Saturday 31 October 2015

The Ugly Truth

The imported version of Halloween which has come from across the pond is great fun by and large [although I detest Trick or Treating almost as much as Black Friday but mustn't rant]. I used to love cooking all sorts of ghoulish goodies for a themed tea and was an ace with the green food colouring. Even now I enjoy the chance to dress up and kick my heels. Behind all that though I do remember that many innocent lives were lost at the hands of those who hunted down and executed those who were held up as witches.

Janet Horne was the last "witch" to be burned alive in Britain- 1727 in Scotland. The victim [her real name is not recorded- the name used was the generic one for those accused of witchcraft- bit like Jane Doe] was accused by her neighbour of riding her daughter like a horse to the devil to be shod. Failing to change her back from her pony form was proof enough to convict here. It is now known that the daughter suffered from a hereditary condition which made her feet and hands deformed. Janet herself showed a lack of understanding of what she was being accused  of with all the signs pointing to the fact that she was probably senile. The trial was rushed through by the sheriff-depute Captain David Ross and the poor woman was stripped, tarred and paraded through the town before being burnt alive. A memorial stone in Littleton marks her demise. The daughter managed to escape. Nine years later Scotland repealed the Witchcraft Act- it was the last country in the union to do so.

This poem by Edwin Morgan records the tragedy.

In Dornoch there was a burning
With no sign of mourning
That January morning

This was the final solution
The last execution
Of an ancient persecution

For they called it witchcraft
An old woman's stitchcraft
Or a bit of leechcraft

Century of enlightenment
Still thrilled to torment
Thumbscrews and judgement

Janet made a pony, of her daughter
Says the story
Rode her for Satan's glory

They tarred her and feathered her
Bound her and gathered her
Screaming and barrelled her

Burning in the peat-smoke
While the good Dornoch folk
Paused briefly for a look

Dear God were you sleeping
You were certainly not weeping
She was not in your keeping

Today there is a garden
Where a stone stands guard on
The spot she was charred on

O heart never harden!


Happy Halloween.

Samhain blessings to all those who celebrate the old ways.

And for those who just enjoy the silliness and fun of Halloween a funny from Simon's Cat.


Friday 30 October 2015

The Time of the Ancestors

As the wheel turns again and we approach Samhain, my thoughts turn to  the thinning of the veil and to my own personal ancestors, both those known and unknown. Probably because it was her birthday on 19th October memories of my Nana have been at the fore.

Born in 1903 Nana was of the generation which saw great changes. She left school at 12 and always embraced new technology. Back in the 1980s she was the first in the family to have a microwave- anything which saved time and labour got her vote. For her having had to do everything manually it must have been a marvel- she was always one to drive rather than walk! I suspect had she been alive today she would have been up to speed with the internet and using a mobile phone.

During the 1920s she had her hair cut into a bob and shingled up the back. Quite what her parents thought I have no idea! The week was spent making a new Flapper dress for the dance at the weekend and Saturday morning practising her dance steps on a wooden floor with her friend. The noise they made must have driven anyone else in the house to distraction. If she wasn't overly keen on her current boyfriend she was known on occasion to arrange to meet him on the corner at a specific time but actually stand him up in order to meet another chap elsewhere.

Later on in life, after she had been widowed, she turned down the marriage proposal of an old miser she was housekeeping for with the famous putdown "I wouldn't marry you if your arse was stuffed full of diamonds". I would imagine that he knew where he stood after than particular exchange. Eventually she married for a second time- her husband had also been bereaved. They were the remaining partners of their best friends and had got to know one another because they had adjacent beach huts. Widowed again, at 77 she spent three months in Australia and New Zealand visiting family and friends. She died in 1988.


Thursday 29 October 2015

Breaking Old Habits and Breaking In New Ones.

[Image from]

Confession time [it's ok you don't need to run for the hills I am not about to air my dirty laundry in public!] I am a book addict. Always have been and always will be. Despite previous pledges to myself to curb my habit by not buying new books, I simply worked out effective ways to get round it- you can get your hands on a surprising number of books via the charity shops, jumble sales, freecycle and even friends kindly passing them over. This freestyle approach brings me into contact with all sorts of unexpected treasures along with the odd shocker or two which are rapidly abandoned. I have no patience with anything that doesn't engage me quickly or is badly written! Part of the joy of this is the sharing of my passion- books are quickly passed on for the next reader to enjoy [or not as the case may be] and for this reason alone I am not a Kindle devotee [having said that I can see the many advantages of owing one]. Until they manage to make the Kindle smell like a real book I'm sticking with the old technology.

Back in the day I studied English and American Studies. It was a degree with a huge amount of reading involved which took me along many avenues. Sadly one the lasting legacies for me though has been an absolute aversion to reading any type of book which might be termed a "classic". The problem has been that it has killed the reading for pleasure aspect for me as the overwhelming urge to pick up a pen and start marking up the text has become so ingrained. In reality the only book I have read since that period which would fall into this category is Jane Eyre and even that was many years ago. However, dear chum W has just passed her English MA and she passed over a couple of copies of duplicate texts she had. Initially when she asked me if I was interested my natural instinct was to decline, but I accepted her kind gift. The two books have been moved around my reading pile since the summer and you would be amazed at the level of resistance I put up to even actually starting them. This week though I have made a breakthrough and begun "Far From the Madding Crowd". Having spent forever studying Tess of the D'Urbervilles I swore that I would never read Hardy again. Even a chapter or so in I was still contemplating jumping ship but I have persisted and am now up to chapter eight. I am so thrilled that I have finally got into it and I am really enjoying it. Long may it continue- next up is Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde!

As for my book buying habit- why only this morning the marvel that is the second hand market place on Amazon provided me with my latest title- The Reader's Digest of Folklore, Myths and Legends. Yes siree- I have bought myself my Christmas present to me from Mr GBT. That way I haven't "really" bought it have I!!


Wednesday 28 October 2015

What a difference a decade makes.

Go back ten years- one small person resplendent in his homemade wizard's cloak.

Tonight the teenager is going out  to the first of this week's Halloween parties he's attending complete with a scythe dressed as the Grim Reaper. Actually he's gone full circle except this time round it will involve copious amounts of witch's brew!


P.S. He tells me that he won't be travelling on the bus in his fancy dress costume- spoilsport!!

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Reinventing the Wheel

Now I like brandy and I like butter but not together. I am similarly peculiar about Christmas pud...once again I am fond of all the components separately yet not all combined into one. I have pondered this and still am unable to fathom why. For this reason we always have an alternative come the big day.

Having strained the Christmas Pudding vodka yesterday [and yes it tastes delicious] I thought it a shame to waste all that lovely fruit which has been soaking away for the last week and when housesparkling I hit upon the idea of somehow reusing them in an icecream. I wish I was one of these imaginative people who could just open their fridge door, view their leftovers and produce gorgeous food there and then. Sadly I am definitely not in this camp so it always requires forethought and planning with me. Yesterday I whipped up a pot of cream and then stirred in the said fruit, checking first that all little dastardly cloves and bits of cinnamon stick had been removed- no one wants to lose a filling when they inadvertently gnaw on a twig do they now! Originally I had intended to stir in some sifted icing sugar to add a little more sweetness but I swapped that for the leftover custard I found lurking in the big white box. It's now safely frozen and here's hoping that I have managed to create my own version of a Christmas pudding icecream!

Whilst on a roll I've also got my act together and made the sloe gin. Intent on finding a use for all those lovely sloes once they've done their duty I now hear wicked rumours that you can make sloe sherry with the little blighters. This recipe is calling me


Monday 26 October 2015

Autumn Glory

"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolour, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all."
Stanley Horowitz.

I know everyone is busy posting up foliage photos at the moment but it's not hard to see why. These two glorious examples are within spitting distance of my home. I enjoy their beauty all the more because they are transient. The leaves will probably be down by the end of the week.


Saturday 24 October 2015

Guard Doglet

One wonders what the hell the smallest woof could be...quite make my tiny mind boggle!!


Friday 23 October 2015

Watch The Birdie

Plain and simple Mr GBT likes ducks- indeed one could go so far as to say he is very keen on ducks. Twenty five years ago the first ever gift I bought him was a mug with ducks on and amazingly it is one of the few originals from the early days which has survived. Whilst I was dancing in Arundel on Sunday, he took himself off to the Wetlands Trust. Armed with his camera he took many birdie snaps but in the main yes, they were of ducks! I enjoyed seeing them and hope you do too.


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Apple Day

Today is Apple Day. It was established in 1990 by Common Ground to celebrate our national fruit and has quickly caught the public imagination. More info here I think it's fantastic how the effect has rippled out to create not only a new annual custom but also lots of community orchards. We danced once again at the organised event at the Arundel orchard but there are no photos as it was very much the same pattern as last year. I did however, ensure that I partook of some freshly pressed juice, a wee tot of mulled cider and a slab of Dorset Apple Cake.

Having become an owner of my very own little tree this last year I am even more keen to try new varieties. As a child one called D'Arcy Spice grew in my Nana's garden. It was discovered in the 1800s in Colchester which was literally a stone's throw from where she still lived. I remember it having a very tough skin and a remarkable taste which I now know to be akin to nutmeg and hence why it's called the spice apple.

Speaking of apple varieties these few lines penned by an unknown poet mention more.

Picking the Apples

Apples to pick! Apples to pick!
Come with a basket and come with a stick.
Rustle the leaves and shake them down, 
And let every boy take care of his crown.
There you go, Tommy! Up with you,Jim!
Crawl to the end of the crooked limb.
Carefully pick the fairest and best,
Now for a shake, and down come the rest!
Thump! Thump! down they come raining!
Shake away! Shake, till not one is remaining.
Hopping off here, and popping off there,
Apples and apples are everywhere.
Golden Russets, with sunburnt cheek, 
Fat, ruddy Baldwins, jolly and sleek,
Pippins, not much when they meet your eyes,
But wait till you see them in tarts and pies.
Where are the Pumpkin Sweet? Oh, here!
Where are the Northern Spies? Oh there!
And there are the Nodheads, and here are the Snows,
And yonder the Porter, best apple that grows.
Beautiful Bellefleurs, yellow as gold,
Think not we're leaving you out in the cold,
And dear fat Greenings, so prime to bake,
I'll eat one of you now, for true love's sake!
Oh, bright is the Autumn sun o'erhead,
And bright are the pile of gold and red!
And rosy and bright as the apples themselves
Are Jim, Tom and Harry, as merry as elves.



Tuesday 20 October 2015

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Well certainly not me. Anyone who can buy a former windmill as a home spontaneously certainly gets my vote!

This is the Round House in Lewes which Virginia and Leonard bought in 1919. The plaque on the front rather marvellously reads "We bought a house in Lewes, on the spur of the moment. It's the butt end of an old windmill, so that all the rooms are either completely round or semi circular." They bought the more famous Monks House in Rodmell shortly after which turned out to be their preferred residence. Thus the decision was taken to sell this one on.

The property remains in private hands.


Monday 19 October 2015

Job Titles.

Monday and it's the start of the working week for many. Enjoying the social history of the everyday folks, it interests me how quickly the knowledge of some jobs are lost. Sometimes as recently as the Census the entries have us scratching our heads. Family research has shown me that most of my lot were agricultural labourers or coach trimmers so no query there but this little gem might amuse you


Saturday 17 October 2015

A Day of Domestic Trivia and Frugal Doings

If the truth of the matter be known I'm a bit of a home bird really. Much as I enjoy heading out for adventures, I am equally happy to have time at home to potter and please myself. Having enjoyed the company of two dear chums last night and maybe having indulged in the odd sweet sherry or three with them I had no specific plans for today. I toyed with the idea of doing the Park Run but I'm dancing tomorrow and besides I fancied a lie in. Most unusually for me I did not emerge from my pit until 7.30. Humphrey was not impressed!

Looking back over the day it's certainly not been wasted. The last of the ripe raspberries have been picked and are now frozen and the lurking veg has been rounded up and evicted from where it had taken up squatters rights in the fridge. One big batch of soup later has fed us for lunch today and will do so again tomorrow whilst the compost heap has been denied our leftovers. The slow cooker has been put to work with a lentil curry bubbling away in it and a list of foods that need to be finished up has been drawn up as I've started cleaning a few of the kitchen cupboards. The identified culprits will go towards forming the basis of the menu plan for next week.

A spot of housesparkling to keep the homestead looking reasonable for the next few days has been done and I've put the new to me airer which I picked up from the charity shop last week for £2.50 to use. We don't have a tumble drier [partly down to space and also the cost] nor is the heating set to high. As we're now past the time of year where it's not worth me line drying anything I've decided to set up the additional airer in the garage. I figured that there is still air flow out there and although the washing will take longer to dry than in the house, it stops the place looking like a Chinese laundry! Today is the first time for trying trialling my new cunning plan! Finally, the Christmas pudding vodka is underway - this is a new one for me to try but it sounded like fun. It is for us to enjoy over the festive period not intended to be given away as gifts. This is the link I've used

To be honest I've probably been just as productive today as when I have a long list and plan my activities like a military operation which is my more normal approach. It's been good to step off the hamster wheel for just a few hours.

I saw this fellow in his marvellous hat last weekend- it simply tickled me to see such a marvellous blast of colour on what was frankly a dreich kind of day.


Friday 16 October 2015


Sometimes I see something and the mind boggles. There is no context to give a clue to its meaning and this sign certainly had me stumped. I wondered if maybe it was a band but knew I was clutching at straws. Good old Google- I have now learnt that Toads is an abbreviation of "Toads in the Hole" which has nothing to do with sausages in batter but is a pub game played exclusively in East Sussex. It involves four brass coins [known as toads] being thrown from a set distance onto a table with a hole in the middle and various scores being achieved depending upon where the toads land.

So Now You Know!


Thursday 15 October 2015


Certain places are famous for the foods they produce- think Melton Mowbray as a classic example. Other places, although famous at a point in history, may have fallen by the wayside. Until recently I think it would be fair to say that my hometown of Horsham fitted into this latter category. I am delighted to say though that that is no longer the case.

We're talking the revival of the fortunes of gingerbread here. It was at the height of its production during the Regency period and at the time three varieties were available- the Parliament which was fat free with a very high treacle content, the Parliament Cutter which had crinkled edges and sold four for a penny and the Toy which was a hard and heavy type and would last for ages.

Below are a couple of the original presses- sometimes gold leaf was added to the stamp to give it that extra sparkle and luxury.

There were many makers in the town, each with their own secret recipes, including the forefathers of our local poet Shelley, but it died out with the death of the last maker, Mr Lovekin, in 1917. Thankfully for us the curator of our museum discovered a 200 year old recipe book at auction with the Shelley recipe in. For a year Lesley Ward, a local business woman [and my old boss from my Saturday job when I was 15!] who has a great interest in food set about resurrecting the gingerbread. She and her team spent that time experimenting until she was happy with the results. That was 2012. Since then it has gained a popular following and is now stocked in many outlets throughout the South East.The full story is here Such has been the success that Lesley is now busy adding other lines to the range.


Wednesday 14 October 2015

Arundel- The Girly Shots

I'm not all about dark Morris Dancing, Steampunk, black flowers, Gothic horror you know. I'm just as attracted to the pretties aswell- I am a true Libran and like everything in balance so here's the other set of photos I took on my recent day out with E to Arundel!

Technically it's little more that a picturesque village but because it has the castle [owned by the Duke of Norfolk] and the RC cathedral it's a crowd puller. It's very hilly but on the plus side it has loads of charming tearooms in which to quench your thirst and rest your weary legs! As a local I'd say well worth visiting out of the main tourist season.


Tuesday 13 October 2015

The Business of Busyness.

After a hectic week of work and other commitments bookended by two busy weekends I'm stepping off the hamster wheel for a few hours today. This particular piece of music whenever I hear it always puts me right in the zone. It allows me to stop, listen and breathe deeply.

Stabat Mater by Pergolesi sung sublimely by Emma Kirkby.


Monday 12 October 2015

The Snowdrop.

Life is full of seemingly unrelated little incidents but sometimes I find they seem to randomly collide within a very short space of time to form a coherent whole. One such example has occurred over the last couple of days.

Saturday saw me out dancing with Mythago once again. This time we were in Lewes which is a new gig for me [I danced at the Harvey's Brewery last Autumn].  Our first stand was scheduled for The Snowdrop which is at the far end of the town right beneath the cliffs. I had assumed that the pub was named after the flower and had given it no further thought until Friday when, unusually, my client's husband was still home. He used to live in Lewes and he asked me if I knew how the pub got its name.

Sensing a story he told me about the Lewes Avalanche.  Despite prior warnings about the increasing danger about the weather conditions the inhabitants of the workers cottages in Boulders Row decided not to heed them. On 27th December 1836 tragically eight people lost their lives. The youngest survivor was a little girl called Fanny Boakes whose white dress that she was wearing at the time is now on display in Anne of Cleves House. The pub is built on the site of the cottages.

Chatting about this discovery with a fellow dancer she was able to add another footnote. We perform a dance called Triskele which, when we danced it at the Harveys Brewery last year, was recognised by the original composer [we had got his permission many years ago but with all the changes in the side over the years the original information had been lost and we no longer knew who had written it]. He came up to us afterwards and said how much he had enjoyed both what we'd done with it muscially and the dance. He very kindly endorsed our continued use of it. His version of the music is performed by the band he's in who are called Touchstone. They are a fabulous local folkband who have written many songs about historical events in Sussex. I've had a couple of their CDs for years. And their song for which this tune was written? "The Night The Snow Came Down" and it's all about Fanny Boakes. This track is so familiar to me yet I had never thought to find out what it was about. Small, small world. Let me leave you with a recording of it.


Saturday 10 October 2015

I Spy....

With my little eye curiosities in Arundel. Chum E informs me that one of the reasons that she enjoys a jolly with me [apart from the copious quantities of tea we drink and the non stop chatter we manage] is that I will either spot something unusual or know something weird. I'll take that as a compliment- anything important falls of out my head within a split second but any useless bit of information is hardwired in for eternity. So not to disappoint here's more of my most recent Spotteds!

Doors- yes I find doors endlessly fascinating. Ones with windows, a gorgeous painted door [bugger about the shadows but mustn't grumble], the promise of Horror and knockers [oo er missus] what the hell is that one all about. A yeti and a hand...hmm an interesting conceptual design!!

A goodly spot of Gothic planting. Black blooms just do it for me- such a refreshing change from the norm.

One rather grumpy dragon- bears more than a passing resemblance to me first thing in the morning before I've got any caffeine in my system or when I'm hollering at the teenager.

Non twee house names- I so wanted to knock on the homeowners door and ask why they chose these particular ones.

And to finish my first ever wooden castle. Just because!

I'll put the "prettier" ones up separately.

Friday 9 October 2015


"Look up there" said my friend E. I did and this is what I saw. I would have missed these had I been on my own. Thanks E.

Hope you have a peaceful and fulfilling day today.


Thursday 8 October 2015

The Lewes Group

St Botolph's, Hardham, West Sussex is a small late Saxon church. Whitewashed, it is charming in its apparent simplicity yet it hides an amazing interior. It has one of the best preserved set of medieval frescoes in the country and apart from the 19th century damage, these are pretty much complete. It forms part of the so called Lewes Group because it is believed that four churches in total were painted by a single group of travelling artists and this one, along with one of the others, probably belonged to the Cluniac priory of St Pancras at Lewes. I fully intend to get along to visit the other ones in the series in due course. I have visited before, but this was a spur of the moment decision when I was out with my chum E and we just pulled off the road to give her a chance to enjoy them when we were en route elsewhere last week.

Here are a few shots for you to enjoy [that's not a command by the way!]

This is dear old St George on one of the crusades.

And Adam and Eve. How fab are they- definitely my favourite. They apparently mark a move away from earlier styles as they are less realistic with their elongated bodies and small heads.


Wednesday 7 October 2015

New Challenge

I touched on this briefly last week. Unusually for me I have raised my head above the parapet at Gnat Bottomed Towers and joined the No New Clothes Challenge For A Year being run by Jen Gale over at Make Do and Mend. This is quite rare for me as by and large I don't engage in the activities of other bloggers. I just keep writing my eccentric little bloglet and ploughing my own furrow. Very much like me in real life really- I am definitely one for standing on the sidelines rather than being centre stage.

During September I bought a few bits and pieces from a couple of charity shops to replace basics that were beyond repair. Another scarf might have snuck in [believe you me I have many] but that was 13th September and the intention [famous last words] is to not buy anything save for underwear or exercise kit until this time next year [only if I need them though]. I have already been tempted by a green scarf but when I worked out why it turns out I already have a necklace in the same colourway. I've been lucky to win a bag of long sleeved tops on freecycle which will be fine for working in and it won't matter if they get bleach spots on them. Beyond that we've all set our own rules and mine are that if I'm offered anything then I won't say no [a friend and I have often passed things over to each other as we're a similar size with overlapping taste] and I'm going to have a modest attempt to see if I can change anything I have that I don't currently wear. Don't expect miracles- I am no tailoress!

This is my first attempt- the jumper was given to my by said chum after her daughter no longer wanted it. I've been moving it around my drawers for a few months and I had put it out into the charity bag. However, I hoicked it out again and stitched the buttons on it which were given to me by a client a few weeks ago. I rather like it now even if it did take me several attempts to get the flaming buttons on evenly.

'Tis a start and I shall be interested to see if I learn anything along the way.


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...