Category Archives: Collecting

Airfix versus Warhammer

Assault on Black Reach - apparently

In the morning I am taking Boy the Elder into Leicester to spend his birthday money.  The only thing which was on his list was a Warhammer series 40,000 Assault on Black Reach gaming set. If you understand what that means you are either likely to be a 13-25 year old male or a nauseating parent who is really sucking up to her children.  You know who you are, Sister the First.

BTE has been an avid Airfix fan for ages and has got some beautiful models of WW2 planes, tanks and ickle tiny soldiers.  He’d started to get really good at the building and painting and I understood it; it was real things painted to look like real things that did stuff that actually happened.  The Aged Parent bought him membership of The Airfix Club for his birthday and he gets enamel badges and everything.

Supermarine Spitfire - obviously

Then suddenly Warhammer came on the scene and there are dozens of little grey plastic mutant figures littering the house and desperate, plaintive pleas for Ork Stompas echo around the rooms, and I just don’t ‘get it’. But then I’m not really supposed to, am I?

Thus, tomorrow morning, we are venturing into Leicester to find a shop called ‘Tabletop Tyrants’ where, being a Saturday morning, it will be awash with hundreds of teenage boys, who are strangers to soap and don’t have a girlfriend or a clean pair of underpants between them.  BTE will hand over his shining debit card (the glancing light blinding the shuffling youths) in exchange for box loads of plastic mutants with machetes and assorted weaponry plus the associated paints, brushes and glue.

I begged him to shower tonight or wash his hair, as a gesture that he has a shred of individuality, but to no avail.  He did paint his nails purple though, which I suppose is a start.  I will hide his trainers and leave his Chelsea boots where he will trip over them but I fear that the use of a toothbrush will be a step too far.

Lancaster Bomber

Ork Stompa

Airfix seems wholesome, Wargaming does not.  Still, at least he’s balanced – an Ork Stomper on one shelf and a De Havilland Mosquito on the other.  Boy the Younger will, of course, insist on combining the two and will strafe and dive bomb the mutants with neatly painted Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers.  Boy the Elder will flip his lid and a horrible fight will break out on the dining room table between a lanky evil-smelling geek and a  malevolent, grudge-bearing 8-year old.

Now THAT I get.


Filed under Children, Collecting, Indoor Activities

Golly Territory

Good morning everyone, I trust you slept well and that you have less of a headache than I do.  Off to the market for some monosaturated medicament, I feel.

Now, seeing as we’ve strayed into Golly Territory, and I’m too busy packing boxes and taking down shelves to write anything of any depth, have a look at these previous posts:-

My name is the Wartime Housewife and I love Golliwogs

By Golly, I need to buy another Golly

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Filed under Collecting, Life in general

How to make an attractive display case out of an old cutlery tray

Cutlery trays

Old wooden cutlery trays can make useful display cases or storage trays for little things.  My boys love little things and have masses of tiny plastic abominations which are carefully abandoned about the house in case I should feel the need of a nasty accident.

I had a cutlery tray left over when I bought a larger one to accommodate a new cutlery set, but you can pick them up at junk stalls from between 10p and £1.  I bought acrylic paints because they dry very quickly and wash off hands and clothes easily with soapy water; these cost about £1.25 a bottle and last quite a long time.  I found the felt squares in the local stationery shop costing 45p each.  For sticking the felt, you can use PVA glue, although I used a hot glue gun in the interests of speed and less mess.

First coat of paint


1 x wooden cutlery tray
Acrylic paints
PVA or hot glue
Paint brushes – 1cm wide
You might also like some transfers or sparkly things or varnish
2 x Small mirror plates if you wish to hang it on the wall

Line with felt

Firstly, choose your colours
Then paint the insides of the tray, overlapping a bit on the bottom where the felt will go
Leave it to dry then apply a second coat
Then paint the outside edges, leave to dry then apply another coat
Lastly paint the back, leave to dry then apply another coat
If you are varnishing, apply a thin coat and leave to dry, applying another coat if necessary
Cut out the felt to the size of the compartments
Glue the felt into place, making sure the glue goes right to the edges

Add extra decoration

Apply any other decorations
If you wish to hang it on the wall, apply two small mirror plates to the back

Boy the Younger's Blue & Green tray

Boy the Elder's Gothic tray


Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Re-use Recycle, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

I find a perfect tin to put my buttons in

At Christmas, I found a delightful button tin in Oxfam, that had more than a hint of 1940s utility about it.  I pounced, brought it home, only to have overlooked the fact that my cantilevered sewing box has a maximum height of 1 ¾” per tray.  Foiled.

This hardly constitutes a national emergency, but whilst doing a little mending yesterday, the fit came upon me to find a more suitable button tin.  Maybe something with ‘Gold Flake’ or ‘Gee’s Linctus’ written on it.

Being a child-free weekend, I had the mother of all lie-ins this morning.  I dozed intermittently through The Archers Omnibus, snuggled pleasantly through Desert Island Discs and finally emerged winking and blinking into the light of an overcast noon.  I made a lovely plate of Egg Florentine (you see, I do eat my own recipes) and settled down to watch a wonderfully romantic 1945 film called, ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ starring a young Wendy Hiller and the delightful Roger Livesey.

Then I started to feel a little lazy.  I ought to go for a walk, get some air in my lungs, burn a couple of inches off .. well.. anywhere really.  Then suddenly I had the overwhelming feeling that today I was going to find my special button tin.  But I wanted to finish the film.  Then I remember that I had it on DVD in a Powell & Pressburger boxed set, if you please.

I jumped up, bunged a bit of lippy on and headed for the Harborough Antique Market.  I searched and searched but no tin.  There was a small ‘Players’ tobacco tin but it was scratched and dull and simply didn’t fit the bill.  I tore myself away, managing not to buy a silver-topped, cut-glass claret jug that was calling to me, and trudged sadly home.

When I went to pick up The Boys, I told The Father of My Children about my Button Tin Sadness, knowing that he would understand.  “Mmmmm”, he said, and disappeared upstairs.  He came down proffering a small chocolate tin which had been produced by Cadbury Bournville to commemorate the Queen’s Coronation.  “Would this do, do you think?” 

I fell sobbing with gratitude at his feet, murmuring my thanks  like Jenny Agutter in the ‘Railway Children’.  And here it is.


Filed under Collecting, Sewing

Shire Books and The Joy of Lavatories (as well as many other subjects of note)

We are blessed in Market Harborough, as we have a Waterstones, an independent bookshop – Quinns, and a couple of excellent second-hand bookshops.  As you go through the door of Quinns, there is a rack of Shire Books which will have any right-minded person drooling and cooing at the boggling array of deliciously English subject matter.

Shire Books was set up in 1962, producing low-priced, factual paperbacks on the most astonishing range of subjects which catered for the enthusiasms and niche interests of ordinary people all over the country.

The only problem was, that despite the indisputably interesting content, they began to look really dull and old-fashioned in their layout and with black and white photography and illustrations.

But then in 2007, the owner retired and sold the company to Osprey Publishing.  In 2008 a major revamp of its list of titles as well as an overhaul of content and cover designs, was undertaken, resulting in the gorgeous and irresistible collection of books on sale today. Even the paper they’re printed on feels lovely. And they’re still cheap.

I have taken the reckless step of obtaining the current Shire Catalogue and, because I am a dangerous obsessive, I have typed up the list (leaving the catalogue untouched for posterity) so that a) I can remember what I’ve got and b) I can mark the books with which to treat myself each month.

The First Six

My latest purchase is entitled ‘Privies and Water Closets’ (making this a Bog Blog?) and the front cover features a delightful illustration c.1814 by Martinet of Paris, of a large gentleman with a rather strained expression, sitting on a commode.  The book contains a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated history and technology of the lavatory, beginning with an interesting explanation of where we get our words for ‘toilet’ from.

I am allowing myself two Shire Books per month and I now have four weeks to agonise about which two to buy next.  Shall it be:-

British Family Cars of the 1950s and 60s?
British Pigs?
The Victorian Workhouse?
Old Medical and Dental Instruments?
Fields, Hedges and Ditches?
Women of the First World War? or
Nailmaking?   Who wouldn’t want to own a book about nailmaking?

Then again, it’s still February, and March is only a matter of days away…


Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

Out of an old sewing machine came forth a kindling box

Our homes should be places where we can be expressive of who we are.  Even if we can’t afford the furniture or paintings we would like, we can always make comfortable compromises by putting an attractive throw and bright cushions over a tatty sofa or, as I do, photocopy pictures of paintings (in high resolution) that I love and frame them.

As I have said before, I am deeply uncomfortable and perplexed when I go into a house where everything is white and there are no books or pictures, precious few ornaments or fol-de-rols and no clues as to the identity of the inhabitant. 

The ability to make things oneself comes in so useful, particularly when money is shortUsing up old materials to make new things is not only deeply satisfying; it makes your house more individual and exciting but also means fewer  items going to the tip.  For good examples of this, you need only visit Sue at the Quince Tree or The Vintage Knitter to see the lovely things they do.

As usual for a Sunday, I was wandering around the Market Harborough Antique Market and spotted an interesting looking box, half under the table of a stall that I frequent.  It was a slightly unusual shape and it drew my eye, something about the shape nagging at the back of my mind.  The vendor had put a few small logs in it and I thought “What a super, neat little box for kindling”.  I’m currently using an old straw bag for kindling which does the trick but it looks untidy and just ‘not right’. 

The cover off an old sewing machine

I asked what price she had on it and immediately beat her down a few quid.  It turned out to be the lid off an old Singer sewing machine.  How completely perfect.

which became a kindling box

I am the owner of four sewing machines; an 1890s treadle, a 1910 flower-enamelled Singer, a miniature 1950s Sew-ette and a fancy new modern jobby that goes shopping for its own bobbins and advises you on your colour schemes.

Everything in your home should tell a story – your story.  So make it an adventure.


Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, General DIY, Re-use Recycle

The Importance of Art

On Saturday I went to a private view at the wonderful Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Rutland.  The Exhibition was John Piper and an incredibly charismatic man called Orde Levinson gave an inspired and informed talk about Piper and his work and then took Q&As from the floor.

 I’m not a huge fan of Piper, although there are some pictures that are wonderful, but I often find that I can appreciate art, and indeed music, much better when I know something about the creator’s life and motivations, and so it was with this collection.

I spoke to a several people about their personal collections and I took the opportunity to brainstorm about an idea that was discussed on Radio 4 a few weeks ago.  There are these art clubs springing up comprised of people who want the joy of original artworks in their houses but can’t afford to buy them.  The form a club into which they put a set amount of money each month and then elect a small group of people to be the buyers.  Obviously, they discuss in advance what sort of paintings, sculptures etc they wish to acquire for the group, and then they take it in turns to display the pieces at home.

I think this is a fantastic idea and many of these clubs become stalwart supporters of new and developing artists and, if the buyers are canny, they often buy early works of artists who  later become very desirable indeed.  Works are then sold on, often at a profit, which then goes back into the pot to buy more art.

This idea has also been taken up with considerable enthusiasm by some schools, who share the works on rotation so that children, who might not normally have access to original works, can experience them and draw inspiration from them in their own classes.  My school had a central, classroom corridor, an eighth of a mile long, lined with well-framed, reproduction paintings from virtually every period of history.  I often used to walks slowly along that corridor, really taking time to look at individual pictures and trying to memorize who painted them and why I did or didn’t like them.

The appreciation of art is something that should be intrinsic and accessible to all of us.  Not necessarily just staring at paintings or pots or piles of ceramic seeds, but having the understanding that the things around us should have an element of beauty.  Victorian engineers understood this and even a simple beam engine, operated by simple men,  would be painted in red and gold and green and embellished with acanthus leaves and scrolls. 

William Morris said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.  If people grow up with no beauty in their lives I truly believe that it will be harder for them to be beautiful.  I can’t afford to buy original paintings or prints but sometimes I scan pictures from books or magazines and frame them in order to have that picture where I can see it.  I once, very naughtily, photographed a painting at someone’s house using the digital macro feature on my camera.  Admittedly, I do have a really good printer, but the print which emerged was so sharp, you could almost feel the brush strokes and several people have commented on what a lovely print it is!

I do have lots of small items which I have collected over the years from antique markets and general sales.  These things are of no significant monetary value, but they give me an enormous amount of pleasure and, on the (increasingly rare) occasions when I entertain, the silver and cut glass come out and gleam and sparkle on the table in such a joyful way that it adds an extra dimension to the meal.

It would be very easy to lead a utilitarian life and it would certainly make house moves a lot less arduous, but where’s the fun in that?  Whenever I see something I would like to buy at the antique market at Harborough, I ask the boys what they think.  Do they like it and do they think it would fit in with the things we already have.  Boy the Elder has often advised me, very sensibly about pieces and Boy the Younger is starting to develop his own taste. 

Enjoying art and artefacts has far wider impact on our lives than simply liking a pretty picture.  Stand with a child in front of a painting and ask him what he sees and how he feels; not only does this encourage a different use of language and descriptive ability, it also encourages children to explore their emotions and responses to their visual environment.  Have you ever looked at a picture and wondered why it makes you feel angry or calm or unsettled?  – what a wonderful opportunity to think about our feelings and perceptions.  Art therapy is a recognised and longstanding technique for allowing troubled people to express themselves in a structured and non-threatening environment and it’s easy to see why.

Go out into the streets, dear friends.  Find things you like and put them in your houses.  Pick up your needles and embroider something, put some beeswax on that neglected table and watch the wood glow into life.  Off you go.


Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Wills’ Cigarette Cards No 2: How to Restore a Crushed Broom

At the Market Harborough Antique Market on Sunday, I found this pack of Wills’ Cigarette Cards and the subject was ‘Household Hints’.  A lucky find or what,  my friends?  I don’t know what date they are, but I assume that they are 40s or 50s as they clearly belong to a non-throwaway time.  

Sadly the set is not complete, but there are certainly enough to make an occasional feature for The Wartime Housewife.  I will present them to you in number order and, although you will find most of them extremely useful, there are a few that will provide more entertainment than edification.

No 2:  Restoring a Crushed Broom


Filed under Cleaning, Collecting, Household Hints, Wills Cigarette Cards

JET! Wooh ooh ooh ooooh ooh ooh Woo ooh ooh

Today has been quite cold and this afternoon I had to go and drop some paperwork into one of the schools I’m hoping to get Boy the Elder into, which, I felt, necessitated me looking like a grown-up.  I confess that I was rather pleased to get out my winter coat. 

One of my jet buttons

I have had this coat quite a long time but I always feel smart and sharp in it.  It’s a really nice shape but it came decorated with rather plain buttons.  Whilst rummaging around at the antique market, I came across these really beautiful 1930’s jet buttons and so I took the old ones off and replaced them with the jet.  The coat was transformed and I always enjoy looking at the buttons when I’m wearing the coat.  I remember my grandmother having jet jewellery and it seemed old fashioned and yet glitteringly and morbidly compelling at the same time.  Those necklaces always smelled of Pontefract Cakes because she kept them in the same drawer. Don’t ask.

Jet is a semi-precious stone which, when polished, takes on an intense waxy lustre of the deepest opaque black.  This is where we get the term ‘jet-black’`  a description which has  been found in literature since the eleventh century. The rich black colour never fades, and the shine which can be achieved is such that polished jet was even used as mirrors in medieval times

Jet comprises an unusually pure and hard form of fossilized wood  from an ancient and relatively abundant species of monkey puzzle tree.  It occurs as thin lens-shaped seams within a series of shale rocks, known as the upper Lias, which were laid down in the early Jurassic period 175-185 million years ago.

It has been collected and worked into beads, buttons, earrings, and belt-sliders for thousands of years and has been found in Bronze Age burial sites throughout the UK. Once Bronze Age craftsmen discovered that the act of polishing jet caused it (by virtue of its electrostatic property) to be able to ‘magically’ attract chaff, straw, and sawdust to itself, jet became valued not only for personal adornment, but also as a powerful bringer of good fortune.

The occupying Romans made extensive use of jet, with Roman jet workshops situated in York sending worked jet ornaments and jewellery to all parts of the Roman Empire.  After the Roman armies left in the 4th century AD, the use of jet declined and it was not until the Vikings settled in the 9th century AD that jet once more came to be more widely used for jewellery and small carvings. For the next thousand years it was used mainly for ecclesiastical jewellery such as crosses, rosaries, and rings.

As jet of the finest quality can only be found near the historic fishing town of Whitby which is situated on the North Yorkshire coast, it is fitting that Whitby was at the centre of that most remarkable period in the history of jet, the Victorian era.

Although as many as ten jet workshops were operating in Whitby by 1815, it was not until the mid-1800s that the jet industry became really well established, and the opening of the railway combined with the Victorian love of seaside holiday souvenirs made it even more popular. 

However, it was the Victorian vogue for jet mourning jewellery which contributed most significantly to the growth of the Whitby jet industry. Victorian fashion was predominantly class-led, with Queen Victoria herself ultimately setting the example. It was the deaths of the Duke of Wellington and Prince Albert in 1852 and 1861 respectively which really stimulated wider public demand for jet mourning jewellery.

The Whitby jet industry was at its height in 1873, at which time approximately 1,500 men were employed in some 200 manufacturing workshops. Raw jet was not only being avidly collected from local beaches, but was being commercially excavated at a number of  inland locations in the North York Moors area, with mines extending as far inland as Bilsdale and Osmotherly.

Jet workshop

However, in spite of the efforts of miners to procure increasing amounts of raw jet, demand became so great in the 1870s and 80s, that some manufacturers resorted to using inferior ‘soft’ jet sourced either locally from geological layers in the cliffs rather than the Lias shales, or from France and Spain.  Items worked from ‘soft’ jet began to craze and crack soon after they were sold. In addition to these problems of quality control, fashions in the latter part of the 19th century – particularly the Art Nouveau period – dictated the wearing of much smaller pieces of jewellery.

Contemporary jet jewellery can still be purchased in or one can buy Victorian style pieces and there seem to be plenty of shops in Whitby and online that sell it.  I wear an awful lot of black and I would love to collect it but I can’t collect everything.  Can I?


Filed under Collecting, History, Sewing

A Tale of Two Childhoods


The Boys are off to Norfolk with their dad for a few days tomorrow and, while the washing machine was carrying out its incessant and inexorable labours, we went into Leicester, primarily with the intention of seeing if we could get Boy the Elder’s camera fixed.  Yet another example of our throw-away society – a £50 camera would have cost £120 to get fixed.  They can get f****d.  (Fixed – what did you think I meant?)  I haven’t been into Leicester since Christmas and I think one visit every eight months is all that’s necessary.

We looked in many shops.  The boys looked at toys, computer games, gadgets and books while I looked at shoes, boots, sandals and books. I bought a boxed set of Powell & Pressburger DVDs for a fiver and a hairband with a red bow on – last of the big spenders, me.

However, we went into two shops in The Shires which, to me, were about as opposite as it was possible to be. 
The first was called (I think) The Model Shop.  It sold model kits of things; aeroplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, cars, Star Wars and Dr Who stuff and sets of figures to go with your kits.  It had a whole corner devoted to Hornby train sets and all the glorious paraphernalia that goes with it and we were all dry mouthed with excitement for different reasons.  I have a train set rattling in its box with nowhere to set it up.  Boy the Elder likes WW2 tanks, planes and ships and Boy the Younger likes planes, Star Wars and anything Boy the Elder has got.

There was no music playing and it was staffed by young men who knew all about the things they sold.  One chap spent ages with Boy the Younger helping him to find something he could manage without getting overwhelmed and dispirited.  All the things in the shop required an initial interest, patience, a bit of skill and the opportunity for development of one’s skill and the associated learning that comes with collecting things. 

It was lovely, although I admit I was the only girl in there and certainly the only one dribbling gently on the ‘OO’ gauge landscaping materials.  I nearly bought a ‘Trackside’ Morris Oxford, just in case, but Boy the Elder calmed me down, gave me an injection and persuaded me not to empty the garden shed in order to re-create a post war rural layout (mixed traffic)  in obsessive detail. 

The other shop was a place of horror and revulsion.  The Disney Store.  In some ways, I don’t feel the need to say anything else.  There was loud music blasting from speakers in the ceiling, nauseatingly perky, yet strangely passionless shop assistants pounced the minute one was through the door and the lighting could have been used to extract confessions from Russian dissidents.

It was bulging with plastic and polyester shite designed to turn parents upside down to extract every last penny from their fraying pockets.  Racks and racks of hideous merchandising from every film you can think of and some we didn’t even realize were Disney.  I didn’t see Mickey Mouse anywhere.  When Boy the Elder spotted Marvel Comic merchandise, he started sounding off in the way that only indignant teenage boys can.  When I explained to him that Disney had bought Marvel for $4 billion last year, he walked out of the shop, convinced that the world had ended.

Poor Boy the Younger just wanted to look at Buzz Lightyear drinks bottles, untroubled by the wailing and gnashing of teeth from his family, but it was horrible.  The worst thing was that everything was instant, required no skill or imagination and was utterly disposable. 

The two shops seemed to represent two separate worlds; one in which children’s play could be calm, constructive and fun, and one in which children were willing victims of the iniquity and greed of the merchandisers.  And naturally it is presented in such a way that the children are encouraged to want more and more as every new film comes out and the parents are too enfeebled and anaesthetised to say no.

Would anyone like to buy me a shed?


Filed under Children, Collecting, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Life in general, Product comparisons, Uncategorized

Reading room

I have many, many books and they are a source of great pleasure to me.  I so enjoy the finding of them and, even if I buy one that doesn’t get read for a while, I know it’s there waiting for its big moment.  I also try to ensure that I read a wide variety of subjects and genres; a great deal of my day is spent in the guise of ‘rude mechanical’ and I rely on both my books and Radio 4 to keep my brain ticking over.  My life as the Wartime Housewife enables me to write every night which also allows for a bit of cerebral calisthenics.

Other than the odd weekend, my only reading time is in bed at night; I always read for too long and feel tired in the morning, but I just can’t bear not to read.  There is something so secure and comforting about being snuggled up in bed with a good book and a large mug of Ovaltine.

Because my reading time is limited (which I’m sure is the same for most of us), I have become quite conscious that I must read a good variety of books.  In the days when I could read all weekend if I wanted to, I would have several books on the go, but my head is too full to manage that any more.

Therefore I decided to start writing down everything I read, not counting books that get dipped into or used only for reference.  Sister the First bought me a book journal a couple of years ago, which also has a bookmark, space for a pen and a little pocket to put notes or bits of paper in.  I write down the title and author of every book I start and tick it off when I’ve finished it.  If I don’t finish it, which is rare, I add a note to say what was wrong with it.

I love this system, because when I finish a book, I flick back through the list and see if I’ve been reading too much Andrew Martin or Boris Akunin and decide whether I’m feeling brainy enough to tackle something difficult.  I usually alternate my reading matter between easy books and difficult books, and if I’m feeling low, I will often bury myself in a childhood favourite or an often read Terry Pratchett.

My nightly reading is a signal that everything is OK.  If I stopped reading, I would feel that I had completely lost control of my life and my sense of self.  Melodramatic I know, but I am a reader of books.  I am an owner of books and I would rather have no furniture than no books.  I dream of having the time to catalogue each and every one and arrange them in my own wood-panelled library room which would contain nothing but high shelves of books, a large wing-back armchair and a desk with a full decanter of sherry always upon it.

One day, Sam, one day…


Filed under Collecting, Life in general, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Robert Opie: The Complete Package

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Robert Opie is a name familiar to many of  us as a consumer historian and through the wonderful range of products now in the shops bearing the best of  advertising and slogans from the past.  But it wasn’t always this way.

Opie came from a family of collectors; his father Peter collected books about children’s life and literature (a collection now in the Bodlean Library) and his mother, Iona, is a leading authority on European folklore, children’s street culture and nursery rhymes.  Between them they amassed an astonishing collection of children’s books, toys and games.

Robert had had the bog-standard collections as a child such as stamps and coins, but he wanted to find something different and more individual.   It all began with a packet of Munchies (purchased at Inverness railway station in 1963) when he was sixteen and he soon realized that it was possible to find earlier examples of packaging and products.

He began to collect everything he could find relating to consumer culture; cigarette packets, cereal boxes, tins, cartons, and this soon developed into a deeper interest in the origin and development of brands and advertising.

For many years the collection was kept at his own house, but it soon became impossible to maintain.  In 1984 it moved to the Museum of Advertising and Packaging in Gloucester, but in time, with a collection of over 12,000 items, the size and scope of the collection was proving to be a logistical and financial nightmare.  By 2001 it looked in serious danger of being sold off piecemeal as no-one seemed to have the foresight, or the money, to back this incredibly important social treasure trove.

Then, in 2005, the independent branding consultancy pi global got on board and began the arduous work of fundraising and getting the company charitable status.  The collection was then moved to their premises in London and became The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.

The American businessman, David Ogilvy stated “Advertising reflects the mores of society, but it does not influence them”.  Packaging gives a remarkable insight into the motivations of society and an inkling of where it is psychologically and socially rooted.  Opie comments “When the thousands of pieces of our social history are assembled into some giant jigsaw, the picture becomes clearer as to the remarkable journey we have all come through. I don’t see them as individual collections – they are one entity.  So, it’s like putting a jigsaw together. There are potentially a million items in this jigsaw and I’ve got half.  It’s selecting the items that fit together so the museum is laid out so that every part connects to the next part.  It’s only when you get enough pieces together that you can actually see the whole picture”.

If you can’t manage to get to the Museum, the next best thing is to collect his gorgeous Scrapbooks, which currently range from The Victorian to The 1970’s.  These are eye-wateringly sumptuous picture books arranged by subject with handwritten explanatory and introductory notes. They make great presents.

Opie is often asked whether he has a favourite  item  or something he is desperate to get his hands on.  He is always on the lookout for rare items.  Oxo packets are rare as no-one bothers to save them and he is desperate for a tin of wartime Spam.  If anyone has one lurking at the back of the cupboard, please send it to him (and make  sure you tell him the Wartime Housewife sent you!).  My Aunty MacHaggis had a cupboard full of ration tins until about 20 years ago – butter, milk etc and I’m sure there was a tin of Spam.  God forgive me, I threw them away.  I was young.

As for the future of the museum, Opie would like to include examples from the Egyptians and Romans.  They had pots, containers and toys and the story of consumer products goes back further than  one might think. 

For myself, I am just so happy that this remarkable man is finally making some proper wonga from a passion which will continue to benefit, not just the social historians, artists and advertisers, but anyone who has an interest in social history.  Or just appreciates a nice piece of packaging.


Filed under Collecting, History

Stock Exchange: buying and selling at the antique market

I had a bit of a haul at the Sunday Antique Market.  I really didn’t mean to go.  I picked Boy the Elder up from Scout Camp, went to church then remembered that I needed something from Sainsbury’s that I’d forgotten on Saturday.  Then I remembered that Smog needed a new flea collar and she will only wear yellow which means getting one from Wilkinson’s which is right next to the market. Rats.  Before I knew it, I had cruised in like a rooster and was contentedly browsing the stalls.

Now I happened to have, in the car, an inoffensive, mass-produced Japanese tea set that I had been given some time ago.  I have been attempting to downsize in view of the diminished proportions of WH HQ and I remembered that I had forgotten to take it in on Friday.  I fished it out and managed to persuade a feeble-minded trader to take it off my hands.  I only got beer money but I did then feel justified in doing another circuit of the hall.

One stall, quite uncharacteristically, had a load of magazines and ephemera onto which I swooped vampire-like.  This is what I bought:

  • A 1951 ‘Woman’s Own’ magazine – slightly tatty but containing a three-page section on producing a first Sunday lunch for a new bride
  • A wartime ‘Needlewoman and Needlecraft’ magazine which still had two transfer embroidery patterns in it
  • A Red Cross ’Junior Nursing Manual’ which has convinced me that children should stop learning PSHE and Citizenship and should be doing First Aid instead.

I spurn you OK, Chat and Heat as I would spurn a rabid dog

I also bought two Staffordshire china cups and saucers with violets on which will necessitate the purchase of a little purple or yellow teapot so I can be all elegant and co-ordinated and that.

All of this led me to rummage through my (badly arranged) collection of pamphlets and I rediscovered my 1930s ‘Hints for Home Sewing’ and a wartime Ministry of Food ‘ABC of Cookery’.

You will be glad to know that I will be sharing the contents of these with you. 
But I will do it gradually so you don’t get the vapours.


Filed under Collecting, Community and shopping

By Golly, I need to Buy Another Golly!

I am distraught. 

I came home this evening to find that, because the walls of my house are in really poor condition, my framed WI picture ‘For Home and Country’ had fallen off the wall.  As it descended (probably singing “Jerooosale-e-e-e-m” in a wobbly voice)  towards my cracked 1950’s tiled fireplace, it took just about everything on the mantelpiece with it.

The mantelpiece that housed my Golly Collection

Miraculously, the reproduction Florence Upton biscuit jar survived, as did my Robertson’s Golly moneybox; I think the knitted gollies may have broken their fall, or possibly they lifted up their little woolly arms in an heroic attempt to save…. No, alright, that didn’t happen. 
My Robertson’s Golly mug, however, was smashed to pieces. 

Wailey Wailey Wailey.

I have searched e-bay to no avail, but thankfully it is the fệte season and I might just get lucky.  If anyone comes across a white china mug with ‘Buy Golly Buy British’ and the Robertson’s Golly on it, please let me know.

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Filed under Collecting

A genuine benefit of moving

I have only been in the house I’m now leaving for a year and have only really just got everything where I want it.  Which means that I’ve never given myself the time to settle in to the habit of dipping into my library other than my reading books at night.

Tonight I was emptying the bookshelves in the sitting room.  I have a lovely glass-fronted cabinet on permanent loan from the Father of My Children in which I keep my Precious Books (other than Ladybird Books).  Fragile books from my childhood, colourful Victorian picture books, Kiplings, Hardys, some original editions by my great-grandfather who was a well known cartoonist; nothing of massive monetary value to anyone else, but objects of great beauty to me.

I confess that I lingered over the packing of them, admiring beautiful illustrations by Margaret Tarrant, Irene Cloke, Mabel Lucie Atwell and Edward Ardizzone.  I wondered , as always, at the nerve of Kipling putting swastikas on the spines of a set that included Stalky & Co and The Jungle Books.  Many of them have affectionate associations and I can always remember who gave me particular books and in what circumstances and I quietly thank them all over again.

In the bottom of this cabinet are the majority of my photo albums.  I’m very boring with my camera and I photograph everything I do for three reasons;

a)  I have a terrible memory and can’t remember what I’ve done or with whom unless I have a photographic record of it
b)  I’m a reasonably good photographer and love taking pictures
c)  No-one took pictures of my childhood and consequently I don’t know what I did.  Although my lovely sisters (in whom I am well pleased) recently found a load of slides and cine film which they put on disc that had the first photos I had ever seen of me as a little girl and it was the most incredible thing.

These carefully labelled albums catalogue my life from my late teens to when I moved to The Midlands in 1996.  I have another bookshelf upstairs that has a big, expandable album for every year since then.  If anything happened to me, they would provide a very good record for my children of who their family was and what they did.

Once I am settled in over the road, and have organised myself to a reasonable degree, I am going to make a point of looking in that cupboard more often, reading the books, sharing them with the boys. After all, there’s no point in having these things, if they just sit patiently behind glass, like prisoners who never have a visitor.


Filed under Children, Collecting, Family and Friends, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art