Saturday 31 December 2016

Happiness Kit

This little collection of items came to me as a small, thoughtful gift from a friend in my green group. I would like to forward a virtual happiness kit on to anyone who is kind enough to drop by and read my witterings from time to time.

It consists of the following:
An eraser so you make your mistakes disappear.
A coin so you can never say "I'm broke"
A marble in case someone says, "you've lost yours"
A rubber band to stretch yourself beyond limits
A piece of string to tie things together when they fall apart
A kiss to remind you that somebody cares about you

Good health and cheer I hope to everyone for 2017.


Friday 30 December 2016

Why I'm Giving Up Frugality.'s ok you can pick yourself up off the's only a sensational blog title. Fear not...I have no intention of becoming a scattergood! I am simply giving up the word. For a long time I've used the word frugal and thrift interchangeably, but I have noticed that the nuances of the two words make me feel very different.

 "Frugal" I have to come to associate with austerity, spartan, having to go seems bleak and negative. "Thrift" meanwhile gives me a ability to mend things, reuse things creatively, think out of the box and come up with original solutions. Lateral thinking is something I greatly enjoy.

As for many of us, I have lots of leftovers to use up. I've loved the process of tracking them all down and working out what I'm going to do with it. Usually, I menu plan like a demon and lurkers get incorporated that way, but I've had a couple of days off and I've been able to wing it a bit more. It's been liberating and not without its moments of humour.....the teenogre has brought home some free perishables recently which his company has been giving to staff at the close of business. Having been out for ahem a "few" celebratory drinks for a mate's birthday, he proudly announced he'd brought a spring onion home for me only to triumphantly pull a rather large leek from his bag...cue one big vat of leek and onion soup the next day!

Out of interest I looked up the definition of the two words...they are very similar. "Frugal" is from the Latin "frugi" meaning economical. "Thrift" originally meant savings and prosperity...the idea of the accumulating savings from being careful with your money came later. Although now seemingly a contradiction in terms, a spendthrift in the first sense would simply have been one who spent their savings. I was pleased to note that it is also derived from "thriven" from which we get our word "thrive". It would seem that my gut instinct was right on this occasion.

Well seeing as this is quite a long blog post for me please allow me to finish with a rather touching quote from the late Carrie Fisher speaking about  the late Debbie Reynolds:

"If anything my Mother taught me how to sur-thrive."


Wednesday 28 December 2016

Gone Missing?

I would strongly suggest that the current holder of the Strictly Come Dancing Glitter Ball check his trophy cabinet for I fear it may be missing. I am quite sure I caught a glimpse of it hanging from this tree earlier in the week!

Big trees need equally scaled up decorations it would seem....

I, meanwhile, am more in the scaled down camp....twelfth scale to be precise. The tree is about 5" tall.

More miniature treasures have just been gratefully received from Mr GBT.  In homage to my trip to the Pitt-Rivers collection earlier this year, I now have my very own shrunken head for the Victorian study as you do. My teenogre simply said " You are so weird Mum" as I showed him said item. He was not impressed. Photo to follow!!


Tuesday 27 December 2016

Keeping The Old Traditions Alive.

Hello! Hope you all had a splendiferous Chrimble. Much feasting and drinking here in the halls of GBT [well a bit anyway!] so it was good to get out and stretch the old limbs with a spot of that ye oldeMorris Dancing yesterday at a local hostelry. The new mask had its first outing and I danced out a new-to-me dance called Labyrinth. It has a lot of spinning on the spot and changing aching rib cage is telling me so in no uncertain terms today! I've put up a little film of how it should be done [unfortunately yesterday I was the one who went wrong so it didn't quite look like this!]


Saturday 24 December 2016

Merry Chrimble

Festive greetings from all of us here at GBT. Humphrey is wrapped up in my woollen cloak because I felt guilty that I had to move him off the clothes I'd laid out to wear today.....I know, I know!! 

Arilx, Mr GBT & the teenogre.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Mari Lwyd

The Mari Lwyd [meaning grey mare, although this translation is disputed in some quarters] might just come knocking on your door at this time of year if you live in South Wales. This is one of a number of styles of hobby horses which are seen around different regions in Britain at various points during the year. I saw this particular example earlier in the year during my visit to the Horniman museum with Lovely Grey.

Unlike the wooden hoodening horses, this one is a slightly more macabre version. Normally made from an actual equine skull, it is bedecked with ribbons and bells, mounted on a pole with a white sheet hanging down to allow it to be operated. Many have the jaws articulated so that it can snap open and shut unexpectedly startling and frightening the audience by turn. Taking the beast from door to door along with the ostler, Punch and Judy, the sergeant and the Merrymen, it is traditional to sing a verse of a song to try and gain entry. By turn the local homeowner refuses entry by way of a witty sung riposte [known as pwnco] and this continues until finally they are allowed over the threshold for cakes and ale. 

The custom was first recorded in the early 19th century, but I like to think it goes back much further than that. Knowing how old the Uffington White Horse it doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to think that the horse has been an important part of our folkloric and magical traditions for a great deal of time.


Wednesday 21 December 2016

Alban Arthan

Winter Solstice blessings. Despite the steel wool clouds out there today at least we can celebrate that the daylight will lengthen every day. I had the privilege of dancing in Stonehenge at the weekend to celebrate this festival. It was, as ever, a magical experience.


Monday 19 December 2016

The Stealth Elf Strikes Again!

So I snuck out for a jolly and the Stealth Elf snuck out on a secret mission. Not only has he morphed into a Ninja decorator this Christmas but, now I find he has paid real GBT groats for some new ones.

Yes the Stealth Elf now has a Stealth Shelf with his very own Elf....not easy to say after you've glugged down a Snowball or three I find! He has made me smile these past few days!


Saturday 17 December 2016

Dropped Cake Tip

Now I've heard of a drop scone, but until yesterday I'd never heard of dropping your Victoria sandwich in the tin as soon as it's come out of the oven. This apparently stops the middle from sinking as it breaks the walls of the bubbles and allows the air to get back in. The outer edge of the cake gets to a hotter temperature and therefore is cooked more than the centre. I have certainly dropped cakes in my time....on the floor. Now I get to drop them intentionally on the work surface!

So now you know- there was a fuller explanation on Nigel Slater's Icing on the Cake programme.


Friday 16 December 2016

Dressing Up and Dressing Down

The teenogre was telling me how he'd spent last Saturday dressed up as an elf at work. We have good friends coming over for the SCD final tomorrow and this has reminded me of a fancy dress story which happened to D back in the day when we were both Bright Young Things.

When I still lived at home with my parents [in a time before Mr GBT] D would quite often pop round for a cuppa and a catchup [due to a tricky homelife he sort of adopted our whole family and would drop in whenever he felt the need]. On one occasion he came in sporting a mighty fine pair of blue tights dressed as one of these:

[image from Pixabay]
He and a couple of mates were heading out to a fancy dress evening at a night club. All togged up, he arrived to find that only the three of them were wearing costumes. Shortly after his "mates" disappeared to use the facilities only to reappear minutes later in mufti....wicked monkeys had spun him a complete yarn. Fortunately he saw the funny side and forgave them.....he certainly stood out that night as the only smurf on the dancefloor, but not perhaps for quite the reasons he'd have liked!!


Thursday 15 December 2016

If you're feeling deprived

I like this time of year...the bonhomie, the lights, people helping out others. What I can't stand is the greed and pointless commercialism which fuels a whole host of negative fears and emotions. If you feel in need of a bit of balance this website might just give you what you need


Wednesday 14 December 2016

How many shades of grey?

Not 50 according to the programme QI. No, there are apparently 104....after this week though I would beg to differ. There's one and one only for I have seen it day after day this week. It doesn't trouble me unduly for it makes the blood red skies of the sunsets and sunrises of this time of year all the more spectacular. I stopped the car to take a photo of this on magnificent was it. I do hereby solemnly swear that I may have cropped out the passing car, but I have not tinkered with the colours in any way.

Until recently I never understood the science behind why we see the colours we do at this time of day. All fascinating stuff. Rather than regurgitate the article and brown off the author into the bargain there's a link here for anyone who's interested These natural wonders keep me going when it's grim out there.


Tuesday 13 December 2016

Advertising Space

There is little more for me to add about my jolly to the Geffrye museum on Saturday because my blogging chum Lovely Grey has already covered all the bases rather marvellously here

However, I did take a couple of shots of things which caught my eye as I made my way there. Having had a son visit Pompeii earlier this year and talk about the Roman wall paintings advertising various services [including ahem the ones at the brothel] it struck me that here we are more than a couple of thousand years later still doing exactly the same thing!

This example is next to the museum. I really feel we should be listing these nowadays as they become rarer rather than just letting them disappear.

Then this one which I guess is its modern equivalent. This is the signage for a garage near Hoxton station. Certainly eyecatching!


Monday 12 December 2016

"A Mad Wall"

" A Mad Wall"....a phrase made famous by Lovely Grey when showing us pictures of her home. Only this time it wasn't at her house, but seen at the Geffrye Museum in London....thankfully she was with me to fully appreciate it!

This is the handiwork of Jonathan Early and at first glance, it looks to be a fairly sensible depiction of a typical 18th century landscaped garden. Closer inspection proves it is anything but....instead it's a rather marvellous flight of fancy. Think Beatrix Potter meets Punch with wonderful detailing.... why there are even ants for those who take the time to look closely. Just fab!


Sunday 11 December 2016

D.I.Y Nativity

As an alternative to a shop bought Nativity with a carefully constructed setting and coordinating figures, I was rather taken with this home made affair which I saw in a Sussex church at the beginning of the year. I rather like the fact the maker has gone off piste with the inclusion of all different types of ornaments to set the scene. I had some of those whimsies made by Wade as a child and although, I don't recall there being any mention of an owl being present, but the Bible doesn't say there wasn't one either!

I had a smashing day with Lovely Grey yesterday, but I need to sort out photos and thoughts before I blog and frankly, I can't remember where I put the jar with my brain in so no chance of that happening today!


Wednesday 7 December 2016

A Frosty Reception

I can honestly say that until yesterday, I had never been greeted by a snowman doffing his hat. This rather fabulous automata was built by the amazing volunteers at the local museum. Apologies for the less than fabulous photos....they were taken on my phone.

I shall make the next post a non festive one...I don't want to be suffering from Christmas overload too early in the month!


Tuesday 6 December 2016

The Stealth Elf

Following on from a recent conversation about buying strings of non fairy lights to keep up in the lounge during the long winter months, Mr GBT and I went mad in the town recently and not only topped up our light supplies, but also invested in some new festive decorations. A fair few have got broken over the years and the tinsel looked decidely threadbare.....never fear the height of our retail extravaganza was to step over the threshold in in Wilkos, but most came via our usual preloved route of the charity shop.

Now this has given us a tidy little pile of new, shiny things. Normally I'm a right old harridan about the whole Christmas decorating malarky....nowt up until Yule except this year we seem to have acquired a stealth elf  here at GBT who is challenging my bah humbug ways by sneaking one decoration up a day. I didn't even notice them appearing for the first couple of days. Mr GBT just smiled at me benignly when I commented on it and continued along his merry little way. They are still popping up and it's become quite an amusing game to try and spot them!!

The pretty glass baubles are one of our recycled thrifty purchases.


Monday 5 December 2016

Where did you get that hat? Where did you get that style?

Huzzah an amazing day of dancing yesterday taking part in the tree dressing event at the Weald and Downland museum. I was able to debut my new mask and we all performed a new dance for the first time. It was so good to get out and jingle my bells in the sunshine after being poorly!

No photos...been there, done that on this 'ere bloglet of mine. What did take my fancy though was this fabulous hat that one of the ladies in Rabble was wearing. It was difficult to get a shot because she was dancing and she soon got too hot and took it off. That's what I love about being part of the Morris world....all its eccentricity in all its glory!


Sunday 4 December 2016


I was in a local jewellers recently [not a place I'm usually found it has to be said] when a young chap wandered in. Cheerily he greeted all the staff and then told them excitedly about the latest watches he'd bought. It was evident from the exchange that they all know him well.

Once he'd gone I asked the lady helping me if he collected watches because I was sure I'd seen him a few months ago in a charity shop asking if they'd had any new ones in. She smiled and said he comes in every morning at the same time to see them all. He buys all his batteries from them and always likes to show them his latest acquisitions. He often gets them a little gift too. She said that they always enjoy his visits, but it can be awkward sometimes because some customers show their disapproval at the brief interruption. I just quietly explained that I recognised the behaviour immediately from my own son as a child with the all consuming hobbies, rigid routines and lack of social awareness. This will never change for this young man, but I am glad that he has found a place where he is treated with kindness and understanding. I've met many people in life who I can't abide [and vice versa], but I guess this reminded me that it doesn't mean that I don't have a choice whether to behave badly towards them or not....a little bit of kindness can go a long way.


Thursday 1 December 2016

Baby's First Christmas

Wicked Mother....look what I made the teenogre wear that first Christmas he was on the planet...we cackled gleefully as he wore his Snowman hat and it wobbled away everytime he moved his head. The following year there was to be no tomfoolery at his expense....any type of naff Chrimble gimick/ adornment was removed from about his person swiftly and accompanied by a very stout, no nonsense "no!". Oh well it was fun while it lasted!!

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Unbarbecued Spaghetti

Now to my mind this is a classic barbecue sauce recipe

This is my 1970s cookbook version...kind of groovy and not the remotest hint of barbecue about it I would argue. However, it's a mighty fine quick fix veggie offering for those evenings when the cooking monster is rampaging around the kitchen and wanting to do anything but cook. This is one of my go-to favourites when I need to get a meal on the table and Mr GBT is very sensibly ignoring my manipulative whinings [he does plenty of cooking believe you me!]

My only observation is you might like to heed the amount of curry powder depending on your personal taste and strength of said item!

Fry a chopped onion until golden. Add to it 1-2 tbsp of curry powder and fry briefly. Then stir in 2tbsp peanut butter, 2tsp tomato puree, 1/2 pint of vegetable stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 mins. Meanwhile cook 3oz spaghetti per person- I add in a goodly amount of frozen sweetcorn or peas to it. When all cooked combine the pasta with the sauce. It suggests serving it with sausages or beefburgers. I find it makes a rather tasty meal in its own right.


Monday 28 November 2016

Equine Road Safety

My little part of Sussex is definitely horsey....the winding roads see many a horse box upon them at the weekend and even a certain famous horse loving celebrity with her very own pink equestrian box lives here. This is reflected in the local road crossings where there is a large area set aside for them to wait.

What I want to know is how do the poor things press the button? ;-) Particularly if they are of a smaller stature like this little chap!

I am still waiting excitedly to see this feat performed....the novelty of seeing something new always tickles me!


Sunday 27 November 2016

Strictly Come Dancing

The secret is out....I am a huge SCD fan [not of the silly set up sequences granted] and have been for years. The costumes, the live music, dancing,'s a pleasure to watch as the nights draw in and Winter arrives. This year we have fellow fans coming for drinks and nibbles when it's the final.

Last night it was the first time anyone had scored a perfect 40 for the samba. The performance was spellbinding, but it was the music which blew me away. If you missed it this is it- Magalenha by Sergio Mendes.


Thursday 24 November 2016


A rare trip out to the local cinema earlier this week [it won't surprise you to know that we went on the cheap night and took our own munchies will it?!!] means I'm hip and with it for once in my life....yes I have seen the "Fantastic Beasts" within the week of its launch. For one who normally gnat- bottomly waits for all films to come out on DVD, this was quite a break from the norm. I am though a big fan of all things JKR, so delaying the pleasure was never going to happen! Without giving away any spoilers all I can say is that I thought it was Fantastic and given the choice of any the beasts contained therein, my one of choice would be my very own niffler please.....

Nifflers aside, one aspect of the story which particularly interested me was that the main protagonist is a Hufflepuff. The Harry Potter books focus very heavily on the relationship and tensions between Gryffindor and Slytherin. By contrast Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff really don't feature anywhere near as prominently within the plot. Curious to know what the defining characteristics of each of the houses were, I went back to the sorting hat ceremony descriptions in "The Philosopher's Stone". As I read on some of these jumped out as sounding rather familiar and I began to form an idea of which House I would have been put in. Well in for a penny, in for a pound...might as well jump in and test out my pet theory and where better than to set up an account on the Pottermore site and complete the Sorting Hat quiz for myself eh!

And my conclusion? That I am a Hufflepuff through and through. Did the scientific "research" match up? Yes!  Perhaps all just a bit of harmless fun, but I find it a good tonic to escape the grind and rediscover the magic in my everyday life sometimes.


Wednesday 23 November 2016

The Magic of the Arts

How this manifests will be fantastically different for every one of us...isn't it precisely this which makes it magical?

This quote is in Leith Hill Place- once the home of Ralph Vaughan Williams, it is now in the ownership of the National Trust.


Tuesday 22 November 2016

The Spirit of Christmas

My lovely Mother-in-law died from Alzheimers in 2013. Our son decided to set up a monthly donation to the charity in the memory of his Nanny earlier this year. Much as I've enjoyed the sparkle of the clever Christmas ads any readers will know I'm not a fan of greed and rampant consumerism. This I found very moving.


Sunday 20 November 2016

Not Beige.

In the teenogre's estimation Gnat Bottomed Towers is full of some "weird sh*t"...personally I prefer the term "unusual", but hey I'm not a hip 18 year old lad am I. I did have to laugh when he said that he bans any of his mates from touching either the dollshouse, that "weird goblin thing"....weird goblin thing? What!! You mean that beautiful gargoyle your Mother knitted with her own fair hands....the one where she put issued expletives in combinations that even you hadn't heard as she grappled with the indecipherable instructions [knitting patterns completely fox me]

Or this....

Now I absolutely love this and always have done since the first time I clapped eyes on it at a folk festival years ago. Mr GBT had exactly the same reaction and back in the day when we were flush we bought it on the spot. Its familiarity means I don't even really "see" it's just there. Guaranteed though its presence is brought back into sharp relief when somebody new crosses the threshold. Invariably they comment upon it and there's no holding back...people tell me immediately whether they love it or loathe it. It's not an item which provokes a beige definitely black or white. Others, I have discovered, hold very strong opinions on all matters arachnid!


Saturday 19 November 2016

Go on say it.....

Beyond the houses I clean [on the days I did work] I haven't been anywhere this week...all plans were cancelled. It was a welcome change of scene to make it to the supermarket first thing today for the weekly shop....blimey I never thought I would say that about a shopping trip! Mr GBT kindly came with me as I'm still feeling fairly ugh.

Bending down to pick something up from one of the lower shelves, I noticed that the lady next to me was wearing a really unusual and eyecatching coat. For a moment I hesitated, but then I decided to tell her how much I admired her jacket. Looking a little startled, [it's not very British to either give or receive a compliment from a complete stranger is it!] she beamed at me and confessed that it wasn't expensive. When she had seen it she had fallen in love with it and her son had offered to buy it for her. She decided that she was too old for it and had told him not to bother....thankfully he ignored her. I told her it really suited her at which point she thanked me and said I had completely made her day. Such a small glad I managed to overcome my natural reserve and bothered to say something.


Thursday 17 November 2016


In a bid to declutter even more I have spent a couple of hugely thrilling sessions up in the loft identifying old paperwork which can be shredded and recycled. All these rummagings have produced other things which I had forgotten about.....

My son's first pair of shoes. I remember my Mum suggesting that I keep them because "one day you will never believe he was so small." She was quite right of course......

I can only apologise for the state of the teenogre's current pair. I did suggest he might like to polish them before he next wears them to work...."yes Mum" he replied in that kind of "yes Mum, no Mum, three bags full Mum" way they adopt when they're planning to do nothing of the sort....any parent of this age group will be familiar with it!! It has been known for him to crack open the tin of wax once in a while so you never know....stranger things have happened!


Wednesday 16 November 2016

Under the weather.

Last night through the fug of vapour rub fumes, bunged up and restless, my brain hopscotched from one thing to another as I tossed and turned during the long hours of sleeplessness. One question that popped into my mind was why we describe ourselves as feeling "under the weather" when we're not A1.

Having taken today off from my self employed house sparkling I now have answers....

The phrase is nautical in origin and refers to when unwell sailors were sent down below the deck and away from the weather conditions to recover.

"A1" was the mark of a first class wooden ship in Lloyds register. A was the quality of her hull and 1 the quality of her equipment.

This has vaguely stirred memories of reading an article once about maritime sayings and I have turned up a few additional jottings of the reasons behind some of our everyday idioms.

"Between the devil and deep blue sea" - in wooden ships the devil was a seam between the hull timbers near the keel. To be working so near the sea made it very precarious.

"To be at loggerheads"- a loggerhead was an instrument used to heat the pitch for the seams of the boat. It was made up of two large iron balls mounted on each end of a metal bar. One ball would be heated and the plunged into the bucket of pitch to melt it.

So there you have it....


Tuesday 15 November 2016

Trompe L'Oeil

From time to time I have put examples up of Trompe L'Oeil which I have encountered on my travels. I think this one is possibly my favourite so far. It's in Lewes and is referencing the Priory...the remains of which can still be seen today.


Monday 14 November 2016


So tonight is the supermoon and it is gloriously covered in cloud. Apparently if you carry a hazel twig and eat a fern seed collected tomorrow night ie the first night after the full moon you will become invisible. Or so the Medieval folklore story goes......


The image is one of ours of the full moon...obviously not today's though!

Sunday 13 November 2016

Blue Peter Cooking

Anyone who grew up watching Blue Peter will recall the various cooking spots over the years. Due to a lack of love of time spent in the kitchen my cooking has remained at that kind of level. If Mr GBT cooks you'll get a fine dining experience if it's me then it's more Scout Camp in style. Tasty, straightforward and lacking in the looks department.

Due to the inclement weather yesterday we scotched our plans for a walk along the Devil's Dyke [part of the South Downs], so chum H came for lunch and an afternoon of catching up. Having fed her Monday Pie and apple crumble I had also baked some of these to go with a cuppa later.

"Care for a sticky blob?" I asked her. Raising one eyebrow rather quizzically, she asked me why they were called that. "No idea" I said "it's just the name of them in the Be-Ro recipe book". They tasted rather good and this was all that was left later. The original recipe is here You will be relieved to hear she's still standing this morning ;-)


Saturday 12 November 2016

The weather outside is frightful.....

With the leaden skies outside I am taking on the task of brightening up this little corner of blogland today with a big old hit of colour....street art from our recent trip to Belfast. Many are on the hoardings of old buildings which I think will be demolished as they continue to regenerate and titivate the city. I can't profess to "understand" the paintings, but it's precisely that quality and the discovery of them hidden away up side streets, which is part of their appeal.


Wednesday 9 November 2016

A Day of Loss and Celebrity

Before I start....there is going to not be one word about the events across The Pond. I'll keep this as a breathing space for silliness and light relief for people today methinks.

Yesterday the bunting was out and the flag was hoisted high for I had a day off.  Huzzah! This fellow meanwhile was just off.

Humphrey had got wind of the fact that it was the day of the Annual Visit to the Vet for his jabs. Thankfully we had blocked off all his escape routes [it 's amazing how such a portly soul can squeeze into such a tiny space!] so his stout little legs didn't get him far before we caught up with him and incarcerated him in the Box Of Doom. I literally live two minutes away from the vet, yet he wailed like a banshee the whole time. Such a big girl's blouse.

Now I'm not a great fan of these little trips really. I mentally prepared myself for another gentle ticking off about him having gained yet more weight. I had my script and defence prepared.."yes he only has the recommended dose of the diet food twice a day, but he also regularly indulges in an overnight snack of petit-furs which I can't monitor." I don't mention that he's on occasion he's been fed twice...he always scarfes down his food immediately and is happy to tell you that he's not been fed a single morsel an hour later. I only knew he'd eaten on Saturday when I came in because the teenogre had left a note saying "fed" next to his bowl! Amazingly though he has lost weight....he has been frantically searching for it since we got home!

I meanwhile have been moving in the upper echelons of society....I met the Queen yesterday....she was working outside a local cafe. Times must be hard!

'Tis a thing of great beauty I'm sure you'll agree. Made me smile though and crikey we need it more now than ever!


What Aloicious Did Next

 After laying low for a few months Horsham's spoof artist Aloicious Shaftspole has been up to his tricks again. A 'what three words&...