It’s a spectacularly rainy day here in Devon, so we decided to take a trip to Totnes. Unfortunately, the pickings were fairly slim in the town’s charity shops. However, we did find this little gem and after some deliberation (and yummy veggie food at the Willow cafe), I decided to buy it:
I got thoroughly drenched on our walk round; my own fault for being stubborn and not taking the brolly with me. It’s lovely and cosy to be back in the cottage now: laptop on, cup of tea and fire merrily flickering away behind me. Even the rain spattering outside is adding to the cosiness. The book is delightful. I’m so glad I bought it. Already, my mind is whirling with ideas of what to do with it. I think some Halloween-themed lessons will be in order next week.
The book, ‘Pleasant Fieldmouse’s Halloween Party’ was written by Jan Wahl in 1974. This edition was published in Great Britain in 1976. The gorgeous pictures are by Wallace Tripp. Other books about Pleasant Fieldmouse have been illustrated by Maurice Sendak, but I much prefer Trip’s whimsical and beautiful drawings. The sleeve jacket reads:
“When swallows fly south and pumpkins turn orange, the forest animals get ready for winter. But Pleasant Fieldmouse isn’t thinking about the cold wind – he’s planning a Halloween party! When the moonlit, spooky night arrives, there are rustling sounds… and sudden, scary noises! The mysterious capers that precede the party guarantee a night of surprises for everyone, including some uninvited guests, and especially Pleasant Fieldmouse. The lively and warm illustrations by Wallace Tripp are a perfect complement to Jan Wahl’s rambunctious and humourous- BOO!”
These are some of my favourite drawings from the book – how cute are the tiny mice in their little ghost costumes? And with the sentence, “Some end-of-year honeybees flew, timidly, as tiny, tiny bee ghosts.” you can’t fail to be captured by the writing as well.
The poor mole – moles are always portrayed as boring and miserable. I wonder why it is? I’ve got quite an affection for moles…
Unfortunately, I’m having huge problems with the internet here. Blame the rural location, horrendous weather or my own ineptitude. Either way, it’s taken two hours to get this far… so I’ll continue with pictures from the next part of the story another day.
It is officially half term, and for the first time in over a year, we’re actually not going to Germany. Indeed, it does feel a little odd to not now be rummaging through mountains of tat on our first port of call in some German town. Instead I am ensconced in a rather beautiful barn conversion in the middle of the countryside, about two miles away from Totnes. After one evening, I already smell like a log fire and I’m typing this looking out onto a beautiful courtyard; the sun casting speckled, mottled shadows through autumnal leaves.
We woke up yesterday bright and early, ready for our long drive down South. Several stop-offs had been planned, and more were added over the course of the day. After finally getting the rest of the luggage packed (honestly, you’d think we were moving, not just holidaying for a week), our first stop was the Post Office depot to pick up a parcel. After then realising the engine oil was low, we returned home where I discovered two things: firstly, my gorgeous Monsoon dress I’d bought from Ebay was new with its tags and it also had a small bug nesting in the package, causing me to get covered in brown bug juice and necessitating a trip indoors to wash my hands. This then prompted the second discovery: that we’d left the lights on, so it’s a good job we went back.
Our second stop was in Stoke to deliver this:
Nestled amidst the detritus of our holiday-making, this Scheurich was destined for an estate in Stoke. After delivering the pot to its new owners, we then called at the local Post Office to post the last batch of parcels from Wednesday’s Ebay sales. The Post Office (and the town itself) felt a little bit like the Land That Time Forgot. The Post Office even had its old sign still painted above the new one:
We had a little wander around the small high street, visited a couple of charity shops and a church sale. Despite the retroness of the area, pickings were slim in the charity shops. There were a couple of very retro dresses and jumpsuits in one, which as Aidan pointed out, were so retro they looked like fancy dress. The only things we bought were a pair of 1950s reindeer Christmas decorations and two homemade cakes from the church sale, costing the grand total of 50p.
On the motorway, we passed a very boring looking Vauxhall Corsa at one point that contained three elderly gentlemen inside it, all wearing different hats. One had a baseball cap, the other a flat cap and the third a trilby. Honestly, he looked just like Little Richard, same ‘tache and everything. We were convinced that they should have been in a Cadillac or something: not just a bog-standard car. Every time we caught up with them again, we were peering in and making up stories of what they could have been doing. Another stop off at my parents’ house in Stafford, admired the house and my mum’s beautifully displayed West German pottery, a drive past Walsall and a mental wave to Vintage Vix in Walsall, then we continued on to Gloucester Antiques Centre at the Historic Docks.
We’d been there previously, but a few years ago. What a change! All newly regenerated and the Antiques Centre seemingly much reduced in size:
The ground floor appeared to be filled with over-priced jewellery, but the other two floors were much more interesting. I found two ‘Glamour’ magazines from the late 1950s and, more excitingly, there were some amazing displays of West German pottery. Before being told that I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures, I managed to sneak in a few shots of the units.
They also had some fantastic glass and other retro pieces alongside the WGP:
Around the corner from this unit was an even larger and more stunning display. Unfortunately I only managed to get one photograph before I got told off for taking pictures…
Eventually we found a card for the proprietor, identifying it as Green Haze Retro. My pictures do not do the displays justice: they really were extremely well merchandised. And… we spotted stuff of ours. Literally ours! We began to recognise a couple of pieces that Aidan had sold in the last few months via Ebay, dismissed it as ‘they’re mass-produced so there’s bound to be some the same’ then Aidan spotted a metal dish and it had the same sticker on the bottom as the one he’d sold. Hey presto! Identified and uber-excited by this development. If you happen to spot this post, Mr Green Haze Retro, get in touch. We’d love to do some more business and help spread the West German Pottery world even further. You can visit the Gloucester Antiques Centre here and actually buy a few pieces online. Definitely worth a look as there were some gorgeous one: a giant Steuler and U-Keramik, vibrant, bright yellow Kreutz and a whole myriad of very high-quality pieces.
This was a separate unit. Green Haze Retro had very cleverly divided their goods into two decades: Fifties and Sixties. Apart from the gorgeousness of the displays, what also pleased me was the number of people who were lingering on these displays. I had to do some patient waiting around this one to get a picture without other people in shot. I was very tempted by the Dallas Simpson print you can just see on the floor here, but Aidan wasn’t too keen. I’ll just have to wait until we’re in our new house, then I can begin my own Montage of Misery wall.
After this very successful and enjoyable stop, our next stop was – finally – the cottage. It’s a beautiful place. Located behind some kind of stately home that’s been converted into flats, it has its own private courtyard, a large open living and dining space with the obligatory log fire. Since our last visit here, the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms have been renovated and now it’s a beautiful space. Many pieces of quirky yet somehow country artwork and prints adorn the walls, and even dangle from the ceilings. It’s lovely. And I plan to spend a much time in front of the fire as is humanly possible…
This is one of my favourite times of the year. Once half term is over, it’s the countdown to Christmas, Halloween and Bonfire Night. There’s something about the smell in the air at this time of year: crisp, leafy, smoky… it reminds me of walking to school as a teenager, wrapped up in my thick navy school-coat and school scarf. Actually, that doesn’t sound too different from what I’m still doing now – only the colour of the scarf has changed!
Last year, I really enjoyed making an autumn display with pottery in the appropriate colours, garnished with a few pumpkins, unusual-coloured squash, twigs and dried chestnut cases. Something about West German Pottery… it lends itself so easily to a themed display; a result of the multitude of colours and cacophony of glazes.
Tomorrow morning we’re off down to Devon for a week. I am fully intending to do not much more than walking, relaxing in front of a log fire whilst reading and drinking red wine. I’ve already got my stash of books prepared…
- The Fabulous Fifties in Pottery (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
- A Lot On My Plate (littleowlski.wordpress.com)