Monday, 9 February 2015

My Best Ever Valentine... Take Two!

So here it is again… in less than a week’s time many of us will spend February 14th with our significant other, shamelessly indulging in all matters of the heart. And, for me and my Valentine, this day of love and romance has an extra special meaning; it’s also our wedding anniversary!

This year (anniversary number six), is apparently the year of iron – if he’s struggling for inspiration, and thinks it would be funny to buy me a gift which comes with a three pin plug, a steam button, and a 5 year guarantee, things are only going to end one way… I may well ‘flatten’ him!   I’d like to say he wouldn’t dare… but he would.  Actually he did buy me a steam iron one Christmas, but I forgave him as the box also contained a diamond ring!  

Anyhow, I’ve organised our celebrations this year, and they have nothing to do with ‘iron’!  I’m really chuffed with the modest but very thoughtful and romantic gift I’ve bought for my lovely hubby (but can’t give details here and now as it’ll spoil the surprise if he happens to read!). Our day of celebrations will begin with a chilled Street Food feast at one of our favourite bars in Leeds, followed by an evening with the awesome Kaiser Chiefs at Leeds First Direct Arena… excited!!!

Anyone that reads my posts regularly (and I know from my Blogger stats that more than a few of you do) thank you!  Although I write this stuff because I simply enjoy doing so, it makes it even more worthwhile if other people are reading and hopefully enjoying it. Now where was I… oh yes… if you’ve read any of my previous posts you may remember that I posted this time last year about our wonderful wedding day back in 2009… My Best Valentine’s Ever!  Well, having read it over, I just couldn’t resist re-posting; so here it is, hope you enjoy!

Maybe it’s all about the flowers (the price of which would buy you the whole florists shop any other time of year), or could it be the romantic intimate table for two in the usually dead but tonight full-to-bursting restaurant, where you can choose from a ‘special’ (and triple the usual price) Valentine’s menu. Perhaps a fancy box of champagne truffles would be the key to your heart (even more-so if accompanied by a chilled bottle of the bubbly stuff itself). It could be that none of the above fit your idea of romance, and in fact you’re more of a good Rom-Com DVD (if there’s such a thing), take-out pizza, few beers, and a cuddle on the sofa kind of gal!

Well, for me and my Valentine, this day of love and romance has an extra special meaning... it’s also our Wedding Anniversary!

No, we’re not a pair of incurable old romantics, although we can be at times - to celebrate our special day this year, my hubby’s bought tickets to see ‘From Paris with Love’, by Opera North at the Grand Theatre in Leeds (quite possibly followed by a late-night McDonalds drive-thru, but hey you can’t have it all!) Anyhow, back to the point, the only reason we tied the knot on Valentine’s Day is that we both work in the education sector and simply wanted to get married the first Saturday of the February half term which, that particular year, just so happened to be Valentine’s Day.

And what a fantastic Valentine's Day it was! This was marriage number two for both of us, and we wanted to keep things fairly low key, but obviously still very special.  So, we decided that our nuptials would have more the feel of a celebratory evening out than a ‘wedding’.  I didn’t want an ivory ‘gown’, wedding cars, or bridesmaids, and Neil didn’t want a stag do in Amsterdam (well at least that’s what he told me?!) or even a best man to get him organised. I didn’t want to ‘surprise’ Neil on the day with my outfit so, completely breaking with tradition, he came wedding dress shopping with me – he was the one I wanted to think I looked beautiful, quite frankly I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I didn’t want to be walked down an aisle or ‘given-away’, and we didn’t want a guest list as long as your arm, consisting mainly of long-lost aunts, uncles and cousins.

After much deliberation, we decided on a guest list of just 24, and our venue was a gorgeous little country house hotel on the outskirts of Leeds. The ceremony itself took place in the hotel ‘Library’, a beautifully intimate room, with a roaring fire and red carpet laid out especially for the occasion!  Being a pair of fairly modest souls, we didn’t really want to make a grand entrance and so, when the time arrived, we casually sauntered into the Library, together with our guests (still sipping champagne), to the velvety tones of Nat ‘King’ Cole's ‘Let there be Love’.

Once the serious stuff was done, we made our way into the hotel restaurant (exclusively ours for the evening), for our delicious reception meal.  The table was beautifully decorated ‘Valentine style’ with a scattering of red rose petals, love-heart confetti, Valentine’s trivia and lots and lots of tea-lights – perfect!

Bellies full, feeling happy and relaxed, and having sunk a bottle or two of the old fizzy stuff, some of us (in fact most of us), let our hair down and had a bit of a boogie before our wonderful day sadly came to an end.

That’s all five years ago now (I’d forgotten just how blonde I was! - should I go back there? uugh!), and obviously we’re never going to top such a fabulous Valentine’s Day –  as you fellow married folk will know, the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever.  We knew this though, we’d both ‘been there, done that’ and we were well aware that our relationship would have its ups and downs (and believe me, it has!) But here we are, still together, still enjoying the good times and still working through the ups and downs... and, most importantly, still very much in love.

So, this Valentine’s Day, once the champagne has run dry, when the red roses are starting to wilt, and when the credits roll on the Rom-Com DVD remember this (one of the readings from our very, very special Valentine’s Day wedding) ...

Sooner or later we begin to understand that love is more than verses on Valentines, and romance in the movies.  We begin to know that love is here and now, real and true.  Love is the creator of our favourite memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams.

The following photo selection has been carefully chosen so as not to embarrass our off-spring too much,  and put us in their bad books.  It's safe to say they've all grown up quite a bit since 2009, and I'm sure wouldn't thank me for posting some of the shots taken back then.
What a thoughtful, considerate mum I am!!   

Actually, Neil and I have changed a fair bit too - note I say 'changed' not 'aged'!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Timeworn and Wonderful

A post inspired by my hubby, Neil!

More pics at end of post

Perhaps not the best pairing of title and tagline, (especially if you happen to be my husband Neil reading this!)  However, do not fear, I’m not about to go into the various unfortunate consequences that are an inevitable part of the ageing process for most of us – you know the stuff, expanding waistline, receding silver hairline, short term memory loss… what was I saying?!I  In fact, this post is not as you may first think, about my timeworn husband, but is actually about my husband’s love of all things timeworn.

When we first met I have to say, I did find his fascination with old stuff, shall we say, a little unusual for an otherwise fairly modern man.  Back then, there is no way I would have given houseroom to some of his most beloved ‘pieces’, and actually there are still one or two things I just can’t take to, for example his 2ft sitting figures of Laurel and Hardy - heaven knows where (or why) he acquired them… in my opinion they are nothing less than terrifying!

These days however it’s quite a different story, and Neil’s interest in pretty much anything from days gone by has most definitely rubbed off. Over the years I’ve come to love his somewhat ‘quirky’ taste, and in fact now share his love of artefacts and paraphernalia which, if they could speak, would have more than a tale or two to tell.

Not so long ago I came home to find a very dirty old glass bottle sitting on the kitchen window sill.  I admit at first, I did roll my eyes, especially when over the course of the week, one muddy bottle became five muddy bottles! Neil had found them, buried in the mud, whilst walking the dog on a nearby field.   He was so pleased with his finds(s) (which he believes date back to the early 1900’s), I couldn’t bring myself to burst his bubble and put them in the bin, which is exactly where I thought they belonged at the time - I’m so glad I didn’t. The bottles actually cleaned up really well and look very lovely on display in our home. Don’t get me wrong I love a modern Ikea vase as much as the next person, but there’s just something really special about these old bottles, not least the way Neil ‘rescued’ them from the ground and gave them a new lease of life and a good home (I know… clearly this sentimental eccentricity malarkey is catching!)

Another example of recycling at its best is our mantelpiece, which was also dug up and lovingly restored by my hubby!  It’s actually an old railway sleeper from the now disused Castleford to Allerton Bywater pit line, which used to run across the land right at the back of home.  You can still sometimes get a faint smell of the old diesel oil which has seeped into the sleeper as you walk past the fireplace. I know this sounds a bit weird but it’s actually a really lovely and very authentic whiff of nostalgia.

And it’s not just objects and artefacts, Neil loves a good old film too.  I remember one time, fairly early on in our relationship, he took me to the cinema one Valentine’s evening.  Did we share the evening on the edge of our seats watching the very latest box office sensation? Oh no, instead we settled in on the back row to watch the 1942 American melodrama that is, Casablanca.  Having not seen this romantic classic before, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it I have to say (well, it was in black and white, what was I supposed to think?!)  However, I now admit ‘twas I who was the uncultured idiot, and realise that at the time, Neil’s romantic gesture was a little wasted on me. As it turns out, I absolutely loved the film, and looking back, think this was perhaps around the time I really began to find my man’s love of old things really quite charming!

Not quite so old, but still a wonderful blast from the past, is another of Neil’s restoration projects… an old 1970s GPO telephone.  Painstakingly converted by him to work on a modern BT line, this is now our main house phone.  The line’s a bit crackly at times, but other than that it works just fine, and looks great! However it does get more than a bit tricky when making a call to a number with an automated reply message…  what do they mean press the hash or star key, our phone doesn’t have either?!!

And so, onto the very latest addition in our collection of ‘all things old’, a wonderful and powerfully nostalgic record player.  Actually it’s not old really, but we’ve been after one of these for a few years now, and would have loved an original ‘Dansette’.  Sadly, these turned out to be way out of our price range, so instead, we settled for a Steepletone Dansette ‘style’ player, on which to bring our dusty vinyl back to life.   Having both always loved our music, we actually had quite a collection of both LPs and 45s to dig out of the loft.  We’ve had hours of fun already, reminiscing as we listen to some of the old tunes jumping and crackling on the turntable.  Surprisingly, there isn’t quite as much ‘jump and crackle’ as we expected, and we were astonished at how great the old vinyl still sounds.  It was hilarious watching Neil give the younger members of our family a lesson on how to play a record.  ‘What do you press if you want to skip tracks?’, ‘what do you mean that’s only half the album, and you have to turn it over to listen to the rest?!’ This lesson was followed by what turned into a bit of a quiz, where we challenged the young’uns to guess which records were from my teenage collection and which were from Neil’s.  So predictably, yes Michael Jackson, Shalamar and Sister Sledge were mine, with Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Emerson Lake & Palmer being Neil’s.  There was however the odd red herring in the form of Neil’s favourite Madonna album, and my In the City album by the Jam.  As Mrs Hart (mum of Miranda) would say… such fun!

Of course, if you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll know we recently ‘invested’ in a motor vehicle of the timeworn variety, ‘Billy’.  Billy is a 30 year old Bedford Motorhome, which we acquired back in August 2014.  Poor old Billy was in serious need of some TLC, and Neil’s been busy correcting one or two mechanical problems and sorting out a few nasty leaks!  It’s taken a long time to get to the stage where Billy’s mechanically sound…(ish!), and leak free (well at least for now), and I’m excited to say he’s almost ready for my input.  Oh yes, cushions, curtains, throws and bunting are at the ready, and I can’t wait to get on with a bit of interior design!  We’re hoping Billy will be ready to go on tour by the Easter break at the latest.  More Billy blog posts to follow!

Actually, looking around our home, there are many other signs and indicators that would make it an easy job for Lloyd Grossman, Keith Lemon, (or whoever it is that hosts Through the Keyhole these days… is that show even still on TV?!), to conclude what sort of person lives in a house like this.  For example, we have the beginnings of a pipe collection going on (well,  perhaps a slight exaggeration, we have two), one of which Neil bought for no apparent reason whilst we were wandering around an antique shop in The Lanes, Brighton, and the other which used to belong to his pipe-smoking granddad – actually there are still traces of tobacco in there! (really quite sweet or really quite disgusting?... I’m not sure).

We also have, on our bookshelf, a very interesting specimen called ‘The Volunteers’.  Neil found this in an old store of his a few years ago and was intrigued by it. The Volunteers is a series of short stories for children - the content of which is quite shockingly un-PC by today’s standards - it really does make quite fascinating reading.  There’s even a handwritten message on the inside of the book’s cover which indicates that it dates back to 1917!

Also, taking pride of place on our lounge window sill is a very lovely clock, which was handed down from Neil’s beloved granny and granddad.  Apparently, it was a wedding gift to the two of them when they tied the knot back in the 1930’s.  It no longer keeps time very well, but it looks great, has a wonderful sounding chime, and is a lovely sentimental reminder for Neil of his grandparents.

So, after initial reservations as to whether my husband was some kind of weirdo throwback to anything pre 1970’s, or actually just a very charming, interesting and romantic sentimentalist, I decided that the latter was most definitely true. 

I’m so pleased that I eventually embraced, learned to love and in fact now share at least some of my hubby’s slightly eccentric ways, and am excited to think what we’ll add next to our growing collection of all things old. 

In the meantime (as I hurtle towards the big five-zero myself), I take some comfort in the fact that evidently, my nostalgia loving hubby doesn’t discard things, or see them as any less special, just because they might be getting on a bit… he simply sees them as timeworn and wonderful!

Thanks for reading.

Just one old bottle from Neil's collection

And here are the others Neil dug up, teamed with a trio of modern slimline vases to add a bit of colour

A fascinating addition to our bookshelf back to 1917!

A 1930s wedding gift for Neil's grandparents - not keeping time so well, but still chiming!

Our 'timeworn' camper, 'Billy'

Railway sleeper mantlepiece... aahh smells lovely!


1970's GPO telephone... great 'til you need to press the # key!

Pipe 'collection' - complete with leftover bits of tobacco!

Loving our new toy!

And, the record collection... looking forward to adding to this!