Thursday, July 29, 2021

Fashion, Fumes, Mills and Molluscs

As the world opens up, ours came crashing down on Friday.  We have a stray cat who visits us regularly.  She was a neighbourhood companion of our dear departed Mowzer and we have endeavoured to keep her alive for the past 5 years; leaving food out for her and nursing her through a nasty bout of cat flu.  I am using the word "stray" for the purposes of this blog, but those who know me, know that the situation is complicated.  Suffice to say, there are people in this world that shouldn't be caretakers of animals.  

After formally adopting Lotte the Tortie, the situation became ever more challenging, as Lotte does not tolerate other cats and can be extremely territorial.  However, with careful management, we managed.  Timing was key.  

Recently, we noticed that the little stray's (Oreo as we once decided to call her) breathing has been worryingly audible.  A vet once told me that she had probably had cat flu as a kitten, which hadn't been treated and that this could resurface periodically during times of stress.  For a time, we assumed that that was the case, until we noticed she was losing weight.  To my shame, I began to dread her visits, as I couldn't bear to hear her increasingly audible breathing and yet, she didn't appear to be distressed and always managed to eat some food.  

One day, I noticed that Lotte, from her lookout on top of the car, failed to react or make any attempt to send her off.  This simple observation was a light bulb moment.  Animals have empathy I believe and this uncharacteristic display of charity on Lotte's part, made us realise that something was very wrong.  We immediately grabbed the pet carrier and spent some considerable time coaxing Oreo from beneath the van.  We primed the vets who were expecting her, explained the situation to the best of our knowledge and were relieved when they agreed to take her in and examine her, promising an update later that evening.  On previous occasions, my enquiries have met with the usual suggestion of contacting the RSPCA, an institution that is nigh on impossible to reach by phone and with limited resources, they only tend to pay visits to those desperately in need and sadly not as urgently as the situation might demand.

As promised by Amelia, the kindly vet's assistant, Friday's update was that Oreo appeared to have an upper respiratory infection, but on Saturday morning, we received the sad news that further investigations had revealed a tumour on her larynx and she had been put to sleep.  We were assured that she had a peaceful Friday night in a proper bed and was given lots of attention.  We were shocked beyond belief, never suspecting anything quite so sinister.  It hurts like hell.

On a brighter note, I received a parcel through the post - unsolicited mail of the very best kind.  I had mentioned to my friend Vicky at our recent get together, that I needed a belt for a particular dress, but was not expecting her to raid her precious stock and send me one as a gift.  To demonstrate my gratitude and showcase the belt's versatility, here are a few photos of recent outfits, utilising said piece of vintage leather loveliness.  

Below, it's teamed with a 1960s handmade dress and vintage beads.

For those of you who read my last post, will recall my eagerly awaited Ebay purchase of a pink 1970s Mina of England Carnaby Street dress.  Here it is; in excellent working order and with some adorable gold trim on the cuffs and bib.  This one was made in India.

It was perfect for Saturday's overcast photographic excursion to Stourbridge to capture a biker gathering in memory of TikTok star, Fr3sh10.  We were unaware of this man, who lost his life in a motorcycle accident, but, anticipating a spectacle, we headed to The River Rooms, a Stourbridge music venue just off the ring road.

The 200 bikers that made it to the event under leaden skies, were encouraged to rev their engines before the police temporarily stopped traffic to allow them to ride in convoy around the ring road.  

The sound was deafening.  I can't even begin to imagine the decibel levels if the originally anticipated 2000 bikers had turned up.  I think the lower number was probably only due to the weather warnings that never materialised in the wild West Midlands. 

Love a bit of motion blur!

In stark contrast to Saturday, Sunday's adventure was way more sedate.  We headed deep into the Wyre Forest near Bewdley to seek out Knowles Mill, a derelict 18th century corn mill now under National Trust ownership.  It's an unusual National Trust property because it's mentioned in the guide book and there are some directions, but the route to the nearest car park is strangely absent of the usual brown National Trust tourist road signs.  With no phone signal or sat nav (we're old school), we had to stop in Bewdley to ask for directions and then again when the road became a single track road with barely any passing places.  Finally, we reached the car park and the mill was clearly referenced on one of the numerous walking routes through the heart of the forest, although the footpath along an old railway line, was still pretty vague.  We had been warned not to expect any scones at this property.

Armed with a little knowledge and instinct, we took the correct path and located the mill, situated next to the most idyllic country cottage on the banks of the Dowles Brook.

Now photographers always say that the best lens is the one you have with you.  Ordinarily I would agree with this, but the unfortunate combination of a 50 mm lens and a seriously steep, tree shrouded approach, would not allow me to capture the mill on camera.  The best view of Knowles mill was only revealed when we had truly arrived and I was therefore unable to frame the tall building at such close proximity.  However, it's the details I look for.  Below, was a stone tablet mounted on the wall next to the cottage.

I loved the patina on this old horseshoe mounted above the mill's entrance.

A lone exterior shot of a hatch half way up the side of the mill.

Inside, the mill had an atmosphere of a working environment, the occupants of which had left only moments before.

I was drawn to the windows.

Gareth was pleased to discover from a notice on the interior wall, that James frontman, Tim Booth, is apparently the man to go to with membership enquiries for the Midland Wind & Watermills Group.  When he's not performing on the UK festival circuit, he's now living in Halesowen apparently.

We spent a pleasant hour or so, walking along the meandering stream, but failed to locate the old graveyard and other promised hidden gems picked up from local Instagrammers.  This is unsurprising, given that I lose my phone, reading glasses and car keys on a daily basis.

In other news this week and in stark contrast to the peace and quiet of the forest, we combined a work related trip with a visit to Dudley's charity shops.  Dudley is a Black Country town steeped in history, but systematically ignored by successive councils.  It has some beautiful architecture but feels neglected and sadly violent crime in the town is on the increase.  I came away with a vintage necklace... 

...and a large piece of sari material for £1.00 which turned out to be entirely the wrong size and shape for its intended purpose!  The posh lady behind the counter was in a jubilant mood because she had just sold £75.00 worth of clothing to one customer.  On occasions, my shop visits felt hurried because I continue to feel unnerved by unmasked people in shops.  I will never understand the controversy over wearing a face covering.  It's apparently not uncommon now for people to be challenged in public in certain areas for wearing one; accused of "virtue signalling" and being labelled "sheep."   As for the Anti-Vax march in London at the weekend and the horrendous accusations levelled at NHS staff, I have no words.  Instead, I will express my feelings on this through the medium of Jenny Eclair.  Her tweets appeal to my sense of humour in this crazy world we're living in.  Scroll past if you are not a fan of Anglo Saxon language.

As an aside, I took a quick selfie the other day, to record for posterity my Van Tam t-shirt.  I meant to buy one ages ago, but finally got around to it last week.  In my eyes, the man can do no wrong and throughout the waves of Covid and mixed messaging, he is the voice of reason.  Only on reviewing the image, did I realise I was still wearing my reading glasses and I have derived great amusement from this photo, as I appear to be emulating the man himself.  Jeans and of course, vintage belt, are just out of shot.

Returning to Dudley.  On the way back to the car, we purchased some Teddy Grays Herbal Tablets (standard fare in these parts) from the Dudley-based confectioners founded in 1826 and still in the same family.  We also stumbled across an Irish pub called The Dubliners.  It was only mid afternoon, but they were already sweeping up glass just inside the entrance by the bar.  The revellers seated outside had fully embraced facial tattoos.  We continued on our way, heckled by the clientele, who for some reason, were interested to hear all about our purchases.  All life is here.

Our last, but probably most important purchase this week, is this....the Bee Thirst Aid Kit.  We've tried, with mixed results, to save a few bees recently, but don't always have the ability to give these exhausted little creatures what they need (sugar water to re-hydrate and re-energise), when out on a walk.  

The Bee Thirst Aid Kit comprises a small metal container of sugar water on a handy keyring, attached to seed paper containing Black-eyed Susan and Sesame seeds, flowers beloved by bees.  A QR code links to the company website where full instructions can be found.  I think it's a genius idea!

Back at home, the bees seem pretty happy in our garden at the moment, with the lavatera and sweet peas now in bloom.

Note the lesser spotted raindrops on the sweet peas?  Finally, we had a downpour yesterday and the garden was so were the snails, who were out in droves within minutes of the first drop hitting the parched earth.  They have since set about consuming the honeysuckle and in fact everything in their path.  It only seems fair that they pose for a few photos in return.  

In their own way, they're quite beautiful aren't they?  Only me?  Just lost your prize hostas?  Too soon?  
I have read that snails do not like ferns, euphorbia or rosemary, so I'm planning to surround anything precious with one or more of these plants.

Slugs the size of Bratwurst sausages are also gathering in ominously large numbers.  Don't worry, I'm not planning on trying to convince you of their aesthetic attributes any time soon.

Looking towards the weekend, we have plans to BBQ.  We're eschewing the usual sausages and burgers in favour of halloumi, king prawns and sardine fillets; partially inspired by memories of wood smoke and grilled sardines on the Portuguese coast.  A long awaited meeting to assist with the screenplay idea is scheduled for Saturday and on Sunday we're planning a trip to Oxfordshire.  The forecast is still unsettled and changeable, so what to wear?  I think I might wear rubber soled shoes for the lightning, a crash helmet for the golf ball hailstones, a waterproof coat (naturally) and perhaps, as extra protection in case of biblical rain, some Withnail & I style plastic bags - Sainsbury's of course.  I have standards!

What are you up to this weekend?


  1. Oreo's ordeal is breaking my heart. Having lost a fur baby earlier this year, I do know it hurts like hell. Your 1960s handmade dress is gorgeous, and so is the pink 1970s Mina of England Carnaby Street dress. Vicky's belt is perfect with both.
    Knowles Mill looks absolutely delightful, and I had to smile at you getting lost in a maze of country lanes. We always manage to get lost, even with Sat Nav.
    Your photos of the mill are so atmospheric, and I love how you captured all those details on camera, the horseshoe being a particular favourite! xxx

    1. Thank you. Animals are so enriching but break your heart don’t they? I am now on the lookout for a vintage sun hat as we’re assured the sun will return, but I’m worried I will tempt face. We are hopeless with directions. I never learn. I should elect to drive and then can absolve myself of all responsibility on the directions front! xxx

  2. Hello Claire, so sorry to hear of your little Tortie Oreo. They really do become part of the family so I can completely understand your hurt xXx The bikers send off looks like quite something I can only imagine the roar they made. Good ol' Vix for sending a belt to go with your gorgeous Mina dress. My favourite photos this time (by now you probably know I like to play pick!) are the ones of the window with the antlers. Jenny Eclair's tweet is very funny, as is your Van Tam T-shirt picture! I've never thought to revive a bee before. What a great idea. Hope the BBQ was fun. Monsieur told me Monday 2nd August was a bank holiday but I've only just discovered this is only for Scotland :0 Wait 'till he gets out of that shower!!! Lulu xXx

    1. Hi Lulu, The tortie in the photo is Lotte. Oreo was a little black and white cat - it was a little confusing. She is in a better place now as they say. I loved the antlers too and I am happy that you choose a favourite - keeps me on my toes! I’ve frequently wished we live in Scotland during this pandemic but I’m quite relieved it’s not a Bank Holiday - we’ve had to cancel a planned family outing because our son is now isolating after a friend he saw last week has tested positive. Have a good week! xxx

    2. Hi Lulu, The tortie in the photo is Lotte. Oreo was a little black and white cat - it was a little confusing. She is in a better place now as they say. I loved the antlers too and I am happy that you choose a favourite - keeps me on my toes! I’ve frequently wished we live in Scotland during this pandemic but I’m quite relieved it’s not a Bank Holiday - we’ve had to cancel a planned family outing because our son is now isolating after a friend he saw last week has tested positive. Have a good week! xxx

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