To the Moon and Back

Some of the most memorable experiences I have had in Durham have come about when I wasn’t looking for them. It seems that much of life happens this way, in a sort of serendipitous accident. This was how Charlotte and I found ourselves sitting on the moon one Saturday in October.

I assure you we had not planned on visiting the moon that morning. We had started out for town on an important, top secret mission. Well, the secret is out of the bag now. We were on our way into town to buy some presents and treats for a surprise birthday for Sophie. The plan was to head to Accessorize, grab a nice pair of gloves, meet Trish, and together, gather some party supplies and food.
All was going according to plan. Charlotte and I met at Fisher house at 1100 precisely and set off for our carefully chosen targets. The walk was brisk, but not unpleasant, and it virtually no time we were nearing Elvett Bridge.

“Ooh, look at that,” said Charlotte pointing to a flyer stuck on a sign a few feet in front of us.

 “That looks like fun,” I said.

We looked at each other. Now, had I been on my own with the same mission, I wouldn’t have hesitated a moment. I would have carried on with what I had to do. No. That was the old me; the me that was before I came to England and decided I had to try and see as much as I could.

“We have plenty of time,” Charlotte coaxed.

“Yeah, let’s go check it out,” I replied.

Faster than you could say, mission aborted, we were crossing the street and heading into the Marriott. The entrance fee was only £1 and that £1 had allowed us entry into a wondrous, vintage smorgasbord. In the foyer was a man selling replica tin signs and old magazines. Around the corner from him was an ice cream stand. We decided to head upstairs first and when we reached the first floor corridor we were met with endless clothes racks filled with dresses, coats, furs, suits, and wraps. Shoes lined the baseboards and tables filled with jewellery, glass, and knick knacks were pushed against the walls. There were all manner of things available for purchase. Old cameras, binoculars, hats, pipes, hairbrushes, CDs, mirrors, hairpins, gloves, pins, magnets, and beer mats.  

We edged our way through the crowd, weaving between collectors, venders, and the curious. I spotted an amazing looking short naval jacked hanging prominently on one of the many clothes racks.

“Every garment here has a story,” said the lady standing near the rack, “and all prices are negotiable.”
I loved the crisp tailored lines of the jacket, the red piping, and the anchor buttons. I turned the affixed tag around and sighed. £75. I knew I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money on one jacket, no matter how compelling its story and there was no way I would be able to talk her down to £20.

Charlotte and I continued through the corridor and through the rooms which were also filled with vendors. There were so many things that my eyes couldn’t register everything they were seeing. I tried to absorb it all as best I could.

I was busy absorbing when we entered the next room and there it was. Big and bright and bold. It was the moon, or more to the point, it was the Moon Booth. A wooden, crescent shaped, vintage moon that was big enough to sit on was standing in front of a black drape. Sitting on the moon was a girl in a smart, tailored jacket that reminded me immediately of the naval jacket I had had to leave behind a short while ago. She was wearing a pill box hat and posed naturally on the moon.

I had never done a vintage photo shoot. I saw so many of my friends pictures from fun photos shoots and I always wanted to dress up and have old timey photos taken. It was just silly fun. I’ve never lost my love of dressing up. There is something completely freeing about putting on a character and pretending to be someone or something else for a short time. I was feeling shy suddenly.

“I kind of want to do the Moon Booth,” I whispered to Charlotte.

“Yeah?” she asked. She didn’t seem completely excited by it.

I nodded.

“You can do, if you like,” she said.

“Do you want to?” I asked.

“Yeah alright, then,” she acquiesced.

We headed over and asked if we could have a turn on the moon. The booth was run by Amber Le Fay and Bentley G. Ravelle. Amber smiled warmly and showed us where to hang our coats and bags. She began handing us fancy coats to cover our modern clothes and vintage hats and gloves. She looked at me.

“Hmm, you need something around your neck,” she said. She reached for a mink wrap and I cringed. I had been bemoaning the amount of fur for sale all morning, especially the mink wraps. They reminded me too much of my ferrets and I had been missing them terribly.

Charlotte intervened, “Oh, she’s a vegetarian, I don’t think she’ll like that.”

Amber gave me an apologetic smile and puffed up the fake fur around the collar of my coat.

“That should look just fine,” she said.

We both headed over to the moon and took our places. Amber posed us while Bentley snapped our three photos. We stood up and began to slowly remove our fun vintage accessories when I spotted a deerstalker hat, a pipe, and a magnifying glass on the prop table. The wheels in my addled head began slowly to turn. I was wearing my self-proclaimed Sherlock Holmes coat. I bought it because it would be perfect if I ever wanted to dress up like my favourite literary sleuth and it still looked amazing as a day to day item.

“Would it be possible to do a Sherlock Holmes photo in my coat?” I asked tentatively.

“Of course!” said Amber.

I pulled on my coat while Amber placed the deerstalker on my head. She handed me the pipe and magnifying glass and I took my now familiar seat on the moon.

I loved playing Sherlock Holmes, even for the few seconds it took Bentley to take three photographs. I have always loved Sherlock since my dad got me into listening to the old Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce radio dramas. I grew up watching Jeremy Brett and I used to pretend to be Holmes when I would play in my room. I’ve never lost that love for the character.

Check them out at

Charlotte and I picked up our prints and I sadly left the deerstalker, pipe, and magnifying glass for the next lucky person.

“I’m so glad we decided to come in here,” I said to Charlotte.

“Me, too. That was really fun,” she replied.

We headed back downstairs and decided we couldn’t leave without checking out the ice cream. Not only were there hot fudge sundaes, but there was coke in vintage glass bottles with red and white paper straws. Charlotte and I looked at each other and knew what we had to do. I ordered a hot fudge sundae with vanilla ice cream and, though I usually don’t like Coke, I ordered myself a Coke with the obligatory straw. Charlotte got a warm chocolate cookie and a coke as well. We wandered away from the fair and sat down to enjoy our vintage feast.

The tastes of days gone by.

The ice cream was the creamiest I have ever had. I noticed that the chocolate bars I have had since I arrived here seemed much creamier as well. It must be an English specialty, churning out delicious, creamy delicacies. I hadn’t had a hot fudge sundae in years and it reminded me of childhood summers when we would keep a jar of microwavable hot fudge in the refrigerator. Many’s the time I would creep into the kitchen, take that magical jar out of the fridge, microwave it as quietly as I could and then just eat it by the spoonful. It’s amazing the things we do as children.

I sipped my coke through the paper straw and was greeted by that syrupy sweetness which is so much the flavour of Coke. It’s not my favourite fizzy drink, as they say here, but when drunk from a glass bottle, through a paper, red and white straw and in the company of a friend, it is rather fine.
We finished our goodies and decided it was time to return to our previous mission. Trish had texted Charlotte that she was on her way and we still had a lot of errands to run. We bade goodbye to the fair and stepped back out onto the streets of Durham.
(Note: You may have noticed, if you were very observant, my dear reader, that I have used English spellings in this post. I have recently begun writing essays for my coursework and as I need to use English spellings I changed my spell checker to English (UK). All of my posts will appear this way because I’m just too lazy to change the setting back and forth. Well, then, enjoy, chaps and chapesses!)

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