Friday, 31 July 2015

My Month in Numbers 2015: July


Hello hello.

It's the last day of the month which means one thing: I'm rounding up the events of my month with the aid of a number or two, mainly as a hook to hang my stories on. And I've got a lot of stories, because even when there aren't any stories to tell I find stories to tell. Even if it's only about toilet paper.

And it has been about toilet paper several times over the 5-plus years I've been doing this #truestory.

And you're welcome to share yours.

Events and numbers that is. Not toilet paper. I've got my bases [ahem] covered on that front thanks.

[If you're new here, or even if you're old here and just want to join in for the first time, here's where you can pick up some tips on how to do just that.]

And so ... let's start at an appropriately 'starty' place - with some numbers I gathered on the 1st of the month ...

415 years = the age of Doddington Hall[just outside Lincoln]
Isn't it splendid? Finished in 1600 it's been occupied ever since and is still a lived-in family home today. And, what could be better than living in an Elizabethan Mansion house ... than living in an Elizabethan Mansion house with two topiary unicorns on the front lawn?
Incidentally, July entered 2015 to, almost literally, a blaze of glory as the Met Office announced it as the hottest July day on record! In our car we clocked the temperature as 39.5 degrees 

It was an exquisite day in which we browsed the quilt exhibition 'Voices from the Inside' [it's on until the end of August so if you're interested in quilts with interesting stories, as many were made by prisoners and soldiers.] And it was while wandering around their gardens I took what is my current 'favourite photo of mine of the year'.  I was playing around with the fully manual mode on my camera and, either by luck or judgement, I got this, which I love:
Fortunately Mr.Shakespeare was an obligingly patient model. Statuesque even.

Also in the gardens I thought I'd grab an overtly numbery photo for Month in Numbers:
If I remember rightly they're identifying markers for their lily collection. 

And while we're on a blatant 'number' themed photo theme ... how perfect is this? 

The Numbers = the name given to this circle of houses: 
These are directly opposite Lincoln Cathedral [like, within spitting distance of it. Not that you would ever spit at Lincoln Cathedral. That would be unforgivable. I have gotten ice cream in my hair outside it once ... but that's were as I'm drawing the line.]

And, while we were taking the roof tour of the Cathedral the guide mentioned that these houses were called 'The Numbers' because ... they were the first houses in the city to get house numbers!

Have you ever even considered that there was a time before house numbers?? Me neither!

While in Lincoln I also spotted ...

21 out of 25 Lincoln Barons found and photographed. 
These funny squat little chaps were dotted around the city in a treasure trail, to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta [of which there's a copy held in Lincoln]. Each 'Baron' was decorated by a different artist and represented a different aspect of local life or a person or community group.

I might well share photos of more of them sometime, but for now here are the first 2 I found [the first one was just few feet from our hotel at the top of Steep Hill]:
Did someone mention Magna Carta?

800th Anniversary of Magna Carta. 
For anyone who doesn't know what Magna Carta is I'm going to send you over to the British Library's explanations as I can't do it justice!

In short .. it's a document from 1215 that sort of, kind of, marks the beginnings of the human rights and freedoms we enjoy in the UK today [and, I believe the US constitution was influenced by it too]. Anyway ... there's a new exhibition centre inside the grounds of Lincoln Castle where you can view an original copy of it. 

They don't allow photography of it but ... they do allow photography of the vast wall of the building where they've printed out the entire document highlighting some of the key phrases in gold:
If you ever allow yourself to think that we, in our 21st century sophistication, are more 'evolved' than people of the 13th century you need to go and stand in front of that wall and read what they were setting down 800 years ago. It certainly wasn't all dusty narrow roads and chickens wandering about being chased by peasants. I'm ashamed of my ignorance!!

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous ...  

73 = the number of items of cutlery we bought for £4.00 in a junk shop:
We didn't need cutlery but we bought them mainly for the 5 lovely old knives which were just like the one my Grandma always used to use to spread butter. You know when something just does the job it's meant to do perfectly? That's those.

I knew my Mam still had my Grandma's original one, but the handle's broken and, finding 5 of these together - with handles in tact - I thought they'd make a nice little gifts for her and my sister [and us too!]. So we bought the lot ... which just happened to include 68 other pieces too!

As we were on holiday when we bought them we left them in the car [because heck, who'd take them up to their hotel room? What on earth would the cleaner think we were doing in there? School catering?].

But having them in the boot of the car made for some interesting percussive sounds every time we went over a speed-bump!

22 = the number of SPAM messages I returned home to ... which is 548 fewer than I returned to when I went away in March! 548 fewer! Clearly my service provider has upped the 'filteriness' of their SPAM filter lately!

Perversely [which is the right term ... for more reasons than one] I do, sometimes, kinda miss some of the more creative and bizarre messages I used to find in there from time to time. Yet again over 100 SPAM messages a day was getting a bit much, whatever the entertainment value.

3 = the pieces of mail that landed on my doormat but which weren't for me. 
I wrote about them here and .. if you're interested ... I've got an update on one of them ... which I'll report in a post of its own next week sometime.

3 = the number of items of gloriously life-affirming mail I received the week after in an act of reparation by the Gods of the Letterbox.

  1. was the update I'll update you on next week
  2. was my Hamlet tickets!! They've arrived!!! I'm actually going to see Hamlet!! It's real!!
  3. and the 3rd piece of happy July mail was a complete surprise gift from an amazingly thoughtful friend. And a zebraful gift at that.
Gods of the Letterbox you outdid yourselves. I'm calling us even now. A 3 all draw.  

And finally ...  
48 miles travelled to visit the 60 acres of land that make up Yorkshire Lavender:   
That's actually another contender for my favourite photo of 2015 ... clearly my new-ish camera is working out for me! 

I did plan to share lots more photo of the visit but in case I don't get around to it soon, if you're thinking of going, go, go now, and go quickly before they harvest the lot at the end of August!

Ever since I learned of its existence earlier in the year it's been on my list of things to do and, yet coincidentally, just in the last few weeks I've noticed a spate of lavender field visits cropping up in my online life.

Sandie shared her photos of another UK field on her Facebook page while Hazel blogged her visit to the lavender fields all the way over there in Utah. There's obviously been something in the water or the air lavender, obviously] that's been sending us all to seek out these fields this Summer.    

So last Saturday, on what turned out to be the best day in a few weeks, and with the impending harvest time in mind, we too headed off to take in the sight and scent.  And there was lots of this happening: 
... and not just by me. There were dozens of camera, big lenses and small all attempting to capture the loveliness of the scene.

I don't know about you but, as a fairly introverted yet dedicated life-documenter and blogger, I can sometimes feel a bit self-conscious  being the only person whipping out her camera to capture all kinds of moments and vistas. But there ...

... truth be told I felt a little self-conscious for being one of the hoard of folk crouching and bending and angling themselves to get the perfect shot! It was common. Trendy even. And goodness knows that's not a space I ever imagine myself taking up!

Obviously lavender fields are where its at in 2015. Has anyone told Pinterest or Instagram?

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So that was my July. Some history, some sunshine [although not as much as I'd have hoped], some postal shenanigans and a percussion section's-worth of old cutlery.

As ever ...

  • if you're just here to read ... then I'm glad you did. Putting words under your nose [lavender scented today, naturally] is absolutely one of my favourite things to do. 
  • and if you're here to share you own blog post featuring your vital statistics for the month ... pleeeeaaase read my post and leave me a hello at the same time. Don't just drop your link on me from a height like a seagull struggling to fly off with an iPhone/dog/child. Thanks!!
May the Gods of the Letterbox [which would totally be my band name if I was in any way musical] look beneficently on your doormat during August.

Thanks for stopping by today. 

Julie 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Window alarms, an offer I might have refused, and a greeting from the Big Easy: a [repeated] case of mistaken address-entity.


A funny thing happened on my doormat the other day. Well, I say 'funny' when it was actually both fairly mundane and - for one split-over-dramatising-second - a little unnerving but if I'd opened this post with the line: "A mundane thing happened to me the other day" would you still be reading? 

Thought not. Any way ...  

I came home to find two large, identical, white envelopes waiting for me, fatly indicating the promise of something more interesting than a pension statement inside. 

But what could it be and who could have sent it? So many exciting possibilities crossed my mind: 'happy mail', freebies, gifts, treats, surprises! Hurrah! But no. 

While the address was correct, right down to the post-code, the name wasn't. Which threw up its own questions: who would give someone their name but my address? Either they want this thing in the envelope or they don't! Which is it? 

And the second envelope was exactly the same. Their name. My address. 

The official return address label only deepened the mystery as it was for a local community trust about an hour away, with who I have no connection . So ... I opened one, just enough to lure out at least two answers: 
  1. what was inside: door and window alarms and 
  2. who had sent them: according to the compliments slip inside it was from Victim Support. 
Victim Support???

Which is when I had my melodramatic moment. "Someone's threatening me." I thought. 

"It's like a passive aggressive, slightly less gory, horse's head in the bed-type warning". 

And I wracked my brain to recall any offers I'd refused lately ... 


And after that ... I came to my senses, Googled for the number of the Victim Support office in the city on the return address and called them. Clearly - despite the unfathomable address mix-up - there was a woman in another city who was expecting to find those alarms on her doormat that morning. Someone who, unlike me, might not have been out of the house that day. Someone who was probably concerned about something more threatening than an unexpected parcel coming through her door.

While attempting to explain the situation to the woman from Victim Support on the other end of the phone she suggested that she put me through to my local office ... until I stressed that these packages definitely came from their office: and then, like me, she was baffled too. [Although, unlike me, I don't think she immediately leapt to any sinister Mafia-esque plotting]. 

She apologised for the inconvenience, I rejected the apology on the basis that it was the woman expecting the door alarms I was concerned about and not myself. [It was all very British]. 

Finally she said she'd chat to her admin the next day to try to resolve the mystery and asked me to pop them back in the post with a message on it. Which I did. The following day. 

Then ... the day after that ... what do you think I found waiting for my on my doormat? 

Sorry. 

I set you up for that one. 

No, I didn't find "2 white envelopes filled with alarms with my own 'Return to Sender and here's why' essays scrawled over them" ... but I did find this: 
It's a postcard from New Orleans where the sender "thought I'd be traditional and send a card" stating that they're having an "amazing time" and who promises to call on their return. 

Which is all nice to hear isn't it? 

It's just that ... while I wish 'Jollie' a wonderful holiday in the Big Easy, and while I'm glad she's planning to call on her return ... 

... it would possibly mean more to me if I knew who she was.

Or indeed if I knew who 'Frankie and Edie' are ... because they're the complete strangers whose names sit atop my address on this latest piece of  mistaken address-entity! 

So what do I do with this one? 

I can't 'Return to Sender' as Jollie's coming home on the 2nd [ask me how I know] and anyway, she's obviously only on holiday there ... and so it won't get returned to her anyway. 

So I'm going to give it a fighting chance of reaching its intended recipients. I'm going to put it in an envelope, copy out their names and the address ... but this time rather than use our postcode [as Jollie has] I'll try the postcode of another street which has the same name as ours but which is about 20 minutes away and has a different code as it wouldn't be the first time we had mail intended for that address. 

And then ...

I'll sit back ... and wait ... and watch my doormat for its possible return! Because if it's not theirs ... they may well try the same approach, using our postcode and send it back to us!! 

I'll keep you posted ... 

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If you're postally-inclined you might like to visit:
Now I'm handing this topic over to you ... 

Does this happen to you? Do you keep getting someone else's mail? Any mistaken address-entity tales to tell?

Unburden yourself in the comments, tell me all, share the frustrations, the funnies, the intrigue! 

Julie 


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Vintage Treasure: 1920s index cards. A history of trade waiting to be reinvented, re-imagined, reclaimed.


This photo was a mistake.

I was playing with shutter speed settings and this was the blurred result. So, in theory it was a mistake. And yet ...

... in its atmospheric mistiness; in its resemblance to old, double-exposed, images; in its sense of time passing ... it's less of a mistake and more a reflection of the age and romance of the subject matter: an original, unused, 1920s index card file. 

If you're one of those people [and, in all likelihood, if you're taking time to visit me here, I think it's safe to bet that you are] whose pulse quickens when in the vicinity of office supplies then imagine coming face to face with this when you're really not expecting to.

Surprise office supplies are a treat in themselves. But surprise VINTAGE office supplies ... well ... that's approaching dangerous excitement levels!
Bundles of original 1920s index cards are available in my shop. Click for more details. 
I came face to face with these delights while browsing around the vast Hemswell antiques centre in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire earlier this month; apparently it's Europe's largest antique centre [think thousands of ceramics, paintings, furniture, bibelots etc] and yet, somehow, my paper-loving eye managed to find rare papery treasure in among it all!  

Perhaps paper-tracking is my super power.  

This is what I first saw; a closed box:
With its worn edges it was sitting, quietly, humbly, on a highly polished antique table in between shinier trinkets and more colourful collectables and, to the un-stationary-obsessed eye it could have just remained 'a box' and a brown, scuffed, box at that. But I had a feeling ... 

... so I glided nearer, with my blood and my hopes both rising and slid my index finger beneath the smooth curve of its handle, then gripped it with my thumb ... and pulled ... to reveal ... 
And I knew

I knew I wasn't going to be able to leave without them. [Even after those same fingers turned over the price label ... !!]

I knew that the next leg of their life's journey was with me ... and with you, here, and with the vintage paper-lovers [the paper's vintage, not the ever-youthful and glowing lovers!] who visit my shop because they recognise that I 'get it'. 

I knew that, like me, you would be stopped in your tracks by a box of old cards that most people wouldn't look at twice. And you too would start thinking about filling in the blanks ...

Because it is all blanks. Literally and figuratively. 
Each card is blank:
  • They're untouched.
  • They're just waiting for a new story to be written on them.
  •  be that through handwriting, typing, collage, sketching, art journaling ... 
And their history is a blank too: 
  • Apart from the description of tham as '1920s index cards' I have no further details on them.
  • Where did they come from? 
  • Why were they left unused? 
  • Where have they been since? 
  • Was I really the only person who wanted them? 
  • Or had someone else wandered past, had their heart stolen, but then ... pondered and paused ... and left without them
Unlike me maybe that person didn't feel herself surrounded by a likeminded community who would 'get' why she'd spent all that money on an 80 year old box of stationery!

My first attempt to fill in the blanks sees a 1920s shop clerk, in his smart waistcoat with pocket watch leaning on the polished counter top of the shop, filling out the details with his fountain pen and returning the index card to the divided storage box. And the bell above the door rings alerting him to another customer heading his way ...
Well ... those are my first thoughts on the back-story of these gloriously understated and yet rare papery treasures ... how about yours?

If you can think of a scenario involving these cards I'd love to hear it. Which 'trades' were these used to record? Which 'goods'? What kind of customers had their details on record here? 

It's a world of creative possibilities.

Ultimately that's why I love working with, collecting and selling vintage paper supplies; they may well be a fresh starting point for creating something new and yet ... they resonate with preexisting character, they bring with them a history waiting to be reinvented, re-imagined, reclaimed ...

... and where better to begin creating than with something inherently inspiring?

Julie 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Vintage Treasure: How the 'girl about town' kept in touch before the mobile phone age!


Did you catch the feature on the 1940s school syllabus I blogged earlier this week? The one handwritten by a teacher detailing how the infants of Class 4 were going to spend their school days between July '48 and September '49? 

Well ... there's something about today's vintage papery treasure that suggests it belonged to somebody quite different to our teacher friend ... someone a little more urban, someone with a social life fizzing with cocktails and clubs. Although ... 

... our teacher friend could have been quite a different woman once that bell rang at the end of the day ... we'll never know! 

So here's today's treasure; an 'aide memoire' [a fancy way to say a tiny notebook for helping you remember things]: 
Currently available to purchase here in my shop.
So you're a woman about town in the 1940s/50s.  [I've tried to accurately date this piece but online searches have returned dates ranging from the 1930s to 60s. The telephone numbers inside tend to suggest it's pre-70s though and the style really does sit better with the 40s/50s].
You're all dressed up in your kitten heels, your twin set, 'slacks', gloves, and pearl earrings and now you're looking for somewhere to go. And someone to go there with.

You may not have a mobile phone to help you plan your adventure ...  but you've got something just as useful and twice as glamorous in your patent leather handbag ... your palm-sized phone number-keeper, your petit-point embroidered 'aide memoire'. 
Inside you've got numbers for Doreen, Eva, Caryl & Bernard and Peggy & Percy but if they're not available then there's always Phyl Tonge. 

She might be free tonight. 
And how about a quick drink or even a round at the Mid Kent golf club ... you've got the number handy after all: 
And why would you do anything as mundane as catching the bus ... when you've got the number for 'Reliance Taxis' on hand at all times?!

It's a great vintage notebook so evocative of a glamorous era and a unique treasure from womens' history; made extra-special with the personal touch of original handwriting.

And ... as 12 of its 19 pages are blank both sides [seven are written on one side], it also makes an entirely one-of-a-kind set of pages for an artist, collage artist, writer or art journaler to work on too:
If you're looking for a gift for a vintage accessories then... look no further. Or this would make a splendidly appropriate gift even for someone from around the Surrey, Kent, London area as place include: Camberley, Surrey, Gravesend, Mid Kent and Foots Cray.

So, it turns out that, pre-social media and pre-mobile phones this is how a lady who fancied a sherry in good company arranged to meet up with Peggy and Phyl to do just that! With no fear of her battery running out and being stranded without any numbers to contact! 

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Thanks for visiting me and the treasure today. 

If today's item isn't the one for you - do hop over to the shop as there are lots of 'new' vintage goodies available now including books, index cards, menu cards, maps and more! 

Julie :-)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Vintage Treasures: 1948-9 Infant School syllabus and record book.


Hi again.

 I thought I'd start a new week by dipping into something old I discovered recently.

[At the time of writing you can become the next caretaker of this treasure of social history by dropping by for more details from my shop]. 

Can you make out just how old this is? In the bottom right where it says 'Year ending' '194' ... can you spot, just after it, the word 'July' and the number '9', in faded pencil?
Coming from the school year ending July 1949 makes this is a 66 year old traveller through time. And, as it's one made of paper and card ... it's doing exceptionally well for all that travel!

Now how about I introduce you properly? [After all, you know its age now .. it only seems polite to get to know more about it!].

It's September 1948, the start of the school year, in the rural village of Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire, England, and the school teacher of class four has just settled down to plan the year ahead for her infant class ... and this is the book she used:
When she begins recording her lessons it's the week ending September 16th 1948.

The 3rd anniversary of the end of World War II has only just passed [8th May] and bread rationing has only just ended over the summer. And before the end of the school term clothes rationing will come to an end but our teacher, and her pupils, will have to wait another 5 years before all other food rationing finally ends.

But through all this a new generation needs to be educated and between the covers of this wonderful, original, vintage, hard-backed book is where you'll discover just what they learned, week by week.

Inside there's a class timetable with the school day broken down into segments such as 'Nature talk', 'milk' and 'Papercutting'. and where the final lessons of the day include 'Percussion', 'Nursery Rhyme Games' and 'Dancing'.
There are also individual tabbed sections detailing the syllabus for each subject including: Religious Instruction, Arithmetic and Elementary Mathematics, Reading and Dramatisation, Music and Art.
And there's a 'Record of Work' at the back of the book detailing the actual lessons carried out week by week until they break for the summer holidays on July 21st 1949.

[If you're interested in the history of the school from which this came - after a little searching I reckon this is the school in question.]





Here's a lesson which sounds pretty fun 'Plasticine, Paper cutting - animals':
PLUS ...

Tucked inside the book there are a bundle of loose sheets of paper where the teacher has made notes on everything from the weight and height of each pupil, ideas for the nativity play and a supply list which includes 8lbs of plasticine and 500 wooden beads!
I know many of you enjoy working in old books, adding your own story and style to their pages resonating with history and life.
So you'd love the potential and promise of the blank pages inside where you can add your own creative touches.
And finally, if you are a teacher [or you need a very special gift for one] you would love leafing through these pages which give you in the chance to duck out of the National Curriculum and dip into a 66 year old syllabus which allows space for the 'free expression' of 'coloured chalks on a blackboard'!

**If this treasure has stolen your heart, like it did mine, then do visit my shop and secure its place in your hands and your home [as well as your heart] as it's available to buy here.**

There's such a lot to treasure about this book not least the fact that reading cast me back to my own infant school days which, I'm happy to report, didn't seem that different to the days depicted here. They dance, sing, looking at nature and spend time being creative  and it generally seems like they were allowed to be little children finding their way in the world of learning.

I'd like to think today's 5 year-olds would find it all very familiar too ... but I'm not so sure ...

Thanks for visiting today. If today's item isn't the one for you - do hop over to the shop as there are lots of 'new' vintage goodies available now including vintage index cards, menu cards, maps and more! 

Julie :-)