Archive for the ‘Homespun philosophy’ Category

Not following the crowd…

April 9, 2017

I’m just back from a delightful mini-break in Cornwall, with my second darling daughter. It was only a couple of days, but we had a lovely time and great weather. We walked a lot, and explored a few old haunts and new-to-her corners. On the way back, we stopped at Cotehele House, a gem of a medieval manor house in a stunning setting that I’m well-familiar with, having grown up very close by until my early teens. It was pleasantly uncrowded and relaxed, despite the glorious sunshine. When the time came to leave, I took the little back roads up to cross the river at Gunnislake, to the north…

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Cotehele House

We passed mile after mile of glorious green hedgebank, splashed with primroses, violets,  campions and the odd late daffodil, nodding drowsily in the sunshine. These are mostly single-track roads, with passing places, but there are also plenty of wide verges where it would be perfectly safe to park out of the farmers’ way and spread your picnic cloth, as we used to back in the Dark Ages when I grew up there. Kites and buzzards wheeled lazily overhead, spooking the well-fed pigeons, and cock-pheasants wandered along the roadside, gazing at the van in mild perplexity. Despite it being school holidays for most of the country, we hardly saw another car, until we reached the main road.

Then – mayhem! Almost the first thing we passed was a roadside hostelry, with a well-packed car park and a long queue to get into it, reducing the road to a single track at a most-inconvenient point. Grizzling children who’d clearly spent hours cooped up in a car, and mightily-stressed adults obviously on the verge of tearing their hair out. Yet within a couple of hundred yards, there’s all the lovely countryside you could wish for. I know it doesn’t come equipped with loos and hygienic hand-driers, but hedges take no harm for a bit of extra watering, and taking your own picnic means that your children do get to eat what they like, and your money gets saved for more worthwhile purposes than yet more chips for lunch. A wet flannel in a plastic bag keeps hands just as clean as a well-used public tap. Just remember to respect the country code; clear up after yourselves, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints, as the saying goes.

It’s something we often notice here too, living in a holiday area. The main roads are jam-packed, sometimes gridlocked, in summer, the “attractions”, well-known beaches and eateries full to bursting and not much fun at all. But stray a little off the beaten track, and you can walk for miles in some of the loveliest countryside these islands have to offer, liberally sprinkled with ancient monuments, and hardly see another soul. Visit a beach that doesn’t have an ice-cream kiosk, equip your kids with I-Spy books, buckets, spades and shrimping nets, or teach them to skim stones, and enjoy some space and peace. (Possibly even without anyone whining that they haven’t got a mobile signal.) Go to a stately home, rather than an over-priced adventure park with hour-long queues; they’ll have play areas, quizzes, and farm animals, and quite probably proper food at not-unreasonable prices rather than burgers, fries and nachos. Almost certainly there’ll be somewhere congenial to eat your picnic, too,  and plenty of space to let off steam.

I’m the first to look at Tr1p Adv1sor before going anywhere new, to get an idea of the area & what’s available locally. But I also look at physical maps, and “drive” around a bit on Google Maps, to recce likely stops and shops. Following the herd and sticking to the main roads means safety and convenience, but also crowds, queues, stress and noise. Straying a little off the beaten track often leads to delightful surprises and unsuspected loveliness…

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Primroses & violets in a Cornish hedge-bank…

 

Why my Mum doesn’t cook…

January 22, 2017

It has always been a puzzle to me, how much my lovely, intelligent, adaptable & creative mother hates cooking… but I’m beginning to understand now. The other day, she casually mentioned that until she married my father, back in the immediate post-war years and aged just 21, she had never cooked or prepared a meal in her life. On the first morning of their married life, she woke up in a blind panic because she had no idea what to do about breakfast – not a clue. She had never even fried an egg.

I was somewhat amazed at this revelation; she grew up in a multi-generational household, as her mother died soon after she was born and her father was away on the North-West frontier most of the time, and re-married before too long. So she was raised mostly by her grandmother, who had grand ambitions for her; her grandfather was Chief Engineer at the local paper mill, and her aunt and uncle both had good clerical jobs, so by the standards of the time, they were solid middle-class citizens. Old photographs show a lovely dimpled child who was clearly everyone’s pet, and she went on to grammar school, where she excelled at music in particular. But sadly she failed the Matriculation, by just one point (in art, of all things) so dreams of university had to be shelved. She spent some time pursuing her musical talents, but by that time she had met my father, curate at a local church, and was sternly told that she could either sing OR marry. Luckily for us, she chose to marry…

But no-one ever taught her how to cook. It may well have been that my great-grandmother was living a little in the past, and thought that cooking should be something that cooks did. It’s certainly true that for most of my mother’s teenage years, rationing made ingredients hard to come by, and even harder to stretch, and as they lived in a town, they didn’t have access to the large & productive rural garden that my other set of grandparents had, or the time to work it; running a paper mill in wartime was a dawn-to-dusk, and sometimes beyond, commitment. My great-grandmother pooled the family’s rations to keep them all fed, but discouraged any “help” that might lead to wastage. Thus she failed to pass on the basic skills that would have kept my mother afloat when she suddenly had to feed two people, and sometimes entertain, too, on strict rations and a pretty low income.

However, she persevered; she tells tales of surreptitiously buying recipe magazines, despite not even knowing what half the ingredients were. And plunging into despair when the recipes started with sentences like, “First bone and roll the joint” or “Rub in the lard” – rub it into what, exactly? Your hands? The chopping board? How do you “bone” a joint? The bone doesn’t just pop out… To someone raised to be a blue-stocking, 1940s cookery books might as well have been written in a foreign language; they assumed a level of basic knowledge that she just didn’t have.

But then, rationing dwindled away; my parents spent some years abroad, and along came the “new” cooks – Elizabeth David, Prue Leith, Josceline Dimbleby and the like, who explained things much more clearly, with pictures, and cookery started to become more than just trying to get the most out of very basic ingredients. But just as everyone else was discovering that food could be fun, and “exotic” ingredients and recipes were becoming easily available, my father died, leaving her with just £11 in the bank, living in “tied” accommodation which she had to vacate very swiftly, and with two young children still at home. She found a job, and kept a roof over our heads, but buying & cooking food were just chores she could have done without at the end of every tiring day…

She has always done her best, in every way, and we are all immensely proud of her and grateful to her. But our childhood wouldn’t have been the same without the cries of, “But it doesn’t look like that in Delia!” or “No-one said you had to turn the oven on!” I’m glad that now she’s 90, she has the option of buying good, nutritious meals ready-made, to just heat up. But I’m also sad for her, that something should be a fundamental and creative skill became such a panic-inducing chore. And I think there’s a lesson to be learned; never assume that your kids just won’t need basic skills. Things like knowing how & what to buy and cook can turn a boring necessity into an interesting challenge; knowing to knit, crochet, sew or do basic maintenance on your car can save you lots of money as well as being very satisfying and even creative, and knowing how to swim, or tie an appropriate knot, or what or what NOT to pick in the wild, can save your life.

Life may not turn out the way you’ve planned in every detail, for you or for your loved ones…

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Wild-gathered comfrey fritters… surprisingly delicious and more-ish!

Daft not to…

January 22, 2016

There it was, just lying in the gutter, all alone… an enormous potato! A bit scuffed, and now a bit grubby too, it must have fallen out of someone’s shopping bag. It was there when I went to the market; it was still there when I was walking home half an hour later. So I picked it up & brought it home. Whyever not?

I rinsed it, cut off the scuffed side, cut it into slim-ish slices & added it to the contents of my “Peely” bin, which made a good casserole-full altogether. This is now, after boiling up for 10 minutes, in my Wonderbag, a present from a friend who volunteers in a charity shop. She rescued it from a swift entry into the rag-bag; other volunteers thought it unlikely to sell, despite being brand new, still with labels attached. Who’d use one, nowadays? But she knew that I would… So my peelings, cores and any other edible odds & sods get cooked up, at least once a week, overnight, in my Wonderbag to make a breakfast treat for my chickens. They adore it. I’m recycling scraps we can’t – or won’t – use into eggs.

But all the way home, a little voice at the back of my head was telling me why I shouldn’t have picked the potato up.

  • You don’t know where it’s been or how it got there! Well, I can hazard a good guess.
  • There may be germs It’s going to be thoroughly cooked.
  • The real owner may come back for it! I think they already would have, if they were going to.
  • Just LEAVE IT ALONE! This is sooo embarrassing… But that would be very wasteful, and there’s no-one else about in the rain. Not to mention, it’d have blocked the drain it was on its way to washing down.

I’m still feeling slightly guilty, for no reason that my logical mind can discern. But really, it would have been daft not to…

Thereby hangs another tale. A couple of weeks ago, when I took my mother back to her own home, I’d promised her a roast chicken dinner. So I went off to her local upmarket supermarket to find a small one. The only one they had out at that time was reduced to £2 and was on its sell-by date; ah well, I thought, it’s still actually in date, and it’s going straight into the oven.

But when I got it back to the flat & opened the packaging, the smell was indescribably awful. So I ran back to the supermarket, luckily not far away, with it, and gasped out an explanation. To their everlasting credit, they instantly gave me a double refund, and in the meantime they’d put out a fresh batch of little chickens. Costing £4… so in effect, we got a fresh one for half the normal price! When I unwrapped it, I saw on the package the words, “Serves two”…

Well, it gave us a good roast dinner. Mum (89) doesn’t usually eat as much as a “normal” adult now, but somehow she managed. It also gave us three servings of Chicken Jalfrezi the next day, one each and one for her freezer, plus two good portions to be eaten cold with salad, and I brought the carcass & scraps home to boil up into a hearty soup. Some of which went back to Mum, for easy suppers. In effect, that “serves two” little bird gave seven good portions, plus plenty of soup. And yet, there’s still that little voice in my head that thinks I may have done something naughty, stretching a “Serves two” into seven-plus servings!

How much money are they making out of us, when people take that “Serves two” seriously…? Or when people leave perfectly good food to lie in gutters?

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Wonderbag – with extra insulation!

A whole New Year!

January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016! Wishing you all a very happy one…

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There’ll be more making, more baking…

My main resolution for this year is – to write more. A lot more; my life seems to have frayed at the edges or possibly unravelled to the point where I hardly ever get the time, or have the space, to make anything worthwhile any more, but I don’t need a lot of space or time to spin some words together. It doesn’t matter if I’m 26 miles away from my sewing machine or spinning wheel, as I was yesterday; as long as I have a pen & some paper, or better still my iPad, I can write something. Even if it’s something that no-one else will ever read; that almost doesn’t matter. Even if it’s just a few words scribbled on the back of a receipt…

I’d like to try to write something here at least once a week. I’d very much like to get paid for writing again, but I had to let those threads drop a few years back, and am not in a position to commit to imminent deadlines at the moment. And I’m not able to do research or develop any new expertise at anything just now, and real life continues to confound my ability to keep up with the plot, so my long-held ambition to write a novel (oh, and get it published) doesn’t stand much of a chance either.

I’ve managed to keep most of my preserves & ferments going over the last year, mainly by persuading my darling daughters to take up the reins whenever I’ve been snatched away by fate. They are developing their own techniques & preferences now and I’m loving the results; ginger beer, kombucha, kefir and kimchi. But I didn’t get nearly enough foraging in, or a chance to learn more about the unnoticed gifts that we’re surrounded with. I’m still rescuing and refurbishing stuff and making a few bob selling on what we ourselves can’t use, but many more people have leapt onto that bandwagon and it’s getting harder and harder to turn an honest penny. Not to mention that I now have nowhere to store stock, or work on it…

So I’ve given away a lot of excess stock, to something that’s a very good cause; three van-loads so far, and more to follow. I live in hope of finding the conservatory floor again one day, and the shelves in the porch; then I’d be able to store sensible amounts of wood when it’s available for free, as it very often is!

Things need to change! But maybe I can’t impose that change from on top, and it needs to happen from the bottom up, so I will start building the future with words, just a few at a time!

“Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…”

February 1, 2015

I’d planned to write something about – well, something else. But instead, I’m inspired to write again about Why Vintage? Life takes these funny twists & turns sometimes…

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Lovely old Jones Spool from 1894. Still beautiful, still working…

 

One of my husband’s favourite sayings is, “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…” meaning that wistful looking back to an imaginary golden age is just that – more to do with imagination than reality. And I think it’s true that all throughout history, and probably prehistory, people have just muddled along as best they can & simply tried their best to stay afloat one way or another, but that’s not what we see when we look back. Looking back at the Roman invasion of Britain, we see fit, bronzed warriors in metal-studded miniskirts building long, straight roads in the summer sun, not miserable conscripts with dripping noses scrabbling in the winter mud, wishing they could wear woollen breeks like the natives, or tubby merchants gleefully piling up their denarii in their slave-driven centrally-heated homes. When we look back at the Tudors, we see the world-spanning voyages, the introduction of potatoes to Europe, Shakespeare penning his wonderful plays and poetry, and the fine, fantastical & wildly-impractical costumes of the wealthy, not the probably-somewhat-itchy home-dyed, spun & woven everyday wear & pease-pottage cuisine of the peasantry. When we look back at the 1940s, we see the slender waists, Victory Roll hairdos and glamorous lipsticks, not the look of dismay at the idea of Woolton Pie for tea again, and the mind-numbing terror of hearing, or worse still, ceasing to hear the whine of the doodlebugs…

Yesterday I had a conversation with my nearly-89-year-old mother. She cannot for the life of her understand why people would want to live in the past, in any way, shape or form, and how I can possibly make any money out of it. She remembers all too well the hard work, the misery of being so very cold but unable to afford to heat the house, or even the room she was sitting shivering in with her newborn baby; the sheer unrelenting effort of making sure that the wood was chopped, the garden crops were picked & processed before they spoilt (no matter what else had to be done) everything dusted, & polished & swept daily and all our clothes clean, starched & pressed. Yet I know of, and have sold things to, individuals, couples and even families whose homes & indeed lives are a shrine to a bygone era, who are looking for wooden dollies or tongs for their washing tubs, slate or marble slabs for their larders, carpet beaters for their pure-wool rugs. And I have a lot of sympathy with them. My mother has lived all her long life in the sparse bosom of the Church of England, and has no real sense of the tremendous disconnectedness of the world that we’re living in now. I think many of my customers are hoping to return to a time when it felt like life had some meaning, apart from just working to get as much money as possible in order to spend it as quickly as possible.

Some of the people I talk to are 20th-century re-enactors, rather than actually trying to live the life of our forebears all the time. But if I ask any of them why they do it, they all say that it’s the Blitz Spirit, the sense of everyone pulling together, & the fairness of rationing. They’ll mention that everyone was healthier, that things were built to last & be mendable, and the sheer exhilaration of mastering the dances. The fun of tinkering, of making things for yourself, and of rescuing good things that can still be useful, usually comes into it too. Possibly even the feeling of living on the edge, that every mission might be the one you didn’t come back from, that any infection might be fatal, that every dance might be your last, so that it all really meant something. And in some indefinable way, that life really was a lot simpler for having far fewer choices. Which is all so very far from how things are in our society now…

Affordability comes into it, too. None of them have been forced to live in the past by being broke & unable to afford modern conveniences; it’s a conscious choice they have all made, and sourcing authentic clothing, fabric & household items is rarely cheap, unless you’re very lucky. Most of our customers do have decent jobs or trades. But if you spend £50 on an old hand-cranked sewing machine, and keep it somewhere dry, brush it out & oil it regularly, it will keep going & doing the job it was designed to do for another hundred years. Your £25 mangle will still work long after your £250 tumble dryer has given up the ghost. Your preserving jars still work in a power cut. So it makes sense to invest a bit in good kit, to save money in the long term. You will need more time, to do things in the old-fashioned way, but it’s quite easy to find if you can give up some TV-watching, FaceBooking or gaming.

And I don’t see that it’s so very different to removing yourself to another country, which often seems to exist more in the mind of the ex-pats than in reality. The Spain with a great past and a wonderful future, where the sun shines all the time that the fireworks aren’t crackling, is not the same Spain where most young people have no chance of ever getting a decent job, or where you can suddenly find that you don’t in any sense own the property you handed over your life savings for. As L.P. Hartley put it in The Go-Between, “”The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Maybe in some ways, they did things better, although not perhaps in the context of the book. Or the War, or the discrimination, or the lack of universal health provision…

Or maybe, we should be doing things better, so that people don’t feel the need to escape into the past. A lot of people don’t want to live in a constant electronic smog, or on mass-produced food with dubious ingredients, or wear ill-fitting semi-disposable garments, just because everybody else does and it’s all that’s available now. Some people even, to estate agents & local authorities’ horror, actually want a reasonable-sized garden, to grow & raise edible things in, not just a tiny outdoor entertainment space.

Is it nostalgia? Is it daydreaming? Or is it imagining a better, calmer, more creative & productive world? A world where things were built to last, out of the best available materials, with real craftsmanship, even if they cost more to start with? A world where fashion flattered the female form, rather than tried to erase it? Where bedlinen lasted for lifetimes, rather than months? Where fun didn’t consist of blowing up or running over imaginary opponents in a virtual maze? Where outdoors was not a scary place best paved over?

A world that could exist, bits of which have existed; a world that could made to exist if enough of us have the will to bring about the change?

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Vintage curtain fabrics & evening purse – lucky survivors, or made to last?

 

A cautionary tale…

January 16, 2015

…copied over from a post I wrote elsewhere:

Earlier this week, I was further down the West Country with Elder Daughter for a couple of days. We’d planned to do some serious walking, but the weather was foul on the first day, so we visited some new-to-her towns instead, and bought some bits & bobs for our respective market stalls/online shop. The first town we visited was one I knew well as a child & teenager, back in the Dark Ages. It used to be very posh & prosperous, with a long twisty high street wending its way down a steep hill; my grandfather’s tailor was at the top and his cobbler/bootmaker halfway down. It’s very different now.

A big modern shopping development has been built alongside the High Street. It has several stories of car parking, topped by two more of big High Street “names” – all the biggies are there, in large, clean modern units. It was hardly bustling but there were plenty of people wandering aimlessly about, a few toting branded bags. And it’s completely sucked the life out of the old High Street; every second little shop was empty, and there were beggars sitting in the doorways, empty hats on the pavement, staring hopelessly out, poor souls. Hardly anyone was passing that way to see them.

Admittedly the big local industry has also withered away and died, but it was very clear that the shopping centre had completely replaced the High Street for day-to-day stuff. So all the money spent in that town is draining away to shareholders in London & further afield, instead of helping local people prosper. If it’s anything like this little town, the advent of the shopping centre will have pushed up the High Street rents beyond anything a genuine local small business start-up can afford, too. Although there were some very good bargains in the two local charity shops we eventually stumbled across, shopping in that town was a depressing & draining experience.

We then visited two smaller towns nearby, also favourite haunts of my youth. The only big name shops were those that had been there for many years, in little eccentric premises with tiled doorways and uneven floors. Both towns were bustling, with people carrying baskets or pulling trolleys, cheerily greeting each other and stopping to chat or go for a cuppa in one of the pretty little independent, reasonably-priced cafes. We found some excellent bargains and enjoyed our time there hugely.

Next day, after a bracing walk on the coastal path, we called in to a little seaside town that has attracted a lot of attention from a TV chef. We found the interesting-looking little shops clustered around the harbour were nearly all branches of big-name clothes shops, exactly the same ones that infest our own small but upmarket town. We were actually looking for a butchers or (sensible) fishmongers, but the lass in the tiny convenience store told us that “the big T&sco up top of the hill” had “done for” anything like that. So most of the money being spent there by the hordes of wealthy tourists who flock to this town is draining straight off upcountry again, and the locals have virtually no choice where to buy their groceries any longer. And their money is also trickling away from their community.

The moral of this story being, if you are lucky enough to still have small family-run shops where you are, please support them, even if things cost a little bit more. That’s your own friends & neighbours you’re supporting.  And if you have any say in these matters, resist the siren voices that tell you that big new shopping centres & supermarkets will attract more business; maybe they will, but only to themselves.

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A stormy Cornish dusk…

Mmmm – why Pinterest?

November 7, 2014

I can spend hours poking around Pinterest; who can’t? And whenever I Google just about anything, images or pages from Pinterest will appear on the first page, and, oh dear! That’s me gone for ages, browsing around other people’s collections of images of things they like & admire, maybe adding a few to my own, wishing I had good taste & a sense of style like everyone else on there seems to, and just a little more money so I could buy all the things I love… HANG ON A MINUTE! I smell a rat…

Something tells me that it’s no coincidence that for days afterwards, little ads will pop up on other pages that I visit, showing things just like the ones I looked at. The same thing happens with things I look at on elsewhere too, which sometimes leads to hilarious results, particularly when I misspell something. And sometimes it’s quite informative as to what other people have been browsing on the family computer. But I’m pretty immune to pop-up adverts and sites very obviously trying to sell me stuff; it’s so unsubtle it’s a complete turn-off, like a desperate double-glazing or energy salesman, and makes me want to run away from whatever they’re offering.

Yet nothing can make me feel quite so quietly inadequate as Pinterest, and in my book that makes it rather dangerous; surely everyone creative uses it, it’s just like an ideas/story board, just an electronic pinboard of good ideas, excellent design, all the things I’d like to aspire to – and quite a lot of things I didn’t even know I desired until I saw them…?

Surely just a few pounds spent on nice things here & there wouldn’t hurt? And isn’t it a good way of keeping track of trends? Hmmmm – it might even be quite a good way of creating trends too. And if I’ve thought of that, you can bet the people who own & run it have, too. I have a suspicion that they might just be paying for all that server space & web traffic for their own benefit, rather than mine. But at the end of the day, it’s just a tool; I can use it for my own benefit, or I can let it use me. And if you think about it, and realise that it’s not there for our benefit, but for the benefit of the people who created it, own it & use it to market things to us – jolly clever they are, too! – then there’s no problem, is there? I’m sure everyone else has thought of that, too…

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Not p-interested…

Eeeek – 6 weeks later!

October 5, 2014
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This week’s haul…

That’s what £6.50 got me at the market this morning: 2 punnets of raspberries, one of small but delicious strawberries, & two of seedless grapes for £3, a big carrier bag of “marked” locally-grown apples for £1, two pots of carrots, two of broccoli and one of courgettes for £2.50. I didn’t need tomatoes, as we have plenty of our own still to use up, or onions, parsnips, garlic or potatoes, all of which were available, but I have more than enough already. The raspberries are already in the oven, in a Rasberry Clafoutis, half of the broccoli is inside us, and the apples will be bashed along with our rather-splendid crop of quinces later on this afternoon, quite probably to make spicy Apple & Quince Butter to enliven our winter breakfasts. Given a few spare minutes, I’ll add recipes later.

I’ve been buying & using the 50p fruit & veg all along, but haven’t had the time or, to be honest, the inclination to write about it. Someone (not likely to look on here) made a pointed remark about middle-class people writing patronising money-saving stuff, and I went into a bit of a tailspin; it’s really not my intention to make people feel that they’re Not Doing Very Well if they have no option but to buy things in supermarkets or DIY superstores at full price. But it is my intention to alert those who do have other options, that those options exist & may not be as impractical or unachievable as popular opinion would have us believe. And I’d recently begun to wonder just how much that remark was simply aimed at pulling me down & undermining my confidence. Then, yesterday, at Boscombe Vintage Market, one of our lovely regular customers said how she’d missed A) the market and B) reading my blog… thank you, dear customer! Normal service will be resumed forthwith…

There’s also the fact that writing is actually addictive. It doesn’t matter whether anyone would actually want to read my maunderings; I can no more stop writing than breathing!

So: define “Vintage”…?

April 5, 2014

Here’s a subject that comes up quite often: what is the actual definition of “vintage” and how do you know if something really should be described as such?

 

Google’s definition, which I rather like, is, “denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.” Really the word belongs to the world of wine, and simply denotes the year a particular wine was produced, but like many another good & useful word before it, it’s leaked out into other areas and the connotations of quality and age have gone along with it.

Not wine, but surely vintage?

Not wine, but surely vintage?

There is no official “age” that an item (or a style) should attain before it can be considered vintage. At the market I regularly trade at, the agreement is that things should be, to the best of our knowledge & belief, 25 years old or more. Which brings the huge shoulders of the 1980s firmly into the “vintage” rearview mirror, but to someone of my age, that’s hardly any age at all; it was only yesterday! And that, I suppose, makes me too somewhat vintage, provided I can dredge up a bit of quality from somewhere. But to the young fashion students who often buy from us, the 1980s are out of the Ark – practically prehistory!

 

All of us will sometimes have items that we don’t know the age of; we can’t (economically!) carbon-date clothing or fabric, for example. But we do know quality, or quirkiness, or classic styling, so we will usually describe things as “retro” rather than vintage if we know or suspect them of being less than 25 years old. However we could, with justification, use the word “vintage” to describe something only 5 years old, if it ticks the “high quality/best of its kind” box. Needless to say, some vendors elsewhere exploit this to the fullest & will happily label any old secondhand stuff as “vintage” which rather muddies the waters & is in danger of bringing the whole game into disrepute. And there are things, and plenty of them, which may well be more than 25 years old but will never be vintage, just old tat. Mind you, I’m assuming that that phrase probably originally comes from the use of “tatting” as an inexpensive substitute for more complex & expensive bobbin lace, so I’d actually be very interested in genuine old “tat” anyway!

Old tat? A tatted doily from a 1970s Golden Hands craft compendium.

Old tat? A tatted doily from a 1970s Golden Hands craft compendium.

 

I have some “Golden Homes” magazines from the 1970s somewhere; you could swap many of the room sets into a current IKEA or Habitat catalogue and I genuinely doubt that anyone would even notice, because good design doesn’t have a sell-by date or built-in obsolescence. Not that everything IKEA sell is good, but we have things we bought from them way back when they first opened in the UK, over 25 years ago, and they are still doing the job we chose them for, and still look good. They have now, in my understanding, become vintage; perhaps they always were.

Classic 1970s styling from Golden Homes magazine.

Classic 1970s styling from Golden Homes magazine.

 

When I’m challenged about the exact dating of something, I have now learnt to say that vintage isn’t about an exact date; it’s about quality, design & style from the past. Quality doesn’t vary, but each stallholder will have different ideas about style, and that’s just how it should be; each of our customers will have equally different and equally valid ideas too, and will combine, wear, use or display the treasures that we’ve found for them in a myriad of different ways. Many of those undreamt-of when the item was new, and often mixing & matching the best of old & new. The best of both worlds, in effect, carrying our past forward into the future…

Lace? Tatting? Actually, crochet - and definitely vintage!

Lace? Tatting? Actually crochet – definitely vintage!

 

Viva vintage!

 

Synchronicity at work…

March 21, 2014

Wikipedia’s definition of synchronicity:

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence, although the events need not be exactly simultaneous in time.”

Well…

I often get asked, “Wherever do you get all these treasures? You must spend all your weekends at car boots & jumble sales!” Which I would love to be able to do, but alas, life doesn’t always work out like that; I have lots of other calls on my time, though I do have two jumbles on my “hit list” this weekend. So in order to maintain some kind of flow, some continuity on the stall, from time to time I resort to buying stuff in from the wholesalers. It doesn’t necessarily work out cheaper, and I’m always aware that they will have cherry-picked the really good stuff for their own “headline” stores, so although they are reliably good value, I’m not getting the very best bargains, and am thus not able to pass them on. However sometimes I strike lucky… this little lot arrived today, from the wholesale arm of a well-known charity:

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50 magnificent vintage hats, which should keep my stall buzzing all summer long! Provided, that is, that not too many of them end up on my daughters or my trainee-daughter-in-law… This elegant confection has already made its debut on Facebook:

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and they are clearly going to provide us with days of entertainment!

I’d already decided to make some major alterations to the layout of the stall at Molly’s Den; books are selling steadily down there, but aren’t very visible from the aisles. And the kitchenalia on the shelves at the back might as well be in Outer Mongolia; despite being clearly visible, things just stay put there, but usually sell within days when I move them forwards towards the aisle. So I thought I’d find some bookshelves, put them along the back with some interesting vintage titles & reasonable prices clearly visible, and possibly some of the more dramatic hats too, and see if that tempts people further in. But no inexpensive bookcases turned up, for weeks on end, on Ebay, Gumtree or Freegle/Freecycle. Reluctantly, I decided to invest a whole £30 in a pair of cheap & cheerful bookcases from that well-known Scandinavian emporium, which I happened to be virtually driving past yesterday. They had 16 in stock when I checked online a couple of days beforehand, but by the time I got there, they were all gone, and they’re not going to have any more in for weeks! So, back to the drawing board… 

Luckily, last night, there was a small pine bookcase, just the right height, for £10 on Gumtree, which I was able to pick up this morning. It was close to Molly’s Den so has gone straight onto the stall, although it’s not yet in its final position and won’t be filled up until after the weekend. And an hour or so later, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I found the following Scandinavian item, marginally damaged but perfectly safe & sturdy, in the wood skip at the Recycling Centre – and look what else was there, too!

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Cat not included!

More hats! And all for less than I’d have paid for one new bookcase. If that’s not synchronicity at work, I don’t know what is.