Friday, 31 December 2010

Charleston Anyone?

There's a New Year hint of Charleston in the air, and I would recommend this wonderful book to anyone interested in both its location, and work.

Mostly, however, I'm posting this to make Groucho Jim (the Quentin Bell doppelganger) jealous.

If you are unaware of the Charleston dynasties; Virginia is Quentin Bell's daughter; and Quentin was the son of Clive and Vanessa. Sadly QB died the year before the book was published; hence Virginia's kind dedication.

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All Good Friends And Jolly Good Companeee.

Robbie Baskerville and The Black Bastard (Scotty) are reasonably good friends. They know that I go for a long walk each day, and one or the other usually tags along.

However, it's rare for both of them to join me, and all the more pleasant. We keep saying that we should have another dog of our own, but with such canine buddies around there's hardly much point.

Come on boys... Fetch!


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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Lady boy.

When I was small, I had a friend called Richard Hunter. Richard had been born a twin, but sadly his non-identical brother died in a very tragic road accident.

At my birthday parties my mother would occasionally perform magic tricks, and at one such party Richard was so impressed that he asked her to change him into a girl (believing her capable of miracles)! At the time it seemed a strange request, but I thought no more about it.

On reflection it was a very revealing occasion. Here was this young boy (7, maybe 8 ish) who instinctively knew that he had been born in the wrong body. He WAS a girl, but his body had somehow been swapped for that of a boy.

Richard was always very 'camp'. He was also very 'theatrical' and 'over-expressive'. We remained friends until the age of 13, then parted company to our upper schools. Sadly I lost all contact with him.

Richard is probably the only person from my childhood that I really regret letting go. I would love to know how life spanned out for him, what became of him, if he got his wish. People often think of trans-sexuals as wierdos or perverts; this was certainly NOT the case with Richard, his was simply a fault of nature. Whether he did anything about it; I have no idea.

So, if anyone knows of a Richard (or even a Rachel) Hunter aged about 64, tall, gangly, camp; please refer him to this page.... I would love to see him again. Thank you!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Tabbies.

I particularly like Tabby Cats. Here is artist Dora Carrington (again) with her Tabby.

And here in a remarkably similar pose, alongside a very young Cro, is my French friend Didier holding our (startled looking) Tabby, that I think may have been named 'Tiddles' (surely not!).

And then there is Frederick Jesus Brian Magnon (Freddie), my current Tabby. A feline aristocrat if ever there was one.

p.s. Just after I'd finished the above draft, another Tabby turned up at the house and was desperate to come indoors. Eventually Freddie showed him/her how to use the cat flap, and I now have a beautiful young ginger Tabby sitting on my lap. I think it belongs to some small girls that live nearby, I'll return it later.

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Dreaming of Summer.




I've had enough of the cold, and just like the guys above, I'm really looking forward to BBQ weather.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Back to Normal-ish (fingers crossed).

I'm off to Toulouse today to pick-up Lady Magnon at the airport.

I just hope there'll be enough room in The Compact Royce to accomodate all her 2-day-late prezzies (probably mostly for Freddie)!!

Now, where did I tie-up that fatted calf?

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Friday, 24 December 2010

Our Very Best Wishes.

Cro (in France) and Lady Magnon (snow-bound in Blighty) would like to wish all our blogger friends good health, reasonable wealth, a well roasted turkey, not too much plum pudding, and, most importantly, all for yourself that you wished for others whilst you were feeling generous.

We hope that all your projects prove fruitful, your daily work satisfying, your chores not too arduous, and your dreams achievable. May 2011 prove to be the very best year of your life.

Nos meilleurs voeux pour Noel, et la nouvelle année.

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Thursday, 23 December 2010

"THE HOMEMADE XMAS VIDEO" 1986 (full version) Part 1 of 4 - Mel Smith ...



WARNING: If you have a weak bladder; don't watch this video! Probably the funniest ever Christmas film (just wait till the present opening in Part 3). It comes in 4 separate parts, so do try to watch ALL of them in order; it takes about 30 mins in all.


If you have the time, you won't regret it! Enjoy.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa, I've been a good boy; honest!

Can you please bring me a panacea for my bad knee, my aching back, my diabetes, and insomnia.

I would also welcome a powerful potion that stops the bloody weeds from growing up at Haddock's, keeps the deer off, and deals with all those troublesome insects.

In Lady Magnon's absence, may I request a large bag of self-clearing-up flour (her present variety seems to get everywhere when she does any baking!). She'd also like replacement temperature gauges for both of our ovens (very important against 'cordon noir').

If you have something that makes teeth perfect again, replaces lost hair, and would make me feel like a spring-chicken (without having to put it up my nose), it would be highly appreciated.

I promise to leave a bottle of Scotch and 2 mince pies for you on the big day.

Yours in anticipation. Your faithful devotee, Cro. xx

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

El Cro.

What bravery. What panache. What mastery! It must be the power of The Solstice.

Right..... All I need is a suit of lights, a few glasses of pastis, and the sun beating down on an adoring crowd. I'm ready for the fight.

Child's play. He's putty in my hands.

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Monday, 20 December 2010

Vicar of Dibley: Alice's marriage



I do hope that, wherever you live in the world, your national TV has shown the wonderful comedy series 'The Vicar of Dibley'.

The above is just a tiny fragment, but gives a good idea of what to expect. I'm just sorry it doesn't show the bridesmaids who, if I remember, were all dressed as Tellytubbies.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cro'me alone.

Lady Magnon was due to return to France yesterday afternoon, but, as everyone probably knows, London's two major airports (the busiest in the world) are snowed under.

Re-booking is never easy in these circumstances, and the next available flight is on Boxing day.

So, looks like another Christmas all by myself. I shall watch 'It's a Wonderful life', and 'Love Actually' on TV, maybe roast myself a small duck, and settle down to pull a lone cracker.

Occasionally life deals a bummer. I suppose it's my turn.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Are you sitting comfortably...

The brain is the strangest of computers.

I'm currently feeding some friends' cat whilst they're away galavanting in Blighty. And, this morning on my way home (as I 'trudged' through half a centimeter of snow), I was reminded of two of my absolute favourite childhood books. I wonder WHY?

Above is Pookie; the rabbit with wings. I used to cry every time my mother read this one to me, and no doubt I still would if I had to read it to my grandchildren.

And this is Ameliaranne who fought off bullies, organised concerts, and was an all-round good egg (a junior Judy Garland of her literary day).

I still have the books, but I'm afraid they're both in a pretty poor state from far too much use. I'm sure that much of my enjoyment of them was on account of their beautiful illustrations.


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Friday, 17 December 2010

400th Blog: Work In Progress.

Yes, this really is my 400th posting, so please allow me to indulge...

There are many different versions of the old adage '99% observation; 1% application'. But for the moment, 1% application suits me well; especially in this wretched weather.

In both of these landscapes I've spent days, if not weeks (because I know the locations so well), studying what constitutes their fascination for me. I have made no attempt at 'prettiness', 'design', or 'skill'. I have simply recorded what I think makes the two locations special.

I could now destroy them, as the jobs are done. They mean nothing to anyone but myself, they (more than likely) would never be desired as objects by anyone, and they demonstrate no real purpose.

Sometimes I wonder!..... Doubts, and more doubts.


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Thursday, 16 December 2010

399th Blog: Landscape Distilled.

I really don't like displaying myself like this; it's not my style. But I need to illustrate a point.

Painters, as opposed to most other professions, are often inflicted with serious DOUBTS. We continue blindly along our funneled paths, scratching away, trying to achieve something, often losing the plot.

As students we struggle; we want to impress, to innovate. Then comes a period of angst when we hope to be recognised for our skills. We exhibit our wares and expect to be lauded; rarely does this happen. We settle down to earn a living, with maybe the occasional attempt at commerce en route.

Finally our cares are abandoned, and we paint solely for ourselves, simply because we need to. Honesty raises its foul head, and the sum of our life's learning becomes squeezed and concentrated. We tend to think too much.

I feel I'm getting dangerously close to that point, but, in my case, the DOUBTS simply become stronger. I've recently rekindled an interest in 'Woodland' Landscape painting, which is why I've posted the two 1987 pictures above. My recent work has become reduced to almost Japanese Caligraphy levels, but it no longer really matters.

I may post one or two examples tomorrow. (It'll be my 4th centenary posting)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Kerry Katona; Super Star.

I sometimes wonder if UK TV hasn't completely lost the bloody plot; especially for its Christmas schedule.

I recently saw a 'trailer' for a series of programmes about someone called Kerry Katona. KK is an ex lap-dancer, glamour model, so-called singer, reality TV celeb', surgically re-modelled, coke snorting, wa-hey the lads, brainless, author (ghostwritten), Bimbo. (you're too kind, Cro)

Who the hell cares about this woman? Who the hell watches these programmes? Surely there must be a check-out girl, short-hand typist, or even a Madame Pipi (I'll explain that later) with more to say than KK. How much further dumbed-down, can gutter TV go? So folks, this is her; a STAR if ever I saw one!



Give her the money!........ NURSE!!!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Cro's Fantastic Christmas Movie Project.

Less than two weeks to go before Christmas, and I've got this really great idea for a movie.

Imagine the scene. It's late December, and a handsome young cowboy (played by Tom Stephenson) arrives at a desolate prairie farmstead. His eyes fall on a shapened axe; he's hungry and thirsty and offers to split logs in exchange for a 'mess of beans', and a dip into the water butt with one of those tin-can-thingies-nailed-onto-the-end-of-a-stick.

The lady of the house (played by Amy Saia) is a beautiful, Winchester-totin' widow, sporting a suprisingly fashionable low-cut barmaid style dress; she coyly agrees to the stranger's offer.

When he's finished the logs, the handsome young cowboy (still played by Tom Stephenson) busies himself by fixing the roof, just as the first few (exceptionally rare) desert snowflakes begin to fall.

Carol singers appear from nowhere (played by Carole, Molly, and Linda), and slowly the camera pans to the tumble-down wooden barn where a cleverly lit nativity scene is in full swing (Mary is played by Willow, the Archangel Gabriel by Jacqueline, a scruffy shepherd by Cro, and the 3 wise women T Clear, Little Stalky, and Simone).

The snow deepens and a distant lone angel (Maiden Luxe) hangs in a yellowed sky sipping a cocktail, and singing 'Somewhere over the rainbow'.

The film ends with the lonesome stranger (Tom Stephenson again) marrying the lonesome widow. In true Hillbilly style, they find a huge deposit of oil on their land, and become fabulously wealthy. They move to a compact but adorable town in the UK's west country, where the now 'not-so-lonesome-cowboy' (yes, him) starts an axe manufacturing business in honour of how he met his wife.

So, wadda'ya think! Good eh?

Monday, 13 December 2010

RIP The Lovely Madame D.

My postings recently have been a bit glum, and now, to make things worse, my lovely neighbour, Madame D, has died. I'm expecting her funeral on tuesday to be a huge affair.
The above shows Madame D (in glasses), Jean-Claude (who recently delivered my wood), Josette (Madame D's daughter), and Alexandra. Alexandra is Josette and Jean-Claude's daughter; Madame D's grand-daughter. Is that clear? The photo was taken 14 years ago.

When we first arrived in France in September 1972, Madame D took us in hand. She showed Lady M how to make Ham, Sausage, Paté etc, how to kill and prepare chickens, and how to do just about everything that any local girl would have mastered by the age of 12.

Madame D was a treasure; it was pure fortune that I bought the adjacent farmhouse, and we became neighbours. She was the archetypal French farmer's wife; a true 'paysanne'. What she didn't know about growing, preserving, and cooking, wasn't worth knowing. She always had a smile on her face, and nothing was ever too much for her. Even up to quite recently I used to phone her about the finer details of certain local recipes (which she never knew, as she did everything by sight and memory).

The D family, and that of my other neighbour José, have, over the years, become the closest thing we have to 'family' in France. Had they not not been there, we might well have returned to the UK.

So, farewell Madame D (may I at last call you Yvonne?). We were privileged to have known you for nearly 40 years; we loved you dearly, and shall genuinely miss you.

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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Turner Prize 2010.


Dexter Dalwood didn't win this year's Turner Prize, so I'll be eating my rice-paper hat. It was won by a Scottish woman who sings badly under bridges. I shall make no further comment.

Think Matisse, Kitaj, Hockers, and Michael Andrews. Dalwood is a real thinking painter's painter. The above is entitled 'The Liberace Museum'. Delicious painting.

Do look up his work. It deserves a viewing; even if he didn't get the dosh.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Final Mention of Tower for 2010.

I purposefully haven't mentioned my 'tower' for a while, because we end the year with all the actual 'building' work completed.

It now remains to render the outside, plaster the inside, lay the floor tiles, and get the door made and fixed.

I've changed the coping on top of the inter-connecting gated wall; the previous stones looked too modern and 'industrial'. It's still not perfect, but it's better.

Everything is as I planned. It's been bloody hard work, and I'm really looking forward to finishing it off as soon as some decent dry spring weather allows.

My greatest memory of the build will be of Lady Magnon. She abandoned her fears, shinned up and down ladders, and said nothing when my temper became the better of me. She worked unbelievably hard, and encouraged me when my confidence occasionally flagged; I thank her profusely.

Isn't that roof sexy! Looking back on it, I can hardly believe that it was entirely done by a couple of ageing foolhardy rank amateurs!!! Proof (if needed) that building requires no more than reasonable logic, and a long piece of weighted string.

I shall not bore you with any more 'tower' stories for a while. Its next appearance on this page will be when FINISHED!



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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mince Pies Anyone?

Lady Magnon always makes her own Mincemeat. Not only is it not available ready-made here in France, but hers is much better anyway. The recipe is from an old traditional English cookbook that was given to her by my mother not long after we were married (she no doubt feared that I would otherwise have been forced to eat Swedish Raw Herrings for the rest of my life).

Lady M adds Chopped Prunes and Armagnac to her mélange; giving it a slightly local flavour.

If you live somewhere where Mince Pies are NOT a Christmas tradition, then take note. Christmas just ain't Christmas without Mince Pies and Hot Punch (even on the beach in 35 degrees of sunshine). And don't forget, whilst he's delivering presents, they're Santa's favourite snack.

p.s. When the children were young Lady M used to make large slabs of Christmas mince pie that were later cut up into small squares. These were put to cool on our large kitchen table. As soon as her back was turned we'd eat the lot... she'd be furious... What larks!

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

RIP John Lennon.

What a stupid, irrational, and pointless waste of life. To assassinate someone one admires, must be the most inane idiocy imaginable. Mark Chapman (his assassin) is confined to his prison; John Lennon is, tragically, confined to history.

I post the picture above because Lady Magnon and I were married in Gibraltar just after John and Yoko. The registrar said Yoko 'looked like a little rat'; but I probably shouldn't repeat that.




Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Pogues & Kirsty McColl Fairytale Of New York



I suppose this has to be the greatest Christmas song of all time, so I'm posting it before someone else does. There's not a lot to say about Shane MacGowan, and probably far too much to say about the very sad (and suspicious) demise of poor Kirsty MacColl. She had the most beautiful voice.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Yuk, Yuk, and more YUK!

I remember my late father telling me about this bizarre dieting system (I don't think I believed him at the time). He added that when the person thought they were thin enough, they simply took another pill (probably borrowed from the cat) and the parasites would be killed off. Job done!

I wonder how many of today's ad's will be viewed, in 50 years time, with the same sense of disgust and horror!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Oak Logs 2010.

I know I've repeated it many times; but I am really 'blessed' to have such great neighbours.

One such neighbour, Jean-Claude, brought my wood this afternoon. We already have about 12 cu meters of Chestnut in storage, but about 3 days ago I burned my very last piece of Oak.

He brought 4 cu metres of 1 metre split logs which, together, we stacked by the side of the track. My picture doesn't really do it justice, but the sight of freshly stacked dry Oak is a wonderful thing.

N.B. In 2008 the same amount of Oak cost me €170. In 2009 it cost me €170. Guess how much it cost this year; yup, €170. That's the type of inflation I really like!
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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Cro's Offering of Seasonal Pix.

It's the dog with the human eyes. He never misses the opportunity of a long walk; even in the snow.

The children's mini garden bench, looking rather forlorn without its usual covering of beach towels and toys. At least the sun's shining!

Some of what's left up at Haddock's (after the deer), waiting patiently for Christmas. Roast Turkey wouldn't be the same without wonderful SPROUTS. I love them.

And finally, this is today's view from in front of the cottage. Surprisingly it's not TOO cold, and (it hurts me to admit) all rather beautiful.
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Friday, 3 December 2010

Hoarder; Me? No, Just War-Time Spirit.

I wasn't actually around during the last war, but I still hate waste; who doesn't!

Being 'country folk', we do as 'country folk' do. We make jams, chutneys, and pickles. We preserve as much as possible from Haddock's for the winter months.

Like most people who save used glass jars, I always clean them thoroughly and remove any labels, before putting them away untidily in a cluttered corner of the studio.

However, some jars have their labels SO FIRMLY GLUED, that to remove them requires something akin to nitric acid or a serious explosive. So may I make a worldwide plea to all food companies who sell their wares in glass jars; "Would you please use a simple flour paste with which to attach your labels". It would probably save me (and no doubt loads of others) several hours of wasted time each year!
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Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Junk Pile.

On my very last day at my first full-time Art College (before moving on to my degree course), I came across the college caretaker who was just about to set fire to a bonfire made-up of old and broken studio easels.

Being something of a spendthrift, I asked, before he lit his match, if I could take some.

I looked at the ready pile, worked out in an instant which bits were missing from which easels, and grabbed about 4 incomplete wrecks that I stuffed into my car. From what I saved, I managed to construct two new complete easels.

The caretaker was obviously having an end-of-year clear out, and, at the same time, I noticed a trolly filled with the then un-fashionable plaster casts that were used in times past in place of life models. Again I asked if I could take a few, and managed to save a 'Roman' torso, the above 'antique' head, a Corinthian capital, and some other bits and pieces. Unfortunately the head is the only remaining piece, the other bits having been used for outdoor decor, and since melted away.

Some people's junk is always another's treasure.


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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sky Rats.

Seagulls; doncha luv em?

There seems to be an international anti-seagull movement afoot at the moment; perhaps they've simply over-bred. Personally I rather like them, and now that I live in a gull-less area, I kinda miss their raucous juvenile bad-tempered behaviour.

I'm off to Toulouse (it's nearly 5 am). Lady Magnon is going Crimbo shopping in the UK for 2 weeks, and her flight is ridiculously early. Luckily this morning the compact Royce is snow free. Phew!



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