Hat Panache

Hats are about emotion. It is all about how it makes you feel. I like hats that make the heart beat faster.  Philip Treacy OBE – Irish hat designer based in London.


Recently I stumbled across the phrase, ‘doff your hat’, which means: raise your hat in acknowledgment of, or in respect to another. Although not familiar with the action of ‘doffing’, I do love hats. But sadly not on me. You see my head is rather on the large size. At 14 years of age I acquired a second-hand horse riding hat, which had been custom made to fit the original wearer’s unusually big head. Being of small stature, pictured on a horse, I must have resembled a Thelwell cartoon.


On a family trip to Las Vegas at age 16, I spent my holiday money on a stetson. Yes. I. really. did. The television series, Dallas, had a profound effect on me. For the record, the hat size was extra large.

‘J.R.’ – Dallas

As for weddings, well I can forget shopping for hat candy. But, oh, how I love to study the elaborate designs on such occasions.


Hat History

One of the earliest known hats dates back to around 3,300 BC. It was worn by a bronze age man (nicknamed Otzi) whose body (including his hat), was found frozen in a mountain between Austria and Italy. The hat was made of several bear skins stitched together, complete with chin strap, and was similar to a Russian fur hat without ear flaps. One of the first pictorial images of a hat is in Thebes, Egypt. It is a tomb painting showing a man wearing a conical straw hat, which dates back to around 3,200 BC.

Other early hats include the Pileus, which was a brimless, felt cap worn in Ancient Greece, and later Rome. The Pileus was especially associated with the freedom of a slave. In Ancient Rome, when a slave was freed, a magistrate or commander of an army touched him with a rod, known as a Vindicta; the slave’s head was shaved and a Pileus was placed upon it. Both the rod and cap were considered symbols of the Goddess of Liberty.

Pileus image courtesy of Wikipedia
A Pileus
image courtesy of Wikipedia

In the Middle Ages, women’s head attire ranged from simple scarves to elaborate hennin – a tall cone shape with flowing veil. The latter was worn by European aristocratic ladies, particularly those residing in France and England. It wasn’t until late 17th century that women’s head gear really began to emerge, away from the influence of men’s hat fashions.


The 1800s saw Swiss and Italian straws, together with imitation straws made from paper and horsehair, available to women. Velvet and tulle also became available to ladies around this time. In the 19th century, the bonnet dominated women’s hat fashion – and the bigger the better. I rather hope there is a re-emergence of the bonnet. Many other hat styles became available in the latter half of the 19th century.

A bonnet
A bonnet

The Cloche


This fitted style of hat is synonymous with the Flapper girls and became very popular indeed. It was invented by Parisian milliner, Caroline Reboux in 1908. ‘Cloche’ is French for ‘bell’, and the original was blocked on an actual bell. The cloche covers a lady’s head from just above the eyebrows to the back of the neck. Apparently a lady would relay messages via her cloche, with ribbons: a firm knot signified a lady was married; a loose delicate bow indicated a lady was in a relationship and unavailable; and a large, flamboyant bow showed a lady was single and ready to mingle!

The flattering style of the cloche is a favourite of mine, and so I am keen to share with you some photos of a beautiful hand-crocheted vintage-style cloche hat, designed and made to order by the lovely Rachel Whitchurch. I’m sure Rachel won’t mind me mentioning her amazing talent here. I was immediately blown away when I spotted her crochet designs on Twitter. As well as hats, Rachel designs and crochets exquisite shrugs, cardigans, bags, jumpers and gloves.


IMG_5512 I can’t resist showing a photo of the long gloves, which complement the cloche perfectly.


Rachel can be found on Twitter @RWhitechurch


Naturally, Phillip Treacy, hat designer, is passionate about hats. Here are three more of his quotes.

There is no attitude required. The hat brings the attitude. And when people try on a hat they like, it is a bit of fun. It makes them laugh. You don’t laugh when you put on a pair of shoes, but you do with a hat.

When people come and visit me and have a hat made, it’s a little bit like visiting a psychiatrist, but they don’t actually realise that.

People, when they buy a hat, they can’t explain why they want to buy it or why they want it, but they do. It’s like chocolate.

Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a hat designed by Phillip Treacy

Hat Trivia

  1. In 1797, English man, John Hetherington received a £500 fine for wearing a top hat. Apparently the hat’s great height and sheen invoked terror and panic; according to The Huddersfield Chronicle, several women fainted at the sight of the hat.
  2. St. Clement, the patron Saint of felt hat makers, is said to have discovered wool felt when he filled his sandals with flax fibres to protect his feet, around 800 AD.
  3. In 1865, American, John B. Stetson began selling his ‘Boss of the Plains’ hat or cowboy hat – the same style he originally fashioned around a camp fire while on a long trip out West.

Royal Ascot, Britain’s famous yearly horse race meeting, is well known also as an event for showcasing some of the most flamboyant hats. The following photos are a selection of hats from Royal Ascot 2015.

Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
Image courtesy of The Express
Image courtesy of The Express
Image courtesy of The Express
Image courtesy of The Express
Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
The gentleman wears a hat made of peperami sausages ... Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
The gentleman wears a hat made of peperami sausages … great if you’re feeling a little peckish.
Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph

And finally, a hat that didn’t quite make it to Royal Ascot …


I love the drama of a hat.  Phillip Bloch – Fashion Stylist

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)


Bikini Bombshell

The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb.   Diana Vreeland – former fashion editor.

The bikini exploded onto the scene in 1946. The bikini was named after an island where the atom bomb was tested. ‘Bikini’ is an atoll in the Marshall Islands. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, or a string of closely spaced small coral islands. The Marshall Islands lie midway between Hawaii and Australia. In Marshallese, Bikini Atoll is Pikinni, meaning ‘coconut place’.

In 1946, Parisian engineer, Louis Reard, named his new swimsuit design, the ‘bikini’. He hoped its revealing style would create an explosive reaction, similar to that of the nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll. In the same year, French fashion designer, Jacques Heim, invented his two-piece swimsuit in Paris, the ‘atome’. He named this after the smallest known particle of matter. Jacques Heim advertised his design as the world’s ‘smallest bathing suit’, but his new two-piece still covered the wearer’s navel. Louis Reard sliced the top off Jacques Heim’s bottoms, and advertised his bikini as ‘smaller than the smallest swimsuit’: it was so small it could fit into a box measuring 2 by 2 inches.

Although Jacques Heim’s ‘atome’ was the first worn on the beach, it was Louis Reard’s name, bikini, that stuck.

On July 5th, 1946, Louis Reard unveils the bikini in Paris.
On July 5th, 1946, Louis Reard unveils the bikini in Paris.

French women welcomed the design of the bikini, but the Catholic church, some media, and the majority of the public initially rejected it, deeming it scandalous. Although wearing of the bikini was slow to be adopted, the bikini gradually became popular when film stars, such as Brigitte Bardot, Ursula Andress, and Raquel Welch, began wearing them on public beaches and in film. In 1960, Brian Hyland’s pop song, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, inspired a bikini-buying spree.

1953 Bridget Bardot on the beach during the Cannes Film Festival.
1953 ~ Brigitte Bardot on the beach during the Cannes Film Festival.      (photo via The Sun)
1966 ~ Raquel Welch wearing the deer skin bikini in the film, One Million Years BC.
1966 ~ Raquel Welch wearing the infamous deer skin bikini in the film, ‘One Million Years BC’
A young Marilyn Monroe in a polka dot bikini.
A young Marilyn Monroe in a polka dot bikini.             (photo via Vogue UK)

Even though the modern-day bikini as we know it, evolved in 1946, the two-piece swimsuit can be traced back to ancient times. A mosaic in the floor of a Roman villa in Sicily dates back to 286-305 AD. The mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale, features ten women participating in athletic activities, and has been dubbed the ‘Bikini Girls’.


Sensible attire for athletic pursuits. Back in my 20s, I attempted to play a game of beach volley ball after trying to emulate a scene from the James Bond film, Dr. No, emerging from the sea in a white bikini Ursula Andress style. This failed miserably. You see, the fabric of my bikini resembled that of Terry Towelling nappies (diapers). The water weighed down my bikini ‘bottoms’ like lead. Oh, how I needed a pair of nappy pins. That event gave a whole new slant to the term, ‘beach babe’. Needless to say, my ‘hits’ at volleyball were zilch.

This bikini made me a success.  Ursula Andress

Now Ursula Andress made a huge impact when she emerged from the water wearing her white bikini, in the 1962 film, Dr. No. It is revered as the most famous bikini of all time. Sales of the ‘two-piece’ rocketed after her appearance in the film. The bikini was made from ivory cotton, and Ursula Andress designed it along with Dr. No’s costume designer, Tessa Pendergast. The lower part of the bikini featured a wide white British Army belt with brass buckles and fittings, and a scabbard on one side to hold a large knife. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bikini, in a survey of 1,000 women, Ursula Andress was voted ‘The Ultimate Bikini Goddess’. In 2001 Ursula Andress auctioned the bikini at Christie’s in London, selling it for £35,000. Hot stuff.

Ursula Andress in ‘Dr. No’  (photo via the Daily Mail)

The iconic bikini made a famous lady even more unforgettable. Carrie Fisher was fed up of wearing long, flouncy dresses in previous films, which concealed her womanly curves, so she had this gold metal bikini especially designed and moulded to her body shape, to reveal a whole lot more in Return of the Jedi.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Carrie Fisher as ‘Princess Leia’ in her slave outfit in ‘Return of the Jedi’

My Bikini Tips

  • If you are long in the body, try wearing a brightly coloured, patterned bikini which will draw attention to your hips and breasts.
  • If you are short in the body, an all-in-one swimsuit will help to elongate your body, but a bikini in one colour in a fine, luxury fabric can be worn.
  • For a big bust, wear under-wired bikini tops with built-in support.
  • IMG_4313
  • For a small bust, try a bikini with fringing or big bows.
  • If you have broad shoulders, choose a halter-neck bikini, which takes the emphasis away from your shoulders.
  • If you’re worried about your derriere and voluptuous tummy, opt for high-waisted bikini bottoms or mini-short shapes. Also try bikini bottoms with a trim.
  • IMG_4310
  • For a triangular body shape, go for a halter neck which gives the illusion of curves up top, and pair with some boy shorts for extra coverage.
  • If you have a rectangular body shop, choose fussy feminine styles with ruffles. A halter-neck works best with this body shape.
  • Hourglass body shapes need to be careful of mismatched tops and bottoms, but can carry off any bikini style.

If in doubt, try one of these lovely costumes, which I came across in a magazine. They are from boohoo.com and very stylish.


boohoo do a wide range of attractive swimwear to suit everyone. I am loving my daughter’s recent purchase of this pretty, fresh-looking bikini, which can be worn as a halter-neck, or bandeau style.


Beware the ‘Sling’ bikini!

Sacha Baron Cohen in his movie, 'Borat'.
Sacha Baron Cohen in his movie, ‘Borat’.  (photo via The Sun)

Did you know that in France, if you are a man and want to go swimming in a public swimming pool, baggy Bermuda shorts or loose swim trunks are not allowed. One has to wear teeny weeny super tight Speedo style swim trunks. Apparently it is because they are more hygienic. According to those in power, if you wear swim shorts as normal shorts, they may pick up dust when you’re out and about. This law dates back to 1903 when longer swimming shorts were banned by the government. Despite this subject having been raised countless times, so far it’s a firm ‘non’ from the French parliament.


If, like me, you’re no longer a beach babe …


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Coffee Love

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love.  Turkish Proverb

The above quote certainly conjures up a drink with attitude. I think the word, coffee, evokes a feeling of comfort. It indicates time out with friends too. Last week I met up with a friend, and we put the world to rights over a cup of coffee. The sun was shining so we sat in the garden. Neither of us have coffee machines, but agree the best instant coffee is Kenco’s Millicano – a blend of instant coffee and finely-milled coffee beans. Delivering a smooth, full-bodied flavour and a heady aroma, it really hits the spot. As Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odour to the nostrils.’ Well said.

If it's good enough for Marilyn ...
If it’s good enough for Marilyn …

As we enjoyed perfect coffee, accompanied by chocolate croissants and surrounded by nature, I felt I was basking in the Garden of Eden. J.S. Bach’s words from his comic opera, Coffee Cantata, resounded in my mind,

 ‘Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!’

Bach loved coffee so much that circa 1735 he wrote a composition about the drink. No doubt Drew Sorters agreed with Bach, as he is quoted saying, ‘Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with.’ However, the comedian, Lewis Black likes coffee because ‘…it gives me the illusion that I must be awake.’ Righto.

When I worked in London for a film director, he followed the advice of Harry Mahtar ‘I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee.’ At 10am each morning we met at Louis’ Patisserie in Hampstead. ‘Proper’ work did not commence until 11am. One whole hour was given up to planning the day over cups of coffee. As a reserved 19 year old from a quiet town ‘up north’, I was far too unworldly wise to appreciate being saturated in daily coffee showers. But, oh, what a dream job today …


A Cup of Coffee History

There are several whimsical accounts of the origin of the coffee drink. One such story involves a 9th century Ethiopian goat-herder, who, upon noticing the energising effects on his flock when they nibbled the bright red berries of a certain bush, prompted him to bring the berries to a monk in a monastery nearby. But the monk disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire. An enticing aroma billowed from the fire causing other monks to rush and investigate. The roasted beans were raked from the embers, ground up, and dissolved in hot water, thus creating the world’s first cup of coffee. However, this story  appeared in writing 800 years later after the event was supposed to have taken place. Hmm.

It was back in the 13th century when Turkey began roasting and grinding coffee beans. By the 16th century Turkey was the main coffee distributor for providing coffee to Persia, Egypt, Syria and Italy. Coffee had reached Europe. Not long after, in 1668, it was North America’s turn to experience coffee.

Coffee trees are grown in more than 50 countries: all the coffee growing regions being close to the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. One third of all coffee is grown in Brazil – they have a whopping 4 billion coffee trees! Coffee beans come from inside the coffee berries growing on the coffee tree (which is actually a bush). Each coffee berry contains two coffee beans (the pits of the coffee berry). When coffee berries appear on the coffee tree, they are green, soon turning yellow and then increasingly red. When the berries are dark crimson, they are ripe. A coffee tree matures after about five years and yields approximately one pound of coffee beans per year on average. Harvesting of the coffee berries occurs between November and April. One acre of coffee trees will produce about 10,000 coffee berries, which will reduce to about one ton of hulled and milled coffee beans.



Coffee beans are heated up to between 400 and 425 degrees Fahrenheit during roasting. The outside of the bean turns a dark colour, and oils develop which are forced to the surface. The roasting causes the beans to crack, not only once, but twice. At the second crack they are removed from the roaster and cooled with cold air. A longer roasting time leads to a darker roast of coffee. As the coffee beans cool they release approximately 700 chemical substances which comprise the vaporising aromas.

International Coffee Facts


  • The U.S. consumes about one-fifth of the world’s coffee.
  • The average U.S. adult drinks about 400 cups of coffee each year.
  • About half of all U.S. adults start the day with a cup of coffee.
  • The U.S. is the world’s largest coffee consumer.



  • In parts of Africa, coffee beans are soaked in water and spices, and chewed like candy.


  • Espresso is regulated by the Italian government because it is considered an essential part of their daily life.
  • Italians prefer sugar in their Espresso.
  • Caffe sospeso, which means ‘suspended/pending coffee’ is a tradition that involves paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future customer who may be down on their luck. People who can’t afford a cup of coffee can come into a shop that observes this practice and ask if there are any ‘sospesos’ available. The tradition is said to have originated in Naples about a century ago. What a heart warming gesture. The good news is that this practice has been adopted by other countries, although I haven’t heard of it here.



  • Moroccans like peppercorns with their coffee.


  • Mexicans often use cinnamon in their coffee.


  • Egyptians like straight, strong coffee, but will sweeten it at weddings.


  • Austrians prefer whipped cream in their coffee.


  • The French philosopher, Voltaire, is said to have drank 50 cups of coffee a day. I bet his writing is exciting. I’ve heard he was extremely outspoken. He also wrote thousands of letters, books and pamphlets. Note to self: increase coffee intake.



  • Japan has an official ‘Coffee Day’ on the 1st of October each year.
  • Canned, iced coffee is very popular in Japan.
  • A spa resort in Hakone, Japan, has speciality spas that allow customers to bathe in various liquids, including coffee. For approximately £17, bathers can have coffee poured over them and then stroll to the ramen bath to swim amongst noodles. Oh my.


Coffee can be Healthy  (via the Huffington Post)

1. Researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami believe that moderate coffee consumption can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset. The Universities found that people older than 65, who had higher blood levels of caffeine, developed Alzheimer’s disease two to four years later than those with lower levels of caffeine.

2. According to a study carried out in 2005, it concluded that nothing comes close to providing as many antioxidants as coffee. Although fruit and vegetables have tons of antioxidants, the human body seems to absorb the most from coffee.

3. A study carried out by the National Institute of Health found those who drink four or more cups of coffee a day are about 10 per cent less likely to be depressed than those who never touch the stuff. And apparently it’s not because of the ‘caffeine high’ – Coke gives a ‘caffeine high’ but is linked to depression. It was concluded that the reason coffee makes you feel good is because of those trusty antioxidants.


Coffee Titbits

  • In the ancient Arab culture there was only one way a woman could legally divorce: If her husband didn’t provide enough coffee. Ah. Those poor chaps must have been counting coffee beans in their sleep.
  • In the 1600s there was controversy over whether or not Catholics could drink coffee. Luckily Pope Clement VIII said it was okay.
  • The infamous Frederick the Great liked his coffee made with Champagne, with a drop of mustard added. Sacrilege!
  • Here is a man who really did count beans. Beethoven was so particular about his coffee that he always counted 60 coffee beans in each cup when he prepared his brew.
  • Espresso is about 2.5% fat, compared with filter coffee which is only about 0.6% fat.
  • About 42 coffee beans are needed to make just one shot of espresso.


Coffee and Cats

The Guinness Book of Records recognised ‘Oldest Cat Ever’ was Creme Puff, who lived to be 38 years old.The owner fed Creme Puff coffee every morning, along with bacon, eggs and broccoli! This is especially significant because the owner’s previous cat, Grandpa Rex Allen, held the record previously. He was fed on the same diet, living until the age of 34 years old. Wow. Think I may change my own diet.

Only one thing is certain about coffee … wherever it is grown, sold, brewed, and consumed, there will be lively controversy, strong opinions, and good conversation.  Mark Pendergrast



Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Handbag Heaven

All things feminine and beautiful with a touch of wit are what I love in a bag.  Lulu Guinness

Like many girls, my interest in bags began at a young age. At the tender age of three I remember taking great delight in emptying, not only my lovely Nana’s handbag of its entire contents, but her purse as well. Each time this happened, I was  methodical in putting everything back in its rightful place. Even back then, I sensed the magic of those pieces of paper and jingly jangly circles – if you handed them over to certain people, you received a hoard of treasure. Sweets. The possibilities were endless! Indeed, as time went by, sweets were replaced with beauteous bags.


And what was dancing around your handbag all about? In the 1980s, this is how I spent my Saturday night, disco dancing in a nightclub with the girls, often to the sound of Ottawan’s song, Hands Up. We would circle around our handbags, which were on the floor, throwing our hands up in the air, as if sacrificing our beloved bags to the gods. I wonder if this sophisticated practice still exists?

Flower Power …


Men and their bags, eh?


A Brief History of the Bag

Scythian Pouch - 5th Century
Scythian Pouch – 5th Century

The above drawstring pouch is an example of one of the earliest bags documented. It would have been worn dangling from the waist, by both men and women. From the 13th to 15th century, metal framed bags were worn around the waists of women, usually on ornate girdles. And in the 16th century, women kept their valuables hidden in the folds of the dresses they wore.

The 17th century saw pear-shaped ‘pockets’ being tied to each hip, beneath hooped petticoats. No longer was a woman’s ‘pocket’ sewn into her dress, and 17th century men were now able to depend on sewn-in pockets in their trousers.

Pear-shaped 'pocket'
Pear-shaped ‘pocket’

In 1790, the empire line dress was introduced in Paris – a fitted bodice ending just below the bust, with a long, gathered skirt which loosely skimmed the body. No more voluminous petticoats in which to conceal one’s personal effects. The handbag was born. The first such handbag was called a reticule, from the Latin, reticulum, meaning ‘net’ (‘net’ being the ancient meaning in Latin).


The first ‘proper’ leather handbag came about in the 1800s, when a strong tote with handles was needed for travel. This bag could be snapped shut and came complete with lock and key.

Handbag Trivia

  • Jane Austen was a creative lady with a sewing needle. She made little bags for members of her family, sometimes embroidered with her own witticisms.
  • Wealthy Victorians would often embark on a year long honeymoon, completing their journey with souvenir bags. These bags were embossed with hand-coloured lithographs of Paris.
  • The Victorians used to grieve for loved ones for up to three years. Hand-beaded bags in shades of blue, black and violet, sewn onto black velvet were carried at this time.
  • What the Queen carries in her handbag: ‘a comb, a handkerchief, a small gold compact, and a tube of lipstick.’
  • New York fashion designer Donna Karan’s work bag was so heavy, that her driver delivered it while she jogged to the office.
  • If you are a buxom lady, avoid a shoulder bag, which will make you appear more bulky around the waist or hip area.
  • If you are tall and large framed, carry a medium bag, as a small bag will make you look bigger.
  • Don’t wear matching bags and shoes after the age of 30. This can add ten years onto your age.


Fast Food Bags

Katherine Baumann - 1990s.
Katherine Baumann – 1990s.
Katherine Baumann - 1990s.
Katherine Baumann – 1990s.

James Bond style


The Hula Hoop Bag


My Handbag

This is my every day bag for the summer months, which was purchased a few years ago. I really like the colour and attention to detail. It makes me feel happy. This handbag was made by the the Italian designer house, Braccialini. It is small to medium in size, and simply perfect for carrying my essentials. I adore quirky styles and never try to match bags with clothes.


The contents of my handbag consist of – from left to right: ‘Guess’ purse which my son bought for me five years ago; Kindle; iPhone; lip liner and lip gloss; keys; reading glasses; Paris compact mirror …


Braccialini Bags

In 2014, Braccialini celebrated 60 years in business. The company is based in Florence, with numerous stores worldwide. Braccialini was set up in 1954 by Carla and Roberto Braccialini. Although faced with many challenges in the early days, the business has thrived. In 2009, Carla was awarded the Cavaliere del Lavoro, a prestigious award assigned to entrepreneurs for their valuable contribution in their chosen field. As well as producing unique and exquisite bags, the quality of craftsmanship of Braccialini bags is superb. Here is just a small selection of Braccialini’s beautiful bags ~ I am drooling already! If you want to see more of their stunning bags and accessories, there is a one minute Youtube clip after the photos.

IMG_3819 IMG_3820

IMG_3825 IMG_3835 IMG_3837

IMG_3861 IMG_3862

IMG_3840 IMG_3844

IMG_3855 IMG_3856 IMG_3858

IMG_3870 IMG_3871




IMG_3853 IMG_3854


Click on picture below to take a video peek of Braccialini’s Spring/Summer Collection 2015. Fabulous.


What Your Bag says about You

  • Shoulder Bag ~ Attractive, practical, refuse to be a fashion victim.
  • Backpack ~ Usually young in years, can’t sit still, trendy, casual.
  • Bumbags ~ Frumpy!
  • Crocheted Bag ~ Creative, arty type, people and animals love you.
  • The Clutch ~ Confident, elegant, classy, good people person.
  • Straw Basket ~ Girly, can be over-sensitive, loves holidaying in the sun.
  • Ethnic Style ~ Strong willed.
  • Hobo Bag ~ Full of ideas, lots of interests, busy life.
  • Bowling Bag ~ Distinct personal style, strong personality, always in control.
  • Tote Bag ~ Likes a night in with a good book or game of Scrabble accompanied by a glass or two of red wine.
  • The Satchel ~ Bohemian, yoga lover.
  • The ‘IT’ Bag ~ knows a bag and good shoes are essential in bringing an outfit together. Owns a purse full of credit cards.

Your Bag Holding Style

I wonder what this semi-hands-free style of holding a clutch with a chain handle, riding a horse pose indicates? She obviously loves her bag very much …


… unlike this lady who doesn’t like handbags


  • Clutch Bag ~ Carrying in front of you with two hands indicates shyness and lack of confidence; Carrying your clutch like a baguette indicates alertness and a business mind; Loosely holding your clutch signifies flirtiness; Gripping your clutch tightly under an armpit can indicate that you don’t care what others think about you.
  • Long Strap Bag ~ Carrying your bag on one shoulder while holding the straps indicates practicality and reliability; Carrying your bag across the body, hands-free style, signifies independence and a relaxed, casual nature.
  • Large Bag ~ Holding a large bag on the crook of your elbow signifies self-importance and superiority.


He who would travel happily must travel light.  Antoine de Sainte-Exupery.


A bag that’s chic is a bag that you can wear everywhere, day or night. It has a sense of humour, a sort of tenderness. Sonia Rykiel.


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Jazz It Up a Little

Jazz washes away the dust of every day life.  Art Blakey

There is a lot of truth in the above quote. A jazz evening spent at the North of England’s premier jazz club, Matt & Phred’s, catapulted me into a state of nirvana. As soon as the saxophone sounded, my senses were swept away in a sea of self-indulgence. Francoise Sagan sums it up well with his quote, ‘Jazz music is an intensified feeling of nonchalance.’ And Herbie Hancock’s take on jazz is right too, ‘It’s not exclusive, but inclusive, which is the whole spirit of jazz.’ And that night, at Matt & Phred’s, my friend and I felt well and truly part of the jazz fraternity.


After a warm welcome, we were guided to our table by a very young looking Cleo Laine – her hair was fabulous! We had booked a table and were seated right at the front, by the stage. Although there was no dress code, we did not feel out of place in our dresses, as the whole ambience of the club was relaxed and friendly. Flat caps were trending, which added to the earthy feel of the club. Low lighting, ruby red decor and candle-lit tables, induced an alluring atmosphere. The band was mesmerising with its stellar jazz playing. The group of musicians consisted of pianist, drummer, guitarist, double bass player and lead guy, who switched between saxophone and trumpet. My friend and I never uttered a word throughout the whole performance: we were lost in the music. What an incredible night. I just wish I lived a little nearer.


Located in the northern quarter of Manchester, Matt & Phred’s offers a great night out for music lovers of all persuasions. Artists from the worlds of jazz, folk, gypsy, swing, electro and world music, have graced the stage at Matt & Phred’s. Names such as Sneaky, Manu Delago, The Dagda Quartet, and even Jamie Cullum and Adele have performed at this unique, intimate little venue.

Amazingly, gigs are free Monday to Thursday, with a £5 door charge payable on Friday and Saturday nights, when it is highly recommended to book a table. Bar service is available at your table, and a menu of tasty Tapas, and home-made pizzas are on offer too. The last Sunday of each month sees ‘Next Up’ taking place – an acoustic open mic event – offering everyone and anyone an opportunity to showcase their talents on Matt & Phred’s stage.


A History Note

Jazz was born in New Orleans in the early 20th century. However its roots can be found in the music of Africa and Europe. As New Orleans was a port city, with people arriving from all parts of the world, it was a perfect meeting place for different ethnic groups to come together. Musicians had the opportunity to play together, and learn from one another.

Jazz evolved from slave songs and religious African American folk songs. From African music, jazz got its rhythm and blues quality. From European music, jazz got its harmony – the chords that accompany the tunes; and also its instruments – most of the instruments used in jazz originated in Europe, such as the saxophone trumpet and piano. Musical improvisation came from both traditions.

The Jazz Age was the period of time between the end of World War I and the Great Depression. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby, was based on the Jazz Age. In fact he is the one who actually named this time in history, ‘The Jazz Age.’


Jazz Hands

‘Jazz hands’ was seen a lot in Broadway and film musical choreography. The hands are open, palms face forward, and fingers are splayed. Sometimes the hands are shaken in a rapid and fluttering motion.



Louis Armstrong

The first truly great jazz soloist and improviser was trumpet player, Louis Armstrong. He was born in 1901 in New Orleans, into a very poor family – his grandparents had been slaves. He had a difficult childhood and ended up in a special home for badly behaved children. However this is where he learnt to play the cornet – a small trumpet. His very broad smile earned Louis the nickname of ‘Satchmo’ from ‘satchel mouth.’ He was very well liked, and loved to entertain. Louis played over three hundred concerts a year for many years. He made a lot of money, but he also gave a lot of it away. Louis worked with many of the greatest jazz musicians of his time, including King Oliver, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. King Oliver was one of the main people who helped Louis learn how to play jazz. Louis played the trumpet and sang. His recordings with the Hot Five (1925-1928) and the Hot Seven (1927) changed the way jazz was played forever.

Louis Armstrong with his wife in Rome - 1949. Photo by Slim Aaron's.
Louis Armstrong with his wife in Rome – 1949.
Photo by Slim Aarons.

Louis Armstrong had a huge impact on popular music, as well as jazz. In 1964, his recording of Hello Dolly, went to the top of the popular music charts in the USA, and in 1968, What a Wonderful World went to the top of the popular music charts in the UK. Other famous singles include: When the Saints Go Marchin’ In, Heebie Jeebies, St Louis Blues and Ain’t Misbehavin’.

If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.  Louis Armstrong.


Jazz has gone from being America’s music to the world’s music. An American friend of mine, who happens to be rather proficient on the sax, sent me a link about a super talented, and beautiful jazz singer. Her name is Brigitte Zarie, and she is Canadian born, but now lives in New York. As soon as I heard her debut album, Make Room For Me, eighteen months ago, I was hooked. She wrote the songs herself. With a voice as smooth as silk, and an inimitable style which is timeless, it’s no wonder that Brigitte is taking the US and France by storm. The following is a track from Brigitte Zarie’s latest album, L’amour.



Life is a lot like jazz … it’s best when you improvise.  George Gershwin

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Perfume is the most intense form of memory.  Jean Paul Guerlain


Do certain perfumes trigger memories, no matter how distant they may be? Certainly this was the case for me, when my daughter opened a door of The Body Shop advent calendar at Christmas, and out popped a miniature bottle of White Musk. This took me right back to the age of 15 when I discovered this evocative scent, which encompasses notes of lily, iris, rose, vanilla, and cruelty-free synthetic musk: The Body Shop’s products are not tested on animals. White Musk featured in my life for many years, but curiously my daughter, who happens to be 15, couldn’t wait to give me the petite sized eau-de-toilette. In her eyes it was a relic. Hmm. My current perfume, Lolita Lempicka, evokes memories of a different kind, when one year my brother bought it for me as a Christmas present. We are fortunate enough to have a top notch perfumery in our town where one can obtain the most exotic of scents. The characterful lady who owns Fascination has been running it for over 20 years, and knows all there is to know about perfume on an international scale. Lolita Lempicka was launched in 1997, and is a blend of exotic liquorice, vanilla, florals and musk. The scent lingers for a long time. A perk when visiting Fascination is that one comes out of the shop with a bag stuffed full of intriguing product samples. And indeed my dear brother walked out of the store with a ‘goodies bag’, after purchasing my Christmas present. Dousing himself in one of the samples for the office party, he certainly did smell sweet, receiving many compliments. From. Men. Ah. He was convinced that the lovely lady from the perfumery had bestowed upon him gifts for the boys. It was a memorable night.

Lolita Lempicka
Lolita Lempicka 

A perfume paradise – Fascination – the North of England’s fragrance wonderland …




The interior of Fascination


Perfume by Jean Paul Gaultier


Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez – the purest and most expensive natural ingredients are used to create this warm and richly textured perfume. It has been revealed that Michael Jackson wore this as his signature scent.

‘Where should I apply perfume?’ a young lady asked.

‘Where you want to be kissed.’

Coco Chanel


History snippet Perfume was first used by the Egyptians as part of their religious rituals, through the burning of incense and the application of balms and ointments. The word, perfume, comes from the Latin, ‘per fumus’, meaning ‘through smoke’. In 2004-05, archaeologists uncovered what are believed to be the world’s oldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus. The perfumes date back more than 4,000 years ago. Perfume bottles became as elaborate and exotic as the oils they contained, the earliest specimens dating back to about 1000 BC. In 1370, the first modern perfume – a blend of scented oils and alcohol solution – was made at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, and which became known as Hungary Water. In the 16th century, the art of perfumery prospered in Italy, followed quickly by France, the latter becoming the European centre of perfume. Today, Grasse, a small town in Provence in the South of France, is considered the world’s capital of perfume. In England, perfume reached its peak during the reigns of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth could not tolerate bad smells and ordered that all public places be scented.


Perfume and advertising Today, advertising plays a huge part in the perfume industry, enticing us to buy into the dream of a more glamorous life. We are offered approximately 1,000 new fragrances a year. ‘Celebrities’ are launching perfumes by the dozen, attracting the teenage market. Buying a perfume can be image based, and is often a conscious response to clever advertising. Before advertising, selecting a scent was based on ladies following their instinct, and not fashion. Smart.



The five most popular perfumes of all time (June 2014)

1. Chanel No. 5 by Chanel

2. Joy by Jean Patou

3. Shalimar by Guerlain

4. Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

5. L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci

A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.  Christian Dior

What your scent says about you FLORAL – ultra feminine, dress style – casual, good-natured, lively. CITRUS – confident, efficient, a born organiser, a classic beauty. EARTHY AND WOODY – uncomplicated, bold, not overly feminine, articulate, modern. ORIENTAL – romantic, sensual, warm, intense.


Perfume trivia

  1. The sense of smell diminishes with age, which is why older people often wear too much perfume.
  2. Women generally have stronger senses of smell than men.
  3. Smelling a scent you perceive as pleasant has a positive impact on your mood.
  4. Almost every perfume contains rose and jasmine.
  5. Coco Chanel was the first female to produce a designer perfume.
  6. Perfume is banned from many office buildings in the US.
  7. Because of differences in body chemistry, temperature and body odours, no perfume will smell exactly the same on any two people.
  8. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar are the biggest spenders per capita on luxury perfume in the world, purchasing a new bottle every two months, compared with the average Westerner, who buys one every six months.
  9. The three enemies of perfume are: sunlight, heat and air.
  10. If stored correctly, the shelf life of most perfume is three to five years, although perfumes with a higher content of essential oils have a longer shelf life.


A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.  Coco Chanel

If you’re a ‘citrus’ girl and struggling to find your signature scent, don’t despair …


I think Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right …

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Tea, Glorious Tea!

Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.  Chaim Potok


Does tea make everything better? According to William Gladstone it does:

If you are cold, tea will warm you,

If you are heated, it will cool you.

If you are depressed, it will cheer you.

If you are excited, it will calm you.

And I’m inclined to agree with him. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, with Turkey being the country where most tea is drunk per person. There was a little gasp from me as I read this information, feeling for sure it would be the UK. Certainly in our household tea is a valuable commodity, and has been a source of comfort on many occasions. When friends pop round, I automatically switch on the kettle to make a ‘brew’ – that’s if it is daytime – night time finds me popping a cork! Be there a problem, some happy news or a good gossip going down, there is a constant flow of tea on tap. Forget the ‘selfie-stick’, my Irish sister-in-law must have a ‘tea-stick’ supporting her addiction to the stuff. My great-auntie, who practically swam in a sea of tea, is testament to its health benefits having lived to the grand old age of 106. Indeed, tea can help stave off heart disease, and protect against tooth decay and gum disease. The recommended amount of tea to drink per day for optimal health benefits, is four cups. There is a quote – origin unknown – which really sums the whole tea thing up to us Brits. Ahem.

To an Englishman, tea is of far greater importance than toilet paper.


Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. Tea rooms flourished from the 1880s, and these were regarded as respectable and fashionable meeting places for Victorian ladies. Despite the current economic climate which has seen many restaurants close, the traditional British teashop is thriving.

There is an abundance of teashops in my neighbourhood. A favourite is The Blackbird, which is very much a traditional teashop in terms of specialising in loose leaf tea and cake, yet there is a shabby chic feel to the interior which I like. There are a couple of cosy corners taken up with squishy sofas and soft throws – a perfect setting for a relaxing read of one of the many books housed in a huge bookcase. There aren’t many teashops which make the ‘perfect’ cup of tea, but this is one of them. No teabags or minuscule metal milk jugs. The Blackbird serves the tastiest of tea leaves brewed in teapots, accompanied by floral china milk jugs. The cakes are home-made and always fresh. Light lunches are available, and The Blackbird serves an afternoon tea which could rival that of The Ritz.






One of many quirky signs displayed!
One of many quirky signs displayed!


You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.  C. S. Lewis

A Taste of Tea Etiquette

*     Always place the teacup back on the saucer in-between sips of tea.

*     Always look into the cup whilst sipping the tea – it is considered rude to look elsewhere!

*     Absolutely no using tea to wash down your food.

*     Never stir your tea in a circular motion: place the teaspoon at a 12 o’clock position in the cup and softly fold the tea back and forth two to three times to the 6 o’clock position. Always place your teaspoon back on the saucer to the right of the cup when not being used to stir the tea.

*     The risen pinkie finger is now one of the most common faux pas whilst sipping a cup of tea.

Drop the pinkie!

Tea is one of the main stays of civilisation in this country.  George Orwell

There is another popular tearoom close-by which is of a quirky nature, and is a favourite of young and old alike. Alice’s Tearooms is themed on Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland. Even a trip to the toilet is magical, evoking Alice’s passage to Wonderland … With a fine selection of loose leaf teas, Wonderland Cake, Mint Aero Milk Shake and an indulgent Afternoon Tea menu – there is something for everyone.


Wonderland Cake
Wonderland Cake
Sugar cubes
Sugar cubes
Giant playing card menu
Giant playing card menu


Teacup chandelier
Teacup chandelier
The passage to the toilet
Cheshire Cat cake pops


There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  Henry James


Death Cafe

Did you know meetings at designated ‘death cafes’ are taking place all over the world? Apparently these meetings present an opportunity to chat about life’s end over a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. Ah.  Lovecrumbs in Edinburgh is one such pop-up death cafe. In fact in 2012 a guide was published on how to run your own death cafe.

Tea is the only simple pleasure left to us.  Oscar Wilde

A Cup of Tea Trivia

80% of office workers say they find out more about what’s going on at work over a cup of tea than in any other way.

Tea breaks are a tradition spanning 200 years.

Tea contains half the amount of caffeine found in coffee.

Tea was created over 5000 years ago in China.

Tea first arrived in Europe in 1560.

Only 30% of people take sugar in their tea, but 98% have milk in their tea.

The idea of ‘afternoon tea’ originated in the early 1800s by Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford. She conceived the idea to ward off hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. Some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had the idea of putting filling between two slices of bread.

The earliest tea cups imported from China had no handles. As tea drinking gained more popularity, so did the demand for more British-style tea cups. This fuelled the growth of the pottery and porcelain industry in England. ‘The Potteries’ were located in the Midlands, and today many of the original Potteries are still producing world famous porcelain such as Royal Doulton, Aynsley and Wedgwood.

In 1999, an estimated 37 people in the UK were injured by tea cosies!

When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over.  Audrey Hepburn

I am sure the above quote would be true of Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted …

Father Ted ~ A Nice Cup of Tea


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)

Creativity Never Goes Out of Style

A trip to HomeSense is like sailing a lagoon and landing on a desert island awash with hidden gems. A haven of quirky designs at desirable prices; there is something to suit every style. Here I feature some unusual finds, discovered on a recent visit to HomeSense.

First to catch my eye was a stone sculpture. This horse’s head would look amazing displayed on a huge fire place, or as a stand alone feature set on a cabinet in a large hallway. I am not sure who the little guy adjacent to the horse would appeal to, but what a unique side table – perfect for holding a glass of wine.


My browsing became rather like a safari trek, with the odd farmyard animal thrown in. A striking silver lion’s head captured the attention of a lady nearby. Her face lit up in the same way a small child’s would upon entering a candy store; a woman on a mission – the lady excitedly asked a member of staff to carry it for her. A contemporary interior would be an appropriate setting for this piece.


Next, the head of a rhino appeared – twice the size of the silver lion.


I passed by a gentler looking creature, which looked as though it had been part of a glamorous act in a nativity play. The deer’s antlers sparkled with sequins, whilst its ears were splattered with gold glitter; a tassel dangled from its chin. This would certainly add a funky look to a child’s bedroom.


A cockerel was next to emerge, the detail of which was astounding, and it was incredibly heavy. This would complement French country style.


Peeping out from the cushion section, I chuckled as I spotted ‘hello you’ – a friendly gift for someone.


For garden goddesses, maybe this cheeky cushion would appeal – super soft and feather filled.


Or how about these; again, sumptuous quality – perhaps a little reminder for someone special.


An accessory for the bedroom!


A fun cushion for a teenager’s room – and the message really works …


… And as I glanced to the RIGHT, a most elaborate looking candle holder ‘screamed’ for attention; like a bejewelled weeping willow tree, this would make a statement wherever it was placed.


For any wannabe warrior, this could be all the reassurance you need to do battle with – ultra heavy head gear; and with a reduced price tag; from £129.99 to £99.


The photo of this vibrant lampshade does not do it justice. It was approximately 60 cms in diameter, and appeared to be hand crocheted. I would have scooped it up if I’d had somewhere to hang it – simply stunning.


For a useful and attractive gift, these boxed postcards would be ideal. Each box contains 100 postcards; for dog lovers, book lovers, and style lovers.


Couldn’t resist this girlie make-up bag with cute message.


An easily recognisable brand – but a cookbook? I was intrigued. Italian Minestrone Soup with 250ml/8fl oz of Coca-Cola added; and Cherry Cup Cakes with the addition of cherry Coca-Cola. Hmm.


An interesting selection for the garden.


This reached my waist in height
This reached my waist in height

I came away from my trip to HomeSense, delighted with my purchase of a glam looking British Bulldog.


Just before I go, here are two of my favourite accessories from HomeSense, bought a couple of years ago.

I adore this clock. It has a diameter of 74 cms/29″. Made from wood and given a distressed finish, this would make a fabulous feature on any wall; it keeps great time too.


This Moroccan lantern is part of a pair. One tiny tea light is all that is required to bring a magical glow to a dark corner.


Create your own style, it will always be in.  Wendy Sefcik

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‘Do-Re-Mi …’

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo

I let out a whoop of excitement – my singing lesson was booked. This time next  week I would be running over the local sand dunes Julie Andrews style: the beach would reverberate with The Sound of Music, and I would be surrounded by an army of dog walkers keen to master Do-Re-Mi. Better still, The Partridge Family could be replaced by The Austin Family: son on guitar, daughter on drums, and me belting out I Think I Love You to all and sundry. Wow. You know what they say: ‘Think Big – the possibilities are endless.’ It did dawn on me I may be having a mid-life crisis, but hey-ho this is something to be embraced, as inhibitions are cast by the wayside as years fly by. My son was a huge source of encouragement leading up to said singing lesson (possibly by never revealing his true feelings). He supervised voice training in the kitchen. My sound waves bounced off the walls to Gabriella Cilmi’s song, Woman On A Mission. I switched between this, and Kylie’s, I Should Be So Lucky. I advised son and daughter that after a few lessons I would be ready for them to accompany me on guitar and drums. Hmm.



The launch to fame day arrived. Clutching a bottle of water, I hot-footed it down the road to the singing academy. I must confess I was harbouring a few nerves: my mouth felt like it had been scrubbed out with a scouring pad. How was I going to talk to the teacher, let alone sing. A door to the singing studio opened. Oh crikey! The teacher wasn’t much older than my son. I had expected a plump lady – older than me of course – with a matter-of-fact approach. You see I was brought up in the ‘old school’ way and it is comforting to stick with what you know. But I had already shaken off the comfort blanket by choosing to sing. And so here I was, face-to-face, with a young lad straight out of drama school. Now Matt did have a great voice: a mix of Michael Buble and Justin Bieber. He sang in a jazz band and his idol happened to be Michael Buble. I loved Michael so I was sure Matt would like Gabriella. But he hadn’t  heard of her. I was surprised. After all she was young too. My hopes were dashed. No longer feeling like a Woman On A Mission, I waited tentatively as Matt produced a song book. I certainly wasn’t  going to be ‘… so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky’ either. Even Kylie was out of the frame as Matt asked whether I knew Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Er. Yes. I had been holding out for Abba at least. There was worse to come. Matt had chosen Hushabye Mountain: a lullaby, which had been sung by Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The song was alien to me but I rolled with it. And indeed did I roll, for Matt told me to get down on the floor. Oh my. He emphasised the importance of warming up. I was hardly prepared for a spot of aerobics – dressed in jeans and high heeled boots. What would happen next? The singing lesson had turned into a thirty minute adventure, which could well end up with us quaffing ‘lashings of ginger beer’ and spending the night with Uncle Quentin.


Matt too got down on the floor, and demonstrated some relaxation and breathing techniques. If only my jeans weren’t so tight. An ancient flashback to the New Seekers prompted wistful thoughts of a floaty dress – smock style. Now if only I could  ‘teach the world to sing’ … 


I was jolted back into the room by Matt tickling the ivories with one hand. Well at least I played the piano better than he did. And what a good job I could read music which helped me gauge the notes of the tawdry tune. Matt only had one song book so I had to huddle up close to peer at the words. Blimey. Any closer I would be in his lap. Matt sang a bar, and I followed. Not only was he surprised at how well my voice was projected across the room, I was too. Could my ‘letting go’ be borne out of sheer frustration as to song choice: a lullaby. sung by a bloke. from a child’s film? Mmm. We finally sang the entire song. As a duet. Together. As one. Such was the feeling of surreality that the experience was of an out-of-body one. Well, if I had helped to fan Matt’s ego then the whole exercise had been worth it. He was keen for me to book a further lesson but I declined. I would have to check my mid-life crisis schedule first. Hmm.

We are what we sing.  Anonymous

I did manage to find out some benefits of singing.

  1. Your posture will get straighter and you’ll gradually look more confident.
  2. It’s a good workout for your lungs.
  3. Singing improves circulation and tones abdominal muscles.
  4. It’s good for the brain and will enhance your mental awareness, concentration and memory.
  5. Singing has been proven to boost your immune system.
  6. You’ll probably live longer, in general.
  7. Tests have shown that singing reduces the risk of heart disease.
  8. The natural stress reliever, oxytocin, is released when you sing, which has been found to alleviate feelings of depression and loneliness.
  9. You’ll sleep better, as a result of being less stressed.
  10. Singing releases endorphins, which make you feel instantly happier!

My top tip would be to wear something loose like Demis.


Demis Roussos was a famous Greek singer. He sold 60 million albums worldwide, and became an unlikely kaftan-wearing sex symbol. Forever and Ever was No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart in 1976. Top song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5or2CMvYIE And I shall go on singing forever and ever … in the kitchen.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :)

Moving With Style – The Final Chapter


Moving with style it was not. After a flurry of activity over the past few months, finally our new house feels like home. Indeed I feel it is a magical dwelling as stars dance before my eyes. Could that be due to a frenzy of painting? But what a journey it has been.

All boxed up and ready to go at the beginning of July, the chain collapsed two days before we were due to move: someone pulled out of their sale and purchase at the last minute. And so I found myself unpacking and setting up home in our – er – home. As if it were not enough banging up pictures, of which we have in abundance; most of the furniture had been sold as we were down sizing. Thoughts of relaxing on our squishy sofas were squashed. And thoughts of a candle lit dinner, seated at a huge dining table with lashings of wine, instantly evaporated. It was a balmy evening so thoughts turned to sitting in the garden, but my beloved swinging chair bed had been scrapped. It was on its last legs, but oh! what luxury it would have been at the time. As I pointed out to my son and daughter – ‘Look on the bright side, we have beds.’ Hmm. I could tell the dogs were nonplussed too. They had no baskets: one of the sofas adorned with a fluffy throw had been their bed. I tossed a spare double duvet on the floor for them … and we too joined them there for the evening. I just stopped short of drowning my sorrows in a rather decent bottle of celebratory Champagne, which had been purchased for the move. Drifting into a pond-like state, my mind re-ran mini episodes of house viewings …


‘Walk like an Egyptian’

This lady was a genealogist, and her home was filled with antiques. She gave me a run down on all the neighbours, and knew the state and price of houses for sale in the immediate locality. Naturally her house was top notch and best value for money. I wanted to call her Hyacinth, from Keeping Up Appearances. She offered to give me a tour of ‘the estate’ which was your average English run of the mill back garden: so not very big. Ahem. This garden consisted of artificial grass – of which the vendor was very proud – and mounds of rocks, reminiscent of a miniature Stone Henge. Swags of rope and fake seagulls ‘topped off’ the look. Apparently she had wanted to create a seaside garden. Hmm.

Whilst viewing the interior of the property, I was struck by the lack of opening windows. For I had never seen a conservatory with no opening door onto a garden; and the magnificent floor to ceiling windows in the main sitting room did not open onto the back garden. When the vendor asked if I could see myself living here, I wanted to flee. She had already researched my surname before the viewing, and had many images of ‘sacred’ Egyptian cats positioned around the house. Was this woman nuts? She had kept me there for an hour and a half. Oh my. As I made my way to the front door I touched an Egyptian cat which the vendor told me would bring good luck: it wobbled. And I remember having read that cats were such sacred creatures in Ancient Egypt, even killing one accidentally incurred the death penalty. I hot footed it to my car anticipating an almighty crash followed by a high-speed get away.


Dixon of Dock Green

This house was empty. Set on the outskirts of a local village, the property was formerly a small police station. Enjoying a rural location with far flung views across fields, it looked promising. An attempt had been made to conceal all signs of the property having been a police station, but this had failed. There was a cold feel to the house. The property was swamped in accents of beige. Unimaginative clinical vertical blinds were all around … there was no love. Across the corridor from the kitchen was the original prison cell. Thoughts of Super Nanny sprang to mind: for parents of younger children – what a splendid ‘naughty corner’. We heard rummaging in the garage – a police officer was sorting through an array of intriguing objects. And I wondered whether to salute him. Would he bend at the knees and salute me back, ushering the words, ‘Evening all.’ Did you know Dixon of Dock Green ran episodes for 21 years and was voted second most popular programme on British TV in 1961.

When I stepped outside, I was captivated by the open views and my prospective neighbours. Cows. And the quote by Grant Wood popped into my head, ‘All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.’  Maybe life in the nick wasn’t such a bad idea after all.


Mr. Motivator

There were two things I loved about this house, but sadly they were not part of the fixtures and fittings.

I was greeted at the front door by a super smiley, rotund chap. I do like smiley people. There is a lack of them in my local town and I do wonder whether it is because their make-up would crack with the strain of a smile. Ahem. The vendor enthusiastically guided me around the house which he shared with his father and brother. As we approached the kitchen door, he paused to warn me about the cat. She. didn’t. like. anyone. Not even his father. Nor his brother. She may even attack. Having two cats already, I wasn’t too phased by his words. But in any case I was glad of the large tote bag I had brought with me, which was now placed in front of my body, like armour. The vendor cautiously opened the door whilst I took tentative steps behind him. Well I was blown away by the most beautiful feline ever! Eye contact was made and I crouched down to her level. The vendor looked on in disbelief as this glorious fluff ball swaggered gracefully towards me – as if fresh out of deportment class – and brushed her dainty nose against my hand. There was an instant bond and I felt like ‘Mrs. Doolittle.’ Her name was Muffin. Oh dear. The only creature I knew of that name was Muffin the Mule, and he was a wooden puppet. She should be ‘Duchess’ or ‘Portia’, or at the very least ‘Talulah’. Muffin followed us into the garden. And whilst the vendor apologised for the garden’s overgrown state, my eyes were drawn to an aesthetically pleasing semi-naked statue of a Greek goddess. It had the wow factor and  would look spectacular in the grounds of a French Chateau. I knew at this stage I did not want the house. But I did want Muffin and the statue. However there was still upstairs to see.


The vendor negotiated the stairs two at a time. I was impressed. Another flight of stairs to the loft conversion, and I could just about keep up with him. What a surprise when we reached the top: three of the walls were covered in floor to ceiling mirrors. An eclectic mix of equipment made up his ‘fitness studio’, including a smattering of lycra. Good on him. Now if he looked half as good as Mr. Motivator in his spandex …

Despite the vendor’s infectious enthusiasm and non-stop smiles: whilst I warmed to him, I could not the house. And as I sat in my car, poised to start the engine, I contemplated making him an offer for the goddess. This could be the start of my French dream.

The home should be the treasure chest of living. Le Corbusier (Swiss/French architect/writer)


The above were just three viewings out of  – er – 27. Fortunately we ended up moving into the house we wanted, albeit four months later than it should have been. The sale of our house was on and off three times. My daughter had broken up for the summer holidays, but I was waiting until we moved before booking a holiday. Unfortunately this never happened. The summer months were taken up with showing the house and purchasing second-hand furniture to replace what we had already sold! The garden table proved invaluable as a dining table: when the weather was hot, we dined alfresco; when it was not, the table was transported into the dining room. I call it mobile living.

My new house sign ... Home is where the heart is ...
My new house sign … Home is where the heart is …

Based upon recent experiences, here is a list of moving tips.

  1. When getting valuations for your house from estate agents, stick to your guns regarding pricing. Research the local area which will act as an excellent guide. One estate agent valued my home at £30,000 less than the amount I received for it, and certainly tried to pull the wool over my eyes with his slimy spiel. Ugh.
  2. Don’t believe an estate agent. Ever.
  3. Camp out on your solicitor’s doorstep to make contact if necessary.
  4. The surveyor is on your side and can help you negotiate a lower price with the vendor.
  5. Keep on great terms with vendor and purchaser. Aim to please. This should be mirrored back to you.
  6. Keep the removal men happy – lots of brews – they will go that extra mile for you. Mine carefully fixed a broken wardrobe.
  7. When a prospective purchaser is due, set the scene. Light fires and candles, ascertain the correct lighting in each room, ensure the house is warm – thus creating a welcoming atmosphere. No matter what you do, it won’t tick all the boxes with everyone, but those viewers’ boxes it does tick will be desperate to pull out all the stops to get your property. Despite the chain collapsing, the original purchasers bought my house.
  8. Do an online shop to be delivered to your new address the day after you move. My daughter took charge of this and made all sorts of wicked and indulgent purchases, which wouldn’t normally be in our every day shopping. Nice one.
  9. On moving day, don’t fret about what you have to do. When the removal men have departed, sit down on your sofa – if you have one – and wallow in savouring a steaming hot, sweet cup of tea. It will taste like the best brew of your life. And if you really can’t stop fretting, crack open that bubbly. You deserve it.
  10. Embrace the thought of your new home as the beginning of an exciting chapter. Enjoy!

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. Jane Austen

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :)