Wednesday 28 August 2019

Down the rabbit hole

Although the date above this post mentions Wednesday, 28 August, its subject is actually what we did more than two weeks ago, on Sunday, 11 August.

Now that I have finished my travelogue, I can finally catch up on what else has been happening in my life and - obviously - what I have been wearing. I have to be quick though, as by the end of this week it'll be September and we'll be off on a another little trip, gathering a fresh batch of stories to tell.

So, without further ado, let's dive in and see what we have been up to that Sunday!

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"

And while I wasn't about to follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, I checked my watch before tiptoeing along this avenue of clock-sporting trees.

The clocks are part of an exhibition in Antwerp's Middelheim museum by artist Ria Pacquée, called “They are looking at us, we are looking at them”.

This particular installation is called "The sun is moving, the clock ticking, the earth sinking". The message is that nobody can escape time, not even in the woods!

Now that is a subject that has been occupying my mind. I'm forever trying to shake off that cloak of nostalgia which like a birth mark has become part of me. 

Alice: "How long is forever?"
White Rabbit: "Sometimes, just one second."

No matter how hard I keep trying to escape time, it is obvious that I never will. But I can at least look reasonably stylish while I'm doing so.

Here's a closer look at the vintage skirt suit I'm wearing and which has been a wardrobe stalwart ever since I picked it up in a charity shop in 2015. I pinned my peacock brooch from Llangollen to it and wore two bracelets to compliment the suit's colour scheme.

My outfit was completed by a red belt and my red Clarks Cloudsteppers. On my arm, my blue crocheted handbag, whch is actually made of some kind of plastic. I had also brought my flower sprinkled denim jacket, but it turned out to be too warm for it.

Accidentally, I already divulged our destination for the day, Middelheim, which is an amazing open-air museum of sculpture and art set within a 30-acre park on the outskirts of Antwerp.

Our visit was a last minute decision made in the early afternoon, when it was safe to surmise that the weather gods would be holding off any threat of rain for the day.

Due to the lateness of the hour, there were no nearby parking spaces available, so we had to park our car a bit further away, around the corner. Walking back towards the park, we took the first entrance we came across, which actually took us to the western reaches of the park, where the museum has gathered some of its painted metal sculptures from the 1960s and 1970s.

The art installation behind me is a later one, dating from 2009. It is called "Beam Drop Antwerp" and is by US performance artist Chris Burden. You can see it in full in the above collage. Apparently, it was created by pouring liquid concrete into a pit, after which 100 steel beams were dropped into the ground from a height of 45 metres using cranes and the force of gravity. 

Jos looks quite at home between the two sections of "Double Progression Vert et Blanc". Dating from 1969, its creator is Venezuelan artist Jésus Rafael Soto.

Consisting of eight separate elements in black, green, orange and yellow, this group of sculptures by Jorge Dubon (Mexico), and dating from 1971, is called Bosque Metalica (or Wood of Metal).

The orange and green elements matched my outfit almost exactly, so that for one moment I became part of this work of art.

This part of the museum also houses its open-air storage, where some of the sculptures needing restorations or awaiting a new destinatiosn are on display. 

Here I drew up a chair for a brief chat with Mozart, Rosetti and Beethoven, who all seemed to have some minor injuries.

Was it a bird or a bullet which disfigured this important looking figure, whom I'm afraid I forgot to ask for his name?

This construction is a mobile container workspace for Compagnie Marius, which has been developing theatre productions since 1991, specializing in outdoor performances.

Entering the main part of the park, some of the sculptures seem to blend organically into the landscape. 

Here, it felt as if I had really fallen down the rabbit hole, meeting all kinds of mad creatures and the odd enigma.

All was peaceful and quiet, apart from the eternal Pokémon hunters colonizing the park, blind for the beauty of art while singling out their virtual prey.

But then we happened to look back, our hearts skipping a beat upon spying a group of menacing figures advancing upon us through the trees.

We took flight into the direction of a mirage on the horizon, the dazzling white wonder of the Braem Pavillion. 

I have waxed lyrical about this stunning building, in which temporary exhibitions are being held, many times before, so I'm just letting my camera do the talking this time.

Opened in 1971, it was designed by Renaat Braem, one of Belgium’s best-known 20th century architects.

Fleeing into the same direction was this rather bewildered looking Running Girl. She seemed a little out of breath, but then again she has been running on the spot since 1977. Turned into bronze, her creator was Czech sculptor Kurt Gebauer.

I forgot to ask her name as well, but I bet she was called Alice. 

Unlike the girl, we managed to escape by crossing The Bridge Without a Name, a work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

In Alice's words, it was getting curiouser and curiouser, so before continuing our journey, we took a breather on the terrace of the museum café.

Will this biscuit make me grow or shrink, that is the question. Neither, it seemed, as we crossed the road into the second part of the park unscathed and passed in front of Het Huis (The House), a second exhibition pavillion, which was opened in 2012. 

The formal Hortiflora garden, which used to be part of the neighbouring Nachtegalen Park (Nightingale Park) was also incorporated into the Middelheim museum in 2012.

Finally finding an escape route out of the park, we ended up opposite the entrance of yet another park, Den Brandt, with its romantic castle. Although originally built in 1790, it was renovated in the late classical style in the 1870s.

Although we've been here many times before, this must have been the first time we were able to photograph the castle, and the enchanting fountain in front of it, without groups of people milling about or a car parked in front of it.

And with that, our adventure in Wonderland had come to an end.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Just another week in August

We've almost reached the end of August by now and September is once again breathing down our necks. For the purpose of this blog, however, I'm taking you back to the first full week of August, which actually seems much longer ago to me than just a matter of weeks. 

Summer seemed to have returned but thankfully the mercury kept frolicking around the mid-twenties rather than returning to dazzling heights.

I'm still ploughing my way through my Summer wardrobe, assessing each item with a critical eye in a bid to keep only those garments that give me the greatest pleasure to wear.

For some reason, I hadn't worn this deliciously patterned Terlenka dress in at least two years. In what I can only describe as a moment of madness, I even relegated it to the flea market pile, from which it was promptly retrieved when I was sorting through my stock back in July.

Not the best way to go about decluttering one's wardrobe, I admit, but surely this one was too good to let go of. Plus, I loved wearing it, which is ultimately what matters.

My denim jacket has been doing overtime this Summer, but I've been trying to add some variety by matching the flower corsages I pin on it to my outfits!

I'd planned to exchange the dress's buttons which, although not lacking in cuteness, somewhat disappear against the dress's white backdrop. I'd even selected some likely red candidates from my stash of buttons, but somehow it never happened.

Taking my cue from the green bits in the print, I added a green necklace, butterfly brooch, ring and bracelet.

There's nothing wrong with the above photo, by the way, nor do you have to adjust your screens: the pale pink triangle is part of our garden table!

A second wear this Summer for this delightfully swooshy yellow based dress.  Found in a bargain bin for the silly price of € 1 a couple of years ago, it was missing half of its buttons. I don't remember what the original buttons looked like, but I love the pearly ones I replaced them with, which were salvaged from a blouse which had seen better days.

The material has a pleat-like texture to it and is sprinkled with dots in shades of orange and brown.

For contrast, my accessories were all in chocolate hues, including the vintage celluloid brooch with the drum beating Scottie dog.

In spite of this being only early August, the mornings already had that slightly hazy late Summer quality to them and, waiting for my tram connection, I couldn't help but notice that one particular tree was already donning some of its Autumn colour.

Another dress that has been patiently waiting its turn is this black and white chevron print one. 

My phone's camera clearly couldn't cope with its print, which shows up as being purely geometrical, so I added a close up to show you the flowers which are hiding in there!

My accessories, sandals and charity shopped King Louie jacket lift it up with some colour.

As the working week was drawing to a close, the weather returned to its usual Belgian Summer mix of sunny spells and showers on that week's Friday.

The olive green 1950s style dress I was wearing is a firm favourite, getting several outings each Summer. Its silky fabric makes this fit and flare dress an absolute joy to wear. Plus, it's got pockets!

I always gravitate towards pink to accessorize this dream of a frock, and this time was no exception.

The Lucite brooch is from an antique shop in Cardigan.

When I posted it on Instagram at the time, I got some lovely comments on its unusal collar, which prompted me to make this close-up. The collar actually consists of two separate flaps which have to be pulled through a loop.

The basket also got much love on Instagram. It was a flea market find back in May 2016 and when it's not in use as a handbag, it holds my small collection of fans.

The weather dropped all pretense of being summery on Saturday which, after some initial sunshine, devoloped into a miserably grey day. The dull sky threatening rain was joined by gusts of stormy wind.

On our way for a browse at the charity shops, we stopped at a pair of fashionably rusty gates halfway down our street. These belong to an organic garden established behind the local history museum, but sadly the garden itself is only open to the general public once a year.

It's the perfect backdrop for some quick outfit photos.

In classic white, red and blue, but with a dash of café au lait, this empire waist dress was one of the very first vintage dresses I ever bought. Although its fabric and label give away its 1970s origin, it is looking deceptively older than its age.

Competing with my dress for the starring role is this cream leather handbag with a Lucite handle. As it is quite delicate, it is one of those handbags that only comes out to play once in a blue moon.

The brooch with its red berries was a flea market find from earlier this year, while my watch's original 1970s strap was part of a lot found in a charity shop several years ago. My necklace, bangles  and ring are all second hand finds too.

But I did mention a browse in the charity shops, so without further ado, here are my finds: a pair of wedge heeled shoes, two belts, a vintage notebook and folder, a pair of souvenir clogs from Zeeland in Holland for one of our mad collections, and a funky print top from a Belgian fashion label.

And what are the chances of finding a dress in exactly the same print on the same day, but in a different shop?

It's what Sheila would call a "jammy dress", and I'm actually wearing it as I'm writing this post.

Hope to see you later this week, when I'll be sharing another round-up of outfits.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Farewell to the blue remembered hills

It was the Thursday of our second week and, as our holiday was nearing its sell-by date, we were starting to feel just a tiny bit morose. We could get used to this, we mused. To the peace and quiet, the sense of freedom, the not having to do anything we didn't feel like doing. Oh, I know very well that all good things must somehow come to an end, but it is getting harder and harder each time to leave the good life behind for the hamster wheel of daily life.

So far, we had been taking each day as it presented itself, often making spur of the moment decisions while having a leisurely breakfast washed down with copious cups of coffee.

This day was no exception, but we lingered a bit longer than usual, as it dawned on us that yet again we hadn't even scratched the surface of what Shropshire has to offer. Having finally come to a decision, it was past 10.30 when we were on the road. The destination we entered into our Satnav was one which might sound familiar. Indeed, we already visited the charming black-and-white and up- and-down town of Brigdnorth on our very first day.

After parking our car, we walked towards the bustling High Street, which features several fine 17th century buildings, including the Town hall (above, bottom right). There's also no shortage of charity shops, but by the time our stomachs told us it was time for lunch, we'd only found a shirt for Jos.

Lunch was had at the local Wetherspoon's - where else - which was packed to the rafters, so that we had a bit of a wait.

Then we ambled around the corner and uphill from the High Street towards the highest point of the town, where St. Leonard's Church is taking pride of place in a peaceful close of its own.

The current church, which is built in the rich red coloured local sandstone, dates from the second half of the 17th century and was extensively restored in the mid-19th century.

Inside, the church which is redundant and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building, has the airiness of a cathedral.

As Bridgnorth is a town with a split personality, and we'd arrived in High Town, our aim was to visit its other half, which rather unsurprisingly is called Low Town and nestles on the banks of the River Severn.

We decided against taking St. Leonard's Steps, leading down from the church close, and just one of a total of seven sets of steps connecting the town's two halves. 

Instead, we took the steep and winding Cartway which until 1786 was the only route between the two and which at one point had some 50 pubs along its length.

A number of caves, which were once used as dwellings, were dug out of the sandstone cliff, their boarded up remains commemorated by plaques. There were plaques on some of the houses too, although not all of them were of historical value!

At the bottom of Cartway is Bishop Percy's House, an ornate timer-framed house built in 1580 by wealthy barge owner Richard Forster. It opened as a tea room in 2018, after five years of extensive renovations. Obviously, we couldn't pass the opportunity to have our version of afternoon tea, which included a slice of delicious cheese cake.

The flower filled quayside in Lower Town was the perfect place to show you what I was wearing on this perfect Summer's day. You've seen it all before: my curtain couture maxi skirt and orange polka dot blouse accessorized with a chocolate brown leather belt and a yellow beaded necklace .

The fiery orange and yellow flowers on the bottom right are trying their best to compete with my outfit but failing miserably. The locomotive artwork in the same photo is called Train of Thought and is part of an Art Trail throughout the town.

What comes down must go up, but in this case up was quite a climb, so we took the Cliff Railway instead, which only takes a matter of mere minutes. Not for the faint-hearted, though, as it really is rather steep!

Back on Castle Walk in High Town, we were rewarded by this breath-taking view of Lower Town and the Severn Valley. We took our time to sit down on a bench and stare at the bird's eye view of the  Lilliput world at our feet.

Back at the cowshed, we enjoyed this silky smooth indigo and pink sunset, which was the perfect conclusion of our day.

How bittersweet is the last day of the holidays? There's a lump in your throat and your heart feels heavy at the thought that once again, those longed-for two weeks are over. 

The blue skies that greeted us that morning spurred us on to make the most of the time we had left, so we packed a picnic and hopped over the border to Wales.

Our destination that day was a small but perfectly formed historic market town called Montgomery, which is set into the rolling Mid Wales Marches countryside.

After posting a letter to a blogger friend at the small post office, we crossed the road to investigage the delightful St. Nicholas Church.

The Grade I listed church has its origins in the 13th century and harbours delights such as beautiful stained glass, a hammer-beam roof and the magnificent 16th-century canopied Herbert tomb. Richard Herbert (d. 1593) was the lord of Montgomery Castle, and father of the poet and cleric George Herbert.

And let's not forget the disco ball!

For our final holiday picnic, we were determined to have one with a spectacular view. So we climbed the steep lane leading from The Dragon Hotel towards the remains of the 13th century Montgomery Castle.

Slightly out of breath after our exersion in the blazing midday sun, we were delighted to find a shady gazebo waiting for us. How perfect! We didn't have it to ourselves for long though, as it proved to be a popular spot for spending one's lunch break.

Perched on a rocky ridge above the town, with all-seeing views across the Welsh border, the castle's ruins which are managed by CADW, the historic environment service of the Welsh Government, are very atmospheric.

Montgomery’s stone castle, commenced in 1223, replaced a nearby wooden fort known as Hen Domen. 

Look at that stunning view behind me! I could have sat and gazed into the distance for hours, at the fields of green, and those hazy hills, and that long straight road leading who knows where, but sadly our time was up. 

So, we drove back - along that long and straight road - to the cowshed one last time to pack our bags and mentally prepare ourselves for the journey ahead.

Fast forward one day, and here I am, enjoying my last beverage on English soil at the Eurotunnel terminal. I can't wait to be back ...

And so this travelogue, like our holiday, has come to an end. But there's no reason for tears, as in less than two weeks, we'll be off on our annual trip to Belgium's west country.

Until then, there will be outfits and other things to catch up on!

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!