Saturday, 23 August 2014

Tommy Rot.



There was I, proudly telling my friend José that I never put chemicals on my Tomatoes, as he was explaining that loads of people (including himself) had lost their entire crop to disease this year; I can tell you, I was feeling rather smug. 

Then, almost overnight, the above happened. Something virulent killed off the plants in a flash, and the fruits themselves developed nasty yellow 'sores'.


Luckily I had just finished preparing all my conserves. I have over 25 litres of tomato, and tomato mix, sauces in storage. Everything from plain Passata, to courgettes in Tomato, and Ratatouille. 

So, my annual problem of knowing what to do with the excess glut has been decided for me by Mother Nature. I shall now grub-up all the plants, and take them to some distant corner of the estate (where hopefully the disease will do no future harm). 

My friend José has just been by; and was laughing his head off. C'est la bloody vie!



Friday, 22 August 2014

Suicide. One man's Experience.


With the tragic news of Robin Williams' demise still fresh in our minds, and much talked of in the press, the subject of suicide is again being widely discussed.

I think there has only been one case in my family; at least to my knowledge.

My uncle and aunt were 'eccentric', to say the least. They lived about 200 yards down the road from us in my native Surrey village, in a house that was OVERFLOWING with furniture. Sofas were stacked in rows in the sitting room, and the small dining room (well it seemed small) contained at least two huge roll-top desks as well as goodness knows what else. There was a permanent feeling of 'chaos' in the house.

Eventually my uncle went mad, and was taken away (around 1960?). The last thing I remember him saying to me was how upset he'd been to see children running away from him in fear.

My aunt visited him regularly, and on one occasion was seen by a senior psychiatrist who tried to give her comfort by saying that 'he would soon be home'.

This preyed on my aunt's mind so much that she eventually decided that she'd had enough. There had in fact been no hope whatsoever of his ever returning home, and the psychiatrist's 'kindly' assurance had been the final straw.

Before taking her own life she had become totally irrational. Amongst other things, she posted envelopes filled with cash to all her siblings, and bought several enormous joints of beef that just hung, uncooked, in her pantry; I still have no idea why.

One day a neighbour phoned to say that he'd noticed several bottles of milk on her doorstep, and she hadn't been seen for a while. We were then living on the south coast, and immediately drove up to Lingfield to see what was going on.

As the smallest it was my duty to enter the house via an open window, and I found her slumped in an armchair with her mouth covered in white powder from all the pills she'd swallowed. I was probably about 13 or 14.

Her action was all her own doing, but for years I blamed the psychiatrist. I do also think that the milkman should have averted someone (albeit too late to do any good); and what her butcher thought she was up to, I really cannot imagine.

With my aunt no longer around, my uncle's London-based (long lost) sister suddenly appeared on the scene and bled him dry of money. She also emptied the Surrey house of anything of value, before eventually inheriting it, and selling-up. In a previous will my uncle had apparently left me £1,000 (a lot of money in those days), but by the time his sister had finished with him all that had been changed. Hey ho; what you've never had, you never miss.

As children, my sister and I spent quite a lot of time at my aunt and uncle's house, but I think even then we knew that they were a bit strange. Maybe this is why I wasn't really surprised about their ends.

I'm now wondering if I should have written about all this.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Goodbye Boys! A Bientôt.



My lovely boys are now back in London. Lady Magnon has accompanied them on their flight, and will stay for a while to do some 'shopping'.

They've been with us for most of the summer, with just a short week's break on the Med' with their parents

I must say, they've been 'model children'. No tantrums, no misbehaviour, no arguments. They've even amazed me by eating their 'greens', and trying almost everything on offer.

Possibly even more than us, the dogs will miss them terribly. We have been totally ignored since they've been with us; Monty and Bok only had eyes for them.... Inseparable.

The bikes, go-karts, and butterfly nets, have all been put away; oh my god it's going to be so quiet. I'm already looking forward to seeing them again as soon as possible. 

Have you considered a pre-Christmas visit, boys?



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Shyness.


                                     

I've suffered all my life from shyness. In fact I would say, almost to the level of 'debilitating'.

Even now I'm not good in social crowds; much preferring small intimate groups.

I have learned over the years how to pretend to be almost extrovert, but I don't find it easy.

I suppose the most crippling effect of my shyness was when I was in my late teens/early twenties when I made such a pig's breakfast over meeting the opposite sex; I was forced to torture myself just to start simple conversations. Luckily I never allowed this to rule my life, and I managed to have a few stunningly beautiful girlfriends. Lady Magnon even said that she found my shyness quite appealing; goodness knows why.

I'm still very shy; no doubt I always will be. I try not to let people see that side of me, but pretending to be gregarious continues to be extremely hard work.

Now you know why I'm a part time hermit; and probably also why I write a daily blog.



Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Knowing One's Onions, Part 2.



Yesterday I pulled my Onion crop; and I'm pleased to say that they look pretty good. I hadn't really paid them much attention since they were planted as 'sets', and they were now completely covered by weeds.

I shall leave them in the sun to dry-out for a few days, then trim them up a bit and store them in a corner of the studio (if I can find a free corner).


Again I grew my old faithful variety of Red Baron. They never fail me, and the flavour is excellent; perfect for Pissaladière.

The medicinal properties of Onions are well known; we should all eat a lot more.

I haven't weighed my crop, but I imagine I have between 25 and 30 kilos. They should see me through the winter.


Monday, 18 August 2014

More Boot Sale Fun.



Yesterday saw our biggest annual 'brocante' (boot sale), at the nearby town of Cazals. We are always on the look-out for nice things for the barn, and these doors looked just the job. When given a waxing they'll be beautiful.

They are solid walnut, probably late 19th C, bucolic Louis XV style, and in pretty good nick.

I'll get our chippie to use them for something.

Nice, eh?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

La Vendange.



Harvey J was in charge of picking the grapes,


whilst little brother Ollie, squeezed the juice out of them.

OK, the resulting Chateau Grumpy wine was only a few minutes old, but it was very good.



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