Wednesday 31 December 2014

Beauty On A Work Day.

I housesparkle for a client in a nearby village on a Tuesday every other week. It's a long shift so I am tired at the end of it but the family are delightful and appreciative of my efforts. Last time I drove over it was a sunny day with mist descending over the bare fields and everything twinkly still from a heavy hoar frost. The same weather conditions prevailed yesterday so I left a little earlier and stopped the car to take a few quick shots. From the road I thought it was sheep in the field eating winter you can see I couldn't have been more wrong. I was very close to the deer park across the road so why I should have been surprised heaven only knows.

Noticing this first thing set me up for the rest of the day.


Tuesday 30 December 2014

Programmed For Negativity.

I had an interesting conversation with my Dad recently about how people view the world and how they discuss their experiences with one another. He was talking specifically about the manner in which people discuss with him their recollections of some of the walks he's organised that they've been on. Invariably they'll remind him of when they fell over, got their boots stuck in the mud or the occasion when he managed to lose a great number of them. What they don't recall is the number of other walks of his they have been on where it's all gone smoothly and without incident..these soon slip from the memory.

A recent newspaper article revealed that if people have had a bad meal at a restaurant they will tell 27 others about it but if it's good they will only tell 6. Is it not the same story with criticism which sticks with you for years but compliments we bat away feeling somewhat embarrassed. I know, for I used to be guilty as charged ...I have learnt now though that if someone is kind enough to go to the trouble of making a positive comment it is far better to simply say thank you and accept it with good grace. After all that person has gone to the effort to tell you and it's not exactly encouraging if your intended recipient just dismisses it out of hand.

Something is badly out of kilter here and I, for one, am aiming to redress the balance because I think if you automatically dwell on the negative you're missing out on all the positives in your life. I started last weekend by sending an email to our local Wetherspoons to congratulate them on their excellently priced Christmas menu and the friendly service we received from the staff. Give credit where credit is due I say and if you've had a good experience tell others! I am finding that you really do get back what you give out!


Monday 29 December 2014

Dark Peter

In the recent run up to Christmas I borrowed a couple of library books about the history and folklore of the festive period. I've learnt many new things and expanded my knowledge of others. Sometimes I come across something entirely different though and then it snowballs.

My first encounter with Dark Peter was in "The Medieval Christmas" by Sophie Jackson and then lo and behold I came across the same figure in "The Christmas Book" by Patrick Harding. I should point out that I've read a fair few titles over the years about the season but I don't recall this figure at all.

Most of us have heard of St Nicholas and there have been a fair few mentions of his origins so I won't repeat it again but here's a link for anyone who wants further information However, I didn't know he had a Dark Helper or Dark Peter as he was also known. His role was to punish the naughty children with his birch rod whilst St Nicholas rewarded the children who were good. The medieval church were less than starry eyed about this particular figure as he was portrayed so he was given a bit of a "makeover" to make him more acceptable to them shall we say. He was sometimes shown as a black horned figure wearing furs and shackled to the saint and his role was much diminished as he was only allowed to threaten not physically chastise the children.

Relaying this new-to-me info to Mr GBT last week he, it transpired, was already familiar with the figure but had forgotten about him. In the 1970s he attended a school called St Nicolas [yes no 'h' in the name this time] in Abingdon and every year on the 5th of December St Nicholas and 4 Black Peters came into the school. St Nicholas rode in on a pony and his 4 dark helpers carried sacks. Each child was given a satsuma and peanuts. Mentioning that I could find no mention of the tradition on the school's website to his sister yesterday we speculated that it may well no longer exist because nowadays it would probably be deemed to be politically incorrect and very possibly offensive. Mr GBT thinks that the figures may have blacked up and were dressed up as Moorish characters but his memory is vague. He was far more interested in the fruit and nuts as a small boy!  It would appear that they are still a part of the celebrations in the Netherlands on 5th December but are not without controversy.


Sunday 28 December 2014


Two concise pithy quotes that I have come across in the last couple of days.

"Give in, give up or give it everything you've got."

"Be mindful not mind full."


Saturday 27 December 2014

Saxon Map of London

Time for a bit of a break from all the festive posts methinks so now for something totally different!

This was launched in January but has now been updated. It's fascinating. Link here


Friday 26 December 2014

The Big Reveal!

At last I can show you what I made for my folks for Chrimble this year. Limoncello, preserved lemons and jasmine bath muffins.

Bit rough and ready but it gave me a sense of achievement.


Thursday 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all those smashing souls who are kind enough to read my waffles and leave lovely comments.

Love from all of us here at Gnat Bottomed Towersx

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Trees Galore.

I've been reading on a couple of blogs that I like to snout around on about festivals of trees that others have been to visit. That got my nosy bone twitching and a little bit of investigation led me to discover that for the first time in many years our local Methodist church was holding a similar event and raising money for charity. All the trees have been decorated by the clubs that use the church on a regular basis. Me well I love a bit of festive sparkle and bling so I was there like a shot camera gripped in my sweaty paw. Here goes.....


Tuesday 23 December 2014

Yule Yomp Part Two.

The non wildlife shots.

Love the contrast of the red berries against the bare winter branches. That's the original mill pond behind.

Creature from the deep.

Delicate lacy beauty of lichen.

The changeover from bloom to berry on the ivy.


Monday 22 December 2014

Yule Yomp Part One.

I am one of those horribly organised people [years of working full time whilst looking after the house with a family] and am usually well ahead with the game when it comes to Christmas. The final pre Christmas food shop is done at 6.00am so I can then enjoy the few days in the slots when I'm not working away from the crowds and start to relax.

It is important for me to get out into nature near Yule to find an oasis of calm in amongst all the mayhem around me. This year we've been back to our nearest spot- Warnham Nature Reserve. These are a few of the wildlife shots Mr GBT took today.

This is part of a harvest mouse breeding programme as they are declining in numbers in the wild. The Reserve have successfully released several of these delightful little mammals at another wildlife haven in the district.

These were at the feeding station- they've kindly built a long hide so we can sit there and quietly watch the birds going about their daily business.

The bottom one is a female reed bunting. I have learnt to look at "little brown birds" with more care since realising that one that I dismissed airily as a sparrow a few years ago was actually a dunnock. They may lack the colourful plumage of some of their more eyecatching feathered counterparts but I think there is a real beauty to the patterns and muted shades. Certainly not a plain Jane!


Sunday 21 December 2014

Yule Blessings.

As the light returns may I wish you all peace and blessings at this time of year.


PS We saw the robin at our local nature reserve on our very recent walk there.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Christmas Beer and Cheer!

One of our local breweries Weltons is known for the fanatastically original names it gives its beers. If you click on the link you can see what I mean for this month's seasonal selection!

And yes I have done my very own research and can confirm that both the St Agnes and the Feast of Stephen are stonkingly good!

All hail the ale!

Friday 19 December 2014

Upon Matters Of Navel Gazing!

You may just have noticed ahem the odd Pagan reference creeping in on this blog from time to time. I'm a Druid- I make no secret of the fact but neither do I bang on about it. I tell people if they ask me but I respect other people's choices [so long as they don't preach and/or harm others in the process] and beliefs. For me my choice feels right..that's the only way I can describe it. I didn't set out to be a Druid I just am. It was never a conscious decision...I saw a programme on TV in 1999 about another Druid and realised that what he was describing was me to a tee. However, I wasn't exactly thrilled either...I railed against it for 5 years and explored all sorts of other spiritual paths but kept coming back to the same conclusion. In the end I just accepted it albeit rather grudgingly. I think my fear was how others would react. These days I don't give a fiddler's flute thankfully! Now I celebrate with my two closest friends quietly and away public view as I will tomorrow for Yule. Mr GBT nor the small person share my views but accept it as part of who I am.

On my path I remain solidly rooted in the everyday world. I am far too level headed with too much common sense for my own good sometimes. Since making huge steps towards recovery though I have rediscovered my very own sense of silliness [I am easily amused and pleased] and zest for life. When I first set out on my path I was very much influenced by those around me....I read loads of books, wore what I deemed to be the right style of clothes and sometimes struggled with what I thought I "ought" to be doing against what my heart told me. These days I am happy in my own skin. I rarely read spiritual tomes and dress in my own style nor do I meditate. As a sufferer from anxiety, a natural busy person and unable to not fidget it caused me more stress than it took away....I do admire those that can though. For me exercise I enjoy [like dancing, cleaning and walking] is right. As for day to day living I think my Druidry informs the choices I make and so long as I listen to and take heed of any warning bells [when I don't the consequences are all too apparent] I'm by and large doing what's right for me. It's all too easy to become entrenched in the dogma and lose perspective.

This hilarious video kind of sums up who I was trying to be in 2003 but never really was...that old inner Essex girl and child of the 70s was having none of it!

Enjoy a non Christmassy giggle with me in amongst all the festive madness!


Bah Humbug Mr Cromwell! Huzzah Mr Winstanley!

We actually have quite a lot to thank Mr William Winstanley for at this time of year, for without his sterling efforts, Christmas would have been permanently cancelled.

Winstanley hailed from Essex and was a 17th century poet and writer. Taking into account he was also a Royalist and most keen on Yule celebrations it will come as no great surprise that he was not exactly supportive of Mr Cromwell's Christmas ban. Under this regime anyone caught celebrating Christmas could be fined or punished in the stocks. He however, as a deeply religious man, felt it was essential to celebrate the birth of Christ and quietly in his home he held clandestine carol services.

After Cromwell's death in 1658 Charles II was restored to the throne and the anti Christmas legislation was repealed. Many however, had observed the ban and the return to good cheer was muted. To encourage others Winstanley took his campaign to another level as he penned a series of pamphlets under the name of Poor Robin Goodfellow in which he encouraged the rich to give to the poor and extolled the virtues of the season:

-Halls and parlour fires should burn "with a specially jolly blaze"

- Sideboards should be piled high with sumptious delights eg pigeon pies, venison pasties

- Bowls of drink such as Lambswool and Mull'd Sack should be in constant circulation

- There should be evening entertainment laid on eg music from the pipes and fiddle and games eg 'hot cockles' and hunt the slipper.

Now did Mr Winstanley practise what he preached? Hell yes! He provided hospitality of the first order and his guests enjoyed skating, winter walks, carol singing. He saved the best for last and on Twelfth Night there was wassailing followed by a sumptuous feast of swan followed by caudle sack posset. I think I may have enjoyed a stay at his Tudor manorhouse "Berries" in Quendon somehow!


Thursday 18 December 2014



I made myself a snowball as perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me.
I made it some pyjamas and a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away.
But first it wet the bed.

Shel Silverstein


Wednesday 17 December 2014

Festive Sights.

These are my town's decorations. As ever subtly beautiful and in very good taste.

Then there's always one who lowers the tone.....

I don't know, but to me, the manger looks rather like it's been made out of maltesers....quirky anyway!


Tuesday 16 December 2014

Santa's Little Helper!

It would appear that Santa may be trialling a new type of helper alongside the more traditional elf this year. To anyone in the enslavement of a feline it is a well known fact that all cats are experts in all manner of unexpected fields...festive present wrapping apparently being one of them! If anyone receives a furry gift perhaps the following will explain why:

Here he is again the following evening still "assisting"!

In the end I shut him out so I could get it all finished in peace.


Monday 15 December 2014

Minor Frugal Doings

A few small savings made by me of late.

This one is so blindingly obvious but I've never thought to do it! When using a lemon or lime for its juice in a recipe why not just grate in the zest as well...waste not want not and all that jazz. I did that when I made this satay chicken [I used the cheaper option of turkey] recipe the other night!

Rather than rinsing your floor mop under the tap if like moi you're on a water meter-  I pegged mine out on the whirligig in the garden when it was raining. I do regularly wash my mop head in the washing machine anyway to prolong its life [it's the Vileda equivalent of the old string ones]

Finally, finally I have got around to downloading the free Kindle reader bar...not surprisingly it was the lure of a free title about free living that made me get my ample rump into gear. I expect the whole world bar me has already done this but in the vague chance that perhaps this is news to anyone here's the link!


Sunday 14 December 2014

Tales of Albion.

This is a project currently being made by the independent film makers Gary and Joy Andrews who were the team behind the well received cult hit "The Spirit of Albion". It is a film which will appeal to many in the pagan community or with an interest in the Old Religion.

The new movie is based around British myths and legends and will be made up of eight tales which are connected to each of the festivals of the turning year. Reading the notes these stories specifically are The Washer by the Ford, The Noon of the  Solstice, The Cattle of the Cailleach, Curses and Secrets, Spirit of the Greenwood, Dreaming the Dream, The Golden Rider and The Birth of the Shining Brow. I was privileged to see the beautiful leather Oak King mask that they used in it at the weekend when we danced alongside Rabble Morris/Theatre group who run the annual tree dressing at the Weald and Downland Museum. Gail Duff from their side is involved along with Greg Daven of Pentacle Drummers. Inspiration for some of the pieces has been drawn from the songs by Damh The Bard.

I am enthralled by it all and hope to purchase the DVD when it comes out in Spring 2015. For anyone wanting further details info from here


Saturday 13 December 2014

Christmas Charity

One of the treats I enjoy most at this time of year is seeing all the lovely Christmassy lights twinkling away in the dark. I am always very grateful to those folks who have outside lights for the likes of me to admire. On one of the recent dry evenings we had I asked Mr GBT if he'd like to accompany me on an early evening stroll to see one particular house which is raising money for the National Autistic Society. It was a splendid affair all in a good cause. I hope the family behind it raise lots of money.


Friday 12 December 2014

Happy Feet.

My type of shopping these days is mainly of the hunter gatherer type round the supermarket once a week. Leave it any longer and the teenogre would probably start gnawing at his own arm...he's a genuinely hungry chap who needs the calories right now. I have reason to believe that we are singlehandedly propping up the breakfast cereal market at the moment!

Tuesday found me with a whole day off so I tootled down the town with a chum who'd been over meeting the black furry purry one. Having done all the bits I needed to do, I made the fatal mistake of crossing the threshold of the most reasonably priced charity shop in the town. It's an individual one made up of the local churches and its approach to clothing is keep it low to keep the stock moving. I've had some fabulous bargains over the last year or so since it opened.

In a moment of weakness I let the material girl out of her box...she's been mithering for weeks about needing a Christmas present and for once the GBT purse [that's her on the left with the red hair if you needing reminding] was in a good mood. Nothing to do with the unsupervised access I've allowed her to the bottle of homemade raspberry vodka then!

Anyway the material girl spotted a rather snazzy pair of immaculate purple leather boots for a fiver in my size that just gave me that ooh feeling when I clapped eyes on them. "Aww there's more where that came from" said the GBT purse boozily flinging 500 pennies onto the counter whilst draping her arm around the material girl [they're normally arch enemies] Well make hay while the sun shines is my motto so I managed to wrestle a further 700 pennies out of her sweaty paw [she only put up a token fight] and the cardi plus a denim skirt [far too dull to photograph] came home with me too. The material girl has been purring like Eartha Kitt ever since!


Thursday 11 December 2014

A Naughty Jingle!

Mr GBT used to be a handbell ringer but I don't quite recall a performance like this one....this may of course be entirely due to the fact that I may have hit my head on the floor as I fainted from the'll never know will you!


Wednesday 10 December 2014

New Sights At The Weald and Downland Museum.

As you may have gathered from yesterday's post I was out dancing at the weekend for the annual tree dressing event. Usually Mr GBT comes with me to take his lovely photos but sadly he was a poorly bunny so I shot out before our first set and took a few quick shots with my new camera [bought with the money from the cancelled Culture Club concert] so apologies that they're not up to the usual standard!

This is Tindalls cottage which is the newest property on the site. It dates from about 1700-1725 and is named after the family who lived there from 1748 to 1806. I managed to get a few shots of the interior whilst the museum was still relatively quiet.

One or two photos from another couple of things that caught my eye as I was in hot pursuit of my quarry....

And the object of my photographic desire...why this the new painted wall cloth in Bayleaf that I had read about in the most recent magazine.

A combination of bright sunshine filtering through along with with smoke from the fire didn't make for the clearest of shots I'm afraid. It was painted by Melissa White and based upon a surviving wall painting discovered in Althrey Hall Flintshire. They were found not only in the homes of the wealthy but also the lower status houses for not only did they make a statement piece they were also important for insulation.

Painted onto linen Melissa used natural pigments including yellow and red ochre, lamp black and whiting. The close up shots show the pomegranate and rose motifs.

Such additions to the house give us here in the 21st century a glimpse of some of the colour of the world surrounding people in about 1540 which is so often lacking in the dry husks of the house structures we see from that time today.


Rest awhile and smile.

I parked my ample rump on that there bench and followed the instructions on its plaque.  It wasn't exactly an onerous task to have to re...