Saturday, October 29, 2022

October Scenes and All Hallows' Eve

October has been an unusually busy month of appointments and in all honesty a myriad things that I'm struggling to recall.  With the news firmly entrenched in the arena of the extreme, despite emerging from a global pandemic, life still feels only superficially normal.  We're all going through the motions, but know full well that there's a herd of elephants in the room; from economic crises and troubling political forces to a megalomaniac from the East. 

In an effort to punctuate the relentless madness, I'm sharing my October memories in an effort to offer some escapism.

Finally, the wedding industry blog on my Stranger Things shoot has been published.  The exclusivity period dictates that it cannot be shared on another blog for 6 weeks (although social media has been green lit).  I mention this specifically for Lulu (Long Mizzle Garden), as her partner, Joe, kindly granted us permission to use his music in the video (coming soon). 

One thing I can share, courtesy of lovely team member, Helen, of Elegance Hair Design in Telford, is this taste sensation.  Left over from the shoot were some maraschino cherries. Helen, a native New Zealander, suggested wrapping them in streaky bacon and getting them crispy (BBQ is best but a frying pan will do).  Voila!  Devils on horseback with a southern hemisphere twist!  I have tried good vegan bacon and reckon it would work just as well.  


For one of our regular walks, we visited the National Trust's Dudmaston Estate last week, shedding layers and basking in temperatures more akin to August.  On our visit, we hung out at the second-hand book shop with the resident cat....another very vocal Tortoiseshell.  She very cutely placed her paw on me every time my attention wavered.

We left with a book on Pompeii (for the boy) and, inexplicably, Game of Thrones.  

I've never been big on fantasy literature and haven't seen the TV series, so I'm chalking it up as a panic buy (one can never have too many books).  Who knows?  Maybe I'll read it and maybe it will surprise me.  Just maybe, I'll be rocking up to a Comic-Con - cloaked and daggered - near you very soon.

The late afternoon sun was delicious, highlighting the woolly outlines of the estate sheep...

...bouncing off the windows...

and bursting through a copse, making for a pretty silhouette photo of Gareth taking a call.  If you squint, you can see the Autumn leaves swirling in the breeze.

If you'd like to see more, here's a short video.

(1) Late October. Late afternoon. Dudmaston Estate. - YouTube

Now, of course, the end of the month marks All Hallows' Eve and try as I might, I just can't ignore it.  I picked up a tired, old tablecloth in a charity shop and decided to give it a makeover.

(1) A Tablecloth for Halloween #halloween #craft #tableclothdesign - YouTube

That's better!  A perfect base for tonight's goblets of bubbling green evil elixir while I'm cackling at the evening's TV entertainment.

Now finally, a warning to all.  If you go down in the woods today, be sure of a big surprise.  We met this character cavorting amongst the trees recently.  

She told me she's the pumpkin bride.  She's looking for a suitable partner...male, female, vegetable.

She will know when it's right, although her life partner is as yet blissfully unaware of their imminent betrothal.

But these are mere details; the date's set for 31st October and there's going to be an almighty shindig.

She told me that she's wearing a white dress which her pumpkin grandmother bought for a patch party in 1969, but unfortunately, her grandmother was pulled, unceremoniously, from the ground, never to be seen again.  The dress has never been worn.  

Pumpkin Bride seemed friendly enough, but when I tried to get a closer shot of her dress or film her, she grew very defensive.

I’m still trying to make sense of what happened…see for yourselves.

(1) Pumpkin Bride #halloween #pumpkin #scarystories #spookyseason #spookyshorts #halloweenbride - YouTube

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Getting Steamy

 A short and sweet blog this week.  We've reached a new low in the UK with the economy in chaos and a revolving door of PMs and senior ministers most of the country aren't happy with.  So, let's escape into fantasy and nostalgia and steam up the windows from the inside, to obscure the frightening world beyond!

Last weekend we headed to the Shropshire market town of Shrewsbury to visit the Shewsbury Spooktacular steampunk event hosted by St Mary's Church.  The spire of St Mary's has dominated the skyline of Shrewsbury's old town for over 500 years, but last weekend, instead of worshippers, it was crammed full of immaculately dressed eccentrics.

Wearing denim dungarees, an Indian Kantha jacket, beanie hat and boots, I felt distinctly underdressed, even though some kind gent told me I looked stylish.  Emboldened, I asked a few of the visitors to pose for photos.  Don't they look cute?

I wanted to steal this man's leopard print jacket...

...or maybe this coat? (He can keep the cigarette).

Pictured below.  A splendidly sinister figure on the left.  More on him later.

Floor tiles, a dog and some sturdy biker boots...something for everyone!

I happened to exit the church at the same time as Mr Sinister, so seized the opportunity to ask him to pose.  Mr Sinister turned out to be a softly spoken gent and was most accommodating.  

So how to follow the finery of a steampunk gathering?  Well, by a visit to our favourite heritage railway station, the Severn Valley Railway's Arley, of course!  Our visit luckily coincided with the arrival of both a diesel and steam locomotive.  Naturally, I had to capture our visit in a suitably gothic, darkly brooding Victorian style.

On Thursday, it was black over Bill's mother's as we say here in the Black Country and rained incessantly during my first visit ever to Bilston with Vix.  

After a tour of a mock Tudor housing estate courtesy of Google Maps, I arrived 10 minutes late to collect Vix from our designated meeting point.  However, we were soon catching up over the clothes rails of the local charity shops and bagged ourselves a few bargains, including a gorgeous pink pin tuck artist's smock of a top by Yacco Maricard.  I had never heard of the brand, but liked the colour, shape and quality of the garment.  I later discovered that £3.00 was a steal for this item.

Formed by a design collective of three friends, Yaccomaricard began in 1977 as a fashion project in Harajuku, Tokyo.

The founding members were fashion graduate Mariko Watanabe, photographer Ricardo Watanabe and Yacco Hayata; a graduate of the highly respected Bunka Fashion College.

Their aim was to break away from the constraints of conventional Japanese clothing of the time using oversized shapes in an excess of luxurious natural fabrics that could act as an expression of their lifestyle.  I seem to have a thing for an oversized silhouette at the moment, so this top immediately caught my eye.  

The trio refined and mastered techniques such as garment dye process and hand placed pin tuck work, characteristics now synonymous with the brand.

Satisfied with our bargains, we headed to Wetherspoons for lunch, marvelled at the award-winning carpet (which was somewhat reminiscent of the carpet in the notorious Overlook Hotel) and awaited the inevitable news of Liz Truss's departure as the TV cameras were clearly trained on the front door of number 10.  Within minutes of leaving, our phones were pinging with confirmation of her departure.

We wandered around Bilston in the rain.  Grim to some, but not to us.  All around the town are reminders of the area's chain making history.

We both enjoyed discovering some of the town's handsome, if neglected, landmark buildings, including the former Art School and Police Station.  Vix is way more informed on the Bilstonia's history than I am, so read all about it here. Vintage Vixen: A Trifle From Bilston ( 

Love a ghost sign.  

We also headed for the Museum and Art Gallery and took in the natural history exhibits as well as local industrial landscape artworks and exquisite enamel delights Bilston is famed for.

I was quite taken with the entrance hall's mosaic floor featuring a typical Black Country landscape, which Vix managed to blend in very well with.

The intention was to round off our visit with a drink in Bilston's oldest pub (formerly a manor house but licensed between 1774 and 1820), The Greyhound & Punch Bowl.  Well, we did make it through the front door, but decided against buying a drink.  We're not particularly shy and retiring, but it really did have a whiff of testosterone and beer about it.

We said our goodbyes and headed home and watched the fallout from another disastrous tenure in office on TV.  I'm all for giving Larry the No. 10 cat a go.

I'll sign off now with a warning that try as I might, I am unable to ignore spooky season, so be prepared.  Oh and be scared.  Be very scared.

Friday, October 14, 2022

A Spa Day and Dress Down Friday

Gareth's eBay purchase of another Gunnera Manicata, took us on a road trip to Royal Leamington Spa, last weekend, just over an hour away in Shakespeare's County of Warwickshire.  I have been a little worried about his obsession with this giant rhubarb, believing it to be invasive, but after further research, it turns out that it is the Gunnera Tinctoria that is the horticultural equivalent of the black sheep of the family, due to the ease with which it spreads through the thousands of seeds contained within its flower spikes (80,000-250,000 per plant allegedly), distributed easily by water courses and birds.  In any event, we have another fibre glass pond in mind.  The plan is to submerge it and develop it into a bog garden with the Gunnera being the star of the show...but more the spiky beast later.

Royal Leamington Spa, commonly known as Leamington Spa or Leamington, is a spa town and civil parish which grew from a small village into a spa town in the 18th century, following the popularisation of its water, reputed to have medicinal qualities.  The town, named after the River Leam, which flows through the centre, underwent a period of rapid expansion in the 19th century.  With its impressive church, stunning Georgian architecture, parks and extensive independent shops (plus a few eye-wateringly expensive charity shops), I couldn't believe we hadn't visited before.

This exquisitely decorated Tea Room caught my eye.  Unfortunately, it was closed for a private function...a "princess" on a mic, serenading a party of children was just visible through the elaborately dressed windows.

Fancy a hair cut?  You might get more than you bargained for!

I indulged in a spot of doorway photography.  Check out these beauties.

The weather was sublime, so we grabbed a couple of toasted paninis (Pesto chicken for me and Coronation chicken with jalapenos for Gareth) and headed past the Grade II listed Pump House Gardens (laid between 1844 and 1903), clocking the bandstand for the BBAS (Blogger's Bandstand Appreciation Society)... the immaculate and historic Jephson Gardens, established 200 years ago and boasting a subtropical glass house, which naturally was closed for the day.  We were on a roll!

Another glimpse of the glass house, the sun kissing the beautiful bark of a Eucalyptus tree in the foreground.

The garden was voted "Best Garden in England" in 2004 and it's of little surprise.  Thanks to extensive regeneration in the 90s, the park has regained its original status as the place to be seen.

Here's a glimpse of the Jephson Memorial.  We couldn't get near it thanks to the sea of visitors posing for photos.  Yes, it's a notable building, erected in 1848-1849; a domed temple with a marble statue of Dr Henry Jephson (surgeon-apothecary and local philanthropist) at its centre (read more about him here. Dr Henry Jephson | Leamington History Group), 

but many music lovers might be more familiar with the memorial courtesy of the cover of the Moseley Shoals album by Solihull rock band Ocean Colour Scene.

Continuing our walk and escaping the attentions of a bearded male photographer who seemed intent on discussing kit with me, we were wowed by the beauty of this green space.  The tree canopies had a seemingly endless reach...

and we were also rewarded with views of Mill Gardens, a 4-acre grassy area with a boathouse just across the river.

Ink Cap Fungi

The dreamy garden vista above is East Lodge Garden's Chelsea Flower Show gazebo from 2014, designed by Sarah Horne and Debbie Cooke, featuring a handmade Regency style arbour crafted by sculptor Clive Sanderson.  The insect friendly garden won a silver medal and in 2015, was gifted to the town.  

With the parking meter calling, we headed out of the greenery, over the ironwork Mill Bridge crossing the weir...

...and after the briefest of visits to the impressive All Saints Church (Dr Jephson's wedding venue)

...back into the less loved side of Leamington...

....leaving Dickens to his day dreams.  (Dickens visited Leamington in 1838 on his tour of the Midlands and Wales and the town features in his novel Dombey & Son).

Back at home, the Gunnera is flourishing.

Other than the Green Giant, the garden is looking increasingly autumnal as the leaves have started falling in earnest.

Lotte is an Autumn cat, using her camouflage to deadly effect.

Fungi is plentiful this year, including the alien like jelly ear fungus that really looks like it belongs in a specimen jar in a museum.

With the golden hue of Autumn and the dipping evening temperatures ushering in the eight-legged invaders, I'm embracing the season and have made a few acquisitions to supplement my winter wardrobe (all second-hand buys).  I'll show you a few, for "Dress Down Friday."  First up, after living in my East denim jumpsuit last year, I spotted these Free People denim dungarees (originally retailing at £88.00 and snaffled by me for a fraction of the price).

Pink is the colour of Autumn/Winter 2022 and I happen to like it.  I've tired of skinny jeans and have, of late, been adopting a more grown up, relaxed fit, which I'm quite liking.  Here are my Zara jeans, teamed with a vintage belt, unstructured vintage jacket and second-hand pink crew neck jumper.

A Jaegar Breton top made from a warming heavy cotton was another recent find...

and finally, the luxe item - a pale grey, pink trimmed cashmere jumper.

I'm not sure why I look so tired in these photos.  It's been a pretty chilled out day all things considering, courtesy of a mother/daughter stroll and coffee and cake (mulled apple) at Archie's Attic run by my lovely namesake Claire, close to the Enville Estate.

Have a good weekend!

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