Tuesday 31 May 2016

A good spot.

The tiny native cream spot ladybird....found wandering inside along my windowsill. Having taken the blurry photo I can assure you that he's been safely released into the garden.


Monday 30 May 2016

GBT Becomes Three!

Three adults that is...yes amazingly, despite my somewhat haphazard parenting skills, we've all made it to our son's 18th birthday in approximately one piece. Champagne breakfast, lunch with our family and then he's out on the lash with his mates....I'll pass on the last one thanks.

Mocha cake for him...I offered to get one made for him but he went all coy and said he preferred the taste of homemade! There won't be much in the way of presents to open as the mad boy has decided he would like to throw himself out of a plane at 10000 feet [as if a bungee jump wasn't enough already this year]. We have bought him a voucher but have banned him from doing any such thing until his A level results are in!


Sunday 29 May 2016

Pinch Bum Day

Officially today is Oak Apple Day...the day you wore an oak apple [acutally an oak wasp gall] pinned to your lapel to show your allegiance to the restored monarch King Charles II. Following the Battle of Worcester, Charles escaped the Roundheads by hiding in an oak tree...supposedly Major Carless had to keep tweaking the Royal Posterior to stop the fellow from dropping off! He was crowned on 29th May 1660.

Here in Sussex it was known as Pinch Bum Day. Traditionally the children were given a half day off school...if you didn't wear the oak apple then supposedly others could either give your buttocks a tweak or whip the back of your legs with nettles.

This folkloric tradition has now passed into the annals of history.


Saturday 28 May 2016

Soup Sir?

On today's specials board we have Sweetcorn and Chilli.

Chop two onions and 1 red chilli. Fry in butter for 10 minutes. Add lots of frozen sweetcorn [I was doing it by eye but the back of the pack will give you a guide], 1/2 pint vegetable stock, dash of milk and seasoning. Cook for a further 10 minutes and then blitz. My lot wolfed it down and bearing in mind that they are confirmed carnivores, this was a very positive reaction.

I did work briefly as a waitress once and when it came to serving soup you might be relieved to hear that I was rather more adept than the lady in the clip below!


Friday 27 May 2016

Frou Frou Friday

If the Neolithic had had chintz Stonehenge might have been a very different monument....it brings a whole new level of meaning to the word materialistic!

A little bit of light relief to start the weekend!

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Hatched, Matched and Dispatched.

The window churches open on a world, now consigned to history, continue to intrigue me. All the major transitions in life were marked here by past generations. 

This is St Richard's in Burton where I saw the flame haired female martyr a couple of weeks ago with W. H chose the destination for our walk on Sunday and coincidentally chose the same place. I was more than happy to revisit and it was new for Mr GBT. Every visit yields new knowledge for me.

There were two of these wooden boards suspended from the church roof. I "think" I may have seen something similar before but frankly paid them scant attention. I only pointed them out to H this time because of the skull at the bottom. She casually replied that it was a hatchment to mark the death of a bachelor! Erm that stopped me in my tracks. More research needed!

Now I know that hatchments are a 17th century funerary tradition for the nobility. They would have been displayed in the deceased home for six months then transferred to the local church. The different colours and symbols denote the circumstances of the deceased. A bachelor has a black background on the lozenge [the diamond shaped board] whereas a knotted ribbon border is added for a spinster. For a married couple both sets of family arms are displayed [known as impalement] within the escutcheon [the shield shape]...if the husband dies first then the background of his on the left side [known as dexter] is painted black whereas the wife's is shown as white on the right hand side [known as sinister] The colours are reversed if the wife dies first. For a widower the entire board is blackened around the two sets of arms but a widow has the same knotted ribbon as for the spinster. I hope, that should I encounter another one in my travels, I might be able to decipher it a little more. This one is from the Biddulph family apparently.


Tuesday 24 May 2016

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No..it's....

...Well frankly I'm not entirely sure. Technically it's supposed to be a unicorn, but I suspect the painter thought "sod it" I can't paint a horse's head so I'll graft a canine head [complete with a set of doggy gnashers] on to an equine body and nobody will ever notice. Nobody's ever going to see a real unicorn so anything goes. It gave this old bird a laugh though. If you double click the picture the detail should show up more clearly.

It forms part of the Charles I coat of arms in the church in Burton Park. This is the full painting in all its glory.


Monday 23 May 2016

Going Wild

These past few months have been slightly odd in some ways. It feels, as I approach 50, many of my friends are at pivotal points in their lives...offspring have arrived at adulthood in one piece and are finishing college [my son finished on Friday], leaving home and sadly some relationships [marriages of many years] are coming to an end. In my own small way I do my best to support people. Walking in nature seems to be particularly therapeutic. Sometimes we talk about personal matters....sometimes the change in scenery brings a much needed distraction and a chance to relax. I've met up with my very close friend H several times over the last few months as she's come to terms with her new personal situation and it's been good to see her cope and adapt during that period. Yesterday was her choice of walk.....

Burton Park near Petworth was our starting point. Ancient Horse Chestnuts...rather like Trigger's Broom, they seem intent on a cycle of self renewal, for whilst the original tree dies off new growth replaces it. Some of the other examples had new trunks sprouting forth.

The Drinker's Moth caterpillar...rather a fine fellow.

Bracken unfurling from tight, spiral fronds.

The perfect Morris Dancer's Tree....yes the hanky tree!

There is a calmness to this time of the year before the vibrancy and riot of summer colour is unleashed. We have already planned and set the date for our next adventure. Fingers crossed that the Weather Gods play ball!


Sunday 22 May 2016

Ten Green Bottles

Yes well clearly there are only two, but the other version made for a better blog title. This caught my eye recently as an unusual piece of art using recycled materials. I sneakily turned over the price label to see how much it would set me back. £895...I have no idea of the man hours it takes to produce a piece of art work such as this, but I have left it in its current location!

If I were to invest in a piece of art using fragments of old wine bottles this would be my artist of choice. Her work is simply stunning.


Friday 20 May 2016

If the Tube was Medieval.....

I'm sure the Wife of Bath would have had something to say about it all! If you double click it hopefully it will enlarge!

Thursday 19 May 2016

Wanted for Crimes Against Horticulture!

"Mary, Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow?"

In my case frankly I haven't got a clue as I am the most negligent "gardener" [note I am using the term loosely] on the planet. Scarily I have planted some poppy seeds [Icelandic and Californian] and two weeks in the dear little things have germinated. I have even watered them and I am threatening to plant them out in the new raised beds Mr GBT has built in the back garden [they will be used to grow veggies in next year]. "Yes dear" he said although I think he half suspects [and he could be right based on previous form that I might have forgotten about them by then] that they may go the way of some of other attempts. However, the seed trays are in a prominent position where even I can't miss them. Hmmm we shall see. The front at least always looks rather pretty at this time of year. Let's see if I can keep it up!


Wednesday 18 May 2016

A Flit Around St Margaret's

Poor old St Margaret of Antioch led a life of trials and tribulations. Firstly she was snaffled up by Satan masquerading as a dragon and then upon her escape she lost her head. Fortunately, all this can now be commemorated by the church of her name in West Hoathly. Mind you this is a relatively recent thing as the dedication only came to light in 1935 after a member of the Sussex Archaeological Society ferreted around and brought forth a 13th century document which confirmed it. I guess late to the party is better than not arriving at all!

Our quick gallop round produced a few lovelies....fasten your seatbelts...here we go!

Church door with the date picked out in nails.

Memorial to Ann Tree, Protestant martyr burnt at the stake.

Cast iron grave slab with the details engraved straight onto the metal.

Medieval vines.

And this quatrefoil because the blue was just glorious and stood out as being very different to other examples I've seen elsewhere.

Told you it was brief!!


Tuesday 17 May 2016

The Vagaries of the English Language

Last Saturday was a working day for me with a big show in London. The maker next to me was a delightful lady from Northern Italy. Naturally we got down to some serious nattering between customers and she explained how Italy is like two different countries. In her opinion there isn't much love lost between the North and the South! As the conversation meandered, we touched upon the different languages she spoke and how easy she found them to master. One of the main difficulties for her with English is deciding upon the correct pronunciation and the particular example she chose was "beard".. I simply had to agree that it can all be pretty random at times with place names such as Mousehole, Towcester, Leominster and Happisburgh sounding nothing like the way they're written. This little poem sums up the whole confusing business rather nicely I feel!

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?
Well done! And now you wish perhaps
To learn of these familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
Looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead,
For goodness sake, don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear.
And then there's does and rose and lose-
Just look them up: and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go and thwart and cart...
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language man? Man Alive,
I'd mastered it when I was five!



Monday 16 May 2016

Defence Against The Dark Arts

Despite the title this is not the world of Harry Potter, but the real world in West Sussex. Set against the hysteria created by the malevolent book "Malleus Maleficarum" [Witches Hammer] this became the handbook for those carrying out the witch trials. Innocent people lost their lives and everyday folk lived in dread of the evil actions of others upon their lives. One way to protect yourself was to make your home as impenetrable as possible to those intent upon causing you harm.

Knowing this background, a recent reading a library book called "Slow Sussex" by Tim Locke made mention of The Priest House in West Hoathly which is famous for its ritual marks which are designed to deflect harmful influences. The house itself is a charming timber framed house which I'd wanted to see anyway and this sealed the deal.

Having now visited I would say that the former inhabitants of the house had just about every avenue covered. The garden has box in it which would deter any would be witch as she/he would be forced to stop and count all the leaves. If they had got past the tedium of that challenge then they were faced with a unique iron doorstep [normally a witch bottle buried below the door step would suffice]- iron was believed to repel evil spirits.

Forget the chimney as a point of access as this had been filled with old shoes to fill the void and the windows and any other point of access was covered by various apotropaic marks including the unusual pair of spectacles. Some are undecipherable but the cross is a representative of the St Andrew's cross and the VM stands for Virgin Mary.

 Having spoken to the current resident and been round the exhibition, I would say that the whole village was well prepared.  The church has similar marks carved on the door and even the font has a carved cross inside at the bottom although this was hidden away under the lid away from prying eyes. One of the houses had a mummified cat's paw in the beam across the fireplace.

All this seems to have done the trick. Thankfully there were only a handful of trials and one execution in the county. Margaret Cooper was hanged for supposedly causing the death of three people. A terrifying episode in our history indeed.


Sunday 15 May 2016


"There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn."
Samuel Johnson

I'll drink to that!


Saturday 14 May 2016

A Ray of Light

There's no other way of putting it.....Wednesday I was in a towering grump and being an evil old witch. No excuses- probably over tired but I am big enough and ugly enough to know when I need an early night. I came in from work muttering and griping over my woes and then got even more irritable with myself because I knew that what I was groaning and moaning about was trivial. Thankfully Mr GBT has the patience of a saint and he quietly slipped off, returning with a much needed cuppa and his listening ears firmly sellotaped on. Having generously shared all my load with him I started to settle and then one small thing completely turned it all around.....

Our soon to be 18 year old son sauntered in and casually mentioned in passing that he'd received a text message to say that the blood he'd donated earlier this month had been sent to a hospital in Wolverhampton. That stopped me in my tracks as I realised my child [as do many others] had helped to save another person's life and just how incredible that is when you stop and think about it. He signed up as a donor on his 17th birthday last year without telling me first and it has been one of my proudest parenting moments of late. This joins it...yes we will celebrate hopefully a good set of exam results in a few months time which he's working very hard for at the present time, but this for me is much bigger than all that. Although sadly I am no longer able to donate he joins my Mum who has been doing so for fifty years. I know how pleased she was when I told her. I think this feedback must be a new thing.


Friday 13 May 2016

Preparation is key!

Summer is a cumin and I'm ready and waiting....oh yes brolly in one hand, knotted hanky in the other and beach bod fit!

This was the final stage completed to day in preparation for the up and coming slightly raised temperatures...you know the ones where you dangerously toy with the idea of  removing your vest or even heavens forbid taking off your cardi.....I always was a wild child.

Hope the weather is good wherever you are today!


Thursday 12 May 2016

The Girl With the Flaming Hair

Tuesday was my day off and beyond a bit of grunt work I, for once, had made no plans.....except on my phone was a message from W who was also off with time in lieu "fancy doing summat cheap but different...any ideas missus?"

Now I like a challenge and I rarely fail to not have something up my sleeve. This time the inspiration had come from one of the FB groups I'm a member of. Having made my suggestion to W we headed out.....

Even in my strange little corner of the world it's not everyday you get to see a redhaired female saint being crucified upside down on a St Andrew's Cross now is it! Pre Reformation, this wall painting is in St Richard's, Burton, West Sussex.

Who she is exactly is a matter of some debate. There has been a suggestion put forward that she might be St Wilgefortis [known as St Uncumber here] whose cult was active in parts of Germany. The legend is that she was a Christian Sicilian who wanted to become a nun. Her papa had other ideas and intended her to marry a chap of his choosing. Having had her sent to prison, she defied him further by praying to be made ugly and conveniently grew a beard [Conchita Wurst eat your heart out] Frustrated and just a tad furious at this daughter's defiance he had her crucified. The sticking point is that no mention nor depiction of this has her shown upside down so a mystery it must remain.

I am pleased to report that W confirmed that once again I had not failed to deliver on the offbeat front!


Wednesday 11 May 2016

A Sting In The Tale

Well more than one sting actually....if one chooses to go on a nettles course it is to be expected surely. I have always been of the belief that we underrate nettles and we shouldn't. Having enjoyed them in soup for many years and knowing what a boon they are for butterflies, I can now officially confirm they are a bleeding marvel.

The course "Sting to String" was run by Dr Cathy Flower-Bond at the Weald and Downland and she was, as ever, a fount of knowledge and highly entertaining. During the day we had a go at using nettles in a number of ways including making string [think sisal], dyeing [they start off giving a yellow colour earlier in the season which becomes greener later on], concocting salves and eating them for our lunch [yes that good old soup standby again]. Cathy showed us samples of fabric that have been made from them and I kid you not a silken thread obtained from carding the inner fibres and then spinning them.

Obviously I don't want to give too much away about the content of the day but I'll leave you with a couple of titbits to finish.

-The Romans rubbed nettles onto their skin to bring the blood to the surface and start the healing process when they were wounded.

- Medieval Headdresses known as Hennins were made from fabric using a nettle mix. This was because they held their stiff shape much better than other available options and there was no need for the metal supporting frame. Obviously much lighter for the wearer.

-During the Great War the Women's Institute was involved in the growing of nettles. Iodine was extracted from the plant and used for treating the injured.

No photos of the event so I'll leave you with the piglets which had just emerged after their afternoon nap and were playing tag.


Tuesday 10 May 2016

Morris Folk At The Weald and Downland

Saturday saw our local town's Day of Dance. Normally I participate [nowt to do with the fact that I'm on foot and there's free ale...now would I be so shallow? Why of course!] however, this year numpty knickers had booked herself onto a course at the Weald and Downland which clashed [more of that later in the week]. All was not lost though as I managed to catch the Morris Folk exhibition which is there until 12th June. Originally I mentioned this here http://gnatbottomedtowers.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/baby.html but it was a real treat to see what the other sides had done with their dolls. The attention to detail is incredible.

Bearing in mind the dolls are only 18" I loved the effort the maker had put into the badges on the jacket lapels.

These are a selection of some of the sides we have danced with recently. The masked one is Wild Hunt who were set up by the same chap who was behind Mythago. The two dolls in red and black are Bloodstone Morris who we are joining on the Isle of Wight next month [sadly not me this time as the teenogre is doing exams and I want to be around]

And of course last but not least our very own Baby as we named her.

Although the tradition has been in the doldrums for the past few years I'm glad to say [some might not be quite so thrilled!] that it has seen a revival with so many more women joining and the emergence of many mixed sides http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/06/morris-dancing-undergoing-radical-change-with-influx-of-women/ Not to everyone's taste granted but very much part of our country's folk heritage.


Monday 9 May 2016

Fed Up

Breathe....you're not in for a moany Monday postlet from me!

The phrase "fed up" originated in the world of falconry and refers to when the bird's crop was full and thus, it was listless and wouldn't fly for the falconer.


Saturday 7 May 2016


When you google the word "grey" one of the definitions that comes up is "without interest and colour; dull and non descript." I beg to differ.

This jackdaw turns that idea completely on its head as far as I'm concerned. He is absolutely stunning in his multi hued grey plumage and a cheeky fellow to boot. I am used to the occasional robin joining me on my picnic table, but this is a first for me and I was a tad startled to encounter him when I turned round to see what the noise was! These avian marauders are very accustomed to stealing a bite of lunch from the human visitors at the Weald and Downland museum.


Friday 6 May 2016

A Knitter Titter!

I am a huge fan of all things quirky when it comes to knitting...whether it be yarn bombing, gargoyles, knitted cakes I'm in. This though is just so hilariously British. If knitted nakedness and double entendres is not your thing look away now! The sound kicks in after a couple of seconds.


Thursday 5 May 2016

In and Out the Dusty Bluebells.

My last two Sundays have comprised in part of meeting with Ice Badger and another former dancing chum K for a walk along the disused railway line near us. Now when I say "walk" what I actually meant is chatter, cackle, cake and stroll....approximately in that order.

The first walk was cool, but this week it was glorious. Heading off in the opposite direction this week, the path took us straight through swathes of glorious bluebells. Up close we were able to catch wafts of their heady scent as well as enjoying the sheer beauty of them. I gather it's been a fantastic year for them....I can well believe it.

The white flowers are wood anemones.


Wednesday 4 May 2016

Butser Ancient Farm

This is one of those places you may have seen featured on television programmes, but not have been aware where it was filmed. Butser Ancient Farm is just over the Sussex border in Hampshire and is used to test out different archaeological theories by way of experimentation. The results of these have forwarded our understanding of how our ancestors lived during different periods whether it be what they grew crop wise, animal husbandry or how they built their dwellings.

As performers we were allowed in before the gates opened to the public so Mr GBT was able to snatch a few photos. Despite my best intentions I didn't wander far....I was far too nervous. I'm the one in the red coat sitting with the group of black clad people in the distance! It may have been gloriously sunny but looks can be deceiving...it was Baltic temperature wise I can tell you!

The site has reconstructions dating back from the Stone Age through to the Saxon which is the most recent project. The ones below are of the Iron Age village and the inevitable photo of us dancing with the roundhouses in the background just to prove "we woz 'ere"

This is the Roman villa and details of the interior. The farm run all sorts of fascinating workshops and it is an amazing place to visit to really get a sense of stepping back in time.

Further information from here http://www.butserancientfarm.co.uk/



Being a soul who could win an Olympic Gold if overthinking was ever included as a sport, one thing which really helps me to slow down and be...