dinsdag 28 maart 2017

In search of lost time

Putting the clocks forward (or even worse: back!) is a stressful time at Dove Cottage, not in the least because there are so many of them.

This is mainly Jos's doing, as before I met him, I'd never given clocks too much thought.

Apart from a delicate gold watch I was given by my grandfather when I turned twelve, and my travel alarm clock - one of those ubiquitous folding red leatherette covered numbers - clocks weren't a memorable feature of my childhood home.

Admittedly, there are two clocks which I clearly remember from my childhood, both belonging to a set of grandparents.

My maternal grandparents with my great-grandfather

The first, an ornate zamac clock flanked by two equally ornate statuettes, was standing proud on my maternal grandparents' mantlepiece.

If my memory does not fail me - it is after all 40 odd years ago - they were slightly Art Nouveau in style, so they might have belonged to my great grandparents.

My paternal grandparents in front of their house

The second, belonging to my paternal grandparents, was a traditional cuckoo clock, its obvious atrraction being the little bird putting in an appearance every hour on the dot.

When I met Jos in 1994, this Westminster chime clock, which had belonged to his father, was silent.

Its muteness was caused by his (later our) cat, Poesie, who had knocked it off the window sill when she was still a playful kitten. We finally had it repaired after we moved to Dove Cottage, and for the first couple of nights I hardly slept a wink due to its quarterly chime.

Recently, after many years of service, the clock went silent again, and it's currently awaiting another visit to the clock doctor!

Not long after we moved into Dove Cottage, a little junk shop suddenly popped up in our village. Through its grimy window, Jos spotted this pretty wooden clock, perfect except for a missing piece of beading. Its mesmerizing tick-tock is accompanied by the hynotizing swing of the pendulum which is visible through a little window at its base.

Joining this clock, which is on the mantlepiece in our sitting room, is a small wall hanging pendulum clock, which was a gift from a friend. It's by Junghans, a German clock manufacturer established in 1861, and it's in an ongoing tick-tock competition with the clock on the mantlepiece. Their out of sync tick-tocking is the perfect accompaniment to a quite afternoon of reading, although I know it would drive some people mad!

Last year, the two clocks were joined by a 1950s electric one, which is quietly humming along in the background.

From a long defunct second hand shop came this larger pendulum clock, which lives in our dining room.

Although its face is quite damaged, the decorative wooden casing and leaded glass insert are in perfect condition. Apart from its chime running riot - which Jos was able to mend - it was in working order when we bought it.

In August 2015, we found this 1940s ceramic kitchen clock at a flea market. Unfortunately its coil had sprung so it had been sitting idle on top of a cupboard until a month or two ago when Jos took it - along with a couple of watches - to a clockmaker to have it repaired.

Last Friday, it finally returned home in full working order and it's now taking its rightful place in our kitchen.

This watch also got a full service. It used to belong to my maternal grandfather, who worked at Gevaert, and was presented to him for 25 years of service in 1953.

After spending many years in a box full of odds and ends at my parents' house, it was given to Jos by my dad.

The final repair job was this dainty gold tone lady's pocket watch, which we unearthed during one of our clearing sessions at the house.

I haven't got the slightest idea who it might have belonged to.

It was missing a glass cover to protect its exquisitely decorated porcelain face, which has now been remedied.

Now, all I've got to do is find a way to wear it.

Along with the lady's watch came a job lot of men's pocket watches. At least one of them belonged to my maternal grandfather, who I remember always wearing a waistcoat with a pocket watch, like he does in the first photo of this post.

They joined Jos's little collection of pocket watches, which includes watches inherited from his older brother and grandfather.

Having finally put all the clocks forward, there's just our body clocks left. These will probably be slightly out of kilter for the next week or so.

Neatly tying in with the clock theme of this post, I will leave you with a famous astronomical clock which is a magnet for tourists in the nearby town of Lier.

We spent Saturday walking around this delightful little town, which will be the subject for my next post.

A final little clockwise twirl to show you what I was wearing, and I'm off!

See you soon!

vrijdag 24 maart 2017

White magic

After a couple of delightful, soothing-for-the-soul Spring days, by end of last week we were back to the same old can't-decide-what-season-it-is weather.

It's not exactly been cold, but it was grey and overcast with little or no sunny spells, as well as never-ending rain, especially on Saturday.

Nevertheless, our garden is starting to look quite green again, with many shrubs coming into bud. There is one plant which has especially been relishing the rainfall which came after last week's Spring weather.

Our Clematis armandii, planted many years ago to grow through our large Lilac bush, is positively groaning under the weight of hundreds of starry, creamy white flowers.

The plant has obviously benefited from the drastic haircut Jos gave it last summer.

All we need now is lots of sunshine to release its delicate almond scent, which will make sitting on the bench in the Lilac's shade a true delight.

Saturday we called in at some of the charity shops we didn't have time for on the day of the retro event, to see if they had any goodies left.

I wore this made in Sweden "Aspens" dress, made from a polyester material called "asplene-jersey".

It has alternating bands of light and dark burgundy sprinkled with a squiggly print, which is denser on the darker bands.

There's a touch of lilac in the squiggles, which prompted me to add a lilac belt and lilac/blue cardigan. I chose opaques with a pattern of burgundy rose buds.

Looking for the perfect necklace, I came across this long forgotten silver tone pendant.

The brooch, one of my favourites, is a silver tone knot fringed with little chains ending in tiny pearls.

The first shop we went to still had tables full of stuff, which they had sorted by colour: quite a lot of orange and avocado! However, nothing really caught our eye. I did find some more frocks though, one of which you'll get to see later in this post, as well as a fabulous full-length dressing gown.

There was hardly anything left at the other shop we visited, but their bookshelves are always worth a browse, and I came away with these two, for € 0,70 each.

Obviously, I couldn't leave behind Vita's biography.

The other book, a "noir" set in 1930s Bayswater, made me think of Mim. By pure coincidence, just two days later Mim posted a review of a non-fiction book by the same author, D.J. Taylor, called Bright Young Things!

The flower print background, by the way, is my new-found dressing gown!

Before returning to Dove Cottage, we had coffee and cake at the shop's recently opened café.

On Sunday, we had my niece's 15th birthday party to go to in the afternoon, and I spent the morning pottering around the house, finally getting to grips with some long overdue filing of paperwork. I had been procrastinating and kept shoving the pile of paper to the back of the cupboard, always finding something more interesting to do instead.

Call me rash, but I've already made a start on my Spring/Summer wardrobe switch by putting away the very warmest of my dresses, assessing what I wore and what I didn't, and why.

The dress on the left is a wardrobe staple which has seen me through many a winter. With its multi colour Paisley pattern, it can be combined with lots of my cardigans. I wore it here.

I almost got rid the one on the right, which I wore here, and I'm so glad I didn't. It's not going anywhere now.

These two plain dresses didn't see the light of day this winter. They are 100% new wool and lined, making them quite thick and heavy.

In fact, I didn't wear the brown one last winter either, so maybe it's time to say goodbye.

I'm going to hang on to the purple vintage C&A one as I love its colour, shape and detail.

This leaves Monday, for which I booked a day off.  Mr. S. urgently needed some new stuff, and since the chazzas here haven't been coming up trumps on menswear which isn't miles too big for him, there was nothing for it but to do some retail shopping.

The day was as dull and uninspiring as the - shock horror! - shopping centre we went to.

I wore one of the dresses I bought on Saturday's charity shopping trip.

Nothing dull and uninspiring about that one!

The absence of a label makes me think that it was handmade and the Crimplene-like fabric's print is bright enough to cheer up the greyest of days, not to mention the blandest of shopping centres!

I love the narrow V-shaped slit running down from the collar, ventilation which makes all the difference for a menopausal girl like me!

The plastic ring was a flea market find, and echoes the dress's print.

Thankfully, the shopping centre was rather quiet on Monday morning. Quite a difference with a Saturday afternoon, when wild horses couldn't drag me there!

Mr. S, who easily gets bored with clothes shopping for himself, bought two pairs of well needed jeans, three shirts and a jacket.

Oh, alright, here's a sneak preview of the jacket and two of the shirts.

The rest of the week whizzed by uneventfully, so that by the time you are reading this another weekend has rolled by.

The weather forecasters have predicted a continuation of this week's Spring weather, so let's hope they are right for once!

Have a great one!

maandag 20 maart 2017

Mirages and mirrors

If you thought that after trawling the charity shops in search of treasure on Saturday before last, we'd rest our feet on Sunday, well ... you were wrong!

We woke up to a continuation of Saturday's glorious Spring weather. In fact, it was even milder, and the sky a brilliant blue with only the odd little white cloud, so that it would have been silly to spend the day indoors.

Not wanting to venture too far from home, we decided on a walk in one of Antwerp's most interesting parks, Middelheim, which is a mere fifteen minute drive from Dove Cottage.

Middelheim is not just a park, but also an open air museum of sculpture. In fact, it is one of the oldest of its kind in the world, offering a fascinating overview of more than one hundred years of visual arts in a beautiful park setting.

Admission to this original combination of art and nature is free of charge.

Since 1951, a biannual sculpture exhibition had been held in the park until in 1989 a permanent collection was decided on, displaying more than 200 works dotted around the 30-hectare grounds.

In September 2016, the museum even made it into The Guardian's top 10 best sculpture parks in Europe!

We weren't the only ones who were making the most of this sunny Sunday afternoon.

Families were strolling and enjoying the sunshine, the youths with their eyes so firmly glued to their smartphones, it's a wonder they didn't trip up, while other people sat reading or just watching the world go by on the park's lawns or benches.

Chairs sprayed in silver or gold paint are dotted around the park, inviting people to sit down and enjoy the works of art at leisure.

We wandered at will, stopping here and there to soak up the park's delightful juxtapositions of nature and art.

Shall we cross the bridge without a name?

The bridge is a work of art as well.

It was created by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who recycled an existing little bridge for his project, replacing the bridge's original deck with planks that form the contours of his homeland China.

The museum's outdoor depot is an atmospheric place, where temporarily retired sculptures are awaiting their fate. Here, they huddle together, telling each other their stories and reminiscing about the time they were still in their prime.

Not far from the depot, we met this running girl.

Who is she, and what is she running from?

And more to the point, what is she doing in the woods?

By then, our feet were taking us firmly into the direction of the park's hidden gem, the Braem Pavillion.

The stunning white building, appearing like a mirage between the trees, was designed by Renaat Braem, one of Belgium’s best-known 20th century architects, and dates from 1971.

The building's clean curves and lines seem to have grown rather than built, blending organically into the park landscape, and whenever I catch sight of it I'm reminded of houses built in a similar style in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which utterly fascinated me when I was growing up.

It is here that temporary exhibitions are being held and vulnerable items displayed.

The current exhibition, by the artist Roman Signer, who is also a scientist and performer, was so minimalistic that it allowed us to fully admire the pavillion's interior structure.

Walking away from the pavillion, we came across this strange and rather disturbing sculpture, its mirrored shell trapping another sculpture within.

The sculpture's uneven mirrored surfaces are alternately reflecting and distorting its surroundings, while acting as a house of mirrors at the same time.

Here I was caught in a sunbeam, the mirror a prism which intensified its strength and made me quite goggle-eyed!

After a breather on one of the benches, we returned to our car, vowing to return soon for another treasure hunt.

donderdag 16 maart 2017

Sketch the trees and the daffodils

For the last couple of weeks, charity shopping trips had proved to be disappointing. A clue to the reason why there wasn't anything remotely vintage to be found were the posters plastered all over the shops.

Yes, it was that time of the year again! Last Saturday it was "retrodag" (no points for guessing that it means "retro day"), which takes place at charity shops all over Belgium every March.

Although my sentiments about this event are ambivalent, as they're keeping all the nice things behind for it, and up their prices on the day itself, it is still worth going. If you don't mind the crowds, that is. It seems that all of a sudden everybody wants to be (and buy) "retro"!

We usually make a day of it, doing the rounds of several shops and taking a picnic.

Our first port of call was quite a disappointment. Instead of the huge selection of vintage china, which usually yields a couple of missing pieces, they now had a large selection of vintage comics.

After a quick browse in the textile department, finding two dresses I'll be showing you later, we stopped off at the nearby park for a stroll. It was such a balmy Spring day that it would have been a shame to let it go to waste.

We were headed towards the bridge crossing the pond for some outfit photos, when we came across this little seat carved out of a tree trunk, which of course I had to try out.

It was so mild that I could comfortably pose in just my dress. Bliss!

I'd bought the dress I'm wearing at Think Twice the other week, so this was its first wear.

The dress is in lightweight Trevira polyester and fully lined, and the rows of trailing flowers are interrupted by a wide horizontal band of ferny flower baskets near the hem.

Even Mr. S. willingly posed for some photographs. I guess he secretly wanted to show off the beard he is growing. I keep telling him he looks like one of the "bearded ones" or Emperors' Heads, which grace the railings of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford!

Slowly, a hint of green is appearing all over the park, and Spring flowers are emerging everywhere.

I loved the patches of daffodils carpeting the park's mulchy floor, their cheerful yellow trumpets heralding the magic of Spring.

In fact, I was wearing some daffs as well! The flower brooch, sadly missing part of its stalk, came from the Brooch Lady, while I bought the cute little Welsh landscape brooch, complete with fluffy clouds, daffodils and tiny sheep, at Cardigan Castle's gift shop.

We then returned to our car and continued to our next port of call. This particular shop always has a nice selection of vintage clothing. Dresses were € 6 each, which wasn't bad at all, so I tried on an armful and bought three dresses and a skirt. I even had to undress one of the dummies to get my hands on one of the dresses ...

Here's a little taster of what I found, including the two dresses from shop no. 1.

Jos did not come home empty handed either!

At shop no. 2, he found a Bakelite Philips radio, dating from the second half of the 1950s. It is not in working order, but it'll be a great little project for him and a friend to tinker with.

Childhood nostalgia prompted him to buy this picture album based on De Witte, a classic Flemish novel published in 1920. The album itself dates from the late 1940s and was issued by chocolate manufacturer Meurisse, prompting children to save the pictures which came with every bar of chocolate. Someone back then must have eaten a lot of chocolate, as the album is complete with all its pictures!

At the final shop, the one in our hometown, I came across these Sylvac sad dog salt and pepper shakers. An unusual find as I don't think they were ever sold in Belgium.

For some reason, the beastly things were quite hard to photograph!

On our way to the till, we passed a box full of cheap modern plastic jewellery. My beady eyes were immediately drawn to the odd one out, an ivory coloured carved Bakelite bangle. It wasn't priced, but the shop attendant asked me if € 0,25 was alright.

Even if compared with last year's haul, this year's pickings were rather meagre, we still had a fun day browsing through what was on offer.

All that's left for me to do now is making some space in my wardrobe ...