Finding Dreamland

Stepping off the train into the Margate sunshine, I could see the skeletal bends of a ferris wheel amidst the skyline, its colourful carts like dangly limbs, waving in the distance.

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It took us an hour and 40 minutes to get here from London Victoria. Here being: Dreamland.

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The park had only been open for two weekends at the time so I was anticipating queues, but surprisingly, it was quite quiet. The longest queue was for the Dodgems (solo riders – what ya gonna do?) and after a quick glance, you could easily steal a siesta on the huge, pastel stripy deck chair in the entrance.

Dreamland first became Dreamland in 1920, when its scenic railway opened (which also just so happens to be the oldest roller coaster in the UK). The walk towards the entrance is decorated with walls lined in old black and white photos, taken throughout the park’s history. It’s easy to romanticise a place when you can picture men and women catching the train from London to spend a night at the ballroom, meeting lovers and then letting their cares drift away in the blinkering bulbs and stir of the sea air, mid-spin on The Twister.

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In the early 2000’s Dreamland began to decline in popularity, and by 2005 was handed over to Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company. Luckily, residents weren’t going to give up on such a special attraction that easily, and so petitioned to have it brought back to its former glory. And it worked, re-opening in June.

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The care and thought that has gone into this project is truly amazing. Every little detail of the park is magical, from the vintage arcade machines and low-lit roller disco, to the live band playing retro jams in the food court and doughnut cushion prizes (which I am still sore about not winning).

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While the exterior may seem pastel perfect, what I really loved about Dreamland was how the history of it has been kept alive. Many of the rides, if not all of them are originals to the park or date back to previous eras, having been restored to fulfil their destinies once again.

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You can read about the origins of each ride while waiting, which got me thinking about how truly amazing theme park rides are. Not only is the engineering just incredible, but also the designs. Whether the crazed charisma of an enlarged caterpillar coaster face, or the classic glittering gold of a carousel horse’s handle, it all goes towards creating this fantasy world, where for a few minutes you can just focus on the breeze against your cheeks and butterflies in your stomach.

Yet as you step outside onto the Margate promenade, you realise what a strange little place Dreamland is. This obnoxiously colourful paradise of fun and ice cream and nostalgia, sat awkwardly amidst the broken skyline of Margate.

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Dreamland has so wonderfully captured the atmosphere of escape, where you can disappear for a while into fun, into love, and into the past. Though the sky is the one reminder that nostalgia is just a feeling, and we’ll never quite capture the way Dreamland was before, and that’s ok. That was their Dreamland, this is ours.

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It Follows

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I love horror films, yet bizarrely, rarely watch any modern releases of the genre. I’ve become completely switched off from them, expecting another lazy plot that relies on cheap cliches with no originality behind them. Horror, in my experience, has become a genre that requires you to dig a little deeper to find the good, or at least intriguing stuff.

When I heard about It Follows though, I was excited. The plot sounded curious, recommendations were enthusiastically spooked, while the retro-style of the posters just made it look very cool. So last night, at last, I settled down with a mug of hot peppermint tea as the weather perfectly timed the rain, and pressed play.

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Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows is a hark back to 70’s and 80’s horror, with a synth-tastic score reminiscent of John Carpenter and a lazy, suburban setting where the only distractions are a large, leafy pool and old black and white movies playing in a dimly lit living room.

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David’s idea for the movie apparently originated from recurring dreams as a kid, in which he was being followed. That unanswerable, uncanny, ghoulish nausea in the pitt of your stomach after waking up from a really bad nightmare is the best way to describe the follower. We don’t know what it is, or where it’s come from. We only know that it can take various zombie-like forms, that it walks slowly to its prey, and the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on by sleeping with someone.

Oh, and there’s one other catch — that person you sleep with? They have to pass it on too, because if it kills them you’ll start being followed again. So you see, you’re never completely in the clear from this haunting presence. Once you’re part of the chain, it could be walking towards you at any moment.

Jay Height, played by Maika Monroe, is unluckily made the next link. After sleeping with her boyfriend, Hugh, she is rather un-romantically chloroformed and tied up in a car park, where Hugh explains to her the situation, and that whilst he is very sorry about doing this to her, the follower is her problem now.

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The style and direction of this movie was so refreshing to watch. Long, lingering shots, slow zoom-ins, lonesome locations and that soundtrack — this movie isn’t all about the jumps and easy scares. It uses instead the nostalgia of older movies to create a recognisable, yet oppressively creepy atmosphere that offers no relief from its spookiness.

I suppose my only frustration was the desire for answers. Where had this thing come from? Why was it following people after they’d had sex? What would it do if it ever reached the very first person it started with?! But on thinking about this more, I became content that this premise isn’t meant to be answered. I enjoyed the chill of such an idea as though it were a manifestation of anxiety; this emotion that you can’t quite pin down and so it remains scary.

Horror movies aren’t for everyone, but I still find it sad when I hear others say they actually hate the genre because, “it’s rubbish”. Horror movies can be creative, terrifying and stay with you throughout the long night’s sleep after watching it. It Follows proves this.

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PS Not one to watch if hoping to get lucky on a date night.

Rating: 4 stars

Battersea Booty

Hello!
It’s that time of year again where I go absolutely crazy for visiting car boot sales every Sunday (hence the thrift-heavy blog posts of late).

Since Thursday one of my best friends has been staying with us and so I booked two days off work to hang out. It’s been really fun! On Thursday we visited Spitafield’s antique market, on Friday we went to the Horniman Museum, Saturday we ambled about Covent Garden and got Chinese takeaway, then today we went to the Battersea car boot.

I’d been doing some research into the car boot sales nearest to Peckham and loved the sound of the Battersea one for two reasons:

1. It’s a large and very established car boot
2. It’s on in the afternoon

That second reason was what really won me over. I’m really not a morning person and in truth usually only make it to other car boots right before they close! This whole afternoon thing sounded like a dream to me.

After a short(ish) bus journey we found ourselves walking into a rather large queue of fellow car booters. Luckily the weather was lovely and the queue moved quickly, so it wasn’t too bad. You pay a 50p entrance fee and then the thrifting can begin.

The first thing I spotted was these vintage roller skates:

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I haven’t used roller skates since I was about eight but have been wanting to buy some for a while now. I love the idea of roller skating places this summer (though after my attempts outside the flat earlier, It’s going to take some practice!)

The next item I found was this beautiful 1970’s vintage dress:

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Dreamiest pattern ever?

My friend managed to find some great stuff too, including a large elephant throw and a £2 St. Michael jumper. While the Battersea booty definitely led us to some fruitful treasures, there were some downsides. Firstly, it’s more expensive than your average boot sale. Most items I enquired about were selling for £5 and above, which compared to Hook Road, where most things go for 50p upwards, seemed like quite a lot.

Secondly, it’s VERY busy. This is to be expected, but the narrow lanes meant my friend and I were sometimes trapped for a while trying to get through the crowds.

I’d still definitely recommend it for anyone looking to find some unique things on a Sunday afternoon. The area of Battersea nearby also has lots of cute little shops, including charity shops filled with bric a brac (heaven!) I made one more purchase on our way back, because, how could I leave this behind?!

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Have a lovely week everyone!
Amber xx

Hook Road Car Boot Sale

Hey hey,
I thought I’d finish off the Bank holiday with a quick little blog post about some of the vintage, kitschy treasures I found today at the Hook Road car boot sale.

My dad got married on Saturday, which was lovely, but I’ve felt in this permanent state of sleepiness lately. Life has been strangely busy for me and as an introverted, sloth-like soul who spends most of their time hibernating, I don’t think my body’s coping too well with having so many plans! I can’t really complain though, having spent yesterday recovering at my dads with my dog, boyfriend, cheese strings and cozy TV.

I also managed to persuade my dad to drive me to the Hook Road car boot sale this morning. He may grumble about the early start but I know that he quite enjoys perusing too! I haven’t been to very many other car boot sales, but the Hook Road one really is great. The atmosphere’s always bustling and friendly, with an ice cream van and lots of cute little dogs about (always a plus!)

Today’s car boot was the largest yet, stretching all the way to the very back of the field. An hour and a half, along with three bags of kitschy treasure later I headed back home. Here are some highlights of what I found:

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A little vintage poodle, which just so happens to match the lamp version I own. I love finding long lost sets of things!

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A set of vintage deer for just £1.

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This wally dog was sold to me by a man turning them into lamp bases. He told me about how he’d not got around to completing a lot of them so had ended up with a lot of ornaments with holes in their head! I loved his idea though so still bought one for £2 and am going to buy a vintage pleated lamp shade for it.

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It’s a little Fred Flour! He now has pride of place on the kitchen shelf, alongside all the cacti and my succulent.

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Of all my finds these are my favourite. The lady that sold them to me mentioned they used to be popular in the 70s as bedroom decor for little girls.

Is there a better way to end a lovely Bank holiday weekend than with a brilliant car boot haul? I don’t think so! I hope you all had lovely weekends too.
Now, I’m off to bed — g’night!
Amber xxx

Stuff & things.

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Last month I went to see an exhibition at the Barbican Centre called, “Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector”. Each room was filled with bits and pieces, all so strange looking within the blank spaces. I felt as though I’d walked into a locked away part of each artist’s brain, the odd details of their worlds floating aimlessly in front of me.

As I let my eye’s dart from the dusty old witch puppet to vintage pinball machine to large horse statue in Hanne Darboven’s collection, it made my heart sore. I felt like if I could just stare at each object for long enough, I might understand all the mysteries behind it: Where had it come from? What era? What was it about that old Turkish shoe that Peter Blake loved? Would Andy Warhol and I have been friends because of our similar taste in cookie jars?

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…Then you’re brought back to reality. It’s just a thing. There’s no answers or connections to be found within the ceramic structures of a mouse figurine, or the fragile wooden frame of an old chair. It’s breakable. Disposable. Nothing, right?

But I can’t follow that argument through, because I too collect things. When I was younger it was car models and limited edition chocolate bars, while nowadays it’s patterned jumpers, Babycham merchandise and vintage figurines. These are more than just things to me. They’re the narratives people have given them, and will continue to give them. They’re the still portals to different minds and different times. They’re something to focus on in the midst of worry, stress and sadness, enabling you to curate and organise your own little microcosmic worlds.

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When I think about collecting, I also think of one of my favourite films, Ghost World, in which there is a character called Seymour. Struggling to make connections with other people, he’s turned to collecting objects from the past as a way to connect with life instead. In his case, he’s not happy. It’s something that’s completely taken over his life, creating even more of a barrier between him and others.

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One of the most interesting things I read at the Barbican's exhibition was that Andy Warhol's cookie jars had been mostly found in the bags he'd bought them in, sitting in the corners of his apartment untouched. This made me think about the negative side to it too; about the ways we all try to fill our lives with meaning through stuff, and how when that stuff becomes destructive to your life it's a trait that has to go.

And so maybe I'm romanticising collections when they're just clutter, or a distraction from facing life, but I can't give up the argument completely. Because whenever someone laughs at the ridiculous amount of ornaments I have or looks despondent and weirded out by it all, I do get a little concerned, but then snap myself out of it. Because you have to be confident in your choices and trust yourself. And because everyone needs to find the things that make them happy and different, and for me that's holding still these fragments of life that intrigue me.

I like to think the things I own aren't all just things, but will rather one day be a way for others to understand a little part of me, as distant and abstract as they may seem in the larger scheme of things.

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Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day

When I was very young I remember going to visit my aunt at her flat. It was about half an hours drive from where we lived but had felt much further. The surroundings were all a bit bedraggled, quiet and lonesome and the grey sky had made everything look a little sadder. More ghostly.

Right beside her flat was an abandoned train station, and for some reason, this is the part of that day that has always stuck in my memory. I can’t remember anything else we did, or ate, or talked about, other than the way staring down at those broken tracks from the road above made me feel.

I’m not sure if I’m alone in my fascination of abandoned places. That’s why a lot of us love zombie apocalypse movies, right? That eeriness of seeing energetic cities, bustling with life suddenly completely deserted. It’s that realisation of what life would be like without us in it; all our creations suddenly so alien.

Without a doubt though, the abandoned places I’m *most* fascinated with are theme parks. The big, caricature style kitschy faces of certain rides left still and staring into the empty grounds, their bright, pastel colours rusting and weird amongst the solitary environment. Then there are the tall, skeletal structures of coasters bending over the clouds and random carts, just sitting in overgrown grass. It’s all so creepy and yet beautiful too.

Although I’ve never actually visited an abandoned theme park, I’ve looked through pictures of the most famous ones endlessly and read their stories, entranced. It’s that extreme contrast, of these things that once would have been symbols of such charisma, excitement and life, now amongst deserted, grey landscapes. It’s the realisation that these objects are as motionless and lonesome as they always have been, and when taken out of context they make life feel like a surreal dream, filled with fragments of the uncanny.

I recently saw this beautifully shot video of abandoned city, Chernobyl. It’s by Danny Cooke and perfectly captures the haunting quality of such places.

Thrifting on a rainy Saturday

Today has been a strange one. My plans were a bit all over the place and then a combination of a bad headache and the grey, rainy outdoors put me in this really sludgy state of mind. In an attempt to perk myself up I decided to go for a walk, have a coffee and maybe look around a few charity shops.

A town near me has about seven charity shops. That’s right – seven. They’re also, rather conveniently, all located next to each other or opposite the road from one another, so you can literally hop from one to the next.

Some days though, no matter how many charity shops you look around or carboots you go to, you won’t end up finding anything that catches your eye. It’s really just down to luck. Today unfortunately wasn’t very lucky (at the start). Of the seven charity shops I only ended up finding two of the below Cadbury mugs. I was still really happy about this though! I’d been wanting these mugs for a while and I feel like they’re going to make all future hot chocolates taste ten times more delicious!

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After getting the train back home I couldn’t resist just having a quick look in the charity shops that sit right by my local station (I’m truly surrounded by the things!) I just thought, if I’ve already done seven, why not do a few more? I think it’s always that “what if?” element of thrifting that urges you to keep going too, and despite the rain and my tired legs, I was so glad I did look.

The first things I found were these two little mice ornaments:

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Aaaaand then this came into view…

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A grand piano! And no, not an actual grand piano (that would be quite a find!) just a little vintage toy one.

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Isn’t she lovely? I didn’t have to think twice about buying her, even though she’s broken in places. My sister suggested re-painting and looking online for a new key to replace her broken one, though I’m not sure if I will. I like when things look a little weathered, as it reminds you of their age and gives them more of a nostalgic presence.

I’ve placed the two little mice ornaments on top, so that it looks as if they’re eagerly awaiting whoever is about to play!

Anyway! That’s it from me tonight. I’m really going to try updating this blog more regularly over the coming weeks because it’s been a bit neglected of late!

Whoever is reading this, I hope that you have a lovely rest of your weekend! If you too happen to have done some thrifting this weekend, please do share your finds in the comments! 🙂

Amber x