Saturday 31 January 2015

Frugal Feline Supplies

Well dear old Humphrey has now been with us four months and he's getting on rather well. As you can see he's taking full advantage of every situation. Naturally he's not allowed to sleep on the bed so of course he is regularly snoozing on the bed. He's becoming even more affectionate towards us and has even won Mr GBT over. I never thought I'd say that but wonders never cease. He remains very wary of new people and actually backs away which is quite a feat considering his not inconsiderable size.....ah yes well that brings me to the small matter of his appetite which is anything but small.

As a neutered male who was abandoned and starved you can imagine that he's very food orientated. He still scarfs down his meals with indecent haste but at least he isn't asking all the time now. He is relaxed enough to sleep these days. The upshot of all this eating meant he had got rather tubby so he was put on a light cat food for neutered males aged up to seven as recommended by our local vet. It's not one that's available from the pet shop or supermarket so initially I bought some from our local practice when they had a special offer. The largest size available is 10kg which costs £60 from them. We are entitled to a 10% discount as we are members of the Healthy Pet Club. However, I remembered that we used to buy the flea treatments from a site called Animed when we had Psychocat so I just checked just out of nosiness. £43.90 and free p&p with an additional 10% offer at the time I ordered. We've always found them to give good service and I mentioned them to a chum earlier in the week when she was stocking up on meds for her dog. The cheapest she'd found for the tablets was £70- Animed were £58. Maybe worth at least a quick look at you buy a lot of pet supplies online. I'm not affiliated with the site simply a satisfied customer wanting to help others to save their wonga.


Friday 30 January 2015

Touched By Auschwitz

The title of this blog post is borrowed from a documentary programme which was shown earlier this week and is still available on catch up. I've been to Yad Vashem in Israel. Hand on heart it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. When we went the names of the victims were read out on a loop but it was the huge piles of shoes, glasses and hair that really brought home the horror. This programme tracks how the experiences of the Auschwitz concentration camps affected the lives of a small number of survivors in the aftermath and how its legacy has impacted upon the "second generation".

This is from one of the interviewees Max Epstein who now lives in Chicago.

"It was very dark. The smallest act of kindness appeared like a large spark. I choose to remember the sparks. That's my motto and that's what I live by."


Thursday 29 January 2015

Copper Bottomed Tulips.

To stop cut tulips from drooping place a copper coin at the bottom of the vase.....a marvellous tip gleaned from one of my clients. I'm afraid my nosey bone got the better of me and I simply had to ask when I saw this the other day!


Wednesday 28 January 2015


Many of us have horseshoes around our homes or out buildings in the knowledge that they symbolise good luck. Different people have told me that they should be hung with the points facing upwards to keep the luck in whilst others have insisted that they should be the other way so that the good luck can fall on you. Recently I even read that only blacksmiths can ever hang them upside down.

The horseshoe features in the Sussex folklore tale of St Dunstan and the devil. The story goes that the devil disguised himself as a beautiful woman in order to visit the saint when he was working as a blacksmith. However, his undoing proved to be the cloven hoof St Dunstan glimpsed beneath his silk gown and once rumbled he grabbed the Devil's snout with a pair of red hot pincers:
"Saint Dunstan so the story goes,
Caught old Satan by the nose,
He tugged so hard and made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more."

It will comes as no great surprise that ever superstitious sailors used to nail a horseshoe to the mast in the belief that it would help them avoid storms.

Nailing an iron horseshoe to the door should repel evil spirits- even better on the back of the door so they could not be seen by the witch trying to enter. Iron was imbued with magical powers because it could withstand fire. To find a horseshoe was considered good luck and if it still had nails in it all the better. You could increase the luck by spitting on it apparently! If you wrapped it in fabric, specifically red flannel for some and hung it above your bed then it would prevent nightmares.

Nowadays we continue to associate the horseshoe as a generalised symbol of good luck as they feature frequently on cards expressing this wish for various events and more specifically at weddings.
Up until 2013 there was a three metre high pile of horseshoes in the village of Hodnet Shropshire. Sadly it has now been cleared away
I should have liked to have a nosey at that had I been passing ever but alas that's not to be.


Tuesday 27 January 2015

You're Nicked

Back in 2013 my son rode the London to Brighton bike ride and raised nearly £300 for the BHF. The bike had been a Christmas present from my parents to him. Sadly on Saturday some lowlife stole it from his friend's locked back garden whilst they went out for an hour to play football [we think that they must have been watching him]. We had photographed the frame number but because he hadn't used the lock on the bike [the garden gate was locked] the insurance doesn't cover it. Initially I railed against it..I'd still quite like to string the little toerags up by their genitals but I've accepted the situation for what it is. Another bike was stolen on Sunday so it sounds as if there's a gang operating in the area. The matter has been reported to the police and if, in the unlikely event it turns up, it will be returned to us.

This type of event is just so common. I'm sure most of us must have had something taken from us unlawfully at some point. I had my credit card skimmed  a few months ago [personally I thought it rather rude that that particular lovely soul didn't actually have the good manners to invite me along to Italy despite apparently expecting me to pay £1400 for it!] and to be frank it left a bad taste in the mouth. However, aside from the practical lessons to be learnt [eg don't bother having a half decent bike and makes sure it's got your postcode on it] I have been bowled over by the support of others when they heard the news. Complete strangers shared my post on our local community facebook page and one lady took the trouble to phone me to say she'd seen a bike [it wasn't ours in the end] near where it had been pinched from.

I came across this quote on a thread on the MSE forums yesterday which seems very apt:
"Feeling resentful is like drinking poison yourself and hoping it kills your enemies." Nelson Mandela. Obviously I would rather that everyone was honest but I still believe most people are good or are capable of good given the right opportunity. I was delighted to hear from a local charity today that I had contacted a couple of weeks ago with a view to helping them out as a voluntary literacy tutor. It's a foundation that has been set up to help those who have fallen on hard times and are homeless to get them back on their feet. I loved doing it as a paid job and am keen to use my skills to help out my local community. It won't be until the Autumn when another of my voluntary commitments will come to an end but it feels at least like a small step in the right direction for redressing the balance of the last few days events.


PS As ever a random photo nowt to do with the post content. Liked it that's all!

Monday 26 January 2015

Meg Merrilies

A postcard with this poem on fell out of something when I was sorting through some stuff. I think I bought it when I visited the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle a few years ago.

Meg Merrilies

Old Meg she was a gipsey;
And liv'd upon the Moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
And her house was out of doors.

Her apples were swart blackberries,
Her currants, pods o'broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
Her book a church-yard tomb.

Her brothers were the craggy hills, 
Her sisters larchen trees;
Alone with her great family
She liv'd as she did please.

No breakfast had she many a morn,
No dinner many a noon,
And 'stead of supper she would stare
Full hard against the moon.

But every morn, of woodbine fresh
She made her garlanding,
And every night the dark glen yew
She wove and she would sing.

And with her fingers old and brown
She plaited mats o'rushes,
And gave them to the cottagers
She met among the bushes.

Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen, 
And tall as Amazon;
And old red blanket cloak she wore,
A chip hat had she on,
God rest her aged bones somewhere....
She died full long agone.

John Keats


Sunday 25 January 2015

The Weird and Wonderful.

I had a mop chop appointment today so seeing as I was going to be in the town I thought that I might as well take the old camera and take a snap of things which tickled my fancy or caught my eye as I was a-wandering.

This "beauty" is officially called "The Rising Universe" and is named after Shelley's poem- he was born just up the road from here. Unofficially I have heard it called many things including an exploding cabbage and the meatball...those are the cleaner ones I hasten to add. It has been out of action for some considerable time due to its high maintenance costs so it's no longer a working fountain. I believe it is "sadly" possibly being taken away in the not too dim and distant could probably here the cheering from the local population when the news broke!

These rather lovely tiles were uncovered when building work was undertaken on the main shopping street. From memory I think they were once in a long gone butchers.

Colourful shop displays from some of our independent retailers. Am liking the bridal bouquet in the teacup...would imagine that the teacup could be a bit tricky to manage on The Big Day though!

I am guessing that the Age UK shop were less than impressed with this particular "donation".

Street advertising. There are a couple more places where you can still see these. Part of me thinks that we should be preserving these as social history. Next time I'm near the other sites I will snap them for my records.

This splendid sculpture by Lorne McKean is of William Pirie who was the headmaster of the then boys grammar school [now the town's sixth form college where I studied and now the small person attends] from 1822-1868. He was a distinctive local character as he travelled around with his donkey and trap. The local children love clambering over it.

A couple more goodly splodges of colour...we need this type of thing when Nature's not really got going yet in January!

And finally this- our very own Scold's Bridal. I've been watching Lucy Worsley's "Harlots, Housewives and Heroines" series this week and she wore one. Wicked inventions- you could soon detect the note of panic in her voice.

So there you have it...a few new sights of my home town seen from different angles. Random selection...yes just the way I like it!


Saturday 24 January 2015

Erm Changing Fashions!

Don't say you never get furnished with hip and up to date info here....snigger.

I can always be relied on to honour my inner Essex girl!


Friday 23 January 2015

National Pie Day.

23rd January is officially National Pie Die so please allow me the pleasure of sharing my favourite recipe. It originates from Shropshire.

Fidget Pie

225g flour
pinch salt
100g lard cut into small pieces
2-3 tsp cold water
1 large potato peeled and chopped
1 large onion peeled and chopped
1/4kg streaky bacon chopped
1 large cooking apple peeled, cored and chopped
salt and pepper
150ml water
little milk to glaze

Sift the flour and salt into  bowl, add the lard and rub in with fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to mix to a stiff dough with a palette knife. Knead lightly on a floured surface for one minute until smooth. Wrap in foil or greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Grease a 1 litre pie dish and into it put layers of chopped potato, onion and lastly the diced bacon and chopped apple mixed, seasoning each layer well. Add the water.

Roll out pastry fairly thickly to fit the top of the pie dish, cutting a strip to go round the lip of the dish from the trimmings. Dampen this strip with cold water and put the pastry lid on top of this, pressing down well to seal. Cut two small vents in the top for steam. Decorate the top with the rest of the trimmings and brush with milk.

Bake at 200C for 30 mins or until pastry is golden brown. Reduce temp to 160C and cook for another hour, cover with foil to stop pastry burning. Serve hot.


Thursday 22 January 2015


Cross a Cocker with a Springer Spaniel and hey presto you get one of these......

Meet nine week old Toby who came to live with my dear chum E last week. He's absolutely adorable...a bundle of fun and mischief. Trying to be good but easily distracted when there are so many things to chase and chew! After a morning of cuddles and playing hard we had one very worn out little chappie.




A lovely little fellow but I am not entirely sure that her two felines currently would agree with me!


Wednesday 21 January 2015

The Humble Jumble.

Every January I help with the setting up of a jumble sale- Mr GBT does the afternoon and the clearing up. Invariably I bring home as much as I take but not this year for I am trying to learn not to reclutter as much as declutter. Never fear I still have plenty of stuff but increasingly it falls into the either useful or beautiful categories. Anything that falls in between those two criteria and is not consumable is leaving our little mud hut.

Obviously I left myself a little wriggle room for unplanned for bargains....this year that was 4 quirky Aril type films on DVD which I shall probably pass on again once I've seen, a Rose Eliot cookery book as am forever borrowing her titles from the library and these three Per Una skirts. Well at 20 pennies each and in my size I feel it would have been rude to refuse!

Several more clothing items were also purchased but these have now been cut down into suitable pieces of fabric:

These are destined to become part of my new coloured kit for Mythago. I've been playing around with different colour schemes in my head for several months and over time had discounted all bar two- either pheasant or peacock plumage inspired. As you can see I have plumped for the latter. I shall need to source some copper metallic fabric and will need far more than this but it's proved to be an even cheaper way of finding material. Last time I hit the £1 sale rail in a local charity shop. Pleased with my modest haul though and a big tick in the recycling/reuse box!


Tuesday 20 January 2015

A New Approach.

With it having been "Blue Monday" yesterday or this coming Monday depending on which site you check on perhaps it's high time to give this a whirl......Laughing Yoga. The small person came back with tales of his experience of this on his National Citizenship Service down in Brighton last summer. I am just smiling away at the prospect of the facilitator in a room facing eighty cool 16-17 year olds and engaging them in this particular activity. He must have been good at it for I was reliably informed that once everyone had stopped feeling self conscious and slightly awkward they all lay their traditional British Reserve aside and enjoyed a good old fashioned belly laugh. Not entirely sure if the commuters on the tube in the rush hour are quite ready yet though!


Monday 19 January 2015

Percy Pendragon.

I am a sloooow knitter and haven't tackled anything involving a pattern since my early 20s I should think. Since my redundancy in 2011 I started knitting my "rustic" [call that garter stitch] blankets one which Humphrey now sleeps on, a rainbow one for our bed and a blue one for my friend H that I finished last month. Let it just be said that that chapter of my life is now closed and I am ready to try some more grown up knitting [well relatively grown up but only in the sense that there is a pattern]. Last year an online chum flagged up this pattern....I'm not one for spontaneous purchases but even I prised open the GBT purse and flung 500 pennies away on this:

Now I know it's naughty to copy and paste this photo because it's not mine but I hope the lady won't mind as I'm promoting her site. It came from here and if you fancy knitting something charmingly whacky and off the wall this is a good place to start Not all to my taste but do love the gargoyle ones!

Mummikins bought me the wool for my birthday and she along with a dear chum have lent me the needles so he now has a head and a body. Progess is very slow but he will be finished I am determined. My version I suspect will be rather wonky but hey ho!


Sunday 18 January 2015

Howling in Sussex.

Don't panic I don't believe I've turned into a werewolf or yet anyway there's still time...howling is the Sussex term for wassailing. I have found it to have been a tremendously sensible idea to sign up for a Dry January when you're a Morris dancer attending three wassails with free round it by being the designated driver and hiding erm hot Ribena in my tankard so I look the part at least!

Friday night saw Mythago howling at the Slindon community orchard. It has one old tree but several youngsters that were planted as part of a Millennium project. We have often been present at such events but with other sides leading the proceedings but this is the first time we have performed our own one [written by our violinist] in the dark and only its second outing. Other than rather treacherous under foot...I had to dance very gingerly so I didn't go apex over bustle it was a wonderful evening set against a starlit night, flaming torches and a huge bonfire. It was really well supported and fantastic to see all the local community getting behind it.

The torches in the orchard.

Our venerable apple tree resplendent with clooties. It's now bedecked with cider [from the orchard] soaked toast to encourage the robins in who help drive the evil spirits away.

Just prior to beating the ground to make the sap rise. Last year our wooden "wassail" bowl leaked so this year one of our side has kindly donated one....don't tell anyone but it's a wooden salad bowl she found at the back of her cupboard when she was packing up to move. It was perfect though.

Now I am unclear at this stage whether this photographic effect was due to the flash not working properly on Mr GBT's camera as he claims or whether he was suffering from triple vision due to imbibing the mulled cider!


Friday 16 January 2015

It Takes All Sorts!

I'm not just fed up but actually bored to the back teeth by the cloned females [I'm sure there's a hidden factory just churning 'em out] strutting across the media and being touted as the Ideal to which we should all aspire whilst attempting to diss the rest of us mere "ordinary" women. Well I'm not having it...if you want a fake tan, designer clothes, plastic surgery [I'm talking cosmetic grounds only] go ahead so long as you're sure it's what you really want and you're doing it for all the right reasons. So long as you're paying [ooh controversial!] then it's none of my bleedin' business.

Moi being a woman is far beyond the external packaging. Sure I love to wear a bit of of the old slap. Personally I love my bright lippy and ridiculously coloured nail varnishes when I'm in the mood for painted talons but that's not for everyone. How dull life would be if we all looked the same or had the same attitudes. My woman of choice for the next time I'm back is Helena Bonham Carter! These days I embrace my wrinkles which I've exacerbated over the years by constantly raising my eyebrows and gurning and I don't give a fig that there are quite a few grey hairs in my short do either. Hell it looks like I've lived a bit that's all! I eat moderately well, do exercise that suits me [no gym bunny here], love crisps and enjoy my frugal life here at GBT. I am thankfully, well past the age when I have to impress/am impressed by people just by what they look like. I'm far more interested in what makes women tick and their actions. Love the skin you're in-age after all is only a number!

Sticking two fingers up at the nightmare that is airbrushing and  photoshop here's an inspirational little clip showing what real women can achieve:

And whilst you're perspiring gently how about a yowl to this tune that says basically the same thing.

Go for it ladies!


Thursday 15 January 2015

A Gathering of Greenmen.

I thought it hight time I introduced you to some of the members of my modest Greenman collection. There are a couple more not shown here.

These two are from a chap who sells them on our local artisan market. The red one has suffered a bit from the weather as he originally hung on the tree that we had to have cut down last year after it died.

I picked this little chap up at a medieval festival some years ago at Michelham Priory.

I love this fellow's beady eyes. He comes from the Hedingham Fair catalogue. There are other ones in the series by the same maker.

This one does rather look like he's lost a shilling and found sixpence. He came from Sherwood Forest. If you are there the visitor centre has lots of different examples.

And finally this one was a pressie from my parents and came from Avebury.

If you aspire to start/add to your collection [that'll be me then!] then this is my idea of heaven on earth- Spirit of the Greenman in Tintern. I know I've used this photo before but it's perfect excuse to indulge my obsession!


Wednesday 14 January 2015

History In The Making.

Like many at the moment I am mid way through a major house declutter. This is an exercise I undertake regularly alongside a deep clean from top to bottom so gradually over the years I have greatly culled the detritus from my life. We didn't go wild at Christmas so there haven't been many new things to find spaces for and I deliberately avoided the January sales. A few things have crossed the threshold this month that fit the old Morris maxim of useful or beautiful. This is the latest and was bought by my parents for my son and another one for my niece. Familiar to many who either were lucky enough to visit the Tower of London poppies like we were or see the coverage in the media this very poignant reminder of a war torn period in our country's history will go on to become an important arteface in its own right I'm sure.


Tuesday 13 January 2015

St Hilary's day.

"As the day lengthens January cold strengthens."

Despair ye not for once you reach the end of the 13th January you have supposedly survived the coldest day of the year. 

It seems a bit odd that poor old St Hilary should get landed with this rather dubious honour and reputation on his saint day. Born in c300 his name is from the Latin for happy or cheerful. Eventually becoming the Bishop of Poitiers he is known for his scholarly works and his symbol is a quill and three books. Furthermore he is the patron saint against snake bites so from that potted history he hardly deserves this wintry association.

The connection was established from 13th January 1086 when a great frost started on this date and lasted well into March. Again on 13th January 1205 more freezing conditions descended to the point where the Thames froze and wine and ale were sold by the weight! Sadly it also brought in great great suffering, for the ground did not thaw until the Spring, resulting in soaring food prices and starvation for the populace. 


Monday 12 January 2015

Buchan Park

Buchan Park is another country park within my district and is a popular spot with dog walkers and families. It is an area of mixed woodland, heath and meadow and was bought by West Sussex County Council in 1969. Used for sheep grazing and wood extraction during the medieval period there are also some workings left over from the iron industry. At one point it was owned by the Victorian Salliard family who were ostrich feather importers. They were responsible for the series of lakes that form the focal point of the area today.

One of the things I most enjoy on my occasional visits here is the attention to detail. Every mundane object has something added to lift it out of the ordinary- even the sign to the toilets has big wooden mushrooms carved at the bottom of its post. Many of the sculptures are created by chainsaws from fallen trees where they lay and are left gradually to break down and return to nature over time whilst new ones are added. It means that there is always a new treat to see.

These are taken in the wildlife garden. This is a dog free area with dipping ponds for the little 'uns [we frequented them when we were at the small kidlet stage ourselves!]

And in the centre....a gorgeous spotted woodpecker made of wood!

Things spotted on our way round. Lovely to see the first lot of hazel catkins...spring is gearing up. Huzzah.

On a personal note this was really exciting for me. A coal tit- it flew in and out so quickly each time it alighted on the feeder I think Mr GBT did well to get a decent photo of it through the window!


Sunday 11 January 2015

A January Pleasure

One of the perks of being self employed these days is that I get to see more as I travel between housesparkling clients during the course of my week than when I worked full time in the training centre.

On Friday afternoons I enjoy the beautiful but ever changing views of the wild brooks. At this time it frequently floods but in the summer it is grazed by cattle. Last year it was covered in water for many weeks but the water has only been up for a matter of days this time. Last week I noticed that the migrating Canada geese had arrived and were gathering upon the brooks. There was much honking as more flew in so I took my camera this time in the hope that I might get lucky. It's one of the treasures in January for me- it's not so easy to see the sparkle in a month that can be very bleak and cold but if you scratch below the surface it still has delights to offer.


Back to the town of painted doors and alleycats

 đź’•Ah Tewkesburyđź’• Do you know what...I flipping love this town with all its curios and layers of history. It is entirely down to Mythago an...