Sunday, 24 May 2015


Yesterday our brilliant Heating Engineer, Michael, fired-up the completed heating system. The solar panels were unwrapped, the radiators opened, and the wood fired cooker/water heater lit. Everything worked as expected, there were no leaks, and everyone was happy.

These are the two chunky oak planks that I picked-up from Besse (see yesterday), they will end-up as kitchen worktops behind the above stove. It was a very slow journey home as they bounced about, perilously attached to the top of the Compact Royce. In the picture you can also see one of the new radiators.

OK; it's only an outdoor tap, but it's a rather special one. It's a brand new Italian design called 'SKY' which will resist temperatures of -30 C to +120 C, it is also self cleaning, and non drip. I won't tell you what it cost! I'm not over-keen on the design; but it's the only one of it's type available..


It's also hay-making time. I suspect this lot, in front of the cottage, will end-up as big round bales which will then be wrapped in white plastic. A sort of instant, easy way of making silage.

And finally, as I had nothing else to do, I also opened the pool. No surprises; just one blocked skimmer which was easily cleared, and the water was quite clear. All should be scrubbed and cleaned by this afternoon. I noticed that the water temp' was 16 C...... so no swimming yet.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Besse 24.

Yesterday I went to my nearby village of Besse to order a couple of well-matured Oak planks that will eventually become part of the barn's new kitchen work surfaces.

On entering the village one passes this stunningly beautiful medieval church. I just had to pull-up by the side of the road to take a picture.

The church looks to have been untouched since it was built in the 11th C, and the stone roofing is all in perfect condition. It has of course been slightly altered throughout the centuries; but without losing any of it's essential character. 

Aficionados can learn more by looking at 'Besse, Dordogne' on Wiki.

The sawmill was a little further down the hill, and in its way, just as enthralling.

p.s. Amazingly, there are churches like this in almost every nearby village. Maybe not quite so spectacular, but often equally fascinating.

Friday, 22 May 2015

My Father; revisited.

It's strange how one can know someone so well, yet at the same time not really know them at all.

This was the case with my father, and I've recently been trying to think of him as an individual, rather than as a parent.

He and his older brother were both privately educated at a Sussex Public School (Public Schools in the UK are Private Schools), and he always had that upright bearing that such rigid scholastic discipline instils; you might even see that in his photo above.

After school he briefly studied accountancy (to what level I'm not sure), then ended up in The City working for a major UK clothing/bedding manufacturer called Morleys. After a few years learning the ways of business he set up on his own back in his native Sussex, and became reasonably successful.

Part of his success in life was reflected by his 'public duties', he was even head-hunted to become a Parliamentary candidate. I'll never forget a blazing row he had with Jeffrey Johnson-Smith MP who had come to recruit him. My father told him he would only ever stand for parliament as an Independent Conservative, and not a Conservative..... Expletives were exchanged.

Father was also a very caring employer. All his staff were treated with respect, and were generously rewarded for their hard work. Everyone's holidays and birthdays were celebrated with a well filled envelope, and at Christmas bottles of Scotch were distributed to the bank manager, the gardener, the postman, the milkman, and just about everyone who'd been of service during the year.

Being away at school myself, I didn't spend that much time with him. There was no cricket on the lawn, or fishing together at a nearby pond. We didn't even spend our holidays together as he preferred mountains, and my mother preferred beaches; I leaned towards my mother's taste.  

So what did he give to me by way of legacy? Well, he sent me to good schools, he allowed me to use his tailor (generously picking-up the tab), and he taught me that there are certain standards in life that should always be upheld.

He also taught me to be kind in both act and spirit. I hear so many tales of parental brutality and pscyo-abuse that I am also extremely grateful that he was not amongst that ilk.

Father eventually became a double amputee (Diabetes), and for the last years of his life was wheelchair bound. I looked after him and his affairs for his final few years, and am now very pleased that I did so (I wasn't so pleased at the time; to put it mildly).  He did a lot for me, and it was the least I could do to make sure he didn't spend his final years alone.

I've begun to look on my father much more kindly than maybe I had previously. He was a very private man. He loved his wine and whiskey, and his greatest pleasure (above all else) was seeing his investment portfolio doing well; a typical father really. I don't think that's too bad a memory.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Barn Heat Source.

This is the wood burning cooker that we've installed in the barn. It will roast Wills and Kellogg's vegan Saturnalia feast, as well as heating the baby's bath water. It will also provide all that's required for the barn's 8 radiators (which have now been installed). It's an all singing, all dancing, sonofagun machine. I think it's Italian.

Where the two blocks are sitting, to its left, will be a small log storage area; this has now also been built!

The stove is actually a very hi-tech, Eco machine, that burns very efficiently. However, some smoke will no doubt emanate from its sacred bowels, and here is where it will exit.

A house just ain't a house without a chimney, even a modern hi-tech one.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Labour Leadership Race.

Comrades, I am very sorry to report that the son of my old chum Tricia Milmo (Mr Chuka Umunna, above) is no longer standing as a Labour Party leader candidate.

His good looks, good taste, membership of an exclusive City club, and a healthy private income, would have been a breath of fresh air to an otherwise lacklustre, and outdated, political party. Plagued by their rowdy supporters, and let-down by their even rowdier leaders; it's going to take some doing to get them back to being even half-credible, and Chuka might just have been the man to do it.

No doubt the big-wigs will, instead, opt for a classic Trade Union sponsored lackey from the People's Republic of Islington (or similar). Preferably with a poor degree from the LSE, and more than likely with a social worker/lawyer wife in tow.

So comrades, we can now look forward to some pseudo-communist left-winger, making the party's return to Number 10 a guaranteed impossibility for the foreseeable future. Chuka would have been a very good choice, but intelligence, wealth, and common sense, always spells danger for the left, so probably best that he's quit the race. Maybe they'll give him a shadow front bench job instead!

Ne'er mind Chuka, it was fun while it lasted, and I almost had a new dinner party topic to broach.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Fizzy Pop Time.

One of the delights of May is the Elderflower. Some make Cordial; I make Champagne.

Take 6 heads of sun-kissed Elderflowers, 650 gms sugar, the zest and juice of a Lemon, 2 tablespoons of colourless vinegar, and 6 litres of water. Mix. Leave for 24 hrs. Bottle, and leave for at least 2 weeks. It's as simple as that. 

2 provisos; firstly you MUST use those wired-on flip-top bottles, and secondly always open the bottles outdoors, they can be extremely fiery.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Journee Champêtre.

Yesterday my village held its annual 'Countryside Day', where all things bucolic were treated regally.

Uppermost in most farmers minds are their tractors, and there was plenty of nostalgia for all.

The air was thick with diesel fumes, as they revved them up to the delight of those who'd once owned similar machines.

Some had been lovingly pampered; others not. Bok anointed their wheels, regardless.

There were lots of other 'attractions', but I thought the tractors were the most interesting.

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