Monday 30 January 2017

A Measure of Humanity

How about a snippet of good news? The teenogre went up to London last week to have an interview for a ten week voluntary placement abroad helping young people. Since he was 14 and he first started at Oxfam, volunteering has been part of of what he does in his spare time.Initially it was motivated by the wish to gain experience, so he could apply for paid work, but not now, although it certainly helped to begin with.

To date he's been a Young Leader at scouts, completed the National Citizenship Service scheme between school and starting college, ridden in the London to Brighton bike race when he was 15 funding raising for the BHF and is now helping out at a local charity in his spare time [he's working full time at the moment on his gap year]. This is all down to him....fear ye not he's still a typical teen with nights out clubbing [10pm to 10am drum and base event on NYE!] with his mates and throwing jager bombs down his neck at 'Spoons. I have no idea whether he'll get on the scheme or not...he's not assuming anything, but we have our fingers crossed for him.  It might not surprise you then that ultimately he hopes to work in International Development and this will form an element of his degree when he goes to uni in the autumn

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them at least don't hurt them."
Dalai Lama XIV


Sunday 29 January 2017

The life, the universe and everything.

January is traditionally the month for working out what you might like to change and working out how you're going to achieve that. I don't make formal resolutions. Instead for me 2017 is all about sowing new seeds to harvest a new crop.

Certain things trigger my anxiety...imperceptibly I roll out the familiar internal dramas [some are worthy of scenes in a soap opera believe you me!] and then cave in emotional and weary. Funnily enough I live to fight another day, but there's a lot of energy needed when going through these scenarios and frankly I am fed up with it. A couple of weeks ago I was in full flow when I became aware of what I was up to....the monkey mind got unceremoniously plonked on the naughty step and I screwed up my courage to relax and allow myself to trust that maybe, just maybe, everything would be fine without all the fuss.

Always keen on a plan, I decided to follow a bit of Pam Grout's advice and ask the Universe for two specific items to be delivered within a 48 hour time period. Now this might sound like I'm completely off my rocker...not quite though rest assured. I'd be a lying toad if I didn't say that I had taken some steps earlier to increase the chances of my success. I don't buy into the sit back and let it fall into my lap school of might well be handed something on a plate, but you will probably have had to source the plate first! Anyway in for a penny, in for a pound...I put my request in on a Friday evening and wrote it in my blessings book just for good measure. Then I sat back and waited [not without a goodly dollop of cynicism I have to say!]

10am Saturday morning I received a call which has given me the lead for the gap left by my client who sadly has had to go into a home. I meet the new potential lady tomorrow. My second request was for a piece of "appropriate knitwear" in a certain charity shop which I had already decided to drop into on my way into town to run errands. I received what I asked for, but not what I had in mind.

A lovely jumper...only for Mr GBT. This was the right size and absolutely his style. All his were rather unhelpfully nibbled by an infestation of carpet moths and were more hole than jumper, so had to be recycled. I have searched for weeks for replacements but nowt. Had to settle for a plain one instead.

I pondered for a bit and then realised that perhaps I hadn't been specific enough. Rather than giving up at the first hurdle and the jury still being out, I thought I'd give it another go. After all there's no harm in it.... knowing that I had a morning of poking round the charity shops in the next village with Nurse L on Tuesday another request went out on Monday night but this time for "appropriate knitwear" for me. Now I am very choosy about what gets across the threshold and have a real eye for the unusual....this means that I rarely find anything that truly appeals. If a garment sends a tingle down my spine then I pay attention and pay up. Was I successful...I should say so. Gorgeous buttons and snazzy wool in a lovely hyacinth blue and not a repeat of anything else I already have and all for £4.50

I am very chuffed with the initial results of dipping my toes in the water of's to many more positive experiences. Please note though...nobody will need to grab me by the ankles and pull me back to earth. This dame will be keeping her plates of meat firmly anchored on terra firma!


Saturday 28 January 2017

Thank You

"People are frightened by what they don't understand"

"I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being!!"

John Merrick

Thank you John Hurt for the amazing body of work you have left for us. Your portrayal of John Merrick in "The Elephant Man" was one of the most poignant performances I have ever seen and it still brings me to tears.


Thursday 26 January 2017

Not My Words...

But my sentiments entirely. With the maelstrom of events going on both here and abroad this week, these all seem all the more pertinent right now. I have the Non Consumer Blog to thank for bringing the quote to my attention. I might choose not to comment publicly here, but I am finding my voice.

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.

Maggie Kuhn



Tuesday 24 January 2017

Toilet Humour

It always pleases me greatly to see a slightly sillier version of the bog [geddit!!] standard toilet notice. I've been out for a spot of mischief this morning with my chum Nurse L which included brunch in a local independent cafe. This made me smile for I am a dame with a highly sophisticated and finely honed sense of humour [not]! It didn't take me too long to suss out which particular set of facilities was the ladies.


Monday 23 January 2017

Tales From The Riverbank

One of the things I enjoy about walking is that the usually reserved British public will often share a hello or even a few words. I met a fellow litter picker yesterday and we did precisely that....a particular sore point we agreed is those individuals who seem to think that decorating the trees with little hanging plastic bags of canine fecal matter is acceptable. I will pick up most sorts of rubbish but not that! Anyway swiftly moving on. Sometimes these brief exchanges result in the telling of a tale.....

Ambling across one of the fields we encountered a lady of advancing years who emerged from the hedge. Initially I didn't make eye contact.....well we hadn't been formally introduced had we now, but she seemed keen to make our acquaintance. Her name we found out was Mia and she was taking a short cut in order to get home faster. Mr GBT looked a little startled though when she then proceeded to start howling.....reassuring him I told him that like W's akita, that's the noise malamutes make rather than barking as a means of greeting. I had been a little wary initially as I am with any dog who is not on the lead. I work on the basis that the chances are they are friendly in these circumstances, but it pays to be sensible. With no ears back or baring of teeth she happily sniffed our hands and then sat down for a stroke. After a couple of minutes I could hear her owner calling her [she had a collar with her details on] and she half heartedly turned her head and cocked an ear. Eventually a lady appeared to claim her....apparently unlike her other malamute Mia detests walking and if she can get away with it she sneaks across the brook and sets off on the shortest route as quickly as she can. With her thick coat she was rather keener to be out when it snowed last week!

[image from pixabay]


Sunday 22 January 2017

The January Blues?

Yes definitely a good dose of the January Blues in this little part of Sussex today. Thankfully though it was of the blue sky variety. For once I have been paying close attention to the weather this month and I have been surprised that that in these 'ere parts, despite the shocking reputation for January, it's not been all that bad. Granted we've got off far more lightly than other parts of the country, but there's been far more dry days and pleasantly quite a few of them have been blue skied. I no longer dread the month and am actually really enjoying [whispered] it...well most of it. I've had my moments of otherness, but that's par for the course whatever the time of year! There's been lots to keep me amused.

The Riverside Walk is a 13 mile circular route around my home town. It's recently been given a facelift with new signage and information boards. Having wanted to do it for a Very Long Time and spurred on by our walk at Pagham last week, I have finally realised that it's not necessary to delay our hiking to the start of the gentler climate of Spring. Better late than never I guess. We have only done half of it today [we'll complete the circuit next time], but we've been reacquainted with familiar sights and made some new discoveries along the way.

This tree and how it remains upright despite the obvious lack of soil, is a complete mystery to me. However, standing upright it remains and it was a favoured spot for hide and seek when my son was a little chap!

None of Mr GBT's lovely birding photos this time, but we did catch glimpses of a wren, a grey wagtail and a great spotted woodpecker. Unfortunately my little camera doesn't cope with things which move quickly....thankfully these cockerels were a little more accommodating. I've not seen coloured ones like this before and then lo and behold two within spitting distance of each other!

The pub's name  "The Rising Sun" rather unusually picked out in mosaic form [it has a more traditional sign as well] and a rather dilapidated phone box. Recently there has been a local campaign mounted to rescue the remaining examples of this very British icon since the announcement that they are all to be removed.

This rather lovely building once housed a water mill. There's been a mill on this site since 1609 when the pond was created by the Iron Industry as the workers excavated "shrave" which was a type of low grade iron ore found in the local stone.  After this ceased the mill was used for flour production. Nowadays the building is a vets and the surrounding area is a stunning nature reserve with the water at its centre.

Further round earthworks took us even further back historically. You will have to use your imagination when you view this particular set of lumps and bumps and just take my word for it when I say it's the remains of a motte and bailey fortified castle from 900 years ago. It belonged to the Norman family of De Braose. Their main home was further out at Bramber Castle, but the hunting was good here so they used Chennells Brook Castle as a hunting lodge. It is unusual apparently in the respect that it follows a continental design which is rarely seen here. It was only used for 50 years and had been deliberately destroyed by 1160. It is not known why.

Berries and gorse. These two were good candidates for a much needed pop of colour. Apparently "when kissing is out fashion gorse is out of bloom". Thankfully this little yellow trooper is out all year round so no need to panic chaps....lip puckering may continue unimpeded!

These two final shots for the delight they add in unexpected places. A carved totem pole in our local park and the minion embellishing an otherwise functional but boring meter cupboard. From a distance I thought it was a sticker, but upon closer inspection I think it might be hand painted. Fun!!

A perfect day.


Saturday 21 January 2017

Pared Back

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song."
Louis Armstrong

This track came up on the radio early one morning when I was driving back from shopping [I often make some of my best discoveries in the most mundane of circumstances].  I had no idea who it was by, but I knew it had made my spine tingle. It was with some surprise that I found it was "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga. I particularly like this pared back performance I found on Youtube.


Friday 20 January 2017

In The Pink

[image from Pixabay]

If I think of pink dresses it puts me in mind of one person in particular....Barbara Cartland. I know this quote from Clive James about her application of eye makeup is a little cruel, but it did make me guffaw!

"Like two crows that had collided with a chalk cliff."


Wednesday 18 January 2017

Polar Opposites

Senior chap likes chocolate and biscuits, whilst junior chap likes crisps and crackers. Senior dame sits somewhere betwixt and between. The snack of choice is likely to be savoury [yes I am the original crisp monster and for that reason alone they do not appear in my shopping trolley all that often]. When indulging my cafe habit a cheese scone is my idea of manna from heaven whereas Millionaire's Shortbread or Rocky Road is, for me, hell on a plate [Mr GBT would vehemently disagree!] . Being a fickle creature though I do like to have a little homebaked sweet treat in my lunchbox every day.

It was against this background that I decided to try out a new recipe per month for either a sweet biscuit or savoury cracker. Kicking off this weekend I have made a batch of rosemary shortbread biscuits The flavour of the herb is not overpowering, but definitely present. I'm afraid that I didn't rush out and specially buy caster sugar...ordinary sugar seems to have been fine. Thumbs up all round.


Tuesday 17 January 2017

A Bird's Eye View

There are two things Mr GBT enjoys greatly- taking photos and watching birds in their natural habitat. Pagham gave him the opportunity to do both and these are his photos I'm sharing. My absolute favourite is the robin at the end. If you double click the image to enlarge it you can really see its plumage in all its glory. I would have never been able to see that level of detail with the naked eye.

Red Shank.

Flock of Widgeon.

Hundreds of Brent Geese on the wing.


I was secretly hoping to see a Shag or a Blue Footed Booby, but sadly it was not to be my day. However, that very sentence has calmed my sniggering inner 5 year old because I've been able to include the names legitimately within the body of the text!😁


Monday 16 January 2017

Pagham Harbour

A natural inlet of salt marshes and lagoons and now a R.S.P.B reserve...throw in a glorious January day and watch the magic unfold. Big skies, beauty all around, but tarry not for the tide comes in apace and you could be swimming rather than walking before you know it!

Surprises abound. This is the restored Salt will not surprise you to find that indeed it was once used to store precisely that....salt. During WWII it saw service as a base for the Home Guard.

What does one do with a non seaworthy vessel...why upcycle it into a shed in your coastal garden of course.

View across the reed bed as the tide started to come in. The area is known for its overwintering flocks of birds. These were Brent geese which had just landed.

Speaking of birds...if I see an imitation bird upon a thatched roof I "know" what it's going to be don't I. Hardly worth a second look as they're always pheasants in my experience. I was in for quite a surprise when I looked at Mr GBT's photos....first time I've ever seen someone have a pigeon on top of their home! Rather splendid I must say, although something rather strange does seem to have happened to the proportions of his head!

We were there primarily to see the birds....Lady Luck was on our side, so avian photos to round my walk off tomorrow.


P.S Having looked again a the shape of the "pigeon" I think Winters End Rambler is spot on- it is a pheasant. The colours still put me in mind of my first thought though!

Saturday 14 January 2017

Ruffled Feathers

One wonders whether this is the avian equivalent of a human's bad hair day?!

After a bug earlier this week which kept me off work for a couple of days and confined to barracks, it was good today to enjoy the glorious weather walking at the Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve with the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Postlets and photos to follow.


Friday 13 January 2017

Picking Up The Threads

Winnowing my craft stashes last year to remove the chaff not only produced a collection of gorgeous vintage fabric fabrics and sewing notions, but it also kick started a creative process for me. For a few months a vague idea rolled around my head, but it refused to be pinned down to anything concrete, so I left it on the back burner to fully form in its own time.

Here we are further down the line and progess is being made. I am tackling one section at a time and quietly moving forwards until eventually it will be a wallhanging at the top of my stairs. Everything came via the charity shops or jumble other than one lot of lace I culled from a no longer fit for purpose chemise I had. The buttons were given to me by one of my late house sparkling clients. The silk roses originally clipped onto my wedding shoes.


Thursday 12 January 2017

Humph in a Grump

Don't be fooled by the big googly eyes or the air of apparent innocence...fifteen seconds earlier he'd had his ears back and his eyes slanted like the devil incarnate as he swiped an unsheathed paw at the teenogre who tried to give him a stroke in his bag of choice. This normally placid fellow was having one of his rare offdays. He'd taken umbridge when I'd snatched away my feather duster after I'd caught him "killing" it and pulling bits off. Not much of a feather duster if it doesn't have any feathers is it now! Haughtily he stalked off and sat on the lid of the compost heap pointedly ignoring everyone, until he felt we had earnt his forgiveness.

Unfortunately within minutes of his triumphant return he and I had clashed again for I had turfed him off the dining table in disgust. He knows full well that he's not allowed up there.....his rump is to remain firmly away from any sites of human food consumption/preparation whether that be the afore said offending wooden article or the kitchen work tops. It's non negotiable in my book. Hence his retreat to the orange plastic bag of choice to lick his wounds and regroup.

I am pleased to report that today he is back to his more usual default setting of friendly, cuddly and starving. He's a big cat if he's in a grump and not to be messed with!


Wednesday 11 January 2017

What Are Little Boys Made Of.......

If the rhyme is to be believed "slugs and snails and puppy dog tails". From my personal experience may I be so bold as to add to that little list that mine was, in addition, a dirt magnet with an abiding interest in all things bottom related. Recent decluttering activities in the loft have unearthed this and stirred a few memories in the process.

We always did do a sophisticated line in reading here at Gnat Bottomed Towers. Beyond Elmer the Elephant this rated amongst the favourites....

The story of a little mole who is quite rightly aggrieved when he pops his head above ground only to have some darstardly soul drop a whoopsie from above which lands upon his head. Rather than let this unpleasant episode go unpunished, he sets forth to find out who the perpetrator is, so that he might wreak his revenge. For anyone desperate to know who the guilty party is.... being such a kind hearted soul I have managed to track down an animated version for you. I'm all heart you know!!

I think though the small person might have been classed as a superfan at the time, for, not only did he have the book, but the toy mole resplendent with a little whirl of poo on the top of his head and kindly grandparents who took him to see the show no less!

I should add in that we also had the whole series of "Walter the Farting Dog" and again the toy which made appropriate noises, but if my memory serves me right, I think that may have been rehomed to the younger brothers of one of his friends when he had outgrown it. As I said before we always were a sophisticated household here at Gnat Bottomed Towers. The mole book is staying put!


Tuesday 10 January 2017

Brunus Edwardii

Now is the time of year when many of us go down with illnesses of different sorts. Remember though to check the health of all members of your household, not just the human ones. If teddy is ailing then this report from the Veterinary Record might just help you identify the symptoms of the affliction  Alfie's illness is an obvious case of over indulgence of Howzat cider and is not covered.

This spoof was an April Fool's jape in 1972. I have W to thank for bringing it to my attention!


Sunday 8 January 2017

Small treasures give great pleasure.

Rather a special treat to come home yesterday to find a bunch of daffs left for me by my parents in my kitchen sink. A marvellous excuse to add the 25p glass bottles I found in a local charity shop in their sale to the small collection I sourced from a jumble sale a few years ago and to put them all out on display on the tray which Mr GBT first made when he was learning cabinet making as a hobby.


Saturday 7 January 2017


I don't sing much at home as it's a small, shared space and I'm flitting about too much to commit to listening to music. Behind the wheel though, radio on and it's an entirely different matter.....the trap is opened wide and I yowl along with the best of them. With the 50 years I have clocked up on the planet I must know the lyrics to hundreds of songs....well let's use the term "know" loosely shall we because I often can't hear the correct words, but over time I have developed the art of singing something which scans. It's doubtful I could tell you what I sing was quite a shock when I saw the right version of "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel....nothing like the one I had faithfully reproduced many times!! A few months ago our Mythago foreman guffawed when he realised that I had always believed it to be "fine, four feathered friend" [I know, I know] rather than "four fendered friend" in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Now I find that the correct term for this familiar phenomenon [thank you dear Google] is mondegreen and it's very common. Years ago when the late former Radio 1 DJ Mike Smith was cutting his teeth on the now defunct Capital Radio he ran a competition along these very lines during his breakfast show. Much time has elapsed since then, but the one entry which stuck in my mind is that famous line from Kim Carnes' track "Bette Davis Eyes". Surely you remember the one? "she's ferocious and she knows just what it takes to make a crow blush".  To my knowledge I've never actually seen a crow blush and frankly I'm not entirely sure how you would tell even if it was red faced, but once you've heard it it's difficult to unhear it....if you'd like to experience it for yourself here's the original.


Friday 6 January 2017

Twelfth Night

It has to be said that in times of yore around Christmas our ancestors knew how to celebrate in style and throw one helluva party....none of this namby-pamby couple of days off, back to work and then one day for the New Year before nose to the grind stone once again. I can't even imagine partying for twelve days straight let alone having the energy left for the revelry of the big night which topped it all off.

Starting in the Medieval period, the Twelfth Night Revels are legendary [except for when the party pooping Puritans got their paws on it and banned any form of behaviour which might have been construed as fun] as a period of dancing, gambling, feasting and of course drinking. It was marked by rowdy behaviour ...a time when normal rules were turned on their head and the accepted order was temporarily suspended. The Twelfth Night cake was at the centre of this display of mischief....whoever found the bean, pea and clove in their slices would assume the roles of King, Queen and Knave and oversee the evening's entertainment until midnight when their reign ceased.

The original cake was very much along the lines of the traditional one we make today with dried fruit [then a luxury ingredient], eggs, flour, butter, sugar and spices. Over time its design became more refined until it emerged in its early Victorian form decorated with sugar icing and various motifs, the crown being a popular one. This example was on display as part of the Christmas Past exhibition at the Geffrye Museum.

Sadly the tradition disappeared with the industrialisation of the country, but I am pleased to see that with the renewed interest in wassailing, many are beginning to mark Twelfth Night once more.


Tuesday 3 January 2017

What a little star!

Poor old Mr GBT....never a moment's peace when his dearly beloved spots something and gets overexcited. Calling like a fishwife, patiently he left the warmth of his cosy armchair to come out into the cold night air and dutifully see what I was hollering about. Now you will have to believe me that these two looked a lot closer than they do in the photo...something to do with how the human brain arranges images.

I wasn't quite sure which planet I was looking at. I knew it wasn't Mars as that's a definite red colour, but I guessed it was Venus. "That looks like the Evening Star" said Mr GBT knowledgeably. From the coverage in the media today I now find that they are one and the same....a day when you learn something new in my book is never a day wasted.

Since deciding to adopt some more tools to help me appreciate what a lucky so and so I really am I've been informally keeping a note of some things that have given me pleasure over the past few months. My parents gave me a Mindfulness diary as a Christmas gift, so I can now record three things a day. When things are not so rosy and my black, hairy hound is back nipping at the backs of my heels I hope this will become a journal which will help me keep my perspective. This was one of my blessings for yesterday.


Sunday 1 January 2017

Ushering in the new.

For the first time I have found an author who writes about the world in the way I want to view it. Discovering a book by Pam Grout in our local library recently I found her words really resonated with me.  I'd like to start my blog off as I mean to go on this year....on a positive note from the beginning of 2017.

"Isn't it time to give up the world we keep re-running in our mind, to overthrow the status quo? A new more imaginative and free world is possible. But we must retrain ourselves to look through optimistic eyes. To say "thank you" and recognise all the beauty and largesse in our lives."

Thank you Pam and I'll raise a glass to that!


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&...