Friday, 12 June 2009

Ramblings about our love of anything 'vintage', charity and the age of chivalry.

I find it a bit disturbing that I come from an era where the clothing, music and so on is nowadays described as 'vintage'. How the heck did this happen, I thought 'vintage' was like really old. Heavens, does that mean I am heading that way......

There seems to be a proliferation of vintage clothing fairs up and down the country, though of course the big ones seem to miss out East Anglia, this not being an uncommon occurrence it has to be said. It's almost as if this little bit of England that sticks out into the North Sea is invisible to organisers of events. Luckily, though, we have our own thank you very much, and the Vintage Lovers Fair is one such event. The most recent was held at Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast, and was a feast for the eyes. I won't go into it here, but you can access it, if you are interested, via and they are holding another in the village of Heydon on 2nd August.

Heydon is one of those charming villages which are often found off the beaten track, and is in fact one of only a handful of villages in Britain, perhaps no more than a dozen, which are privately owned, in this case by the Bulwer-Long family, who own everything... shops, houses, hall etc. And reading about the fair being held there reminded me of another such village, only this time much smaller. Rougham is one of those village where you feel you are stepping back in time. When I first came across it back in the 90s, it was one of those days when we were out for a mooch of a drive, a turn left here, right there and see where it leads. In this particular instance it led us around a corner and into a scene straight off a typical, even 'vintage' maybe, chocolate box lid.

Owned by the North family, the village seemed to consist only of some tiny cottages, a half timbered house or two, a large Hall seen down a winding driveway, with an old huge dovecote where 999 pigeons were kept in the old days. A handful of council houses, and a post office (at that time) and not much else. No street lighting and when we approached there were children playing safely in the road, with ducks waddling across it. It intrigued me, it was like a village lost in time almost, and so I did research, and eventually interviewed the matriarch of the family who lived in her own dear little house set apart from the Big House, and wrote a piece for the Norfolk Journal which was printed in 2000. The photo above is of the well-head in the centre of the village, dedicated to the memory of Marianne North, who was born in 1830. As a young woman she travelled the world with her father, and always, wherever she was, she painted. By the time she was in her early forties, her father had died, and she set herself the task of painting flowers from all over the world, and off she went, with her maid. At the end of this, she had a collection of over 800 paintings and having become friends with Hooker, the head of Kew Gardens at the time, she had a gallery built there to house her works of art, where they can still be seen.

Rougham, like many places in Norfolk, isn't on the road to anywhere, so retains this air of calm and whilst it may not be to everyone's liking, to live somewhere so quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of town and city life, it has its attractions for many people who really want to get away from it all.

But to return to the subject of 'vintage', how much of the 'stuff' handed in to charity shops could be called 'vintage' and how much just plain old tat. Like many people I have been watching the Mary Portas television programmes about charity shops, and how she plans to turn around the fortunes of one in particular. And no doubt like many people I was also gobsmacked at the things people leave in bin bags outside the shop door when it's shut, or hand in. A used baby nappy is the one item which springs to mind immediately... a yellow jacket that was so stiff it stood on its own... surely the people who stuff these items into a charity shop bag don't really think anyone would want to buy it, not even for charity? Is it that as Mary says, they see a black plastic bin bag and 'rubbish' immediately springs to mind and so that's what they chuck in it? With no thought to the resale value, or the health of those who have to unpack these bags.. and why didn't the volunteers have plastic gloves? I give to charity shops whenever I can, but only ever give decent things with some life in them, cleaned first if clothing, but more often than not it's jigsaws, or books, or something I have knitted perhaps. It seems a shame there are many who don't care what it is they put in the bag, so long as it's out of their way.

At the other end of the scale, I was hanging around the local tip the other day.. sorry, recycling centre... waiting for husband who was disposing of some old bits of wood and plastic, and watched a woman in one of these ugly petrol-guzzling vehicles, which was stuffed with black plastic bags. She was taking things out of the bags, asking for directions as to which container they should go in.... she had shoes, hardly worn, clothes the same by the looks of it, lots of decent looking stuff that was just being thrown away. I wished I had more gumption about me, to be able to go up to her and ask her to please take the good stuff to the charity shops, or give it to me and I'd do it.. but I didn't. I kept my mouth shut and wondered once again at the vagaries of human nature.

Part of which, amongst the gentlemen of this world, seems to be chivalry. Or at least it was. Are boys still taught by their mothers to respect women, to hold doors open in shops when a lady is going in or out, to give up their seat on the bus for a lady or older person? I caught sight, briefly, of the lovely Peter Bowles on 'The One Show' the other evening, and Adrian Chiles felt he had to mention that Peter had stood up when the female co-presenter came into the studio, and only sat down when she had. He seemed to find this remarkable somehow, yet surely, it's what a gentleman does? My own dearly beloved always opens the car door for me, holds doors open for me and any other woman, and won't sit down at the dinner table until I have. Do we still set great store by such niceties do you think? Some say women's libbers spoilt it for us women, that poor men no longer know what they should do for the best, maybe the one male who comments on my blog will have something to say on the subject?

Enjoy your weekend, the sun is shining and summer is back... for now!


Kitschen Pink said...

I had no idea about the flower paintings - I shall try to visit them some day! Thanks for the mention. The next fair promises to be lovely with stalls in and out. The organisers have got a really lovely group of stall holders together so I'm looking forward to a fun day! t.x

Lesley (Notesfrommydays) said...

the fair looked great I wish i was a bit closer to check it out :-)
i love old fashioned gentlemen values it all goes a bit too far nowadays I think and i would be pleased to be on the receiving end of such manners!
thanks for visiting my blog nice to have a new visitor , i know what you mean about Mary Portas - no doubt she does get results but couldnt help feeling sorry for the ladies she was a tad harsh with! and £40 for a dress but then it depends on area i suppose but getting jimmy choo stuff for a tenth of the price I can understand people will pay for that :-)
I have been in a couple of charity shops this week and found myself looking round thinking how they could display things differently !!!
will pop back soon
Lesley x

Arosebyanyothername said...

I know and love the Marianne North Gallery. Her paintings are gorgeous - in the proper meaning of that word. I bought a jigsaw of one of them and it was a delight to do.
I don't mind if gentlemen open doors for me or not so long as they don't let them shut in my face!

Pondside said...

Very interesting post - am trying to imagine a village owned by a single family; lock, stock and barrel.

Calico Kate said...

Well you know I love a good trawl through 2nd hand shops and their ilk, hauled a chair out of a skip at the tip in Lochgilphead before we came to Glasgow. Havne't had a chance to do anything to it yet but it was an old Lloyd Loom with lovely legs, need some TLC and a new seat but something for nothing?? Love it!
Do wish we had some vintage fairs near here. Hope you get to the next one so that you can report back and make me jealous!
Haven't seen the Mary thing show yet - she is a bit shouty for me - but will look out for it when I get back

Melanie said...

Hi Maggie, I have paired you up with a partner for the Cosy Crochet and Knitting Swap, please take a look on my blog to find out who. xxxx

Fyldecoaster said...

Well PFG the age of chivary is not dead, I personally do hold open doors for ladies, but as for whether boys are taught manners? then I have to conclude that they aren't these days.There are other things, like walking on the outside of a pavement when walking with a lady. I still do it.

Regarding the wholly owned village. This is not owned by an individual family, rather a co-operative, if you ever get the chance, visit the village of Leckford, deep in the Test Valley in Hampshire.The whole village is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, they have a golf course there which irrespective of whether your a golfer or not is the most beautiful walk. wildlife abounds, and the beautiful experience is only interupted by the far too frequent wayward shot. I loved playing this course, very badly I might add

Melanie said...

Maggie, I pick the partners myself, are you happy with your partner?

The Fairy Glade said...

Hi there, I am your cosy swap partner. I can't find an email address for you on your profile page. Can you contact me via mine? Look forward to hearing from you soon. Dev X

Cait O'Connor said...

I'd have hated seeing those things in bags going into the dump! My stepson lives in Norfolk, it has pretty villages doesn't it?
I like to see good manners in both sexes, I hope they aren't disappearing? The boys at the school next to my library are very courteous and polite and hold doors open for me, bless them.

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