Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A Jenga Bench and Last of the Raspberries

I have wanted a bench in my garden for a long time and with all this talk of vintage and the three Rs - Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose I got to thinking it would be nice to put that into practice and see if I could get hold of an old bench that would look weathered and had seen a bit of life and more importantly hardly cost anything. We are always reading in the Sunday supplements about people who have transformed their homes from middens to mansions and furnished them entirely with reclaimed pieces of furniture from skips or architectural salvage yards - and aren't those people irritatingly always architects, or designers plugging their own design companies. Now the editors of these magazines would have you believe that finding a desirable piece of furniture in a skip is as easy as going up the road to buy your morning newspaper and bottle of milk. How often do we read of the designer who just by chance comes across an old refectory table and six chairs just lying around in a builder's skip. Then you read a little further to discover of course they live in Chelsea or Primrose Hill, or other desirable parts of London. Not so where I live. I have only ever come across manky mattresses or avocado baths.

What I did come across though were some old blocks of wood in my garage hidden beneath a workbench and looking remarkably like Jenga bricks. So I heaved them all out and built them into my very own Jenga Bench.  Not quite what I had in mind but they cost nothing, met the three Rs criteria and now I have my own little haven in the garden where I can sit, read, sunbathe, knit or just contemplate to my heart's content.

I have been picking raspberries from my garden for the last few weeks but they are just about coming to an end. This is probably more or less the last of them now.

And a home made tomato, spinach and feta tart looking amazingly like the photo in the recipe book for once.

So a productive day all round in the garden.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Party Seven Bumpers of Beer

OK. Hands up anyone who ever had one of these in the corner of their lounge chez Duckworth stylie. Well it seems in these days of retro and vintage that the kitsch cocktail cabinet of yesteryear is now considered cool again and is back with a vengeance. I began to realise just how popular they have become again when on my recent trip to Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair down at the Custard Factory there were quite a few of them for sale.  On Ebay too there seems to be hundreds of them for sale varying in style from the free-standing drinks cabinet, with a handy pull down door to tamper with a touch of mixology, to those padded at the front numbers big enough to sit at on a bar stool. Does anyone own up to still having an original?  Spot the soda syphon on the top.

I remember we had an original shiny bright green Sodastream syphon, the ones that used sparkletts to turn plain water fizzy. Dad would drag it from the back of the sideboard at Christmas to impress the neighbours and top up their whiskeys but they were a real faff on as the sparkletts never lasted for long.

Now as an aside can anyone remember the bumpers of beer that Watneys and Worthington E used to do called Party Seven which contained seven pints of beer.  Dad would always get a bumper in for Christmas. This was way before the days of six packs but the beer was always flat although you could buy a little gas cylinder and tap for the top but more often than not Dad would pierce the tin twice with a tin opener in much the same way as evaporated milk (oh the joys of tinned fruit and cream!)

Remember Snowballs? Did we really drink those back then and love them?  I would be allowed a Snowball at Christmas which was advocaat topped up with lemonade and a maraschino cherry on a cocktail stick.  Pretty ghastly and so was the cherry but I loved them at the time and felt quite grown up drinking them.  "Eveninks and morninks, I drink Warninks — Warninks Advocaat."

Babychams were considered pretty harmless too. Babycham? I’d love a Babycham, The genuine champagne perry. And Cherry Bs.

Our drinks cabinet was a cupboard in the sideboard. Mum would never have entertained having a drinks cabinet anyway, much less a bar but what we did have that she was very proud of was a radiogram - a record player that was cunningly disguised as a sideboard which she took care to polish every day. I came across a similar one to our old radiogram at the vintage fair. I would stack the 45s high on the needle so they would automatically drop down and play the next one but if you loaded too many on the music would start to sound incredibly wobbly. Friends would come round during the school holidays for wild parties of fried egg sandwiches and beans on toast, and dance away to Rod Stewart, Roxy Music and the Jackson 5 when Michael was a cute little 12 year old.

And my friend Lesley had one that looked a bit like this..

Lots of bric-a-brac at the vintage fair too and I loved this lamp which I thought would look good on a cocktail bar or a radiogram.  

I used to work for BT so I had to pay homage to the good old Basic 700 Dial telephone. They were fetching about £60.  


At work we nicknamed this phone 'The Cowpat' although its real name was The Dawn.

and the good old Viscount with those awful tiny rubber buttons

And as if by magic in a box of vintage ties I came across this little gem.... original British Telecom Birmingham tie from back in the days where in offices: 

Men wore suits and ties
People drank real tea and coffee (not from a vending machine)
People were allowed to smoke at their desk
Not a PC in sight
Email had not been invented - people faxed, sent letters and memorandums written with pens, sent telexes or got up from their desk and actualy spoke to people
There was no such thing as dress down fridays
Everyone went to the pub on Friday lunchtime 
Everyone went straight back to the pub on Friday afer work

We never had it so good!