Friday, 21 June 2013

S is for Stolen

Yesterday my lovely little Fiat Cinquecento was callously broken in to.  It has really upset me. What did the car thief get for his trouble? My son's school coat and an old towel that was lining my boot. Whilst my car door still locks, they have done enough damage to possibly warrant me having to buy and fit a whole new door.  Finding a Cinquecento car door that doesn't even match in colour is going to be hard enough, let alone trying to find one that does, as Lilian (my son's nickname for my car) is an old P reg Fiat Cinquecento.  They don't even make her model anymore.  What I find most upsetting is my Chinny is not worth anything to anyone else, but to me she means the world.  I bought her off Ebay a few days before Christmas for £285 with just 70,000 miles on the clock and she has been absolute God send in more ways than you can imagine.

I did have the last laugh though, as I've mentioned in my previous blog, my OCD causes this really bad habit I have, of picking up litter and little bits of paper off the pavement and I store them in the door panels of my car doors.  The thief had to rake through all that rubbish just to find there was absolutely nothing in the door panels except... rubbish! Further more when he broke in, the thief would have realised that I actually have a relic of car and it only has a radio/cassette tape stereo... in your face Mr Thief! 

I really cannot get over the mentality of these selfish morons that steal from other people, I would rather give someone my car than have them violate my own private space.  I sent himself out last night to clean the car up as I just couldn't face it, I armed him with Dettol and Windolene... my car has never looked so clean and tidy.  We have now also put on a heavy duty lock and cable round the steering wheel and drivers door, to hopefully ward off any future break ins.  

I called the police yesterday who sent CSI round in the morning and I am being visited by the police on... wait for it... Saturday! The CSI was a really lovely guy, who unfortunately disturbed me midway through a nail client (my poor nail client, she was so understanding) and he took just 20 minutes to dust for prints but sadly most were lost in the morning when the rain fell down in buckets. I was rather disappointed that the control room didn't send Danny Messer or Detective Don Flack from CSI New York, I felt that would have made the whole debacle a little more bearable, but c'est la vie and all that.  The first thing the CSI said to me when he returned from his crime scene investigating was "your car should be in a museum," the sheer cheek of the man! But he's right, she's a little old, a little rusty, a little battered and bruised due to her previous owners, but at least she's still here and at least she's still mine. 

I'd like to think that this selfish car thief would feel remorse after what he's done, but sadly I don't think that they ever do. My husband and I work hard to keep our two cars running, but then all it takes is some low life to come along, take what isn't theirs to take, costing us money to repair it that we simply don't have and leave me feeling awful that someone has sat in my car that I neither invited nor wanted in there. However, I truly believe in Karma, and I'm sure she'll get her own back on him some day soon.

Through all the stress, worry and upset yesterday I didn't once reach for a real cigarette, or even want one, so a small victory for me I feel.  Today I am happy to report I am on day 7 of no smoking (with the help of my electronic cigarette of course), but I'm proud of myself.  Despite the anger and upset of yesterday I certainly wasn't going to let that thief wreck my non smoking efforts as well. Hell no!

Anyway, here's a little gratuitous Flack/Danny CSI:NY action for a Friday afternoon... I'm now off for a cold shower... have a great weekend folks!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

U is for Upcycle

My dear old Mum has always told me how creative I am, I don't really agree with her (sorry Mum) but I do try my best anyway.  I blogged recently about two beautiful pieces of furniture that I picked up from a lovely lady in Ramsgate after I placed an advert on Freecycle and my discovery of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  On Friday himself, Sammy and I took a trip to a local interior design shop in Sandwich that supplies ASCP.  I picked up Paris Grey, Old White, a can of Annie Sloan Clear Wax and a couple of paint brushes all for the handsome sum of £57. I've since bought a round brush for around £6, a mini roller and some sandpaper from Homebase and I can say hands down, if you're going to use ASCP get yourself a round brush because it makes the application an absolute dream and gives you a much better finish. 

Today I thought that I would blog about my progress so far and what I've got planned for the finished telephone table.  My material sample for the seat arrived this morning too and it looks amazing.  I am so excited about this project and the whole chalk paint thing that I'm off to Canterbury on Friday evening to pick up a beautiful pine chest of drawers for £40 that I found on the Preloved website.  Do I have the room?  Of course not.  Is my husband getting a little antsy that it now takes an Olympic gymnast move to get in to bed each night? Absolutely! But well, what can you do when your 'paint studio' is in your bedroom.  Why it in the bedroom? Well because my hallway is my home nail salon, the kitchen/diner/lounge is all one room and there's no where else to create my masterpieces.  Thank god it's a low odour paint!
The best way to show you my progress is posting a little photo montage of each stage so you can have a wee look.   One thing I have learned, a little too late unfortunately, is never distress your furniture piece whilst dressed head to toe in black, I got absolutely covered in white and grey dust! 

In all honesty I could have done this telephone table in double quick time owing to the fact that ASCP takes literally 20 minutes to dry, but I've been taking my time, been busy with my nail clients and generally keeping the family home in order... well ordered chaos if I'm honest. But I'm loving it! I've been researching all the other things I can create with ASCP today.  I've realised that perhaps I need to have some little projects on the go as well, all this big furniture malarky has to stop... or at least slow down.  So I've been thinking about creating wall plaques, mirrors, chalk boards, picture frames, plant pots, wall mounted coat racks and a few other things as well.  I did spy a beautiful antique mirror in Brentwood for £20, it would have been fantastic to do, but I need to chill my boots, take my time and make some room at home first.  

Anyway enough chit chat, here are the pictures so far...

What it started out like in 1978...
A quick try out I did at 10pm on Friday night, much to my husband's horror!
First full coat of Old White...
Added Paris Grey drawer...

Moved to the bedroom as was getting in everyone's way! Added Paris Grey to the top of the table and started to distress the the edges...
Close up of distressing on drawers and table top...
Distressing on the edges... love this look...

As mentioned earlier I received a free sample of fabric from a lovely online store called Thread and Loop today.  It looks absolutely gorgeous.

I've still got to add the clear wax, touch in a few places and do a little more distressing, but it's coming along beautifully.  I have made a final decision on the drawer handle at last. At first I was going to go for a crystal effect type handle, but as this project has developed it has really taken on a distinct French feel, so I have chosen to go for the ceramic handle below, which I think will compliment the design really well.  

I cannot wait to finish this piece, it's been a real labour of love.  I'm slightly panicked about the two larger pieces I've got to do, but sometimes these designs take shape and evolve the longer you work on them and to be honest with you that's actually the best bit.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

F is for Fran├žais

I am literally driving my whole house crazy with this song at the moment.  I love it.  I first heard it in Dead Man Down the other day and fell in love with it.  If you knew the English translation you'd love it even more.  That's not to say I'm fluent in French, au contraire, it just means that some lovely person searched for the English translation and posted it up on You Tube.  However, in English or French I hope you'll agree it is a beautiful song.  I have been singing it all day and when I say sing I mean that I have mumbled something that sounds nothing like the beautiful French language that is actually being sung. My French actually sounds very much like this...

That's not to say that I didn't learn French in school,  in fact I sat my French GCSE in 1997.  I won't tell you the grade I got, but suffice to say I'll never be mistaken for Edith Piaf.

My son is learning French at the moment, I can just about remember the days, months and colours of the rainbow, but that is probably about the extent of my French.  Now if you asked me do I have a pet in German, I could happily tell you this...

Ich habe einen wellensitich, sie ist gelb und weis, sie heist Snoopy... apologies for my appalling German spelling.

So what does that mean? Well it roughly translates to "I have a budgie, she is yellow and white, she is called Snoopy".  No it won't get me far in Deutschland, but for some reason it is just a phrase that has stuck in my head for the last 16 years. 

But back to France...

So where have I been in France?  The usual; Calais, Dunkerque, Bologne, Le Touquet, Lille and Paris.  Ah Paris, now there's a story for you...

When I was 19 my best friend and I travelled on a coach to the capital of France, full of hope and wonder, imagining that our days would be filled with sightseeing, French men, cigarettes and alcohol.  Well it kind of did have all that in it, but not exactly in the way you would imagine.

We arrived in Paris some time in the afternoon and checked in to our hotel.  We took a quick nap, woke up a few hours later and thought we'd spend our first night out in Paris in... wait for it... an Irish bar.  Having got some very sketchy directions from the concierge and after an hour of walking up and down the roads near our hotel, we went back mightily hacked off, hungry and rather thirsty as we just couldn't find the pub.  A change in the reception staff brought us new hope, so we asked the man behind the counter to suggest somewhere for us to go for a meal and that had some buzzing nightlife. 

Following his directions this time to the letter, we took the Metro in to town (with a few unsavoury characters) and made it to the area that he had suggested.  We looked in windows of the varying restaurants and finally picked one that our Francs could afford.  Delighted that we were finally sitting down, we set about deciding on what we wanted to drink and eat. Lighting up a cigarette we felt quite pleased with ourselves that we had managed to get to Paris and we were now enjoying the evening.

As the waiter came over my friend put on her best French accent ordered our food and a bottle of wine we recognised the name of.  We'd already roughly worked out the exchange rate and decided that it was within our price range.  The waiter took our order down and asked us if we were sure we wanted that particular bottle.  Thinking we might need to get our passports out to prove our ages, we told him yes and gave each other a rather confused look.  The waiter asked us again if we were really sure and we told him again, that yes we were.  

As he walked off my friend and I wondered what that was all about, but determined for it not to occupy our thoughts any longer we decided to sit back and take our surroundings in.  I commented to my friend that there were an awful lot of men in the restaurant and hardly any women.  We'd already been drawn in to the restaurant by a rather beautiful poster of a toned muscled man in the window, but even so we couldn't quite work out the ratio of men to women in the restaurant itself.  Not thinking anymore of it, the waiter came back  and with a huge flourish, smile and a laugh he placed a beautiful ornate floor standing wine cooler next to our table.  Before he uncorked the bottle he asked yet again were we really sure that this was the bottle of wine that we wanted.  Starting to get a little bit fed up at this point, we told him that "yes we were" and that "we drank it all the time at home".  He barked out a rather loud laugh in reply, drawing the attention of several other diners close by, but without further ado he uncorked the bottle and asked if one of us would like to try it. I can't remember which one of us did it, but I do remember that it wasn't exactly the most lady like of wine tasting you've ever seen in your life, but at this point we just wanted a glass of bubbly to wet our whistles.  The waiter then poured us both a glass after we'd given the go ahead and off he went laughing and slapping the backs of other several other diners at near by tables.  

The meal was delicious, we drank our wine, telling each other that we didn't think it tasted as nice as we remembered and after maybe an hour or so my friend decided that we should ask for the bill so that we could find another bar near by.  As we were waiting for the waiter to bring over our bill, I don't know which one of us realised first, or whose French kicked in the quickest, but we looked over at the poster that had drawn us in, this time ignoring the lothario on the front, and suddenly realised that the reason why there were so many men in the restaurant was because we were actually sitting in a hang out for gay men.  Looking around we now also realised that we were the only women left in the establishment too.  Not that my friend and I have anything against gay men you understand, but as young 19 year old girls we were looking for, how shall I put it nicely, a nice French man to snog... and we had no chance in this restaurant. However after several glasses we were three sheets to the wind and we found it absolutely hilarious. We made such a noise that the waiter came over to ask us if everything was OK.  We told him, I think at this point through tears of laughter, about our mistake and asked could he please hurry up with the bill.  "Of course" he said, but didn't we want to finish our bottle of wine that was only three quarters drunk?  "No" we said, "we'd just like the bill as soon as possible please".  Raising his eyes to the heavens off he scurried to chase up our bill and five minutes later he returned, put it down on the table and left us to it. 

Having given all my money to my friend to look after, she grabbed the receipt and looked at it.  What happened next still to this day makes me feel a little sick.  The blood literally drained from her face and she looked like she was going to vomit all of her lovely french food and wine on to the table in front of her.  "What's wrong?" I asked her starting to feel a little bit queasy myself at this point.  "Um," she said, "you know that bottle of wine we ordered?" "Yes," I said. "Well you know we said that we drank it all the time at home?" "Yes," I said. "Well we never have, because well, firstly we messed up the exchange rate and secondly we ordered a bottle of Don Perignon champagne that has cost us the best part of £100". 

Have you ever had that feeling where the floor feels like it is literally crumbling beneath you and everything around moves in slow motion and you feel like you're going to pass out or vomit or maybe even both?  Well that was just how I felt.  

Unbeknownst to us, the waiter had been watching the whole event unfold.  He came flying over to us and asked if everything was OK? At this point I don't think I was able to speak, so my friend took over. "Um there's been a bit of a mix up." "No there's no mix up here mademoiselle," he said practically puce from trying to stop himself from laughing.  Recovering from my moment of temporary paralysis, I asked my friend how much money we had on us.  Luckily we had a credit card and some cash between us and we managed to just about scrape the money together.  But by this point the whole of the restaurant knew of our 'mix up' and if it was male attention we were after that night, it was male attention that we got, only they were laughing at us. As we paid the final bill, the waiter still doubled up with laughter asked us what we wanted to do with the remainder of the bottle. Like the true ladies that we both were, we poured the remainder of the champagne into our glasses, downed it in one, my friend grabbed the bottle off of the table and we walked out of the restaurant empty bottle in hand.  This was going to be one very expensive souvenir if nothing else and we both made a pact to not have wee for at least an hour as there was no way this champagne was going straight down the u-bend.

I'd like to say that our night got better, only it didn't.  Completely skint, we decided to try and make our way to the nearest taxi rank.  On the way there, we went through probably one of the most frightening experience of our lives.  We were followed by a large group of men that no matter where we turned or what we did, they just wouldn't leave us alone.  I'm not sure when exactly my friend decided that enough was enough, but she suddenly turned, wielding the bottle of Don Perignon high above her head and said that if one of them took one step closer she would crack them over the head with it.  Whether they understood what she was saying I don't know, but I certainly wouldn't have messed with my friend at that very moment.  Luckily their visible surprise gave us enough of an opportunity to dart in to the nearest bar we could find and we finally managed to get away from them. We were practically in tears at this point, we begged the barmaid to call us a cab, but unfortunately she couldn't help us.  She did however point us in the direction of a line of people that were already waiting for a taxi by the side of the road a few streets away.  As we stood in line trying to calm down, wondering how on earth our night had turned out like this, an English couple asked if we were OK.  We explained what had happened to us and the lady told us that whilst were weren't inappropriately dressed it probably wasn't the best thing for us to be wearing short dresses and high heels in the middle of the red light district.  My friend and I were beside ourselves.

Luckily we didn't have long to wait for our taxi and as we sat in the back together feeling somewhat lucky to be in one piece, holding on for dear life as the taxi driver drove like a mad man through the streets of Paris, our thoughts suddenly turned to the little rat from the hotel that had sent us to the red light district.  Oh boy was he going to get it!  I'm not sure which one of us started laughing first after a moment or two, probably me as I do have a habit of laughing at the most inappropriate of times, but that was it, we literally couldn't stop ourselves.  We were in hysterics by the time we climbed out of the taxi, walked in to the hotel and got the lift up to our room.

When we woke in the morning, I think the cold light of day dawned upon us and we realised that because our first night in Paris had caused us to be £100 down, our sightseeing and dreams of sitting in a smoky Parisian bar drinking cognac and coffee, smoking French cigarettes was most probably now out of the question or at the very least had to be scaled back.  Luckily my Mum had made us a huge picnic for the journey that we managed to make last for the next 3 days and every morning we filled our handbags and pockets with ham, cheese and bread rolls from the continental breakfast buffet.  We did manage to visit Notre Dame, as it was free, but as for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, we just looked at them from a far.  We got ripped off again by a street artist so we lost yet more money, but we did manage to find that Irish pub in the end, where each night we drowned our sorrows with a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee or two.

Was it the experience we had hoped for? Not really.  But as the years have gone by, my friend and I have consoled ourselves with this thought... how many 19 year olds can honestly say that they have drunk Dom Perignon champagne in the heart of Gay Paris? 

Surely that's something to tick off the bucket list at the very least...

 A 19 year old me with my Dom Perignon

We found the Irish pub at last

Friday, 14 June 2013

P is for Project

A few weeks ago on a nail forum I'm a member of, someone posted about furniture they had been revamping with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  Lots more members added to the post saying that they too were chalk painting anything that stood still long enough.  Initially I looked at the forum thread with the view to getting my Mum in to it.  She always said she'd like to do something creative, having been a knitting and tapestry extraordinaire in the 1980's, so I thought that this would be right up her street.  All she had to do was to make sure that Dad wasn't around as he has a tendency to take a painting project over, just ask my sister about our ceramic watercress pots we painted when we were kids, well Dad painted actually.

Anyway after seeing the various masterpieces, one was a beautiful old upright piano, I thought well why can't I do it too.  The fact that I live in a lower ground two bedroom flat that already has it's hallway converted into a nail studio, should have been enough to tell me that we just don't have the room.  However I have a bit of an anything's possible kind of attitude (without much thought for the reality) so I took the plunge a couple of weeks ago and I put an ad on Freecycle asking people for any old preloved wooden furniture that they didn't want anymore.

Speaking of my anything's possible attitude, I think that largely comes from the legendary trip Mum and I took to Ikea once. Somehow we managed to get a double futon in to her Fiat Cinquecento, drove it across the Dartford Bridge and home to her house in London.  I recently bought a second hand Cinquecento and to this day, I still don't know how we managed it, but we did.  That Ikea trip alone has pretty much set the benchmark for my anything's possible kind of attitude towards pretty much everything that has happened in my life since then that I thought wasn't possible.  That Ikea trip has also caught me out a few times too mind, but at least I can say that I tried if nothing else right?

Anyway having not heard anything from Freecycle, I'd pretty much given up on the idea that someone was going to contact me, but that all changed on Tuesday.  A lovely lady called Irene emailed me to tell me that she had an old 1960's dressing table and she wondered if I would like it.  I said I would and she kindly text me a photograph through, telling me that her parents had bought it in 1966 but her Dad had recently died and she was clearing out all the old furniture that he had in his house.  When I told her what I wanted to do with it she sounded really pleased, so I arranged to collect it from her this evening.

My poor long suffering husband, who I swear wonders what hair brained scheme or idea I'm going to come up with next, dutifully obeyed agreed to using his Picasso to come and help me pick it up despite the fact that the photograph Irene had sent through made it look it was a huge piece of furniture. He was rather worried it wouldn't fit in the car and so was I to be honest, but then for the hundredth time I told him the futon story and said "come on anything's possible, let's at least go and see if it will fit"... and that's exactly what we did.

We took both cars with us to collect it, along with a tool kit as we knew we had to remove the mirror to be within a fighting chance of getting it in to the car.  When we got to the house Irene invited us in and took us to the room where the dressing table was kept and after falling in love with it all over again, I stood back and noticed a beautiful old telephone table very similar to one my own grandparents had when I was growing up. I was so grateful for the dressing table however, that I didn't dare ask for the table as well, but luckily Irene asked if I would like to take that with me too.  I immediately told her I would love too despite the fact my husband was giving me that 'Jesus Christ Laura' look (again), but give him his due as he turned to face Irene to thank her, his smile never wavered once.

Once we loaded the two items in to the car, Irene told me again that her parents had bought the dresser in 1966 and that originally it had been kept in their house in Welling before it had been brought down to Ramsgate when her parents had moved.  I asked her again where the dressing table had been before, just to make sure I wasn't hearing things and sure enough she told me that it had been kept in her family home in Welling.  The reason why I was so amazed was that I'm originally from Welling and only moved with my little family to Margate, which is just up the road from Ramsgate, six years ago.  Irene was just as gobsmacked as me, she knew where my parents still live to this day and I knew where her old family home was too.  Welling is about 70 miles from Thanet (the collective name from Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate) so it was even more of a buzz that here I was with my family collecting these two beautiful pieces of furniture, ready to upcycle and breathe some new life into them. Irene also told us that the people who are buying her Dad's house also happen to come from Welling as well.  It's things like this that just remind you what a small and beautiful world we really do live in.  

Irene was so pleased that I was taking the furniture with me and asked me to keep her number so that when both items are finished I can text her a picture through of them both and I gladly agreed too.  I told her that I had to do them justice now, but she told me that it doesn't matter how they come out, because she just loved the thought that someone was at least trying to make them into something new.  She knew they were too wonderful to just take down to the local tip, but she needed to get rid of them in preparation for the new home owners. I'm just so pleased that I have been lucky enough to be able to bring them home with me. I feel that my furniture pieces now have some beautiful history attached to them and I'm off to Sandwich tomorrow to look at a shop that sells the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, wax and brushes, so that I can decide how I want my 'new' furniture to look.  Chalk paint is amazing, there is no need to sand or prime, just put the paint straight on and wax to seal.  I am going for a more modern look, as opposed to a distressed look, but my new project is something I can't wait to get my teeth in to.  

As the saying goes... one man's junk is another persons treasure... and a treasure these pieces will certainly be.

Dressing Table

Telephone Table