Sunday 30 June 2013

Manor Farm - The Farmhouse.

The farmhouse was built in the 1400s and in a few places the original medieval features can be seen. The house itself has been kept as the 1940s house with a fantastic cottage garden. The volunteers were busy making gooseberry jam yesterday and there is a Victorian school room attached. If you are a fan of the 1940s era it makes for a fascinating nostalgic snoop around.

This is the view of the farmhouse from the top of the garden.
The other following photos give you a taste of what some of the rooms look like:

Just need the preservation fairy to visit my larder and fill it with shelf upon shelf of homemade goodies although I think I might pass on the jar of pickled eggs and the runner bean chutney thank ye!


Manor Farm- The Farmyard.

Ooh er I've have gadding across county borders all the way over to deepest darkest Hampshire- my old stomping ground to meet chums. I'll be honest- I am a super fan of all the different farm series that Alex Langlands, Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn have recorded and purely by chance, have been lucky enough to visit all the locations that they used  except Manor Farm which was the Wartime Farm base. This situation has now thankfully been rectified!! Glad tidings- a new series called Tudor Abbey Farm is currently being filmed at the Weald and Downland museum for release in the autumn. As it's a bit on the photo heavy side I'll split this jolly into two posts.Warning if you are not a fan of photos that make you go aww look away now!

The first one is of the farmyard itself. The dark wooden buildings to the right are the cart shelter and the milking stall and the redbrick one is the hatchery where Peter was filming using an original incubator.

The tractor on the left is the one the team had such problems trying to start during the series!
Lots of cute fluffy baby things- lunchtime and a nap was definitely on the agenda for many!

And frankly the silliest looking chickens I've ever clapped eyes on- I guffawed heartily and think I may have offended them! The breed is called, I believe, a Polish.


The Great British Sunday Roast

The joint  is ready and rested and all to be done now is to reach for the carving tools and away you go....erm unless you were faced with the Elizabethan equivalent. Not only did you have to know what you were carving, but more importantly, how to carve it....

Break that deer, rear that goose, list that swan, trush that chicken, disfigure that peacock, splat that pike, culpon that trout, alay that pheasant, wing that partridge or quail, thigh all manner of small birds, undertranch that porpoise, tame that crab and barb that lobster.

Then there was the matter of do's and don'ts at the table. John Russell's Boke of Nuture [1577] gives some insight into some of the less savoury habits of some guests when he advises what is to be avoided:

No guest should scratch as if here were looking for fleas, or stroke his head to squash a nit, he must not not pick his nose nor allow it to run, nor should he put his hands down his trousers to scratch his codware!
[Taken from Kate Colquhoun's Taste]

I have visitors coming for a meal next weekend- perhaps I should warn against the wearing of such items as codware for fear that it may lead to a less than satisfactory conduct!!


Saturday 29 June 2013

Ra ra ra!

I couldn't work out whether the builder of this wall was mightily pleased with their handiwork or just delighted to have seen the back of it in record quick time! Seen near the entrance to the historic dockyard at Portsmouth.


Friday 28 June 2013

Summer Loaf

An easy peasy one [I am never thrilled at the prospect of cooking] and quick- the less time I spend in the kitchen the better in my book! Good for using up all those bottom of the fridge dwellers that play hide and seek in the vegetable drawer! I wish I could credit it but from whence the original recipe came is lost in the mists of time.

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Chop an onion, chilli, pepper, broccoli and fry until softened in vegetable oil. In practice, most veg will be ok- the key ones are the chilli and the onion. I used lurking mushrooms and a tin of sweetcorn. Place veg in bottom of loaf tin and then beat 4 eggs. Add either fresh chopped herbs or a goodly pinch of dried herbs to this mix along with salt and pepper. Pour eggs over the veg and bake for 45 mins. Slice and serve with a green salad. Learn from my laziness- soak the loaf tin immediately otherwise you'll still be there on Sunday trying to wash it up. I know from bitter experience!


Wafflings on Matters of Yaffle.

I am, to put it kindly, a very simple pimple- I am, by nature, rather a Luddite, who often finds the speed of the modern world and change quite dizzying. I have, over time though, come to notice small details and incidents and it's quite frankly such moments that give me the greatest delight......

To set the scene there I was a few days ago scooting along in the metal box with a wheel at each corner when I was lucky enough to espy a green woodpecker rootling around in the verge for insects. It is always a shock and rare treat when I see one of these, as they are shy birds, but it is the stunningly bright hit of colour from their plumage which takes my breath away- I enjoy the spectacle of the great variety of British birds, but quite frankly, most have a quiet, low key appeal when it comes to feathers. Not so this chap....dare one say this one is rather a dandy....

Since childhood I have always known them  as a yaffle- I hear them in the trees around my home calling frantically in the spring but  can rarely spot them. The term means laughing and is used to describe the very distinctive sound they make. All of us of ahem a certain age may also be familiar with Professor Yaffle, he of Bagpuss fame!

In folklore the bird is associated with rain hence its name of Rainbird and it has also been called Laughing Betsey, Yappingdale and and Jack Eikle. Unlike its spotted relative, it won't come to your bird feeder, but they can often be seen digging in the ground for ants- the resulting ruts and furrows left behind by this activity have led to further associations with ploughing.

Definitely on my top ten of favourite avians.


Thursday 27 June 2013

Prove your worth!

In the current economic climate a lot of us have been through redundancy and the resulting need to prove your ability and update your skills to succeed in job hunting.

In previous times the phrase showing your mettle was used more literally rather than the figurative application we are more familiar with today:

To keep their millstones in tip top condition and working effectively, millers were reliant upon the services of a mason to recut the grooves. Whilst doing so bits of the metal would chip off the chisel and become embedded in the mason's hands. To show his experience the mason would show the miller this metal in his hands.


Wednesday 26 June 2013

The Human Nature Garden

We are very lucky in our home town to have a quiet area set aside in the main park which aims to provide both an educational and contemplative experience. Opened in 2011, it continues to evolve and give many people the greatest pleasure.

The Human Nature Garden benefits from clever planting- in it you will find borders of goji berries, woad, liquorice, pomegranate, borage and rhubarb to name but a few with information boards along side detailing how the plants can be used medicinally, cosmetically and for natural dyeing.

As a small sanctuary set just away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre I love the quirkiness of it and the attention to detail. Below are shots of the entrance gates

Although these have been removed temporarily for repairs, even the wooden ones which stand in their place for now have a charming surprise panel for the eagle eyed visitor

This is the sight that greets you when you first go in- a massive wooden pestle and mortar
And the view ahead of you
There have been wooden sheep from its opening but the shepherd and his dog have joined the flock this year
It is a place available for all to enjoy and I was most overthrilled to discover [as usual sticky beaking at every poster I passed whilst out on Shank's Pony earlier] that there is to be series of free concerts held there next month. One should like to totter along to one of these.....


Tuesday 25 June 2013

A tail of furry woe!

Alas and alack a little black cloud hangs over our humble abode once again.......

Being cruel and wicked parents, when the small person announced he would like to purchase a laptop a few months ago, we decided this would be the ideal opportunity to teach him a lesson in the art of saving. Yes, he has the money in his savings and could have gone down the instant gratification route, but we negotiated a deal with him that we would give him a reasonable sum for his recent birthday and match his monthly savings from his pocket money [he receives sums from us and his grandparents]. This arrangement has been running smoothly for a few months now and he has stuck to his side of the bargain. We decided that we would, as a surprise, sub him the remainder if he agreed to reduce his allowance...hence one new laptop to the spec he wanted and with £150 off arrived yesterday. One happy teenager and one miserable feline.....

The rapscallion understands the word "lap" and once she heard the magic word, she cantered enthusiastically down the stairs at high speed, shopping bag swinging between her knees in a bid to get on top of this new lap as fast as possible. Full marks for persistence and determination as she engaged in one of her favourite pursuits Annoy the Boy- she tried launching herself at it from every angle whilst an increasingly ratty boy shooed her away. After several valiant attempts she retired gloomily to rest her bruised ego and  lick her wounds. I think she is likely to emerge from her sulk sometime around noon tomorrow!


Monday 24 June 2013

Prithee where is thy privy?

It must be one of those questions we've been asking of others for centuries and that each one of us must have had to ask at some point!

Being a high falutin kind of dame and a massive fan of social history it is the detail of everyday life that really reels me in.

Firstly a small ditty to amuse on this very subject:

An elderly monk from Teglease
Said 'Bury me where I do drop please'
As soon as he spoke
His privy seat broke:
He is interred in his chapel of ease.

This integral part of everyday life has been known by a plethora of terms through the ages. Lavatory itself is derived from the latin to wash. Others include the 17th century term House of Office used by Pepys, netty a Northern English term for an outside facility and the house where the Emperor goes on foot. There are many more......

As a child I remember the only thing that impressed me on a school trip to the Weald and Downland museum was the toilet in Bayleaf Farmhouse. Outdoor facilities at this time were commonly known as jakes.

This is another example from the museum often known as the boggy at the bottom.
And finally this shot recently taken on our visit to HMS Victory- nautical toilets at this time were often simply referred to as the head because of their positioning on the boat.

Should you ever need to use the facilities at my humble abode the answer is left at the top of the stairs and head for the door with the loo seat on it!

Hand painted charity shop treasure [although I am not confident that Mr GBT would concur] bought for a fiver a few years ago! Another perfectly normal moment in my gnat bottomed life!


Merrie Monday

One to start get your toes tapping. Dave Brubeck and Unsquare Dance.


Sunday 23 June 2013

Faery Cake.

For today 'tis Midsummer and thoughts turn to faeries and other magikal beings..........

"Faerie contains many things beside elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants or dragon; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon the sky; and the earth and all things that are in it; tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted"

A few weeks ago I discovered the work of Richard Dadd through the publicity given to the recently published Broadmoor Revealed by Mark Stevens. Dadd [1817-1886] was a Victorian artist who is likely to have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. In 1843 he murdered his father and was incarcerated firstly in Bethlem Hospital [better known as Bedlam] and later as one of the first patients in Broadmoor. [info from Wiki].  Thankfully for us now, those who cared for him had the foresight to allow him to paint so that we are left to admire his legacy. I am enthralled by the detail of his work and intrigued by the disturbing nature of some of his images. A whimsical Arthur Ransome he most certainly is not. These examples particularly caught my eye.

The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke
Contradiction Oberon and Titania

And to the cake? This is my wonky elderflower cake that I  baked as my contribution towards the merry Solstice celebration held with dearest chums last eve. I used some of my homemade cordial in it.


Saturday 22 June 2013


Today Psychocat nearly cracked a smile or alternatively it may just have been a yawn she forgot to complete. I believe that the cause of her amusement has been this sent to her by one of  the subscribers to her Naughty Tortie mewsletter.

Her advice to her readers is simple regarding canine adversaries-  for guaranteed success you should follow her fine example by hiding up the side of the car on the drive to allow for a successful ambush. The target may simply have the audacity to walk past on the path on its lead, but that is sufficient, apparently, to cause her great offence so she hares after them hissing and spitting. She is pint sized with a gammy leg and a saggy tummy [affectionately known at GBT as her shopping bag] which swings between her knees as she canters along. I jest not!!!

She is now campaigning for one of these signs to adorn the outside of our humble abode. I am, for now, holding out.....


Friday 21 June 2013

Blooming Marvellous!

Yesterday Mr GBT and I broke free from the shackles of domesticity and racily sallied forth to the local parish church to see the annual flower festival. Never let it be said that life here at GBT is not one of high drama and intrigue!!

I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the shape and sheer range of colours of flowers. As ever, they took my breath away. The photos do not really fully do justice to the vibrancy of the blooms, but I hope the photos at least give you a flavour of what we enjoyed yesterday.

In the first shot I was very taken with the naturalness of the arrangement, but my favourite by far was the dark gothic display [please forgive the radiator behind it!!]. It was just so refreshingly different.


Summer Solstice Blessings

For all those who follow the old ways I hope you have a wonderful Summer Solstice. An appropriate song from the extremely talented Dahm the Bard.
Bright blessings.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Elderflowery Fun.

Huzzah at long last the elder has slowly begun to unfurl its delicate sprays of white frothy flowers and so I have been out in my long flowing gown, wicker basket on my arm....erm make that hippy patchwork trousers and a plastic bag!! Anyway I digress.....having been on a successful foray last night Operation Elderflower is now in full swing.

We have split our harvest and Mr GBT has his earmarked for two gallons of wine to add to the Hobbity Booze Cellar. Due to current time constraints they have been frozen for now and having done this for the last two years, I can confirm, that the flowers come to no harm when they are used later.

 I, meanwhile, have a batch of cordial brewing- this year I am tweaking a couple of recipes to try and get a combination that's right for my personal taste so I have added a couple of oranges in addition to lemons. In the spirit of waste not want not and my naturally gnat bottomed outlook the orange slices can be eaten afterwards and I suspect the same goes for the lemon as it's all been soaking in a sugar syrup. Double duty now that's what I like to hear! The remainder of the blooms are being dried for elderflower vinegar. For this you need to fill a jar with the dried blooms and then cover them completely with cider vinegar. Store in a warm, dark place for three weeks before straining. Good for use in salads.


Wednesday 19 June 2013


Ever had the strange experience when you cross the threshold of a charity shop with a quite specific aim in mind and somehow carelessly emerge a few minutes later with a completely random treasure that up until that very moment you hadn't realised there was a space in your life for. I find it a common occurrence in my little world- today I was most definitely looking for fabric with which to make a new bathroom blind and yet I emerged with this little lovely
Well I think it would have been just plain rude to leave it behind especially at the bargainous price of £7.50. Dear Mr GBT simply mildly enquired as to where we were going to put this latest quilt [erm yes there might be the odd one or two more lurking!] with his eyebrows firmly raised. How convenient that our bedroom is already decorated in a folkart style!

Then the icing on the bun for me as I tottered back home- I espied these in the window of a local art shop.
These fabulous vases immediately appealed to my inner Beryl Cook. Sadly they are beyond my pocket [I can hear the distraught gnat bottomed purse sighing with relief after the stress caused by my little spree earlier] but maybe one day.....they are by an artist called Jean Holder and her website is here


Birthday Greetings

This one is for my splendid sister A whose birthday it is today- hope you have a fun and frolicsome day dear girl!
Love your aged older sisterxx

Tuesday 18 June 2013

If you go down to the woods today...

Pareidolia- the phenomenon where humans see faces in inanimate objects. Yes it was a new one on me aswell. I have more than a passing suspicion that I have predisposition towards it. The evidence is stacking up below!

Oh but I do so love to spy a face in the trees.....
The first one was taken many moons ago at Herstmonceux castle- his is a friendly face, almost Ent like.
This next one I spotted near my home as I was walking past earlier this year- I've nicknamed him Harold as he rather looks like he's been shot in the eye with an arrow. He has disappeared for now under the green mantle of summer leaves.
The final one is my most recent find and frankly a little on the spooky side. I think it looks rather akin to the a skull. Do you agree dear chums?
Or perhaps I am just suffering from a case of overimagination...never been known honest guv!!


Monday 17 June 2013

Merrie Monday

Let's be honest dear Monday doesn't have the best reputation of the weekdays does it- start of the working week, traditionally wash day and even The Boomtown Rats wrote a song about it!

Always one to see the world in a topsy turvy way I'm here to champion Mondays with a dose of good cheer to set me up for whatever the week ahead has in store.

A discussion with the small person over the weekend brought this new-to-me ditty to my attention. Used on the soundtrack of Ice Age I hope it puts a little bit of bounce in your Monday. Rarely do I do the proud Mummsy bit in public but today this is for my son because yesterday, he and his best mate, did the London to Brighton cycle ride raising funds for the very deserving British Heart Foundation.


Sunday 16 June 2013

Like it or lump it!

A phrase I heard used from time to time when I was a child and one I have been known to employ in times of sheer frustration when faced with a truculent toddler.

Reading "I Never Knew That About England" by Christopher Winn last week I came across this small snippet as to why we say Hobson's Choice. Thomas Hobson was a 16th century Mayor of Cambridge who also brought fresh water into the city via Hobson's Conduit. Furthermore, as a carrier he would also hire out his horses in strict rotation- basically the customer could have any horse he wanted except it had to be the one standing next to the stable door! It is easy to see where Henry Ford drew his inspiration from with his famous quote about his Model T Ford car "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black"!!


Saturday 15 June 2013

Pull up a chair dear chums!

Good evening dear chums and most jolly to make your acquaintance! How extraordinary to find that confirmed Luddite, as I am, I have decided to try out this new and mysterious world of blogging.No one is more suprised than me! Anyhow remembering in the words of William of Wykeham "manners maketh man" I think a short introduction to the cast of characters who reside here at Gnat Bottomed Towers is needed.

Naturally I shall begin at the top with the furry member of the cast whom we all serve- Twitten aka Psychocat. Twitten is a Sussex word meaning a cut through or alley way and is most apt for this pint sized rapscallion. She is a rescue cat erm with attitude! As the founder member of the naughty tortie club be warned that she is likely to hijack the blog from time to time with missives. I include a picture of her firstly looking happy and secondly looking grumpy!There is little difference you will note!

Mr Gnat Bottomed Towers [henceforth to be known as Mr GBT] is a dear soul who takes all my mad ideas in his stride! He is the chief home brewer and the proud owner of his very own shed which is full of Important Bits of Wood!! I can only think it must be the equivalent of having a stash of buttons and ribbons, which as any crafter or crafter groupie [I am most definitely in the latter category] worth their salt knows is never complete!

Finally, there is The Small Person who is actually taller than both of his parents. He is a busy chap with lots of interests and seems not to have read the good guide to being an effective teenager. He's far too busy being sunny and carrying out a one man mission to empty my kitchen cupboards quicker than I can fill them!!

Enough of my wittering for my first instalment methinks.


Being a soul who could win an Olympic Gold if overthinking was ever included as a sport, one thing which really helps me to slow down and be...