Jul 042016
 

Anybody remember Jeffrey Bernard? Alas, no, I really was unwell and it was nothing to do with a surfeit of gin. I took it quite badly, too, and wasn’t the easiest or best behaved of patients…

I’ve been very down in the dumps about being laid up and – as anyone who knows me will testify – extremely bad at “doing nothing in order to heal properly”. But last week, in the midst of what I can only call “a right bollocking” by an old friend, came a ray of light.

“If you are looking for something to watch while resting, I suggest Handmade: By Royal Appointment on BBC iPlayer. I have loved the two I watched, and I think you will appreciate them too.”

Well, I’d spotted one about Steinway pianos on BBC4, but missed it and had wondered idly about watching it on iPlayer. After another lengthy snooze (for which read, “sulk”) in bed, I sneaked downstairs when Spouse went out and I switched on the tellybox. What joys were revealed! Four wonderful programmes about beautiful, handcrafted, “heritage” products. It feels almost wrong to call them “products”, as that seems to cheapen the beauty and workmanship that goes into their creation. Yes, creation. “Manufacture” also doesn’t seem to be the right word.

Best of all was the programme about John Lobb, shoemaker. Such skill and attention to detail. It was wonderful to watch and I will admit to having slightly leaky eyes. Both company and artisans are utterly devoted to their trade, which is practically a vocation; they are determined to provide the customer with the best possible product and value. And the customers respond with equal devotion. Yes, the price tag makes your eyes water when you first read it, but when you see the quality of the materials, the hours and hours of skill in making the shoes – not to mention the years spent learning the craft – and the attention to design detail to ensure that the customer gets exactly the shoes they want make the figure seem like a very good deal. Tellingly, the customers aren’t all royalty and the mega-rich. They do all, however, have one thing in common, and that’s a keen appreciation for quality in design and manufacture and a certain joy in knowing that they are helping keep skills and traditions alive and artisans in work. To me, that’s priceless.

That programme alone helped revive my passion for what I do, designing and tailoring garments that will fit them properly, last a long time and make the customer feel wonderful. Happily, my customers seem to understand and appreciate this.

My garments are not manufactured in a factory, not even a UK factory. They are made for you, by me in my studio in Cornwall. I put a lot of thought into my designs and processes in order to make the best pieces of clothing for each customer that I possibly can. All my customers are different and I really enjoy making something special for each one. I think I succeed, because so many of my first time customers are introduced by other, longstanding customers and usually go on to develop the two-way working relationship that makes my job so rewarding.

I love what I do and I can’t wait to get back to it, hopefully for a couple of hours tomorrow!

 

Ladies shirt in tiny floral print.

The Shorter Shirt, in a ditsy floral print cotton poplin with 3/4 sleeves and turnback cuffs.

A Day Out With Cars and Frocks!

 Favourite Places, Frocks, Out And About, Shoes, Wednesday March  Comments Off on A Day Out With Cars and Frocks!
Aug 102014
 

Occasionally, Miss Wednesday is allowed out.  For the safety of the general public, she’s usually quite strictly chaperoned and it is only very occasionally…

Last Sunday, 3rd August, Miss Sara and Miss Wednesday went to Mount Edgecumbe for their Classic Car Show and Summer Fayre.  There was also a Miss Ivy Events Vintage and Artisan Fair on, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to visit.

Mount Edgecumbe is the former home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe. Set in Grade I Cornish Gardens within 865 acres Country Park on the Rame Peninsula, South East Cornwall, it is now council-owned and a wonderful venue for many a wedding and event.  The grounds are stunning and well worth a visit, especially as most of the park is open from 8am to dusk daily, all year round and is free to visit.  The house and the Earl’s Garden are open during the summer, usually from the start of April to the end of September, although not every day.  There is a charge to visit these areas.

But back to last Sunday…

Miss Sara gave strict instructions to Miss Wednesday to arrive by 11.30 at the latest (knowing Miss Wednesday’s tendency to be tardy) and they set off at about 11.45 am.  It proved to be a mistake, as the road from Looe to Mount Edgecumbe is narrow, windy and with more than one bottleneck.  All it takes is for one person to be rubbish at reversing and the entire area snarls up.  But it was a beautiful day and they had the roof off the Lotus so…

On arrival, they were directed to park in with the classics, which was rather nice, and Lottie was much admired and photographed.  Almost as much as Miss Sara, in fact!

Miss Sara was wearing her Sundae Best Dress and Miss Wednesday sported her favourite Diana with sweetheart neckline, in strawberry gingham fabric.  Not the matching shoes, though.  Oh no.  Not for tramping around on grass.  Miss L Fire Dollie wedges were perfect.  Miss Sara had flat, dotty pumps but Miss Wednesday doesn’t own any flat shoes other than her riding boots, which would have looked slightly out of place.

Two women in retro frocks blocking view of vintage Buick

Blocking the view of a very nice car!

They wandered around drooling over the cars for a couple of hours, visited the food stands – Miss Sara is fond of a proper hotdog*, none of that Cumberland sausage in a brioche bun ponciness for her, thank you – and the bar (which had run out of cider and only had nasty additive-filled tonic water so nothing for Wednesday) and then headed up towards the house and the vintage fair.  There were quite a few stands up there, including the wonderful Trish of Just Seven with her glorious hats and quite a lot of proper vintage clothing.  Miss Wednesday spotted The Little Green Van Company, who have a beautiful 1974 Citroen van named Laurent, with a coffee machine, and which was serving coffee, cake and ice cream.  It looked fabulous and Miss Wednesday, who won’t eat walking around but makes an exception for ice-cream, bought the ice-creams, which were the biggest disappointment of the day.  Coming from such a wonderfully presented stand, you could be forgiven for expecting a decent waffle cone and a serving of good ice-cream.  Alas, they turned out to be a very small blog of, frankly, cheap and nasty and mostly ice-crystals, stuff perched precariously on a cheap and nasty cone.  You know the sort of papery cone that sticks to the roof of your mouth?  Yep, that sort.  Ick.  She won’t be patronising that particular stand again, which is a shame because it looked wonderful.

Overall, however, it was a very nice and relaxed day.  Ran into a few friends, drooled over some beautiful cars – what’s not to like?

Miss Sara’s long-suffering partner travelled there on his rather snazzy Lambretta.  It garnered a lot of attention.  Miss Sara agreed to pose with it for pictures but she drove the Lotus home.  Lambrettas and petticoats only work in pictures.

Vintage scooters and woman in retro frock

Lucky Strike!

Back down the hill to the waterside – stunning on a sunny day – and home via the coast road and Downderry.

 

*  In Miss Sara’s opinion, a ‘proper hotdog’ is made from very little meat  – ‘mostly lips and arseholes’ – and comes in an equally dubious bun.  The ketchup should be applied in a line and the mustard dotted, not zigzagged.  She’s quite particular about these things.

Favourite Places: The Harbour Cafe, Looe

 Favourite Places, Frocks, Shoes, Wednesday March  Comments Off on Favourite Places: The Harbour Cafe, Looe
Aug 032014
 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Miss Wednesday “doesn’t get out much”.  Well, last Sunday, she did.  There is a glaring lack of blog post for the Sunday past because she was up at sparrow’s fart (to use the vernacular) and off down to Looe on a mercy mission.  One of her favourite people (Mrs A) owns and runs one of her favourite places (the Harbour Cafe in East Looe) and on this particular Sunday, Mrs A was shy of a waitress.  Now, when the situation came to light on the preceding Friday, they’d discussed the lack and it was agreed that the very idea of both Mrs A and Miss Wednesday working in tandem in role dealing with Joe Public was very probably a nightmare waiting to happen.  Or, at the very least, a jolly good hour’s entertainment on Trip Advisor the next day.  Naturally, when Miss Wednesday offered her ‘services’, Mrs A immediately took her up on it and the world held its breath.

Last Sunday dawned dry but slightly overcast, which was a relief to many after the heat of the day before.  Looe was beautiful and quieter than normal.  Miss Wednesday showed up wearing her ninth best retro dress and was given an apron that almost fitted her.  She was also wearing high heels with a platform.  For waitressing?  Madness?  Well, no.  Miss L Fire pineapple heels are one of the most comfortable designs on the planet and Miss Wednesday is lacking slightly in the height department.  Without a platform, there was no way she was going to be able to reach the cupboards.  As it was, she had to ask Mrs A to fetch the teapot and milk jug.

Woman in blue dress and apron attempting to move a chair

As summer Sundays go, it was a pretty quiet one, although there were plenty of holiday makers who were making return visits, which is always a sign that a cafe is doing something right.  Miss Wednesday explained to people that it wasn’t her normal occupation so if they heard screaming, bad language or dropped plates, to please feign deafness.  Mrs A explained that Miss Wednesday’s usual mode of communication was sarcasm and that if they detected any, to just ignore it as it wasn’t meant unkindly.  Business ticked over, no plates were dropped and nobody appeared to leave in high dudgeon.  Although we haven’t yet checked Trip Advisor…

It was a nice change for Miss Wednesday to work alongside Mrs A.  Usually, she’s a customer at the cafe, indulging in her twin occupations of gossip and scoffing, whilst attempting to imbibe as much coffee as Mrs A will allow, knowing full well what is likely to happen when the hag is fully caffeinated.  (Don’t ask.  You really don’t want to know.)

From the title of this post, you’ll have guessed that Miss Wednesday is a bit of a fan of the Harbour Cafe.  That may well be an understatement.  It’s a constant thorn in her side that she no longer works in Looe and cannot, therefore, justify going in every day for breakfast.  There’s a lot to be said for a proper, down to earth, cafe that serves proper, down to earth, freshly cooked grub and when one comes with a built in view as spectacular as this

Looe harbour with Cornish pilot gig

it takes a lot of beating.  And if you visit on a day when there’s been a staffing crisis and Miss Wednesday has stepped into the breach, you may well get a decent class of insult thrown in for free as well.  Proper job!

The Harbour Cafe is to be found on The Quay, East Looe, PL13 1DX.  Open from 8am (9am on Sundays) until 4pm ish in the summer and closing earlier in the winter when everybody hibernates.  It’s right next door to the Harbourmaster’s Office and therefore doesn’t flood.  Canny, huh?