Monday, 6 February 2023

Dazed by the Winter sun

With sunny spells being few and far between of late, and any that suddenly materialize mostly doing so while I'm stuck in the office, our Vitamin D levels are most definitely at their lowest. 

So, when Mme. Soleil deigned to make an entree on Saturday 28 January, parting the curtains of grey to reveal a stage of brilliant blue sky, we wasted no time in stepping outside.

Before making our departure from Dove Cottage, however, some outfit photos were in order, so that I could show you the Betty Barclay dress I was wearing. With its cozy wool blend fabric and green and pink tartan pattern, it was yet another Think Twice find, and has been gracing my wardrobe since November 2021.

Instead of matching the candy pink stripes in the tartan pattern, I opted for a darker, berry shade for my opaques and the majority of my accessories. Both the necklace and the leather belt with its massive buckle are old charity shop buys. For the sake of variety, I pinned an enamelled green brooch decorated with a posy of different coloured pansies to the dress's yoke. I picked this one up from the indoor flea market back in December.

With highs of just 4°C, another layering exercise was of the essence. So, apart from the green long-sleeved t-shirt you can see peeking out from the dress's collar and sleeves, I added a pink, chunky knit, shawl collared cardigan. Some of you might remember it from my previous post, as I'd found it, new with tags, and together with its yellow twin, during Friday's charity shop trawl.

With both the dress and the cardigan being graced with these desirable features, I was definitely in pocket heaven that day!

Outfit photos done and dusted, we donned coats, scarves and hats and made for our front door. 

A backward glance towards Bess's climbing post in the dining room made me grab my camera - or actually, my phone - and snap this photo of her reclining, eyes ablaze, on the very top!

For the afternoon's outing, our chosen destination was the third of the cluster of parks comprising the delightfully named Nachtegalenpark (Nightingale Park) which lies to the south of Antwerp's city centre. The park, which is called Vogelzang (Birdsong) is the one we visit the least. In fact, this was only our third visit ever, after having accidentally stumbled upon it in December 2021.

There used to be a small castle here as early as 1457, but it was not until the 17th century that a park estate was added. The current park, laid out in typical English landscape style, dates from 1850, offering an alternation of sweeping lawns and parkland, with a whale-shaped pond at its heart.

Soon after veering off the main path, we came across this funny-faced tree, which Jos aptly christened the Muppet Tree. I could also discern a sad-looking face complete with big crocodile tear in the tree on the bottom right.

The final incarnation of the castle was demolished in the early 20th century and only its stable courtyard remains, with one of the outbuildings flanking it currently being occupied by a primary school.

On the grassy area in front of the courtyard is an impressive First World War memorial, which was unveiled in 1930. It was designed by Antwerp city architect Antoon De Mol (1891-1962) and sculptor Edouard Vereycken (1893-1967).

The monument is composed of a tall central column flanked by angled side pieces with bas-relief scenes.  There's an evocative sculpture of a uniformed soldier at both ends, his head slightly bowed and his hands folded over his rifle.

The central column is topped by a bronze statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, her arms triumphantly raised and carrying victory wreaths in both hands.

We briefly posed here, silently paying tribute to the fallen while basking in the soul-soothing rays of the weak yet convalescing Winter sun.

We continued our explorations by walking around the back of the school building, but found ourselves fenced in so that we had to retrace our steps. But not before making use of one the school playground's structures, which I might have mistaken for a catwalk!

Back on track, we crossed the decorative cast iron bridge you can see in the distance in the next collage. Some of the ducks who call this stretch of water their home weren't too pleased that we hadn't brought crumbs of bread to feed them and swam off in a huff. We watched the antics of a particularly forward pair for a moment, especially as one of them kept tipping upside down, showing off its dabbling skills.

Vogelzang is a real family park as, apart from its natural attractions, there is a petting zoo and a large, adventurous playground to keep children occupied. Not surprisingly on this rare sunny weekend day, the latter was very popular. As was the adjacent tavern, established in the estate's former dairy. We could have murdered a waffle washed down with a cappuccino, but alas, it was too crowded and noisy in there so, sympathizing with those poor ducks, we walked off in a huff.

Rather than return to our car, though, we decided to make the most of the glorious afternoon and turn left once we had reached the main avenue which separates Vogelzang with a seldom visited part of the sculpture park called Middelheim-Laag (transl. Middelheim-Low).

By then, Mme. Soleil had started taunting us, threatening her retreat. Clouds were gathering, and they weren't all of the innocent fluffy white kind. Gaps of blue sky were playing peek-a-boo with the increasing patchwork of grey.

Middelheim-Laag is home to some of the museum's modern art installations. At the far side of the pond which greeted us as we walked in we spied the marble sculptures called Bathers (above, bottom right), created by the Italian sculptor Luciano Fabro (1937-2007) and dating from 1994. 

At a junction of paths (above, top right) is a so-called site-specific intervention by Jessica Stockholder (United States, 1959). The intriguingly titled Born of Landscape Linoleum (1999) makes use of concrete, nylon, metal and box tree (Buxus), so apparently the box hedge in front of it is also part of the installation!

The lethal looking giant silver maces tied to some of the trees, brutally disrupting the peaceful atmosphere, are by Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere (1964). The installation is called Innocence can be Hell and dates from 1993.

Mme. Soleil made a brief comeback as we were on our way out, so we sat ourselves down on a bench to make the most of the moment, sighing with pleasure as her rays warmed our sun-starved faces.

Then we spotted a flash of yellow among the bare shrubs and trees beyond the path. Now what could it be? Tip-toeing closer, we were delighted to make the acquaintance with masses of spidery yellow, red-hearted Witch Hazel (Hammamelis) flowers. 

The shrub's common name refers to the forked twigs that were sometimes used for water-witching or dowsing to locate underground water.

Alas, Mme. Soleil wasn't in for an encore on Sunday.

Although a modicum of sunshine had been forecasted for the early afternoon, it never appeared, so that I had to photograph Friday’s charity shop finds in light conditions which were far from ideal. The rest of the day was spent doing some gentle pottering, planning for our little getaway to Bruges and catching up with blogland.

My outfit that day was built around this vintage dress closing with a front zipper, its print a glorious mix of abstract stripes on an burgundy background. Although the stripes invite it to be accessorized with almost any colour you can think of, I often opt for aqua and turquoise.

Cue the turquoise opaques and ring, and the aqua beads, which are from H&M by way of a charity shop. 

The rest of my accessories were a fishy affair! The belt, with its dangling plastic fish, and the quirky shrimp brooch, were a charity shop and flea market find respectively. I'm always wearing them together as surely they are a match made in heaven!

I wore the outfit again on one of my office days later that week. Imagine my dismay when the fish suddenly made a bid for freedom and escaped from the chain linking it to the belt. As initially I could only find the main part, I thought it was the end of the poor little fishy. Then, many hours later, I located the missing part of its tail under my desk! It's currently waiting in the queue at Jos's repair shop, so that soon it will be able to join its friend the shrimp again!

Linking to Nancy's Fancy Friday Linkup party again!


  1. I'm so glad you found the fish's tail and Jos can fix it! I am enamoured with your shrimp brooch, Ann! How fun is that? It reminds me of my lobster pin!

    I am so envious of your sculpture parks, sigh. I see the faces in the trees! The Muppet tree is my favourite.

    Hee hee, I laughed at Bess up on her post. Such a ferocious girl!

    Fab outfits, my dear - I love the mix of pink and berry with that green dress. Perfect!

  2. Great you wear the vintage Betty Barclay Dress with pink. 💕
    Bess is so cute on the top of her „tower“ 😁 Thanks for the nice walk through the park. I also see the face of the tree.
    Good that Jos can help the little fish. With a huge hug Tina

  3. That photo of Bess atop her climbing frame is fabulous, it gives Nike and her outstretched arms a run for her money!
    Your Betty Barclay dress looks fabulous as do the colours in the final outfit. I absolutely love the modern art in Middelheim-Laag and both Nightingale Park and Vozelgang are such beautiful places for a wintery stroll. Jos's Muppet tree is hilarious!
    I hope the fish can be rescued! xxx

    1. Thank you Vix! Bess really is something else, isn't she? xxx

  4. I love your Betty Barclay and pink patterned dresses- so pretty and jolly!
    Yay for Middleheim-Laag!
    Looking forward to Bruges- we've been organised and actually remembered to book a table for Valentine's in advance so we don't have a hopeless trudge round the streets to find somewhere!

    1. That's very organized indeed, and I don't know how you do it, but you always manage to visit Belgium when there's a sale at T2 :-) xxx

  5. poor little fish - hope mr.jos can do his wonders on him :-D
    "zaubernuss" is the german name of that pretty winter flowering shrub.....
    love the green tartan dress - of cause!
    please pet little miss bess from me! xxxx

    1. It's toverhazelaar in Flemish, which does amount to the same thing (tover=zauber), I guess :-) xxx

  6. You have some wonderful parks where you live! The witch hazel looked gorgeous with its blooms.

    Lovely outfits; the pink and green Betty Barclay dress was superb and looks fab on you. I liked the deeper pink belt and opaques; such a lovely contrast with the green. I'm so glad you found your fish brooch's tail. It's so annoying when you lose bits of jewellery and sometimes quite sad if the pieces have a sentimental value. I hope you don't have to wait too long for Jos's repair shop to make the fish whole again!

    1. Thank you Vronni! I don't think I've ever seen witch hazel in bloom in real life! xxx

  7. That Betty Barclay dress looks great on you Ann! The colours are gorgeous and perfect for spring!
    I enjoyed another stroll with the two of you. The memorial is particularly impressive and moving and the Witch Hazel flowers are exquisite! I have to say I'm not sold on the mace. I agree, they're quite disruptive, but perhaps that's the point. I much prefer the Muppet Tree. :-D
    Bess is making the most of her new viewing platform isn't she?
    Fingers crossed Jos works his magic on your little brooch. xxx

    1. Thank you Claire! The mace aren't exactly my favourite either ... xxx

  8. What an entertaining and informative post. When we rarely see the sun we appreciate it so much more!

    1. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment! xxx

  9. Always lovely to join you for a visit to the sculptures parks, so beautiful photos!. And so beautiful dress too, love the plaid and love the berry shades you picked for your accessorizing, and so cute cardi!
    Bess also looks sculptural on top of her tower!
    Love that burgundy colour and its fab print!, so brilliant to add some turquoise and lovely seaside vibes in your accessorizing. That brooch is so Amazing!. Glad that you could find the tail of the cute little fish!

    1. Thank you Monica! I was very relieved but will have to give Jos a little push :-) xxx

  10. I always love the way you put color together. If I find myself here on days I haven't gotten dressed yet, I'm always inspired to mix things up after seeing your outfits.

  11. Wow! That Betty Barclay dress is fantastic. It looks like it was made just for you. Glad you were able to wear layers so you could stay warm in the chilly weather. I have to say that I love "The Muppet Tree." What a beautiful photo! You always explore the most beautiful places. Oh, I am so glad you were able to find the other part of the fish so it can be repaired!

    the creation of beauty is art.

    1. Thank you Shannon! We couldn't get over that Muppet tree :-) xxx

  12. You look lovely and thank you found it.

  13. I love all of the accessories and layers you add to your outfits. It makes them so interesting. Sometimes, because I work mostly from home, I get lazy and don't bother with the accessorizing, but it really is the fun bit. The park looks fabulous, so spacious. Have a lovely weekend. xx

    1. Thank you Louise! To be honest, I'm just not feeling myself when I'm not dressed up! xxx