Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Indian Summer

We have had a rainy July and August, here in the West of Scotland,  but now the September 'Indian Summer' as it's sometimes called, seems to have set in, with bright, if a little chilly, sunny days and rather more chilly nights. In fact, I note with some misgivings, that 5 Celsius is forecast in Glasgow for tonight which is pretty wintry. All the same, I like this time of year, like it, in spite of misgivings about the slow slide into winter that it brings in its train. I like gathering blackberries, and sloes, making apple and blackberry pies, and sloe gin for the wintry months. I Iike the blonde stubble in the fields when the harvest is done, and the vividness of the colours, and the way you can almost feel the season changing around you. The house martins which have been nesting in our eaves are still there at the moment, with the final brood of almost grown chicks poking their heads out and pretty much ready to fly. I suspect that in another couple of weeks they will be gone. And, as always at this time of year - wearing my various business hats - I'm thinking about my writing, (a  novel to be revised before the end of September, so that my agent can send it out, while I embark on a first draft of a new project) and my online antique textiles shop to be refreshed and restocked for autumn, with winter parties in mind - lots of lovely table linens and napkins for dinner parties and other celebrations!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Gorgeous Madeira Work

I've been listing some absolutely gorgeous Madeira work tablecloths in my Scottish Home eBay store, this week. They are so beautiful, and the work is so fine and detailed that they must have taken somebody many hours to make. They have obviously been professionally laundered, many years ago and then  put away. This one, pictured, still had the blue tissue paper from the laundry between the folds! They are part of a wonderful lot of old linen which I bought at auction in Glasgow, recently, and may well have come from one of the city's big, beautiful houses. They certainly look as though they have been treasured. Whenever I talk about old linens, somebody invariably asks me 'but what do people DO with them?' When I reply that they - er- use them for the purpose for which they were intended, i.e. as table and bed linens, I see a certain amount of scepticism setting in. There are people who simply can't imagine appreciating anything this old, and they certainly can't imagine having to launder and iron it. When I tell them that there are actually people who enjoy this, who love caring for these old textiles - and I'm one of them - they just shrug and turn away. Fortunately, not everyone feels the same!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Culzean Castle

We were at our local 'stately home' today - Culzean Castle - for a picnic. Last year I bought my husband a large picnic hamper for his birthday so that we could have civilised picnics, in the old fashioned way, with a tablecloth and real crockery! (Like the picnics which Mole and Ratty indulge in, in the Wind in the Willows.) To be honest, the weather in Scotland during July and half of August has been fairly hideous, so we haven't had a picnic since late spring - but today was the perfect day, so we packed the wicker basket with goodies, and set off. Culzean is the National Trust for Scotland's major attraction in this part of the world, so it tends to be extremely busy on warm sundays, particularly since this is the last weekend before the Scottish schools go back. But if you go reasonably early, you can find all kinds of quiet nooks and crannies, often with convenient picnic tables. Ours was at the back of the fabulous walled garden, so we had a walk round first and admired the herbacious border, which - at this time of the year - is wonderful. I'm so envious. Our cottage gardens look lovely in spring, but they never seem to look quite so beautiful in high summer. Culzean's Head Gardener is a woman, and - although I have been visiting the castle for years - I have to say that I have never seen the gardens looking so utterly gorgeous as they did today. Apart from the stunning borders, I particularly loved the row upon row of traditional, old fashioned annuals, such as Larkspur, Love-in-a-Mist  and Asters - plants which I haven't seen massed together like this since I was a child. The gardens sell plants, too - which is an excellent idea. And they aren't 'bought in' as they are at so many visitor attractions. These are genuine plants from the gardens, so that when you see something growing, and like the look of it, you might just be able to buy it. I came away with a deep purple astilbe called Purple Lance - a beautiful plant which I had been coveting as soon as I saw it in the border. 

Monday, August 09, 2010

Great Western Auctions, Glasgow

  Finally bit the bullet and found our way to the Great Western Auctions in Glasgow. This is a large auction house, on the west side of the city, and we had been meaning to go there for a long time but various other commitments had always intervened. On Friday, seeing from the online catalogue that a very large lot of old linens was listed, we set off early for viewing day. The auction house is in Whiteinch, along the Dumbarton Road and we only managed to get lost three or four times on the way there! (Glasgow must have the worst set of road signs of any major city in the western world, and we don't have sat nav. I have managed to get comprehensively lost, driving about Glasgow, more times than I care to remember.) The auction house is a large building which looks like an old church.  I had a good rummage through the linen, which contained some spectacularly beautiful pieces, and decided that it would be well worthwhile to attend the sale. The following day - having only got lost once this time, though that involved almost heading through the Clyde Tunnel and finding ourselves back on the wrong side of the river! - we attended the sale.
The Auction House is tucked away beside a lovely old pub called Granny Gibbs. You can read a bit more about Granny Gibb herself, here but meanwhile the present day pub is handsomely decorated with flowers and hanging baskets, and extraordinarily friendly. With time to spare, we went in search of tea. The pub is currently having a new kitchen added, and they aren't serving teas or coffees but the lovely lady behind the bar made us big mugs of tea and chocolate biscuits, and then wouldn't take any payment, but just asked us to put something in the charity box on the counter! I've a feeling this is the sort of thing that only happens in Glasgow and it's one of the reasons why people fall in love with the city!
The Auction Rooms were friendly too - all the staff were cheerful and helpful and its a place I'd be delighted to go back to again. I'm sure I will. The linens were sold quite late in  the day, and I managed to buy them, bidding nerve rackingly against TWO telephone bidders. (Not something that usually happens with linens!) I paid rather more than I wanted, but not quite as much as I thought I might have to. A few lots later, I watched several boxes of vintage clothes hitting the roof in terms of price, and was rather glad that I hadn't wanted them! But, of course, Glasgow is a great centre for vintage fashions, with lots of extremely fashion conscious students and other people, and a plethora of gorgeous vintage shops.
Now begins the real work of sorting, and deciding what can be sold, what can't, what needs laundering and ironing - a huge task - and what is perhaps better left in its original condition. There is so much of it, that this could take a whole week. I'll post more about some of the individual pieces, which are stunning, as time goes by. But one little fact emerged which I did not know, and it's part of what fascinates me about old textiles, and how much they still have to teach me. Among the linens was an old, unused, boxed Madeira tablecloth and napkins, very pretty, with its labels still attached. These told me that - as you can see from the picture above - they were made in 'Madeira Island' - of Irish (or Iresh, as one of the labels reads) linen. I've been admiring old Madeira tablecloths for years without ever realising that they were embroidered on imported Irish linen!
The Great Western Auctions