Tuesday, 31 May 2011

R.I.P. Mr Cuckoo.

The problem with installing large plate-glass windows (as everyone knows) is that birds occasionally fly into them. This morning we discovered TWO.

The little Cirl Bunting (above) lived to tell the tale. He sat quietly recovering on my hand for about five minutes, before eventually flying off. Just enough time for Lady M to take this photo.

This young Cuckoo, however, was not so lucky. His demise came suddenly and unexpectedly.

Strangely, he flew into one side of a large sliding window; the other half of which was open. Quite why either he or the Bunting wanted to inspect the interior of my 'tower', I don't know. Maybe they'd read about it somewhere.

It's sad to lose any birds in this way, but to lose a young Cuckoo seems particularly so.
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Monday, 30 May 2011

Flower Pots?

Certain objects become so commonplace, that one forgets that, to others, they might be of interest.

These very roughly fashioned pots are to be found almost everywhere in the pine woods. They are made of terracotta, with a simple glazed interior. So, what are they?

In the not too distant past, the whole of the south west corner of France was thick with pine trees; these were tapped for resin that was then distilled to make turpentine. Nowadays much cheaper substitutes are manufactured, making the tapping of pine resin almost redundant.

The pots above were strapped to the trees beneath a simple galvanised strip of metal, and the resin ran into them, rather like latex or (I imagine) maple syrup, from a cut in the trunk.

Now they're mostly just left to rot, other than a few that get made into rustic garden candles. I've drilled holes in a few to make flower pots, but they're really a bit small. Any suggestions?

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Sunday, 29 May 2011

What the.....

One comes across strange things in the countryside; this one was pointed out to me by my friend Craig. What it is; I have no idea.

It's a 6 ft high Gorse bush completely covered in web. No doubt hidden somewhere are either spiders or caterpillars who have been so wonderfully industrious, and no doubt in time they will let themselves be known to us. But for the moment it looks as if the candy-floss man has been practicing his skills out in the open air.

If anyone knows....
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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Vanity Dark (geddit?)

I have to admit to a smidgen of vanity, and that if there was a reliable faux-sun-tan pill, I would probably partake.

Like most people, I just feel better with a bit of tan on my otherwise pale and pasty post-winter body. My problem is that I cannot stand the idea of sitting around sun-bathing; or, even worse, smothering myself with oil.

There is no question in my mind that the easiest way to become the next multi multi billionaire is to invent a tanning pill. Many years ago such a pill DID exist, but the 'tan' was more orange than sienna, and its success was short-lived.

The first person to invent a pill that gives a natural looking all-over tan will make a FORTUNE. Why has this not happened? Surely it can't be that difficult to develop.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Busy Bees.

The Chestnut trees are in flower; so in come the bees.

Chestnut flower honey is probably the last choice for most people. It is dark, rather bitter, and can leave an unpleasant after-taste.

Anyway, Chestnut trees are what we have most of in this area. Their pollination is essential for good crops, and good crops are essential for a healthy economy. The honey is almost a by-product.

My only grouch is that the local bee keepers (knowing that it's stinking hot) don't think to supply their bees with water, so they all make a 'bee line' for the nearest puddle, pool, or pond. This year we've done away with our own small pond (they don't drink swim-pool water), so it's fallen to one of our neighbours to be inundated with swarms of thirsty bees. She isn't happy; especially as she has three small children. And with hundreds of bees now regularly gathering just by the steps of her house, I don't blame her!

p.s. Since I wrote the above, another lot of hives has been brought in, which are sitting about 150 metres from our house. The slightest damp spot left from watering plant-pots now has it accompanying swarm of bees. Frankly, I'm a little pissed-off.

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Thursday, 26 May 2011

Home From Home.

This is the entrance to a rather nice nearby house, whose 'doctor' owner lives less than 100 kms away in Brive, which is in the Correze (we are in southern Périgord). He usually spends two weeks in the summer here, and occasionally a short while at Easter. 
About 35 years ago, his late father built this 'Borie', at the bottom of a small paddock, which looks back up to the house. At the time I lived about 200 metres away, and I made a point of walking by the site every day when it was originally being built; and observed the whole process from nowt to finished.
The stone, the builders, and the style all came from the Correze. He wanted, when in Périgord, to be reminded of his home back in Correze. A little like dining in a Chinese restaurant, but keeping a side plate of tripe-n-onions in view, just for reassurance.
It's a beautiful little building, built entirely of stone. But somehow (to me) it looks wrong in its present surroundings. The stone is hard grey and angular, whereas our local stone is soft and honey coloured (see top picture). And the style is too extravagant for our (probably) much poorer area. Our local 'Bories' are much smaller and more simple affairs.
I would have thought that if, when away, he always wanted to be reminded of home, it would probably have been better to have stayed there. It would have been cheaper too!
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

M. Montague-Macbeth Magnon.

Poor old Monty. Only 5 months old and he's already suffered more of his fair share of woes.

Since his encounter with the processionary caterpillar (to which he lost a good part of his tongue), he's now developed a couple of half-tennis-ball sized lumps on his sides, which have been shaved and are being treated with some anti-inflammatory 'horse' balm.

The vet' thinks this could be a reaction to where he was previously given his jabs. Cortizone has strange side-effects.

So, you relax by the pool dear Monty. You deserve a little pampering. We'll bring you your lunch later!
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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Champagne Anyone?

It's been just over two weeks since I made the Elderflower Champagne, and it had to be opened to check that the alchemy has worked correctly..... I can confirm that it has!

Townies; eat your hearts out!
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Monday, 23 May 2011

Amazonian Posting.

The youngest fruit of my loins, Wills, makes it his duty to see that my mind is occupied with matters other than just vegetable plants and tubes of umber.

This is his latest offering that arrived in saturday's post.... 'The Hermetica' and 'Corpus Hermeticum' both concern the writings of the thrice-great Hermes (Thoth).... And Wasserman's 'Militia of Heaven', looks at the relationship (if that's the right word) between the two opposing secretive bodies of the Crusades; The Templars and The Assassins.

Does everyone have such thoughtful and considerate offspring? Or am I just privileged.

I thank you my darling; a poignant selection. Oh, how I love my 'children'!
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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Arrow Slit Window.

The interior work on the 'tower' has been temporarily halted, due to my incapacity; but I shall return to work on Monday.

This photo is piss-poor. However, this is roughly how my faux-medieval-arrow-slit-window looks from the inside. It's now glazed, and really does have a genuinely ancient look about it.

The window faces due east and, as intended, the morning sun throws interesting patterns of light on both the floor and wall.

I offer no prizes for observations about the above!
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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Cruel Cro.

These pretty little Redstarts are common in the garden. The male, on the right, is easily recognised by his rusty red rump, and jet black throat.

When I was small, I collected birds eggs. Everyone did, it was part of being a boy.

Nowadays we know not to do such things. We look, admire, take photos perhaps; but we never touch the eggs.

The nest above was simply built in the wrong place, and although I intended no harm to the birds, they were obviously very wary of my constant presence (plastering); and left.

It's a Redstart's nest, and I feel responsible for depriving the area of five more birds, even though the decision to abandon was not exactly mine.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Redstart community. I really am your friend; I meant no harm. Please return next year and I promise to leave you in peace!

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Friday, 20 May 2011

The New (Old) Séchoir.

For those who've not ventured into such secretive enclaves, this is the interior of a bog-standard French tobacco drying barn.
The complete stems of tobacco were suspended from wires (on two levels) and left to dry in a haphazardly-controlled current of air; the weight of the plants was enormous. In winter, the barns were then used for the stripping and sorting of the leaves, before sending them off to the state buyers; in our case, to Bergerac. The tobacco eventually ending-up as those Gauloises or Gitanes fags, so evocative of France.

We have recently acquired the above barn, and will probably put in an upstairs floor, with loo, shower, and window, to make a very large studio/workshop area. The whole barn measures 20 by 7 metres; effectively giving us 280 square metres of extra usable space.

The growing of tobacco has now all but finished in this area. Developers must be rubbing their hands.

p.s. Some barmy American smart-arse 'preacher' (something Evans?) has declared that the world will end tomorrow. So goodbye everyone; it's been great knowin' y'all...... I'll see you again when he's gone!
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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Squeeky Clean Pool.

When we opened the pool this year, not only was I slightly (totally) incapacitated, but the water was also pretty filthy. However, I never really worry about such things; they're usually soon fixed.
Much more important was the fact that some bloody mouse had taken up residency in the electrical control box, and effed-up the works. But Bertrand, my electrician, soon had it all working again.

The flagstone area around the pool (amusingly know as 'the beach') is always dirty and stained after its winter sojourn spent under the tarpaulin, but this is also soon remedied with copious amounts of diluted bleach and a stiff brush.

The water itself receives a massive shock of fast-disolving chlorine, which makes it instantly sparkle again. It's just a shame there isn't something I could do to raise the temperature of the water; even after all this hot weather, it's still only 20 C . Kettles of boiling water perhaps?

In my present condition it (unfortunately) fell to Lady M, this year, to vacuum the bottom, and brush any green algae from the sides; both of which she did perfectly.

By the way; that's my studio behind the table and chairs. Well, some of us have to work hard!

I'll have my Pimms now please nurse.

p.s. I wonder if there's an olympic swimming category for one-armed breaststroke; I'm getting quite good at it!

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Haddock's Comes Alive.

The two month drought has meant that Haddock's has been somewhat neglected this year. However things are now changing.

The artichokes are going crazy. This one plant, by the side of my compost heap, already has about 10 edible heads. I'll have to have a big artichoke lunch. We have about 8 large plants in all.

The small tomato plants are still behind their protective tiles. When newly planted the heat of the sun can kill them off, so I take precautions. The tiles also protect from sudden hail storms, etc. As usual I've put in Marmande, Roma, and a whopping Portugese variety; the Cherry toms just self-sow.

The onions, carrots, dwarf beans, aubergines, peppers, courgettes, butternuts, and broccoli plants are all doing well, but being 'one-armed' has meant I'm a bit behind with planting out the sprouts, cavolo nero, kale, and swiss chard. There's plenty of time, and they're all in good sized pots, so not a problem. I've also popped in a few salads that were kindly donated by my friend José.

Not a bad spot for a little veg' patch is it?
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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Yes, It's Jedward.

Cheeky Irish 'singing sensation' twins Jedward have just been in the news again, as having (unsucessfully) represented Ireland at the recent Eurovision Song Contest in Germany.

They are very annoying, but vaguely amusing, teenagers, who have always found it surprisingly difficult to hit a correct musical note... but why let that get in the way of success!

In case you're not aware, their name comes from combining the J from John, with Edward (their given names)... Thank goodness their parents didn't name them Peter and Rick.

I have a feeling that these boys will go far; probably in the realm of comedy related TV. Not in singing!!

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Monday, 16 May 2011

Horses, horses everywhere...

Once a year (yesterday), the good people of our area are invited to tour the more remote and/or beautiful parts of the village on foot, on bicycle, on stupid quads, or on horseback. Thankfully, this year, most of the quads-bikers stayed at home.

The route takes them behind our house, past Haddock's (you can just see my artichokes, vines, and toms above), and off into the woods on a 24 km hike.

I would estimate that about 100 horses went by; mostly with girlies aboard, mostly not wearing hard-hats. (this bunch above all shouted 'fromage' when they saw me taking their picture)

I'm still resting a very painful torn ligament, so the only sunday activity in which I personally took part, was bellowing instructions to Lady M on how to clean the pool. Well, someone's got to do it, and she did a very good job.

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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Peenk Peexy.

My friend Philippe, who is a professional gardener and plantsman, gave me this rose about 6 years ago. It grows down by the pool pump-house, so I'm seeing quite a lot of it at the moment.

When I asked for its name, I was told it was called 'Peenk Peexy' (Pink Pixie).

Some years later I was telling him how well his Pink Pixie was doing, and he said he'd never heard of a rose called Peenk Peexy.

'Well', I replied 'It was YOU who told me its name'.

'We gardeners make theengs up' he replied. My faith in plantsmen has all but gone, but not in the Peenk Peexy.

 (If anyone now tells me that its name really is Pink Pixy; I shall spit)
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Saturday, 14 May 2011


Yup, I suppose it's exactly what you'd expect for a painter's mouse pad. But what's yours like?
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Friday, 13 May 2011

Death to Mice!!

It's been unusually hot here for almost two months. No rain; no respite. So I decided to open up the pool a little earlier than usual.

We have a pretty standard Hayward circulation system of pump, filter, vari-flo valve, and wall-mounted electrical control box. When I turned on (after having gone through the usual set-up rigmarole, nothing happened.... I opened the electrical box to find a bloody mouse nest and several chewed wires.

I am now waiting for the electrician to come and fix things for me. Meanwhile my now uncovered pool is probably about to turn green.

My own fault of course, for not having put down mouse-poison, but I really could do without all this bullshit.
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Cro Out Of Action (almost)

I've somehow torn a muscle in my upper left arm, and it's very painful. (this picture is not me)

I can't sleep at night without pouring pain killers down my throat (and even then...). And trying to do anything with that arm, other than scratch my stomach, is almost impossible.

Lady M's made me a sling from sackcloth and ashes (I get no sympathy), and she's already threatening to continue my plastering job; which is another way of saying 'get back to work, or else'.

I hope my recuperation doesn't last too long; there's so much to do!
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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

They're At It Again.

This is the Catholic Bishop, Naughty Raymond Lahey.

He has recently been in the dock, having been caught at Ottawa airport with a computer full of child porn, and a suitcase containing a selection of bizarre 'sex toys'.

He's also up on a civil charge of sexual abuse against a minor from Newfoundland's infamous Mount Cashel Orphanage.

So, just another Catholic priest..... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
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