Friday 25 October 2013


Well chaps I am off on a small scale tour- Psychocat has been incarcerated at the cattery and we have packed enough food  to feed the five thousand so once the the small person has got his gnashers into it I shall no doubt be gracing the supermarket with my presence on Tuesday!

All that leaves me really is to wish you all a fabulous Samhain- be naughty!


The Plea

The Ancestor’s Plea
My grave lies before you
Open like a gaping wound.
My bones to you
May seem the chance
To analyse, decipher and decode
The very core of my being
But, I implore you
Please do not rip me callously from the earth
To abandon me later in some dusty archive
Leaving the context of my life in disarray.

Instead please treat me with the same veneration
As my people did
When they prepared me for my mystical journey
Many moons ago.
Honour the man not the specimen.
My remains belong only to the land
Which nourished me in life
And to which in death I returned.

My body and gravegoods can only offer you
The faintest whisper of my vibrant existence.
Yet always remember I am waiting here
In the Summerlands
To whisper the essence of my spirit, my truths and my knowledge
To you in your sacred place.

Recall that I too loved and was loved
And that I, like you, had a name.
Always will my blood course through your veins
For your ancestors remain my descendants
And that one day my soul may return
To the body of your future child.

When Ghouls Attack

When ghouls attack, there are certain precautions the sensible householder can take to avoid permanent disarrangement of the senses. Ghouls will oft times take you into their chill embrace and drip ghastly ectoplasm from their extremities. This can be such a disgusting experience that your nerves will be bedizened before you even have time to shout “Allahu Akbar!” or some similar appeal to a deity. Not that calling upon any god, not even some of the Aztec ones, will do you much good with a ghoul on the attack. By and large, ghouls are godless, and have no concept of spiritual fervour or fear. Being semi-transparent and insubstantial, they are also, regrettably, impervious to being beaten with shovels or fire-tongs. How, then, can you defend yourself and your loved ones against their malign implacability?

Here are some tips from a pamphlet recently issued by the government’s newly-appointed Ghoul Czar:

A flamboyant ping pong technique unnerves most ghouls. Practise relentlessly, even on the Day of Rest.

Ghouls hate syrup. Keep plenty of tins in your pantry.

A lopsided cake-stand artfully placed on the dresser will throw a ghoul into a quandary.

If you have a pond, keep a pet swan.

Recital of Sylvia Plath poems can send ghouls back to the netherworld from which they emerged. But never, ever whisper a word from the works of Ted Hughes in their presence.

Slack-jawed farmhands can be positioned between you and a ghoul to stave it off.

If you are staying in a ghoul-haunted guest-house, insist on having a trapdoor in your room.

Spray the air with essence of toffee apple.

Ornate stippled eider duck decor baffles the keenest ghoul.

An unctuous demeanour will behove you well.

Bear in mind that there is no known defence against the Brechtian ghoul.

Like racehorses, ghouls can be nobbled. This prevents any mischief in the first place.


PS Many apologies I know not from whence this came.

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Winter Address

Welcome to the Winter edition of the Naughty Tortie's Mewsletter.

First I have a small confession to make- when I first graced this household with my presence I arrived with....yes I am embarrassed to admit it now...a collar thing around my neck. Worry ye not I soon managed to get shot of it- the best and most effective techniques I find are the ones either where you get your front paw looped in it - ensure you stagger around dramatically so it looks like you're fitting or the one where you get your lower jaw trapped in it so they have to cut you free. I have tried both and have managed to rid myself of the dratted things within minutes. I do not want to hear of any club members allowing themselves to be subjected to any of these ridiculous costumes that I have been hearing horror stories about- those are for pets [usually of the simple canine variety]. Let me once again reiterate cats are owners with staff. I include such an example and I am sure you will agree with me about the shocking content

 Absolutely disgusting!

And now on to some timely winter tips on keeping warm.
Naturally all cats by now should be sleeping under the duvet- she gets a bit hysterical when she finds me down there and makes a fuss out of all proportion. I understand perfectly well how a duvet should be used correctly thank you- it's hardly going to keep me warm if I sleep on top of it is it now! No need to go out in this weather- staff should by now be providing you with an indoor toilet and good quality food to keep you in tip top condition during these severe months. Never accept anything in a tin unless it is of the very small and expensive variety if not, insist on fresh every time, no negotiation. Let me remind you that the staff's job is to serve. I find a general twonking about with my meals and threatened hunger strike always produces something superior.

Until next time- Be Naughty!


P.S. Naturally I feel it is my duty to inform you that in the recent Tortoiseshell awards I won first in both "The Highest Vet's Bill for 2013" and "The Greatest Cuddler" categories. The latter might surprise you but keeping the staff content means that you wrap them around your paw at all times!

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Ancient Sites

"May I approach the high earthworks and the stone circles as fox or moth, and disturb the place no more than that."
Rae Beth

Trevethy Quoit, Cornwall

Lambourne Barrows, Oxfordshire

West Kennet Longbarrow, Wiltshire

Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire

Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire

Spinster's Rock, Dartmoor

Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire

These places amaze and inspire me as well as bringing the comfort of continuity stretching across time. People building, worshipping, meeting, celebrating and venerating their dead.


Tuesday 22 October 2013

The Ambassadors

A well known painting by Holbein which will be familiar to many. I wanted to write about it a few months back but couldn't for the life of me remember either who it was by or what it was called. Honestly there's no hope for some and even less for others! Thankfully it's mentioned in my current book so I have been reminded- I've got no excuse really as I saw the magnificent original in the National Gallery last year!

It was painted in 1533 in the tradition of learned men with books and instruments and in this case shows Jean de Dinteville, the French ambassador to England on the left and his friend Georges de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur who acted as ambassador to the Emperor, The Venetian Republic and the Holy See. The pair were over on a secret mission against the background of Henry VIII's annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and his excommunication from Rome.

The painting can be read as a reflection of this religious discord by interpreting the depicted items as being laden with symbolism. The lute, usually thought to represent harmony, has a broken string which may signify the breakdown in the religious relationship between and within different nations as change swept in and the presence of the Lutheran hymn book could be seen as a plea for harmony to be restored. In the top left hand corner behind the curtain just a fraction of Christ on the Cross is visible- this may represent the division of the Church or any of the other multitude of theories arguing Holbein's true intention.

Without doubt The Ambassadors is most well known for its extraordinary skull [ a symbol of human mortality].This distorted projection is an example of anamorphis where the viewer is required either to use a special device or be at a specific vantage point for the image to be revealed. In this particular instance you need to approach the painting from the right to see it. I actually donned my bossy boots and walked my chums back past it so its secret could be unmasked!


Monday 21 October 2013

Never ever give up!

This has just been forwarded to me by my dear chum L. Well worth a watch particularly if you are having a difficult time right now.


Merrie Monday

Love this one because it came out when the small person first appeared. I'm starting my new week on an upbeat note!


Sunday 20 October 2013

Oodles of Fun!

I have had rather a jolly time of it this last few days one could say- I am away from home for Halloween this year so rather than miss out on this annual festival of fun and frolics I have merely started earlier this year. Woohoo!

It's been my first ever year of pumpkin carving- an evening spent with a dear chum drinking tea, eating her delicious home baked pumpkin cake and me being let loose with a knife! I deliberately chose a simple template as I thought, quite rightly so as it turns out, that my carving skills might be fairly crude. I was rather pleasantly surprised to see that it does actually look like a bat!

To have the perfect excuse to buy appropriate sweeties and orange food colouring [which I didn't actually use this year] I decided to make a graveyard for my October baking challenge. It's not a bake in any sense of the word mind you- not been near an oven. More of a sugar rush on a plate but hey rules are made to be broken aren't they. The black pentacle candle holders came my way yesterday for a thrifty £2.50 from a local charity shop. That was just the icing on the cake for me!


Saturday 19 October 2013

St Nectan's Glen

Every once in a while I visit a place and find that it really resonates with me on a personal level- this, I find, doesn't always happen perhaps where I might expect it. When I went up The Tor a few years ago I actually found it quite disturbing and despite the amazing views, was quite relieved to begin my descent yet I loved the gentle energy of Chalice Well. Who knows on another day when I return I might find it very different up there.

One place that took me a long while to get around to visiting was St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall. One particular friend has already been and recommended it as being a place I'd love. I finally got there in 2004 and she was spot on. Just stunning. There's a winding walk through ancient woodland down from the car park along the valley running alongside the banks of the River Trevillet with regular fairy stacks that people have built from the stones as they pass through.

The unspoilt beauty of the waterfall speaks for itself- it is incredibly tranquil and from the number of clooties hanging in the surrounding trees and other devotions it speaks to many.

The legend goes that the sixth century St Nectan's hermitage was above the waterfall and that he rang a silver bell in stormy weather to warn ships of the perils of the rocks at the mouth of the Rocky Valley. Many people report strange sightings and certainly some of our photos developed strange orbs which seems to be quite a  common placed experience.

When we last visited in 2011, sadly due to a personal bereavement, the owner had put it up for sale and it looked like it might pass into private hands. However, I am pleased to see that it was sold last year and that the current owner had been a frequent visitor in the past. He has pledged to keep it open to the public and only make improvements to the site that will enhance it rather than detract from it. More info is here


Friday 18 October 2013

Upon Being Middle Aged.....

Made me smile- not what I was expecting. Afraid I can't credit it as it came from my page on the Book of the Face.


Thursday 17 October 2013

Foiled Again!

Frankly I am a little baffled by my behaviour earlier this week. If you were to ask me what I think about foil pictures I would answer you with all honesty that they are not to my taste. I don't actively dislike them, but I am, let's say, indifferent- I have a very distinctive idea about my style of house furnishing, clothes etc and anyone who has been to my house would vouch that foil pictures do not feature in my chosen decor in any shape or form.

That was until last year......when rummaging around in a local charity shop [a top hobby of mine- in fact rummaging around anywhere is a finely honed skill of mine!] I looked up to see this and home it came with me.

No one was more surprised than me including the people I showed it to! It's so at odds with everything else in my home that it is hung in the spare room where we have the computer. I love the way the light reflects off the the image- it's almost like moonlight.

And then on Tuesday blow me down the same thing happened again- another foil picture that I couldn't put down [believe you me I'm pretty good these days at not buying a lot of things that catch my eye]. This time it is children's fairy tale scene and everywhere as you turn it the picture reveals more hidden details- there's a pair of eyes staring out from a cave and a skull on an pot of flowers. Another one for the spare room I think!!

There are no more plans to buy any more at the current time......


Wednesday 16 October 2013

The Hartlepool Monkey

This is one of the most well known tales associated with Hartlepool. The story goes that during the Napoleonic wars a French ship was wrecked off the Hartlepool coast. There was a very real fear of French invasion and thus, when the only survivor, a monkey dressed in military uniform, emerged it was believed it was a spy. Following a beach trial it was hung and since then the good folks of the town have been known as monkey hangers. More than likely just to be a jolly good yarn the event has been recorded in "The Monkey Song" which is performed by the folk band The Teeside Fettlers.

I initially came across this curious episode with my Morris side, Mythago, as they too perform a dance inspired by this probable folktale. It is simply called Spank the Monkey- it is one I have yet to master!


Tuesday 15 October 2013

Stag Beetles

When I was at infants school bringing in nature related items including dead insects was a regular occurrence-we all crowded around and were fascinated by the latest treasure-this was how I saw my first ever dragon fly and stag beetle. They were displayed with great pride on the nature table along with leaves, birds nests, acorns etc for all to admire. I hope it still happens but I do wonder....

The stag beetle is our largest native ground dwelling beetle with the male reaching anything up to 7cm in length. Amazingly despite this they can fly- the females can as well but rarely do. As with many species, sadly they are endangered. They are a real asset to the gardener because they eat rotting wood and return the minerals to the earth. At various times they have been known as billywitches, oak-ox, thunderbeetle and horse pincher.

They feature in British folklore as it was believed they could summon thunder and lightning. Medieval peasants thought they flew around with hot coals in their jaws setting fire to buildings. It was deemed to be good luck if you carried a stag beetle's head in your pocket.

Our local nature reserve is doing its bit to help preserve this very fine beetle with its own purpose built loggery. The carving stands in front of it.


Monday 14 October 2013

Sunday 13 October 2013


It has lashed down in these 'ere parts most of today and actually I don't give a fiddler's flute because I rather like the rain [I know I might be in the minority here] but to me - us Brits still going about our business in the rain typifies that stoical mustn't grumble attitude that's part of our national character. Oh I moan about the rain just like everybody else particularly if it interferes with my plans for the day but if the weather wasn't always so changeable how on earth would most of us strike up a conversation. Talking about the weather is not only an obsession in Britain but also a safe opening gambit.

Descriptions of rain have come up a couple of times recently in my reading matter. The familiar adage "raining cats and dogs" is possibly derived from the close association between cats and the weather in Norse mythology [it was believed that witches would disguise themselves as cats when they rode the wind]. Dogs and wolves meanwhile were the attendants of Odin, the God of Storms. Together they represented torrential rain and fierce winds. Another one I love is the Welsh 'old women with clubs' with the circular sheet of splashing water suggesting a wide skirt and the centrally rebounding droplet a cudgel.

A few quotes on the matter that caught my eye:

"Without the rain there would be no rainbow."

"Thy fate is the common fate. Into each life some rain must fall."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Many a man curses the rain that falls upon head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger."
St Basil

"The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wined in a primeval wood and the sound of the outer ocean on a beach"
Henry Beston

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass- it's about learning to dance in the rain."
Vivian Greene

Finally, it gives me the perfect excuse to use this photo I found which frankly just made me snigger!



This has just been posted to my Book of the Face page- it is too good to keep it to myself.

Totally inspiring.

Saturday 12 October 2013

On and On

Every once in a while it's good to break out of the adult world I find and leave it all behind for a brief period- for me there is a joy in revisiting and rediscovering the delights of poetry and fiction written for children- my next book to be read is Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce.

This poem  is by Roger McGough  and its cleverness simply pleases my sense of the ridiculous.

Is a well-wisher someone
who wishes at a well?

Is a bad-speller one
who casts a wicked spell?

Is a shop-lifter a giant
who goes round lifting shops?

Is a pop singer someone
who sings and then pops?

Is a pot-holer, a gunman
who shoots holes at pots?

Does a baby-sitter really
sit on tiny tots?

Is a light bulb a bulb
that is light as a feather?

Does an opera buff sing
in the altogether?

Does a pony trap trap ponies
going to the fair?

Is fire-hose stockings
that firemen wear?

Is a scratch team so itchy
it scratches?

When a bricklayer lays a brick
what hatches?

Is a sick bed a bed
that is feeling unwell?

Is a crime wave a criminal's
wave of farewell?

Is a bent copper a policeman
who has gone round the bend?

Is the bottom line the line
on your bottom? THE END


Friday 11 October 2013

Just Getting On With It

So after last weekend's blip I have decided that I have had enough of the hold this has on both my life and outlook. This week I have set myself the personal task of really noticing what people have said to me and not doing my usual trick of filtering out all the good stuff and only hearing the negative stuff which colours my world view and  reinforces my low self esteem. Frankly I am cheesed off with it and as I am the only one who can grab it by the scruff of the neck and boot it out of the door I have now dusted off my steel helmet and am battle ready! I've already had my first minor challenge to deal with week- normally I'd just think the same old thing- I can't do it because I am useless. I hasten to add I am quite a tough old bird and would eventually give myself a good talking to, dust myself off and have another go but this time I've chosen to miss out the whingey stage and come up with a way I think will help me to tackle the current skill shortfall and move forward.

This quote jumped out at me this week [seen on Mortgage Free in Three blog] and struck me as having the right message for me personally to stop procrastinating [I have been in the John Woden camp of mistaking activity for achievement ....displacement activity is my middle name. I get masses done but not what really needs my attention!]

"Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it" Chinese Proverb.

And this one made me smile!

One does so hate a half empty glass- I always live in hope of filling it again with something delicious as quickly as possible!!


Thursday 10 October 2013

Hannah Willow

This is the birthday card I received from my sister this year- I absolutely love the way the Uffington White Horse is just about discernible in the snow and dark stag depicted in the night sky. I intend to hunt down a suitable frame for it and then display it.

The image is called Ice Ancestor and is by an artist, previously unknown to me, called Hannah Willow. She is based in Wiltshire and draws her inspiration from the ancient sites around her, folklore and poetry. She is also a talented silversmith producing unique magical pieces of jewellery to treasure. This piece in particular really caught my eye- I love wrens and have never seen one incorporated into a necklace before.

Further examples of her work can be seen here


Wednesday 9 October 2013

Yesterday's Discovery

Whilst rootling through my CBT course on Sunday in a bid to not only get back on an even keel, but on a much chirpier track I found a scribbled note that simply said"good news?" At the time I couldn't for the life of me remember what it referred to, but whilst house sparkling [that's my joblet] I had a flash of inspiration [you'd be amazed what I think of when I'm in my cleaning bubble!] - last night I had a most lovely time trawling google looking up good/positive news sites. It made such a uplifting change from the depressing stuff I have a habit of reading. Please don't panic I'm not suddenly going to go all girly and Pollyannerish on you- I'm far too much of a grumpy old crone for that one!!

Perhaps Harold Wilson had the right idea?
"I am an optimist, but I'm an optimist that carries a raincoat."

I found this on one of the sites- Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite by Mei Xu.  Breathtaking!


Tuesday 8 October 2013

Red Letter Day

This originates from the time when the Church would mark special days such as saint days and feast days in red ink to make them stand out from the rest of black inked days on the church calendar.

May yours be a red letter day today- mine is going to be!


Monday 7 October 2013

Lady Trumpington

You may well have caught a glimpse of Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington, on the recent Channel 4 programme Fabulous Fashionistas. I thought all the women featured were brilliant examples of how we should be viewing older women in a positive light- celebrating them for who they are rather than the media message that you become invisible unless you can stay looking young. I have no particular issue with women wanting surgery etc [live and let live I say] but for those of us who are happy to grow into senior years disgracefully and plough our own furrow shove off!

By coincidence I am currently reading The Secret Life of Bletchly Park by Sinclair McKay. It is not my usual choice of reading matter but I am finding the subject really fascinating and who should pop up....yes you've guessed it Baroness T. She was recruited for the naval intelligence operation because of her fluency in German. One of her antics is described by the Hon Sarah Baring

"...She was always up for some merry larks, and one night shift, we didn't have very much to do....we said 'Jean, get in the laundry basket now it's empty and we'll give you a ride down to the the loos' And so she got in and of course, we lost her because she was quite heavy, darling Jean, and she went straight down this long corridor into the gents' loo. The embarrassment. Though I think it must been much more embarrassing for the gentlemen!"

From this photo taken in 2011 when Lord King of Bridgewater was being rude about her age in the House of Lords BT has obviously lost none of her spirit! I hope to goodness that I'm just like her later on!!!


Merrie Monday

I find it impossible to not hear this song and sing along even though I don't know all the lyrics. One day I must listen to myself to see what it actually is that I sing when I don't know the words! This time I've chosen one with the lyrics so that you can yowl along accurately if you so desire!!

American Pie by Don Mclean


Sunday 6 October 2013

Come take a walk with me.....

Yesterday was one of those where my personal demons swarmed over the ramparts and played merry hell. On those sort of days all I can do is pull up the drawbridge, keep my head below the parapet and adopt a siege mentality whilst I sit it out. I drop out of sight until I can find my sensible head to screw back on again and regain my equilibrium. I dig out my treatment notes to remind me of the CBT principles which helps me to readjust my skewed thinking and gets me back to functioning in the outside world much more quickly.

Another technique that works for me personally is spending time in nature- I find it very calming and hugely restorative. For that reason Mr GBT and I sallied forth to our local nature reserve today. It's within walking distance of where we live and we have an annual pass. I love seeing the changes that each season brings forth. Just a sample of shots from today to give a flavour of some of the sights we glimpsed.


Friday 4 October 2013

Spine Tingling

My Mum sang this last weekend- I had not listened to it for many years but I think it is the most magnificent piece. It was written by Thomas Talllis in approximately 1570 for eight choirs of five voices each.
Spem in alium [Hope in any other]


Thursday 3 October 2013

Well would you Adam and Eve it?

Not only have I finished the blanket but looks who's testing it out?! And after that cheeky blog post she put up last week- Monday she "claimed" that the shock of it had made her faint on the I don't know much about such matters but I do not recall that any fainting fit I've ever heard of has lasted for 6 hours. Having now found her in the same position every day this week I think perhaps she has changed her mind....she has gone surprisingly quiet on the matter for one who is normally so vocal!


Update on the baking challenge!

Honestly this is not linked to The Great British Bakeoff in any way- I don't think Mr Paul Hollywood is quite ready for my crooked, unevenly sized style of baking somehow!  As per my previous post in Augus,t it's just for me to stretch myself a little and keep myself from stepping back into my oh so comfortable baking rut.

September's effort was cheese scones. As with pastry, I murder scone dough so any I had previously attempted had sulkily refused to rise. This time someone had very kindly pointed out to me that I might be able to get round it if I rolled it into a circle and cut it into pieces instead. Woohoo it worked- this recipe has both mustard powder and cayenne in it as I love cheese scones but only if they've got a decent hit of flavour.

Previous month's efforts were:

January Marmalade cake
February Toblerone cake
March Parsnip and caraway cake
April Caramel and apple cake
May Rhubarb crumble cake
June Elderflower and blackcurrant cake
July Raspberry Bakewell cake

August Chocolate and courgette cake

The "plan" [I'm always changing my mind so this could be subject to a whim at any moment"] at this moment in time is to do some appropriately "tasteful" Halloween baking with the dear chum that I celebrate the turning of the wheel with. We shall see.....



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...