Liverpool – impressions

I’ve recently moved to Liverpool – quite a change from rural Somerset!  I had been visiting regularly for a while, so I realised that my Honda CR-V, while perfect for yomping across Exmoor and tackling fords was possibly not the idea vehicle for parallel parking in the city.  So I test drove a range of ‘normal’ cars, which all felt like driving a go-cart by comparison, eventually settling on a middle-aged VW Golf.  Moving to the city has increased my car insurance by roughly 60%.  Cars up here seem to be much newer, much more likely to have chrome and tinted windows, and there is a conspicuous absence of mud…I am going to have to get used to the idea of spending money at the car wash if I’m not to be horribly conspicuous in my road-grimed car…

Today the sun was shining and I could justify playing hookey and going into the city centre.  Public transport here is the best in England outside of London, but I am driving most of the time at the moment as it’s a great way to familiarise myself with the geography of the city.  Today I parked near the Anglican cathedral, and walked down Duke Street to Liverpool One, passing the great gate or paifan of China Town on the way.  It’s the largest outside of China, as befitting the oldest Chinese community in Europe.  Nelson Street is garlanded with red lanterns in preparation for Chinese New Year this weekend.

Next stop was the Tate, on Albert Dock, where I wanted to look at the Tracey Emin/William Blake exhibition.  I’ll be blogging in more detail about the Tate on my other blog at LisaTulferArt.com in due course.  The red brick of the older buildings in the dock area glowed warmly in the winter sunshine, and despite being off season there were still tourists from all over the world – in a few minutes I’d identified Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish and German being spoken.  I love the cosmopolitan vibe in this city!

I had some Christmas gift vouchers to spend, so from the Tate I walked the short distance to Liverpool One and indulged in a little retail therapy.  Midweek in January is an excellent time to shop – lots of sales, but relatively few shoppers.  It’s fair to say that am not an enthusiastic shopper, but it’s a much more pleasant experience when it’s peaceful.  To celebrate having successfully tracked down all three items on my list, I carried on up the hill to Bold Street in search of lunch.  Bold Street is a hub of ethnic restaurants and quirky shops.  To be honest, I generally feel a bit old and un-hipster when I go there, especially at today’s trendy lunch venue: Leaf.  I’ve been there for tea before, but not for lunch.  I opted for Moroccan chicken sandwich with broccoli soup on the side, and it was not disappointing – full of flavour and fresh ingredients.  A nice touch is the tap water (I was being stingy).  It comes with a tang of fresh mint, dispensed from a giant glass jar with a tap, which is on the bar so you can help yourself to refills.

Twenty minutes’ walk took me back to where I’d left the car, and I drove home in the sunshine, feeling glad to be in such a beautiful and vibrant city.  There is so much more to explore: the range of world-class museums and galleries, the library (to research my father’s family who came here from Wales in the late 19th century), and the constantly changing panorama of the River Mersey.

Advertisements

All change – new year, new home, new start – the opportunities for simplicity

Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed the absence of new posts recently.  This reflects a time of upheaval in my life, both professionally and personally.  I have left the security of a permanent day-job for the challenges of working freelance (need a facilitator/writer/researcher? You know where to come!).  But also, after 25 years together, my partner and I have separated.  As we live in a tied house which comes with his work, I have had to look for somewhere to live, as well as rising to the challenge of setting up home by myself for the first time in a quarter of a century!

Well – the cat and I have found a delightful character cottage to rent in a small town in Somerset, near to the M5 and mainline railway whilst not far away from the friends and contacts I have made since we moved here from Wales in 2012, and at the heart of a thriving community with shops and services.  I wanted to find somewhere that would be a real home (rather than just somewhere to live) as I embark on this new life, so I was delighted to find somewhere which was not a soul-less new-build on an anonymous estate.

The cottage comes with a nearby garden, complete with potting shed, and there are already two big vegetable beds and scope to grow-my-own on a significant scale.  There is a wood-burning stove to supplement the gas central heating.  And a lock-up garage/wood store across the road.  I appear to be all set up for The Good Life…

We live in a large house, and so I haven’t needed to get much in the way of furniture as there is enough to share.  However, living in big houses for the last several years has inevitably resulted in Too Much Stuff, and this has been a wonderful opportunity to galvanise me into action – the biggest decluttering exercise of my life is underway!  Ebay, Gumtree, charity shops and the dump have all been involved in my campaign to reduce my Stuff by at least 30%, and preferably 50%.  Fortunately, the timing coincided with the Christmas and New Year break, which has given me time and space to do at least a couple of hours’ decluttering every day, and make significant inroads into my Stuff.

I have before me, therefore, a challenge and an opportunity. I may not have actively chosen this whole ‘life begins at 45’ experience, but I am determined to embrace what it offers me, and the first thing it offers is choices.  What do I want in my new home?  How do I want to live my daily life?  I am being offered the chance to live much more simply, which (as readers of this blog will know) is something which has been exercising me for some time.  This is my chance to make a fresh start in the way I live.  I have often said that I aspire to William Morris’ maxim to ‘have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’, and now I have the opportunity to put it into practice.

The white goods do need to be bought new because I really need them to be under warranty.  The other bits and pieces I am consciously buying mostly vintage or second-hand.  I acquired a handsome day-bed on Gumtree, and a leather armchair on eBay.  My bedroom curtains are being re-purposed from a pair of 1950s Welsh wool blankets.  I am now the proud owner of a very beautiful Deco chest of drawers, which I expect will outlive me.  And I am being very disciplined about how much furniture, and how much Stuff, will fit into a small cottage and still allow me enough space and order to actually live in it.  And work in it – the second bedroom (with stunning views!) will be my studio and office.

So – over the next few months, I hope this blog will chronicle my first steps in my new life, and I hope you will accompany me as I make choices, face challenges, and work out how to live simply in my new home.

Vintage Home Shop – sharing the love

Last week I had a thoroughly enjoyable morning visiting Sarah-Jane, who trades as Vintage Home Shop (follow her on Twitter @VintageHomeShop).  Based at her home in Somerset, she presides over an Aladdin’s cave of vintage goodies.  Her main passions are 50s Meakin and Midwinter china, vintage mirrors, and also luggage – I have never seen so many vintage suitcases and trunks in one place!  Other vintage home items find their way into her emporium too, such as curtains and textiles and kitchenalia.

What made my visit particularly enjoyable – apart from drooling over the vintage treasures, of course! – was Sarah-Jane herself.  Vivacious and articulate, she is genuinely passionate about vintage, striving for a slower, more considered pace of life, and a more sustainable lifestyle.  Her period home has been adapted for contemporary family living with a deep respect for the form and features of the house, without being too precious or formal, resulting in a space that is homely and welcoming while also giving more than a passing nod to the generations whose home it has been before.  Having known Sarah-Jane for some time on Twitter, it was a real pleasure to meet her in person, and to have a glimpse of the person behind #vintagefindhour (Twitter, 8-9pm on Wednesdays) and the stream of interesting vintage-related tweets!

The items she has for sale are high quality and in good condition.  She has a genuine eye for the quirky, the pleasing and the usable, and it’s easy to see how her pieces would look fabulous as feature items in a modern home, or as part of an all-over vintage style.  For example, the luggage looks great as it is, but could also be used for its original purpose, or as stylish storage (and who doesn’t need more storage?!).  Vintage kitchenalia is eminently practical and usable, generally much better made than the modern equivalent, as well as making an attractive display in your kitchen when you are not using it.  And everyone knows that food tastes better when eaten from gorgeous vintage china!

Sarah-Jane has a website at vintagehomeshop.co.uk (new shiny website coming shortly) but if there is anything in particular you are looking for, it is worth contacting her as her Aladdin’s cave is so extensive that inevitably not everything makes it to the website!  And if you are in the area, Sarah-Jane welcomes visits by prior appointment.  I had enormous fun meeting her – it’s great to spend time with people who have a shared passion for vintage – and yes, of course, I bought something!  This delightful wooden chest is now storing wool in my textiles studio – Sarah-Jane had tweeted its picture and once I saw it had my mother’s initials on it, I just knew it had to be mine!

BMlbMI7CAAAXEa0

New favourite shop: Sally’s Vintage Chic in Minehead, Somerset

I’ve been to Minehead a few times, but mostly by steam train, and have rarely ventured off the Avenue.  However, this week I was there to meet up with an old friend and went by car.  Consequently, I was driving round Minehead looking for somewhere to park, and that is when I spotted it – an inviting shop front in Summerland Road (turn off the Avenue at Westcott’s flower stall and you can’t miss it) emblazoned with the name Sally’s Vintage Chic.  So once I had found a parking place, and had coffee with my friend, I went back to investigate.

Sally welcomed me into the shop, and an hour later I was still there – there is simply so much to look at, admire and be tempted by.  Her painted and distressed furniture is absolutely beautiful, some of the nicest I have ever seen for sale.  There is a good selection of vintage costume jewellery, ceramics and homewares, but for me the star attraction is the vintage linen.  Customers are encouraged to open the drawers in the display furniture, and are rewarded with high quality, beautifully laundered and pressed embroidered and trimmed table linens.  Linens which are too threadbare to sell as they are have been cut down and imaginatively re-purposed as cushions and bags, complete with vintage trimmings, or as colourful bunting (before I left I gave in to temptation and bought a length of bunting made from pieces of an embroidered tablecloth).  I am still contemplating whether I can justify the romantic, nostalgic rose-printed eiderdown, or whether the cat would appropriate and destroy it!

Visiting Sally’s Vintage Chic was a real pleasure, and this is now one of my Favourite Places (friends, beware – Christmas and birthday presents are likely to come from here in future!).  Apart from the quality of the items for sale, and the loveliness of the shop interior which shows them off to best advantage without being overly cluttered, Sally is delightful and very knowledgeable about her stock, with a real passion for all things vintage.  The shop was opened last summer, and I hope it goes from strength to strength, which is one reason why I am sharing it here!  Sally has at website at www.sallysvintagechic.co.uk and is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SallysVintageChic.  She promises to be on Twitter soon too.  Mail order is available, but for the full experience do visit the shop – why not make a vintage day of it and travel to Minehead by steam on the West Somerset Railway? http://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/