What made you look at my Blog?

Every few days I have a look to see if anybody has read my recent posts and am often surprised for two reasons – the first is that not many people have visited my blog and the second is that so many people who have visited are from countries which do not have English as a mother-tongue.

My most recent non-English as a mother-tongue readers are from China . Now, I know that many Chinese people speak English because it is so important in today’s commercial world but I don’t know why they would find my posts interesting. The same applies to the UAE and Bangladesh, although those places’ views seem to have tailed off during 2021.

If you are from a non-English-speaking country and have come to my blog pages for any reason, please write and tell me what it is that interests you. I would like to write more articles that you find interesting.

Also, thanks to everyone who reads my posts. You all make taking the time and making the effort, so worthwhile!

The White Haired Woman
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Skinny girl, not so skinny old white haired woman!

When I was born, seventy eight and a half years ago, I weighed (I’ve been told) seven pounds, three ounces. I put on weight as expected and was never overweight as a child. It was the same with my sister, Judy – we were both rather slim, even skinny, girls. Jennie was tiny at birth and continued to be tiny until she was around seven when she had her tonsils and adenoids out and she became more robust – but definitely not overweight.

Candy on left, Judy with her back to camera and little Jennie on the patio at 503 McAlpin, Cincinnati, probably about 1952.

Patty, my mother, was also slim, as a girl and as a young woman – you can see that in all the photos I’ve put in posts. But, when she was in her forties, she suddenly started putting on weight and – guess what – so did I when I hit my forties!

Patty, the slim Girl Scout – early 1930’s, I suspect.

At first it was just a couple of un-noticeable pounds, which became a very noticeable stone. Even a stone (14 pounds, 6.35 kilos) didn’t make me fat, but most of that extra weight seemed to be on my lower half (to put it delicately).

I always had a rather pear-shaped body – my figure at 18 something like 32-22-34 – so, flat chested, small waisted and slightly bigger hips. My legs were short but reasonably shaped. I weighed about seven and a half stone (105 pounds) until I was in my later 30’s.

Me on the left, 18. In the middle is Jennie who was 13 and Judy at nearly 17. This picture was taken on my grandmother’s patio in 1961 when I was last in the US.

I suppose each decade after 40 brought an extra stone or so and I started worrying about my weight when I was 42 and weighed about 9.5 stones (126 pounds, 60.3 kilos).

Me, on my wedding day. Though I wore a size twelve, I definitely wasn’t fat!

I remember going to a weight-loss group with Angela, who was also overweight. It wasn’t one of the franchises, just a group of women who wanted to lose weight. We weighed ourselves, paid in a token 50p per week, sat around and chatted and, each month, the woman who had lost the most weight that month, got her month’s money back while the rest of the money paid for the coffee we had drunk that month.

A few years went by and I started to go to Weight Watchers in the local village hall. I probably was about 10 stone then and wore size 14 (UK) which was a big size for me, who had worn size 8 or 10 only a decade earlier.

Me, standing at the spot where two rivers(!) meet in Betws-y-coed, on holiday in 1985. Here, my upper arms are looking a little chubby and the trousers show off my larger hips….still not fat, though!

So, there I was, a rather sedentary 40+, weighing around 10 stone. I went to weight-loss groups from time-to-time, signed up to a gym, paid out a lot of money to lie on a table and let the table do the moving (what a waste of money that was!) and – meanwhile, carried on eating my standard diet.

Looking back, I can see why I started putting on the weight. When I was teaching at St. Katherine’s I always had a school dinner – the dinner ladies were wonderful cooks! But, when I started being a supply teacher, I would go home and make myself a fried cheese sandwich with butter every lunchtime, if I was working at a school not too far from home. Oh, those fried cheese sandwiches! Heavenly!

Most days, on my way home from school, I would stop at Safeways and buy a fresh, unsliced white loaf and, when I got home, slice a few thick wedges of bread and butter them, then take them into the lounge with a cup of tea and sit and watch The Wonder Years. Or, maybe, I’d substitute the bread for two or three donuts! Then, I’d make dinner in the evening for Julian and me. I can’t remember what we might have had but there would have been meat, potatoes and veggies or pasta with a meaty sauce.

When we opened our shop in 1997 I weighed around 13 stone! (182 lbs, 82.5 kilos). But the year 2000 came along and I knew that I was too heavy and unhealthy so I decided to do something about it for real. I wish I could remember what I ate during that time….I successfully lost 3.5 stone. I did get up early every morning and walk to Manor Park, up the fields and round the lake then back home to shower and dress for the day. (In case you are asking yourself why I didn’t ‘run’ or jog, there is no way I could ‘run’ anywhere. I had never been a runner – I was always the last one across the playground, with my short legs, during skinny childhood.)

I kept that weight off for about a year but started eating whatever I wanted again, and also discovered the delights of dry white wine! Unlike many in my family, I was more or less tee-total till I was in my 50’s, then would often have a small glass of white wine with my dinner in the evening.

For some reason I was able to keep my alcohol intake on the low side while other members of my family partook of rather more – Patty always told us that everyone drank loads in the 1940’s, which may, of course, have been true. (Patty seemed to be a part-time alcoholic – she could go for weeks with only one or two drinks a day then would “fall off the wagon” and binge-drink until she was too ill or till no one would go out to get her booze for her. She really never stopped drinking until she had to live in a care home, where she also had to give up smoking! She was 90 when she had to give up cigarettes and alcohol!)

Smoking!
Drinking alcohol.

In my later 50’s and early 60’s, a group of our friends organised walks of 3 to 5 miles. We would meet at a pre-arranged car park somewhere not too far, then would do a circular walk which would bring us back to the car-park which almost always was a pub car park or, at least, very near a pub that served Sunday meals. I think the walks helped me keep to a reasonable weight, though the pub lunches were usually fairly high in calories.

Walking!
Pub lunch!

At that time, too, Julian and I were ‘standing’ at various antique fairs around the country. Many week-ends would find us travelling in Julian’s van – or even a larger hired van – to such places as the NEC, Newark, or as far as Lancashire. We stayed in bed-and-breakfasts or cheapish hotels but rarely covered our expenses with sales – we were, though, always optimistic! During those years I was Julian’s helper when we needed to carry Georgian secrétaire bookcases or Victorian chests-of-drawers. I must have used quite a few calories and blame all that carrying for my later knee problems!

Couldn’t find a photo of 2 people carrying a big piece of furniture so here are 2 people carrying things!

In 2014, after I had my knees replaced, I decided that I had to lose weight and got down to around 10 stone but it wasn’t too long before my weight shot back up! I have always known that eating what I love wasn’t good for keeping the weight off but couldn’t seem to help myself….if there was a choice of puddings at Angela’s Christmas dinner, I would have the one I preferred first, then try some of the others. If there was a packet of biscuits (cookies), I would have a couple. If I made pasta, I would have a good big helping and sprinkle the lot with cheese.

In April of 2019 I decided to try again. I was over 13.5 stone – my heaviest ever – so joined online Weight Watchers and was very ‘good’. From then until Christmas that year I lost about 3 stone and was very pleased with myself. That Christmas we were joined by my sister, Jennie, and Veronica and her husband plus a couple of friends for dinner.

Jennie now realises that she wasn’t feeling very well but didn’t say anything. She couldn’t really taste the food she was helping to cook, but carried on, as there were so many of us. On Boxing Day she felt worse and spent the day lazing about but not letting on she wasn’t well. On the next day, she somehow drove back to London as planned and went to bed for a day or two.

Meanwhile, in Broadstairs, I started coughing – a dry cough, at first without any other symptoms , which stayed with me for about four weeks – and incredible fatigue. Every other day or so I would wake up and think I was feeling much better, then would begin to feel bad again.

Covid rearing it’s ugly head!

In the February, news was coming from China, of a really horrible ‘flu, and it sounded like Jennie and I had had mild cases of ‘covid 19’. By the time antibody tests were available at a fairly low price, six or so months had gone by and my self-administered test was negative so I don’t suppose we’ll ever know if it was covid-19 or something very similar.

All this time, I was eating normally again and had joined the millions of others, adding a ‘covid-stone’. So, April 2021, I resumed my weight loss journey, yet again. Now it is nearly November and I’ve lost the covid-stone plus a little. I seem to have reached a plateau and for weeks my weight has hovered around 10 stone 6.5 lbs.

That’s not the weight I was aiming for but it means that I can wear loads of clothes I hadn’t been able to squeeze into and that makes me quite pleased! I am not dieting but am being ever so careful. If one day I eat more than I should, the next day I eat less. I plan to start the dieting again but am enjoying the occasional bowl of ice cream or slice of pizza.

Mmmmmmm – pizza!

But – here’s the thing about losing weight at my age. Ten or fifteen years ago, I was lucky that my skin was still quite ‘elastic’ and my muscles didn’t make my skin sag, now I’ve got saggy everything – bosoms, tummy, arms, legs – even my face has started to sag a bit but I find that if I smile 😊, most of the face-sag goes away. So if you see me walking down the street smiling, you know why! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Big smile!

,

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Risk-Averse? Who, Me? Yes, me!

I think of myself as a ‘risk averse’ old lady. I don’t like travelling in cars, planes, buses, trains – and certainly not on the back of a motorbike or scooter, with or without a helmet. Maybe it’s because my mother, Patty, was ‘a nervous wreck’ most of her life and passed it on to me. Certainly in my youth she tried, not always successfully, to keep her daughters from doing something that could possibly backfire and harm them.

Now, I will admit to riding on the back of a motor scooter in the late 50’s or early 60’s without a helmet (it was legal then), even when the weather was poor and the roads slippery. When it looked like I might be riding bare-headed more often, I did buy a helmet but it was second-hand and who knows how effective it would have been if we had ever had an accident? My scooter-driving friend, Dennis – a photographer – was a reasonably careful driver, I guess, and we never had the opportunity to find out about the efficacy of my second-hand helmet. The last I remember of seeing and talking to Dennis, he had his heart’s desire – a little, old Morgan car – and was in the process of photographing a car collection belonging to some Lord or other. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to him.

Not me and not Dennis (and probably not the 1960’s!

Back to Patty for a moment. When Judy and I were 5 and 3 (I’m the older), we both had bikes which we used to ride on the sidewalk up and down Sunset Avenue where we lived and, daringly, around the corner into what I seem to remember is called Maple Avenue – where, incidentally, my first grade teacher, Miss Meyers, lived. But, I was still only in Kindergarten when the following happened and I don’t want to get ahead of myself!

Not Judy on a bike in late 1940’s!

Judy was riding her bike. She went off down the street and around the corner – and out into the main road (Maple Avenue) traffic. Someone snitched to Patty. Judy had her bike taken away and so did I! They were taken away for ever and we were never allowed bikes again. I obviously still hold a grudge! I didn’t go in the road and nearly get hit by a truck!

(Years later we found our uncle’s bike in Ethel’s cellar and rode it around the neighbourhood when Patty wasn’t looking. And, even later on, I used to visit my friend, Judy Weed, and she and I would take turns riding her bike down a hill. It was great fun until, one time, the handle bars suddenly came loose and I lost control, ruining my brand new pair of stripey pedal-pushers.😩)

Not me but a generic photo of someone riding a bike and, maybe, coming off it!

Elsewhere I have written about the (to me) horrific flight we made to England in 1958 – the cause of my non-flying-forever-after-life. Except, feeling exceedingly guilty that Julian could never go on holiday abroad because I wouldn’t fly, one day in the late days of the 20th century, I suddenly said, if you want to go to Italy for a holiday, I will fly!

We decided the destination would be Florence and booked two return flights via Ryan Air to Florence. We drove to Stansted and did all the things one does before getting on a (quite small) plane. I am not a believer but I prayed the whole way there clutching my St Christopher medal!

The rooftops of Florentine houses and the Duomo in Florence.

We had a lovely time in Florence, stood in queues for hours to visit the Uffizi, walked across the famous Ponte Vecchio, looking at all the (enormously expensive!) wares in the shops, spent a day in the Boboli Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace, enjoying the views; went to gorgeous Sienna and sat in the Piazza del Campo; and spent our last day in Pisa, where the airport is. Somewhere I have a photo of Julian holding up the Leaning Tower (just like every other tourist who visits Pisa.)

Ponte Vecchio
Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We ended our stay in Italy at the airport which is also the train station. Though we had survived the flight to Italy, I wasn’t so sure about the return journey, especially when I found out that there are trains going from Pisa that I could take towards home! I had my credit card and was very tempted but……thwarted by the fact that the trains that day were all on strike! The only thing that made that flight interesting is that a relatively unknown British politician, of whom I had actually heard, called Boris Johnson, was on the same flight. I figured that we would be unlikely to crash with someone important on board —- then thought of all the famous people who had gone down with airplanes!

Not either of the planes we flew on!

I prayed all the way back!

The first time I saw Julian, he was onstage in an amateur production by the West Wickham Operatic Society of, I think, La Périchole by Offenbach at the Churchill Theatre. A friend was playing violin in the orchestra and gave me some tickets to see it, so I drove Veronica and her best Vicki to Bromley to see it. In the chorus was a young Julian – whom I would love to say I saw and fell head-over-heels in love with, but sadly I didn’t notice him at all!

Not the West Wickham Operatic Society!

I tell you this because I hated the drive (possibly 20 minutes) because it was on the motorway and it was in the dark. I have never got over my dislike of motorways – the cars around you are going too fast – nor of driving in the dark.

On the way back, as we approached the turn-off for West Malling, I was trying to remember the rules about the countdown markers posting the way off the motorway. I remembered that there should be signs of three slanted lines, then two, then one…..but I couldn’t remember how much space came after the one slanted line before I should move left….and went to my left too soon! Nothing bad happened to us, no one saw me and reported my mistake, but, obviously, I’ve never forgotten it!

A few days or weeks later, Julian walked in to the wine bar (as mentioned in a previous post) and I knew he was Mr Right (and he felt the same about me – except that I was Miss Right.) His aunt, Jackie, was the chef at that time and, when I found out who Julian was and that she was his aunt, I went into the kitchen to do some snooping. When she said he lived in Bromley, I was worried! How was I going to see him if he lived so far (20 mins up motorway!) but she assured me that Julian loved driving and would be happy to drive to West Malling whenever we wanted to meet.

It was true – and he still loves driving. I, on the other hand, have happily given up driving and intensely dislike going even a short distance in the car – even as a passenger, though I do have to get places from time to time and then will sit nervously in the passenger seat. This year I have missed out on a trip to Norfolk, one to Cornwall and a third to north Wales but I don’t mind. If Julian’s away, I don’t have to cook – I happily make do with salads, bowls of porridge, or eggs on toast.

I put my eggs on the toast!

And now for trains. As with all other means of mass transport, sometimes I get very nervous when I’m travelling on a train. I can clearly remember a train I was on one evening which was going from Victoria to West Malling. As the train was zooming along between Bromley and Swanley, it seemed to me to be going much more quickly than normal and I started worrying that the train, somehow, was not being driven but was ‘a runaway’! When it stopped at Swanley some few minutes after I began to panic, I decided to get off the train and phone Julian to come and get me.

I walked out of the station, along the station road, found my way onto the main street but not one phone box did I find! (This was in the days before many people had mobile phones – and I certainly didn’t). I walked further and further and finally found a phone box. I rang Julian who, thankfully was at home, and explained my predicament. I don’t think he was at all sympathetic and by this time it was beginning to get dark and cold and I was beginning to realise what a ninny I had been. Luckily, Julian does like driving so he came and picked me up and I was so pleased!

I have often felt this panic when travelling on a train but seldom when on a coach – but, a few years ago I took a coach from Broadstairs to London and sat behind the driver. (Why there? I had forgotten my glasses and hoped that Julian could catch up with the coach so he could give me them when we stopped, but that didn’t work – so I bought some when I got to London).

Not the coach I was on!

Anyway. As we were speeding along the road I couldn’t sit and read so I looked out the window at the side and ahead, out of the windscreen. I realised that the driver wasn’t actually watching the road the whole time but was looking down and to the right….I think he was reading texts or maybe watching something on a screen – or maybe neither of those things but he had some sort of tic that made him do that. Whatever, I was doing the old praying thing for an hour or so before we reached some part of London where the traffic kept us going at a snail’s pace.

To continue with this aversion to risk I will name a few more things I haven’t done, knowing how nervous I would be.

I was invited to fly in a hot-air balloon – no way!

I was invited on an all expenses trip to Las Vegas when my daughter and her husband went back to celebrate their first 10 happy years. Nope!

And, more recently, I missed out on the trip to Brands Hatch to watch Julian speed round the track which was a present to him for his 70th. I just couldn’t face the journey there and back plus the worry of watching speed-demon Jules in a fast car!

On the other hand, even in my 70’s I have travelled long distance on trains and have driven back and forth to places 50 or so miles away (but never on motorways). When I was still in my youth, Julian used to insist on driving us to places like Northumberland and Cornwall for holidays and I did visit several caves (Wookey Hole, Blue John) without fainting at the thought of tonnes of earth and rock being overhead!

But, of course, I have been a smoker (but not for the past 40 or so years), a drinker (but surprisingly for members of my family, very moderately) and an eater of red meat and butter, cream, sugar, salt white bread and e-numbers and have reached a rather healthy 78, with most of my own teeth, no high blood pressure and at a reasonable weight.

I must have been doing something right! (Or maybe it’s just luck.😁)

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Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles from the early 20th century

A partly put-together jigsaw made in the early part of the 20th century.

When I moved to the seaside I gave up selling most antiques but I didn’t give up entirely – I started a website (now closed) selling antique and vintage games and wooden jigsaw puzzles. There were a few other websites selling games but, as far as I know, there were no others selling jigsaws, possibly because you really needed to know if all the pieces were there and the only way to know, for sure, was to put them together. I had plenty of time, being retired. I also had plenty of help as Julian, also retired, is very good at seeing whether pieces will fit together (and I’ve got better with time and practice.)

In the very early part of the 21st century I could buy a whole box full of old jigsaws (sight unseen, of course) for very little money. Going to auctions meant I could buy, say, 25 jigsaws for £100 – £4 each! Some of the puzzles would be only half there, some would be very uninteresting, but some would be incredible! I have photos of some of those I sold in the years up to 2014 when I gave up which I would like to share. They were sold, long ago and I don’t know who I sold them to – I hope they don’t mind my using the photos!

I think my favourite one that I sold is this one:

One of the first and most amusing – came in an anonymous box with no picture or title. Like many jigsaws of the time, this one has pieces that aren’t interlocking.
Another one that I had, early on in my “jigsaw career.” It’s easy to see the pieces in this photo and you can see that the pieces are very unlike most puzzles today.
Another of my early and favourite jigsaws. Full of beautiful items, including the gorgeous table cloth, the glasses and luscious fruits. I think there was only one piece of the large puzzle missing.
Another, very similar, puzzle but with two or three pieces missing.
A gorgeous puzzle that I loved so much I had the photo used on my business cards. Such a shame about that one small piece missing!
And now for something completely different! As with most of the puzzles I bought, this one was completely anonymous. Luckily, it was completely complete, too!
I believe this ‘elephant’ puzzle shows Hannibal transporting his elephants across the Rhone. What a wonderful surprise this anonymous puzzle was!
Another jigsaw of historical events but there was no clue on the box.
The first of two which I think were from adverts about travel.
I just love this jigsaw! The costumes and poses scream ‘30’s” to me. I can just imagine going on a cruise in those far-off days!
This is one I kept. It is obvious to me that the papers for the picture were from a Japanese print. This is one I take out and put together, often.
I bought this one privately, thinking I might start a collection of Japanese print puzzles. This photo is a bit blurry, I’m afraid. I’m not so sure this was a Japanese print, but it could have been.
One more in the oriental style.
Another picture of ‘foreigners! This jigsaw is still upstairs in a rather dilapidated box – but, one with a makers’ label. It was produced by Delta puzzles.

Last week I saw a jigsaw on-line in an auction. It arrived this morning. Here is a photo of the container it is in.

Very little clue here as to the size of the bag and its contents! But, I do have a photo, kindly included by the previous owners.
A photo of the photo. I think I’ll keep this one to do during the Christmas period when we’ll have some time to spare. I’ll update you when we’ve done it!

I hope you will agree with me how interesting and unusual older, wooden jigsaws can be. For more information and a lot more photos, have a look at the site thejigasaurus.com – an interesting and helpful website, exclusively about all things jigsaw! 🤪

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The Uselessness of Stuff – Part 3

I’ll tell you where my collecting ‘stuff’ really started, before I finish telling you about the stuff I have and how useless it really is (except for that platter I showed you last time, which has been very handy on occasion!)

In 1994, Julian’s first wife’s mother died and he was the executor of her estate. She lived in a 1930’s house in outer London which was full of ‘stuff’, much of it useful to Mary (first m-in-law) but really outdated without being antique or even vintage. But, some of it was antique. There was a lovely walnut table which was left to her brother along with a gorgeous secretaire-bookcase and a nice chest of drawers and there were a collection of gorgeous Chinese mother-of-pearl gaming counters, a few bits of china, some good boxes, some cutlery and a few paintings, which went to auction. Mainly, though, there were things like some kitchen utensils which could be described as vintage, but of no value along with old reels of cotton, large wardrobes of uncertain vintage, dining table and chairs from the 40’s which all went to house clearance people.

That year I was working as a supply teacher so had time to go to Mary’s house and see to the sorting, tidying, packing, etc that needed to be done. It was a job that I really enjoyed, despite the sad circumstances of Mary’s death.

Some months later, when life had returned to normal, I was thinking about how I had enjoyed finding things I knew nothing about (especially the mother-of-pearl counters which were sold for a quite substantial sum) and realised that my daughter and her daughter wouldn’t find anything very interesting if they had to do the same job when I died. That was my reason for starting to build such a huge store of ‘stuff’.

So, now to the other ‘stuff’….

I have a large shoebox full of ‘scraps’. They were mostly made in the late 19th century by the firm of Raphael Tuck, who had come to Britain from Germany in the second half of the 19th century. His firm also made greetings cards, postcards, cardboard toys, jigsaw puzzles and little books for children, all of very good quality. Though I still search them out – and have sold some in the distant past – I really don’t know what to do with them! Don’t tell me to get rid of them because I really like them, even if they are useless.

I also have a shoe box full of greetings cards (mainly antique), several shoe boxes full of postcards (mainly late 19th/early 20th century) including half a box of Tuck postcards, a small selection of advertising cards, and another of ‘song’ cards, ten or fifteen boxed sets of puzzle cubes, a few old and interesting games, shelves full of old wooden jigsaw puzzles, a 1930’s dolls house with lots of furniture and several box files full of ‘interesting’ papers. Sitting here, I’m sure I’ve forgotten other stuff but you get my gist…..many things that may once have been very useful, are in my possession and are no longer useful. But I like them!

So, folks, I guess these things do have a use (besides something to write about.) Their use is to tell part of my story to my descendants when I’m no longer around – which is, in fact, the purpose of all my posts!

A very pretty set of puzzle blocks.
The box of old greetings cards.
Some of the scraps which I’ve taken out of the box-full.
Several of the advertising cards.
Some of the many postcards.

And here is a selection of things made from wood that I have collected over the years. Some were bought to sell but weren’t, others I couldn’t bear to part with.

Left to right: A painted box, a Chinese table snuff, a mini chest of drawers, a cup-and-ball game, a spinning top (at back), a tiny wooden container in 3 parts, and a mystery item which I will tell you about below.
This strange object was used by a teacher to remind her class to be quiet. It was called ‘a mistress‘s clicker’. (None of my classes would ever have been able to hear the very muted sound it makes!)

Last, but never least, wooden jigsaw puzzles. The best I ever bought were in anonymous cardboard boxes and came without a picture of the finished puzzle – the kind I still love today.

This old ‘butter’ box has a 30’s puzzle in it, possibly a Victory puzzle, which has pieces that interlock – as most do today.
This came in another anonymous box. You will see that the face of a child is separate from the other pieces, many of which are interlocking. The finished puzzle is below.
A jigsaw made from an old Pears’Soap advert (symbol in right bottom corner tells me this). It is missing two pieces but they don’t really make much difference. For a longer post about old wooden jigsaws, see my archived post, “Confession: I was a push-fit, colour-cut, wooden jigsaw virgin.” which I posted in 2017.

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My next post will be one that I wrote some time ago but, for some reason did not publish at the time, called “The strange things we learned about England when we came here in 1958”

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The Uselessness of Stuff Part Two

As well as all the sewing stuff (of which you have seen a very small sample), I collected buttons – one of only three things that I was/am really interested in. (The others are linens and wooden jigsaw puzzles/block puzzles).

Cut steel buttons. The big one is quite old and damaged by rust.

Before zips, elastic and velcro, buttons were far more important. Baby clothes often had little tiny mother-of-pearl buttons, mourning clothes were fastened by jet buttons, clothes could be made much more interesting looking with glass or metal buttons. Shoes and boots were often held on the foot by buttons and collars were fastened to shirts with special buttons called studs.

Loads of buttons used on every day clothes were made in the UK but glass buttons were often imported from countries like the former Czechoslovakia (as were glass beads) and beautiful enamelled buttons were imported from France. In the thirties and fifties of the 20th century, buttons were often made in fun shapes in the new and useful material of ‘plastic’. Also made in plastic were millions or even trillions of really boring buttons of which I have had my fair share.

An old tin crammed full with many of my mother-of-pearl buttons.
Some of the many mother-of-pearl buttons I have.
Some of my favourite buttons – enamel at the top, crochet in the middle and a small button made of stone? And painted with gold and silver marks.

I found very quickly that I wasn’t the only person interested in buttons, as I could seldom find any at auction, except very run of the mill, modern buttons, but every once in a while I would come across a cache of buttons that was very exciting (to me)!

Moulded black glass buttons decorated with gold or silver paints.
A selection of “Glow Bubbles”
Glass buttons of various sorts.

My most memorable ‘find’ was in a small town we stopped in on our way home from a holiday. We saw a charity shop while we were walking around the town, went in and found an entire cake-sized tin of buttons for 50p! I still have some of those buttons, but can’t think of how to display my favourites so they all sit in bags in a cupboard.

On the right, a very beautiful and quite large carved mother of pearl button with a “bird cage” back.
Bird cage back, which has four holes in brass which has been glued to the back of the button.

Linens were really where I started. I knew absolutely nothing about sheets, table cloths, doilies, coasters except for their obvious uses but I quickly saw that some of the better quality linens had been hand-embroidered with beautiful cut-work, and counted thread work.

Tea-table cloth (unironed!) with lovely crocheted border.

It is a sad fact that many, if not most, of the linens one buys from auction are stained with either food residue or rust. I spent a small fortune finding products I could remove old stains with an, once clean, I ironed them – a job I particularly dislike in the normal run of things.

One time I bought a lot containing many rolls of hand-made lace of different widths. The work was so gorgeous that I was able to sell most of them within a couple of weeks.

One of the many doilies I still have (but don’t use!)
Some pretty, little hankies that I still have.

Doilies and antimacassars are another item that turned up in their dozens as well as huckabuck towels, pocket handkerchiefs, and the occasional piece of clothing.

Okay – I’ve turned this into a lesson on linens and I didn’t mean to so –

Once my shop had been open for about 6 months a gentleman called Des B. turned up. He was, I suppose, a ‘runner’ – someone who goes to sales and picks up pieces at a reasonable price then sells it on to other dealers, still at a good enough price that she can make a profit. Des knew more about ceramics than I could ever hope to know and thus began some years of buying – and learning – from, him. I learned the difference between ‘china’, porcelain, and earthenware. I learned about the earlier English ceramic factories such as Caughley, and the more famous, Worcester, Chamberlain and Davenport. The strange thing is that I didn’t become very interested in ceramics. During the early years of the 21st century, people went in for minimalism and stopped buying antique plates, thus I am still the proud owner of six full crates of antique and vintage plates (and other bits and pieces of ‘china’.

A Minton blue and white platter I kept because it had a little damage on the rim.

In the next part, I’ll discuss the wooden jigsaw puzzles and antique and vintage games, as well as the large box of ‘scraps’, many post cards, and other pieces of paper ephemera that I have had or still have.

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Not a blog post, a correction!

I really should have proof-read my post more carefully. I’ve found one or two places I wish I hadn’t used the words I used but, that’s not so terrible. One word I used that upsets me, though, is the word ‘lead’, in the 6th paragraph, final sentence.

Yes, it sounds like what I meant, but it doesn’t mean the same. Lead, has two pronunciations which sound either like led or leed in the English language. Lead, pronounced led, is a noun which means a grey metal which used to be used in water pipes etc whereas lead, pronounced leed, is a verb, the past tense of which is led, which is what I meant to, should have used! Of course the second lead can also be a noun describing an article used to take an animal with you…..Lola has a red lead.

Who says English is easy!

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The Uselessness of Stuff Part One

When I was young, I felt that it would be ‘a good thing’ to collect something. I couldn’t think of anything I was really interested in so I started picking up bits of rock in the back garden. Looking back, I think that most of them were the same kind of rock – mainly with bits of silica which was shiny, and therefore, interesting. From that last sentence you can deduce that I didn’t get hooked enough on rocks to study them – and where those little stones are now, I have no idea.

Then, I collected pictures of movie stars. Every magazine I bought had adverts for photos of the most important and glamorous stars of the time (this was the mid 1950’s when I would have been between 13 and 15). I had a huge collection of black and white photos of movie stars but, once I had them, they didn’t really hold much interest. I imagine that they were stored in my grandmother’s basement in the pile of other stuff we had to leave behind when we moved to London. The stuff was there, three years later, when we went to visit but, instead of only staying in England for 2 or 3 years, our move was permanent and I never went back after that visit, not even for a holiday. After my grandmother died and her house was sold, I imagine that all my carefully collected dolls, soft toys, and movie star photos as well as Judy’s and Jennie’s toys, ended up in the rubbish.

Looking back at my later teen years, I can’t remember collecting anything. Boys were much more important during those years!

Then, in my 20’s, I had Veronica to look after, a job to find, teacher training to concentrate on and in my 30’s finding a teaching job and finding out how difficult being a working mother was, plus not earning a fortune, stopped me from even thinking about collecting stuff.

Then, in my 50’s I discovered old sewing implements – silk winders, wool winders, thimbles, scissors, tatting shuttles etc. It was around this time that Julian went off to Wales every few months to train to be an upholsterer and when he had finished training, he decided to set up shop as a furniture restorer and upholsterer. We shared the premises we found in West Malling High Street, and I opened an antiques and collectables business in my half of the shop.

The building Julian and I shared – a few years earlier than we were there!

We had a great time deciding how to display our items, finding fittings, putting up wall paper and laying down carpets. Julian had one side with a large window looking in at his work in progress and I had the other side where I offered small and large items for sale. That lead to our going to auctions – what a joy!

My first auctions were in the old market in Maidstone. Every Thursday morning there would be a huge number of people looking at an even bigger number of things. On one side were the ‘smalls’, (which I was interested in) and on the other the furniture, where Julian hoped to find a chair or sofa he could reupholster and sell. I bought so many interesting items at those auctions!

There was a huge cardboard box full of wonderful table cloths, doilies etc, mostly from the 1930’s and ‘50’s and, in the bottom was a postcard. It was from a Mr Carley to his family from a holiday visit to, I seem to recall, Bournemouth. One of our friends at the time was called Mike Carley so I showed it to him later. It turned out to be from his uncle to some distant cousins!

Another buy was a blue glass dish with Lalique engraved in tiny letters on the rim underneath. Of course I had heard of Lalique but I had never seen a piece nor even looked up the name. Only one other person at the auction was bidding for it which came with an orange piece of Scottish glass. We went quite high (for me, in those days) and, with commissions, the two pieces of glass cost me £90. I thought I had made a killing – particularly when the other bidder came and asked me to sell her the blue dish. I believed that it was a Lalique and that I would make a good deal more than I paid, so refused. Several weeks later, I offered the dish for sale at an antiques fair. A young man (dealer, I think) came up to me and quietly told me that the dish was definitely not by Lalique and was nowhere near as valuable as the price I was asking. I should have done my homework, ladies and gentlemen, because the ‘signature’ on the bottom of the dish was nothing like the signature on Lalique’s work. I still have that little dish 🙂 and sometimes I take it out of the cupboard, look at it, and blush!

A lovely wooden necessaire which holds needles, cottons, thimble etc. I believe it was made in Germany around the middle to end of the 19th century. I still have it but daren’t use it as, in the rough and tumble of today, the paint could flake or rub off.
A small selection of sewing/costume items which I have kept in a box. At the top is a little silver pencil holder with a tiny pencil in it. The round orange item is a ceramic dress or hat decoration which can be sewn onto the garment. In the bottom left is another garment decoration made from a peacock feather.

Next time, I’ll add some further photos of stuff and tell you about my drawers full of old linens and my crates full of old plates and ask the question: what can I do with all this stuff?

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More about my sister, Judy

Those of you who have been reading my blog posts for some time will remember that my sister, Judy, died when she was a couple of days under 46. What I haven’t told you, I think, is that Judy lived in the US for about ten years after having a nervous break-down.

At first, she lived in Carmel with our father and his second family, then went back to Zanesville to stay with our uncle’s family. During the first year she was away, my mother flew out to visit the family, too. Patty (my mum) and Judy, along with Ethel, Patty’s very elderly mother, went sailing on the Ohio River – or maybe the Muskingum – I’m not sure and wasn’t given loads of details. The upshot of this bit of the story is that, on the boat, Judy met a much older man who was called Charley – and was married to him by the captain of the boat.

Some months later, Judy and Patty came back to England but Judy could not forget Charley who often wrote to her, asking her to come back. Even though she was around 35 and he was about 80, she had actually fallen in love with him, so she said farewell to us all and went back to Charley and they married (for real) and lived together for the next nine years or thereabouts.

I’ve told you this so that I can publish a short piece of writing that I found recently which Judy wrote a few months after Charley died. I’m sure you will find it as beautiful as I do.

“When Charley died, we (a nurse from the hospice and myself) had been by his bed for four hours. I’d phoned the hospice when I couldn’t wake him and the nurse came and examined him and told me that his ‘system was closing down’. She offered to take him to the hospice but I told her that he wanted to die at home. We sat there. I had a glass of Southern Comfort. Charley’s favourite. A lot of times we thought he had died because there was a long time between breaths. We looked at each other and suddenly he would breathe again. Then he stopped breathing for good and we didn’t look at each other because we knew. Then she took out her stethoscope etc. He was dead. A few minutes later I said, “Are you sure he’s dead?” because I couldn’t believe it. She examined him again and said, “Yes”. She asked me if I wanted to be alone with him and I said I would because I thought that was the right thing to say. I was still lying next to him with my arms around him. She went downstairs and I wondered what I was supposed to do in our last moments together. I kissed him on the lips. I said “Good-bye, Charley.” It didn’t seem to mean anything.

A few weeks later I took Dagwood (a cat given to Charley and me for a wedding present) to the vet. She had to be put to sleep because of a neurological problem. I held her in my arms, too, while she died. I cried. I thought of Charley and the way he called her ‘that damn cat’ even though I had come across him from time to time, making a secret fuss of her. I thought of Charley up in heaven (which I don’t believe in) saying, “How did that damn cat get here?”, and I laughed. It was the first time I had really cried and really laughed. I felt guilty that the tears and laughter were for Dagwood – but I guess they were really for Charley.”

(The piece of writing above is as she wrote it, aside from the occasional comma.)

Captain Judy on Charley’s boat
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