Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Brit' Cheese and the origin of Fizz.

The French are very proud of the fact that they have a cheese for every day of the year (and they go on and on about it).

What they don't know is that the UK produces over 600 types of cheese, but best not mention it!

Up until recently the only UK cheese available in my supermarket was the quite acceptable  'Seriously extra mature Cheddar', which hails from Scotland.

Last week, however, I noticed some packs simply marked 'Cheddar' in the pre-packed cheese section, so I had to buy some.

I was amazed. This was better that most Cheddar that's sold as 'mature' or 'tasty' back in the UK. It really was delicious.

Maybe with Brexit on the way, they're suddenly realising what they might be missing! Someone might even let them know that the UK has over 600 varieties of cheese (most of which are actually edible). 

But it's still probably best not to mention that the method of making Champagne started in England. Dom Perignon claimed to have invented Champagne in 1697, but Christopher Merrett of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire actually wrote of his method for making sparkling wine, 30 years earlier in 1662. No doubt Perignon had a copy of Merrett's thesis, but forgot to mention where he'd got the idea from.

 However, to mention this might cause another 100 years war.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Another box ticked.

The terrace up at the barn is finished. The flagstones now cover the steps, as well as the large flat 4 by 6 meter area below. It makes a very pleasant area for outdoor living.

Next job is the second, larger, bathroom. The present one (downstairs) is quite small, but very pleasant. It contains just a wet-room type shower, bog and basin; all rather basic, but well done. The new one will be more 'luxurious' and complete.

Then he needs three doors to be made for upstairs, and the exterior cladding re-done. 

 Softly, softly, catchee monkey.

Monday, 30 November 2020

Lady M's Mincemeat recipe.


Aaaah...Mince Pies.

Lady Magnon has been making her mincemeat; always a good sign.

Goodness knows what goes into it. Vast amounts of different types of dried fruits, chopped prunes, preserved peel, spices, brandy, and Atora Suet. The Suet I had wisely bought online as it isn't available here, other than in butchery form.

To me, Christmas ain't Christmas without a plentiful supply of Lady M's Mince Pies. Above are several kilos of her mixture, and there will be several more kilos before the big day. She is a slave to her mixing bowl at this time of year, and she hasn't even mentioned the cake yet.

Her kitchen assistant (Boo Boo) can't wait to bake and sample the first lot; and of course to have a wish! (Actually, me too!)

Sunday, 29 November 2020


We in the 'civilised world' take water for granted. We turn-on the tap, and out comes clean drinkable water in as much quantity as we require. We water our gardens, fill our pools, and have labour-saving machines that uses the stuff as if there's no tomorrow. 

This was all fine when there were just four of us in our tiny hamlet; now there are many many more, and in summer anywhere up to about 50... all of whom use copious amounts of water.

Our water supply comes from a natural spring about 5 kms away. It is purified, pumped-up into a nearby water tower, then pressure fed to the houses. 

We've been advised that the spring where the water originates is far less generous than in previous times, and with all the excessive use it doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine our supply slowly coming to an end. It does look as though at some time in the future, houses will need to make their own provision in order to guarantee a supply.

Digging a well is not difficult; one digs down whilst lining the sides with either bricks or giant concrete tubes. One goes as far as when one hits water.

My first farmhouse here had it's own citerne as did most other houses. It was a huge concrete lined hole, about 10 feet in diameter, and 30 feet deep, that was filled with water from the roof. There was a lovely old pump at one end of the terrace which brought the water up to just outside the kitchen door. A bucket did the rest. The citerne was always full.

I can see the day when such citernes will again be essential. With large fibreglass containers now easily available, installing such underground tanks would not be complicated. Having them filled with rainfall is another question. Global warming won't help.

Maybe in the future we'll all have to learn to be frugal with our water again, and treat it as a valuable commodity.  

I do hope I'm wrong.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta.


Fellow students of Latin, may remember having to translate the exploits of Cotta.

Personally I never thought to enquire about who this Cotta actually was; all I knew was that he marched around, on Caesar's behest, with several cohorts; out to conquer parts of Gaul.

Yesterday I decided to find-out more. Unfortunately not much is written about him other than in the famous De Bello Gallico where some details are given of his being wounded, losing battles, and eventually his death.

He was obviously a much admired soldier, and Caesar promoted him as joint Senior Officer in his Gallic Army along side his fellow officer Sabinus.

Caesar sent him to 'Gaul' to conquer the area around the German/Belgian borders. He came across fierce fighting, and eventually was defeated inside his own compound (above).

I'm really no better informed about dear Cotta, but at least some of my past 60 years of ignorance has been laid to rest. 

The strange thing about learning Latin is that one ends-up being able to say that Cotta is advancing to the north with two cohorts, but one never learns how to ask for a pound of Apples, or even ask the way to the Coliseum.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Less than a month until Christmas.


Possibly the most asked question of the moment is 'What do you want for Christmas?'.

And possibly the most usual reply is 'Nothing'.

Amongst the presents I gave last year were an Apple tree, a large bag of bird seed, a mushrooming penknife, and some things specifically asked-for that have never been used. With the two boys joining us again this year, no doubt our focus will be on them.

I have already decided on my gift for Lady Magnon, it is simply a matter of buying and bringing home.

For the others I really am at a loss.

This year, especially, excessive spending seems almost immoral. Maybe rather than giving lots of expensive and unwanted gifts, we should simply be grateful for our good health. The world's problems are far from over, so maybe the best gift might be something specific to the pandemic.

For years I gave people 'scratch cards' in with their Christmas or Birthday cards. The idea that someone could win a Million quid always appealed to me (one person did win €100); this year it might be more relevant to give a voucher for a Covid-19 vaccine jab.

Anyway, the important thing is to have a good Christmas. A pleasant lunch, one or two welcome gifts, and no hangover. As usual, I'm really looking forward to it.

N.B. Yesterday I was pruning the Wisteria on our 'tower'. I had leaned a ladder against the wall which the boys soon discovered to be the 'toy of the century'. Up and down they went (whilst being surveyed) and had a wonderful time. 

Why buy a £200 X Box (I have no idea how much these things actually cost) when you can go up and down a ladder for nothing!

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