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).
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.
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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’.
– 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.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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.)
Friday, June 12, 2020
This morning, around seven thirty, I woke up, opened my eyes and realised that the room was spinning wildly. I thought, “You’re imagining things!”, opened my eyes again and knew that it wasn’t my imagination.
I stood up and felt really dizzy and nauseous as well. I staggered to the loo holding on to the walls on both sides of the corridor and thought I was going to be sick. I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t kneel because of my knee ops (the fake knees press on the skin from the inside and could break!) I thought, “If I sit on the toilet, where can I vomit without making a terrible mess?”
All this time I had been rather vocal about how I was feeling, using a few choice swear words, which must have got through to Julian who was still in bed. He asked me if I needed anything so I asked him to bring me the bin from the bathroom but to take out the rubbish bag first (!) He did, I sat. Nothing much happened so I went back to bed. I took my temperature (35.5) and my blood pressure (62/45!) and soon went back to sleep.
All the time I was thinking the worst, of course, COVID 19!
When I woke up it was half past eleven and I was not dizzy, nor feeling sick, nor coughing. I got up, had breakfast, had a shower, ate lunch and am okay. What was it? I don’t know but now, every time I feel strange or headachy, I will immediately begin to worry – I’m over 70 and I’m gonna die! (I know, it’s pretty inevitable anyway but I don’t want it to be too soon!)
This story reminds me of my sister, Judy, who was frightened her whole life that she had cancer. She would consult the family medical dictionary (quite an old one) or go to the library, which was handily across the road, to have a look at their more up-to-date encyclopaedia of medicine. She once told me that she had been through the entire encyclopaedia and found she had every type of cancer except any cancer of the male genitalia!
Sadly, she died of a squamous cell cancer when she was a very young 45.
Several Weeks after Some Restrictions Have Been Lifted
I am extremely lucky!
Though I like people and am happy to go to the cinema, shops, parties etc, I am happiest when I am home. Why should I go anywhere when I am retired and live in a ‘holiday resort’? This infuriates Julian who loves to travel.
If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know I won’t fly due to the flight we took in 1958 from New Jersey to somewhere in northern England. So, poor Jules has to fly on his own or, if I go with him, he has to travel by train.
Tomorrow I begin my 13th week of covid 19 lockdown. I have spent that time doing all the things I was doing before the virus appeared and am, essentially, happy to carry on doing the same for the next 13 weeks!
I take Lola out for walks unless the weather is diabolical, I do word puzzles of various sorts, I read, watch tv, carry out all my house-wifely duties (clean, tidy, wash, iron, cook, vacuum, tidy again, iron, cuddle Lola, sit up late waiting to get a Tesco grocery slot for the coming weeks, clean out cupboards etc etc), have a look at Twitter and an occasional glance at Facebook and, once in a while, think about making some sort of painting – but, so far, no inspiration has appeared so no painting, either. I am content with my life!
Just this past week, on the 3rd of June, we reached our 37th wedding anniversary. As Julian loves to say, “A life sentence in prison isn’t that long!” There have been ups and downs but we’re both people who are too stubborn to give up, which is probably just as good a reason as any for still putting up with one another.
We celebrated with an afternoon tea delivered (in a socially distant manner) by an Indian restaurant in Margate which specialises in modern, Indian inspired food. There were savouries and sweets as well as a wonderful selection of teas. We ate Indian-inspired sandwiches until we were bursting and found that the sweet tray just had to wait for some hours! I think my favourites were the little macaroons, the coconut cake and the little cream filled chocolate cups. (Is it any wonder that I was so overweight!)
With covid-19 still around and Julian’s love of mixing with groups of friends and fellow artists, I wonder if we’ll be around for our 38th!?
Nothing to do with Covid-19!
Last year, about this time, I decided I needed to go on a diet. I was very overweight (over 170 pounds/13 stone!!!*) and feeling very out-of-breath when I went for walks with Lola. I had a whole wardrobe of clothes I couldn’t wear and was fed up with looking at the large stranger in my mirror. I signed up, again, with Weight Watchers with whom I’d been pretty successful before, and had to spend some time working out their new points system.
Slowly but surely the pounds started falling off. Whether on a diet or just eating normally, I tend to find something I like and stick to it, and so for breakfast almost every day for a year I have had a small bowl of bran flakes with a bit of semi-skimmed organic milk followed by half a grapefruit, preferably red. I always finish with a nice hot cup of Nescafe instant Black Gold.
At first I had some sort of salad with a bit of bread and light butter but I found a recipe on the WW website for a bean soup. After making some minor alterations to their instructions, I came up with something so wonderful (to me) that I have eaten it almost every day since! The recipe is as follows:
1 onion, chopped; 1 x400 g tin chopped tomatoes; 1 tin 3 bean salad in water; 1 tin kidney beans; 2 Knorr vegetable stock cubes; loads of chopped garlic (I use frozen for speed and because I’m lazy); around 1/2 tsp each of hot chili powder, chili flakes and cumin.
If the 3 bean salad, which I buy from Tesco, isn’t available I use 5 bean salad in water and, because of recent shortages, had planned, if necessary, to buy a dried selection and soak overnight before cooking for however long was necessary. Fortunately, so far, I’ve been able to source the tins. Or, I could have made a bigger pan of soup by using 3 more tins of various beans (cannellini, adzuki, navy etc) and used more of everything else – after all, it’s my recipe!
To make it – chop onion and fry gently in a small amount of vegetable oil. When soft add spices, garlic and stock cubes, put a lid on the pan for a few moments and then stir everything together. (It doesn’t seem to matter if the ingredients burn a little!) Then I add the tomatoes and beans; next I add as much previously boiled water as the pan will hold and bring the whole lot to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for a while. I can’t be definite about times as I’ve eaten the soup when it’s simmered for a couple of minutes or half an hour….it doesn’t seem to matter.
When I deem it ready, I ladle out a good portion into a bowl and devour it! The remaining soup – about 4/5ths of it – goes into the fridge and I heat up one portion a day for the next few days.
With my soup I have usually had some thinly sliced toast, some light butter and, for afters, raspberries and yogurt – not that sour white stuff which I dislike but 50 grammes of full fat heavenly raspberry yogurt made by The Collective. It adds a few points to my daily total but I seldom use them all.
I’ve recently started making my toast from Tesco’s baked sourdough rye bread to which I have become greatly attached. At the beginning of my diet I was using their wholemeal bread and after a few months, their corn bread – which is totally unlike the corn bread of my childhood. This cornbread is made with wheat flour mixed with, I assume, a little flour made from maize. All of the breads made in-store by Tesco are so good!
For our evening meal I have had to branch out a bit as I cook for Julian as well. During the past year we’ve mainly had loads of fish, both white and red, seafood and chicken with at least two fresh veges and a small (for me) portion of potatoes. Normally, in non-diet times, we would have pasta at least once a week, and possibly go out to a restaurant or get fish and chips two or three times a month.
On Mondays and often another day or the week, Julian goes out to various functions (singing, art group, life-drawing) and I provide him with a ready-meal which he can shove in the oven or microwave, then I have a nice bowl of porridge or a couple of poached eggs on a bed of freshly wilted spinach and some cherry tomatoes. I looked forward to these evenings which were very useful for my diet. (During lockdown, I have tried to continue but it hasn’t been easy.)
A year has passed – a year during which I have slowly but steadily lost weight and am now around 10 stone (140 pounds). I would prefer to be at least half a stone lighter but, at the beginning of March, I gave in and ate several foods I shouldn’t have – more than my allowance of bread, the occasional piece (or 3) of chocolate, and half a lemon meringue pie! I haven’t gained any weight but certainly haven’t lost any.
Earlier this week I made the decision to (more or less) stick to my diet plan in the hopes that I can get that last seven pounds off, but I’m not being terribly strict and it may take some time. I’m wearing my ‘thin’ wardrobe, am really enjoying looking at my (clothed) body in a full-length mirror and have had loads of compliments from friends and neighbours about how the weight loss – and the clothes – suit me.
The whole point of this whole blog post was to tell you about something I discovered, as an old lady who has lost lots of weight. (I was 77 the other week which makes me pretty damn old.) When I was younger (in my 50’s) and lost a good deal of weight, my skin was still stretchy and I didn’t find loads of wrinkles. This time I have seen how my skin is no longer stretchy – just s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d. I have wrinkles where I didn’t know wrinkles could be – arms, both upper and lower; inner thighs; bottom edge of bottom. Luckily, I wasn’t planning on wearing a bikini or strapless evening gown and I feel the cold enough so that I’m unlikely to want to bare my upper arms in public, except in the hottest weather.
Let this be a warning to all my readers who are still young (under, say, 65)!
* Until I was in my mid to late 30’s I never weighed more than 8 stone (112 pounds)!
PS. I’ve mentioned several companies in my post. Because it is the shop I use, I’ve specified Tesco but there are many more which I’m sure make delicious bread. The Collective yogurt is wonderful but I’m sure you will know of others equally as good – or you might like that white, sour stuff! And, Weight Watchers is my chosen diet provider because I don’t have to go out once a week – I just refer to it and keep accounts of my weight and my food intake, online.
No one has paid me to use their name.
Coronavirus Lockdown -2
Back in the 70’s, when I was much younger – and slimmer – we lived in the High Street of West Malling. Across from us was a greengrocery/cigarette/gift shop. The shop was run by Don Robinson, his wife, and his sister, Babs. Babs lived above the shop, Don and his wife (whose name I never learned) lived a short walk away past the cricket field somewhere.
I remember going to the greengrocers one day and getting into a conversation with Don. He talked about his childhood and youth and told me something I found extraordinary. He said that, when he was a boy, he used to roller-skate down the A20.
The A20, in the 70’s, was a very busy road going from Folkestone to south London, via Maidstone, West Malling, Brands Hatch, Swanley and Eltham. Many of the lorries which had crossed the channel from France used the A20 to get to London as well as commuters and other traffic. (I believe the M20 hadn’t been finished at the time Don and I chatted. Note – In normal times the M20 is extremely busy from rush hour a.m. to rush hour p.m. and beyond!)
As I was walking Lola today I was able to cross roads wherever I wanted – which is not something I would normally do being old and slightly doddery as well as totally risk-averse. I would usually find a zebra crossing or make several detours so that I would miss out the most trafficky, and therefore the most dangerous, roads. On Osborne Rd I was passed by a jogger running down the middle of the road and I thought of Don Robinson on his roller skates on the A20.
During this time of lockdown, the roads are quiet; school yards are silent even at lunchtimes; there are places to park on our road even at school-getting-out time and the main roads into Broadstairs are car and lorry-free much of the time.
Julian has been painting in the garden today and came in to say that he had been hearing loads of bird song today. I think it’s because he has taken time to listen!
We may moan about the effects of the virus on our lives but there are some benefits!
For those of you wondering about what Julian was painting, I’m adding a photo. If you are interested in seeing his other paintings, go to http://www.julianlovegroveart.com .
I, personally, don’t really mind staying home all day, every day. I think I’m probably a natural hermit. That’s not to say that I don’t like other people – I do. In fact – unless they’ve treated me really badly – I like most people I meet, but I don’t need others to make me happy. (Except for my daughter and grand daughter, without whom I could never be happy, though I don’t need them to be physically with me). And, of course, Julian, who pretends to listen when I chat, even though I know he’s engrossed in his own thoughts.
So, social distancing, being in lockdown, is fine with me. But, I have noticed one thing about it which I will tell you about in this, my first LOCKDOWN post.
This morning I woke up early, something I rarely do – I am a natural late-sleeper. Anyway, I woke up and looked at the clock. It said 8:08. I thought, “Great, I’ve got another hour or two!” Then, I thought, “No, I’ve got a grocery delivery coming at 10. I have to be up and dressed. Oh, poo!”
I lay there, occasionally reminding myself that I HAD to get up for the delivery. My mind wandered to the glorious weather yesterday; the mini-amount I had done trying to tidy up the garden before my back had started hurting; Lola and whether she was feeling better, (she’d turned down food and treats and wandered around looking sorry for herself, before coming to me and cuddling close while I watched tv); and how many grapefruit I have in the fridge and if, with the new delivery, I’ll have enough for the 12 days till the next delivery.
Suddenly, I remembered! We haven’t eaten Sunday’s dinner yet, so it can’t be Monday! Oh, thank goodness, I can go back to sleep! But, of course, it was too late – I was awake.
How did normal people in the past remember what day it was? I suppose each day had its routine and there wasn’t such a thing as ‘being retired’. If you were old, I guess, you still followed the routine but more slowly.