Saturday, 28 January 2012

One Good Turn

A wee while back, I wrote a post about my charity work with Age UK. I still see Maria every Saturday and am getting to know her more with every visit. It rocks. She is a mine of information and insight.

On the back of this post, I received an email from Mim over at Crinoline Robot.

We had been friends for a while, and it was lovely to hear from her. She is a treat. And in said email, she decided to treat me. 

What ensued left me utterly humbled and gobsmacked.

She had been given a 1st edition of a book about The Women's Land Army. I had commented on her tweets,advising how envious I was, how lucky she was...yadda yadda. 

As you do.

She had emailed me to tell me how wonderful she thought my volunteering was, how much of a selfless thing it is and that she felt it was worthy of some good karma. 

Karma she would like to bestow upon me.

She told me she would like, very much, to give me the Land Girl book she had been given. Mim believed that she was only ever the guardian of it, and that I should become the rightful owner. 

Of course, I declined. At first. How could I take such a gift? I was utterly overwhelmed by her kindness and reasoning.

But after some more emails, more gushing, thanks and disbelief at Mim's offer -  I accepted.

It was a wonderful act of friendship, and I began to feel ungracious for saying "no".

This glorious book is now one of my prized items that I love dearly. Written by Vita Sackville -West , published under the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries in 1944 and including some 64 photographs -  it is a true trove for someone like me.

So -  thank you marvellous Mim. You are a true gem. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Once upon a time when the sun shone...

... and a wedding was had,  there was a tree, by a stream, with a happy couple. 

And the stream would later be filled with rose petals and we would all sing along to "Stand By Me" with a questionable steel band..

... and I wore a frock of 40's persuasion (from the supermarket), red accessories and a cream bag & hat...

... there was a chair of utmost dodgy-ness....

... and a bag full of empty champagne glasses. These glasses later caught wasps. We were most proud.

There was a Grave Yard cat who meewed and followed us. But we had no answers for him..

... as to why anyone would thatch a wall...

There was Pimms on tap, trashing my lip slap and nearly in my lap...

... Apples of Flame...

... and Burnt Menus of Shame...

... and plenty of leaves with names...

.. A tattooed Apple...

.. and the artiste with her creation...

Much cider was swilled, the band played long into the night and I became obsessed with granary bread and pate.

All of a sudden (and I don't know how it happen-ed!) I was trollied, it was dark and time to go to bed.

The End.

 (felt the need to post this today, just to remind myself of warmth & sunshine!)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks - book review

book cover of 



Sebastian Faulks

"Ambitious, outrageous, poignant, sleep-disturbing, Birdsong is not a prefect novel--just a great one."--Simon Schama, "New Yorker" 

"An amazing book--among the most stirringly erotic I have read for years...I have read it and re-read it and can think of no other novel for many, many years that has so moved me or stimulated in me so much reflection on the human spirit."--Quentin Crewe, "Daily Mail" 

"This book is so powerful that as I finished it I turned to the front to start again."--Andrew James, "Sunday Express" 

"One of the finest novels of the last 40 years."--Brian Masters, "Mail on Sunday" 
"This is literature at its very best: a book with the power to reveal the unimagined, so that one's life is set in a changed context. I urge you to read it."--Nigel Watts, "Time Out"

Ok. Right. Where to start with this one? Well I read it in a little over a week, which is a personal record for me. I am not a fast reader by any means, but there was a time limit on this one. I was not aware that the Beeb had made it into a show -  but when I saw the full trailer -  and once I had closed my mouth - it suddenly became a priority.

I will start by saying that I do struggle to get into Sebastian Faulks novels. I struggled with Charlotte Gray, but once I was in I could not put it down. And it was the same with this one. The novel is set in 3 time zones: 1910, 1916-1918 and various years during the 70's.

I liked the earlier part, although I found it a hard going to begin with. I loved reading descriptions of places that are now synonymous with The Great War; Theipval, Arras, Albert and Amiens, to name a few. Such small places that developed such a reputation. The author paints these places in such a glorious shimmery sunlight of love, lust and youth that it made me sad just to think of it and the desolation that was hurtling towards them. 

Oddly enough, I was not at all moved by the love story. Not one jot.  I was relieved when that part was over.

It is the other times that cemented this novel for me as one of my all time bests. The authors description and character structure had me hooked. Although you follow the protagonist, Stephen Wraysford, it is the other men who gripped me more. I began to care so much about them and found myself wanting to know what the outcome of certain events would be, that it made my heart race. At times is made me sad. At others it made me laugh. And once it made me openly sob.

The scenes that are painted by Faulks were helped along by my personal recollections of visiting such places as Albert and Arras (which oddly enough is described in the book much as it is today - minus the memorial that now bears the name of my Gramps).

 I have been to trenches. I have seen the ground at Beaumont-Hamel. I have been to Auchonvillers and it's teashop. So I really felt like I was there

That said, the author's attention to detail does enable someone who knows little about the subject to become part of it all, so a trip to the Belgium/France border is not necessary. But I can heartily recommend it. If only for awesome cake at the aforementioned teashop.

Couple that with the journey of Elizabeth in the strike-riddled late 1970's, and I was a goner. Her part of the story resonated with me so much, I began to wonder if the author had looked inside my head.

I cannot wait to see if the BBC do this justice on the small screen, and I wonder if it shall ever make it to the pop-corn munching aisles big one. For me, I am happy that my interpretations of this novel are my own for it's first reading. Because I think I will read it it again. Perhaps not in it's entirety, but certainly in part.

An awesome 9/10

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Only Way Is Dirndl

It was a rainy night at the beginning of December. Rainier than rain could be. I am positive I heard, from the darkness, the howl of some sodden beast ring out as I got on the train into London.

I had been debating on whether or not to pull out of the blogger meet up that had been arranged by the wonderful Able Grable. She was over from Guernsey and the place to be was Katzenjammer's Beirkeller. But, oh my. I was tired. I was weary. Did I mentioned the rain?

But -  it had been arranged for a very long time, I was looking forward to seeing and meeting new people. Besides, I had bought my Dirndl dress months in advance. About 5 months in advance.

So, I returned from work, changed and headed back out into the night.

I have to say, I was beyond pleased that I did. I perked up as soon as I headed into the basement of this delightful place. It had a real atmosphere about it. And of course, there were many Dirndl dressed dames to behold!

Here we have Gemma from Retro Chick, Matilda of Able Grable and Shona a la HeyDay

And then there is my Dirndl. I love it. I wanted to have something that I would possibly wear outside of the event itself, and I love brown and mustard together. The shirt if from Primark and the knitted bolero has been with me for a good few years now.

There was a bit of a boob-off between Shona and I. As there usually is whenever we meet. I love this gal more than I can say. And not just for her epic cleavage. Honest.

Apart from bazumba shots and outfit envy, there were also other fine femmes in attendance.  Min with lovely plaits and my dear friends Margaret and Lena, as well as the first virtual meeting with Stephanie, who I had become firm chums with on Twitter. 

It was a grand old evening where I drank bier but discovered, too late, the delights of Watermelon schnapps & lemonade. Roll on Summer. 

Pimms is out -  Schnapps are in!

As are Dirndl's!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Tale of a Home Hair Cut


Picture the scene. Me - staring forlornly at my hair, wishing I had asked my Nan to cut it when I saw her over Eatmass. 

I am bored of how fluffy it gets, how the ends are so much darker than the rest due to over-dying (again) and generally wanting a second bash at The Chop.

Get a cuppa. This post is a long-un. Unlike my locks...

Make-up less me. Lordy.

Cut (pun intended) to me having the brainwave of asking The Beard to "just cut an inch or so off the bottom -  it'll take 5 mins". Off of my clean, but crucially, for this tale, dry hair. I am standing in the bath, in my PJ's, a bit hot & sweaty from cleaning. I thought this the best place for the operation to be performed, because then the small amounts of hair can be swept up & binned. This will only take 5 mins, right? 

The Beard is renowned for being able to cut straight lines free-hand. The edges of our left over wrapping paper could be used as a ruler. It started off well. Snip.. snip..snip, whilst I stared at the grouting on the bathroom tiles. I could feel that he was about finished. That was 5 mins I thought. And then. Well then - The Beard bolted. 

We had been having a conversation about using my needlework scissors to "neaten it up", as opposed to the kitchen ones we had been using 
(somewhere out there I can hear my Nan & Aunt fainting).

But -  he failed to return. I thought I could hear him hyperventilating. I turned and caught sight of my hair in the mirror. I let out an involuntary screech. Followed by sobbing, rocking and whimpering. 

The left hand side was perfect. The right hand side, at the back, was above my shoulder. The Beard was shakily rolling a comfort smoke and repeatedly muttering:

"..what have I done? I have ruined your hair! What have I done? I have ruined your life! What have I done..."

I think my beloved flying into pale shock made me switch into practical mode. I had to cut the rest to a presentable length. Which made me feel a little sick. After I had ceased swearing, I looked at things rationally. I was unwashed, make-up free and standing in stale sleepwear.  And my hair was straight. So, I fired up the steam rollers, plonked them in, had a shower, applied slap and a frock and took them out. Curls really do hide a multitude of sins. It looked retro passable. I was relieved.

But.. how would it look with a proper, overnight set....

Bogs at the office. Oh the glamour!

The very same evening, before returning to the grind with hair that was as much a shock to me as anyone else, I set it with sponge rollers. I have not used these bad boys for a good long while, favouring perming rods. But due to the lack of hair I am used to, I just could not get it to go round the rod. So, I reverted back. 

I leave my rods in, stuffed up under a hat, during the winter months whilst I commute. I did the same with the rollers. I could not wait to see what I had to play with. The above shot is pre-8am, just after a quick brush out. I have to say, I was chuffed.

But, I was most worried about those short back bits. Would they have curled? Would they be sticking straight out? The only thing for it, was to do a timer picture of the back of my own head....

Oh! My! Giddy! Aunt!!! I was ecstatic! I think I actually clapped. It may not look like much to some, but the back of my barnet is something I have always struggled with. I had some lovely comments from colleagues. Little did they know the anguished history behind it all. The Beard was still apologising to me as I left for work.

But, how would it hold? My hair is thick, and it does drop. So, out came the camera when I returned home. 
(You will note I have a penchant for taking hair photos in the bathroom.)

I am more than pleased with how it now holds a curl. All day.


Needless to say, I shall never ask such an ask of The Beard ever again. In fact -  he has threatened to leave me if I even think about uttering  "..Could you do me a favour.. could you cut my hair? It'll will only take a moment..

So. I shant.

It had settled into nice waves during the day. Hurrahs! 

It could have been soooooo much worse than it is. But, it is now manageable. It holds a style all day. It takes moments to wash.

So, The Beard, I salute you.

But, what do you think, dears? Am I papering over the cracks? Or does it look alright?

(*holds breath.... looks out occasionally from behind the cat*)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Bright Dress vs Bleak Day

Today is bleak & chilly and I feel the need for some bright cheeriness. I found this stashed in my drafts and thought I would share...

Time travelling back, before the festivities hit us -Autumn had finally arrived. In a half hearted, feeble, stroppy "but-i-still-want-to-be-summer!!!" kind of way. The Beard and I decided to take a stroll across our local heath. 

And as it was not in the slightest bit chilly, despite the leaves upon the ground, I decided to put upon my person my newest charity shop frock. And lean up against a fence. Lazily.

I took this opportunity to give my big old chestnut satchel an outing as it had been feeling rather sorry for itself after the homecoming of my lovely tan one

I cocked about a bit, whilst the ever patient, border line saintly, Beard took some snaps. I rarely get to do outfit posts outside on account of it being dark (like my mood) when I wake up and dark ( again, like my mood, ahem) when I return home. You will notice this bloggetty holds a lots of mug shots of me in front of the fridge. Sigh.

I adore this new dress. For a hefty £4, it twins my other 400 pence dress rather nicely. I like the boldness of the colour, the simplicity of the print and the fact that it fits my bazumba's in it (a constant quest). I think it also goes rather well with anything mustard. 

Which is handy.

Ahhhh.. my brogue-shoe-type-things of browness. I picked these up from New Look last year and they have lasted me well. I spy the high street is continuing to stock this type of shoe, which makes me very happy. Retro looking, comfy and in my size. Whoot! Whoot!

Before we parted from the fence and off across the heath (always keeping an eye out for the free roaming Highland Cattle of Scary McHairy) we decided that we would very much like to live in one of the cottages that are situated nearby. 

Alas, no lottery win in the satchel, so we just gazed at them like two forlorn urchins. Weep.

But -  HURRAH for dress of four-poundess!!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Roses of No Man's Land - Lyn McDonald - review

'On the face of it,' writes Lyn Macdonald, 'no one could have been less equipped for the job than these gently nurtured girls who walked straight out of Edwardian drawing rooms into the manifest horrors of the First World War ...'

Yet the volunteer nurses rose magnificently to the occasion; in this book they get a chance to tell their own stories. In leaking tents and draughty huts they fought another war, a war against agony and death, as men lay suffering from the pain of unimaginable wounds or diseases we can now cure almost instantly. It was here that young doctors frantically forged new medical techniques – of blood transfusion, dentistry, psychiatry and plastic surgery – in the attempt to save soldiers shattered in body or spirit. And it was here that women achieved a quiet but permanent revolution, by proving beyond question they could do anything. All this is superbly captured in The Roses of No Man's Land, a panorama of hardship, disillusion and despair, yet also of endurance and supreme courage.


My old man had recommended me another book by this author a while back, but whilst searching for the cheapest available option on the web, I stumbled upon this one that set my heart alight a little more. £2.12 later and it was mine. Gotta love new & used. I'll have the crumpled one, thanks.

I instantly fell into an easy rhythm with the writing style of Lyn MacDonald. I usually find it a little hard to get into proper history books, as The Beard calls them. An awful lot depends on how they present the information they have gathered.

Compiled over several years, with endless tracking, tracing and interviewing of VAD's, Doctor's, Orderlies, trained nurses as well as soldiers, this book floored me. 

It made me realise that I have a Great deal to learn about this War.

MacDonald sprinkles real life accounts with the background of major events seamlessly, which makes absorbing the details all the easier. I found her attention to detail flawless and interesting. 

Spanning from the first influx of Scottish Highlanders to the South of England in 1914 and the affect standard illnesses like mumps had on them due to lack of exposure in their native locality, to the devastating reality of The Somme in 1916 and the following creation of plastic surgery, all the way to the hammer blow of Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 -  every type of experience has been captured for posterity.

It is not a book solely about the female volunteers - but about the growth, trials and memories of the healers, soothers and miracle workers of both sexes - who were every inch part of the front line.

An astounding 8/10

Monday, 2 January 2012

Don't let the door hit you on the arse on the way out, 2011.

It is fair to say that I, along with many people I know, felt that the majority 2011 was a steaming turd of a year. Don't get me wrong -  I had some grand old times and some lovely things happened. But -  the general consensus from me to you is  -  it was pap.

So, to give it a good old heave-ho-begone-so-long, we headed off to spend the welcoming in of 2012 with some good friends of ours. There was the promise of food and laughter. How could we say no?

I spent all of the final, limping day of 2011 in my pj's watching old movies, slurping tea and enjoying the flickery candle light around the flat. With the heating off. On account of it being a spring time 12 degrees Celsius in the outside word. In December. It has been so warm, the blossom has started to come out on the cherry tree outside. Me no likey.

But with the clock a ticking out the last hours and a dinner a waiting - I heaved myself into dolling up mode...

I removed the perming rods and discovered that rained-on-the-day-before-hair is crap at doing what you brush it to.

Check out my frizz! This is the best of a bad bunch. If I had only washed my locks. Ahh well.

I did decide to wear my "Boxing Day Dress" -  which I didn't actually wear on account of it matching the shirt The Beard had picked out for himself. So I saved it for NYE instead -  and made sure said Beard didn't wear stripes.

This cotton frock is thick enough to be worn with thicker tights underneath (if Winter actually ever makes an appearance), but light enough to frolick about the beach in. I love the colours and the little pink buttons (you can see in the first pic back up top). It came to me via Goldrush Vintage who were stationed at the last Antique vs Vintage of the year. For a whole £10. Yum yum!

Speaking of yum yum -  we took not one bottle of plonky booze -  but a whole basket.

We arrived to be greeted with nibbles & movie watching. We chose "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". I was reminded how much I am like Steve Martin when commuting. I must work on that. I don't have his finesse.

Our friends had prepared a delicious meal, which started off with home made bruschetta, moved on to chickeny-cheesy-bacony goodness and ended with a mind blowing coffee choc mousse.

There was wine, cider and the obligatory rum swilling.

And in between nomming and the New Year we played a version of scrabble. Where pretty much anything went. Including some rather unsavoury's. Like "pull". For shame.

We watched the fireworks agog, such as we thought their wonderfulness. And then we stayed up till the just before the birds began to breakfast, eating chocolate. 

What a fab way to see out the old and bring in the new. 

Hope you lovelies had fun where ever you celebrated!

Come on 2012 -  show 2011 how it's done!!


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