Tuesday 28 November 2023

The resident volunteer

 Today I'm sharing a little tale from our summer stopover at Croome Court. A major part of this now NT's property history is from the time when it was requisitioned by the government during WWII. The info board below will fill you in on all the details, but the upshot is that there is now an onsite RAF museum covering this period.

As I was admiring the wedding dress from the first RAF wedding at Croome of Rachel Eastman and Flt Lt Norman Underdown on 19th February 1944 [made from her cousin's evening dress] I thought I could hear a miaow type sound coming from somewhere.

Having got caught out just a few months ago when I'd heard similar at Nymans and looked for a feline which turned out to be a model one with a realistic soundtrack I wasn't falling for that again! The noise persisted though and eventually I looked down to find this little lady sitting at my feet and asking very patiently for a cuddle.

This is Pepper who is 'the resident volunteer'. I chatted briefly with the lady who was manning the entrance and she told me that she thought that Pepper may have had owners on the estate at one point, but for whatever reason she's still here and they've moved. She is very popular with everyone and likes to meet and greet when she has a mind to. In typical cat fashion she is free as the wind and on another day you won't see her for dust. She's not a dog lover and sets very strict boundaries with over bouncy children. Her chosen occupation is covering the seats in a layer of her fur which the volunteers are kept busy then brushing off. I was lucky to catch her on a day when she'd decided that her plans would include humans giving her strokes!


Sunday 26 November 2023

Late Autumn

 So here we are at the tail end of Autumn with the abscission [new word alert...if I don't use it I'll lose it!] almost over. If it's a sunny day and I'm not working then I'm going out...these hours of bright light are too precious to lose and if I bank them with positive experiences it helps me through the ones which are grey. A week ago I wouldn't have been going to the Wynkcoombe Arboretum because a week ago I'd never ever heard of it. It's been going since the mid 1970s and has a mere 800 trees so not small nor insignificant then...it's the life's work of Nicholas Smith and is in the Sussex village of Fittleworth which is less than half an hour's drive from me. Perhaps it's because it's free and mainly known to locals that it flies below the radar. With so many different varieties of trees I think it's a place which would merit a visit whatever the season and one to keep in my back pocket for when I need to get out of the house. Right from the moment we parked and I turned round to see the view out stretching out across the South Downs I knew I was on to a winner.

This tree is actually just beyond the start of the walk, but it immediately made me think of the trees you see in Ashdown Forest where Winnie the Pooh was based. It seems like the house just down the lane may have had a similar idea.....

Within the area there are trees from all over the globe. Many now have QR codes which Mr GBT was very happily looking up. For any keen arborists the complete collection is here https://the-wynkcoombe-arboretum.org.uk/watc/trees.jsp As is my way I was drinking it all in and enjoying what was in front of my nose. 

Stood under the tree was this unexpected carved sentinel. I can't attribute it as there's no accompanying information, but it seems to be of significance to people as they've left votive offerings.

If you do visit there is only limited parking, but it's a place to escape from this rather frantic, busy time of year and the only folks we saw were those walking their pooches.


Friday 24 November 2023

When you have little legs....

It was at TYM's first graduation last year that I saw this

He made it absolutely clear that he wanted nothing to do with it so no photo opps there then. However, it ignited a secret desire within me to sit in one should we ever encounter another huge deckchair. If you ask for it the universe will manifest what you ask for. As soon as I clapped eyes on an empty one in the park in Maldon I went for it.......

The only thing I hadn't appreciated about such a huge chair and you are hobbit sized is that you have to sit a long way back. That's not the issue....the drawback is there is no leverage and with nothing to push against getting out proved much trickier than I had anticipated😆 I now understand why toddlers would shuffle themselves backwards on their tummies to the front edge of the seat, but nobody needs to see a 57 year old attempting such a feat when they're quietly enjoying an icecream in the sunshine so a rather inelegant exit it had to be!

Had my exertions worn me out I am pleased to report that Maldon caters quite specifically for folks with little legs at 'The Gnome Cafe'😁 I wasn't in need of refreshment and I think I'm quite happy that I'm now done with scrambling in and out of massive seats!

Have a great weekend.


Tuesday 21 November 2023

What a sweet dress!

 Matthew Bourne has done what he does best and left tradition at the door. Instead he's reimagined The Nutcracker ballet in his own inimitable style with costumes to match. May I present a small selection to you....it's going to be one of those Marmite moments where either you love them or hate them. They're difficult to ignore or be indifferent about💟

Marshmallow girl.

Allsorts girl.


And last but not least the main attraction.....the Nutcracker.

Part of Monday's shenanigans when out with friend E.


Sunday 19 November 2023

Marvellous Mondays

With a recent tweak by a client to our arrangement [related to other issues not connected to me or my business] I now finish every Monday at 12.30. That arrangement will definitely stay in place because I stopped taking on anyone new or extra hours at the beginning of this year. Whilst I may not be able to get that far distance wise it has opened up the possibility of a few local trip on some of those afternoons. I was quick to take advantage of the new free time and sort out a local adventure with my friend E. Lindfield it was....20 minutes from home and am not sure that I've ever driven through it!

Originally derived from the Old English 'Lindefeldia' meaning open land with lime trees the village sign pays homage to its arboreal roots. If you were to have a check list of everything a good village should have I would suggest this place would meet every criteria....village pond tick, parish church tick, large common tick, beautiful houses from different eras tick [you've got a whole street stuffed full of 'em], independent shops tick, free parking tick and pubs big fat tick. Whereas everywhere else seems to be losing their inns I was amazed at how many there were in such a small area. It's won the 'Best Kept Village in West Sussex' award many times and a newspaper article said that it's been banned from entering again to give other places a chance at winning the title. Perhaps they could take a lime leaf out of their book!

The Toll house...there are no surprises what this building was once used for on the route between New Chapel and Brighton from 1803 onwards. Road charges were about as popular back then as they are now and the the gates got nicked and burnt on Bonfire Night in 1884!

This is the side view of the exposed beams from the former Humprey's Bakery [est 1796] building which dates from the 1300s. It had stood empty for a while and become rather neglected, but thankfully is being carefully restored and will become a private home.

A bit of Edwardian Elegance. The rather wonky upper windows make me wonder whether it's masquerading as a house from this era, but whether there's a much older building lurking behind the frontage. It's lack of symmetry just doesn't quite ring true when compared to other examples I've seen. It makes for a more interesting effect as far as I'm concerned.

Mind you when you see it alongside this one it's no competition in the wonky stakes...all that green wood they used in the construction has twisted to some glorious angles during the intervening centuries. This one was once called Old Place, but now is West Wing and was at one time the village poorhouse. 

These two were tucked away up a side alley. They're always such a good way of finding out about people were up to...naughty persons 'committing a nuisance' translates as weeing where they weren't supposed to!

All Saints church has got Charles Kempe, the stained glass window designer and maker, buried here, but I'd argue that their greater claim to fame is apparently one Robert Stafford who is named in the 15th century as being the priest here. The name might not mean anything, but you might recognise him if I say he was also known as Friar Tuck. Various writs name him as being the leader of a gang of criminals who were poachers, arsonists and murderers. It hardly sounds like the antics of Robin Hood's right hand man does it now. Reading elsewhere the facts seem to be disputed, but according to a writ of 1429 they failed to catch him. The brass grave slab is included because I've never seen a memento mori on one....someone has been kept busy keeping it beautifully polished.

Looking at all the rather marvellous decals on Zachary's van he may not only sweep chimneys, but also sweep by on a broomstick judging by his pentacle. Am not sure that Mr GBT would agree with me festooning the metal wheeled box with greenman and gargoyle stickers👿 Much more fun than your usual dull white van you see everywhere!

As ever all good adventures must end with refreshment of some description so the pub it was. Only coffee on this occasion and although the Witch Inn was tempting it wasn't open. We could have patronised the Stand Up Inn...a place which had no chairs or tables to stop the workforce from tarrying over their beer in the old days, but we plumped for the Bent Arms. It's named after the 18th century Tory politician John Bent, but is nowadays a place of wonder. I showed the carved piece of wood propping up the bar a few days ago...this was the first of its many quirky treasures. There's a very mangy old stuffed bear called Fred who has travelled to Scotland and ended up in the pond one evening no doubt having been given more than a helping hand by a well oiled reveller. Looking at the photo of the copper fire hood I now think that it's probably a pair of bent arms depicted above it. Perfect fodder for us two!

All being well the next Marvellous Monday outing is scheduled for tomorrow.


Thursday 16 November 2023

Craptastic Achievement.

 It has long been my ambition to find something worthy of the "Crap you find in charity shops" FB group, but the shops in town have very rarely yielded anything which would meet the standard required. From tales my son told of his time of volunteering for Oxfam they received some cracking donations, but these never made it onto the shop floor. All the ones here are tasteful with carefully curated shelves of bric-a-brac and colour coordinated racks of clothing. I had almost given up ever unearthing any treasures [unlike Chippenham earlier this year where I photographed some perfect examples!]. This past Monday my luck changed.....with a clothing rail of Christmas jumpers I spotted a sleeve of one which stood out as totally different to all the others. It piqued my interest sufficiently for me to bother to pull it out just to have a quick look...........

I knew in that instance that it was mission accomplished and yes that is a hairy torso complete with belly button you can see under all the decs😝.  In order to get these photos I sneaked round the corner and had to take them surreptitiously...it's been well received in the group and I feel like I received the ultimate accolade in the comments of  'it's truly craptastic'.

When there is turmoil in the world and a constant feed of difficult news to contend with I hope this bit of utter silliness brings a drop of light relief. Have a fabulous weekend everyone!


Tuesday 14 November 2023

Castle Treasures

 Reporting from our recent visit to Colchester Castle which houses the town's main museum. A few highlights for your delectation......

1. Exhibit one plus facial close up [you know me I just can't help myself!] This is one of the so called Grey Face pots. They were cremation urns associated with the Roman army. I'd rather like something along these lines I think!

2. Exhibit two. Supposedly this is a fragment of 'human' skin found in Copford church. Essex has a bit of a tradition of flaying Viking invaders as punishment for their raiding of our churches. The skin was then displayed on the back of the church door. The most famous example of the so called "Daneskin" is at Hadstock church where fragments were found under the hinges. Modern tests have proved that this is complete twaddle and that it is infact cow hide and used during the Medieval period as a means of keeping out draughts and making it a little less chilly inside.

3. Exhibit three. A replica Medieval water jug called a aquamanile.

4. Exhibit four. Stag head fire dogs from a grave of a Briton dating from AD 40-60 

5. Exhibit 5. These little figures are actually Roman. We both liked their characterful expressions. There was a whole case of them all gurning away.

6. Exhibit 6. Another Roman offering and yes that is not your eyes deceiving you👀 I would imagine that it was intended as a visual joke to be enjoyed by all those who saw it, but the male phallus featured heavily in Roman culture because it was believed to be a symbol of good luck.

7. Exhibit seven. A greenman corner post. This fellow is 500 years old and used to stand on the site of where the town hall is now.

8. Exhibit eight. Rather blandly described as 'a naked woman'. Actually a sheela na gig [more info here if you're interested to read more about them https://sheelanagig.org/] She originates from the nearby church at Easthorpe, but was deemed to be too rude so she has wound up here for people like me to enjoy instead.

We did so enjoy our mosey around the museum and I hope that you enjoy some of the things we came across.


Not going to the art gallery.

 Mr GBT didn't really want to visit an art gallery whilst we were in the Midlands last month....he's a clever fellow though and dist...