Sunday 30 March 2008

Stepping Back in Time

This is Woody messing about trying to take my picture while I was trying to put on proper red lipstick - I've never worn it before!
It's not very often is it that just about everything comes together, at just the right time and you really do have the time of your life. Last night Woody and I went to the much anticipated 1940s Spring Dance and I spent much of the afternoon in complete turmoil.
One minute I was wondering if the evening would be any good, the next I was struggling with my rollers, then worrying about looking ridiculous and fretting that Woody was really only coming along to be nice and wasn't looking forward to it all.

As we left home a gale was blowing and we had to dash from the car park across to the Guildhall (when we'd eventually found it!) in the pouring rain. I was really beginning to feel that things weren't boding well. What an earth had I roped us into? Getting dressed up and pretending to do something from very dark-days past when we could easily be at home, tucking into a nice treat and cosying up by the fire!

But then, somebody flicked the switch and into the time-machine we went. The low building with the deep-red, wooden doors beckoned and we followed a gent in a very smart suit inside, through a red velvet curtain and all of a sudden - stepped into 1941.

My flash is hopeless, the photos just don't do justice to the colour and liveliness of it all.
Two beautiful young ladies, with perfectly curled hair and diamante earrings, took our tickets with red smiles and laughing eyes. The room, (a bit like a big village hall, but with a stage draped in velvet, a raised platform to the side and a balcony) was already very busy.
During the war regular dances were held at the Guildhall and it still has the fantastic original sprung floor and last night the walls and ceiling were decked with Allied flags, propaganda posters and plenty of union jack bunting. We grabbed a drink from the bar and found a corner seat, next to the stage, with a fabulous view of the dance floor and settled in for the best evening's entertainment I think I've ever had.

There were so many people there, all ages and from all walks of life. Lots of American airmen, several Land Girls, a sparkling US Navy man and a couple of rather dashing RAF officers. Woody was rather wowed by the wife of a German SS officer, (a wonderful dancer in a brilliant scarlet trouser suit) but I warned him about fraternising with the enemy! We met some lovely people, it was such a fun and friendly atmosphere and we felt really right at home.
Brilliant lindy-hoppers, jivers and waltzers filled the bouncing floor all night, sometimes dancing to the gramophone hits I adore, others to the amazing vocals of the wonderfully glamorous Miss Lola L'Amour.

I must admit that despite the Guinness, Woody didn't fancy taking to the floor himself but he enjoyed the night so much I am chuffed to bits, I can't explain how much. My lovely bloke is a man who isn't exactly overflowing with expressions of delight and believe me, impressing a cynical journalist is not an easy thing. Last night though Woody couldn't stop saying how much he was enjoying himself, what a great atmosphere there was and wasn't it lovely for us to be doing something together.
Not the original dress I bought. I saw this new, Laura Ashley number for £4 on Ebay and it just looked the part. I couldn't resist.
What's so wonderful is that after eight years together we've suddenly discovered a shared passion, a new interest for dancing and music that neither of us really knew the other had.
So dancing lessons together beckon (Woody's idea - there's been a miracle!), a visit to a hotel in the city-centre where a big band practice with Lola L'Amour and a trip to another dance in Cheshire next month.A little dream of mine has come true and has turned into something even better. Off to scan EBay now for a frock for next time!

Wednesday 26 March 2008

The Road Home

Is it alright to have a favourite road? I've got one and I know it might sound a bit odd but here goes anyway. Its not a dramatic coastal drive or a twisting mountain descent but a simple country lane.

I've known it for years because it drops down from the scenic route to town from my parents village over the hills.

What is really exciting is that my favourite lane is now the quickest way to get to their house, about 4 miles away. At least once a week we climb up this steep road with a stream at its foot, creep around the many bends and keep our fingers crossed that we'll reach the top without having to snuggle into one of the pull-ins or reverse downhill!

Coming back home there are glimpses of the view across the fields to our new village and we skip along the peculiarly named Shaffalong Lane, past B's school to home.
I love the high banks that are home to primroses and daffodils and later in the year they're smothered in bluebells and foxgloves. Buzzards soar above the gnarled old trees and kestrels dive over the hedges. I've even seen a hare race across one of the fields.
The lane feels like a secret tunnel between my two family homes; the one where I grew up and discovered my love of the countryside, and the one I've brought my own little family back to, where hopefully they'll discover the joy of nature too.

"Mummy's lane", as B calls it, is quite dark and drab at this time of year, especially on a miserable day like today, but I still think its beautiful.

Any chance I get I sneak up this lovely lane and I'm going to start a new section on my blog to follow how it grows and changes over the year. I promise, it will look a bit better than this!

Monday 24 March 2008

Easter Goodness

(My favourite vintage Easter postcard that has the sweetest message, "With love to all and kisses to your four little angels".)
Hope everyone had a relaxing if pretty nippy weekend. Easter passed in a whir of school church services, family meals, friends visiting, plenty of chocolate, good fun and tons of snowflakes. As much as I love snow it does feels very wrong when Easter (even if its very early) makes me feel that winter is finally over.

We've had a lovely, long family weekend together and tomorrow Woody and I have our first child-free day together for two years! What the heck are we going to say to each other all day? The plan is to not do very much at all apart from a spot of shopping (a 40s outfit for Woody for the dance on Saturday), go for a cosy pint and read all of the paper - hurrah! The boys are off to their grandparents so they'll be having fun too.

Look what I found in my "bare" garden last week - beautiful primroses. I found them underneath a huge, nasty grass plant that cuts your fingers, so I'm pretty chuffed to swap it for these pretties.
I got a lovely Easter treat in the post from Tess at Driftwood and Daisies just before the weekend. I'm so sorry that my pictures of it are really duff. Its a treat for someone else so I can't show you what it is but she kindly sent me a very pretty necklace that I can't wait to wear. Do go and have a visit to her smashing blog and lovely Etsy site and buy handmade!

Enjoy the rest of the break and I'll be back with some pictures of the full dance attire soon!

Saturday 15 March 2008

Happy Saturday

Goodness, two posts in two days, oooh hope this lasts!

Saturday is absolutely my favourite day of the week and I think it always has been. When I was younger, Saturday was a morning for chores and - if I hurried - there was the chance to catch Going Live and the lovely Philip Schofield!

My main jobs were to deep clean the bathroom, then dust and hoover the sitting room and I still like to do these jobs on a Saturday morning so that everywhere feels clean for the weekend. I am definitely turning into my mother!

Since we've moved over here we have a new Saturday routine that's become really special to us, probably just because its so simple and we do it together.

First off...
Coffee in bed with magazine/book/scrapbook
Saturday is usually my morning for a laze in bed, Sunday for Woody. The boys wake early and if I go back to sleep I usually give myself a headache for the rest of the day, so instead I make myself a cup of coffee and take it back upstairs, fling open the curtains and window to enjoy our view and the birds singing, snuggled under my eiderdown. Half an hour with books and the radio is my idea of the perfect start to the weekend.

Splashing fun
The boys love swimming and the four of us spend Saturday morning in the lovely local pool, splashing and generally having a very silly time.

Lunch on the run
Sometimes we treat ourself to a tea room lunch but usually, after our swim, we pop back into town for pasties and pastries from the fabulous deli and then head into the market square for my favourite bit of the day.

Treasure hunting
There has been a market in Leek for 800 years and I think I could spend 800 Saturdays here, browsing the collectors' stalls. I've bought some fantastic things for brilliant prices; today's haul was two vintage gardening books (plus some very welcome advice from the lovely stall holder about how to get the best from my lupins and delphiniums) and an embroidered, vintage brooch. The boys head straight for one of the charity shops that has an great toy selection and I get a precious half-hour to browse. Bliss!

Leek has three markets, the Charter Market (outdoor stalls, general goods on Weds/Farmers' Market and Collectors stalls on Sat), the Butter Market (fruit & veg, butcher, fishmonger, dairy, cafe, pet shop etc, inside a small and beautiful Victorian Hall on Wed, Fri & Sat) and the Trestle Market (WI, plants, organic veg, cards, clothes etc at the back of the Butter Market).

Home for tea
By the time we get back, have called-in for a newspaper, then had a while in the garden; its time for tea, a wonderful fish and chip supper from the brilliant village chippy, eaten in-front of the tv for a treat - which usually means a feast of Tom & Jerry !

Quiet time
Having Woody home on a Saturday night is still a treat so after the boys are tucked up we devour the paper between us, watch something special (Land Girls film and the Test Match this week - brilliant!) and share a bar of something extremely chocolatey!

Simple pleasures are, absolutely, my favourite things x

Friday 14 March 2008

Getting a bit done

Spring really must be upon me because this week I've actually shaken off a bit of that slow, sludgy, winter feeling and made a bit of headway with the dreaded LIST (am I the only one who loves making lists then feels haunted by them for weeks? Why do I do it?!)
Not mammoth things but still....
#1 Dancing - well shuffling if I'm honest but I'm so chuffed that I actually went out and did something new. I'm a terrible werriter and, despite bags of initial enthusiasm, its amazing how many things I talk myself out of. I can now - just about - manage a basic lindy step. But don't even ask me about putting it to music yet... it was lots of fun though and I'm really looking forward to the next one.
#2 New pillowcases - I bought a lovely vintage bolster case with crocheted trim a while ago and have been meaning to turn it into a pair of pillowcases for ages. Not exactly a massive job but yippee, I finally did it and my bed is looking cosier than ever.

#3 Hurrah for the WI - the lovely Lucy Bloom wrote a smashing post about the WI Country Markets and I have to agree. From handmade knits to chutneys, apple pies to free-range eggs the choice and quality is fantastic. This is my haul from the WI plant stall at the trestle market in town. Lupins, a potentilla, tulips, snowdrops in the green and some must-have wall flowers - all for £6! It would've been rude not too don't you think? Just got to grab a chance to get in the garden now.

#4 Curtain love
- I love this curtain fabric I snapped up for £4 a metre from my favorite vintage shop a few years ago. Its smothered in spring flowers; daffodils, anemones, peonies, so as soon as March appears, the cosy winter stripe comes down and I whip up my pretty springy, floral fabric, in time for Easter.

#5 Dancing dress - ok, not a proper 40s vintage dress - too expensive or too small - so will this New Look version do? It's dream to wear, covers all the lumpy bits and makes me feel like a carefree, lissome young thing, like the girl from the Flake advert! But does it look 40s enough? We've got a summer wedding coming up and I couldn't justify splashing out too much on a frock to wear only for the dance so I'm hoping this will kill two birds with one stone - but what do you all think?
Thanks for all the advice on frocks and make-up, you're gems and I wish you could all come too. Have a smashing weekend xx

Saturday 8 March 2008

Cinders, you shall go the ball!

Well a dance actually but yes, I am really going to a proper dance, just like the ones in the James Herriot novels I dreamt of, mournfully, as teenager because I truly thought that age had passed.

But no, it seems so many people still hanker after the era of getting properly dolled up, practicing their finest moves and waiting in anxious anticipation for an..."excuse me, may have this dance", that a Spring Dance, (40s dress encouraged - hurrah!) is being held the Saturday after Easter at the Guildhall - and I'm going!

Let me tell you, I am physically giddy with expectation, there is only one slight problem. Neither me or my date ...(Woody - can you believe it! I think he thinks he owes me one for being the strong-ish woman behind the comedy night).... can dance! Oh dear.

I'm actually going for a few dance lessons before the big night, although Woody is completely adamant that "he's not dancing", but I have a sneaky plan. For now I am acting very innocently and keep exclaiming "oooh neither will I, too embarrassing, I just want to drink in the atmosphere etc" and then I'll ply him with a couple of lager shandies and, fingers crossed, we might manage an awkward shuffle around the outer reaches of the dancefloor.
For years I've wanted to learn to dance but never plucked up the courage. I bought some big band music a while ago though and its completely infectious, my feet won't keep still. I suppose Strictly Come Dancing has made me feel like it could be really an option for someone, as inactive as me, to get up and give dancing a whirl (shamefully my only real exercise is the 3/4 mile walk to school, then back, a few times a week).
(very glamorous but a touch scary? think I'll go for something a bit more human, like letting my face move!)

I'm probably most excited about the dolling up bit, not much of a chance for that thesedays. I've already done a few charity shop trawls for a frock (something hopefully floral or with polka dots), I've got an ebay bid in for some shoes, found some silk stockings complete with stripe (goodness knows who will come across this blog now I've posted that!) and I'm planning on snaffling Eechie's new, miracle tongs to perfect the perfect waves.

Do you think my nostalgia trip has gone a bit too far? I'm reading The Land Girls by Angela Huth at the moment and I'm completely immersed in it and the evocative descriptions of Britain at war. I hope I don't come across as flippant or as if I'm trying to glamorise an awful time, but again, its really helping to put me in touch with my grandparents heyday, which is lovely because I do miss them so much.

So, I promise to post pictures after the event and will report on my first dance class on Tuesday. Wish me lots and lots of luck - I have two, very definite, left feet! All tips/advice on clothes, make-up and the vital dancing all very gratefully received!

***Thank you to everyone for all you lovely comments. I appreciate them all so very much. Your kind words, advice and encouragement mean the world to me. Thank you for saying hello, for returning and for always making me smile.***

Monday 3 March 2008

Bless my little chaps

Bacon butties in bed, a bunch of pink roses, the Doc Martin dvd and the sweetest handmade cards from the boys made for the loveliest Mothering Sunday in the world. Later we popped out to our favourite cafe (this is the boys outside it last year, a lovely farm shop with a cafe in the old forge) for lunch with Woody's mum and his sister Jack with her two little men.
Afterwards we tootled home for a play in the garden and homemade cake. What a fantastic day, the sun shone and my boys were full of kisses and cuddes. I'm a very lucky mummy indeed.
My darling m-in-law with her oldest (B) and youngest grandsons (Seth, B's new cousin)

Thank you too to my lovely, lovely mum who I saw on Saturday - so glad you liked your present. Thank you for all the support and help and love you give, thank you for everything. Lots of love Stephersxxx

Mum with A the day he arrived

Do you like my tin? Bought on ebay to replace the After Eights tin I've been using as a sewing box for years. I do really treasure the mints tin because my very dear grandparents gave it to me, (knowing they were my favourite chocolates) instead of an Easter egg one year. They gave me another for a Christmas gift which now is home to the rosettes I won in riding competitions at the stables where I helped out. I wasn't really any good and won most for grooming but Ted & Alice were very proud of me and the tin still has a whiff of mint fondant! Happy memories.
They're not very vintage though and this new, or rather older, rose tin is just the job and only £1 too! I'm quite envious of the array of vintage cotton reels so many bloggers have collected and I'd love to have a collection of my own. Two vintage spools and counting so this box hides away the modern ones and invaulable bits of wunderweb I confess to owning!