Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sits



 
Say  "Sits"  out loud and rather quickly . What do you think you've just said ?

Well , in most countries you might be assumed to have sneezed  . But here in the C17th if you were frightfully fashionable and rather well off ,  you would have been talking about chintz ... glazed chintz in particular or , these days , you might be going to the  Fries Museum to see their latest exhibition . There's a wonderful  three hundred year-old silk kimono , magnificently preserved and vibrant , that's worth the trip alone .

When the Dutch East India Company managed to elbow their way into the market , picking up this beautifully hand painted or blockprinted  cotton in India to exchange in Indonesia or Japan for spices and china , it became increasingly popular and pieces began to find their way back to Holland ,  to Hindeloopen in particular . There it inspired painted furniture , bed covers and the local women's costume and in fact you can still , in the old fishing ports , see women wearing dresses trimmed with chintz bonnets , decorative sleeves and aprons  .


 
 
As eventually the handcarved blocks were brought back by returning East India Company employees and copied  ; the dyeing techniques and the original processes simplified , and substances like buffalo urine , metal salts and saffron replaced with easier to get hold of materials , local factories made cheaper copies . Nearly everyone has some Hindeloopen patterned cotton  around if they've inherited a grandmother's bed linen ... I've got pieces myself , bought in thrift shops and vintage stores .
 

 
But two hundred years ago , every scrap of this treasure was hoarded ; stored in airtight chests, sometimes for generations , and eked out to make bodices , baby clothes , collars and cuffs , mittens ...
 
And , of course , when totally past their best , the more modern pieces found their way to patchwork quilts . Needless to say , I would love to own this quilt


 
 
 
But what I really , really wanted was this very rich little girl's version of Barbie . A C19th doll and her  chest of clothes . TWO straw hats !!
 
 




Oh yes , and the hem of this dress . For one of the more tomboyish Bennet sisters , perhaps.




 

Monday, 10 April 2017

What's The Opposite Of Kondo ?

I have to go to  Briekantiek , then I could completely de-Kondo my life . They sell furniture , jewellery, pitchforks , old tiles , garden furniture ,
 


 
holy statues , paintings , straw hats , wood burning stoves of every vintage , rugs , door knobs , giant candle sticks ... That's right . It has absolutely nothing I need , let alone could use .  
 
Though if I bought the " industrially unique" ( their words , not mine ) crane built in the early 1900's   , and just about visible here behind the red truck , I could free
 
 

 
 myself from the tiresome neccessity of climbing up and down the stairs from street level .
 
Apartment block one-up-manship ... being lifted onto one's balcony by one's very own personal antique crane . Perhaps I could have it monogrammed ? Attach a crest from the huge heaps of decorative ironwork in Briekantiek's barns. A crest and monogram ? A bit much , perhaps ?
 
Well ,my new neighbour has prayer flags and a Buddah ... I'm going to have to  pimp up my balcony somehow , till the seeds from those tiny wild sweetpeas that I kept from last year's crop  come out . Once they do , it'll be a bit like Sleeping Beauty's castle . They twine their way round everything at a mile a minute .
 
 And I've got a little starter kit for growing radishes from the supermarket's Little Gardeners promotion this year , only radishes are one of the very few vegetables I don't like ( fennel being the other one ) . A major investment is called for , obviously . 99 cents for a packet of seeds from Lidl won't make me self-sufficient but will be fun . Courgettes perhaps ...they grow themselves apparently . And if I chose yellow ones , it'd add a touch of Bling .
 
It's all right , I'll calm down soon ... it's just that Friend and I went to the Collectors Fair in Utrecht at the weekend and all those endless stalls of stuff   does this to me every time . By the end of the day coming home with three soup tureens , a 1930's nightie , a moth eaten toy monkey , five egg spoons and a donkey-shaped velvet teacosy begins to seem reasonable , though obviously we're all avoiding the anatomically correct plaster cast of a diseased lung .









Wednesday, 5 April 2017

It's A Willie Nelson Day

It's a mournful and sad sort of day . If I'd been listening to any other kind of music , I'd just have said I was gloomy , but today's definitely mournful and kind of blue . I'm missing the grandchildren .

Smaller Grandson's class is having a Cake Competition this afternoon and I'm not there to see all their entries or to buy a slice at home-time ( funds raised go towards a much needed make-over of the infants playground  ... welcome to T. May's England ... ) 
S. G.'s chocolate cat cake , which he designed and baked with his father's help looks very stylish , the ganache is shiny and they both managed not to eat all  the Smarties so Puss has a spotty bow tie as well as a CheshireCat smile .

Elder Grandson took to school like a duck to water but we all wondered how his little brother , a much shier child , would cope . Young , imperturbable teacher has let him ease himself in , discover how to read , work out how to do sums using his fingers and toy cars and to work out what he's really good at ... drawing and running very fast , apparently . But better than all this is the group of friends he's made .

His mother , having watched them all hare around the playground , asked him,
 "Who's in your gang ? " whereupon he looked slightly disapproving . "We're not a gang . We're a team ."
 Having said all this , this same child announced over breakfast the other day that he wanted to stay at home to paint instead of going to school . Being told he couldn't , he looked mildly thoughtful but followed along . Getting into his class , he walked up to the teacher and said quite simply,
 "Good morning . I've got nits . " Sadly , same imperturbable young teacher didn't recoil and send him home immediately as he'd hoped  , she checked with his mother , laughed and gave him some pegs to organise instead .

So ,  potholed playground or not the little local primary school's doing as good a job with him as they have with his big brother .


Friday, 31 March 2017

Serves Me Right , I Fear ...

Train travel must be familiar enough not to need a special section in etiquette guides , surely ? You know , the usual things ; give up your seat to the obviously pregnant or ancient , don't use your 'phone in the Silent carriages , take your crap home with you  ... that sort of thing . Dutch trains have screens in every compartment with travel information and little timely reminders about responsible behaviour .

The young chap taking up a double seat the other day can't have read them lately .
"Is this seat free ?" I ask idiotically , gesturing to the overnight bag , laptop case , sandwich box , anorak and cuddly blanket piled up next to him . He sighed theatrically , put the film on Pause and said ,
 "I can make room for you " whereupon everyone nearby swivelled round to see just how much room I 'd need ....

 So it goes without saying that I'll not be rushing to the local beauty salon that's advertising their grand reopening tonight with a Pampering Evening with Bubbles and Bites .
 Probably not for the likes of me ... might be a nibble too far

Monday, 20 March 2017

Hoovered Up Last Week

Odds and ends ...

According to a Daily Telegraph quiz on Friday , I'm only a Plastic Paddy . My various , rather distant Irish ancestors would be mortified , but unsurprised ; I haven't been there for over forty years . Never mind , one of my cousins is called Patrick Joseph Mary , and you can't get much more Irish than that ... I'll have to put it on my application for a passport if Brexit threatens ...

A sentence from a Guardian book review last week caught my eye , "Many Britons can date their childhood to the suffix their subconscious applies to the word "Raleigh", be it Roadster , Chopper or Burner ." That the suffix that I came up with was Walter says it all , really ...



The Den Haag  exhibition of clothes Givenchy had designed for Audrey Hepburn was beautiful ... columns of black satin with only giant pearls or a swirl of tulle for the evening  , hot pink or mustard coats with tiny pill box hats , beautiful embroidery ... but the most striking gallery was dedicated to her work with Unicef . The photos of her with refugee children showed her at her best , glowing and alive in capri pants and simple cotton shirts with three toddlers draped round her neck . In another corner there was one of her handwritten recipes for pasta reproduced with her wooden spoon  ,  a photo of her on a gigantic sofa with her cat and another of both the designer and herself buttoned up in his tweed coat in the snow . Not just Holly Golightly but someone you'd like to have known .

The three of us were fading away with hunger by this stage so repaired to the museum cafe  for lunch . Was unable to resist one of the weird pink rolls , though filled with cheese rather than smoked mackerel . Had to ask ... why's it this colour ?  Made with wholemeal flour and beetroot juice , apparently  . Which just leaves the question why ? Another desperate attempt to make us all eat our  Five A Day , perhaps . In case your baker produces beetroot bread  , be warned . It just makes the bread slightly sweet and heavier .

And this week ?  Blood oranges , "The Trouble With Goats And Sheep" by Joanna Cannon on audio , yet more rain and the poop test . Lots to look forward to ...

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Wash And Brush Up x 2

One does want to look one's best , which is why both I and my bike were tidied up this week .
Predictably the whole thing worked better on the bike .  Only four months old , her after sales check involved her saddle bags being hoovered , tyres pumped up , chain oiled and being lightly polished with a chamois cloth . She gleams .

 I , on the other hand , having gone to the hairdresser rather than the bike shop , have only had a haircut  . I have polished my shoes , though , so there's a slight improvement overall even if I don't exactly dazzle .

Since Friend , YD and I are hoping to see the Hubert De Givenchy exhibition To Audrey With Love in Den Haag this weekend , I might even re-attach the top button on my coat . Still , Friend and YD will look their usual elegant selves and I'll be the Margaret Rutherford figure bringing up the rear . Perhaps if I hoover my capacious handbag and check for the odd fluffy peppermint ....  ?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Extremely Random

Winter's gone on rather too long and I've now got butterfly brain but since , these days , I'm quite glad to have any brain at all , I'll just rattle it about and share the contents with you .
 

Unfortunately I'm not going to the hairdresser till next week , after Storm Doris is due to sweep across town . So I'd better stay at home for the next couple of days or my hair will be whipping around like a lassoo . I'd hate to strangle someone en route to the greengrocer's .
No , my hair's not really like her's ( or the bear's , fortunately ) but I've got to the stage where my fringe tickles my nose and wakes me up . But since it's half-term this week ... rather nicely called the Crocus holiday here ... everyone useful has vanished for a few days ; if they're not skiing , they're looking after their grandchildren .

I'm happy to stay at home though ,for a day or two  , having got three Minette Walters whodunnits and a gallon of carrot soup to get through , though there is obviously a slight risk of turning orange by the weekend .

It's been a week or two of odd moments . Sitting on a bus with a recently arrived refugee family whose two little boys were invited to sit in the front by the bus driver , who then went round each roundabout twice , much to their delight  .  A couple of older locals expressed their appreciation of the ride too , as they got off ... perhaps it'll become a regular feature like Pensioners film afternoons .

Seeing a man in sheepskin mitts paddling his kayak up the river in a short snowstorm ( looked very awkward , whether because of the mitts or just blinded by the almost hail-like snow , I don't know ) .

Noticing that there's a new driving school in town called Toples , which just translates as Top Lessons  , but which probably is building up their business , no end , especially among school leavers .

And being tickled to notice in an article on the current shortage of iceberg lettuces that there's a British Leafy Salads Association .

As I said , winter's gone on rather too long ...