Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Making your mind up

I'm usually a fairly decisive person.
I'm not a ditherer, a waverer, or a fence-sitter.
I don't fanny about.

I hope I do think carefully about the stuff which is important, but the insignificant decisions around the edges? A rule of thumb to assess whether something is worth sweating over is to ask myself the question, am I going to be worrying about this in a week/month/year from now?

No? Then it's time to get my head out of my arse and stop wittling*

So, with that in mind, I am approaching my current pruning of the wardrobe with a hardened heart and a sensible head.

When in doubt - try it out.

These two 1970s dresses were on my make your mind up pile.
In true X Factor judge style, I have made my decision.
One stays, one goes.

That's my decision-making face. Don't mess with me when I've got that face on.

Blogging is a useful tool for me when it comes to deciding whether an item of clothing has earned its wardrobe space. Looking at photos makes it easier to see myself with a more objective eye.

And I spy with my objective eye an unflattering dress. It's not that I don't like the print (I do) and the colours (I do), I just don't like the shape on me. It's got that empire line maternity wear look about it, and lacks the waist definition which suits me best.

Don't look so sad - it's only a frock. Back to Ebay with it, from whence it came.

I look much more streamlined with a waist. 
This polka-dot dress isn't showy or colourful, but I really like the shape, and with a bright cardigan and tights and a funky faux fur, I can jazz it up through autumn/winter.

1970s St Michael pussy-bow dress, denim jacket, 1970s shoes and bangles - charity shopped
Fishnets and belt - retail
1960s tapestry bag - vintage shop in Birmingham (bought on a bloggers' day out)

Faffing with my pussy bow, while pulling another daft face. I have quite the repertoire, just ask my kids.

Ooh, 1970s patent leather, round toes, stack heels and slingbacks - does a shoe get any better? And bought from a charity shop too, bonus.

The two Midwinter mugs are Jessie Tait's Spanish Garden design, very popular in the 1960s. And still very popular with me, I have a few pieces, and spotted these at a local vintage market on Sunday. I was restrained; I only bought the mugs and the 1960-70s duvet cover behind them, a huge spend of £3 all told.

The cat and the flowers, I already own, and the raindrops came for free. 

My plan is this; to sell sell sell as much clothing as I can between now and Christmas, thereby avoiding the selling of my soul to the retail monster that is Meadowhall. Working at Debenhams as a Christmas temp last year was OK, but I reckon I can make the same money through my own sales, without standing at tram stops in the rain late at night and having to work on Boxing Day.

I might have a stall at our school Christmas fair selling some vintage homewares, knick-knacks, linens, and accessories too. We will see whether the local community shares my love of retro tat, and is prepared to buy it off me!

Wish me luck!
*Wittling is a northern dialect word for worrying, fretting. Not to be confused with whittling. Although there is clearly a metaphoric connection.)


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Fruit and flowers

I very much enjoyed and appreciated your comments on the issue of names - mine, yours, and that of your cats. It's one of those subjects about which everyone has experience and opinions. We all have names, right? Although whether we like them or not is another matter.

I think I value blogging most of all when a post happens to strike a chord and gets people talking; so thank you for that.

And now you are all pronouncing my name correctly, even if it's only in your head!

We're having sharply chilly autumnal mornings followed by last gasps of warm summer weather, so I am finding that my customary mix of a short-sleeved maxi with a cardigan or denim jacket is just right.
That's lucky, since it's what I love to wear anyway. 

1970s maxi dress - vintage market
Necklace, bangles, shoes and denim jacket - charity shopped

There are little splashes of colour left in the garden.

I have no idea how I got this photo (my photography skills extend no further than point and press) but I really like it.

And I like this too;

a Mexican vinyl shopping bag, spotted and snapped up for a fiver on Chesterfield flea market.

I'm not sure of its age, I just liked the quirky fruit folk, and its useful size and sturdiness.

Other finds;

Fabric - £2 a piece
1960s English-made Lythos steel and abalone shell pendant - £1

And a 1980-90s Sport Missoni sweater, a crazy bargain at £1.49.

Too small for me, and round neck sweaters are not my thing, but I couldn't leave Missoni behind, could I? I'll find it a home.

I have noticed this beautiful woman at the flea market before, it's impossible to miss her incredible style.

We found ourselves browsing at the same stall this week, and got chatting. She agreed to a photo, told me she is 80, has a large hat collection, and has been collecting and wearing 1940s clothes nearly all her adult life.

Clearly she has no intention of sacrificing her style and her visibility with age.
 Good for her.

(Incidentally, that long purple dress hanging up on the left is Biba. Lovely, but too plain and too pricey for me.)

Oops, hem coming down...
It's fixed now.

Charlie likes to join me for a photo shoot.

Sir Bubble, with what the kids call his lucky freckle on his nose.

A quiet weekend here, but none the worse for that.

How about you? What are you up to?


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Naming of Cats a difficult matter, according to T. S. Eliot.*

My four have their names that the family use daily.

Jess, Charlie, Willow and Minnie.

But Eliot suggests that in addition
...a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

Queen Jessamine, Sir Charlie Bubble, Miss Pillsy Werner, and Mme. Minna de Beau-Beau.
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

No laughing, please. And don't even try to tell me you don't have similar names for your pets, especially cats, because I won't believe you.

All of which is by way of introduction to the subject of names. 

My amusement - and your comments - about the chap who recognised me but called me Clarice has got me thinking about names. More specifically, my name. 

Apparently my parents had some difficulty choosing a name for me, and I was Baby right up to the wire, the six week limit at which they had to register my birth.

As you can see from this rather historical-looking document, I was registered as Curtis. No "e".

Now we all know this is a boy's name. Not one of those Francis/Frances, Leslie/Lesley names, not a name like Bailey or Stevie or Ellis which are interchangeable between the sexes (unisex, we would have said in the 1960s and 70s). And it wasn't the norm to give children names which were clearly intended for the other sex in the mid-1960s, at least not in small town rural Buckinghamshire.

It was chosen for me because it was a family surname (my paternal grandmother's maiden name - she was Esther Curtis) and my father's middle name. If my parents had been waiting for a son to whom they could give the name, it was clear by the time I came along, a third daughter and something of an unexpected blessing at that, that it wasn't going to happen.

So there was a name without a child.

And this child became Curtis. 

How I hated it

 How I wanted to be a Clare, Susan, Jane, Sarah. 
A Caroline, Lucy, Jenny or Nicola. 

Pretty, feminine names, like those of my friends, intended and appropriate for girls.
Names you could announce without anyone saying what? Without needing to repeat it, or listen to comments about how odd and unusual a name it is. Names no one ever gets wrong.

The final straw came when I passed the 11-plus exam and the letter from the Education authority informed my parents that there is a place at the grammar school for your son. 

I was mortified, so my mother suggested we add an extra "e" to the end of my name, in a vain attempt to feminise it. It would be pronounced the same, although there continues to be considerable confusion about this (I am Curt-iss, not Curt-ees).

1970s handmade maxi dress - competition prize from local vintage shop
Cardigan, sunglasses and bangles - charity shopped
1960s vinyl bag and sandals - Ebay
Name - gift from my parents

So here I am - 50 years later, and people are still getting my name wrong.

Clarice is just the latest in a long line of mistaken identities; I've been Christine, Kirsty, Kirsten, Kristen and Krista/Cristi. 
I'm often Curteece or Curteeze.

It took until my twenties to feel OK about having such an unusual, seemingly unpronounceable name. These days, I laugh at the mistakes and questions, and have no problem when people ask where the name came from or comment on its uniqueness.

Now, I couldn't imagine being called anything else. 

But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is a name that you never will guess; 
The name no human research can discover - 
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.

 Eliot informs us that cats have a third name, unknowable to humans - their deep and inscrutable singular Name.

How funny, it turns out that my deep and inscrutable singular name is actually Curtise.
So it seems my parents got it right after all!

What about you?

* You can listen to the old curmudgeon T.S. Eliot reading "The Naming of Cats" from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats here.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

First time for everything

It's good to know that life can still surprise you, isn't it?

Mostly, I find I trundle through my existence along fairly well-worn tracks. And that's fine with me, although I appreciate that the risk-taking bravehearts among you will cringe at the very thought.

But now and again, it's therapeutic to be given a little shake by the universe, to be reminded that there's a first time for everything, whatever one's age.
Jo and I made a welcome return to Chesterfield flea market last week, after a six week hiatus over the summer holidays. It was so good to be back; not that I bought much, I am trying very, very hard to donate/sell at the moment, not to accumulate more.

But one little vintage pattern (from 1964 - the same age as me) can't hurt, can it?

I have to confess, I don't love this outfit, and I was giving the dress a final road test to decide whether to keep or sell it. It's a 1960s Jersey Masters silver lurex/wool knit maxi dress which has a pretty sparkle to it, but from a distance it just looks grey, and I feel drab in it.

See? Lovely up close (there is a matching tie-front cardigan too) but I don't wear it enough to justify keeping it, so I think the set is destined for Ebay.

Anyway, there I was minding my own business and browsing though some vintage sewing patterns at the market, when a man approached me and said you're Clarice, aren't you?
Err - no.
He seemed convinced he knew me; I was equally convinced he didn't, and that he had mistaken me for someone else. Then I told him my name, and he said you write that past caring blog, don't you?
We had a bit of a chat about photos, the market, the blog, then he wished me well, and went on his way. An older lady standing alongside me looking at patterns witnessed the whole exchange; she chuckled and said you've been spotted. Mind you - no offence, love, but with that red hair, no one can miss you.
I am still laughing to myself over this whole incident; how funny to be feeling rather lacklustre and looking dull and inconspicious (or so I thought), only to be recognised by a complete stranger for the first time. Now I know how Vix feels!


This is rather more my usual style - and I might even sneak in to join Judith's Hat Attack with my hair flower. Better late than never! 
Another unlikely occurrence which has put a spring in my step, and made me aware I should never say never, is being a cover girl. I know - whoever would have thought?

Now that isn't something which happens every day, is it? Or indeed ever. But it has now, thanks to Melanie, who chose darling Clementine to be on the cover of the latest edition of Vogoff.

The poor love could do with some better luck, she's had quite a fall from grace, and has resorted to parading in her scanties to make ends meet.

It could happen to the best of us...

1960-70s maxi dress and Indian tooled leather bag - vintage fairs
Bangles, flower and necklace - charity shopped
 So even though life can seem predictable, comfortable, (oh all right, maybe a little pedestrian at times), I'm happy to find there is room for the unexpected and first times. 

I'll be joining in with Patti's Visible Monday gathering as usual, where there are cover girls galore - see you there!


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

To rest my eyes in shades of green

So here we are; the first day of the autumn term, the kids are back at school, and I have been sorting through the photos from our trip down to my sister's in Buckinghamshire.

We had a good day out in Oxford; we used to go reasonably often as kids, but I don't think I have visited the city for over 20 years.

Here I am admiring the view from the tower of the University church of St Mary the Virgin.

I know it's a cliche, but the panorama of honey-coloured Oxfordshire stone and dreaming spires really is beautiful.

We admired the Radcliffe Camera, observed that graffiti is not a modern-day phenomenon, and wondered if this gargoyle was the inspiration for Donkey in Shrek.

 We passed the Clarendon building (now a part of the Bodleian Library - edited, with thanks to Gisela for correctly identifying this one!)

 the Sheldonian Theatre...

loved the Bridge of Sighs...

...and saw beautiful sights at every turn.

There is a Saxon tower at St Michael's church (dated 1040), the oldest building in Oxford...

and a memorial to the clerics Latimer and Ridley, and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, burned as Protestant martyrs in the reign of Mary Tudor.

Christchurch College is impressive.

It contains the dining hall which was the inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films (please excuse the blurry photo, it was very dark)...

and the Alice in Wonderland window (Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll was both a student and teacher at Christchurch College.)

Oxford's cathedral has two beautiful stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones.

And I thought this was a touching tribute to a young officer.

I asked Claudia if she thought she would like to come to study at one of the Oxford colleges; she shrugged, and said it's a bit too posh. 

I know what she means; my teachers at school wanted me to apply, but I felt instinctively that I would be a fish out of water in these surroundings, and despite my grades being good enough, I doubted that I would pass the entrance exam or interview.

Over 30 years later, and Oxford University still admits the lowest percentage of state-educated students (around 57%) of any UK university, and students from fee-paying schools continue to monopolise the places at elite universities.

If Claudia, or anyone else, wants to go, and is sufficiently talented and hard-working, I hope they don't let the mystique and the gilded gates put them off.

Now, in case you are worried that my poor children are dragged round historic cities without a thought for their entertainment, pleased don't fret; there was also plenty of this...

and a visit to the Bucks County Show.

Since the ban on hunting foxes and other animals with dogs came into force in 2005, country types who want to ride across fields with packs of foxhounds or beagles do so on drag hunting courses.

 There were huge agricultural machines, a stunt quad bike display, and a fortune teller who proudly announces that she has been patronised by the elite (Shirley Bassey and The Brotherhood of Man?) as well as my favourite, the produce tent...

where the cabbages really were as big as your head!

Prize-winning veg, blooms, marmalade, and patchwork, clearly taken very seriously by the competitors;

this grower had obviously made a stand to display their very impressive produce.

We managed to time it well, so by the time the skies looked like this, we were heading for the car to go home.

Here's my mum, trying to help Nina with her times tables.
 A thankless task, one which I have pretty given up on, but Mum is made of more patient stuff.

The kids went off to school quite happily this morning; hopefully it will be a while before routine bites hard and the homework blues kick in...

Roll on half term!