This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

 

If you see me running up and down this little cul-de-sac of ours batting my head and screeching fit to burn it will be because a moth or twenty-five have taken refuge in my frizzy hair. 

Blame da bungalow. It is the bungalows fault. In fact me and this darn bungalow are at loggerheads because she is a magnet for all things creepy and crawly, and I am a lunatic in dire need of one of those special little hoovering up machines dedicated to eradicating life indoors of all things that frankly shouldn’t be setting up home.

Never, ever before have I experienced an insect invasion like the one currently taking place in this sprawling hot house. For there’s the rub: the insects consider themselves invited because the house is so stuffy I run around opening the many windows the minute I fall out of bed and before I know it all the blue bottles that live on the pink plant in the front garden come dashing in demented with buzzy, window-bashing excitement, and the bee’s in the back-garden make a bee-line straight for my head.

And that’s not all. The bathroom is home to more spiders than the Natural History Museum. In the evenings I switch off the lights so as not to attract moths and before I know it said ENORMOUS black moths are having sense enough not to burn their pretty wings in the candlelight and instead taking great delight in swooping past my nose and trying to crawl down my not insubstantial cleavage to eat my bra.

And the bedroom. Oh the bedroom is the very worst of it. You see the bedroom is home to a whole posse of INVISIBLE dragon flies. I say invisible because when I head to my room to start my evening absolutions, I like to conduct a spot-check for all things likely to trouble me in the small hours. Said spot-check involves flapping the duvet about and making Ste drag chairs in to the room to climb up and give spiders lurking in corners their marching orders. Said spot-check NEVER reveals lurking dragonflies because when I get in to bed and read my Kindle and rub lavender in to my feet and generally do all the probably slightly ludicrous things I have to do to fight off insomnia, the dragonflies aren’t there. They AREN’T THERE. Oh no. The little blighters wait until it is pitch black and we are almost dropping off to sleep to start singing at the top of their dragony voices, bouncing off the walls and generally making more racket than anything so paper light should be capable of making.

So then I can’t sleep and I pop the light on and have a stern word with the tens of crawlies apparently having a disco and when they won’t listen, much to his chagrin, I make Ste get up and carry them out one by one: not because I am scared of them, but because I read too much trashy news and I have visions of them taking root in my ear, or heaven forbid my belly-button and sending me to itchy hell. Because these things happen don’t you know? And heavens, as if my ears aren’t trouble enough without a dragonfly family moving in…

But I am Alison. And let’s face it I once saw off a six foot four creepy crawly so I can do this! I can employ every insect fighting tactic in my vintage housekeeping book and make it clear to anything with wings or more than four legs that they are not welcome in my hot-house. I can liberally sprinkle the kind of essential oils that get up insect’s noses around the place, burn citronella tea-lights here, there and everywhere and stuff a tumble-dryer sheet down my bra because apparently that will be just as effective as wearing head to toe insect repellent and will of course have me smelling as fresh as a basket of line-dried laundry.

Your time is up insects. I have reached the end of my creepy crawly tether.

 

Once upon a time I was a very busy and very important company director.

Of course this was mostly in my own head but I did indeed run a tiny little company that frequently saw me negotiating with a factory full of joiners or selling my soul to get interior decorating projects that occasionally gave me the shudders. And some days I was good at it and some days I was really, really bad and found myself sitting in sawdust drinking tea with Youth Training Scheme boys or accepting a glass of red from a potential client and thereafter quoting half the price I had intended to.

Heck no: business has never really been my forte but on the days when I knew there were factory bottoms to be whipped or indeed that it was essential for the sake of the future of the roof over my head that I struck a great deal, I had one surefire way to guarantee my success and that was the highest pair of heels I could find. Yesarooney, when the full scope of my focus, determination and energy were called upon I would don a pair of stilettos (and a pair of shoulder pads) and in the stab of a razor sharp heel the world would be my oyster.

As a result, I am now a woman who believes, deeply, in the power of shoes to alter ones attitude. Sandals and Birkenstocks. Spotty wellies and flip-flops. Mary Janes and trainers. Wedges, courts and patent leather stilettos. All of them are lovely and all of them more than earn a place in the shoe wardrobe of the busy, multi-tasking woman of the millennium.

Not least the not-oft mentioned housekeeping shoe.

Oh yes, the housekeeping shoe. For the dear old Flylady was right: barefoot in the park might just be fine and dandy but barefoot in the house spells rest and relaxation to your pleasure seeking head and the barefooted housekeeper all to often finds all her domestic good intentions set aside, in favour of that which is pretty, or entertaining, or puttery. And fun as all that may be, none of it is going to get the loo scrubbed, now is it?

No, my Dear, it isn’t. So in must shuffle the shoes.  For pearly pink toes covered in a sensible shoe send the kind of signals to one’s brain that say: there is work to be done! No time to meander. No time to enjoy the cosy tickle of the shag-pile underfoot, no time to curl up, toes tucked under one’s bum on the sofa. Work!

Now while I do so hate to get terribly business like about our lives at home, when it comes to housekeeping, what constitutes “Work” falls  into two very distinct categories: the needful and the unnecessary. The needful includes all that which requires white vinegar, mops, dusters, and domestic machinery and the unnecessary, while still scrumptiously needful in it’s own way, accounts for all that we do as Vintage Housekeepers: the puttery treats and the flower arranging, in short all that no-one else notices but that we, hedonistic Domestic Goddesses that we are, could barely live without.

So what I am suggesting is this: that in order to mark out the needful from the unnecessary in our minds, so that we can fully indulge the pleasure principle when we finally come to kicking back and doing the pretty, we should indeed take the Flyladies lead and take ourselves out on a creative excursion of the shoe-shopping kind.

What you choose to wear to keep house is up to you. The Fly Lady really rather insists that one’s housekeeping shoes must be of the laced up variety, but I think that there is room for manoeuvre here and I for one favor the plastic gardening clog of the kind most often found to be found in fancy gardening stores, because they are both lightweight and fully enclosed, and even better than that, can be wiped should one get a little kamikaze with a bowl full of rose scented soap suds!

What won’t do, I do not think, is anything of the flip-floppy variety or indeed anything that could be passed off as a slipper. Slippers you see send all the wrong signals to the alert brain, as does the kind of shoe one could flimsy along the beach in.

No. The housekeeping shoe must be a SERIOUS shoe. Preferably the kind of shoe you would not be tempted to run out the front door in, for the housekeeping shoe wearer must abide by one rule: under no circumstances must the housekeeping shoe try to earn it’s keep outside the house. Indeed the soles should never come into contact with pavement or grass and as a result, should  remain spotlessly clean and thus deeply unlikely to sully one’s precious cream carpets…

Which is I why I wear a rather scary pair of gardening clogs, because vanity prevents me running out the door in them and I have even been known to kick them off quickly when the doorbell rings, which is I think you will agree, something impossible to do in even the snazziest of housekeeping trainers!

So there it is: your assignment for this week: get yourself a pair of housekeeping shoes. Pop them on to do the dull stuff, then kick them off to go putter. And yes, if you really must, then I think it would be just fine to keep house in red stilettos.

Whatever floats your boat my Sweet. Have a lovely week won’t you?

 

Well heckity pie, just when it seemed life was finally settling in to something lovely, I find myself almost homeless.

No really. Homeless. Not quite on the streets. But one week away from completion on my little house and a few weeks away from eviction here in the bungalow because the landlord has finally confirmed that he wants to move a relative in. And oh how very, very stressful it is to suddenly not have the certainty of home anymore. And the irony of being the very someone who has long preached about why it matters…

My heart is breaking now. My neck hurts. The strain is telling on me and Ste. And finding another house is proving almost impossible while he is between jobs. We need time that we simply don’t have.

I wish I could write eloquently about how it feels to be in such crisis. To succinctly capture the kind of tension unique to it. I wish that I could set aside the angst and bring to BrocanteHome a dispassionate review of how this could have happened: whether it was a case of bad decisions or bad luck. I wish I could go home. 

Sometimes strength fails a person even when intellectually they understand that the crisis is not quite what it seems. We can live in Stes’ Mums in the interim. Or stay Kaths’ spare bedroom. I can spend the Summer at Helen’s. Even the lady next door has announced that if all else fails we can live in her garage! And of course we will be fine. I know that. Of course I do. But I suppose this feels like failure on a gargantuan scale. It is threatening the peace and joy that was our relationship and leaving my child looking simultaneously strained and he tells me, excited about being about to embark on a huge adventure.

Perhaps then it is an adventure. Yes! Please let me re-frame this as the biggest adventure of my life!  Didn’t Nancy Levin say Jump and Your Life Will Appear? What were her thoughts on those of us who are pushed??

So what’s next? Patience and a refusal to panic are key.  Though I seem to have been blessed by the slowest, feet-dragging home-buyer in the land, my house will complete in a week or two and I will have the equity to perhaps bribe a landlord with the offer of upfront payment on a house. Someone’s generosity means that Ste will be back in work by mid August and then the world – or at least this part of West Lancashire, where competition for rented property is fierce, will be our oyster. Though damn it, I think you should know that I can barely stomach oysters.

In the meantime I am haunting property sites and spending inordinate amounts of time waiting for slippery letting agents to return my calls. I am watching The Gilmore Girls from the very beginning. Sipping gin in this gravel covered garden. Tomorrow I am catching the train to Oxford to go set up our lovely new vintage concession in Chipping Norton and at the weekend I will start the process of packing our life up all over again.

This too must be endured. This too will pass. Hold my hand though won’t you? I need all your strength right now.

 

Warning! Pretty alert coming your way…

I often bemoan the lack of opportunity taken to pretty up the plain surfaces of our domestic arena with a little pattern. Cars are in fact my main bug bear. Why aren’t they lovelier? Why in fact are they becoming blacker so that our roads are congested with giant black beetles crawling along our highways? Where’s the pretty, people??!

 

liberty kettle

 

 

Though it doesn’t look like pretty cars are coming our way anytime soon, dull domestic appliances are on the way out of the window thanks to the rather darling collaboration between Liberty and Dualit currently on the horizon…

The world it is a-changing. We have got a women prime minister given to wearing leopard skin wellies and now me darlings we can sprinkle a flutter of flowers around our kitchen for £125.00 a pop.

 

liberty toaster phoebe

 

I would add them to my wedding list if only I could be sure we won’t be living in a tent by the time we were planning to march up the aisle together.

Life may be muddle but the very fact that Liberty exist still gladdens the heart.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Audit

Here we are again: time to get a grip on my head and my heart by auditing the ins and outs of my world. As always please feel free to steal the graphic and do a life audit of your own, or indeed download the Life Audit PDF (it’s free) and get your pencil out…

Today I am…

Flustered by a last minute flurry of questions from my solicitor as the sale of my house finally looks to be drawing to a close. (Thanks heavens: I now understand why they put moving house up there with the most stressful things in life!). Viewing a cute little house slightly closer to school this afternoon. Waiting on a call from an estate agent about another. Being a full-time Step-Mum for two weeks as Stevie’s Mum has gone to Mexico. Worrying about being a hopeless full-time Step-Mum because Stevie is so very quiet it is hard to tell whether he is in heaven or hell. Planning a week or two at Helen’s lovely house in Oxford while she hops over the channel to France. Over-using exclamation marks in all my texts like an over-excited teenager. Bless me.

Feeling…

Excited. Helen, Dad and I open our our first BrocanteHome vintage concession at Station Mill, Chipping Norton the weekend after next! Eeeeek! Its finally happening: life is slowly but surely coming together. Though in the midst of it all I am feeling pretty rubbish: permanently sluggish with a hiatus hernia that is stabbing me in the chest and a lovely headache dogging all my mornings. I really do need to get back to the daily routines that once sustained me instead of wasting entire days burning the candle at both ends with worry…

Oooh and feeling proud! Yesterday I went through ALL my paperwork and now consider myself thoroughly organised and able to put a hand on whatever piece of officialdom is necessary with just a flutter of my un-manicured hand…

Reading…

Blogosphere, poetry and diet books. But otherwise consumed by the sheer volume of books I seem to own in a house without bookcases and no obvious place to put one. It’s a bother. One really shouldn’t have to consider the housing of far too many books in the hunt for somewhere to live but hey ho, when a person loves the written word quite as much as I do there really doesn’t seem to be a choice. This then is up there on my list of little house must haves.

Eating…

Crumpets. Because the weather is behaving shockingly bad. And although in my head I am dreaming of sumptuous salads and barbeques on the patio, in reality it hasn’t stopped raining and a combination of stress and miserable weather has got me wanting to hole up under a blanket with the cosiest food I can think of, so crumpets, Welsh Rarebit style it is!

Planning…

Damnit… planning is hard right now. We still don’t know whether we can stay here in the bungalow. And I have lost my connection with these four walls in the interim. For the first time in years  going through the motions and simply focusing on keeping it as clean as can be without worrying about aesthetics. This is such a major departure for me, I hardly know what to make of it… but I am simply hoping that as soon as the tenancy is confirmed one way or another I will be able to run my home the Brocante way all over again…

It’s so very hard to plan when you are scared isn’t it?

Dreaming of…

Getting lost in a city full of warren like cobbled streets. Discovering secret little places only those who dare to dream know about. Hobbeldy shops filled with antique books I can pour over. Wandering by myself with no time restraints. No obligations. No children wittering! No football!

Coveting…

Organisation. Though BrocanteHome feels more organised than it has done in years and I am so thoroughly enjoying The Living Room, there are still systems and routines to be established and I am yearning for the day when the entire business runs like clockwork. Is it a sign of madness to even begin to imagine that that day will ever come? I’m working on it…. all day and all night. This m’dears is a passion that will never abate…

Wishing…

The world was at peace. Everywhere I look there are signs of dis-harmony and I can hardly believe how much rage and hate there seems to be. Finley talks about the news almost constantly now because he is shown it daily in school and as a Mother it is so very hard to sound reassuring about all our tomorrows when we can barely feel reassured ourselves.

Working On…

The workbook for my GET A GRIP program. The first post last week was so well received and according to all the chatter in the Living Room exactly what we all need right now to get back on track to living a life less ordinary. Writing it is helping me to establish some order in my own mind too: because heaven knows even those of us who usually manage to keep a grip on things during even the most turbulent of times, need a little help occasionally too!

Celebrating…

Grit and determination. Because I’ve got it in spades and heaven knows I need it right now…

Grateful For…

Finley. The child is a walking font of wisdom and although his growing up so very fast is bewildering, as each and every day passes I become more astonished by the man he is clearly going to turn in to. He is calm, considerate,  reassuring and probably old beyond his years, and at parents evening two weeks ago all these qualities where confirmed by teachers who assured me that he was not only a lovely kid, but that he had settled in to his new school so very well and that he is both popular and happy. I can’t ask for more.

And finally tomorrow I will be…

Giving up coffee. Recently I have been knocking it back with a vengeance and I do believe it is contributing to my general bonkersness.

On my to-do list this month?

* Buying school uniform so I don’t find myself running around in a demented fashion come the beginning of September!
*  Working my way through the entire box-set of The Gilmore Girls, now finally available on British Netflix!
*  Calling the Salvation Army to donate furniture I am not bringing with me in to this new life.
*  Cleaning my old house from to bottom before handing over the keys because one must not be the talk of the neighbourhood after one has moved on to pastures new!
* And carried over from last month: please, oh please, oh please exchanging contracts on the house so we can truly step in to our new life together…

Happy July Housekeepers!

Once upon a time family portraits were a rare and exquisite thing, requiring the wearing of one’s finest stuffy dowdery and a solemn, or mystified expression. Nowadays most of us have at our disposal, the ability and opportunity to take a dozen snaps aday, letting them live forever in the cloud and stripping from the memorization of precious moments, every last ounce of ceremony, purpose and formality…

While there is no doubt that there is some kind of wonderful about instagramming every fleeting, aesthetic moment and I for one would dash back into a burning house to save my darling phone and the much treasured memories locked inside it, the fact that I very rarely go to the trouble of printing any of the myriad of photographs I take, so I can pop them into an envelope and send them to a friend, or frame them so that something cherished could live on my bedside table, really saddens me.

All too often we take the time to take a billion photographs of our babies, but do not take thoughtful portraits of our own father, so we can long treasure the wisdom in his ageing eyes. We avoid having our own picture taken as much as possible and at the end of each year look back on a family apparently without a mistress of the house. We snap a hundred photo’s in the garden, but never think to photograph the ordinary: the changing fashions in our own living rooms: each sofa with a tale to tell, each table the scene of much family magic..

Today I want to suggest a new ritual: the taking of a family portrait on a particular day each week, an informal gathering of each family member taken in the same room every time so that you can mark the children growing up, see the changing shape of the family and the house and reflect upon the ravages or delights of time…

And then (and this is the important bit), once a month you go and get your weekly portraits printed out and put them inside a large album, creating for yourselves, a true family album you will come to treasure for always..

This then is a ritual you should adopt today. For one day you will look back and be truly grateful that all those moments of ordinary are captured in your hearts and hands for always…