular Christmas icon of Santa Claus, and who is celebrated on December 6th) supposedly brought us.

Me with "Sinterklaas" in 1968

These booklets somehow never got filled, but they're part of my childhood memories, so I'm definitely keeping them.

And how could I throw out these unused vintage Christmas cards?

When we were emptying one of the cupboards in my parents' bedroom, we found three boxes of baby shoes, one for each of us. These were mine. How poignant that, scuffed and whitened to within an inch of their lives, and minus their shoe-laces, they have lived, forgotten, at the back of this cupboard all this time.

My paternal grandmother and me in my grandparents' garden

They are probably the very same shoes I am wearing in this photo.

This framed certificate is proof that I was baptized, and the little card was my birth announcement.

My sister was about to throw out these hatpins, when I realized my mum must have worn these on her wedding day, as they are covered in the fabric of her wedding dress and hat.

Although there are only black and white photographs of my parents' wedding, I remember my mum's wedding dress, which for a long time she kept in her wardrobe. I have no idea what happened to it, but I'm sure that it was long gone when, after my mum died, my dad got rid of all her clothes.

I also kept two pairs of my mum's glasses and her rosary beads, which will find a home in this gorgeous vintage tin.

The same cupboard revealed a tattered carton filled with odds and ends, among which these pocket watches were hiding. They aren't in the best of condition, but will get a place in Jos's small collection.

The small gold toned one is in working order, but is missing its glass cover. It's got a gorgeous porcelain dial.

The one at the bottom, although it's missing one of its hands and its glass is a little scratched, is a "Roskopf", and might be worth having repaired.

I'm guessing the bowler hat which Jos is modelling belonged to my paternal grandfather. It could be the one he is wearing in the photo below, but I'm not sure.

As it is quite exquisitely lined, it could have belonged to my great uncle Joseph, who was married to my grandmother's sister Josephine, as they were quite well off.

The thought of them always makes me smile.  Joseph and Josephine: could there ever have been a better match?

My grandfather (left) with his father-in-law, late 1930s
I brought home two tins of assorted haberdashery, some of which must have belonged to my paternal grandmother.

A satisfying Sunday afternoon was spent sorting through it all, wondering at the items' history and their original purpose, and I've now got every conceivable colour of yarn and enough pins, bias binding and assorted trimmings to last me a lifetime!

“Sometimes you have to travel back in time, skirting the obstacles, in order to love someone.”
― Frances Mayes, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

Wednesday 26 October 2016

All tomorrow's parties

Sunday before last we were quite spoiled for choice, with both an indoor and an outdoor flea market virtually on our doorstep.

As the weather forecast was right for a change, and we woke up to a sunny, almost summery day, it was obvious that the indoor market did not stand a chance.

The outdoor market was advertised as having 750 stalls and, on top of that, the location was just perfect, as it was at De Schorre in Boom, a recreational domain and nature reserve at the site of a former clay pit.

In fact, the domain is world renowned as the location of a huge EDM festival called Tomorrowland, which is being held yearly in July. Much to the chagrin of the inhabitants of the surrounding streets, I must say. The heavy basses can actually be heard and felt at our village, 8 kilometers away. It also poses a risk to the local wildlife as every year after the event walkers come across the bodies of small animals who have dropped dead out of sheer terror.

After we parked our car at a quiet back street instead of at the main and usually busy parking area, we had to walk all through the domain to reach the flea market itself.

As the weather was so glorious, we made the most of our walk down, which you can take quite literally as we had to descend into the main part of the domain by way of a set of wooden stairs.

We soon came across elements of a red metal art installation, which originally stood at the site of another former clay pit near Jos's childhood home, and which I blogged about here.

One day, the artwork had disappeared without a trace, until we found out it was moved to De Schorre. Here, the artwork has been split up and has somehow lost its meaning, especially as some of the elements are not relevant to their new location.

After descending the wooden stairs, which in places are badly in need of repairs, we strolled along the boardwalk meandering further into the domain.

Eventually, the boardwalk became a path, tempting us into a wooded area. Soon, we crossed the first of a series of bridges, crossing a secluded pond mirroring a guard of honour of crooked trees.

After this, a clearing was reached where we could see the flea market in the distance.

About the market itself, I can be very brief, as it was a disappointment. Stall after stall selling children's outgrown clothes and discarded toys, heaps of cheap high street clothing, bargain DVDs and dodgy gadgets. Only a stall selling boxes of gourds and the odd one with a selection of Lourdes memorabilia prompted me to take out my camera.

In the end, I only bought a brooch (as seen above pinned to my jacket) and two necklaces. Oh, and there was an inside part to the market as well, where I stumbled upon this game, which I remember playing with in infant school. Look, I've already made myself a bracelet!

In search of a perfect place for our picnic, we walked towards the bridge, on which the strange fixture you can see in the distance can be found.

The bridge, which is 537 meters long, is an art installation called "One World, by the People of Tomorrow". It was created especially for the Tomorrowland festival by Flemish visual artist Arne Quinze and was unveiled in 2014. Its centerpiece is inspired by the Nike of Samothrace sculpture, which represents victory and freedom.

On the bridge's wooden slats are 210.000 drawings and messages from people from all over the world. Spelling mistakes and all ...

The bridge is a permanent fixture, and as well as an art installation, it is part of a walk and cycle path along the ponds and through the domain. There are also conveniently placed benches in case you want to have a picnic with a view!

Walking back to our car, we passed some lonely remains of the former brickworks which used to be established here.

Here, one of the elements of the red metal artwork couldn't have been placed better.
It reads "Als een landschap kon spreken" (transl.: if a landscape could speak), framing the evocative ruin claimed by time and nature, almost but not quite drowning out the echoes of its industrial past.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Handbags and gladrags

Last Saturday it was "Dag van de Kringloopwinkel" here in Belgium. For the sake of this blog, I am translating this as " Day of the Charity Shops", although strictly speaking, they are not charity shops, but "recycling" shops. For a more detailed explanation on how they operate, see my post here.

The event is being held to promote the working of the shops, but we, as dyed in the wool charity shoppers, needed no further introduction, of course.

In fact, when we received a flyer in the post a couple of weeks ago,  this would have gone straight into the bin, if my eyes hadn't been drawn to the smaller lettering, which said that there would be a special offer of "retro & vintage".

We are aware that in the run up to events like these, anything which can even be vaguely considered vintage, is being put aside.

We also know that the asking price at these events is higher than usual.

It is still worth having a look, though.

As our first shop, we chose our favourite one, which we visit about once a fortnight, as they usually have the best selection.

Although we weren't looking for anything in particular, we always keep our eyes peeled for cups and saucers of a pattern by Belgian pottery Boch, which until now are proving to be elusive. In fact, the shop had a mind-boggling array of vintage crockery on offer, but not what we were looking for ...

Still missing cups and saucers ...
We don't know the issue date nor the name of the pattern, but the fact that Jos's parents had this when he was growing up, dates it from at least the 1950s, if not earlier.

We did find an addition to one of the other Boch patterns we are collecting. This is called Rambouillet and was issued 1966 for the pottery's 125th anniversary.  It was very popular at the time and, after having been out of favour for many years, it is now quite sought after ...

Not to be deterred, I descended to the basement to have a look at the clothing, which was also quite disappointing. However, there was a whole shelf of vintage handbags! So this is why I hadn't been able to find anything decent in this shop lately ...

There were quite a few I liked the look of, and I had a hard time making a choice, which in the end I managed to whittle down to three.

Jos then persuaded me to take them all. As if I needed any persuasion ...

At special events like this, we tend to visit more than one shop, making the most of what's on offer.

One of the other shops we visited was a disappointment. Not only did we not find anything at all, the prices were quite exorbitant. I spotted a couple of handbags which were almost double the price of the ones I'd bought that morning, but which weren't even half as nice.

After our usual picnic (in the car this time, as it was quite chilly), we drove back home but at the last minute decided to pay a visit to our most local shop. This one is actually in our own village but has been quite disappointing on previous visits.

Not this time, though. The vintage tv would have come home with us, if we'd had the space for it. It was abolutely gorgeous and so much nicer than a flatscreen tv.

This is what we bought instead.

More crockery. From left to right: flowery cups to match the coffeepot and tablecoth we found recently, spare Rambouillet cups and a Boch milk jug from their Paradiso range.

You can just make out Phoebe's eyes in the background ...

More handbags, and a little beaded purse. I am desperately running out of space in this department now ...

And finally, a cute summery two-piece, shown here by Angelica, and woolly cap topped with a big pom pom shown by me!

Oh, and my outfit details:

Pussy-bow dress, belt: charity shopped
Handbag: Think Twice
Beads: Vintage Styling
Brooch: flea market
Cadigan, jacket (with detachable fake fur collar), boots, ring: retail

Wednesday 19 October 2016

A little peek inside my wardrobe

Last Wednesday, I had an unexpected day off, as it was Yom Kippur (my boss is Jewish), which meant we were not allowed to come into work. It's an extra day we get on top of our regular vacation days, so who was I to complain? In fact, I immediately knew how I would spend the day.

It was time again for the biannual great wardrobe switch! I'd already made a half hearted start, but apart from freeing up some hanging space by putting away my sleeveless summer dresses, I hadn't gotten very far.  Wednesday turned out to be a dismal day, making it the perfect weather for what I had in mind.

 A word of warning, though: if you  prefer a minimalist wardrobe, this will be a shock to the system!

After breakfast, I took out the majority of my summer dresses, leaving only a couple of thicker ones which I might still wear, as well as anything which is a nightmare to iron and which I prefer to keep on their hangers all year round. I folded the others and made neat piles ready for putting into vacuum bags.

Then, it was time to open the huge linen chest, which used to belong to Jos's grandparents, and which we use to store out of season clothes. I took out all the bags containing my long-sleeved dresses, leaving only a bag of heavy woollen ones, as well as a bag of jumpers, which I'll tackle on a later date.

Opening the bags usually yields one or two surprises: dresses I had half or even completely forgotten about.  Anything that no longer appeals is discarded and things I remember being a close fit are tried on and put aside for now if they are too snug.

Eventually, the bed ended up completely covered in dresses, after which I could start the more enjoyable task of hanging them up. By colour, obviously. Yes, I am a nerd like that, but it really makes life easier.

There, that's better, isn't it?

Admittedly, they are packed too closely together, so maybe I should get rid of some more ...

By now, I think it’s time I told you about my vintage wardrobe. Not the clothes, mind you, you are seeing quite enough of those already, but my actual wardrobe or closet.

For many years, my husband and I had side-by-side identical pine IKEA wardrobes. When I look at the size of them now, I'm wondering how mine could have contained all my clothes, as it is way too small.

I do have another wardrobe tucked away in our spare room, one I’ve had since I first left home in the early eighties, as well as a rickety chest of drawers for all the smaller stuff, but still ...

Since I started buying and wearing vintage frocks, I ran out of space very quickly, but I had very specific requirements as to what my “dream wardrobe” should be like. What I needed was less shelving and more hanging space.

I also wanted the wardrobe to be a vintage one so, armed with the necessary measurements, we spent our Saturdays visiting charity shop after charity shop in search of the elusive wardrobe.

Finally, in early March of last year, we spotted the wardrobe at the ridiculous price of € 65.

The main part of the wardrobe, with its bow-fronted doors, opens to a full rail of hanging space.

The side doors, which are adorned with carved flower panels, hide additional hanging space on the left and shelving on the right, and there's even a drawer under one of the shelves which is perfect for accessories!

The only thing missing was a shelf above the hanging space in the main part of the wardrobe, originally meant for storing hats. That was soon righted, however, as we found just the right kind of shelf in in another charity shop a couple of weeks later. It only needed shortening, and it's now holding my smaller handbags.

My original wardrobe has been put to good use too. It now lives in the spare room and is holding our coats and jackets. It would definitely benefit from a clear-out, as there are some that haven't been worn for years. And I am not the only guilty one here ...

Although I was knackered after all the switching around, I still decided to tackle my shoes as well. Out with the frivolous summer shoes and sandals, and in with the winter shoes and boots. They are stored in the spare room too, in a tower of IKEA shoe boxes, which neatly open at the front.

I guess I'm all ready for autumn and winter now!

Before I sign off, there is something that puts all this into perspective. Two days after I wrote this post, I logged into my Facebook account, only to be confronted by the terrible news that our friend and fellow blogger Jessica Cangiano of the fabulous Chronically Vintage blog, was hit by a devastating tragedy, losing her house and all its contents in a house fire.

If you would like to help Jessica and her husband Tony get back on their feet, please have a look at the You Caring page and the Facebook page which have been set up.