zondag 4 december 2016

The fairy godmother

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, whose fairy godmother presented her with several gifts, which would greatly determine her life's path.

The first one, the gift of reading, came to fruition when the little girl was six years old. She can still vividly remember the very moment she realized that she could read, sitting at her parents' dining table one evening after school, and the feeling of utter happiness this gave her.

The second gift was more complicated. The fairy godmother thought long and hard and decided to give the girl the collecting gene.



At first, the little girl didn't know what to do with this gift, turning up her nose at her dad's offer of a stamp collection.



In the early 1970s, a better offer, in the form of a keyring collection, turned up. This was at the time when every brand worth its salt offered freebie keyrings with their products.

The little girl, encouraged by her dad who made her a rack to display them on, dutifully accepted offerings of keyrings in all shapes and sizes.


But after a while, the novelty of keyring collecting waned, especially when the craze eventually came to an end.

Fast forward many, many years. It was the late 1980s by now and the little girl was not so little anymore, although she still couldn't exactly be called tall.









Dressed in suitable 1980s attire, hair in a Louise Brooks bob, she walked the city streets and, still in thrall of the gift of reading, entered a well-known bargain bookshop.





















Almost instantly, her eyes were drawn to this book on the history of paperbacks, focusing on their heyday from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s.












Leafing through its pages, she recognized some of the colourful covers which were on her father's bookshelf and which had always fascinated her.

Some colourful Signet publications from the late 1940s, early 1950s
Can you spot mine on the book's page?

Before she knew it, she was hooked. Soon, she and the boyfriend spent their weekends trawling the city's second hand book shops in search of treasure.

Bantam Books, 1949 (l), Avon Books, 1952 (r)








She learned about the different paperback publishers of the era and was soon able to recognize the style of the individual cover artists.


The more demure Penguins were not dismissed either, especially when in 1985 Penguin celebrated its 50th birthday and published a book on its history.

Clockwise from top left: 1935, 1938, 1964 and 1959

Neither was Penguin's little cousin, Puffin Books, which had been publishing children's books since 1941.

This beautifully illustrated edition dates from 1948

Eventually, life's habit of throwing things at you when you least expect them, put an end to this collection too, and when the girl and the boyfriend split up the collection was split up between them.

Classics from Signet Books, 1954 (l) and Pocket Books, 1951 (r)

By now, you will have surmised that the little girl was me, and that vintage paperbacks were just the beginning, and not the end of collecting for me.

Clockwise from top left: Signet Books, 1955, Pocket Books, 1955, Signet Giant, 1952, Signet Books, 1952

Lately, though, I have been eyeing my little collection quite wistfully, thinking I would love to pick it up again.

I might have left it too late, however, as most of the second hand book shops of yesteryear have long gone and those that remain are no longer treasure troves of cheap and cheerful old paperbacks.

One of my favourite books in a 1953 Bantam Bookds edition

Do you have any past collections, which you have abandoned?

woensdag 30 november 2016

Go slowly

Second hand shopping cannot be hurried. I call it slow shopping. It needs time, patience, and a certain amount of dedication. There's no quick fix or instant gratification. Of course, everything can be found online nowadays, but that doesn't work for me. I love hunting for things "in the wild", to coin Goody's phrase ... The pleasure of finding the unexpected or finally stumbling upon one of your "holy grails" is incomparable!

I'd been looking for a pair of burgundy boots for almost two years. During that time, I did come across several pairs, but none were right.  If they weren't too small or too large, they were made for girls with stick legs, and wouldn't close. The heels were either too high or too low. Or they had too many pesky details. I quite like a plain boot!






Imagine my delight when last Friday, while out shopping with my friend Princess Inez, I came across the perfect pair at last!

They were made in Finland and have a cosy layer of woolly insulation inside.













I also bought this pussy-bow blouse ...


and this brooch ...



... both of which Princess Inez cleverly found for me.

Of course, I already had to wear the boots on Saturday! They went perfectly with my stripy green pussy-bow dress.


The dress came with a self-fabric belt, but it looked rather plain, so I added a burgundy vinyl one.

A dark red cardigan and ditto tights completed my outfit.









Before leaving the house, I grabbed this thick chocolate brown woollen jacket, which is part of a suit I charity shopped last year.













We tried taking photographs outside our garage this time. Although the wall I'm posing against isn't as picturesque as the one inside, I love the little tufts of moss growing on top of the wall and the autumn leaves in the background.


I'd spent the morning sorting out some of the things I brought home with me from my dad's house last week. So, when we went to the charity shop in the afternoon, we took a boxful of no-longer-loved china, glasses and cutlery with us in order to make some much-needed space.

Perhaps because of that, for the first time in weeks the Gods of the charity shops smiled down upon us.










We knew we'd be alright when, just minutes after walking into the shop, we spotted this kitsch Lourdes wall frame for our collection.












A pair of black retro style lace-up booties, a gorgeous dark green velvet jacket and a Pringle scarf came home with me as well.


The jacket actually complimented the dress I was wearing like a dream, so I couldn't resist posing in it when we got home, although the artificial lighting wasn't ideal for taking photographs.









As you can see, I am also wearing the booties ...















On Sunday, we had an indoor flea market in Antwerp to look forward to. As we hadn't been there since last Spring, we were rather excited, especially as I'd read on their website that it was fully booked.


A quick peek at what I was wearing. The dropped waist dress came from Blender Vintage Shop. It was in my "I'm not sure" pile, but I decided to give it another go. I'm still not sure though ... Now, should it stay or should it go?

I've been racking my brain, but I can't for the life of me remember where I bought the brooch.

Speaking of brooches, I was glad to see that the "brooch lady" was having her usual pitch at the flea market. I happily browsed through her stash, which she keeps in folders, and after some debate I decided on these four:


The rest of the flea market was rather disappointing and my only other purchase was this shiny black vinyl handbag. I love its decorative white metal frame.



All in all, not a bad haul at all last weekend.

As I've had quite a hectic week so far, I'm now going to plonk myself down in front of the telly for some mindless entertainment.

See you soon!

zondag 27 november 2016

A design for life

Pickings have been quite meagre at the charity shops lately.

Even my favourite vintage shop, Think Twice, has been letting me down, as in the three weeks since the start of their new collection, I only bought one dress.

Not to be deterred, last Saturday we persevered and went for our usual charity shopping trawl.

This was my outfit for the day:




The green checked woollen jacket with fake fur collar came from Think Twice and was actually bought in the middle of a heatwave last summer.

I added a charity shopped brown belt with lucite buckle, which almost exactly matches the shade of the jacket's collar.


My green vinyl handbag, which is surprisingly roomy for such a small bag, came from Think Twice, as did the green gloves.



Underneath, I wore a dress in a riot of autumn colours, found at our most local charity shop last month.

At the time, the red accents reminded me of holly berries, and the inevitable Christmas connotation is why it took me so long to wear it for the first time.



I accessorized the dress with a green belt, olive beads and ring and one of my Bambi brooches. All new-to-me, except for the ring.

As for the shopping trip itself, we only came home with a couple of things which I guess is better than nothing!


This plastic egg holder, made by a local company called DBP Plastics in the 1960s, came in many different colourways. They can hold two eggs and have a storage space in the middle for salt.

They are ideal for picnics and packed lunches and therefore have a certain nostalgia factor, reminding us of school trips and family outings.

They often turn up in charity shops for next to nothing and, perhaps not surprisingly, we already have quite a little collection of them.



I also found another vinyl beauty case for my collection. This one is such a lovely colour, and at € 2,50 I couldn't possibly leave it behind.

It's going to join the others on top of my wardrobe, as they're quite useful for storing smaller items like socks, belts and scarves.



On our way back, we stopped at Troc, which is a consignment shop selling both vintage and second hand items. Lately, they have added vintage and second hand clothing to their stock and of course I couldn't resist having a look, ending up with this long-sleeved, pink-hued frock.

Then, on Sunday, we had another clearing session at my dad's house. We are moving on to the bigger stuff ...



My parents received this dinner service as a wedding present in 1956 and used it throughout their married life on special occasions, like birthdays and Christmas.

Celebrating my seventh birthday
It's a classic Mid-Century Modern design, with a delicate black scroll.

Christmas 2013

In fact, it's a miracle that so many pieces survived, as my mum was quite accident prone, partly due to the fact that she had severe arthritis which through the years had seriously affected her hands. She has been known to drop whole dinner services ...







It were mainly the cups and saucers of this service which had fallen by the wayside, though, and there was still more than enough of it left to be divided between my sister and me.

Not that we need any more china ...













Having lived with it for so long, it is strange that I only had a look at what was on the bottom when I got it home. I was in for quite a surprise.



The "father of industrial design", or "the man who designed everything" are some of the accolades given to Raymond Loewy (1893-1986), who is considered to be one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century.


He was borrn in Paris and, after studying engineering, emigrated to the US in 1919.



Clockwise from top left: pencil sharpener, Shell logo, Sunbeam toaster, Coca Cola dispenser.











Both the pencil sharpener and the toaster are 1930s designs!




His legacy includes designs for transportation, homewares, furniture and architecture. He also designed many well-known logos, like BP, Shell, Hoover and Lucky Strike, to name just a few.




Even without this fascinating discovery, the family connection makes it a design for life, in the true sense of the word!

Now we only have to find some cups and saucers ...


woensdag 23 november 2016

We won't have it known that we own a telephone

In my previous post, I told you about the 1960s radiogram cabinet we were given by our neighbour.

However, this is by no means the only gift which was recently bestowed on us.



Shortly before we got the radiogram, Jos was given this phone by a friend, who used to work as a technician with the Antwerp police force.
It's a direct line desk phone, with a metal body and a Bakelite handle. It has a crank, and no dial, and it probably dates from the 1950s, or possibly earlier.











It was manufactured by ATEA, who used to have a factory in the Antwerp suburb of Berchem, and a a bit of googling revealed that it is quite rare.











We already owned a regular black Bakelite phone, bought at a second hand shop several years ago.


It reminded Jos of the phone used in the 1964 Belgian youth series 'Kapitein Zeppos' and although I couldn't find a still from the series in which the phone can be seen, I did find this one of the series' protagonist, the 'Kapitein' himself, making a telephone call.




Quite a dapper chap, no? It's somewhat off-topic, but the series was even bought by the BBC - quite a feat for a Belgian series - who aired it in 1966 as 'Captain Zeppos'.


The phone is a 56 A, which was introduced in 1956 by RTT, the Belgian telegraph and telephone company, as their standard phone, which could be rented by the public. It has the RTT logo on the front.

Older versions of the phone might have a lion on the front, as this was the old RTT logo.


The phone was produced by a temporary association formed by ATEA and that other Antwerp based company, BTMC, or Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company. The phones produced by BTMC are marked with 56 B at the bottom.



It was based on a model developed by ATEA, who had been producing different versions of the phone since the mid-1930s.

1930s ATEA advert
I quite fancy the white 1930s version!

In our dining room, an even older phone is taking pride of place.

This hand cranked wooden wall phone was made by Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company and probably dates back to the early 1900s.

In the 1960s, when Jos was working at his first job as an electrician in a brick making factory, they were in the process of replacing these phones, which were still in use on the shop floors. The phones were all dumped and destroyed, but fortunately Jos had the foresight to salvage this one.



Fast forward 50-odd years when, while visiting a large second hand shop, I spotted a collection of what looked like bird houses on a long plank. Bird houses made of high quality wood, and without entry-holes, that is.









I was mystified as to what they were and when I drew Jos's attention to them, he got really excited.

Turns out that these were the boxes which held the batteries needed to operate the wooden wall phones.

It goes without saying that we bought one of them, and lo and behold: it was a perfect fit, and our phone is now fully restored to its former glory, albeit without the battery.


The top of the battery box can even be used as a little writing desk to take notes while on the phone.

When the hand crank is turned, the bells on the front of the phone still ring, which is a favourite party trick!


By coincidence, a couple of years later, Jos started working at Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company, or 'den Bell', as it is colloquially known in Antwerp.

When they celebrated their centenary in 1982, they begged Jos to lend them the phone for an exhibition, which Jos refused, as he was afraid he would never get it back or that it would get damaged. They then had to make do with a replica.






It's all in the detail!

Did you notice the carved wooden cat on top of the phone?

It has been sitting there for almost twenty years, looking down at the cat which has been sitting on the dresser for almost as long.

Aren't they a cute pair?












Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a couple of telephone calls to make ...