Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pilgrimage II

Last week I posted about a little pilgrim stop I made, quite by accident, on the way to a brocante sale. One of the comments on that post was by a lady I'd never met before, and who turns out to have a very special blog called 'My scallop -shell of quiet'.
This is the quotation which inspires her blog title:

GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,

My staff of faith to walk upon,

My scrip of joy, immortal diet,

My bottle of salvation,

My gown of glory, hope's true gage;

And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

It's by Sir Walter Raleigh - I'd forgotten he was a poet too.
So the image of the scallop-shell is still inspiring people today. I find that very pleasing. If you remember, I mentioned that the pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela used to carry their scallop shells both as a symbol and also as a way of asking for food and drink along the way - they could ask anyone, rich or poor, for enough sustenance to fill their scallop shell. Is it greedy to immediately think of seeking-out one of those really big scallops?
I found this picture of a medieval pilgrim on the blog of someone who has recently cycled to Compostela! The labelled parts (OK, in Spanish, but I'm giving it a go...) give me an idea of what Sir Walter Raleigh was talking about.
The scallop shell we know - and Sir WR thought of it as 'quiet'. Just a tiny bit of quiet in each day?
The staff of faith - 'to walk upon' - I though of 'to lean' upon, but no, he says it's to walk upon. That's a more active image of faith.
The scrip of joy - I know this one! (Thanks to Ellis Peters and Brother Cadfael). I've just checked and confirmed that it's a small leather bag for carrying food and money. But we'll carry joy in ours! If you really want one, you can buy one here. Joy not included.
A bottle - al vino, says the picture above! Salvation, says Sir WR. So that's a link to the blood of Christ, our salvation and also to our communion wine.
A gown - which must have been both practical protection from the elements and also a symbol of the pilgrimage. And that's glory, and our hope. Wrapped in glory...
What a lot to learn from a detour, a shell, an Elizabethan adventurer and blogging!

Friday, July 29, 2011

21 years ago...

About 21 years ago, I was in Oxford - probably it was when I was trawling the vintage stalls in the markets, looking (successfully) for a going away outfit. I spotted the Ben's Cookies stall in the covered market (it was the first ever one - you can read about it here) and just had to buy Ben a tin of cookies, even though as as student about to graduate and then get married, I was pretty broke.

Spot the difference! This year, for my anniversary present, Ben bought me a second tin, filled with eight most wonderful chocolate cookies. We ate them over the last two days, and the tin will become another favourite, and may even last as long as the previous one, still going strong...I made him an anniversary card, using brass and nickel buttons, as I discovered that a 21st wedding anniversary is, technically, a brass and nickel one.


I like anniversaries. I like the opportunity to think back and really count my blessings...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Festival London, 1951/2011

It seems a long time since our bloggers' meet-up in London, but I've got great memories of the day, and I never really told you all about it when I got home, as things were so crazy at the end of term! Now is a good day to talk about this, though:As a very enthusiastic new subscriber to BBC Homes and Antiques (it's really good - have you tried it recently?), I knew all about the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the Festival of Britain, held in the original location at the Southbank Centre. H & A Mag had prepared the 1951 room, which was pretty good, except they'd reckoned without Ang, who spotted that they were playing 1960s music! Apart from that it was accurate - see her review here!The Southbank Centre was full of people being taught how to Lindyhop (what?), and as we had a little while to wait for Ang (it's a long story...) we sat and watched the dancers,
becoming progressively more accomplished and lively!
The Festival of Britian was a symbol of two things - the 100th anniversary of the Great Exhibition, and the rejuvination of Britain and British design after the Second World War.
Women from London who'd had no previous sewing experience were invited to join together for training and produced this commemorative quilt out of still-rationed fabric. I picked out two key dates which particularly spoke to me, as a teacher:
and as a woman!
I was intrigued by all the Festival memorabilia, as I'd found a fantastic leather box bearing the Festival logo in the piano stool at my father's house. Either my grandma or my mum must have 'picked it up', either at the Festival itself (I don't know if my grandma went, she may have done) or later. It had a plastic liner showing that it held something small and rather spherical. So, not either of these:
And not these either, although I thought it was worth getting a photo!
These are the things my mum and dad would have been given, if they'd ever gone there...
Here are souvenirs for men - really snazzy!
And here is the other thing I was really interested in: Festival Headscarves.
I snapped a photo of the explanition for why these were so popular - it's well worth clicking on the picture to enlarge it if you're interested in fashion history.
I was researching these in particular because my mum also left us two Festival of Britian scarves in her collection.
Neither look much like these examples, which shows how many, and how diverse, the headscarves were.
My mum used to pick up things like these ('unconsidered trifles' at the time) because she realised they contained design and social history, and had potential investment value. She did sell a lot over the years - horrible Victorian things she'd snapped up in the 1960s became charming Victorian pieces in the 1980s!
My sister was intrigued when I pointed out (thanks to BBC Homes and Antiques) that NOW was the time to realise the (probably small) investment value of the three Festival of Britain pieces we'd found. We decided to collaborate together to sell them on ebay - she's a registered seller, and, as you know, I can write Vintage blurb.
With this weekend seeing the Vintage at the Southbank Festival (it WOULD be lovely to be there...), my sister has posted the first of our vintage scarves on ebay. It will be most interesting to see how the bidding goes - it feels like we're continuing something for our mother here...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Too much of a good thing?

We had a terrible, dry spring. Of course it was wonderful in one way - Summer arrived in April! But the new cistern was nearly empty before the traditional start of the watering season in June...However, we need not have worried - June and July have been rainy throughout!
The garden is growing wonderfully, although the lawn died (the way it always does) and won't come back until October.
The tomatoes (seen here accessorising themselves with a descendant of one of Lululiz's Morning Glories from last year) are going wild.
We have a whole load of these!
But the parasol and swimming pool seem rather redundant.
Of course we've had good days, and some weeks have been better than others, but the overall picture for June and July has been gloomy. It hasn't spoilt our holidays so far, but I was rather relieved to see that next week's forecast indicates a bit of an improvement in August, when we start our staycation and friends come to visit...

Saturday, July 23, 2011


On my way to visit the Brocante on Tuesday, I found myself thinking about a little back road running between the village where our boys started French school and the town I was heading for. I wondered if it might be nicer to drive that way than to take a short hop along the motorway.
The decision was taken out of my hands when I discovered that the motorway sliproad was blocked for roadworks! Rather than taking the official diversion, of course I headed for my half-remembered little back road... And it really was only half-remembered, because I had totally forgotten that it was part of the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela, part of which runs right across our area, north of the Pyrenees.

The scallop shell was worn by medieval pilgrims on this road. Wikipedia gives this explanation: "The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of James, son of Zebedee and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle's shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to his shrine often wore a scallop shell symbol on their hat or clothes. The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him, and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys etc., where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley, and perhaps beer or wine. Thus even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened."

It seems they are still being worn, and still being presented!

The sign told me that this little shrine had been set up at the site of a pilgrim hostel, built before 1304, and destroyed (why?) in 1585.The whole thing was, of course, very Catholic, which I'm not.There was a time when I would have seen all this 'alien' imagery and material expressions of faith as evidence of un-Christian superstition. Sorry.But God has taught me something about humility and diversity in worship, and history has taught me that medieval people who didn't have access to the written word of God could still find ways to praise Him, often with concrete actions and tangible expressions of belief. So on Tuesday I was happy to leave a pebble by the cross, adding my prayer of thanks and praise to the others.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A little brocante dilemma

I haven't done a set-up photo for you for ages, but I was inspired to get out examples of all my 20th century French stencilled china today! It really is kind of super, isn't it? (she asked modestly...)You'll recognise bowls and the red-rimmed plates I got on Tuesday at the brocante sale. I felt like laying it all out and gloating a bit!But I have to be honest - the lovely little red-stencilled bowl you see at the back of the photo above looks like THIS inside:
Eech! I've soaked it in bleach, which I hate doing, and that tidied up the base, but the rim and the inside remain horrible and clearly this bowl remains for display use only. I'm OK with that... So now on to the dilemma!
Here you see one of my bowls with a lovely photo of the mosaic artist Cleo Mussi's studio wall. She buys plates like mine and uses them as inspiration. See her kind of chequered plates? There were loads a bit like that at the brocante. I left them all behind, but ever since I've been thinking back to them and wondering if I should head over again and snap them up. They are red, cream and blue, which would work with my 'set', but otherwise they're not really the sort of thing I'm collecting. Do I just want them because I've seen them in Homes and Antiques? Or would I actually be pleased to own them? You see my dilemma - do I really want them or am I just suffering from magazine-induced envy?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brocante - the finds

I've loved reading your comments on my brocante post yesterday!If you'd been there with me, my brocanteuse could have sold a rocking cot, a water pump, garden tables and chairs, bed ends a couple of times over and that red shutter. In fact, Sarah's suggestion, that: "The shutter would be hung on a wall by the bed like a picture. A pretty quilt on the bed. Roses on the bedside table..." nearly had me rushing back and snapping it up!
But I resisted the big stuff (good thing too, now we've had the garage bill...) and instead picked up more vintage china:

It's the pink polka-dots that are new, but I couldn't resist a photo of them on last month's blue stencilled roses. And the red plates, above (seven of them, 1€ each) have already been put into good use for Son 1's courgette and feta fritters. He is a Hairy Bikers-obsessed cook this summer! I'm building up a really nice mixed collection of French stencilled china this year. Last year it was just stuff I saw in magazines, but now I'm finding it myself. It's mainly from the '50s and therefore still in good condition, and dishwasher safe...

The rest has gone into my blog shop. (With a few sighs, I have to tell you, especially for the little lotus tin, above.)Pop over if you want to see what I found in that pastilles tin!Sweet...And oh, so French.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Brocante in Big Sky Country

I needed an antedote to a week and a half's work on shutters - even thought it went along with fantastic family meals prepared straight from the garden, I was needing a bit of a change today! So two hours ago I drove off into le Gers, which I always think of as my own Big Sky Country...
I was following this sign, which I'd spotted on our local roundabout last week...I do prefer the prices and the wonderful open-air nature of Vide Greniers, but a braderie at a brocante (a closing down sale at an antique shop) really did draw me in!I've been to this brocante before, when we had a rental house not too far from it on our arrival in France. I found the prices of the big stuff quite overwhelming, and didn't yet have my eye in for the small things I've come to cherish and collect over the intervening years.
But it's worth showing you some photos of the 'big stuff', which the brocanteuse had put outside (in the frequent showers). It's worth a gawp - go on, what catches your eye?
Would you snap up those bed ends? I would, given the right circumstances...
And they'd clearly been serving coffee on their antique garden tables - what a nice idea.
Look, shutters! But not at all like ours - more on those to follow (when we actually get them finished).
So, go on, what would you have bought? This is what I picked up - I'll clean it all up and show you tomorrow!
The big sky was wonderful after a week staring at woodwork. The sunflowers in the fields (grown for oil) were also wonderfully cheering.
I was delighted to spot a little patch of 'volunteers' by the edge of an empty field. These self-seeded sunflowers will never be harvested, so I think they're fair game!
They do look cheerful in the house on a gloomy day!