Sunday 31 December 2017

The keepers of our secrets

Another year has passed and once again earth has completed its orbit.

Once more, the enchanted place has fallen under midwinter's spell.

December's eternal gloom has lifted, if only briefly. The layers of grey have peeled away, leaving patches of delicate blue sky and a low watery sun painting the horizon in brilliant colours.

The river is a mirrored ribbon, snaking away towards the railway bridge in the distance.

Every so often, a train passes by, creating a low, rumbling, but somehow soothing sound.

The sky is darkening already, the sun still convalescing and not yet strong enough to lengthen the late December afternoon.

A path leads away from the river towards the castle. Through tangled shrubs and weathered branches, the crumbling castle can be glimpsed, moated and miserable.

Rounding a corner, its unearthly beauty is revealed, its turrets defying gravity, its walls covered with mosses and lichen.

Time is fleeting, and we fail to catch the fleeting moments.

Only the trees have witnessed the castle's slow but steady decay.

Gone is the great hall used for feasting. The birds are kings of the castle now!

The silence is shattered by their plaintive calling and their bickering and squabbling for the best seats on parapets and blind window ledges.

Turning away from the castle, with its padlocked gates and moss encrusted coat of arms, it's as if we are leaving behind last year's regrets and I-told-you-so's.

The wintry sunlight is casting elongated shadows.

Rainclouds are gathering, but shafts of sunlight keep piercing through them, creating an eerie interplay of sun and clouds.

The illuminated trees are bright and brilliant beacons in the park's undulating landscape.

The sun keeps getting tangled in their branches, sinking lower still, the sudden chill a herald of the night to come.

So, it is time to say goodbye once more, taking only dreams to be dreamt on moonlit nights in the new born year.

 May the new year be a happy one and may some of our dreams come true.

“For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning." 
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Thursday 28 December 2017

Just the three of us

I'm breathing a sigh of relief now that Christmas has been done and dusted for another year, and we're back to some kind of normality.

Not that it wasn't enjoyable, mind you: it was spent just the way we wanted, relaxing and semi-hibernating inside Dove Cottage.

With the interminable grey weather persisting, we didn't even contemplate going outside for longer than strictly necessary. Nor did we need to, as we'd got in all our provisions on the Friday, in order to avoid the mad last minute rush.

On the day of Christmas Eve, I briefly walked into town to get a loaf of bread.

In honour of the Season, I dressed in red and green. I topped my red vintage dress, bought at a flea market a couple of Summers ago, with the green fur-collared jacket I recently found at Think Twice.

You already know the red beret, which is fastly becoming a favourite, but the purple boots were charity shopped last Saturday. I added oat coloured tights sprinkled with rosebuds.

For some reason, people looked at me as if I was the ghost of Christmas past. Oh, I get it. I wasn't wearing a Christmas jumper or a Santa hat!

Oh, why does nobody bother to dress up anymore?

The dress, which is a tiny bit wide on top, was cinched in with a purple elastic belt, and I chose a purple necklace too. The charity shopped King Louie cardigan was thrown on at the last minute.

Soaking up some pale rays of sunshine

The final touches were my two Christmas brooches, as seen in this post's opening photo: a sparkly reindeer bought in a high street shop last year, and a reindeer pin designed by one of my old punk buddies now living in Berlin and trading under the name Henri Banks!

That night, we set the table with my parents' dinner service, and celebrated with just the two of us, starting off festivities as usual with non-alcoholic bubbly drank from Babycham glasses.

Scrap that, obviously I meant the three of us. Here's Phoebe showing who's boss!

Although Christmas day itself wore a cloak of sombre grey, in our cosy little home everything was merry and bright.

Once or twice, a pale ray of sunshine managed to pierce through the layer of clouds, so briefly, in fact, that you could easily have missed it if you didn't happen to be looking outside at that very moment.

Perfect for lounging in our pyamas, curling up on the sofa with a good book.

This is a tradition of our own, started when we celebrated our first Christmas together, all of twenty three Christmases ago!

Soppy Christmas records are playing in the background, accompanied by much eye rolling and singing along out of tune with alternative, made-up, lyrics!

I'm not sure Dove Cottage's assortment of Marys approve!

Now if the weather had been a bit more accomodating, we would have dressed at some point and gone for a bracing walk. We would even have welcomed some snow, to be crunched through with snow booted feet and warm mittened hands.

But alas! When has Christmas ever been that Christmas card perfect in these parts, complete with robins on snow covered fences? Do they only exist in people's imagination or some half forgotten childhood memories? Are they ever fact rather than fiction?

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.
-Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales-

Looking through old photographs, as one is bound to do on such occasions, I came across these ones, taken in December 1969.

Fashionable in mini skirt and white wellies!

Quite a bit of snow to have produced such a large snowman, but a bit of googling revealed that there was no snow on Christmas day.

With that, I've counted and found that I mentioned the C word fourteen times in this post, so that'll definitely be it for another year!

Sunday 24 December 2017

I'm dreaming of a quiet Christmas

A quick update before Christmas! Friday was my last working day of the year and to say I've been looking forward to some time off is quite an understatement. Eleven days away from the rat race and the frenzied crowds colonizing the city sounds like pure bliss.

I'm happy to say I won't be taking part in the Christmas madness.
One of these years we'll be starting our own branch of Vix's Dead Relatives Society, but until then it will just be the two of us lounging in our pyjamas for most of the day!

These photos are from last weekend but as I'm still running behind (after all, I've got to live first, and then blog about it!), they still had to be posted.

I have to confess that I built Saturday's outfit around the tights, which I absolutely needed to wear! I'm sure Beate and Vix will understand!

The dress, its print a glorious mix of abstract stripes on an burgundy red background, can be accessorized with almost any colour you can think of, but bright pink it had to be. As luck would have it, there's a belt in my collection in exactly the same colour as the tights.

There's some pink again in the brooch I pinned to my dress: a delicate rose painted onto an ivory background and set in an loopy white metal frame.

In order to avoid a sugar hiccup, I offset all the pink with an ivory coloured plastic necklace and wore a violet cardigan on top. The white ceramic heart brooch was bought from The Crafter's Cwtch in Cardigan last June.

I'm wearing calf length black boots to provide better visibility of the tights!

It was too warm for my Princess coat, so I finally got around to wearing the black and white houndstooth coat I bought for € 4 at Think Twice back in October.

The burgundy handbag needs no further introduction as it featured here before. So did the sumptuously embroidered purple crushed velvet scarf, which was a € 0,10 flea market find.

My outerwear was completed by my raspberry beret and purple suede gloves.

If I look a bit haughty in the photo on the left, it's because I was giving directions to my photographer, Jos!

A quick dash to the charity shops yielded the brand new red bag with red polka dot lining, a fake Astrakhan scarf and two brooches. 

Earlier that week, I bought the green felted hat at Think Twice. 

It is looking particularly gorgeous on Twiggy, which might be due to her matching eye make-up!

This dress came home with me as well. Lighting conditions are really bad these days so you'll be getting a proper look once I'll get around to wearing it.

I tried to take a selfie in Think Twice's fitting room, but unfortunately the dress ended up looking blue instead of the pitch black it actually is. But don't you love that groovy wallpaper?

Last weekend was also the time to put up our Christmas tree. We've had this fake tree for almost 20 years, and it's still going strong. The decorations are either heirlooms or flea market and charity shop finds. 

We try to add to our collection each year and the baubles in the pink plastic basket are this year's offerings. The glass bauble containing the crystal reindeer is a recent find as well. All charity shopped!

Although there isn't exactly a theme going on, there seems to be quite a bit of wildlife residing in our tree.

The little wren, one of a pair, is the only decoration we once bought new, although I can't for the life of me remember where or when. I do love these small birds in real life too. The Flemish word for a wren is Winterkoninkje, which translates as "little winter king" and indeed the cheeky little birds only seem to visit our garden in Winter!

The ladybird and the golden bird are both vintage. And look Goody, there's Blondin too! He's a recent charity shop find as well.

The dress I was wearing on Sunday was bought in the same Think Twice sales as the houndstooth coat, but again this was its first wear. 

I wore a green belt and ring with it and added the green hat when going outside. 

The boots are Miz Mooz and bought in the sales quite a few years ago. They are gorgeous in every way but for some reason they don't do my back any good if I wear them all day. 

The short fake fur jacket has been in my wardrobe for many years as well. It came from a high street shop called Hema, well known in the Low Countries. Before I started wearing vintage, I wore it with jeans, but I think it has now found its perfect partners in that funky dress and the orange vintage brooch!

This is one of those outfits that just happened and which was put together without much thought, but for me it's a big contender for favourite outfit of the month!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas. May the day, as they say, be merry and bright!  I wouldn't mind it being white either, as long as it's all gone by Boxing Day!

Thursday 21 December 2017

When the world stops for snow

They've got it wrong again! That was our first thought upon opening our curtains on Sunday before last. "They", of course, are the weather forecasters, who'd predicted snow during the night. And what did we see? Exactly, nothing! The world outside our window was looking its grey old self!

For once, we were glad they were wrong, as we had a flea market to go to!

But look: we'd hardly stepped outside before it did start snowing, very gently at first, but by the time we reached the garage where our car is parked, snow was drifting down in fat fluffy flakes.

Being a Sunday morning, the roads were all but deserted, with only a few other people like us foolhardy enough to be venturing outside, instead of watching the transformation of our streets and gardens into a white wonderland from the warmth and safety of our homes.

Nobody seemed to be in a hurry, though, so we made our way at a snail's pace to the flea market venue in Mechelen, taking much longer than the usual 20 minutes or so.

Having made it safely to our destination and having checked in with our membership id cards, a happy few hours of rummaging could finally begin. 

It didn't take me long to make my first purchase, at a delightful stall full of treasures, where I found this small lot of vintage buttons.

As usual, all manner of goodies, including quite a few oddities, were shouting for our attention.

Of course, I had to photograph the creepy dolls' heads, some of them eyeless, others staring into space as if wondering about their fate. The stall's owner even re-arranged them for me so that I could take a better picture!

As we'd arrived late, our stomachs started rumbling soon, but before we sat down to lunch, I bought my first two brooches. 

The little boat with its long pin, proudly displaying the Belgian colours, might be a Liberation brooch, made to celebrate the Liberation of Belgium after the Second World War.

From the same stall came the blue and sparkly green flying bird. Both were € 3.

Soon after lunch, two more brooches came my way. The black one, which might look like plastic but is surprisingly heavy, is a vintage mourning brooch, and I think the € 7 I paid for it is quite a good price.

The plastic dove, fittingly in dove grey, was only € 2, from the same stall.

More oddities! I loved the packaging of the "Sport-Trainer", depicting three "absolutely harmless" girls. That's my friends Ingrid and Inez and me then, although I'm not too sure we are absolutely harmless. 

Then we came across the two ladies with the jewellery heaped stall I keep promising you photographs of. Well, I did it this time!

After a good old rummage more purchases were made in the form of these six brooches, for which I paid a total of € 17.

I do believe the black one with the sparkly stones might be another mourning brooch.

We also found another plaster wall plaque for our wall of heads! Isn't she absolutely gorgeous?

The snow had been replaced by yet more rain by the time we left and thaw had set in, turning the snow piled up at the side of the roads into dishwater coloured sludge.

Daylight was fading rapidly when we finally made it back, so that flash photography was required for my outfit photos, making me look all shiny and bright.

The Tweed jacket I'd been wearing on Saturday was now accompanied by green accessories: a  knitted scarf and warm woolly hat! The tan handbag - a firm favourite! - complimented the jacket's furry bits, and I was wearing my burgundy boots, which are lined with a welcome layer of woolly insulation.

First wear of this Paisley print dress, with its pleated skirt and built-in tie, which I secured with a floral scarf clip. 

Further accessories were an olive green belt, which you can only catch a glimpse of, a burgundy plastic ring and a pink owl brooch, one of the few contemporary ones I own.

Same scenario on Monday morning. Almost all of Sunday's snow had melted and the streets were looking wet and forlorn. 

While I was on the bus into town, the first batch of fresh snow starting falling, which had turned into an onslaught of merrily swirling and dancing flakes by the time I got to the office.

The sky was dark and foreboding, promising no let up of the snow and, as I stood looking down from our windows on the struggling pedestrians and slow-moving traffic, I made the wise decision to take the afternoon off.

The merest amount of snow makes Belgium's traffic come to a standstill, creating chaos, so it would have been madness to make my way home during rush hour.

An added bonus was that I could enjoy the sight of our snow filled garden and watch Phoebe leaving delicate paw prints as she explored the strange white substance.

Again, the snow didn't last and was gone within a day, so that I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Picturesque it may be, but not much fun if you have to commute!