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!
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!
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!
On VE Weekend this year, I was once again supposed to be singing at the VE Festival in Evesham. This wonderful event had moved to Ashdown Camp in Evesham and we were all excited for the new beginnings of a very successful and popular show! The VE Show was going to be sponsored by Vivien of Holloway in 2020 and I was lucky enough to be sent one of their Lana dresses to wear whilst performing.
Unfortunately Covid-19 dashed our plans and all events have obviously been cancelled for this year. I was still able to do a photoshoot of this beautiful 1940’s style dress with the talented Paul W Russell Photography. Our backdrop was the breathtaking Kenilworth Castle, of which I will have the pleasure of visiting later this month.
So, back to the dress! The fit is quite roomy compared to Vivien of Holloway’s more structured dresses (e.g. the Sarong). I ended up going for a VoH size 16 in this. Do NOT confuse their sizing with standard UK ones! Frustratingly, their sizes are based on vintage ones, so the 16 is infact a 12 UK. As I mentioned before, this dress definitely has more give, so that is why I went for the 16 instead of an 18. Im usually between a 12 and 14 UK and very curvy (40″-31″-40″), so always struggle with bust to waist ratio on dresses. This fit very well and the style is flattering and comfortable.
Vivien of Holloway now have a huge range of colours of the Lana dress and I would definitely find it difficult to choose which shade to get! And guess what? IT HAS FLIPPING POCKETS! YAAAAAAAS!!!
On 7th May 2020, Richard and I were interviewed for Australian television! Studio 10 set up a Zoom video call at 10.15pm to be broadcast at 11.20am Sydney time. I was still trying to get over a migraine, so was ready to crawl into bed, but luckily adrenaline kicked in and I managed to stay up!
It went very well and we were asked about our lifestyle, fashion, diet, wedding and the similarities between the Covid-19 isolation and WW2. To this latter question I replied that there were no similarities what so ever apart from community spirit and the need to stay calm and safe. The war was horrendous and shouldn’t be compared to this situation. Unfortunately that question was edited out of the recording!
The only other bit edited out was when I was asked about my 1940’s ration diet. I told them that that information was purely British tabloids trying to create a weird story and we certainly weren’t on 1940’s rations. The rest is in there though, so enjoy!
Who would’ve thought that in these uncertain days of isolation that we could get so many people together (safely distanced) in joyful celebration and remembrance.
Flags were flying, bunting hung and the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement as the whole street prepared for the 75th anniversary of VE Day. This special day celebrates Winston Churchill’s famous speech that WW2 was finally over.
This anniversary has come at a time where community spirit is again so important in keeping spirits lifted in a difficult time.
On thursday evening Richard and I did a Zoom video interview for Studio 10, an Australian news programme on Channel 10. It aired at 11.40am Sydney time, although due to the time difference, we had to do the video call at 10.15pm!
On Friday morning at 9am I had a visit from the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire van and was interviewed live about the day’s upcoming events.
At 11.30am I started my live singing set, which was also featured on Facebook for those in carehomes, hospitals, workplaces and homes worldwide. Viewers in America, France, Germany, Australia and Britain all joined me as I sang a selection of 1940’s classics to my neighbours and the photographer from Stratford Herld. I had a slight hiccup in Watch the Birdie, when my ‘mummy head’ clicked in as betsy hurt her finger. All words went out of my head as I watched and mentally checked that she was ok, whilst mumbling incoherent nonsense through the microphone. Ok, good Richard is getting her a plaster. BHAM! Back to singing head. Where am I in the song? Shoot this is going out live! Ok, just smile and look like you know what you’re doing… “Watch the Birdie, let’s take a candied camera shot, Watch the Birdie come on let’s give it all you’ve got, Watch the Birdie just pick a flop-n-derp-n-bop and hold it!” ha ha ha!
I decided to raise funds for Combat Stress, my favourite charity, who help veterans young and old (as well as their families) dealing with depression, PTSD and anxiety. There are already too many vets dealing with homelessness, addiction and psychological problems associated with their time fighting for their country. Combat Stress is here to assist those struggling. For those who would like to donate, you can do so HERE and 100% of the donations will go to the charity. The link will be active for 2 weeks after VE Day, do if it is no longer working, you can contact me directly!
It was so wonderful seeing everyone enjoying themselves and coming together as a proud nation. It just shows that even in these depressing and worrying times, we can create strength and joy to see us through.
There was music playing, people having picnics and BBQ’s and even an ice cream wagon giving out free ice creams and waffles! Thank you to all who made the day so incredible special and memorable, and remember…just pick a flop-n-derp-n-bop and hold it!