Saturday, May 28, 2022

Burn Baby Burn!

 A short one from me this week as I've been otherwise engaged - both mentally and physically.  The week started out with fear and dread aplenty, but ended with the best possible outcome given the circumstances.  Thanks for your lovely comments and messages last week.

Before I start, a disclaimer:  I'm not in the habit of wilfully causing destruction to nature or, more precisely, setting fire to plants.  However, the celebrated photographer Rankin is less gardener, more fire starter when it comes to flowers and frequently torches them in the name of art.  As darkly beautiful as they may look in flames, I have always declined to, preferring to wait until I spotted a bent dandelion stalk and only then, decided to put this to the test and the dandelion out of its misery.  Moreover, if ever there was a period in time that deserved to go up in flames, for me, it was the last 7 days.  

Securing the camera on a tripod on manual, I checked that my camera was set to "burst" mode, ensured it was in focus, triple checked my camera settings and asked Gareth to do the honours with a match.  

Don't try this at home.  They go up in a nanosecond - literally a case of "blink and you'd miss it." Going...



See you next week!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Wagons and Horses

I'll kick off this post with a nod to its title by revealing....drum roll....that the Loblan cowboy boots do indeed fit!  We'll skip over the messy business of removing them (I'm hoping the leather will soften over time), but once on, they are perfect.

I thought I would model them with the slightly hitched up, trippy galloping horses print maxi skirt mentioned in my last blog.  This is Monday morning me, make up free and making the most of the sunshine.  My entire outfit is second hand and, boots aside, cost me less than £10.00.  The boots at £35.00 were still a bargain when you consider that their retail price is somewhere in the region of £170.00.

On Thursday we popped down to an exclusive little event hosted in a local pub car park.  Not exactly the hottest ticket in town, but if there are classic cars to be seen, Gareth will be there in the blink of an eye and I could challenge myself to get some interesting car photos worthy of a "car porn" hashtag.  Not quite wagons, but bear with me.

The turnout wasn't great.  It seems there are more interesting things to do on a Thursday evening (Gareth's looking at me incredulously).  However, there was a stunning example of a VW squareback in all its 1970s glory.

I loved the addition of this blind in the rear window.  Uber cool!

This VW Beetle with its Porsche wheels was a lovely example.

Can you spot the beautiful Victorian Water Works building in the background?  This beauty is Hinksford Water Works, built in 1900.

Before long, this VW Bug had two companions.

Spot the photobombing poor cousin (a modern Beetle).  That's mine.

I headed home shortly after taking this photo, leaving the petrol heads to their talk of patina and prolonged engine examinations.

The actual "hottest tickets in town" were reserved for Saturday and our long awaited return visit to Giffords Circus, founded by Nell Gifford, who sadly died in 2019 from breast cancer at the age of 44.  Her funeral was attended by her good friend Helena Bonham Carter - another great example of British eccentricity.  

Photo:  Clive Burling

Nell is quoted as saying "I held the jewel of my childhood up to my eye, and through it I saw ponies and a dressing-up box and a tent, and that was Giffords Circus."

Nell read English at New College, Oxford, before running away with more than one circus.  She honed her craft at the US Circus Flora, the Chinese State Circus and Circus Roncalli in Germany, all the time dreaming of creating her own village green circus.

Together, Nell, a gifted horsewoman and Toti Gifford (her former husband) achieved this dream, spending all they had on a round white tent from the Trade It newspaper and building a maroon and gold showman's wagon to live in.  They advertised for performers in The Stage newspaper and held auditions in a dusty little theatre in Cheltenham (now The Playhouse).

The result?  A magical little creative empire, responsible for entertaining over a million people since the turn of the century.  

Inhabited by an international stellar cast of colourful characters including Tweedy the clown, Attila the Hungarian horseman, Ehiopian jugglers, Gabor Vosteen (allegedly capable of playing Mozart on five recorders; three in his mouth and one in each nostril) and Molly Molloy (all things Burlesque), to name but a few.  This nomadic tribe has also been inhabited by Gypsy violinists, magicians, illusionists, opera singers and gymnasts over the years and the assembled performers set up camp annually in and around the Cotswolds area on commons and village greens, welcoming locals, famers, weekenders, tourists, rock stars, artists, pensioners, shop keepers, school children and this weekend, yours truly, Gareth and Vix and Jon.  We were beyond excited to see them both.  

En route, I took quite possibly my favourite windscreen shot ever whilst Gareth grumbled about his unrelenting neck disc pain which seems to trouble him when driving.  Another trip to Nigel might be on the cards.

Our journey was blighted by a disagreement with the sat nav which added at least 20 minutes onto our journey.  Finally, we parked up, deep in the grounds of Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe (famous for being the final resting place of Queen Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII's seven wives), found Vix and Jon and toasted our meeting with an IPA.  Soon it was time to take up our seats.  The website suggested that the circus was still operating at full capacity, but in reality, the tent was bursting at the seams and the atmosphere was joyous.  I'll stop rambling now and let the photos tell the story of Carpa! a Mexican themed extravaganza.

Here come the horses...

Upper body strength goals...

Hair raising, but a possible Botox alternative.

Exhilarating stuff!

For us, the treats didn't end there.  Vix and Jon had very thoughtfully brought us both goody bags.  For me, a pair of 70s oversize sunnies, a lovely denim skirt with deep pockets I had commented on, a nourishing sleep mask, some beautiful, artisan made earrings from Greece and a book - Emma Donoghue's Frog Music - which will go on the top of my "To read" pile.

This morning, I modelled the aforementioned sunglasses, earrings and skirt with my French Connection blouse (a second hand find) that has been languishing on my rail for a few years now and has come close to being re-donated a handful of times.  I'm not sure why.  However, I think it's found its team mates.  

Here's a closer look at the earrings...

...and blouse.  The splashes of colour in the slightly abstract butterfly pattern work well with the geometric colour pop of the earrings.

For Gareth, some incense sticks, a selection of teas and a graphic novel by The Dandy Warhols singer/guitarist, Courtney Taylor-Taylor.     

We rounded off our day at the circus with a slap up meal at a fourteenth century coaching inn, The Hobnail...

....before heading into the sunset and home.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Worcestershire Wanderings

Last week ushered in one of those days that changes everything; diagnostic tests for Mom, followed by the much feared phone call from the hospital.  Life has felt simultaneously unreal and incredibly challenging ever since.  However, living with uncertainty is part of life and we march on.

Accompanying Sharon the Celebrant, I visited a local glamping site on Friday, to check out its suitability for wild elopements/mini moons.  It just about ticked every box, offering peace and solitude...

...carefully considered luxury touches... emphasis on R&R...

...rustic charm (don't be deceived by this description - the shower room, just next door to the communal kitchen, was as good as any luxury self catering cottage)...

...wonderful scenery, walks from the site...

....and friendly, devoted on-site owners, Deb and Ian (just a stone's throw away in their idyllic country cottage).

The heart of England has so much to offer.

As a means of distraction this week, I've also made one or two acquisitions - charity shopped, naturally.  There's a distinctly equine theme to my purchases.  First up, this maxi skirt from Boden.  The somewhat abstract print is actually galloping horses when you look closely.

I also couldn't leave behind this tapestry bag by Laurel Burch; its gold thread accented mythical horse pattern catching my eye.  

I later discovered that Laurel Burch is a Californian artist and has lead a fascinating life.  Here, in her own words, she describes her approach to art:  "As I grow, so grows my passion to dream, and as I dream, I paint.  Myths emerge, beings come to life, kindred spirits connect."  Her inspirations are horses, dogs, blossom, the ocean and cats.  What's not to like?!

The early seeds of Lauren's career were sewn as a young, single mother in 1960s San Francisco.  Born with Osteopetrosis, she married to Jazz musician Robert Burch when she was 19.  They later divorced.  

Lauren would create her own jewellery from objects collected from faraway places and strung together on beaten metal wire.  Her clothes were made from Mexican shawls and Indian bedspreads.  She raised her daughter on the income from selling earrings during this period, before one of her necklaces was admired in the street by the owners of a local Folk Art Gallery.  The Chair House, as it was known, became the first to sell Lauren's earrings.

By the late 1970s, Lauren had founded her company Tsuru Inc ("Crane" in Japanese) and was producing jewellery and greetings cards based on her original artworks.  She would go on to license her designs to a dozen companies around the world as her empire expanded. 

On Saturday, I took Mom to a local beauty spot on the heritage Severn Valley Railway,  Arley.  The Diesel pulled Red Rose Express was just arriving.

The Severn Valley Railway, like others, are showing their support for Ukraine.  As we stood on the platform on this still, sunny May day, a sudden gust of wind blew the flags into action.  An omen for the evening's Eurovision Song Contest it later transpired.

I hadn't spotted this vintage enamel sign before - Webbs Seeds Merchants from my home town.

Ignorant or innocent times...?

With a last glimpse of the station from the Ticket Office doorway, we headed off for a wander around the hamlet.

Even the gentry have to do laundry.  It was perfect drying weather yesterday on top of Arley Tower.

This property has always been my favourite.  Back in the day it was a public house known as The Valencia.  Now it's a private home and it should be mine! 

Deciding to take cover from the midday sun, we headed off to nearby Wolverley, a pretty Worcestershire village perched alongside the River Stour.  We headed for Gil's Tea Room following a recommendation, only to find that it was fully booked.  

Ever the accommodating host, Gil suggested we take a riverside bench seat next to the cafe and they would bring our order to us.

Try as I might, I have yet to achieve complete Instagram w**ker status given that I promptly forgot to photograph our food.  We were hungry!  It was hot!  You'll have to take my word for the fact that my hummus and falafel sandwich and salad and Mom's pear and stilton toasted sandwich were a) huge and b) delicious.  I also took away some salad inspiration; a simple idea, but toss in a few blueberries, pomegranate seeds and a chopped strawberry with your salad leaves and French dressing.  It works a treat.

The remainder of the day was devoted to reading in the sunshine and preparing for an evening BBQ.  I'll leave you with Lotte - whiskers illuminated by the dipping sun - apparently wrestling to dislodge something from between her teeth.  I wondered where that last piece of chicken went!


It's been a curious week of unexpected connections, conversations, sights and sounds, underpinned in some shape or form by panic. I was ...