Thursday 30 April 2020

Blowing the Cobwebs Away

I have just finished "A Dictionary of Sussex Folk Medicine" by Andrew Allen which has sat on my shelf for years. It was one of those books I picked up for 50p at a jumble sale and have previously dipped into from time to time. Reading it properly from cover to cover has been absolutely fascinating as it's lifted the lid on how our ancestors tried to cure ills and maladies when paying a Doctor was prohibitively expensive and beyond the purses of many. Often these "cures" seem like madness to our modern minds, but in some instances there was real science behind it even if people didn't understand why they worked.

One of the entries which really struck me was learning that wounds used to be wrapped in cobwebs to stop the blood from flowing from a very early time. At one time soldiers actually carried boxes of webs as part of their battle kit for this exact reason, but over time the practice was seen as unhygienic and it fell out of favour. Now for the interesting part.....  wads of cobwebs behave like absorbent cotton wool and there are proteins on the silk surface that help blood coagulate. Finally because they are charged with static electricity they repel bacteria with an opposite charge including the one that causes sepsis. Not one you want to be attracting under any circumstances, especially if you are wounded.

It's been such a fascinating read and my one regret is that I left it so long to discover all this!


Wednesday 29 April 2020

The Thrifty Times Issue Five

So there's another week done. I'm finding the time is flying by, but I have kept my normal day for doing specific housework in place [a hangover from when I used to work fulltime] so that I can keep track of the days and made a deliberate decision to not do so much in the way of gruntwork at the weekend.

Firstly the rumours are true...I may have accidentally stepped into the garden when hanging out the washing and tricked myself into doing a bit of weeding here and there. I've been pretty selective about what I've removed...mainly masses of self seeded Valerian which is a devil to get out if it gets too big as it has such deep roots. We've already got lots. By poking around though in the border I was delighted to find that the Lily-of-the-Valley has taken this parents have given us a clump over the last two years and the first lot disappeared without a trace. Thankfully we are being spoilt by wild violets spreading everywhere...I am happy to leave them in situ. Vegetable seedlings are sprouting forth and our neighbours [other side from the pull up bar TYM is using] have kindly given us some pepper and cherry tomato seedlings. We are going to give them our spare raspberry canes when they're big enough to transplant. We have warned them that once they have them they'll never get rid of them, but they smiled and said it's rather a nice problem to have!!

Get the flags out...this dame has finished cleaning out her dollshouse....there are still a few bits to go back in, but here's the photo evidence to prove it!! That was one evil job I am not sorry to see the back of.

Food wise another week with nowt wasted.  We even changed our menu on Sunday to Toad in the Hole so that we could use up some excess milk that was on the turn...such is the excitement of our lives sometimes these days. Not wasting anything has become a bit of a personal challenge and each little triumph feels like we're winning. After the success of the roast cauliflower last week the outer leaves got shredded and added into another dish and then I tackled another new culinary thing. Gnocchi using fresh potatoes with a minced garlic clove and a pinch of dried chilli flakes. I used Jack's recipe here Despite the prospect of making it raising my anxiety levels [I'd put it off from the day before] the desire to use up the lurking potatoes won the day and I made something quite passable. Even the mash hating son gobbled them up. Only one for a day when I've got time to do it properly though...if I was tired and frazzled this would make me reach for the takeaway menu. I have not fallen in love with having to handle sticky, icky doughs!!

Mr GBT has started attending a weekly play along folk session on a Wednesday evening and I've been going to a virtual version of our monthly Repair Cafe most Saturdays which has a variety of talks on different green issues aswell as discussions about how we want to keep the green impetus that has been building during the crisis with the clearer air quality and many people really beginning to appreciate the natural world around them.  

Until next time!


Tuesday 28 April 2020

It's life Gym, but not as we know it!

Is it not oft said that necessity is the Mother of all invention. TYM is missing the gym...I mean really missing the gym. Last week we put our heads together to see how we could set up a temporary home gym....the only snag was that we literally have no gym equipment. Did that stop us in our tracks though....nope we rose to the challenge with zero outlay!!

Step 1. Rope your Dad in from the outset. You're the one with the vision and ideas...he's the one with the practical skills and engineering experience to know whether your proposition is going to be safe or not. Here are the two of them busily emptying the heavy sandfilled base of the punchbag that's sat unused on TYM's bedroom floor for the last few years [except when he's hung his clean clothes on it!] into two buckets stolen from our garage. Weigh both to ensure they're the same.

Step 2.  Both rummage around in the garage and shed for suitable candidates to be transformed....ta-dah

Apparently [as one who has never stepped inside a gym I am completely reliant on what others tell me!!] he's going to lie on the mahogany wardrobe base [old furniture given to us to be made into miniature furniture] and lift the buckets strung across that blue metal pole thing. The yellow hose is for biceps and he pulls the paint pot that his Father has affixed to the wall up and down. Better still our kind neighbour has said he can complete his workout by using the pull up bar they've got on the side of their house.

So there you go...not only is he running 6km 6 days a week [he walks with us on the other day], whizzing around on his bike delivering takeaways he can now fit in a garage workout too whenever he fancies it. Exercise is his means of alleviating stress. I, meanwhile, have now had my longheld suspicions confirmed...that child of mine must have been swapped at birth. His parents' idea of keeping fit is wrestling with a particularly stubborn cork in a bottle of vino!!


Monday 27 April 2020

From the weekly ramblings

I've been out with the camera snapping again anything that takes my fancy as we potter around. Here's this week's selection for your delectation.

This handmade felted bunting appeared outside our local shop last week. The hearts below single out some of our key workers.

Always love a good pun. I'd be tempted to put work this company's way just for the joy of having their van parked outside.

Small detail on a Victorian gravestone I noticed as I went galloping past.

How frightfully British....this very understated, yet humorous way of conveying a very serious message on our local cinema.

This stone bench with its intriguing beast supports and the mulitfunctional handrail and bootscraper combo are along The Causeway which is the show street in the town.

If I was going to have an umbrella stand in my life this would be my iconic red telephone box one!!

With a couple more of these highly original windows. The second one is my all time the run up to Easter the display was urging everyone to stay at home and eat chocolate. Now they've brought in Punch and Judy to get the message across!! If you double click the picture you'll be able to see the details more clearly.


Sunday 26 April 2020

Cold black tea

I was interested to hear Jack Monroe's tip of adding black tea rather than red wine to her bolognaise to give it an extra kick, but without the alcohol and a mere fraction of the cost. This was a new one to me. In my time I've soaked dried fruit in it prior to making malt loaf and a few years ago I dyed the fabric for this bag to get the right shade I wanted.

If this article is anything to go by with all its suggestions I think I have been underusing the multipurpose and overlooked commodity of cold tea!

Please do let me know if you use it for anything else....I'd love to know if I'm missing a trick!!


Saturday 25 April 2020

A Reimagining of Humphrey

As a lover of primitive folkart, I normally reserve my enthusiasm for admiring the work of others. From time to time I've wondered about having a go, but haven't been brave enough. Taking the bull by the horns I've decided that it's high time I got over myself, booted the anxiety out of the way and just gave it a go. I think so long as I love what I'm creating and make sure it's from my heart and not just trying to copy others that's the way forward. Thus I wanted a black folkart cat and now I have a black folkart cat. For the first time ever I drew out the design, made the template and then stitched the whole thing. I thought it would be proved to be harder to make something look intentionally simple than I ever imagined. Who knew I could have such strong opinions about the shade of thread for the whiskers or the shape of the eyes.

All done from fabric scraps with the stuffing from the old pillows I took apart last week. Humphrey is quite insulted by this interpretation of his fine form!


Friday 24 April 2020

Normal Norman

This is the charming St Bartholomew's in Nymet Rowland, Devon and we stayed in a holiday cottage just up the road from it back in 2017. For reasons unknown I didn't cover this in the blog at the time [I tend to only write about some bits before I'm ready to move onto pastures new] and we just popped in late one afternoon just out of nosiness really. Looking for photos of something else I happened across them yesterday and decided that on a whim to share them with a FB churches group. To be honest I didn't think they'd even get the moderator's approval as they're hardly in the league of some of the big guns featured. Imagine my astonishment when a fellow who is an expert in his field and has made a series all about cathedrals that has been repeated several times on BBC4 commented on how much it made him want to go out and about just goes to show that I really know very little still!!

Inside it has retained the original oak arcading which in itself is a rare survival and only one other church in the county still has it. The rather odd stonework is an earlier import from elsewhere and I have vague recollections that it may have been Roman [naturally I didn't buy the guide so I might be talking out of my bottom here I regret!] and the font you can just glimpse in the foreground is a pretty normal Norman girdled tub design made from the local beerstone.

However, this rather plain font has at some point of its life been decorated with some rather wonderful naive folkart decoration with its patterns and foliage. It's all irregular in size and spacing. Whether it was done when it was first made or later I have no idea, but I am guessing this is what garnered the unexpectedly positive reaction online. To be honest I've seen others with a much higher standard of workmanship that has impressed me more, but perhaps it is exactly's local and rough hewn design which is what has drawn people. I still remain a little mystified by it all!!

The one local nugget I did learn by sharing these was that the word "Nymet" refers to an ancient oak grove in the area where allegedly Druids may have performed you've got my attention!!


Thursday 23 April 2020

Fairy Fitzgerald

I have recently discovered the paintings of John Anster Fitzgerald or "Fairy Fitzgerald" as he was known. His work is beautifully detailed without being too twee and just the right side of dark without the psychosis of Richard Dadd [who I equally admire]. As I am unable to share actual images here [copyright and all that jazz] have instead found this short film for anyone who wants to see what I'm talking about.

At a local level it seems that, whilst the small children are not at school, the little people have moved in to take their place if this plethora of tiny doors that has magically appeared is anything to go by!!

Not tip top quality I regret...snatched between humans going past in the evening on the phone, but what a lovely little surprise on yesterday evening's walk!


Wednesday 22 April 2020

Soldiering On

These toy soldiers are an enormous 1/4 of an inch high and are one of the first things I ever got for my dollshouse. I say "got" deliberately because my BIL painted them for me. Hand made or decorated miniatures are the best miniatures of all in my book. Yesterday it was my BIL's 60th birthday. As you might imagine he's had to put any plans he had to celebrate on ice. Mr GBT's family don't make a big thing of birthdays usually but this is not usual at the moment and his sister pinged him a message asking if we could send a card. We didn't have a suitable one here so we cheekily took a photo of G's handiwork with the tag line...."Happy birthday G....keep soldiering on!" I wrote a more sensible and appropriate message inside for him.


Tuesday 21 April 2020

The Thrifty Times Issue Four

Well amazingly here we are again with a whole month gone and another blog post full of our personal thrifty doings. We were due to be away in Chester this week for a short break, but funnily enough that's not happening now. Thankfully we have been able to postpone or delay everything we had booked already so we haven't lost out financially. Usually we take our car to the Skoda garage to have its service done, but they are only doing specific jobs at the moment. Mr GBT contacted our local Halfords to see how the land lay with them's going in next week and we'll be paying £100 less!!

Beyond spending on food and utilities etc I haven't spent a bean. I'm usually pretty good at thinking my way round situations to source things cheaper or find other ways of achieving them, but at the moment we have accepted that we are paying more to use the milkman and the local shop for what we are buying, but we are not spending any more because we're planning so carefully and wasting nowt. Our weekly treat is some crisps that we can share and a bit of cider. I have been making sure that there is always some form of home made cake or biscuit available for lunch every day, but TYM pays for all the extra bits he likes from his uni loan and the bit of money he's getting when he does the takeaway deliveries. He told me last night how he really understands why we've always lived below our means to have money set aside for a rainy day as this is now our rainy day with me not working.

So what else have we been up to? The one thing I am getting low on is razor blades....I've extended the current one by clearing beneath the blades with a pin and have one more unused one to go. I've made the decision to buy a proper safety one with my Xmas money I still haven't spent once all this is over as, having done the sums, the outlay may be more initially but in the longrun it will save me money. In the meantime I am eyeing up TYM's old razor which he's long since abandoned as an interim measure. He's been bearded for ages and has a trimmer. He has no intention of going back to being clean shaven again as he looks like he did when he was 17!!

Mr GBT has been fixing things again. We've got one of those eco balls for the washing, but the seal is failing. Normally it has little brown and white balls inside and the first time it came undone my first reaction was how on earth had a load of maltesers had got in with the can see how my brain is wired can't you! The second time it happened it wasn't so funny so he's wired it round to stop it spilling its guts again.

For one who's not known for wanting to spend a moment longer than she has to in the kitchen I actually haven't poisoned my chaps yet [not for want of trying😈] and have served up some half decent tasting meals [I'm not big on presentation!] Mr GBT cooks sometimes and then I clear the decks. We bought a chicken last week and divvied it up. Mr GBT took the legs off [we froze them and used them in a slow cooker recipe for Spanish chicken], roasted the main bird and now have the leftover cooked meat set aside for a pie. I decided to go for it and bunged the carcass along with some leek tops in the SC to make stock.  Looks a delicious shade of pond weed green doesn't it!

Without warning TYM I had it in the fridge door in an old milk usual sonshine was plugged into his phone and so poor old Mr GBT had this added to his tea that TYM made him instead! I have removed the offending item and stuck it in the freezer out of harm's way!!

Other foodie ideas this week have been stuffing burgers made with whatever was lurking in the packet together with a bit of cooked pork and chorizo that I rediscovered when I cleaned the freezer out. I've been catching up with "Daily Kitchen" too and was intrigued by Nadiya Hussain's recipe for "Baked Bean Felafels" Had I only seen this written down I'd have turned my nose up at it in all honesty, but am now all guns blazing and ready to have a go. I have neither chickpea flour so normal will have to suffice nor sriracha sauce, but I reckon I can wing it with the chilli sauce I do have. Top tip from Jack Monroe too about how much cheaper using a tin of rinsed off baked beans is over the normal tinned haricot beans.  For once I was quite proud of my culinary efforts on Sunday and took a photo to prove it. Making full use of the oven I'd just whipped out a batch of fork biscuits [next time I shall be adding in a heap more stuff to flavour it with] and am just on the point of bunging in an apple crumble and cauliflower florets which I'd tossed in oil with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and seasoning. We ate half hot and had the other half mixed in with mayo, chilli powder, seasoning and a dash of lemon juice with our veggie chilli.

I wasted last week making something that I decided on Saturday just didn't feel right so I've undone my efforts. Instead I have started something new which is far more to my personal taste. I have taken this as a lesson in making sure that when I'm being creative I need to be true to myself and my heart needs to be in it. This little project requires some stuffing, so I have finally found a use for the two ex  unrecyclable pillows I had in the garage. The filling is perfect! If it all goes well hopefully I might have some photos to share of my handiwork!

Deep cleaning dark forgotten corners of GBT and reorganising/tidying still continues. In some ways I am pleased to find that it has generated very little in the way of rubbish or unwanted items. We have a lot less than many people, but still lack very little. One of my sorties unearthed this very pretty tablecloth and napkins that I'd bought back in the autumn for very little from a local charity shop. Originally the plan had been to cut it up and make it into a new bathroom blind [another as yet unstarted project!], but I've worked out another way of doing it so it's surplus to requirement. Have decided to press it into action and we're going to have a homemade savoury cream tea with my parents once we can meet up again further down the line.

One much loathed chore is progressing well I am pleased to report...the cleaning and dusting of my dollshouse. It had got so bad that a real spider had moved into the was rather like being round at Miss Havisham's with the way it was all festooned with cobwebs! I'm doing one room at a time so will finish off with photos of my handiwork to date! It is far from complete, but looks better for having had the contents sorted out into some kind of order.

If you fancy doing some colouring with a difference there's oodles of free choice for you here Enough of my wordy yappings!!


Monday 20 April 2020

It's a small world

With a little more time to spare in the evenings I am currently enjoying the free "History of Royal Fashion" course I have enrolled onto with FutureLearn. It's full of fascinating little nuggets and I have particularly been struck by how the Royal portraits were constructed to convey all sorts of messages. Maybe the eyes painted into Elizabeth I's dress in her Rainbow portrait are not quite so subtle, but for those who are interested this fascinating article gives more detail Imagine my utter amazement as I read down only to discover portrait number 4 was found concealed beneath many years of smoke in a local cottage in 1890. I posted it on our local history group and the current cottage owner responded! She has yet to see the painting as it's currently on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

The other thing I have learnt is that these paintings are invaluable as a record of the details of the clothing as hardly anything has survived. The Royals at this time passed their clothes onto loyal members of the court and over time they wore out. Garments were expensive so you didn't have many and things were worn until they were no longer fit for purpose! This revelation reminded me of a fleeting trip we made round Tewkesbury Abbey on one of our medieval weekends with Mythago. There were two ladies resplendent in their full Medieval regalia very carefully studying a series of tombs and photographing them. I spoke to them briefly and they explained that it is another way for them to gauge the accuracy of their reenactors dresses and gain further inspiration.

 All of this has put me in mind of Lady Daphne Dodderidge's tomb in Exeter Cathedral a couple of years ago. I asked Mr GBT to take some decent photos with his camera as I was so struck by the beauty of her dress and the realistic depiction of the folds in the fabric and lace cuffs. That pose she's striking though looks a tad uncomfortable though...I've seen similar elsewhere and it was obviously all the rage when she died in 1614! I don't think I've ever seen such a tomb in such incredible original condition.

This is actually a double tomb with Lady D's husband, John lying just up from her. I obviously didn't think much of him as there are not photos! However, he was an important English lawyer, a humanist, a justice of the King's bench [known as the "sleeping judge" because he often closed his eyes whilst listening closely to evidence] and an MP for Barnstaple in 1589 and wait for it.....for Horsham in 1604!!! As Horsham was a rotten borough I think it highly unlikely that he ever actually bothered to come to my home town and certainly never lived here as all his residences were in the West Country. For reasons unknown to us he chose to be buried alongside his second wife because he married for a third time after her death. Maybe she was simply his favourite. 


Back to the town of painted doors and alleycats

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