Monday, 12 October 2015

Kool In The Kaftan

I'm still here. I'm not wallowing in self pity or sewn myself into a coma. We've been busy. 

Photo courtesy of Emily of Judy's. We're somewhere on the left underneath the bunting.
Last Sunday took us to London's Bethnal Green with Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair and we had the best day of sales in almost ten years of full-time vintage selling. We spent most of last week hunting for fresh stock, leading to the inevitable laundering, repairing, ironing and pricing that comes with vintage buying.

Clockwise from left: English Lady fake fur (now mine!); 1960s knit top; Reversible David Barry wool cape; 1950s novelty print cotton skirt; 1960s Global evening jacket; Swiss-made wool & Cashmere fake fur trimmed coat; Tab collar Seventies shirt; 1970s Norman Martin maxi dress; Wool cape with lion's head fasteners; Welsh Tapestry cape; 1960s braided anorak
We bought so much stuff that one of the stockroom rails collapsed under the weight (well, I did find it in a skip) so the usual blank wall I take my stock photos against is now obscured by a taller rail normally reserved for the ironing. These are some of Tuesday & Wednesday's finds. 

Clockwise from left: Barry Manilow 1978 tour jacket (now on eBay HERE); Leather trimmed jacket made in DDR; Aquascutum 1960s mac; Vintage sports top; Sheepskin car coat; West German mac; Snazzy silk shirt; 1970s velvet blazer; Tab collared gingham shirts by Van Heusen in blue and red colour ways; Arnold Palmer psychedelic shirt; Canadian made dagger collar shirt

By the time the thousands of customers had finally left Bethnal Green we were too frazzled to pose for a photo. This meant I could wear the same dress for work yesterday when we traded at Vintage Village at Stockport.

The dress was a gift from a friend. Her partner bought the 1960s car coat Jon's wearing from a car boot sale for himself but the fit wasn't quite right when he tried it on at home so Jon bought it off him. They know our taste brilliantly and work on a voluntary basis as Kinky Melon stock hunters. 

Speaking of Stockport, after a visitor's vote last month, the most popular traders were awarded certificates. We were thrilled to be amongst the nominees (after all, we're relative newcomers).

Our fabulous friends and neighbours Pat (the blonde in the centre) & Matthew of a Vintage Affair were joint winners along with Maggie (in the gorgeous Chinese jacket) from Garbo Antiques from whom I bought today's 1960s cotton caftan (one of a matching pair, the other is in blue). 

WEARING: Mr Joe caftan (Stockport Vintage Village), vintage tooled leather belt (borrowed from the stockroom), Aldo leather boots (£1, car boot sale), Lamini coin necklace (India)
I won't tell you how much it cost or Stockport will be inundated with vintage lovers in search of a bargain and there'll be nothing left for me!

I love the label, possibly a tourist souvenir from a traveller on the original overland hippy trail. I've Googled Mr Joe and it appears that he (or, more likely, a son or grandson) are still in business at the Cycle Market in down town Karachi.

Dad's death certificate was issued and ready for collection on Friday afternoon & finally I can get his funeral, financial affairs, probate and all the other grown-up stuff sorted. I've got a heap of covering letters to write this afternoon to catch the last post so I'd best get cracking.

If I don't get a chance to post again this week you'll find us in Bristol with Judy's this coming Sunday (details HERE).

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday

Monday, 5 October 2015

When The Going Gets Tough...

...The Tough Get Sewing.

When life renders you powerless, sewing can be wonderfully therapeutic.

Over the last couple of weeks, in an effort to stop dwelling on my thoughts, I've been sewing up a storm. No pair of curtains, tablecloth or bed cover has been safe. I might not be able to change my circumstances but by taking an ordinary scrap of fabric and fashioning it into something completely different I feel like I've regained some control.

In a state of limbo, whilst awaiting the coroner's report, ready to throw myself into dealing with all the grown-up stuff like funeral arrangements, probate and informing an endless list of organisations and agencies, my poor sewing machine has rarely been switched off.

Last week I visited an amazing lady who was selling off all her belongings ready to make a fresh start in life at the age of eighty-eight. As we went through her wardrobe I turned and admired the brocade curtains which had been hanging at her bedroom window for 56 years, Have them, she said, Indicating Jon to take them down.

When we got back from the hospital on Thursday morning I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I unfolded a pattern, laid it out on the curtains and spent the rest of the day fashioning a hooded cape.

I can't thank you enough for the wonderful comments, messages, texts and emails I've received since my last blog post, I'm truly overwhelmed by your kindness. Sharing your experiences and reaching out have helped burst the bubble I'd felt trapped in for the last fortnight, unable to fully engage with life & feeling too awkward to share our situation.  

I shall do my very best to get back to you all in the next few days.

See you soon. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Free At Last - Goodbye, Dad

When the phone rang at 6.48am this morning I already knew. Dad had gone. It was no surprise, we'd made the decision not to proceed with a feeding tube any longer. The kindest thing was to allow his failing body to naturally decline. It was only a matter of time. The doctors told us days or maybe hours, but he clung on for fourteen days, diminishing before our eyes, always a slightly built man but towards the end, his form was almost skeletal.

Dementia is a cruel disease, robbing sufferers of their personality and their dignity. My father, intensely private, a man of few words, with a past packed with adventure, globe trotting, fine wine and fast cars* disappeared. Just weeks after Mum's death he changed almost overnight. Haunted by hallucinations and terrified, he'd turn up on our doorstep begging us to help him to get the intruders out of his house. He'd ring the police in the middle of the night, convinced that Mum was being held captive in the house next door and that I was part of the plot. Neighbours and visitors would complain about his odd behaviour.

The day I spent with a team of medical staff and social workers, trying to calm him while he ranted, raved and foamed at the mouth, culminating ten hours later with him being sectioned under the Mental Heath Act as being a danger to himself, taken away against his will and held in a psychiatric ward, is the day I finally felt like a grown-up.

After weeks of tests his condition was recognised as dementia rather than schizophrenia. His behaviour was modified with drugs and he was eventually calm enough to be transferred to a nursing home for his own safety, never again to return home. There he was cared for, treasured by the staff and treated with love and respect but the person we visited wasn't Dad. The man who disliked physical contact, popular music, commercial television, baked beans and sweet tea relished full English Breakfasts in front of This Morning, he'd hold hands with the staff, sway to songs on Radio Two and drink mugs of tea with three sugars. At first he vaguely recognised my brother and Jon but with me he was clueless, getting agitated and wandering off, preferring to march up and down the corridor in his own world.

Over the last five years his condition continued to deteriorate. Conversation was impossible and if he sat still long enough he'd simply mutter a jumble of words, often related to the RAF, Interpol, missed flights and border control. The staff suspected he was once involved in some form of military intelligence, something we'll never now know.

Towards the end he stopped eating and refused to leave his bed. For the last month he hadn't opened his eyes or even spoken.

How do I feel? Is it awful to say that I'm relieved? For the last fortnight I've gasped every time the phone rung, fearing the inevitable. Finally that awful knot in my stomach has unravelled, the overwhelming sense of guilt that I don't visit him as often as I should and the feeling of utter powerless when I did and he turned his back on me and walked away.

My Dad died today but we lost my father five years ago.

Norman Ernest Brearley

29th May, 1929 - 1st October, 2015

* Dad's adventurous past HERE

Monday, 28 September 2015

Border Crossing - Kinky Takes A Trip

Saturday took us to Wales' fine capital city, Cardiff and, due to last weekend's camera cock-up, I was able to get away with wearing the same dress for work twice in a row. From the house of high-end designer Ricci Michaels of Mayfair, I bought it from Vintage Relics, our neighbours at the End of the Road festival. It got loads of love on each outing.

The British Heart Foundation* bag Jon was carrying in Friday's blog photo contained the Savile Row shirt (with cuff-links still attached) he's wearing. 

*We're not environmentally irresponsible, we'd already filled the two cloth bags we'd taken with us and had no choice!

Em was visiting her lovely mum and popped into Cardiff's magnificent Portland House to see us. Check out the she gave me. Does she remind you of anyone? She took pride of place on the Kinky pitch all day. I think she brought us luck.

As she came from Wales she's staying close to Sir Tom (this was his second album, A-Tom-Ic Jones, released in 1966).

Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair in Cardiff was phenomenal. Customers turned up in their thousands and business was brilliant. As we discovered at Kaya, the Welsh really appreciate their true vintage. 

Portland House is Grade II listed building, a former bank built in 1927 and recently restored (full history and great photos HERE). Belinda, one of the team who work there, took me on a tour of the amazingly atmospheric underground vaults which play host to a nightclub.

Clockwise from top left: Three x 1960s duffel bags; Crimplene jacquard blazer; Denim cropped jacket; psychedelic chiffon maxi;1970s wool cape; 1970s buttercup yellow midi; Cropped puppy tooth jacket; 1970s STAX midi; Green print maxi; psychedelic midi; Tissavel fake fur; Geo-print maxi skirt; Crochet waistcoat; Psychedelic maxi skirt (now Em's!); 1960s scooter dress; 1970s floral midi; Astraka fake fur; Psychedelic penny collar 1960s tunic, Purple maxi dress

We'd had a bumper week of vintage finds and sold a lot of them on Saturday. The orange chiffon maxi is a keeper! 

Clockwise from top left: Cuban Guayabera shirt; Suede belted coat; Leather brogues; 1950s fedora; 1960s tweed suit; Camel overcoat; Slip-on platform loafers; Campri 1970s windcheater; Cashmere & wool car coat; Green leather blazer; Campri 1970s windcheater; 1950s fedora; Cue by Austin Reed belted raincoat, 1980s leopard print leisure shirt.
As most of South Wales seemed to be in the buying mood it rubbed off on us, too. 

I treated myself to this 1970s Pippa Dee beach dress (quick drying nylon with padded boobs) and fringed & studded 1960s suede waistcoat from the fabulous Make Do and Vintage.

Jon harnessed his inner Starsky and snapped up this Icelandic knit cardi.

We're joining Judy's again this weekend, trading at Bethnal Green in London on Sunday. I'd better go shopping, those gaps on our rails need filling.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday.

Friday, 25 September 2015

From My Hometown

Walsall's changing. Some call it progress but I can't get excited about yet more fast food outlets and a massive Primark dominating the skyline. 

I barely visit town any more. Half the charity shops have moved out and the stock in the remainder is depressingly shoddy, little wonder as parking outside to drop off donations is nigh-on impossible with the one way system and double yellow lines. In a couple more weeks it'll be nothing but clapped-out Atmosphere dominating the rails once the town's population tire of the purchases they made when Primark opened its doors eight weeks ago.

There's a few interesting indie shops holding out against the retail giants. The Curio Shop opened in 1969 and remains packed to the rafters with all manner of antiquities, junk and house clearance curiosities.

Eerie Ink is just one of many tattoo parlours in the town. If you ain't got a tattoo you're considered a bit weird round here although THIS local chap might have taken the ink loving a bit too far.

Market House has been beautifully restored but stands empty.

I'd love those Corinthian columns outside our front door. (Identifying Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns, my grammar school education wasn't a total waste).

The modern building to the left replaced Shannon's Mill, a clothing company which, at its height in 1887 employed 600 people and made almost 180,000 garments. It was destroyed by arsonists in 2007. The gate house with the chimney is the only part that remains, for years Ace of Hearts, a tattoo parlour run by a mother and daughter.

Walsall's always had a huge Mod scene. We've even got a dedicated club.

The School of Art opened in 1908. It was built in 1859 and was originally the town's Free Library. 

My Grandma took a few courses here in the early 1970s. One of her classmates was the notorious serial killer known as the Black Panther

 Directly opposite the old college is fabric shop, The Hole in the Wall. Back in the early 1980s most of this area was derelict and occupied by squatters. The coolest of the bunch was Boy George who lived with Walsall lad Martin Degville, later to become lead singer of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Seeing him walking around town dressed in a silver spacesuit or an Elizabethan ruff with his dog dressed to match was a familiar sight. Nobody really batted an eyelid - or if they did they didn't dare say anything, he was built like a brick sh*thouse.  

A middle-aged woman in a psychedelic catsuit is tame by comparison.

Jon's standing outside a derelict sandwich bar. Who can afford to compete with The Pound Bakery? He's anxious to get back home, if you can't tell by his face. He did manage to find a few treasures in the chazzas after all.

Just time to capture the fabulous interiors shop that is 34a

A mix of French antiquities, industrial chic, retro and salvage. It's like someone burgled our house and put it all in a shop window.

WEARING: Sportaville 1960s catsuit (Second To None, Walsall's legendary vintage emporium), Bertie platforms (charity shop), Fringed leather bag (made by my friend Fran), 1970s sunnies (Moseley Vintage & Retro Fair)

We're trading in Wales with Judy's in Cardiff tomorrow (Details HERE) . Come and see us if you can!