Dunkirk and 40’s attire…

Last weekend me and Andrew went to see Dunkirk at the movies. But you know how it is, when you are a reenactor, you can’t just go see a historic movie without any fuss done about it. So of course we had to dress up for it!

A few weeks ago Andrew discovered that an Australian reenactor aquaintance of his had also moved here to Sweden (!), and now lived only about an hour away from us! Reenactors being few and far between in the part of the country that we are in we went and visited them (him and his Swedish girlfriend) and had a good time talking about mutual interests. Anyway, one thing that we deicided was that since we all wanted to go see Dunkirk when it came out we should make an event of it, meet in a town half way and dress up in appropriate attire. Obvioulsy 😉

I am almost ashamed to admit that Iactually had no proper 40’s gear. I had one dress, that I made years ago from a 40’s pattern and that I use more as an everyday dress. Nothing else really. Even though I love this era and the fashion of the time! But you know how it is, the list of things to sew is ever long and some things you just don’t get around to. This plan of ours though of course meant that I had to make myself some! I had a hat already, one that I had made for school and that I really like. So that was my starting point. And after looking through my fabric stash I found some apporiate ones. I wanted to go for a rather simple and everyday type outfit, something that would easily have been worn during the war. So I went for a skirt and blouse. The blouse was a tan coloured cotton, and made using a 40’s pattern. And the skirt was a blue wool I had bought on my last visit to England.

Becuase I used materials from my stash, and already had the hat, stockings and shoes (a thrift store find) the only thing I had to buy for this outfit in the end were the buttons for the blouse. I felt rather proud to only have spent 20 kronor (about £2) on this whole outfit! In true a war-time frugality spirit 🙂

I have enough experience of sewing now to mostly be able to confidently make the things I want, but that doesn’t mean almost every project has moments of despair when it feels like it’s never going to look right in the end. With this one for a long time I was convinced the blouse was looking more like a potato sack rather than an elegant garment. But somehow once the collar and sleeves came on it rather miraciously looked perfectly fine! Andrew is forever telling me to stop being to critical of my own work…

Now for the guys; obvioulsy they were going to go in uniform! Andrew has a large number of WW2 uniforms, but unfortunately they are all still in New Zealand. So he had to end up borrowing one from John, with his own hat and some other things. Both of them, being proud ANZAC’s, wanted to go as their own nationality, so New Zealand and Australia it was!

We headed into town hours before the movie started, to have a chance to just walk around in our nice clothes and take some photos.

John, Matilda, me and Andrew outside Örebro castle. John in his Australian uniform and Andrew in his New Zealand one.


If there is a canon you need a photo with it, right?!

Andrew really looking the part I think. The moustache is in preparation for a reenactment where he will be a french grenadier, and consequently need a moustache. But it really works for this too!

Matilda and I. I really loved wearing this outfit!


“A soldier and his sweetheart” #1

In my experiece Swedes are VERY bad at dealing with people in “weird” clothes. At other times when we have dressed up here most people that we’ve encountered have done everything in their power to NOT see us. It’s like people get embaressed or something, I don’t know what it is! Whereas in most other countries people tend to come up to you, ask questions and want to take photos. This time though, Sweden did a much better job that usual. I was quite impressed! We had so many people look at us, ask us why we were dressed up and take photos. When we walked past an outdoor serving restaurant the whole place burst into applause! Why I don’t quite know, but we enjoyed it all the same!


For a different setting we headed to and English style pub, The Bishop’s Arms”, to take some more photos

Soldiers need to relax and read too!


“A soldier and his sweetheart” #2
There was a rather suitable picture at the pub…

Excited new soldiers off to serve their country!
“A soldier and his sweetheart” #3
“A soldier and his sweetheart” #4

As to the actual movie, well it was fantastic!! I know a lot has probably already been said about this movie, and I’m not going into the details of the story, I think most people probably know what it’s about. But I have to say that I thought it was very beautifully made. So many war movies are full of blood and goore, honour and glory. This one wasn’t. It was more just about survival. About a desperate will to stay alive, fighting for your life. And it was very human and somehow strangely humble. I was very touched by the movie, will admit I may have cried a little during it, and very much would like to see it again! I would definitely recommend anyone who hasn’t already seen it to go do so!

It was such a lovely day, fun times spent with friends, wearing historical clothes. And now that I have a proper 40’s attire, I can’t wait to use it again sometime soon!!

My mum

I really was back to it again, back to blogging and writing, but then something happened that I hadn’t planned for. My beloved mum passed away three months ago. Just a few days after I last posted. She had been ill for quite a while, but we never excpected her to actually die. I had complete faith that she would get well again. So it came as a huge shock and turned the world upside down. I still can’t understand that she is gone. I miss her every minute of every day.

There is so much I could say about it, and yet at the same time I have no words. So for now I just wanted to let you know this is what happened. This is why I disappeared yet again. But I’m back now.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow

Isn’t that a beautiful quote; “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”? I read it just recently and thought it was so true, and so prettily put!

Spring is here in full swing, and with spring comes a desire to get out in the garden, pop seeds in the ground and get your hands dirty. I would say that prior to this year I have had a mild and lukewarm interest in the whole concept of gardening. I’ve gone through little spurts now and then, when I’ve wanted to plant some flowers or herbs or something. But I don’t quite know what happened to me this year, it’s like something in me just snapped and I embarked on this slight obsession of gardening! When trying to figure out why I put it down to two things; firstly beacuase life has been very strenuous on me mentally lately and for quite a while. And doing something physical and practical like dig up earth for a vegetable patch has been so soothing and felt like something I can finally control. Secondly, and a more fun reason, is that I have completely fallen in love with the concept of the WW2 Women’s Land Army, or the “Land Girls” as they were also known. And in a secret wish to be one I took to the garden with a spade in my hand! You will probably here me mention the Land Girls on here quite a bit more in the future!

What could be more springy, choosing seeds and planning your garden with a big bunch of tulips infront of you!

So I’ve started out probably way to ambitiously, wanting to do everything I can think of at the same time pretty much. I think of ideas, want to do them and search around until I find a spot where I can make something of it. My family’s little farm, where I am currently living, does already have a big garden, with heaps of friut trees, some already excisting vegetable patches and a few flower beds where I have previously planted mainly roses. But with a big garden comes never ending opportunities to keep updating, developing and trying new ideas out! That means I have not only been keeping busy trying to do maintanance on already existing things but I’ve also expanded beyond that. My hope and plan is to be able to fill up the place with lots more flowers, because who doesn’t like a garden full of flowers right?! And then I also decided to go ahead and extend the vegetable garden, first and foremost by building a raised vegetable bed.

My parents had started the project up a few years ago by covering the ground where the plan was to eventually make something, and when I came across this blog post here on how to build your own raised vegetable bed, easily and cheaply I thought I might as well give it a go. I mean how hard could it be?!

Building mode! Of course with a cup of tea as accompaniment 😉 

I am no carpenter, but I managed to build these almost completely on my own, from material we had lying around. I didn’t need to purchase anything for it, so it really was cheap! And I really think they turned out very well! I didn’t follow the instructions in the post I mentioned earlier completely, but they were good guidelines and I just adapted to be able to use whatever we had at home.

I’m really quite pleased with how these turned out. I am hoping to eventually be able to paint them as well, preferably in a nice green… 

The amount of weeding that had to be done with the new soil though…. Filled the wheelbarrow!

This is what the raised garden looks like. Still needs more soil in the left one. The plan is to have vegetables in the right one, and eventually fill the whole of the left one up with strawberries…. *dreams*  The middle stip is covered for a possible third one at some other point.

That has definitely been the biggest one of my garden projects so far, taking several days to complete. In fact it isn’t complete yet as half of them still need to be filled up with soil.

The old vegetable patch has also been dug up and prepared. The blisters on my hands were numerous and paintful, but the result will be lovely, once all those peas, beans and potatoes start growing there…

After I finally finished digging it all up by hand.

Beautiful, sunny day in the garden can’t help but put a smile on your face! 

Now here is something else I’ve been playing around with. As people who know me will be aware of I am quite a hands on person, who really likes crafty things. And I always like to try to make things myself, even if I don’t have the right materials around or know what I’m doing. So I wanted to make these structures, for binding up my peas and flowers on. I confess I mainly got my inspiration for this from Hobbiton, with a bit of English cottage garden style thrown in for good measure.

Anyway, I went in to the forest, and cut down a big pile of sticks, and voila! An hour later I had these!

Aren’t they pretty?! They will look so good with peas climbing all over them! 

I know you traditionally use willow, but I just grabbed whatever branches I thought would work and used those. Turned out fine 🙂

Andrew helping me collect up some of my twigs, just after he returned from a horse ride.

Since weaving with sticks was so much fun I wanted to do something more, so I decided to make a fence. Because why not right? So I made one around the new flower bed I had just dug up. This used to be a flower bed, once upon a time many years ago. With a sun dial in the middle. But for the last 10 years at least it has been nothing but an overgrown pile of weeds. But now it will be restored to it’s former glory, and then some!

Ta-da! Cute eh?! 

I mean what’s not to love about adorable little minature fences! 

So yeah, as you can see this is something that has been keeping me busy on many a fine spring day this year. To be honest though, even not so fine spring days when the snow was still lying around I was also out working, just because I was so eager to keep going!

I have many more things to plant, but I have made a start and the windows in the dining room are starting to slowly fill up with little green sprouts of various sorts. I check them eagerly and with anticipation every morning, to see if anything new has appeard overnight! I know I am exaggeratedly excited about this, and I’m sure it won’t remain that way for too long, but for now I’m enjoying it a lot. 🙂

Welcome my little sprouts!

 

“A Garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; and above all it teaches entire trust. “

~Gertrude Jekyll

When the local library surprises you

Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised by little towns and things they can offer. The other day I popped into the library on my way to work to pick up a book, and hidden away in a corner was a lovely large display of historical clothes and dolls!

Katrineholm’s library IS on a whole a very nice one, especially for the size of the town it is in, but finding an exhibit like this there was still a surprise!

The collection was owned by a lady (Elin was her name) who lived from 1890 till 1962 and was very active in Katrineholm (apparently). She had an interest in collecting historical items ever since she was a young girl and her collection grew to contain 1400 textile pieces (clothes etc) and 400 dolls. On the plaque it said that she saw her collection as a substitute for the children she could never have and as something to leave as a legacy to the afterworld.

As with so many things we have around us all the time it is so easy to forget when we look at something that it is someones life and work we are looking at. I mean a collection of clothes is all very nice and interesting in their own right I think, but it sort of makes me feel humble to be reminded that it is more than that. Whether it is a military medal, a worn out shirt or a collection of dolls, that is someone’s life and their story in a way. And I like thinking of it like that.

With that said I hope a fair amount of people find their way to that corner of the library, and take some time to look and appreciate some of these beautiful pieces!

As for the dolls there were literally hundreds of them there. All kinds and all shapes and sizes.
But somehow out of all those beautiful dolls this one to the right here was my favourite.

It’s a piece of a plank, wrapped up in paper with a face painted onto it. It is so crude and simple and that is why I like it. When I was a kid I remember making dolls out of anything I could think of. I had plenty of “real” ones, but even so I just liked making them too. I had one which was a huge squash wrapped up in a blanket with a face glued on, and another one which was some sticks with a carved out potato for a head…. that’s the one this one here reminds me of. It has the same slightly angry look on its face. I hope some girl made it all those years back, and loved it and played with it just like I did with my dolls!

Hello again! Still alive over here!

Hello!

I cannot believe how long it has been since I wrote on this blog the last time. Over a year and half! And why? I don’t know. Things happen, you get in a rut, and the longer you go from writing, the harder it is to get back to it again. I guess it’s been, not necessarily always so busy, but in several ways quite a hard, stressful year for me, and I’ve struggled to keep on top of things anyway. And so the blog has just been one of those things that has had to suffer for it. But that can change right?! 😀 So now I’m going to start posting again. And I’ll be posting about some stuff like I used to, and then add more things in that I also want to write about. Broaden my subejcts a little bit.

So I’m trying to update the look and general image of the blog (a lot of it for my own sake!) and get some different posts written up. But I’m back and am going to be breathing some new life into this blog, so if anyone is still around to read this, thank you and I’m excited to be back!

Speak to you soon (and I mean it!!)! 😀

Waterloo part 2 – Balls and Battles

So the ball and the battle? Well I said I’d write about those next so that’s what I’m going to do.
As I’m sure you all know, in 1815 on June 17th there was a big ball held in Brussles; the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball. And at this ball many of the British officers were attending, as well as all the high and mighty people of society who were present. And it was during this ball that a messenger came with the news that Napoleon’s army was getting close, and Lord Wellinton (who was also at the ball) informed all the guests that they would be marching out that very night, but not before finishing off the last dance.

It’s probably the most famous ball in history and during the year there have been quite a few Duchesse’s of Richmond’s balls around, but this one was the one that me and Andrew wanted to go to, becuase it was on the right day, in the right city.

Since we were staying at the camp we had to get changed and ready for the ball in a tent. That was a new experience for me, it’s not quite the same as fixing your hair and putting on all your finery in a hotel room. But it worked. We were taking the car from Waterloo and into Brussels and we had rather a nice experience along the way. As we got into Brussels we became a little unsure of which road to take, so we stopped by this service station and went inside to ask. Of course, when you are in costume you tend to always get attention or a reaction, but this time it was rather funny. At the service station there was the lady working there and two older gentlemen, who seemed to be hanging out there just chatting, and when they spotted us one of the gentelemen got incredibly excited and started shouting “Napoleon! Napoleon!” to Andrew. But then he realised he was in a British uniform and corrected himself; “No! Wellington! Wellington!” He was almost jumping up and down with excitement! We tried to ask for directions to this house where the ball was, but none of them spoke any English really and our French isn’t the best. So then the excited gentelman gestured for us to follow him outside, and then he hopped into the back of our car and said he’d show us the way! So he came with us for the rest of the drive, pointing which directions to go and when we arrived he just jumped out wished us a pleasant evening and, with another little excited “Wellington!” walked back in the direction we came from! It was just so sweet and nice and it was just one of those great moments of friendly and helpful people! That he was really tiny and had a true Asterix mustache just made it all the better!

Anyway, we arrived at this lovely house where the ball was. Had time to meet all the people we know there before the dancing was to start. It really was nice to see everyone again, so many people I haven’t met in so long! Even a lady who I met in LA 8 years ago, at a Victorian ball well before any of my Jane Austen events! Those are the times when I’m so happy and grateful there are things like Facebook which means you can keep in touch for all that time and distance!

The dancing was great, as usual. But also as often is the case it was very crowded and hot. But very fun! There was a fantastic performance by a Canadian Fife and Drum group (I cannot remember the name of them…) and the Duke of Wellington was there giving speeches and, of course, towards the end of the evening, informing us of Napoleon’s arrival and that there was to be a battle, at a place called Waterloo.

It felt very special to be part of this historic event, and I’m so glad we were able to get tickets to go!

Andrew in the garden of the house where the ball was

Dancing. See what I mean about it being crowded?

All rights reserved by Phil Thomason for this beautiful image. I don’t have many photos of me from this ball, but here at least you can see my new dress 

Another picture that I love. All rights reserved for this one by Michel Van Reysen

And the battle? Well there were actually two battles; one on the Friday and one on the Saturday. I was fortunate enough to get to see both of them, which I was very happy  about.

For the first battle I marched with the soldiers, together with the rest of the camp followers who were to watch. The battlefield was a couple of kilometers away from the camp but I think it took us like 1 ½ – 2 hours to get there! For one reason because it takes a long time to get thousands of people from one place to another, but then there was also this bridge that we had to cross and that had broken when they had dragged one of the cannons over it! So we just had to patiently wait while they mended the bridge again!

 

The Nordic Battalion marching off to battle

It was quite an amazing feeling walking on to that battlefield. Even though we weren’t to take part we had to cross the whole field to get to the area where the camp followers were to sit. The field was massive and around it were these big stands for the audience, 60 000 spectators per battle!

Entering the battlefield. Hougoumont farm to the right

The Duke of Wellington with Hougoumont farm in the background (not the real one, just the one for the battle)

Nordic Battalion once again. Observe some of the audience in the background

This is where us camp followers got to sit

I managed to get a photo of Andrew as I walked past on the battlefield. He’s in the middle, with his head turned to the right.

They started off by playing very loud music on loud speakers, which I must say although it did sound pretty epic felt a little unnecessary. It wasn’t a show as such but a historical re-creation of a battle! But at least they didn’t keep the music going for very long.

From where we sat we had a pretty good view of the battlefield, that is until the fighting started! Then most of the field was swallowed up in a big cloud of gunpowder smoke. I now know exactly what they mean when they talk about the fog of war!

But we could still see of course. The second day even more so because then they had moved the action a little bit closer to the audience and we could feel the ground shake from the cannons firing around us and the horses thundering past! It was truly epic and amazing! I kinda wish I had actually been part of the battle itself and not just a spectator, but even being a spectator was incredible! And from what I’ve heard from those who were in the fighting it was all fantastic and felt so real at times that they almost forgot it was only pretend. Andrew said that when the horses came charging at their line you were terrified for real, and I can sure imagine it!

As with any event of this size and style of coruse there are injuries. And Waterloo was no different. There were gunpowder burns, fractured bones, people falling of horses and accidentally being slashed with swords (which though blunt would still hurt if you were hit by one). Ambulance was on stand by at all times and I have to say the medical service did a great job at this event (I can say so from personal experience since I managed to stupidly chop my own thumb with an axe and was sent to hospital..). But the scariest moment for me was when we were watching the battle and right infront of us this man falls of his horse but is caught by his foot in the stirrups. The horse of course freaked out and started charging around, with the poor man being bashed around left right and center. It looked like he kept being stepped on and people were trying to stop the horse. Everyone kept their breath and honestly we thought he was gone. But then he came loose, got to his feet and jumped right back onto the horse again as if nothing had happened! The whole audience cheered! But that was a bit too realistic to be comfortabel!

Before the smoke had completely covered everything

Cavalry in the distance

I loved the fact that it was in a field of crops like this, just made it feel all the more authentic!

Fire!

A thin line of red. The French were on the other end of the field, so I didn’t really get any photos of them

Beautiful, beautiful horses! 

The other farm house in the distance, that I sadly can’t remember the name of…

I’m rather proud of this picture, even though I know Isabel got one that was even better 😉 

With this one I like how clearly all the cross belts stand out!

I have a couple of short videos that I filmed while watching the battle as well that I thought I’d share. Just so you can get some sound and movement to the whole thing too 🙂

Sorry the quality isn’t better though 🙁

And that my dear friends really sums up my experience of the Waterloo 200 reenactment. I’m so glad I participated, I don’t know if there will ever be another event on this scale in my life time. But if it isn’t, at least I can say I was part of this one! And now I cannot wait for another reenactmetn!

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