Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Go Hard or Go Frome (part 1)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or rather last June in Somerset), much fun was had. It was actually a hen do, and all in honour of Jeni aka Yesterday Girl, who got married in Vegas last July. A fabulous time was had by all (and documented on Instagram) but then the photos got lost on a hard drive and so no blog post was written. But then, a couple of months ago, they got found... hooray!

So anyway, last June, my girl gang and I drove in convoy to Frome (yes it's pronounced Froom, rather than to rhyme with home but oh well), with me in my little yellow Panda and Bethan in her red Ka. We stayed in a lovely holiday cottage called Stonehenge (s/o to all you Spinal Tap fans) that we found through Snaptrip, which had a pool and games room next door. And we celebrated Jeni's forthcoming marriage with almost none of your standard hen party accessories. Except willy straws. Oh, and willy cutlery.

I will simply post this as a visual diary of our excursions. There's Wookey Hole, which was quite literal cheesy fun in caves (clogs not recommended), the vintage amusement arcade and mirror maze plus the dinosaur trail outside. We also did a trip into Frome to poke about the vintage shops. While other people's holiday photos can be dull, I assure you all there are lots of good vintage outfits and hair to be seen here! Part 2 coming soon and by the way, all these photos are from Jeni's amazing camera, which explains why they are much better than my knackered old Canon can manage.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Feelin' Vinyl

Yesterday was really quite special. Not only did I get to hang out with one of my oldest and dearest friends Naomi Thompson, but I got to dress up and have my photo taken in a fabulous 1970s dress with hair and makeup, too. Exhibit A:

As a newly converted 1970s aficionado, it was a bit of a dream. The shoot was in honour of the new HBO series Vinyl being released for digital download, today. Firstly, and most importantly, here's what Vinyl is all about:
VINYL is a ride through the sex- and drug-addled music business of 1970s New York at the dawn of punk, disco and hip-hop. Richie Finestra, the founder and president of American Century Records, is trying to save his company and soul without destroying everyone in his path. With his passion for music and discovering talent gone by the wayside, and American Century on the precipice of being sold, he has a life-altering event that reignites his love of music, but severely damages his personal life.
It has been created by none other than Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, author Rich Cohen and multi-gonged producer Terence Winter who is known for "The Wolf of Wall Street; HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire”, so if that's not a recipe for an amazing series right there, I don't know what is!

The aim of the day was for the dream team of Naomi and Natasha from Pretty Me Vintage to transform a select few journalists and bloggers into (imaginary) characters from the series. Think glitzy, moneyed 1970s New York music industry clothing, rather than boho, wild-child hippies or English Laura Ashley frocks.

It's fair to say, they got it spot on!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Welcome Home (The King's Sanatorium)

It's time for another delve into English Edwardian history for The King's Ginger. This time, we're going back to a darker time, when tuberculosis was a scourge. Men, women, children, rich or poor - no one was safe, and a cure was not yet known. But the luckier (and not necessarily wealthier) victims of consumption did have more of a chance, thanks to a state-of-the-art sanatorium that bore the King's name...

Back in my teens, all I really knew about TB was that the leading lady in La Boheme had it and I got a very painful BCG inoculation against it. But in the early 1800s, TB was the cause of an astonishing twenty-five percent of all deaths in England. By the turn of the 20th century, rates of death from consumption were still high, with a vaccination more than twenty years away and a cure, almost fifty. It was only a couple of decades previously, that the medical profession discovered that TB was infectious. It was certainly had no respect for money or class status. But it's fair to say there was a huge difference in the treatment of poor TB victims and the wealthy ones. Both were isolated from society, but the poor went into sanatoriums that were essentially prisons or workhouses and the more well-heeled benefited from plush hospitals, relaxation, fresh air and sunlight.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Snapshots of Berlin

After an insanely busy six weeks, last Monday I ran away to Berlin for a couple of days. One of the nice things about being a freelance copywriter and social media type, is that with a bit of preparation, I can theoretically do my job from anywhere in the world. So, off I flew!

My lovely man had gone to Hamburg the previous weekend to watch St Pauli play (I had to work, which was a convenient excuse to get out of watching football) and came to meet me in Berlin on Monday night. We stayed in the awesome Michelberger Hotel, a place that's 50% boutique hotel and 50% budget hotel, and 100% hipster, but in a cool way. The way East London was about five years ago, before it became too knowing about its own hipsterness! It's in Friedrichshain, in what was previously East Berlin, which was then the poorest part and is now arguably the most fun and creative part. We especially loved neighbouring Kreutzberg with its independent shops, bars, restaurants and venues.

What I present here are some snapshots of my trip, more for personal record than anything else. That disclaimer comes because I have a brand-new camera (a Canon 70D) which I haven't quite got to grips with yet, so these photos are really just holiday snaps and not beautifully-composed blog photos. And because sometimes it's better to capture moments with an iPhone than it is to grapple with a DSLR beast!

The most delicious German breakfast, at Tante Emma

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Having a Grape Old Time!

It's about time I took a foray back into the more distant past for a fresh King's Ginger adventure. Luckily enough, I have had one up my sleeve for a few months, ready to unleash on my loyal readers at the most opportune moment! This particular story revolves around sparkling wine (and horses), and what better time to enjoy such things than in the lead up to Valentine's Day? Well, sparkling wine, not horses. Though what you do with your own time is no business of mine.

Onto the tale!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

From Hobby to Career – Becoming a Vintage Seller

In the second of my two posts for Shurgard's blog, I am asking: so, you think you have a good eye for vintage clothing and accessories? Perhaps, after many years devoted to your own collection – honing your eye for a bargain – you realise you prefer hunting down vintage and antiques more than your actual job. Well... why not try and make a living out of your hobby? Seriously! You'll have to get used to early mornings, become a photographer, get to grips with social media marketing and, most importantly of all, genuinely have a passion for what you're doing. But the rewards are so worth it! 

Keep your eyes peeled

The casual collector scours eBay and Etsy and probably frequents vintage sales, charity shops and carboots. But the serious stock sourcer needs to think bigger. You can find big lots on eBay if you look, but it's being first through the door at sales of all kinds that reaps the rewards. Pro sellers are the ones lining up at opening time, sweeping through and leaving before the hobbyists have even got out of bed! You can even try going to proper vintage clothing auction houses like Kerry Taylor to battle it out with other dealers, hitting foreign flea markets or making friends with local house clearance companies.

Promoting your collection 

When you've acquired some stock, what then? Sure, you can book spots at fairs, boot sales and so forth, but if you don't have transport, it can be difficult. Selling online is the answer, but it's an art all in itself. Taking decent photos is key. A decent camera (or cameraphone), a plain backdrop (or bedsheet!) and a cheap mini tripod are good to have. It's definitely fair to say that the better your photos are, the more you are likely to sell, and potentially command higher prices.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Starting a Vintage Collection: Beginner's Basics

Collecting anything, but especially vintage clothing or accessories, can vary from being a casual hobby to an all-consuming compulsion. As a collector of everything from Beanie Babies (as a kid) to vintage housedresses (ongoing), I have experience at both ends of the spectrum! I was asked by Shurgard Self-Storage to write a piece about said experience for their blog and was only too glad to oblige. I can waffle on a bit as any regular readers know, and I kept it more concise there. So here, in full are some tips to kickstart your collecting career.

Starting out

Firstly, and most importantly, decide what you want to collect! You do need to pick something that genuinely interests you, or you'll lose the passion for hunting it down. Go for vintage clothing that you want to wear yourself or restore and preserve; things you will use and enjoy, like mid-century costume jewellery, bakelite bangles, art deco china tea services or CC41 furniture. I collect clothing and deco china but Naomi Thompson, who wrote the book Style Me Vintage Accessories with fellow collector extraordinaire Liz Tregenza, says that vintage jewellery is the 'lazy' collector's choice! 

'I grew tired of mending, washing, storing and protecting delicate vintage clothing. That pool is getting smaller. Now, jewellery is democratic. It doesn’t matter what size, shape or age you are, everyone can enjoy jewellery.'

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Seven Years of Blogging Christmas

When you've been blogging as long as me (8 years next year), you've accumulated a lot of photos of Christmases past. In the interests of nostalgia and laziness, I thought I'd take you back in time to my many and varied (and not-so-varied) vintage Christmas outfits of the past! In a vaguely chronological order...

Back in 2008, I loved swing dancing. I wore this two-piece candy-cane striped set to a Christmas swing dance, complete with holly in my hair! Can't remember the brand, but I do know it is long gone.

The following year, I wore a repro velvet dress from Able Grable, another defunct repro brand.

This vintage inspired coat came from the high street... Oasis I think. A staple of winter for years & years!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Horrible Halloween

There haven't been many years since around 2008 where I haven't thrown a Halloween party, either with my friend Ruby who owns Fontaine's Bar in Dalston, or the Vintage Mafia. This year combined both into the Mortuary of Madness, a horror hospital-themed party the VM threw at Fontaine's! Apart from Jeni's costume getting lost in the post, forcing her to be a patient rather than a Great War nurse, it was a brilliant night and all our guests made so much effort. Here's a selection of snaps by the ultra talented Hanson Leatherby, to see the full album, head to his Facebook!

Monday, 2 November 2015

The King Across the Ocean

Hello, and welcome to the return of my now-quarterly King's Ginger adventures! Something a little different to kick off, and certainly more far-flung than usual. I found myself in Boston this autumn and took a day to follow in the King's footsteps from around 150 years before. He was treading the path of the American Revolutionaries of almost a century before as well, adding up to an interesting history lesson for those of us who know little about the history of the United States. Join me for the Battle Of Bunker Hill and the King's 1860 Royal Tour of North America! 

The Battle of Bunker Hill took place in 1775, and was an early part of the American Revolutionary War – the long and acrimonious divorce of the United States of America from Great Britain. It's not a war we ever get taught about in history lessons over here, though most of us have heard of some of the key events in the leadup – like the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which was not a genteel gathering with hot drinks and neatly cut finger sandwiches but a protest in which men dressed as Native Americans (thus aligning themselves with the country of their residence and not the one of their ancestry) dumped 342 chests of tea in Boston harbour as a statement against the import laws and tax on tea. We probably know about this event because of the shocking waste of tea but I didn't know anything about its root causes, which were the increasing tensions between the two nations (mostly because of taxes imposed by Britain and massively over-regulated trade rules – if you'll pardon the over generalisation), which  resulted in outright war breaking out in April 1775, between both old and New England.

Photo from the Bunker Hill Museum

The Americans didn't have an army, but they had a militia – also known as the Minutemen. According to that ever-reliable source, Wikipedia, the British had about 4,000 men stationed in Massachusetts – well-trained and well-equipped redcoats. When the Battle of Bunker Hill kicked off in June 1775, approximately 3,000 British soldiers fought 2,400 colonial troops and, despite the odds being stacked against them, and the eventual outcome being declared a loss for the American side, the British Army lost far more men. The battle's outcome gave the Patriots (as they are referred to over in the States) the confidence to go and take the redcoats on again and they would eventually triumph and win their complete independence from us (obviously!).

That's an extremely potted history of the Battle of Bunker Hill of course, and you may be wondering what it has to do with King Edward? Let me fill you in.

The Prince of Wales by Matthew Brady, New York 1860 (Wikipedia)

Nearly 100 years after the famous Battle, in the autumn of 1860, 18-year-old Prince Albert Edward of England set off for an official tour of North America. The Royal Family had been invited over a few years earlier by Canadian officials (who had fought for Britain in the Crimean War), but Queen Victoria had declined to go on the long transatlantic voyage and all her children were too young to go in her place. According to the New York Time, It was Prince Albert who persuaded her to send Albert Edward not only to Canada but to America too. Thinking about it, given that the war of independence happened less than 100 years earlier, I'm not too surprised at her reluctance to send her eldest son halfway across the world to meet with the revolutionary nation. However, as I have mentioned on here before, Bertie was quite the naughty young man and didn't get on at all well with his mother... even before she blamed him for the death of Prince Albert a year later. So perhaps if anyone was to be reluctantly sent over there, it was him!

He set off on 10th July 1860, bound for Canada, where he dedicated the new Victoria Bridge in Montreal. It wasn't until September 20th that the prince and his entourage reached America, docking at Detroit and then travelling to Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg before arriving in Washington on the 3rd of October. He did all the usual sightseeing – the Capitol Building and George Washington's house, and attended a reception at the White House, of course.

The next bit of the trip was interesting. Here's a quote from the New York Times:
The only controversy of the trip arose over whether or not to visit the South. Sectional tensions were high in that momentous election year, and Southern politicians hoped to gain positive publicity for their cause through a royal visit to model plantations. The colonial secretary accepted an invitation to Richmond, Virginia, where Edward attended church and toured the state capital. The prince, though, refused to visit a plantation and insisted on being driven back promptly to Washington. From there, the royal party traveled by rail to Baltimore and Philadelphia, and then sailed for New York City.
It offers no reason for the prince's refusal but since his father, Prince Albert was a noted abolitionist, it's fair to assume that he was also strongly anti-slavery. Yet another reason to appreciate his Majesty for being a thoroughly decent bloke!

In New York, there were various adventures including parades, a lavish ball for 3,000 people, which was gatecrashed by a further 2,000, causing part of the temporary dance floor to collapse (luckily not with the prince on it) and other adventures. But since this story is meant to be about Boston and Bunker Hill, we will have to move onto this part of the trip before it becomes a novel!

Revere House, Boston (Wikipedia)

On the 17th October, the party set off for Boston on a specially upgraded train. It's described in 'The New England tour of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales' published the same year, as the 'handsomest travelling car to ever run on rails', with velvet sofas and carpet, a solid silver 'ornamental waiter', gold goblets and even an elegant office, complete with writing desk. Arriving to Boston at 4pm, the Prince and his entourage then passed through various streets in the city, cheered on by thousands of cheering men and women.

The royal party stayed in Revere House, a fancy hotel which sadly burned down in 1912. Rooms were upgraded for the Prince's stay, of course. It was reported while staying there that, 'The Prince is a hearty eater but drinks very moderately' – the 18-year-old had much to learn, it seems.

Ralph Farnham, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

The next morning, the 18th October, the Prince met with the last remaining veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Ralph Farnham. Described as a 'reluctant celebrity', Mr Farnham was 104 when he was invited to Boston for a celebration of his life. He was also put up at Revere House, where he had a fifteen minute reception with Bertie. He wanted to pay his respects and prove that the animosity of the past was forgotten, though he was quoted as joking, “I hear so much in praise of the Prince of Wales that I fear the people will all turn Royalists.”

Crowd on Boston Common (YouTube)

A busy day continued with a visit to the Capitol and Boston Common (where a crowd waited for the Prince), a concert and finally, a Ball. While this contemporary report doesn't describe the Prince's attire for the evening, it does describe many of the ladies' outfits in a lot of excessive detail! The first outfit described the wife of Governer Banks who was 'attired in a rich heavy purple silk figured in gold which produced quite a brilliant effect. The dress was worn with short sleeves trimmed with point lace and partially covered with a point lace bertha with gold trimmings. Diamond earrings and a headdress of white feathers with a heavy purple velvet ribbon at the back added much to the effect of her toilet.' Sounds lovely. You can read about all the ladies' outfits, should you want to know them in incredible detail here

The Ball had to have a special police presence and the decoration costs outstripped the receipts from selling tickets. But since the Prince reportedly danced until 4am, it seems it was worth it!

The following day, the Prince visited the college, and Mt. Auburn Cemetery (which I tried to see myself but couldn't get there) before heading to the Bunker Hill Monument, just as I did.

The huge granite obelisk was erected between 1827 and 1843, the gap of 16 years being down to constantly running out of funds. It was only completed after Mrs Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of a women's magazine, had a 'Ladies Fair' in 1840 and raised a whopping $30,000 from Boston's well-to-do women. The Bunker Hill Lodge at the foot of the obelisk was built later in the 19th century, and I'm not sure if it was there when the Prince visited, but the statue of General Joseph Warren (who perished in the battle) it now houses definitely was.

While I got a lift there with the friend I stayed in Boston with, the Prince was 'conveyed hence at a speed highly complimentary to the skill of the reinsman and the muscle of the steeds.' And I was disappointed to learn that he only 'passed round the base of the Monument admiring its lofty proportions and visited the statue of Warren', and didn't, in fact, climb the 294 steps to the top (which felt like a lot more) and pause to admire the view. 

...Not that the landscape would have look like that at the time! Still, here's the proof that I climbed the monument and survived the jelly legs that ensued. And also that I visited Dr Warren!

Returning momentarily to the Battle itself, which I learned about in the adjacent Bunker Hill Museum, it really wasn't immediately clear that the British won (I had to Google it it). This was down to the fact that was really only a 'Pyrrhic victory' - one that came at a devastatingly high toll. We lost so many men that we may as well have lost... as we eventually went on to do. Nonetheless, it gave rise to the famous quote, 'Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes'.

After Bunker Hill, the Prince went to visit the Library of Boston before heading to Portland and from there returned back to England, turning 19 somewhere on the Atlantic. The New York Times reported that, 'While nothing specific had been accomplished during the prince's American tour, Edward, Queen Victoria, and the British people were pleased by the warm welcome the United States had extended to the British prince.' This was his first official Tour, and he went on to do more, including visiting Egypt the following year, as well as taking on many more state duties as Queen Victoria retreated further and further from public life after the death of Albert, also the following year. 

All these years later, the lucky people of America can get their hands on KGL, although it's definitely harder to find and my host and I had to visit multiple liquor stores of suburban Boston to find a bottle! But it led me to post his question on the KGL Facebook page: how many bottles of King's Ginger can you fit into the Bunker Hill Monument? It's a trick question because, like so much, the bottles are bigger over there!

I hope you have enjoyed the return of this feature and my brief history of the King's visit to Bunker Hill. His Majesty will be back again in time for Christmas! 

Back to the present day, if you;d like to try a brand-new cocktail, may I recommend this Movember special? It's all in aid of an excellent cause.

Fleur xx

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