Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Year of the Rat - Benches for 2020

I know, I know. It's the Year of the Rat 

and I haven't put up any rat benches yet. 

Eddie, my Inner Editor, who just happens to be a primate: What's the matter with you? The Year of the Rat fast approaches. And by the way, here's a picture of me. 

Eddie, I want to make it perfectly clear that this story is about The Year of the Rat, not The Year of the Monkey.

Eddie: I hear you.

I mean it, Eddie. None of your monkey business

The Year of the Rat is the first sign in the twelve year cycle of the zodiac. The Year of the Rat begins on January 25, 2020 and goes until February 11, 2021.

If you're Eminem or Prince Harry or President Kennedy, you're a Rat. 

Are you a rat? 

My husband, His Excellency: I most certainly am not a rat. I am a philosopher.

The Formalist, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress

Yes, one who is prone to mansplaining.

His Excellency: Years of the Rat are as follows: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 and 2020. If you were born in any of these years you are a rat. 

Eddie: You might want to check your birth date then.

Yes, His Excellency is a typical Rat Man. Despite forgetting his own birthday, he has a good memory and an enquiring mind. He is fond of asking questions and answering them himself. And he is very careful with money.

Eddie: I am also good with money because I'm a bit of a card shark.

Eddie: By the way, lucky numbers this year are two and three. Avoid five and nine.

Eddie: And also avoid people who were born in The Year of the Horse.

Oh dear, that's me. 

Eddie: The best match for a Rat person is a Monkey.

Or a Dragon. Rats get on well with Monkeys and Dragons.

Eddie: Especially monkeys though.

Eddie, we're only getting started on this story and you have already put up two pictures of yourself and four other pictures of primates. This has to stop. It's Rats we're presenting here. 

Tamsin, a sweet local girl: I don't like rats though. They're kind of creepy. I like fluffy bunnies.

The Year of the Rabbit was in 2011, Tamsin. It's sooooo over.

Tamsin: What about squirrels? I love squirrel benches!

my photo, Isle of Wight

There is no Year of the Squirrel bench. 

His Excellency: A squirrel is just a rat with a nicer tail. 

Eddie: You seem to have a proverb for every occasion. 

Yes, His Excellency, like many Rats, is a bit of a collector. He collects the papers in fortune cookies for a start. 

Eddie: Rather like you collect benches?

my photo Eastbourne, East Sussex

my photo, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

It's true. Every year I collect beautiful bench pictures for my Chinese New Year story. There are temples . . .

. . . and waterways

. . . and covered bridges 

But before we get too many benches maybe I should just get on with the story of The Year of the Rat. 

My cat Meredith: I would like to put in a word for The Year of the Cat. 

Meredith: There are lots of lovely cat benches about.

There are, but there is no such thing as The Year of the Cat. The closest it gets is The Year of the Tiger and that's not until 2022.

Meredith: While the cat bench is away, the rats will play.

Thank you, Meredith. However, these look like mice.

Meredith: Rats, mice - it's all lunch to me.

You are fed very well, Meredith. You do not have to catch mice and rats. 

His Excellency: He who does not feed his cat will feed rats.

If I could just get a word in here, I'd like to show you some benches for The Year of the Rat. 

It's the Metal Rat this year, so here is a metal bench.

my photo, Oiustreham, France

Tamsin: It's not a very nice bench though. 

His Excellency: Strictly speaking it's not even a bench. 

Eddie: And it's not a rat. 

I noticed that. But I couldn't find a Metal Rat bench and I thought this would do.

His Excellency: This is sloppy and totally unacceptable.

Eddie: I agree, Seashell. You certainly lack the diligence and attention to detail that a Rat person has. 

Well, ok, but at least I am tolerant of other people. And I'm loyal. I would never rat on my friends.

Tamsin: I don't have any rat friends. 

My cat Meredith: Me neither. I ate them all. 

I'm ignoring that, Meredith.

I want to show the lucky colours for the Year of the Rat. Blue benches are very lucky.

photo by Joanna Michalak

As are green benches.

my photo, Lynmouth, Somerset

And gold benches will do nicely too.

This is Innocent, who is now a world class model. But she used to be a nurse.

His Excellency: The letters I, C and U come to mind. 

Innocent had to give up nursing when she became a little ratty.

Florence Nightingale she was not. 

Eddie: Rats are not known for their tolerance. They do not suffer fools. 

my photo, London

His Excellency: When fools skate on benches, rats laugh in the rafters. 

Yes, you Rats are known for being suspicious, short-sighted and intolerant. 

And now for your bad points. 

Eddie: I'm going to stick up for Rats here, though I myself am clearly a Monkey.

Another picture of you, Eddie. Just what we need.

Tamsin: Very handsome, Eddie! Are you one of the Rat Pack? With that singer - whatssaname? Prince Harry.

His Excellency: Well, it's true that Prince Harry was born in 1984 in The Year of the Rat.That might account for his troubles. 

We are going around in circles here like rats in a maze. 

Eddie: I was going to point out that Rat people make very good teachers and lecturers. 

His Excellency: Thank you, Eddie. I like to think so.

They're very good writers too. Did you know that Shakespeare was born in the Year of the Rat?

Tamsin: Oh look! He's got Prince Archie with him!

His Excellency: I think you'll find that's Romeo. A few years before he met Juliet, obviously. 

Shakespeare was a bit of a rat in more ways than one.

Meredith: Apparently he gave his wife his second-best bed bench.

Second best? Why not first?

Eddie: It's not a rat race

Don't think I didn't notice the sock monkey, Eddie. 

His Excellency: Like me, Shakespeare preferred a gentle and elegant wife who is well educated and reasonable. 

As the proverb goes, rats know the way of rats. 

Tamsin: Me, I'm kind of shy and timid.

Much Afraid from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress

Well, Rats are too. It's just that they're full of ego. In 2020 they will need to avoid being egoistical if they are to be a success.

Eddie: And don't face West. West is bad luck this year for Rats.

I guess we won't be getting out the covered wagon benches then.

In fact, Rats need to pay attention to health and safety this year. They should avoid any high risk activity.

It goes without saying: don't stand on benches.

If you're a gym rat, mind how you go.

All that bench pressing can lead to trouble.

Meredith: I for one will be relaxing and staying out of the rat race.

His Excellency: The thing with a rat race is, even if you win you're still a rat

Very profound, HE. Is that what you learned at Oxford?

Meredith: You're becoming quite ratty, Seashell. This blog is stressing you out. Maybe you need to take a different direction

Eddie: Directions are very important in 2020. Get all your benches facing southeast or northeast. And avoid yellow.

Tamsin: Ohhhhhh, I like yellow! Yellow benches are sunny, like me.

And me. Normally. But The Year of the Rat is proving to be quite difficult even though it hasn't started yet. 

His Excellency: Well, Seashell, I smell a rat. Though I don't know why as there are not actually any rat benches in this story.  

Tamsin: OK with me. I don't want to see rats. 

Meredith: If I've got nothing else to do I'm happy to catch 'em. I don't need to read about 'em.

Eddie: But there's not one single rat bench in this story. And very few rats.

I was hoping you wouldn't notice. I had a few problems finding rat benches. This is the best I could do.

Eddie: This is appalling.

Meredith: These are my toy mice. I did not give my consent for you to use my mice. 

I know, but what could I do? I even advertised.

Meredith: A couple of mice benches wouldn't have gone amiss. REAL mice, not toys. 

But mice and rat benches aren't the same thing, are they?

His Excellency: The title of this story is totally misleading. Readers are expecting to see a rat pack of benches. 

Eddie: Probably there aren't any readers for this blog anyway.

You're right, Eddie.They're like rats deserting a sinking ship bench.

I guess I'd better show you the one rat bench I found, which is a holy rat from India. It's an answer to my prayers.

His Excellency: You can't get away with this, Seashell. One rat bench does not a new year make. 

Still, rat bench or no rat bench, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Year of the Rat.


Chinese New Year is an annual event here on Benchsite. Last year it was The Year of the Pig and I'm not telling porkie pies when I say that the pig benches are better than a bacon sandwich. In 2018 we got in a bit of a muddle about unicorns and/or dogs. In 2017 it was the Year of the Rooster and there's quite a bit about Chinese beer in that story as well. The Year of the Monkey Bench went on for far too long in 2016 and contained a lot of monkey business. Back in 2015 it was Goats and/or possibly Sheep Benches. 2014? That was Horse Benches.

The photograph of Eddie working at his desk is his favourite picture. Eddie is my Inner Editor, who just happens to be a primate. If you've seen much of Benchsite you will know what a problem Eddie is for me. He has ruined helped me edit the post about my swimming bench and the Blue Monday benches. He interfered with stepped in to help with the Orange bench mystery. However, he has a habit of setting his own agenda with the benches. Look what a mess he made great job he did on St. George's Day . And as for my Red benches in February? No wonder I was very grateful seeing red.

Jason Ellsworth-Aults currently lives in Santiago, Chile. He took the lovely picture of the baby monkey playing on a red bench in Kyoto, Japan. We have all colours of benches here on Benchsite but red benches are clearly Eddie's favourite.

Three Wise Monkey benches are easy to find in bronze, plastic and just about any material you desire but I liked these life-size Three Wise Monkeys On A Bench from

I am lucky enough to have two husbands. One is Mungo, my imaginary husband, who keeps a good workbench. The other is His Excellency, who has a reputation for destruction, even when he means well. He's a philosopher and, to say the least, not a very practical person. You can appreciate his difficulties if you know his school bench history.

The Formalist and Much Afraid are two illustrations from the most wonderful The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, published in 1683. Though Bunyan preceded my husband His Excellency by several hundred years, his illustration captures the essence of the man as we know him today. 

Kim Smith owns a dramatic web design company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She photographed the money bench in 2007. Her photo sets contains lots of friends and family and her landscapes make Michigan look like a beautiful place. In fact, Mackinac Island doesn't look so different from my own Paradise Island . . .

The swaggering chimp looks like he's just come out of a backroom game of Craps with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. I saw this and thought The Sting, best film of 1973. And of course I thought of Eddie, my poker-playing Inner Editor. The Chimp is a Geekery art poster, an original drawing by Spiderman Jonah Jameson, provided here by the wonderful uNatural etsy shop If you've seen The Chimp before you've no doubt been reading about National Insect Week benches, presented by Eddie, who was not at his best due to a morbid fear of ladybugs, grasshoppers and other harmless insects.

ro_chi has no profile so there is very little I can say about him or her except that the photostream is brilliant and all photographs are available on Creative Commons. For my Fiesta of Mexican benches story I could have done almost a whole Mexican bench blog from ro_chi's photos alone. The Poker bench, I think, is by Darthko ro_chi calls the Poker bench the Ace of Hearts (As de corzones ). It sounds lovely in Spanish.

The handsome black and gold horse is by 3D Rivers, whose mission is to help the internet community meet the growing need for a wide range of well-designed, high quality 3D models and consumer goods products in a constantly changing environment. They offer a huge range of 3D products including things like buildings, transport, everyday objects, characters, model packs, animals, and yes, of course, benches. This Indian-style horse is one of the many different kinds of benches available via their online site at He has already appeared on Benchsite as one of the animals on Noah's Ark

The ape on a bench is certainly a splendid creature. And so is Mike Coghlan, the photographer. Mike has a King Kong sized collection of benches which have been used widely in Benchsite stories.

Paul Sivell makes intriguing chainsaw sculptures and is inspired by nature, local traditions, and mythology. His distinctive style is well known around the Isle of Wight though he also works throughout the UK and abroad. The dragon bench is one of his many functional sculptures (benches!) which can be seen at

There is quite a thing about sock monkeys and about monkeys generally. Indeed I found 485 etsy shops with the word Monkey in their title. The blue sock monkey is by Heather Doon in Ontario, Canada at

Tamsin is a sweet local girl who works here in Fribble-under-Par in the Not Quite Good Enough Pharmacy. Ever a follower of fashion, Tamsin likes to try anything new, even lurid purple Easter frocks. She has a rather odd perspective on life, as shown in the post she helped me with about big and small benches. If you think size doesn't matter, you ought to see it.

We have some lovely sunny bunny benches for Easter. Sara lives in Naples, Italy and has a menagerie of very charming creatures, including Milo the dwarf rabbit. Born in 2007, Milo is described as half kitten, half bulldog, and an aspiring actress. Milo and her companions are very willing subjects for photographs; they will wear anything and hold any posture. But Milo does protest that this bench is just a little bit too small, even for a dwarf rabbit.

The cement squirrel bench is one which my sister-in-law won in a raffle on the Isle of Wight. 

It's true, I have thousands of images of benches from all over the world. I keep collecting them whenever we travel and I collect them faster than I can use them. The row of benches is at Eastbourne in East Sussex; British seaside towns are particularly fond of stringing benches along the seafront. The other row of benches are actually church pews, in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. 

And as for the very tall stack of picnic benches, Martijn Engelbreght and Miguel Brugman's 'Rest' Air Restaurant was in Wageningen, Netherlands in 2008. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking reservations. But isn't this the most wonderful thing? Martijn gave me permission to use the picture. He has a very cool website address:  For the very coolest of Dutch designer benches see

**El-Len** is a physician and vintner who loves to travel and sees photography as a way of capturing moments and extending each trip she takes. She photographed beautiful bridges whilst travelling in China. The covered bridge is Miao architecture in Langde village in Guizhou Province. Ellen sent me several beautiful Miao bridges, which are from the Miao ethnic minority in this region of China. But that's just the beginning of the wondrous images I found in her photostream   For some beautiful bridge benches cross over to  

Meredith is modelled by two cats, one of whom is my own cat Melissa.The other Meredith is Boo, from Bend, Oregon. Melissa and Boo posed for the original cat post about St. Helier. Melissa, like Naomi Campbell, is not prepared to get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day. That puts her out of my price range so I used the same pictures as before. If you like Meredith's style of editing and you don't mind cats, see what she did to my post about piano benches. Where she did excel though, was World Cat Day

The cat bench is one of very many Social Sofas created by local communities in The Netherlands. I cycled around two summers photographing them; this one is in Dordrecht.

The white Siberian tiger bench is from Asian Replicas, who make a huge variety of lifesize statues and furniture in the Philippines Elsewhere on Benchsite you will find their edible benches such as tacos and ice creams. You could also have pizza bench, a cake bench, or a chicken and chips bench.

The lovely mouse bench is by Danish designers Nofred in Copenhagen. It's made of oak veneer and suitable for children 2-5 years. Nofred was founded by Sandra and Signe, who combined their backgrounds in interior design with their role as mothers. Seeing their own children play, they saw a gap in the market for interior products that not only belong in the children’s room but blend perfectly with the adult interior of the entire home. They want to create unique moments in childhood with sustainable products lasting for generations.*+bench*

The rusted seats which aren't quite a bench were ones I saw in Ouistreham in Normandy, France. I have a whole collection of ugly/broken/unwanted benches and sooner or later all of them come into a story. 

The lovely bright blue bench was photographed by Joanna Michilak on a sunny day at Denham Gardens in West Sussex. 

The green bench against a sea wall is at Lynmouth in Somerset. 

Innocent is the daughter-in-law of Lord and Lady Brassica, married to their numpty-but-very-rich son Root, who is known for getting drunk and sleeping on benches. Since her wedding, Innocent has emerged from her convent nursing dress into something of a fashion icon, usurping her more famous mother-in-law and causing uproar on the fashion forums. As for nursing, read more about the uniform she designed for International Nurses Day at It puts a whole new meaning on ICU.

Innocent at St Smiley's 

The Ratty Nurse is just one of many nurses who appears in our celebratory story to give nurses their due.

The roller skater on a bench is a statue I saw when wandering around Victoria Station in London. Oh, the wonderful things you can see in cities. 

The excellent portrait of Eddie looking studious is from Fringepop, an etsy shop in Atlanta, Georgia. It's full of 8x10 art prints including hipster, pin ups, zombies, steampunk, mermaids, witches, Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, cabinet cards, owls, taxidermy, flappers, octopus, fine art, lowbrow art, and surreal art. Fringepop also has a large selection of roller derby, horror goth, retro kitsch, and circus sideshow. They also love art deco, flapper, and art nouveau pinups and gorgeous deco mermaid art. They specialize in Victorian, medical, sideshow, and other oddity art along with many whimsical animals including squirrels, owls, deer, and ravens. As if this weren't enough, Fringepop loves macabre gothic themessuch as skulls and anatomical art. Favorites also include funny designs with retro sayings and a kitsch quality.

The child with William Shakespeare on a bench is not Prince Harry's son Archie. The bench and the child were outside a gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The photograph is by George Goodman at George is a sometimes photographer from Portland, Oregon. He's on the far side of 50 and enjoys his wife, his sons, his dog, his friends, travel, and his work.

The Knotty Bench was made by Gail, who can't stop making things. Her inspirational blog is devoted to doable, affordable and useable crafts that you can make yourself. Check out the ghost poop!

The PlusZ Ranch in Redmond, Oregon is inspired by the nature and history of the Wild West. The creative people at the PlusZ Ranch use old stuff like cowboy ropes, worn horseshoes, barnwood, and antique barbed wire to make lovely, rustic things. One of them is the Cowboy boots bench, which reminds me of a gas station we used to go to in Seattle when I was a child. The gas pumps were under the cowboy hat and the cashier lived in the boots. Boy howdy, we loved going there! Sorry, I digress. The PlusZ Ranch shop is at

In 2016 we rode out to the Wild West looking for benches. There we found Pomeroy, a little farming town on Highway 12 which follows the route of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as their Corps of Discovery made their way to and from the Pacific Ocean in the first years of the 1800s. Pomeroy is an historic town in this respect and it's great to see all these beautiful benches commemorating their farming heritage. The one included in this story is the covered wagons.

The man balancing on a bench is one of those pictures that's all over the internet but very hard to find when you want it. I saw it at
I don't know if pichippo is Japanese but on reaching their Japanese language website I asked for a translation and stumbled on a very large ad for Viagra. It's one of those photos in which a lot of people have a pinterest. All I can say is, don't try this at home.

Leo Reynolds, from Norwich, has been taking photographs for many years. He photographed the sign about the dangers of standing on a bench   Leo is a geek after my own heart. His photostream is incredibly well organised into labelled and categorised sets. Among them are selfies, stick figures in peril, vintage graphics, and, of course, benches. I'm fascinated by it all, especially 1,141 photos of the letter E. And if this isn't convenient enough, you can get all the letters of the alphabet, and numbers, organised by colour. Oh bliss. Finding a site like this just makes my day. 

Vinicius is a popular name in the Portuguese language. It dates back to Roman times and in 2016 it's the name of the Olympic mascot, as well as Brazil's famous musician Vinicius Moraes. Our Vini was a benchpressing champion in Brazil but during The Games he got distracted by Innocent and struck Gold in an entirely different way.

Sunny yellow benches are a bit of a tradition here on Benchsite. There are some springy ones that will get you in the mood for, um, spring. The one shown here is a fabulous beach shelter bench at Southsea.

The Oxford bench was photographed by Stephanie Byron, who is from Iowa. I don't know if she was actually in Oxford at the time, or maybe even another place called Oxford, other than the well-known university one. Her shop is Red Hedge Photos, which sells simple, beautiful, and unique products inspired by nature. There are floral prints, animals, textures, objects, letters and all kinds of prints to add a dash of cheerful inspiration to everyday life.

The passenger ship bench was seen on, which has over 800 exciting benches. It is a constant frustration that I cannot find two things on this site: 1) a way to search by key words and 2) a way to locate the owners of the photographs, the designers, or anybody connected with the bench itself. On one occasion I actually found the designers/owners of the bench I wanted and they did not know they were publicly benched throughout France and the rest of the world, nor were they pleased about it. I have found this ship bench in both Mexico and the south of France. Apologies in advance if you are the rightful owner of the excellent passenger ship bench.

The little gold gilt polystone statue of a holy rat on a bench is from the 20th century and comes from India. He was auctioned off at Catawiki auctioneers.

If you love animals see which animal benches Noah saved on the Ark. If you like pig benches, then you're looking in the right place and there are more small, large and faraway dog benches at  On the other hand, if you prefer cats, let Meredith show you some fabulous feline benches. Maybe you like rabbits: bunny benches are not just for Easter you know. Sheep? We've got some Baaaaaad ones here on Benchsite. And monkeys? We've got those too. And finally, for the Cream of Bovine Benches, let Lord Brassica show you his cows.

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