Monday 31 December 2018

The hunter of dreams

Time hurries swiftly on,
Each fleeting year seems shorter than the last,
And many hopes which cheered its opening dawn,
Are buried with the past.
~Mary Ann H. Dodd Shutts, Passing Time

Once upon a time, I thought I had time. So much time that I never gave it much thought. So much time that I just used it as if there were an endless supply. So much time that I let it carelessly slip through my fingers.

I was young and didn't know better than that there would always be time and that everything would remain the way it was. How was I to know that I would grow up and grow older, and that time is like shifting sand. That the passing of time would wreak havoc on the world as I knew it. That houses would be built on what was once my playground.

And even if I should know better by now, I am still getting away from the present moment. There, it has gone. And another one. And another.

The past is wrapped in cotton wool. Put at the back of a bottom drawer and forgotten. Until one day you happen upon it, slightly warped and yellowed with age.

All it takes is a snippet of a half-forgotten song, a whiff of my mother's perfume, a photograph stuck between the pages of a book.

The time machine, its rusty cogs creaky with age, is put into motion and suddenly I'm back in 1974, with the radio playing in the background and me singing along in broken English.

Or 1969, standing on tiptoe in  front of the bathroom mirror, trying out my Mum's chalky lipstick and dabbing my wrists with her perfume. The one in the fancy bottle that she bought from the Avon Lady the other week.

Oh, and that photograph, it takes me right back to my grandparents' garden. It's the early 1960s, and I'm dressed in a pink corduroy frock, my curls all tangled from doing clumsy forward rolls on the lawn.

On Christmas Day, we walked back into Jos's past. Where his childhood house once stood, there's now a windswept tangle of shrubs and trees. Our booted feet keep slipping and sliding on the sticky clay which once provided the area's livelihood.

The passing of time has wreaked havoc here too, forgivingly blanketed in wilderness.

Now another year has passed. The  hands of the clock have ticked away the minutes, then the hours, until they turned into days. Days which have been strung together into strands of weeks, then woven into a pattern of months.

Twelve months. 52 weeks. 365 days. One year. And another one. And another.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
~William Shakespeare, from Macbeth

Still, I have always been and always will be a dreamer, a hunter of dreams, so I am raising my glass to you, my fellow dreamers, and to past, present and future dreams.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style one more time this year!

Thursday 27 December 2018

Baubles and brooches

It's pretty scary how time is racing by! One minute I'm in my parents' attic, staring in disbelief at my Mum's green coat, and before you know it we're more than one week later, with this year's Christmas a thing of the past. How did that happen?

I've been meaning to tell you about the flea market we went to on the Sunday before last, but I've been procrastinating again. No, that's not strictly true. As I've finally got some time off, I have been enjoying these rare leisurely days, living life at a slower and more spontaneous pace than the manic hamster wheel madness that so determines my working life.

But let's get back to that flea market, which was our last one this year. As I'd already hinted in my last post, I just had to wear my Mum's green coat. 

There, you see, a perfect fit! 

I wonder, was its colour dictated by fashion? Was it my Mum's first choice or did the seamstress lead her gently into its direction? I'll never know. Come to think of it, I don't even remember which was my Mum's favourite colour, but I'm pretty certain that it wasn't green. 

For its first wear by me, I chose mustard and purple as its companions. They seemed to get along rather well. How peculiar that my handbag is in the exact same shade of green. 

And look at those buttons!

I also love its furry collar, which can even be put up and fastened with a hook and eye closure, making it perfect for those colder, windswept days.

Here's a look at the pristine green lining, edged with decorative, braided binding.

Underneath the coat, I was wearing a 1980s shift dress with a mad green, pink, purple and turquoise print, accessorized with a green beaded necklace. The brooch I pinned to my sage green cardigan looks like a little wreath of pearls. A Christmas wreath, perhaps? I do wear it at any time of year, though.

There was quite a turnout of stalls at the flea market, but strangely enough it wasn't very busy. We were told there had been more visitors on Saturday but, with most of the city centre shops being open in the run-up to Christmas this particular Sunday, I guess that would have been where most people preferred to spend their hard-earned money hunting for presents.

Such a shame, as there was certainly something to cater for all tastes and budgets here ...

We were both feeling a bit tired and were quite overwhelmed by all the choice! Consequently, I only bought one brooch. Not a vintage one this time, but I simply couldn't resist this gorgeous large cat brooch.

There was a lady selling boxes full of vintage buttons at very economical prices, which I spend some time poring over. These are the ones I've added to my collection.

Jos pounced on this 1950s robot game, which he'd coveted, but never got, as a child. The game includes a small robot figure holding a pointer. It is placed in the centre of a circular pattern of questions. The robot is rotated to a particular question and then lifted from the question area and placed in the centre of the answer area where it automatically rotates to the correct answer.

We'd only reached the end of the first aisle when we made our biggest purchase: a small, antique chest of wooden, glass-fronted drawers, the kind which was used to display sewing threads in haberdashery shops. This particular one is from a Belgian company called Filature & Filteries Reunies, which were based in the town of Aalst, or Alost in French. They were in business from 1886 until about 1970.

I'd been looking for something similar, but the only ones I'd come across so far were eye-wateringly expensive. As its top is cracked, this one was affordable, and what's more, the seller even gave us a reduction.

What was I going to use it for? I think those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will be able to make an educated guess!

There was still another week of work to get through before my 12-day Christmas holiday and as usual it was hectic as hell. Plus, my commute home got worse every day as hordes of tired shoppers needed to take the tram at the same time as I did.

There was a highlight when one day a luxury bar of soap arrived all the way from Tina in Germany. 

I'd actually won it, and I can tell you it smells absolutely heavenly, a fact which was confirmed by Phoebe, who went a bit crazy with the tissue paper it was wrapped in!

And then, finally, the weekend and ensuing holiday arrived. 

Christmas is a quiet affair here at Dove Cottage, but we do like putting up some decorations. Our faithful old fake Christmas tree comes out of the basement, to be decked with our retro and vintage ornaments, some of which are family heirlooms. The blue 1950s style cloth wrapped around the tree's base is a family heirloom too. It's one of the tablecloths I recently brought home from my parents' house!

Uncharacteristically, Phoebe managed to break one bauble, but fortunately it wasn't a vintage one!

We never used to have a nativity scene, until a few years ago, when Jos came across the very same manger they used to have when he was a boy. We've improved it with a battery operated string of LED lights. 

It rained all day that Sunday and it was dark and dreary outside. We even had to resort to taking outfit photos indoors, but I couldn't very well not show you my outfit. I was wearing a wide teal new-to-me skirt (with pockets!) combined with a black vintage blouse with a teal, beige and brown flower print, which I think came from Think Twice. Both the gold belt and light blue beads were charity shopped.

These dark days actually do suit Dove Cottage, its rooms dotted with a collection of small vintage lamps providing cozy pools of light.

But I didn't have time to sit around all day. In fact, I had a date with a certain chest of drawers!

As I'm sure you might of have guessed, I am using them to store brooches, replacing two charity shopped sets of plastic drawers I'd been using as a temporary measure. 

Needless to say, I had fun sorting through all my treasures, reorganizing them at the same time.

Below are the contents of four of the cabinet's five drawers.

Apart from this set of drawers, I'm also using some shallow polished wooden drawer boxes, a gift from one of Jos's friends. I took the opportunity to reorganize these as well.

These are just four of the six drawers. I had no idea I had so many different butterfly brooches!

Finally, there's this hinged black lacquered box with ten deep compartments. They were a gift from the same friend, but I hadn't used it until now. They are holding some of my most delicate and precious brooches, which are only worn very occasionally.

The last thing I did was try to count the number of brooches I've currently got, but unfortunately my mind went numb and I lost count at some point. However, I can safely say there are more than four hundred ...

* I'll break another bauble if you don't put me down this instant!

I'm leaving you now with a photo taken in our garden on Christmas Eve. I grabbed Phoebe who was about to dash past me. Not sure she enjoyed it very much. As a matter of fact, I know exactly what she is thinking.*

I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas, whatever you've been up to!

* Sorry, Sheila, I just had to do this!

Saturday 22 December 2018

The city sun sets over me

When eventually it stopped raining, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. As we were in the run-up to Winter, this could of course only mean one thing: we were in for a - minor - cold snap. But that's OK, I can live with that as long as blue skies and a bit of sunshine are part of the bargain.

The downside was that all this happened during the week before last, when I was cooped up in the office. Oh well, at least I got to enjoy some spectacular sunsets from my perch on the 5th floor.

I took these photos with my phone and they were not enhanced in any way. The sky really was this amazing fiery mix of tangerines and pinks, with a pinch of darkest indigo thrown in.

The city does look rather lovely, doesn't she? Well, she does, as long as you keep your eyes focused on the skyscape and don't let them wander down to street level, where hordes of frenzied shoppers are hunting for presents beneath the merrily twinkling Christmas lights.

Not for me, no thank you! Working in the city centre at this time of year really is the Nightmare before Christmas!

There, rant over! 

One day, when the weather was really exceptional, I even braved the crowds and walked.

I was almost swept up in a tide of shoppers when I took these photographs of Electra. Standing on top of a building which houses a well-known department store, she seemed to be casting a spell on us, mere mortals. She was being wooed by Anthony Van Dyck, who was making eyes at her from his plinth below. Clearly not impressed, she promptly turned him to stone!

Grey clouds reigned again on Friday. As public transport was seriously disrupted by a general strike, I was obliged to take the day off. Not that I minded very much!

It must have been no later than 2.30 pm and daylight was fading already. However, we made the most of what was remaining by going for a long overdue walk in the park.

Wearing my fake fur coat, which I'd unearthed from its out of season hiding place that morning, I was well prepared for the cold.

Beneath my coat, I wore a crazily patterned, reddish brown handmade vintage dress, its tie secured by a tapestry brooch.The brooch was found at a flea market many months ago. As its fastening was broken, it had been patiently waiting its turn with the other waifs and strays in brooch hospital, for Dr. Jos to mend it.

The sleeveless Welsh wool jacket I've added on top was a present from my lovely friend Vix.

I didn't want my legs to be turned into icy pillars, so I wore a pair of nude tights underneath my burnt orange opaques. My green booties from Middelburg were cozy and comfortable.

I'd quickly grabbed this scarf in my haste to leave the house, but it wasn't nearly warm enough. Same goes for the green knitted hat with its chunky pompom. It does look deceptively warm, but it's a rather loose knit, plus it kept escaping from my ears, leaving them exposed to the icy elements.

The mustard leather gloves did do the trick, even though I had to keep removing them in order to make photographs. Should have worn my fingerless gloves!

In the fading light, the trees are blackish-green silhouettes.

I wonder, are they sleeping, their roots buried deeply in the cold, cold ground? And if they do, are they dreaming of Spring? 

Some of the ponds were covered with a flimsy layer of opalescent frost, while others were flat as squeaky clean mirrors, silently reflecting a motley crew of skeleton trees.

In Flanders parks the poppies blow ...

The bare branches of this lonely little tree were hung with bright red laminated poppies, clearly the result of a primary school project, their messages proclaiming that "war has to stop and peace must come". 

Saturday was another dry, yet bitterly cold day. I briefly braved the cold to show you what I was wearing that morning. This is yet another one of my dresses with a self-tie but, although I like the colour and print, I'm on the fence about it, as I just can't seem to style it right.

It's mainly the unwieldy tie which is the culprit! In a bid to make it behave, I added a floral scarf clip. I also wore moss green opaques, a lilac cardigan and a purple beret.

I only wore the dress in the morning, changing into jeans and a polo neck after lunch. Yes, you've read that right and no, I don't have pictures! 

The reason I was wearing such an uncharacteristic outfit is that for the last month or so, we have been dedicating part of our weekends to clearing my parental home.

We'd made a start two years ago, just after my Dad passed away, but stopped when my brother temporarily moved into the house. This temporary situation turned into two years, but now that he's moved out, we can finally finish what we started.

Oh, the stuff my parents kept!  They hardly threw anything away. Consequently, we filled bin bag after bin bag of rubbish, while many carloads of stuff have gone to the charity shops and the recycling centre.

It was unavoidable that some things ended up at Dove Cottage too, ranging from practical items to those of sentimental value.

My Dad's nearly new food processor and retro style portable radio both found a home in Dove Cottage's kitchen. 

Bags of household linen, some of it yellowed with age, were given the charity, but I just couldn't bear to part with the tablecloths on the top right and bottom left. 

The framed document above, dating from 1930, was presented to my paternal granddad after he finished his military service. I'm sure we will find a bit of wall to hang it up!

Sorting out my Mum's sewing box and the vintage tin, both full of sewing materials, provided hours of fun on a rainy afternoon. 

I suspect that the 1950s fruit bowl and Space Age thermometer were both given to my parents as wedding presents. As long as I can remember, they lived side by side on top of our living room sideboard.

Both were covered with a layer of dust by now, but were given a good clean and a new lease of life at Dove Cottage, where they are getting the love these heirlooms deserve.

Last but not least! While clearing out the attic, we stumbled upon a rickety wardrobe, its contents a big question mark as its key had been lost.

When Jos finally managed to open it, there it was, my Mum's coat!

Not only had I forgotten all about it, I never even suspected that it was still around. Clearly it was waiting for me. I mean, look at that colour! And what's more, it's a perfect fit!

My Mum must have had it custom made back in the 1960s and now that I set eyes on it again, I actually remember her wearing it. 

I did choke up a bit when I first tried it on, and there might have been a few tiny tears ...

I simply had to wear it to the flea market on Sunday. But that'll be for a next post!

Meanwhile, I'm joining the other girls at Nancy's Fancy Friday. I'm also joining Patti and the gang as usual at Patti's Visible Monday!

Tuesday 18 December 2018

In darkest December

Before I go ahead and tell you about what I've been doing and, more specifically, what I've been wearing since my last non-travel post, I would like to put something right.

When I posted this collage a while ago, based on the Kitsch Deluxe book I found at the charity shop, and mentioned that there were some impostors, both Monica and Vix immediately noticed the obvious ones: the plaster Mary's and the kitchenalia. However, there was a third one:

This jumble of odds and ends is to be found in a small display cabinet in our dining room. Apart from several kitschy deer ornaments, a pair of 1930s cat bookends and a tiny, magnetic pair of Scottie dogs live on the top shelf, while the lower shelf houses, amongst other things, a slightly battered Spanish fan, a set of Art Nouveau salt and pepper shakers and a threesome of stone doves which we bought not long after we moved into Dove Cottage.

It rained heavily and almost incessantly in the week before last. 

As if the general lack of daylight and the fact that I'm leaving the house when it's still dark and returning after the sun has set again isn't enough of a hurdle for taking outfit photos! 

We try to avoid taking indoor photos to show you my outfits, as they usually aren't even remotely flattering, so we have to be creative and take any opportunity that comes our way.

This is what I was wearing on Friday before last. I started the weekend early by taking Friday afternoon off, so I was home when there was still a modicum of daylight.

We waited for the rain to let up, even if only for a couple of minutes, but it never did. In the end, we went out in the garden using an umbrella, which as a plus  - being a purple one - added even more colour to my outfit.

There's nothing new here. The dress is an old Think Twice find that's been with me for years, but which for some unfathomable reason I hadn't worn in quite a while.  Its diagonal stripes, in various shades of blue, were counterbalanced by the horizontal red, ochre, pink and purple stripes of my cardigan. Originally from H&M, this was a charity shop find. 

The multicoloured wooden beads were also charity shopped, while the brooch was a flea market find, as were the boots.

The only things not new-to-me were the blue plastic ring and the red opaques.

And then it was Saturday, and what a miserable day it was, its greyness and wetness inescapable.
Through rain-blurred windows, we watched the unnatural darkness of early afternoon, until we couldn't bear it any longer and decided to brave the steady downpour for a trip to the charity shop.

Hurray for the whitewashed brick wall and skylight in the garage where we park our car. Such a pity it isn't closer to our house, as it's the perfect place for outfit photos, whatever the weather!

When I got dressed that morning, I was determined to wear this Paisley patterned Diolen blouse and, looking for a perfect companion, I happened upon this blue and rust plaid skirt. I'd forgotten it had pockets!

I pinned a blue-rimmed flower brooch to it and added a pale blue beaded necklace. At my waist, you might recognize the snakeskin belt, a recent flea market find. I thought it made a nice contrast with the Paisley and the plaid.

If you half-close your eyes, the pattern of my charity shopped blue cardigan is reminiscent of houndstooth. Its shades of blue pick up the blue in my skirt, opaques and beret.

My Made in Berlin wool jacket went on top. I love the flash of blue provided by my cardi's cuffs peeking out from under the jacket's sleeves.

The colour blue is repeated again in the carved plastic brooch and my ring, both of which also contain red, which in turn I matched by wearing a red scarf. 

I love how this outfit simply evolved, without any forward planning. And it all started with the blouse!

We drove down to a charity shop a bit further away, which we hadn't been to in months as our last visit was a bitter disappointment. At that time, we were faced with half empty shelves and clothing rails still full of last Summer's leftovers.

It was a relief to see that whatever had been going on then had now been sorted and the shelves and rails were once again fully stocked.

A rummage in the accessory boxes yielded five belts for the princely sum of € 1 each.

After taking an armful of clothes into the fitting rooms, I ended up with these two cardigans, a chunky mustard one closing with a zipper, and a fuchsia textured one trimmed with lurex.

I also bought this skirt, which I pounced upon immediately since I already own a jacket in an almost identical pinkish Tweed. Incidentally, this jacket was bought in the same shop many years ago.

It's a real wardrobe staple (see here for my last wearing of it) and I think the skirt will be as well.

Rather than having Angelica do the honours, I thought I'd play dress-up and show you the accidental suit myself, accessorized with turquoise details. 

We did this little photo session on Monday. I'd taken the day off and as luck would have it, we had a brief respite from the stormy weather, even though it was raining again by mid afternoon.

There's still a surprising amount of green in our garden this late in the season, some of it provided by evergreens such as our rampant ivy and the foliage of winter flowering Clematis armandii growing through our lilac bush in the background. The small yellow flowers belong to Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), whose bendy flowering shoots have been embellishing our garden wall for many a year, and which it seems to be doing especially prolifically this year.

Speaking of green, Jos was more than happy to model his new-to-him coat for you!

It's an original Alpen Loden which used to belong to my Dad and which was still rattling around in his wardrobe. We happened upon it while we were having another clearing session at my parental home.

As it was in perfect condition, as well as a perfect fit for Jos, it was a keeper.

My outfit also featured a fair bit of green, starting with my beloved fake fur collared jacket. I added a mustard beret and a pair of deadstock vintage gloves, part of a lot I bought several years ago.

While running an errand in town, I finally managed to make some photographs of the delightful front garden of the local vicarage (for want of a better word), which was planted earlier this year.

Seeing all those flowers still going strong makes it hard to believe that we're actually in December! 

I'm leaving you with a glimpse of what else I was wearing that day.  

In spite of its flaws (it's got a  broken zipper pull and a visible hemline), this burnt orange and green dress is still making regular appearances. 

This time I accessorized it with a green belt, leopard strap watch, multi-coloured stone brooch, green plastic ring and orange "berry" necklace, which actually snapped later that day, leaving me with handfuls of tiny beads. 

Oh, and first wearing of these green zig zag tights, a sales bargain from last Winter.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style.