Wednesday 27 May 2015

Some sunny day

A couple of weeks ago, it was the 70th anniversary of VE Day

Life during wartime is not an experience many of us have shared or can even imagine, but for people like my mum, it remains a powerful memory.

Here she is; Nurse Rhonie King. She worked at St James' Hospital in Balham, London.

She recently sent me two extracts copied from her diary kept at the time. 

This is from 1944, when she was 20;

The long wailing sirens sounded, warning everyone - an air raid alert... I was looking out of my third floor window [in the Nurses' Home] and heard a doodlebug* approaching our hospital. I prayed it would go over, but the engine cut out, it dipped, and I knew it would soon hit the earth. There was 15 seconds to find somewhere to lie flat and cover my head. Then an awful wait, followed by a shuddering explosion. 

The bomb had demolished one end of the hospital and a row of shops and houses. All our local favourites razed to the ground - the little cafe, the butcher's, grocer's, hairdressers, confectioners, tobacconists. Wards 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 were smashed and everything hung in tatters. It was utter chaos...

There was no time to be heartbroken or tired. More and more casualties came pouring in - crying, screaming, frightened, in terrible pain, shredded clothes, burnt skin, broken bones, blood and gaping wounds, and the all-pervading smell of gunpowder...

All night we worked and all next day, till we were exhausted. But it had to be done. 

(* A doodlebug was a V-1 flying bomb.)


 The second extract contains her memories of VE Day itself; Mum was 21. When she and her friends came off duty in the evening, they headed to the West End to join the celebrations.

Once in Trafalgar Square, we were stunned by the noise and the brilliant lights, after so many years of total blackout... Now, here were neon signs flashing on many buildings, restaurants ablaze, coloured lights in all directions, theatres lit up. Searchlights picked out Nelson on his column... Fireworks exploded...[and] people shouted and roared, clapped and sang, cheered and hurrayed.

Along with everyone else, we danced and sang and cheered all the way up The Mall...Young men climbed lamposts waving flags, there was music all around, bagpipes, mouth organs and drums, groups of complete strangers linking arms, dancing, kissing, hugging, singing - anything to express joy.

At Buckingham Palace...thunderous cheering broke out as King George and Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses appeared on the balcony.

So somewhere in that vast elated crowd captured by the Pathe News film are my mum and her friends; every time I see it, I think perhaps I'll spot her, though I've seen it lots of times.

And as coincidence would have it, look what I rescued from the charity shop skip recently; a World War II gas mask in its original box. 

I know they aren't particularly rare, but I was sad to see it being thrown away, so I asked if I could take it and give it to school. Every year, the Y6 classes do a topic learning about World War II, and I thought it might make an interesting resource.

Mum went on to train as a midwife after the war, but eventually left nursing in the late 1940s to become a member of the Women's Land Army. 

Don't mess with a woman carrying a scythe!

My mum, like so many other of her generation, lived through so much hardship, destruction and misery. And how glad I am to be living a different life, in different times. 

1970s Miss Mary of Sweden dress, 1960s vinyl/tapestry bag, shoes, sunglasses and bangles - all charity shopped

This 1970s dress has a 1940s look about it, so it seemed a fitting tribute to my mum's wartime experiences.

Though I very much doubt she wore bright red, polka dots, or heart-shaped sunglasses.

Thank goodness I get to live in full colour!


Monday 25 May 2015

The only way is up

You don't need me to tell you that life is full of unexpected twists, turns and contrasts, and last week provided me with some perfect examples.

By birth, I am a country girl, but by inclination and choice, I'm happily urban. Still, I do appreciate living in a green city with plenty of parks and woodland to explore, and having the beauty of the Peak District on Sheffield's doorstep.

The Y1 trip to Ecclesall Woods was great; we made Andy Goldsworthy-inspired art, admired the bluebells, and enjoyed our picnic.

Negotiating public transport with 82 kids was a challenge, but one which was managed with aplomb. I am always full of admiration for the hard work and enthusiasm of the teaching staff with whom I volunteer. 

And the kids are pretty cool too!

There's no denying that I felt disappointed about missing out on the charity shop deputy manager post last week; however, there's been a further twist in that particular tale. 

I have been asked if I am interested in the same role but at a different shop, and I certainly am. I'll find out more next week, but there might just be a happy ending after all.

Claudia, Owen and Nina - everything charity shopped or hand-me-downs, apart from shoes

Me - 1970s top - gift from Vix
                 Silk palazzo pants - flea market
Denim jacket, 1960s bag, most bangles and 1970s tiger's eye pendant - charity shopped
Striped bangle - gift from Fiona
 Sandals - retail (sale)

So the kids have broken up for half term, it's a Bank Holiday weekend, and I think I've finally landed a job - let's go out and celebrate!

You can tell we were giddy...

Claudia and Nina - Selfie Queens.

A good night was had by all.

We're lucky to be able to hop on a bus at the end of the road, and head in one direction to find woods and countryside, in the other to access our city centre.

Extreme window cleaning is definitely not the job for me...

1970s St Michael shirt, suede waistcoat, shorts, sequin beret and shoes - charity shopped
Tights - gift 

 And while I am a committed dress and skirt lover, I do occasionally feel the need to ring the changes.

 Claudia says I'm pinching her style, she's been rocking the playsuit-and-tights look lately.

Naturally my version has some Seventies' influence going on.

Nothing wrong with learning from our kids, is there?

I think I'd better link this post to Judith's next Hat Attack, even though I'm early; I may not wear a hat again before June 1st, and I hate to miss it!

And now I'm off to follow the twists and turns in your lives - what's been happening?


Wednesday 20 May 2015

The morning after

I don't subscribe to the view that you should wear every item of clothing in your wardrobe x times a year (insert randomly prescribed frequency here) or get rid of it.
If I did, this skirt would be long gone; it was hidden on a hanger behind another skirt and I'd forgotten all about it. 
 I'm pleased to be reunited with those bathing beauties.

1980s skirt - Ebay
T-shirt, cardigan, tights, shoes, belt and bangles - charity shopped
Enough preamble; I guess you want to know about the result of my interview last week?
Alas, my feeling that all was not quite as it should be proved correct, and I didn't get the job. The feedback was positive, so that's something. Still, I'm disappointed, rejection is never a pleasant experience. It's been made a little easier to bear by the outrage expressed on my behalf by so many of my friends; fists have been shaken, feet stamped, and the swearing has been both epic and inventive.
I really do appreciate my friends!
 How about a little flamenco action to cheer myself up? Senor Sexy with the crazed glint in his eyes was another rescued item from the charity shop skip...

along with Nell Gwyn...

and Henry VIII with just three of his wives.
Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Katherine Parr, if you're wondering. 

Maybe Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard will show up next week.
And I couldn't turn down a vintage Thermos, floral tin or a 1960s Spirograph...

or this 1962 novel with the fabulous cover illustration.
That's Charlie's tail getting in the way. He's killed his first squirrel of the year. I have a feeling there will be many more deaths in our garden before the summer's out...

On patrol.

Minnie's strictly a Lidl cat food kinda gal.

I'm going on a school trip tomorrow as part of the team taking 90 children, aged 5-6, for a day of activities in Ecclesall Woods.
And that, my friends, is as much of a challenge as any interview, so wish me luck!

Saturday 16 May 2015

Second Hand News

I hadn't intended to be absent for nearly a week, but that's just how things fell; rain or poor light when I wanted to take photos, busy days, kids hogging the computer. Life. Stuff. You know.

I had my job interview on Thursday. Thank you for all your good wishes, and your feedback about dos and don'ts for charity shops. I really appreciate the encouragement and support.

I won't know the outcome until next week, and of course I'll let you know as soon as I hear. I'd be foolish to make any predictions, but my instinct tells me it wasn't an unqualified success; however, impressions can be mistaken so we shall just have to wait and see.

My interview outfit was good though; head-to-toe vintage, and purchased in St Luke's charity shops, appropriately enough.

1970s St Michael cotton maxi skirt, top, cardigan, bangles, 1960s vinyl bag, and 1950-60s Austrian glass necklace - 
charity shopped
Sunglasses and sandals - retail
 I've been picking up bits and pieces in charity shops as always. 
What I love about charity shopping is having no agenda, no list of Things To Buy, just an open mind and eagle eyes, a willingness to take the time and look

I love this 1970s Miss Mary of Sweden dress. I didn't know Miss Mary made anything other than lingerie, and I can't find any information about their clothing line, but no matter, it's a fabulous frock. 
1960-70s folksy tea towel
bright sari fabric
1950-60s barkcloth
1960s Midwinter bowls (I'm gradually adding to my small collection of Spanish Garden pieces)

I rescued this children's book from the paper recycling box.

It was republished in this edition in 1976 (the definition of a pound clearly puts it post-decimalisation) but the illustrations are pure 1951, its original publication date.  The text hasn't been edited much; it's still a world where dads smoke pipes, mums pour tea, the car belongs to Dad, the sewing machine to Mum, and children ride their ponies, when they're not trotting along on a camel. And we all go to balls when we're grown up, of course. 

You can supply your own jokes about this one.
What do you reckon, Jess?

As always, I'll be joining Patti and co for Visible Monday.

And despite being in a rather uncomfortable state of employment limbo, I do have this to look forward to next month;


And now I'd better get started on a marathon catch-up session; what have you been up to?


Sunday 10 May 2015

Still got the blues

It's been tough to feel cheerful or positive after the results of the General Election here in the UK last week. I  am shocked at the Conservative victory, and very disappointed.

Another 5 years of austerity measures, and hitting the most vulnerable people hardest in order to pay for them... It makes me want to weep. Sheffield remained almost exclusively a Labour stronghold, but I was appalled to discover that in our constituency, UKIP polled in second place. I don't know what to say about that.

In an effort to shake off the gloom yesterday, we joined a group of friends and neighbours who gathered at my mate Claire's invitation to celebrate her 50th birthday. 
A hearty lunch at Grindleford Cafe was followed by a walk through some beautiful Derbyshire countryside.

Given that most of the people we know are left-leaning and many work in the public sector, there was inevitably plenty of post-election analysis and angst. 
Still, there were gorgeous views, plenty of fresh air, and the rain held off, so we could be thankful for that at least.

I was dawdling at the back, taking photos. I like this stretch along the river Derwent.

Claire had booked the outdoor swimming pool at Hathersage.

The pool is heated but it got decidedly chilly as the clouds gathered overhead. I'm far too much of a wimp to swim in those conditions; I chatted with some fellow fair-weather-only swimmers over a hot drink instead.

Selfies at the station.

Top, 1960s tapestry and vinyl bag, shoes, bangles and necklace - charity shopped
1970s skirt- Ebay
Red wooden bangle - gift from Tania
Grim-faced smile - blame the people who voted Tory

At the prospect of the next five years, I know I'm not alone in thinking of Neil Kinnock's words in 1983, anticipating the effects of a victory for Margaret Thatcher:

I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.