Wedding dresses, William Blake & my Grandad

I’ve felt a bit of writers block this last week- silly I know I’ve only just started blogging and my brain is ceasing up already. However when tidying my house (a rarity I can tell you!) I found this print

Tyger Tyger by Paul Peter Piech

Tyger Tyger by Paul Peter Piech

My Mum & Dad got it me for my birthday this year (well mainly my Mum). My Husband knew how important it was to me and had carefully popped it behind a cupboard so the kids or Archie our enormous Bassett hound didn’t trample over it before we had a chance to frame it.

It’s amazing how simple things can evoke such strong emotions in you- a smell can take you back to specific moment in time and leave you elated or sad. The smell of Lily of The Valley or Old Spice reminds me of my Grandparents on my Mum’s side- I was only little when my Grandfather died but walking past anyone wearing Old Spice stops me in my tracks and I’m right back at 5 years year old sitting on his lap listening to his funny stories and songs.

In the same way I find a piece of music or poetry can do this. My Mum recently dragged me along (I’m not even joking I was being a miserable moo that day) to the V & A Museum to see their wedding dress exhibition. Now if there’s one thing my friends know about me it’s that I am not at all girly. Whilst they were happy to spend hours trying on dresses, table planning, making favours and generally planning their weddings- I was not. Part of this was that I was pregnant, feeling sick and tired but to be fair I’m just not that girl that fantasised about their wedding from a young age. I may be high maintenance in some aspects of my life but when it came to our wedding I was very chilled out! Anyhow I digress- so having been dragged to the V & A I then spent the next few hours really really loving what I saw. The history of the wedding dress was laid out in front of us and seeing the progression through the last few hundred years was fascinating (I apologised to Mum afterwards for being such a misery). My favourite section was upstairs where they showed some celeb dresses including those belonging to Kate Moss, Gwen Stefani and the controversial backless Bruce Oldfield one Lisa Butcher wore to her fated wedding to Marco Pierre White.

After spending an hour or so walking around the exhibition we then went along to the preview of Horst: Photographer of Style. We are both members of the Museum so we could get first a look at the exhibition and we weren’t disappointed. Whilst he is most famous for his Vogue covers I have to say some of my favourite photos were those he took whilst travelling around the Middle East. I studied English & Classical Civilisation at University and seeing the stills of ancient ruins of Persepolis really took my breath away. It is often the unexpected that can be the most beautiful and here we were expecting all fashion photography but there was so much more.

Ruins of the palace at Persepolis 1949, picture from the V&A website

Ruins of the palace at Persepolis 1949, picture from the V&A website

By this point we were running out of time, we wanted to take a good look around Disobedient Objects but it was getting really busy and School pick up time was looming so instead we went straight to the gift shop. I picked up a great mug for my husband that had me in fits of laughter after a recent conversation (I think we’d had a glass of wine or 5!) about what we thought Swan would taste like- chicken, goose or duck- don’t judge us!

The mug that made me laugh out loud!

The mug that made me laugh out loud!

It was whilst looking around the gift shop at the prints on the wall my eyes happened across the aforementioned print. I froze- my eyes flitting across the writing but knowing the words by heart I didn’t really need to read them at all. My Mum looked at me wondering what on earth was going on as I burst into tears in the middle of the crowded gift shop. “Erm my darling are you ok? What’s the matter?” she said concerned. I explained why the print had caused me to sob like a child, which then set my Mum off- we’re quite an emotional family!

Tyger Tyger Print by  Paul Peter Piech.

Tyger Tyger Print by Paul Peter Piech.

When I was younger my Father travelled a fair amount around Europe and to the US on business. Very occasionally my Mum would go with him, never for more than a few days and never more than twice a year. It was then that we would stay with my Grandparents, my Father’s Mum and Dad or Gorge and Read as we affectionately call them (that’s another story!). It was always fun for us- Gorge would make the most delicious fudge that was so gooey it would coat your mouth in all its glorious sugariness and if we were lucky we would go out for a curry at their local Indian restaurant where my Grandfather would delight the owner by speaking to him in Gujarati for hours on end. It was on one of those stays that it so happened to coincide with poetry week at school. Our headmistress loved poetry and every pupil in the school would have to learn a selected poem and recite it to her in front of the rest of their class- nerve wracking but a great lesson in public speaking and I thank her for that. That particular year I was about 8 years old and we had to learn the William Blake poem (so here we get eventually to the crux of my story) ‘The Tyger’. My grandfather loved poetry and instilled a great love for literature in me at a young age. Now he wasn’t a patient man and at times could be utterly terrifying if you did something he thought naughty but he sat there every evening and listened to me recite that poem until I had it word perfect. I must have read it aloud 30 or more times and he didn’t move from that spot every evening until I was happy I had it perfected.

My Granddad the day of my wedding

My Granddad the day of my wedding

All of this had come back to me in that split second I saw the print and emotion overcame me. My Grandad died from cancer a few months before I gave birth to our son Charlie. He made it to our wedding a few months earlier and had tears of joy in his eyes as my Husband announced in his speech we wanted to name our son after him. I know he would have loved to have met my children and see us teaching them the same lessons he instilled in my Father and my Father in me growing up and he would adore the inquisitiveness of his great Grandson and name sake and his great Grandaughter . So this blog is dedicated to you Read, thank you- I know my kids would have loved you the way I did.

Charlie & Millie

Charlie & Millie

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All About A Little Bit Country

So blogging is pretty much entirely new to me other than the odd blog for work. However for work it seems easier as the shop/our stock can be the focus. I didn’t know where to start and remembered that when my friends and I first got our own email addresses- around about the time we did our A-Levels (so a fair while ago!) we would send one another these questionnaires asking random questions. I thought it was a fun way to start my foray into blogging so I googled one and here we go, a little more information about me:

*Who would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?

My family! Cheesy I know but time with my husband and children is cherished as he works such long hours

My munchkins Charlie & Millie

*If you could do anything you wanted right now, what would it be?

Move to the French Alps and start a luxury chalet rental business. Total pipe dream I know but both of us love skiing more than a beach holiday.

*If money was no object, what would you do all day?

Ski, ski and then ski again!

Me & Charlie (at 5 years old) after his first blue run!

*Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

Canada- my Dad was born on the East coast and of my best friends has just moved to Whistler; her photos blow me away and make me mega jealous!

 *What is your favourite memory?

If any of you have ever had a truly unhappy child, whether it be from being bullied, feeling self-conscious or just generally unhappy in their surroundings, you’ll know that as a parent it is truly the worst feeling. When my son Charlie started school he went from being a cheerful, chatty, cuddly young boy to a sullen and tearful child who refused to tell me about his day. My husband and I spoke to the school and seemingly nothing was wrong but after a very hard decision and lots of number crunching we decided to move him to a different school where many of his friends from nursery had gone. That first day I picked him up he skipped out of school, beaming and chatting and telling me about his friends and how much fun he had. The sense of relief and joy I had that day will stay with me forever, knowing we’d made the right decision and having our happy chatty little man back meant everything to us. His beaming face that day is my favourite memory.

 *Who is your favourite author?

My friend Paul recommended Neil Gaiman and I’m hooked- I loved “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and I’m currently reading “American Gods”.

*What is your favourite book?

Without a doubt “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern.  I couldn’t put it down; the story was so compelling, I felt like I was there watching everything unfold right in front of me

The Night Circus UK

Magic, mystery, love & a mysterious circus- what more could you want from a book?!?

*What was your favourite activity in gym class?

I always loved dodge ball or netball although I have to admit I’m not at all sporty now (well apart from skiing- but I guess gravity helps!)

*What has been your biggest challenge?

Motherhood without a doubt, the fear of failure- failing as a parent, failing your children, just failing! I don’t think this will ever change and I have to remind myself that my husband and I are doing our absolute best and that we have two happy, healthy and bright children

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Me & the munchkins in the “hot water bottle” at Center Parcs last year

*What is your biggest success up until now?

I guess also Motherhood- looking at Charlie & Millie and seeing their interest in learning about the World, passion for literature and their sense of humour- a great combination of both my Hubby and I (if I do say so myself!).

 *What does your perfect day look like?

A lie in until at least 8am, then cooking pancakes for us all for breakfast, taking the dog for a long walk at Coombe Hill (the views are phenomenal across the Vale), back home for a cup of tea before heading to my parent’s house, along with my brother & his wife, for us all to have a roast dinner. After several glasses of bubbles and a yummy roast later back home for a family movie snuggle on the sofa and a chilled out evening- heaven.

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Archie as a pup

*University or life experience, which do you feel best prepares you for life?

I kind of did both- I tried Uni twice and it just wasn’t for me, I loved working and earning money and at the time had had enough of a formal learning format. Once I left Uni my (now) husband and I moved down to Cornwall. I put together a business plan and set up Coco Marie with my Mum. The experience I gained from this far outweighs anything I learnt whilst at Uni. Everyone is different though and I know my husband who did his degree through the Open University always regrets not studying at University.

 *What is the one thing that should be taught in school that isn’t already?

Budgeting, saving and how not to get into debt. I remember a major credit card company being at Fresher’s Week getting people to sign up for their credit card and you’d get a free popcorn maker and cinema tickets- utterly disgusting if you ask me. Scarily it worked and half my hall walked away having signed themselves up in under a minute!

 *If you were to create a piece of art, what would the subject be?

The workings of my brain- it’d be a massive squiggly mess- I flit from one thing to the next and I can start a conversation and end up somewhere completely different a minute later. I think it would be a mixed media piece involving cooked spaghetti to best describe the mad inner workings of my mind!

 *What one thing would you change if you had to do it over?

I would stop my Husband and I from buying a house in Cornwall, it was the biggest mistake we ever made, we bought it at a peak price and a few months later the financial crash happened- we hadn’t fixed our mortgage rate, couldn’t sell our house when we moved back “up country” and ended up selling it for a huge amount less than we’d paid for it- big mistake!

 *If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?

The mid 60’s- era of the Mod’s and Rockers- I love the style, the scooters and the music

-quadrophenia

Are you a mod or a rocker?

 *What does your life say about you?

That when I’m truly passionate about something I will fight for it tooth and nail.

 *How would your friends describe you?

Talkative, hyperactive, sensitive and (hopefully) someone they can talk to when they’re having a tough time.

So folks that’s about it- a sneak peak into the mind and life of moi- Jen or “A Little Bit Country” as a friend of a friend once described me!

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