Tuesday, 18 July 2017

This Old House - Stonecroft After The Paint Job

It's over! No more dodging ladders and scaffolding or having to walk around the house fully clothed. Stonecroft is back to her former glory, no more peeling paintwork or crumbling window frames. Not looking too bad for two hundred and sixty-seven years old, isn't she?

The plants (mostly) survived being rudely uprooted and relegated to the lawn to avoid being trampled.

It was a tough job, all four sides of Stonecroft's not particularly small exterior had to be scrubbed, hosed down and repainted. The decorators had to contend with not only blistering heat, torrential rain and high winds but also a highly embarrassing cat who, not yet over his years of foraging for food as a stray, made off with the contents of any lunchbox left unattended.  

I'm a bit reluctant to put my window boxes back on the pristine gloss black sills so I'm channelling a bit of Corfu and making do with vintage terracotta pots filled with gloriously gaudy geraniums instead.

Some I've had for years, overwintering in the utility room when the autumn's over....

The rest I bought from the clearance shelf in B&Q (12 for 90p and not one loss yet!)

The bloody stable door in the kitchen has been replaced by a half-glazed oak beauty in a far more aesthetically pleasing Georgian style which doesn't require a degree in engineering to open (a knack I've failed to master in the 11 years we've lived here).

Despite the neglect from a week long festival and our trip to Greece the tomatoes and courgettes are flourishing. 

More Scandi clogs, my treat from our Cornbury profits.

Have I ever mentioned by love for architectural antiques? I can't resist buying vintage knobs, knockers or escutcheons if I spot them at car boots. The cherub's been languishing in a drawer for years. It's about time he was put to some use.

WEARING: Gingham midi skirt with embroidered hem and pockets (New! From a proper shop in the sale!! Don't faint!); Off-the-shoulder gypsy top (made by me from an Indian scarf in the charity shop 3 for £1 bin); Vintage 1970s oversized Polaroid sunglasses (car boot sale); Stack of plastic bangles (various vintages from 1960s to last week, all charity shopped): Wooden rainbow beads (made by Tania)

We're off to trade at the Truck festival in the morning, see you next week!

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

Friday, 14 July 2017

A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever - A Cultural Day Out

Hand on heart I'm not Birmingham's biggest fan, fourteen years of working in the city centre pretty much put paid to that. But beyond the mainstream fashion stores and identikit restaurant chains there's some wonderful pubs and an art gallery & museum so good it'll take your breath away (and it's free). Tania and I decided it would be an easy place to meet (an hour and a quarter by train from her home in Nottingham and a mere 20 minutes from Walsall) and a good destination for a cultural day out so that's exactly what we did yesterday. How gorgeous is Tania's 1940s dress?

After meeting up in the labyrinthine New Street Station we headed to the handful of vintage shops left in the city. The first one, in the Bull Ring, was one of those re-purposed and retro-inspired places, fine for the kids but not really our thing. Cow in Digbeth is of a similar ilk although we found one or two proper vintage pieces and some gorgeous tooled leather bags to admire.  My only purchases were from Credit Crunchers, which doesn't claim to be a vintage shop but always has one or two authentic pieces at good prices - a 1960s pig skin waistcoat and a crazy 1970s Victorian-lady-on-acid blouse with a groovy Parisian label.

After a couple of hours of admiring clothes both vintage and new (we're liking Zara, all bright colours, ethnic embroidery and 1970s inspiration) the pub was calling. To ring the changes we had lunch in The Old Joint Stock, a regular haunt whenever Jon & I do a Brum pub crawl. Wetherspoons' prices they ain't but look at all that ridiculously over the top Victorian opulence and, if you sign up to the website, you can claim a pint or a medium size glass of wine for free. An independent newspaper poll voted it one of the 25 top pubs in the UK and you can see why. The grilled veg salads were massive, in retrospect we could have shared one and had a plate of chips on the side. 

My presents from Tania - Indian block printed fabulousness!

After exchanging pressies and the obligatory bloggers selfie in the ladies' loo we made our way to Birmingham's Museum & Art Gallery.

Photos of me courtesy of Tania

I've loved this Joseph Southall fresco of affluent shoppers on Corporation Street, Birmingham since I was a child. We even had a print of it on the wall at home.

Life imitating art

Lucifer by Jacob Epstein is another of my favourites, he's a bit of a looker, isn't he?

Birmingham Art Gallery has the finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world. Although it's been a few years since I lasted visited, seeing these world famous pieces in the flesh never fails to make me squeal with delight. Those faces! That hair! The colours! The detail!

Two of my favourites, I do love a sorceress! 

Morgan-le-Fey (1864) by Frederick Sandys

Medea (1886 - 1888) by Frederick Sandys

Once we'd exhausted the Pre Raphaelites we moved on to the Staffordshire Hoard. Despite it being found in the field adjacent to our regular mid-week car boot sale, other than seeing it on the news I'd yet to see any of it in real life.

It was phenomenal! We couldn't get over the intricacy of the craftsmanship or the profusion of garnets. I loved exhibit no. 2 the most, a huge gold brooch unusually worn by and buried with a woman. 

An Anglo-Saxon dressing-up box? Yes, please! Of course accessories are everything, wouldn't a leather belt with a bejewelled sword and that huge brooch would make the world of difference to our shapeless sackcloth smocks?

Pre-Raphaelite art and ancient jewellery? Could it get any better?

Actually, yes it could! With mummies, death masks and amulets from 7000 BC (I know, it blew our minds, too) Ancient Egypt was our next stop.

We loved the Eye of Horus amulets but were a bit freaked out by the mummified cat.

The dishes and tools for applying cosmetics and the sandals were over 3000 years old! The jewellery is incredible, almost contemporary in colour and style.

I'm wearing a 1970s cotton maxi dress Curtise sent me two years ago, it's taken me that long to fit into it. The Mexican-style retro basket is a recent acquisition (I'm blaming Lynn and her jelly shoe obsession!)

After exploring Ancient Greece, Rome, Cyprus, Iran and Syria we made our way back to Birmingham's more recent history, sighing over some of the clothing exhibits on display.

How fabulous is the 1940s patchwork dressing gown in the Make Do & Mend case? I'd wear that out. The bejewelled costume from the Handsworth Carnival was a triumph and the pieces commemorating The Oasis, Birmingham's legendary alternative market were, for me, a teenage flashback, perfect for a bit of Boy George stalking back in the 1980s.

All cultured up we made our way towards New Street Station stopping off at Bacchus, one of Birmingham's most glorious real ale pubs, for a restorative glass of plonk.


Arriving at the train station we hugged, kissed and ran to our respective platforms with minutes to spare, arriving home according to Tania's cheeky man, Q, stinking of booze and garlic

We're hoping to meet up with Curtise in the second week of September, who's up for joining us? 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Cornbury Festival, 2017 - The Fabulous Finale

Once upon a time a festival lovin', vintage wearing couple saw a colourful stall at Glastonbury and decided that one day they too would sell their retro clothing at a music festival. 

Fast forward a few years and Kinky Melon's Retro Boutique is a regular fixture on the Great British festival circuit with a loyal following of vintage clothing fanatics who say that buying from us is as much part of their festival experience as cider with breakfast and dancing barefoot in the rain.

Last weekend we headed off to the beautiful Cotswolds, the location for the last ever (sob!) Cornbury Festival. As with most festivals the workers have to get there a few days before the fun loving public, so we left home on Wednesday and spent the day setting up so that our Thursday could be lazy, sitting in the sun with our festival trading family, some of whom we only see once or twice a year. 

All I can say is thank goodness we had a chance to catch up with our mates beforehand because once the festival gates were thrown open at 9am on Friday it was pretty much full on for the entire weekend. I don't think we managed more than a Good Morning! between us and and our trading neighbours until sunset. 

Despite the blistering heat we did a roaring trade in Harris Tweed jackets. We don't just stock our stall with festival friendly clothes, vintage aficionados are always on the look out for cool things to add to their wardrobes regardless of whether they're seasonably appropriate. Whilst some customers will try on a dress or a loud silk shirt, buy it and leave wearing it (that's why we wash everything, it's ready to wear), others will purchase a wool suit for a wedding, a swimsuit for a holiday or gloves for a themed event.

Traditionally a quiet day for trade, by mid-afternoon on Friday we'd already taken more than the entire weekend at last month's Acoustic Festival. Selling a 1970s belted tweed jacket and a couple of vintage silk cravats to some cool looking blokes Jon asked if he knew them as they looked familiar. They replied, We're the Kaiser Chiefs, mate. I'm not sure if the jacket was worn on stage for their headline slot, by that point we were too knackered to contemplate walking three minutes round the corner to the main stage to have a look.

If we thought Friday was busy then it was nothing compared to Saturday. Not only was the weekend a sell out but all 15,000 day tickets had also been sold and by lunchtime we were starting to think that every single one of those fifteen thousand people had visited our pitch. Our neighbour Mandy was wearing one of those gadgets that measure your steps and, like us, hadn't been further than the portaloos since 9am. When she checked her measurement at 3pm she'd clocked 5 miles. I'm pretty sure we did about the same as I've managed to lose 4 lbs in weight since I left the house on Wednesday morning.

It was so crazy that it was gone 2pm by the time I'd cracked open my first can and man, Morrison's gin & slimline tonic never tasted so good! Forget the meals we'd planned to cook over the weekend, we existed on olives, cheese, cherry tomatoes and falafel - anything we could chew quickly between customers.

At 10pm we called it a day, rolled down the shop front and caught the second half of Bryan Adams' set. Summer of '69 was my sixth form anthem when we were taking our A Levels back in 1984 but barring Everything I Do, which I hate with a passion, I'd forgotten just how many decent hits he'd had. Bryan didn't look half bad either. What made the evening even more magical was that it was so warm I was out in my sequined bustier and bare feet with no need for a coat. It was like being back in Corfu.

Directly opposite our pitch was The Disco Shed and after the main stage closed it continued banging out some proper hardcore early 1990s house and shoe-gazing Madchester classics accompanied by dry ice and trippy projected images until midnight. Although we were tempted to hang out and dance we needed to be open by 9am the next day so off to bed we went. We slept like babies despite a full-on rave going off inches away from the van.

Sunday was no less quiet and within a couple of minutes of opening we'd already made two sales. The shop was starting to look seriously bare in places so we had a bit of a switch round to make the rails a little more enticing. Between customers we started scribbling a to-do list in readiness for our next festival which included things to hunt down in charity shops this week, sewing another three dozen wired headbands and knocking up 15 or so cropped gypsy tops as we'd sold out of all of them (big love to Jayne for sending me another box of fabulous vintage fabric which should keep me going.)

I took advantage of the traditional Sunday afternoon lull to have a wander round the festival site. It was the first chance I'd had to see it properly set up as it was still being built on Thursday morning when we'd last roamed away from our stall.

The workshop taught kids how to transform previous years' festival flags into raggedy bunting.

Good to see the Towersey Festival being promoted, we're trading there for the first time in August.

With an on-site Waitrose, VIP areas, a G&T bar and silver service fine dining, Cornbury ain't called Poshstock for nothing. When a rather well spoken gent gave us his credit card as surety when he took a jacket away to show his wife, the name on the card revealed that he was a peer of the realm. But there's loads of lovely, down-to-earth, normal people too and it's an absolute joy meeting up with them every year. (Hello, girls! Have a great time in Crete.)

Even her Maj popped in. Don't you love the loo roll hanging off her court shoe?

Isn't it always the way? No sooner had I left for my 20 minute walkabout Jon had a another rush of customers and also managed to apprehend two teenage shoplifters trying to make off with one of our 1970s Harrington jackets.

I hadn't seen Heidi (Shilpa Silver) since we stalked met Devendra Banhart at End Of The Road (here) last year. Hopefully we'll be neighbours again this year so should have more time to chat, catch a few acts and hang around the signing tent again.

At 7.30 pm Mandy came rushing into the shop to tell me that she'd just heard the opening lines to Don't Get Me Wrong so, leaving Jon and her husband Orr to hold the fort ran off and caught 15 minutes of The Pretenders' set. 

What can I say? Chrissie Hynde is an absolute babe. Her voice was utter perfection and if I look half as good as she does at 65 I'd be deliriously happy. 

Being trading neighbours means robbing promoting one another's stock - Mandy's wearing one of my wired headbands and I'm in her metallic cat's ears (originally intended for the kids but you're never too old to be a cat).

Previously we've been able to get right to the front of the stage and dance in the mosh pit. This year was insanely busy and we couldn't get close. Looking over the vast crowds dancing with their hands in the air was more reminiscent of Glasto than Cornbury.

After three songs we dashed back to our stalls and let the menfolk have a chance to catch some of the action. I had to get a photo of Dylan, daughter of mates Simon & Donna of Homegrown, she's the coolest teenager I know. She bought the denim flares from us at the End of the Road a couple of years ago and the Bronson of California 1970s safari jacket was this year's Kinky Melon purchase, she found the parrot sunnies at Glastonbury. Isn't she stunning? 

At 9.30 pm we closed up, grabbed a drink and sprawled on a blanket in front of the main stage listening to the Cornbury's final ever act, Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, not really our thing but fitting for a grand finale and the fireworks after the show were pretty amazing.

Jon went to sleep sitting up.....its a hard life!

And that was Cornbury. Sun drenched, tropically hot and fabulous, amazing company, ace customers and, best of all, trade-wise, it was a record breaker. We sold over half our stock, improved our tans and worked our arses off. We've got 8 days to unpack, recover, shop, sew then repack and start all over again at Truck.

Cheers, Cornbury! We're gonna miss you.

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.