Monday, September 9, 2013

A little R & R.....

I had decided that I wanted to do some exhibitions while I was in London, so decided that I would take myself out and about for the next few days. As I had had such a busy week, I didn't go to far on the Monday, I had to return my car to Gatwick, it really is pointless having a car in London when transport is fairly reasonable and relatively easy to get around on. So my day started at the airport and then I caught the train back to Croydon. I thought I would have a leisurely day, just wandering around the town.

It was a gentle day, a little shopping and then back to the house in the afternoon. A quiet evening in and an earlyish night. The next day I went to the V&A.
Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly

I love this Museum, the mix of exhibits is quite something, Samurai armour to ceramics and all in between, a good eclectic mix. I specifically went as I wanted to see the From Club to Catwalk exhibition which is on and features Fashion from the 80's. The music took me back, and it was interesting to see the influences on fashion at that time, New Romantics, Boy George and a myriad of other groups who set the pace, plus the clubs that they frequented. I worked in a Department store during the 80's, originally as manager of the dress department, Dynasty was THE tv show, so fashion was influenced by that and Princess Diana was also news at that time, so things were beginning to change. I then took over Young Fashion, oversaw the installation of a brand new department and saw the influences slowly filtering into it, Cyndi Lauper, (think bubble skirts and sweatshirts).

The point of me telling you all that is that I think fashion changed dramatically at this point, it started to slowly filter out of London and make its way into the suburbs. Now, shopping in any town is easy and it isn't necessary to go to the city. However, I used to love shopping in London, and so having done the exhibit at the V&A, i walked back to Harrods.

Now there are several things I love to do in London, one is walk everywhere, you see so much more, and I got to know the backroads from Victoria station to Knightsbridge well. The other thing is wander around the top department stores. I used to love the Harrods Sale, and had an account which was always used in the Sale, the first Saturday was always an extra ten percent off so well worth going, and the husband would quake. My first stop would be the shoe department, Ferragamo was my shoe maker of choice, and I bought some beautiful ones in the sales, some of which I still have. The one thing about living in North America is that I have discovered that I have English feet, they are used to being shod in leather, uppers and soles, and not in North American plastic, I don't mean that in a disparaging way, but there is a tremendous difference. The other thing with shoes here, is that I can't find a size that fits.

Anyway, there I am at the doors of Harrods and in I went. Well, the one thing the husband says is that I knew that store like the back of my hand, that is, until they have now changed everything around, and I actually got lost. Absolutely impossible but yes I managed it. It's been a while since I was there admittedly, but I wasn't expecting it to have changed quite so much, the shoe department was so different and I restrained myself, (the husband thanks me), although I had trouble not dribbling over them. I eventually managed to find my way to the Harrods Souvenir department, (as I mentioned, I was Christmas shopping), and bought some items there, then I wanted hosiery which used to be on the ground floor. They have moved it to the first floor, and I had to walk around the store a fair way until I found it.
Harrods Teatowels

Baseball cap

Pug purse

I had a quick visit to the Food Halls, the husband and I used to meet for lunch there quite often but on the whole I was glad to get out of the store. A wander along Knightsbridge to Harvey Nichols was in order and it amused me that things hadn't changed. Tourists amble along without a care in the world and those of us who wanted to get places do what we normally did, walk in the road to get round them.  Harvey Nicks has changed too, and not necessarily for the better, I thought it looked a little tacky. Anyway I had my shopping so decided to go home.

The next day, I was at the Royal Academy. On my walk up to the Academy, I go past Buckingham Palace. There were hundreds of people and the Police were doing their best to clear the entrances to the Palace. I heard them say it was for the Changing of the Guard. Well, I didn't have time to wait and see it so carried on and was waiting to cross the road, when who should come riding past me but the Horseguards!

The Summer Exhibition was coming to an end, and I had purchased my ticket online in readiness. Used to go every year and really enjoyed it, so it was good to get back there and see what art was hanging. I soaked it in and felt inspired, got some ideas for work, but would loved to have taken photos, yes, I could have bought the catalogue, but papers heavy to carry home. I think the highlight of the show were the Grayson Perry tapestries. Exquisite work and the story in them was very interesting, I could have spent a lot longer looking at them, but it was beginning to get hot and stuffy.

I decided lunch was in order and took myself off to probably my favourite store, Fortnum and Mason's. I had been given strict instructions to top up the tea bags! The husband loves F&M's Earl Grey bags so I didn't dare come out empty handed. This is another store that has gone through a makeover, but is still as lovely as ever, I didn't get lost so that was a good thing.

The front of the store is lovely, and the window displays are always good to look at. I managed to miss Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason coming out of the clock on the front of the building. If memory serves me, they used to come out on the quarter past the hour and quarter to.

I wandered the Burlington Arcade, and then up Bond Street, breathing in all the expensive stores, and then popped out onto Oxford Street. John Lewis was my next stop, another favourite. After all this it was time to go home, I was exhausted!

The rest of the week went by gently, dinner out one evening with the gang, we all used to live in the same street and next door to each other and is usually a feature of a visit. I love to see them all, the kids come out too, although now they are married and have families of their own!

Before we went out for dinner we visited Dave and Pauline's house as they had just added an extension on the back so she has a beautiful kitchen and garden area now. It also took us past our old house which hasn't changed since the day we left 10 years ago!!
Our old house!

Graham, Chris, Dave, Dennis, Pauline and Wendy on the new patio

I spent the weekend packing and then was up early on the Monday morning, ready to fly home.

 It's always lovely to see everyone, and this trip was no exception and I had a great time meeting so many people in Birmingham, I think next years Festival will be a lot of fun! Now it's down to getting the details organized!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

All's quiet.........or so I thought..

Things got very hectic for a while. I shut the door on the studio and decided I should start packing for my trip to England. I was attending the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham on behalf of the ACCQF, acting as the representative promoting Quilts of Great Britain next May.

Cathy came over and loaded me with posters and bookmarks to hand out at the Festival. I decided to take little with me as I wanted to do some Christmas shopping,(yes, I know it's early but I like to get a head start on things). So off I went.

The airport was busy, but I got checked in early but too early for my luggage so, "leave it over there", well, hope I see you in London, suitcase. I am beginning to learn that I need to lighten my suitcase a lot more, it's a hard shell, which several years ago would cause no problem but because airlines are now so sticky about weight, cost me excess baggage on the way back. In fact, I think they got cross with it, dropped it from a great height as it is now broken, so I guess I am buying a new one. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself, but I just wonder why the staff at airports have to make the experience as unpleasant as possible. I spent my time sitting at the boarding gate watching aircraft take off, land, and listening to the last calls for passengers, and actually watched them unload luggage from one aircraft at the next gate for a passenger who failed to show. The flight itself was uneventful and I slept all the way, only waking for food which we will not discuss, it was as bad on the way back.

I landed on the Tuesday morning at Gatwick and found my way to car hire, checked in, was shown to my car, Hyundai i40, and told how to use the handbrake and off I went, drove out the car park on the wrong side of the road, but soon got into it. I was staying with friends in Croydon, so a half hour drive.
I arrived safely you will be pleased to know, found my way and parked to be greeted by my friend with a big hug and .......couldn't get the car key out of the ignition. There followed a good fifteen minutes of fiddling when all of a sudden, it popped out. Apparently, you had to push it in and then slide it out, who knew?

Well, I had a lovely day and managed to last until quite late which pleased me and after a good nights sleep, I was up bright and early as I was going to be seeing my Aunt the following day as she was holidaying in Sevenoaks. Aunty had been born and brought up in the village of Ide Hill, not far from Sevenoaks, so was making a trip down memory lane, normally I would be staying with her at her home near Cambridge. We had a lovely day at Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill. I love visiting this National Trust property, it never fails to bring me a certain peace and calm, the gardens are beautiful, and I particularly love the Sun Room. 

The view over the Weald of Kent is spectacular, although it was a little cloudy this day. It was lovely to catch up with the news and also to see my cousin and his wife, we keep in touch sporadically, so it was good to see them. Jane is a quilter, and last year, I was able to see her at the Festival of Quilts last year along with her two daughters, Philippa and Susannah. So we talked quilting for a bit.

The day went by all to quickly and then it was back to Croydon and get myself ready for the following day as I was travelling to Birmingham for this year's Festival of Quilts. I left at six in the morning thinking there wouldn't be much traffic at that time. What was I thinking? It's a while since I've driven the M25 but I wasn't prepared for it. I thought I was travelling a reasonable speed, but others were flying past me, I didn't remember the traffic being this bad last year. 7am saw me the other side of Oxford, so I stopped at the first services I found, got out of my car and shook like a jelly. I thought this was slightly ridiculous as I used to travel these roads regularly and went up to Liverpool every six weeks at one point, but, I guess you get out of the way of traffic. Living in the boonies of Southwestern Ontario, heavy traffic consists of maybe a dozen extra cars between the hours of 6 and 9, and the school buses! I exaggerate, but you get the idea.

I made good time on the rest of the journey, and got parked easily at the NEC and followed the stream to the Convention Centre. The queue had already formed, and quite by chance, I met my contact with the Quilters Guild of the British Isles. She very kindly got me sorted out with an Exhibitors pass and took me into the hall. The stand for the Guild is the first thing that greets you upon entry, and I had a table which had been draped in purple cloth with an advertising poster and a power point, so I set up my computer, turned the music down, and played the presentation I had put together showing the ACCQF from set up to take down and shots of all three shows.

I put my poster up and a display of bookmarks out and waited for the doors to open. Oh my goodness!! I'm not sure I was prepared for the rush through the doors! I spent the next four days talking to hundreds of people about the Festival and barely leaving the stand, although I did pack things away and go for lunch, leaving plenty of bookmarks out only to find the table empty when I got back! I was busy which was good, everyone was interested in what a small town was doing and amazed at the support we get. I was able to meet with my teachers who will be coming next year, and they were just delightful, I think we have a great mix of workshops.

These were a few of the quilts on display, I took so many photos and haven't got room for them all.

Inner Circle, flower of Scotland by Kay Bell

Gillian Travis- Wired Flowers

Gillian Travis-Indian Women and others

It should never have happened- Edna Standley

EQA display-Italy

EQA display-Spain

Transported-Tolpuddle by Kate Dowty

A small taste of what was on display. The show was excellent this year, the standard was good and the layout much better. I was very tired by the end of the show on Sunday, especially as the fire alarm had gone off at 4am that morning in the hotel! We all dutifully trooped outside and found it was a false alarm, but better safe than sorry. My journey back to London took three and a half hours and I was glad to be able to relax and was looking forward to the following week....

To be continued........