Set in the grounds of the beautifully regal Ragley Hall, the Midlands Air Festival was something I had been looking forward to for weeks! Never one to let tradition slip, I ruined the afternoon by succumbing to a wretched migraine, forcing is to leave the show early. We did manage to see the test firing of some of the hot air balloons, Stampe display team in their gorgeous bi-planes, radio controlled stunt planes, Vietnam era helicopters and the Red Arrows.
Later on in the evening, I staggered out of bed to watch some of the hot air balloons land in the fields not too far from us. The following evening brought the beautiful WW2 Catalina fly overhead, but no balloons as a thunder storm had reared its head and was too dangerous to take off in.
So here are a handful of pictures and videos from the event! Enjoy!
Ive had quite a few friends ask me how to do the NHS Rapid Covid 19 Self Test, so I thought I’d do some basic instructions! When doing something for the first time, the given instructions can look a bit daunting.
Once you receive your text or email confirmation, do not delete it! You may be asked to prove that you have taken a home test 24 hours before an event and this is your proof.
Last night marked the very first cocktail evening at The Fourteas in Stratford upon Avon!
I was incredibly nervous and excited as I had been asked to alter my repertoire to focus on less wartime patriotic and more blues and swing. That meant learning some more songs and performing them confidently on the night!
As some of you know, I have an issue with my memory and in times of stress and fluster it is even worse! My head is constantly full of whizzing and bouncing ideas, thoughts, worries, reminders, ideas, daydreams and all manner of ridiculousness. Then I have to somehow squeeze lyrics to songs in between, like packing peanuts. In times of trauma or extreme upset my brain says “No thank you” and pretty much shuts down to defend itself. So I have to try and keep calm and collected as much as possible (at least outwardly!). Memorising the lyrics and timing to 24 songs can be either a walk in the park or swimming through treacle. Luckily last night I swallowed my pride and brought some lyric sheets with me for the new songs. With a quick glance at the start of odd verses I was able to jog my memory and move smoothly through the latest editions! Phew!
The evening was fantastic. The Fourteas’ new owner Zenios was a wonderful host and greeted each guest, chatted and made sure everything went like clockwork. The staff were attentive and brought around fabulous cocktails and mocktails to each table, never leaving people waiting for too long. I enjoyed a virgin pina colada and strawberry daiquiri!
At 7.30pm I started singing and was greeted to wonderful applause, smiles and toe tapping throughout. Us singers feed off of audience reactions, so I was on cloud nine for the entire evening!
Seeing a couple of familiar faces really helped me feel at ease and it was great to get back to a sense of normality again.
The Fourteas is a 1940’s tearoom situated in Sheep Street, Stratford upon Avon. It features indoor and outdoor seating and a wonderful vintage atmosphere. These new cocktail evenings will certainly add a classy and decadent evening venue to the town! If last night was anything to go by, this is going to be an incredibly successful venture for them! I hope to be a regular face (and voice) on Friday evenings!
Severn Valley Railway 1940’s Event is BACK! Reenactors, demonstrations, vintage shopping and entertainment for 2 weekends running! Things will be a little different, due to Covid restrictions and keeping everyone as safe as possible, but I cannot wait to sing at The Engine Shed at Highley each day! The museum is wonderful, plus there is a cafe AND fabulous stalls selling 1940’s clothing, hats and accessories. Times are TBA, so keep your eye out for updates. What a perfect way to celebrate my Birthday weekend, WOOHOO!
I love steam railway events and have been going to Severn Valley Railway (amongst others) for years. This will be the first time I have performed at this special WW2 event and cannot wait to be part of the vintage entertainment.
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Heyday Online and am lucky enough to be one of the main models for their wonderful vintage reproduction clothing.
Their trousers are some of my favourite pieces and I wear them almost every day! Flattering, high waisted and wide legged, they have a perfect 30’s/40’s style and can be twinned with knitted sweaters in winter or tie tops in summer!
Heyday have just brought out some more pinstriped trousers and I thought I would share some photos we took of them! A great tip… Vertical stripes are slimming and lengthen the legs!
There are times when you decided to visit a place on whim and are thoroughly disappointed…and there are those fabulous moments when you visit a surprising treasure. Luckily The Bakelite Museum was one of those!
Nestled in the middle of the Somerset countryside and housed in an old water mill, this is not so much a museum as a beloved collection. I think of museums as rather formal; everything labelled, catalogued, behind glass and somehow lacking personality. The Bakelite Museum is completely the opposite! If Pitts Rivers had an obsession with plastic, this is how he would have collected it (yet another fantastically ecclectic museum!).
Everything imaginable made from Bakelite or vintage plastics can be found here, from egg timers to amazing radios…and even a coffin! You forget how diverse this material must have seemed. The colours are absolutely wonderful, and there is little order or explanation, but that just makes you feel like a kid stumbling across the best attic in the world!
Sure there could be some large explanation boards on what Bakelite is and when it was used, there could be a few more description cards, but that just means that you have the opportunity to ask Patrick Cooke, the collector, about the pieces. This fabulously eccentric fellow and his wonderful wife (not forgetting their cat Lucite!) live at the old mill. They have 2 wonderful vintage caravans that you can have a look at too AND a wonderful tearoom where they serve cream teas!
I have to say that my favourite things were the WW2 Bakelite identification planes and an incredible Art Deco globe radio. It actually felt like a real privilege looking around the place as the collection is vast and fascinating. It helps that Patrick and Imogen are such lovely people too!
Hello and thank you so much for letting me look around your wonderful museum. Could you please state your name for our readers?
My name is Patrick Cook but have been referred to as Mr Bakelite or even Plastic Cook.
So tell us, how did the museum come about and what was the first piece of Bakelite you bought/ received?
The first piece I discovered was when I was on a paper round in Bristol, in the late 60’s. It was an Ekco wireless type SH23 with a tree motif within an Art Deco Bakelite cabinet….very architectural! I bought it for a (then) princely sum of 5 pounds which I think paid off over several months of wages.
Was this piece what sparked your passionate collecting is was it by accident?
I became intrigued by the fact that the radio dealer tried to put me off buying Bakelite in favour of the more craftsman built walnut veneered cabinets that were so popular in the 1930’s. Bakelite as a material was at it its all time low, deemed dull, smelly and so evocative of wartime Britain and the depression. so this became my challenge. To collect and reconsider the ‘material of a thousand uses’ as quoted by Leo Baekeland, became my quest.
What is your favourite piece?
Like children, I do not have a favourite piece of Bakelite it so depends on context….good design, colouring, nostalgic associations and so on…however I do think the Thermos flask is a rather elegant and understated design with all the associated memories of family picnics, motor outings or having a tea break at work….the World Globe radio is also rather splendid in shape and design.
You used to organise Bakelite Picnics on the Beach, tell us more!!! In the 1970’s I organised an annual Bakelite Picnic, starting originally on Blackheath in London and finally growing to a large scale event on Hastings Pier to be filmed by the BBC for Collecting Now series. Bakelite Museum Society members would dress terribly vintage….even in those days, and we would have all our Bandalasta picnic hampers crammed with spam or fish paste sandwiches, battenberg cake, blancmange and a noxious flask of tea. We plan to have a revival picnic here at the Bakelite Museum this summer.
What does your lovely wife think about your collection and is she also into Bakelite and vintage plastics?
Imogen is an inveterate collector of all things old (including me). She has a most wonderful kitchen crammed with old tins, pottery, toasters and vintage gadgets galore…. I think she has a quiet regard for the Bakelite Museum….slightly.
We are totally in love with your 2 caravans! What age are they? Make?
In the orchard we have a 1932 Bertram Hutchings (hardboard and canvas) two berth caravan; very tudorbethan. The Willerby Vogue is the other extreme, being all plastic (fibreglass) and streamlined and eggshaped. I towed it with a Citroen DS and they look the perfect partners.
Why do you think there is still a love for Bakelite, Lucite and other vintage plastics?
The love for Bakelite has grown as the fashion for all things vintage has become so popular and Bakelite is at the forefront for a material that covers such a large variety of objects. From the cradle to the grave (including the Bakelite coffin).
We have a rather stunning photo of you holding (what looks like) the top of a bomb…what on earth is that?!
I am holding what was described to myself as a second world war bomb, but is fact a Radar Pod that was affixed to the Lancaster Bomber….it had been used as a Geranium pot in Billericay for many years before it found a home here at the museum.
If you would like to visit the museum, it is situated at Orchard Mill, Williton, Somerset, TA4 4NS and the TomTom found it fine. The museum is open pretty much every day of the week between March and October, but why not email Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org you are unsure. They welcome people at all times of year, including groups. And who knows, maybe we can revive those Bakelite picnics too!Prices are £5 for adults, £4 concessions, £2.50 for children (under 6’s go free)
*This visit was in 2014 and featured in Military World Magazine. The information in this blog post is correct at time of original printed article*
Well firstly… HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s hope this year holds better news for all of us!
Obviously in light of Covid, all my booked events and care home gigs were cancelled last year. It was a miserable feeling and unsettling time (notice how I’m using past tense as I’m determined that 2021 will be slightly better?), but I did receive a couple of Zoom gig requests, which made me feel slightly less useless to the world.
It is always funny, watching videos of other people’s dysfunctional Zoom meetings on YouTube. Children interrupting news reporter parents, cats deciding that world domination should start by destroying one laptop at a time, people forgetting to properly leave meetings; subjecting their workmates to nakedness, preparation of online porn watching and more besides.
Luckily I haven’t recorded my own personal experiences, but they will certainly be embedded in my memories for a long time!
My first online gig was for a wonderful felting group. They could meet for their annual summer meet-up, so hosted an online version with tutorials and chat. I was the half time entertainment for this fabulous fibre-pricking faction and set myself up in the garden with backdrop, props, PA system and laptop. I asked Mr. Mew to entertain little one whilst I was singing, but this seemed to loosely translate into ‘please let her go into the garden, play loudly, then fall over.’ I tried to carry on regardless, but had to excuse myself and pick up screaming child myself. The show went on and I added a couple of extra songs as way of apology to the filters. They were wonderful, fun, great company… and I haven’t heard from them since…
Cut to yesterday when I was booked last minute to perform a 49 minute singing set on zoo for a care home! Huzzah! With a little help, I was set up in a quiet room with a PA system, spotlight and laptop. No children, no cats, no problems! All was going brilliantly until about 3/4 of the way through. I was mid song when I heard a ‘POP!’. It threw me for a second and I had to fight to remember the lyrics, whilst pretending to absentmindedly look behind me. I thought I had accidentally knocked a glass bauble off the Christmas tree behind me, but there was no evidence on the floor, so I turned back to camera. As I carried on, my eyes got distracted by a wispy movement above the laptop. Suddenly I focused on…SMOKE. It started to plume rather generously from the spotlight unit and I realised that this wasn’t just a little ‘pop’, the unit was on fire. I excused myself for a second, whilst we got the light outside. The room was full of smoke, but I apologised and continued the concert as windows were opened around me and frosty air filled the room. I tried to control my composure as all I wanted to do was burst out laughing! An extra song was added and I had a brilliant time entertaining them all from my cold, smokey setting. Thank goodness things didn’t get more serious!
Have you had anything crazy happen in online meetings or chats? I would love to hear yours!
Although I have a huge appreciation of Art Deco to Atomic decor, did you know that I am passionate about PreRaphaelite art to? It Juxtaposes rather well with my Steampunk hobby as the PreRaphalite Brotherhood hated that the Victorian era was heading more towards industry and that modern art (at that time) was not what they thought beautiful. They adored 14th and 15th Century romantisism and Italian paintings before Raphael (although they apparently had nothing against his work at all).
The PRB was created in 1848 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, who were all in their early 20’s. Later, James Collinson, art critic William Rossetti, F.G. Stephens and sculptor Thomas Woolner were invited to join the exclusive club. As well as parties, affairs and crazy pets (The Brotherhood were nuts about Wombats and the animal was depicted in a number of paintings and poems), Rossetti ended up owning a couple and named one ‘Tops’ after his good friend William Morris. The poor thing was not well however, and after its death he had it stuffed and displayed at home. Other pets included kangaroos, a toucan, llama and raccoons amongst others. You can just imagine the noise complaints from his neighbours.
Rossetti was infatuated by red hair. Whether it was the rarity of the colour (only 2% of the world’s population) or the mythical symbolism surrounding it (vampires, evil, sorceresses, passion…) Im not sure, but red heads certainly feature greatly in the preraphaelite works. Muse Lizzie Siddal was not only a model, but an artist too. She famously posed for Millais’ painting of ‘Ophelia’, having to lie in a freezing cold bath for hours without complaint. She became very ill afterwards and nearly died, but fortunately pulled through. Dante Rossetti was completely in love with her for some time and their relationship was rocky and heated thanks to Siddal’s illnesses and Rossetti’s affairs. It may have been because of these that Lizzie became addicted to Laudanum (opium tincture). After the loss of her baby, she spiralled into depression and died of an overdose soon after.
At her funeral, Dante placed a book of his hand written poems next to her cheek, entwining some of her beautiful red hair around it. After 7 years, he seemed to have gotten over his wife’s death enough to realise he wanted his beloved book back. He had her body exhumed and lamented the fact that he received the manuscript back decayed, soggy, stinking of disinfectant and littered with worm holes. Blurgh.
So now I bring you to the images you have been scrolling through! I have wanted to do a preRaphaelite photoshoot for years and finally got my opportunity with photographer Wayland Thor Badger! I had previously made the dress for a friend’s wedding many years ago and had recently found it again. It seemed to be perfect for a romantic, medieval feel. It was a magical day of shooting, with little Shetland ponies munching nettles on the opposite bank and the sound of the river trickling over stones. This is our nod to the PRB, Lizzie Siddal and all those gorgeous red heads. All 2% of you.