Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Flute, a Fox and a Philadelphus

The last few mornings, someone in a building behind us has been playing a wind instrument.  As I sit on the back garden bench reading and having my coffee, I can hear it drifting over the treetops. I romanticized it into some type of exotic Asian flute -- maybe played by a virtuoso of this obscure instrument, who otherwise plies his or her talents on stage in front of adoring multicultural fans.

But then I asked Dave about it, and he said, "Oh, that's just some kid fooling around with a recorder."

I'm not sure I agree with him. There's definitely a repeated pattern to the notes, which to me suggests deliberate playing, and this person plays for at least an hour at a time. I don't know why I think it sounds Asian, and I hope it's not offensive to anyone for me to say that, but it's definitely not "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Listen to it in the video above -- while enjoying a serene corner of our garden featuring our gong wind chime and blooming Philadelphus, or mock orange -- and tell me what you think.

And here's another mystery.

Yes, that's me, and no, I did not kill that animal. But it is a real animal, or at least, it used to be. While walking Olga I found a discarded round hatbox-style suitcase, very fashionable in a sort of Linda Ronstadt "Lush Life" way. I looked inside, and it contained some vintage women's hats, including a nice red 1940s number with a Macy's New York tag. It also contained this fur stole, which was made to be clipped around a woman's neckline. You've seen photos of those types of furs before -- they used to be quite the thing. (You can still buy them, although I wouldn't advise it.)

Apparently it's a fox, and it's extra long because it's made from more than one. (I picked up that little fact here, a website for a museum where a nearly identical stole is on display.) Although it looks a little scraggly in the photo, it was actually in good condition.

As gruesome as it is to my modern sensibilities, I couldn't let that creature go out with the trash, could I? Some vintage clothing aficionado would be so into it! So I picked everything up, hats, suitcase and all, and later took it to Oxfam. I showed the workers there what the bag contained, so there would be no ugly surprises when they opened it.

Meanwhile, Dave couldn't resist taking a picture, because without a doubt this is one of the weirder things I've ever brought home.

Speaking of Dave, he got launched on his American odyssey yesterday, and last I heard he was in New York waiting for his connecting flight to Michigan. He's probably there by now, and probably sound asleep.


  1. No idea what the instrument is but it's not very " tuneful" is it?

  2. That's not a wind instrument, it's the rare finchley finch singing plaintively for a mate. Did you find the sweatshirt, the chequered shorts and the cap on Hampstead Heath? I guess they had been cast down by a homeless man who had acquired a more acceptable outfit.

  3. Thanks for the laugh, Mr. Pudding. I remember my school days in Paris when all the French kids would have killed for a State U. sweatshirt. That distinctive American Academic font was all the rage...maybe it still is?

    Speaking of fashion trends, I was traumatized when I was six years old by an old lady wearing a fox stole, complete with head and glassy eyes staring at me. How on Earth did THAT become a la mode???

    Great find, though. I'm sure a fashion historian will treasure your donation.

  4. Yes, the stoles were common when I was a little kid in the 40's. I would wonder why this was thrown away.

  5. my laugh for today! thanks Steve you are a hoot!!

  6. Whoever that is playing whatever that is has no idea that he is being heard all the way across America and possibly further. Isn't that remarkable?
    I love the fox! My grandmother used to have one only hers was brown and it had the head on it. In fact, the head had a clasp under it and that is how you draped it around your neck and used the clasp to fasten it. That way it looked like the fox was biting itself. Sounds horrible, doesn't it? The fashion horrors of the past have been replaced by the fashion horrors of today.

  7. It does sound like someone is trying to make music. Oh just seeing that fox reminds me of my mother's cousins who were furriers in the 1920s-1950s in New Jersey. My mom had a long fur coat from them that she never wore. I always felt so bad for the animals. I'm glad you rescued that one.

  8. If it's a recorder it's like they're barely blowing into it. We had someone play a recorder at our wedding, and it makes a nice big sound if you do it properly. The way this instrument is played you can't really tell what it might be.

    That's a hilarious picture of you with the stole - so much irony there! Ha!

  9. Steve, first of all, thank you for going back to seek the boots. That was above and beyond the call of duty, and I hereby award you The Order Of Merit For Foreign Persons (3rd class) It might have been 2nd class if you'd found them. Your fox find (and hats) were truly a serendipitous find. I'm sure the BBC costume department would have welcomed them with open arms and probably an open cheque book, but your sterling character thrust you into the charitable option. I would expect no less from you (I might up that Order Of Merit.. up to 2nd class). We shall see! I bought an enormous box of bits and bobs from an auction, years ago, and I was amazed to find ermine and mink wraps in it. My daughter and her friend quickly claimed them for dressing up, and I had the consolation of knowing the poor creatures had not died in vain! I can't say the same for another poor soul. My first husband, after 18 years of marriage, bought me a PONY SKIN coat. After 18 years he still didn't know me. We got divorced soon after, it wasn't just the ponyskin, but a 22 year old F1 racing mechanic, might have had something to do with it. (I was 35) and yes, reader, I married him!

  10. PS. We have been having fun betting on Ascot. So far we're £75 up. Next race I've bet on Coeur de Lion @ 5 to 1. and husband is White Desert. Hope they win 'cos we're off on a long holiday in a few days.

  11. Didn't work well. I'm on scarlet dragon in next, husband on chain Of Daisies. even if they are both unplaced we'll still be in credit. We set ourselves an amount we don't mind losing, (think how much the cinema costs, and we've had hours of pleasure. (As son as we run out of credit, we stop.) Keep your fingers crossed.

  12. I have to go along with Dave on the flute/recorder music. Whoever is "playing" it doesn't have a very good ear, I'd say, meaning it is probably a child. I LOVE your Philadelphus plant though. Now about that fox stole . . . well, enough said.

  13. An ironic twist, you finding that fox and the other things, considering how much you like them and would never turn one into a stole yourself. Lesley UK is correct re her Order of Merit, love the sweat shirt...

  14. my grandmother had one of those, not that exactly. whatever the animal was it was small enough to require several to go around the shoulders. and you never fail to amuse!

  15. I have to say it sounds like a recorder to me also. It sounds like someone is practicing their trills. That mock orange is gorgeous!

    You and Yorkshire Pudding both hit the macabre jackpot today! That stole is just I. CAN'T. EVEN.


  16. I love that picture of you!
    And what great finds! Of course you could not let those things go into the trash. At the very least it would have been so disrespectful to the fox. It appears to have kept very well.

  17. You find the coolest stuff! How lucky you are! That is one hella cool fox! The hats must have been amazing, too.

  18. Frances: It's all in the playing!

    YP: Those are my very own clothes, thank you very much. I only own a handful of things previously owned by homeless people. :)

    Vivian: Yeah, you gotta wonder who ever thought leaving the head (and the feet!) on was a good idea. The State U sweatshirt look is still popular. Now Abercrombie and those other big brands generate their own!

    Red: I guess someone just couldn't be bothered to take it to a charity shop. I don't understand people!

    Vivian: I'm glad you got a laugh! :)

    Sharon: The magic of the Internet! It IS kind of mind-blowing. This one has the head still, too, and yes, the clip was under the chin. It is definitely a very bizarre fashion item.

    Robin: I figured if that poor fox (or foxes) gave its (their) life (lives) for this stole, the least we can do is make it last!

    Bug: Well, I have no idea exactly where this recorder is being played. It's in a nearby flat, but it could be a block away, I suppose!

    Lesley: Thank you so much for the OMFP-3! I am SO honored. I didn't even think of the BBC costume department! I'm a terrible entrepreneur. Hope your horses came through for you!

    Catalyst: Yeah, that plant is pretty spectacular at this time of year. We have two of them, actually, very big ones.

    E: I know! If I could breathe new life into it, I would.

    Ellen: I've seen those types of stoles, too -- with several little critters all clasping each other by the tail. Minks or marmots or something. It really IS a very strange idea.

    Jenny-O: Whatever they're practicing, it is a deliberate exercise -- there's variation in the notes but within a pattern, if that makes sense. Trills might be the answer.

    Ms Moon: That's exactly what I thought! That poor fox (foxes) DIED to make that stole! The very least we could do is give it the longest life possible.

    Linda Sue: Yeah, I wish I'd photographed the red hat, too, because I think it was probably worth something. The old Macy's tag was very cool.