Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Bare Necessities

One of my housemates wanted a desk so, to my delight, this necessitated a trip to Necessary Furniture. Necessary is essentially a big, dusty warehouse in the middle of nowhere, full of goodies that other people have discarded.  It is a co-operative that sells second hand furniture and other bits and bobs.  Anyone can go there and buy, but they give discounts and free stuff to people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged (if they are referred on by Social Services, Catching Lives, the Housing Dept or other such organisations). Even if you pay 'full price' you're still paying a fraction of what something would cost new or even second hand in any other place.

The reason I like it so much is not only it's socially responsible credentials, but because it's fun.  This is not a pretty, well laid out, antique-hunter's shop. There is no pomp or ceremony, just piles and piles of furniture, nominally placed into groups, for you to sift through, climb over, crawl under, inspect, ogle at or generally appreciate.  Since most of this stuff comes from a wide variety of places, the styles vary immensely, as do the items on sale.  There are stacks of new office chairs, kitchen stools, dining room chairs and threadbare wingback arm chairs.  There are desks, wardrobes, bedside tables and antique china cabinets.  There are piles of sofas all on top of one another, higgledy-piggledy.  There are washing machines buried under mounds of kitchen cabinets.  There are knick-knacks, glass decanters, ceramic kitchenware and 1970's ashtrays. And, up the iron staircase (that resembles a fire escape) books. Not that many shelves, granted, but enough oddities to keep me up there for far longer than I should have been. I finally permitted myself to get one and it cost me the grand sum of 25p. 25p. You can't even get a cup of tea for that these days! And these aren't trendy, shiny books, they are (as you would expect) dusty, old, cheap books that are as varied as the furniture. 

I love going and looking around for the sake of looking, seeing all the different ways in which a chair can be a chair or a table can be a table.  Like people, they all have their own personality. And in this dusty, huge warehouse, you can look at all the jumble of furniture and imagine people coming in, spotting things they like and carting them away, starting to furnish a new life.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Here's Lookin' at You, Kid

It's summer time, which means the outdoor cinema is back in town. It's lovely because they use beautiful locations which are usually English Heritage sites, so you get to look around and a film at the same time! Bargain!

St. Augustine's Abbey

Last night, M and I went to St. Augustine's Abbey for a picnic and film screening  of Casablanca under the stars.  The film started at 9pm although doors opened at 8pm so people had a chance to eat, chat and look around before the film started.  They were even giving out bags of popcorn! We grabbed a couple of chairs and put my scarf on the grass as a makeshift picnic blanket and ate our nibbles (potato salad and quinoa and vegtable salad, and some snacks from Grazesince you ask) and drank our tea (out of a flask, of course. It's traditional). I had a good old look at what other people had brought and it was amazing: some people had proper hampers and picnic baskets.  Others had tartan picnic blankets littered with goodies.  One group had proper crockery and a soup tureen and everything.  It made me feel like buying a picnic blanket immediately (one of those ones that roll up small and are waterproof on one side because it is Britain after all) and maybe a basket as well.  I think crockery might be a stretch, but I did bring a couple of spoons, if that counts. 

Since it had been pretty warm during the day and there was cloud cover, I assumed that bringing an extra top, a hoodie and a big scarf (aka picnic blanket) would see me through. As usual, I ended up being inappropriately dressed.  M had even worn shorts under his motorbike trousers (now known as 'the shorts of hope') but the weather started getting a bit chilly. Do not underestimate the night-time weather! Other people seemed to know this and had worn coats, scarves and blankets, while the people in front of us were wrapped in a duvet (and drinking champers - talk about style). I have made a note of this for next time. Oh yes. At least it didn't rain.  Hooray.

Of all the gin joints in all the world......

Being outdoors was lovely. There was plenty of space, the sound echoed a bit off the stones of the Abbey at the back, you could see (and hear) some seagulls happily flying about for a bit of the film (and a few drunken shouts and cheers - it was a Saturday night, after all). The atmosphere was very friendly and jovial, there were quite a few people I recognised from around town.  Casablanca itself is a gem of a film - intriguing, political, humourous and romantic. I love all the old school glamour - the men in suits and the ladies in dresses - and all the historical context, not just of the story but of the film itself. The acting is superb.  And I'd forgotten the comic timing and the one-liners. Spot on. I was so happy that the Luna Cinema were showing it, especially in such a splendid setting.

All in all, we had a wonderful time.  I hope to catch one of the other events that they are hosting and I can only hope that the film and the atmosphere (and the weather) are just as great.  And next time, I'll be sure to have a few more layers on.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Ooooo, delicious and pretty! We ended up in this teeny tiny cafe / jewellery / local produce shop and they sold really good coffee and really crazy green tea.  Yum!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Art and the Sea Air

Yesterday, I finally got to see the lovely Fairy Princess Mummy after a crazy few weeks for both of us. It was tipping it down when I left, but by the time I stepped off the train it was blue skies all the way. I had some time with the whole family over lunch, which is always exciting, given that FP Daddy makes yummy food and the Fairy Princesses themselves are adorable (and also very cheeky!).  After that FP Mummy and I went into town for a long awaited gander at the Turner Contemporary which, to my shame, I have never yet been to.

Outside of the museum

View from the Turner
We looked around the Tracey Emin exhibit 'She lay down deep beneath the sea'. I liked the spontaneous feeling it evoked and at the same time I really admired the workmanship on the stitching... and I did like all the sprawling, naked women, but I have to admit that after a while I was quite happy to look at her other work too.

One of the things that I'd really been looking forward to seeing was The Kiss by Rodin.  I wasn't disappointed!
The Kiss - by the seaside
We had a good old natter, it was wonderful to catch up.  After the museum, we had a stroll around the Old Town.  It's got a lovely quirky feel to it.  FP Mummy pointed out the stencils / graffiti about the place which I love.

Well, of course I'd like this one

After looking about the place for a bit we popped into a teeny tiny art gallery that is only open on the weekends (and also gives out wine and nibbles!) and into Rough Trade to see all the vintage quirkyness going on in there. We just about had some time to dive into a charity shop and try on some hats before our parking ran out.

After a quick drink at the station I waved goodbye, promised I'd text when I got home safe (she is a mummy after all!) and jumped on the train home.  This was such a well needed day out with someone wonderful... Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Today, the Olympic Torch was coming through town, so M and I strolled down to watch it.  I'm pretty indifferent to the Olympics on the whole, I can take them or leave them really, but I have really enjoyed the street party atmosphere that spilled over from the Royal Wedding last year and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year.  Crowds were out, as was the sun, for the bearers of the torch as they jogged through Palace St and up past the Cathedral.

Apart from the torch itself coming through there were a lot of other things happening around town.  We were regaled by Morris dancers as we were having tea:

Then we wandered down the street and milled about for a while. Occasionally someone would cheer as a warden or someone on a bike rode past. There was much flag waving and excitement.  Finally we got a glimpse of the torch on it's way past.  It was much smaller than I thought it would be (as was the man carrying it....):

There was still quite a lovely atmosphere afterwards, lots of people in the street chatting, children running about and everybody having a good time.  We strolled towards the theatre and encountered some more folky-ness:

These guys had great rhythm, it was really fun to watch all the little kids (and a few adults) dancing around completely uninhibited in the sunshine.

We got away from the noise for a while and went to the orchard by the river.  We wiled away a few hours by chatting and watching the tourists go by on the boats that tour the river.  We just managed to dodge the rain into a cafe for a bit before we left for home. As we strolled back through the back roads and over bridges, past the wildflowers and through the graveyard, I was reminded of how beautiful it is here and how lucky I am.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Other people's lives

For a long time, my friend Jean and I have planned on going for a hike around the Littlebourne area where she grew up.  After months of talking about it, we finally packed up a picnic yesterday and headed out for the country.  Despite talk of some stormy weather, it was scorching hot so we didn't walk too far, but we did get some nice strolling in.

Jean's family have lived in Kent for generations.  We arrived in the village and she immediately showed me some little hidey holes including a tiny footpath that goes through someone's garden:

If you carry on going down that little footpath, there are a few people's gardens and then a water wheel, that still works.  Sometimes, if the man is in his garden he'll switch it on for you if you ask.

The waterwheel still functions on occasion
After a little interlude of looking at all the wildlife and Jean pointing out various species of insects and birds that were flitting about the place, we decided to move on to the other end of the village and have a picnic near the stream.  This is a chalk stream so the water is really clear and there are lots of fish and dragonflies and other people around.  I'd made a potato salad and a rice salad, and Jean had brought some fresh salad and some fruit.  We scattered some vegetable crisps out for the ducks who'd come to join us:

After that we went for a stroll towards Ickham.  Many regiments have been stationed out that way in various wars.  Her grandparents met because her grandpa was stationed in Littlebourne during the Great War and her grandma lived in a near by cottage so met the officers quite frequently.  The other set of grandparents lived across the way on another farm. We also passed the cottage that Jean was born in:

After that we drove out to Wickhambreaux, one of the villages a bit further on. She went to school here, so she showed me her old primary school, (it has now been extended, but the original building is still there) the village hall (built in 1911) and the old mill (that has now been turned into flats).  We stopped as she named various flowers for me and showed me all the names of the houses.
The Old Rectory
The Old Ballroom House
The one she wanted to show me particularly was this one:

1 and 2 Workhouse Cottages.  That's right, this was a workhouse for the poor in the area.  Technically, all towns had their own one, but in this case all three villages shared one.  The poor would have been sent here, the men to hard labour, the women would have gone into more serviceable positions and the children would have done sewing or other menial tasks.  In Victorian times, the masters of the house would often choose their maids and servants from the workhouse.  It would have been a great honour to be chosen to work in the 'big house'.

We stopped for a drink in The Rose Inn, the pub in the village. Jean's auntie worked as a barmaid there in the 50's, and on the wall there's a list of the landlords going back to 1779.  I was peering at the house next door and she said that her mum had worked there before she was married, she had to shine the knocker on the door amongst other things.

We had a last stroll past the church, and then headed out back towards home. It was lovely to explore and find out more about Jean's family, hear all her stories. I'm sure we'll be going exploring again soon.