I've been looking for a totally useless, non-productive, self-destructive cause to support; and I think I've found one.
During this my one day strike (in sympathy with all UK Trades union members), I shall stay at home (I always do on Wednesdays), deprive the art world of any 30th November Cro genius, and if possible make a bloody nuisance of myself.
St Jude will be my hero for the day (he's the patron saint of lost causes), I shall refuse to walk the dog (unless he gives me those 'please daddy can we go for walkies' eyes), and I shall paint two large banners; one saying 'Down Wiv Everyfing', the other saying 'Up Yors' (both amusingly misspelled banners will be on sale on Thursday as genuine souvenirs).
I had intended to pitch a tent outside my front door for the day, but I think someone at St Paul's must have half-inched it.
If I can find it, I'll wear my red 'Junior Che Guevara Club' T shirt, and draw a 'Hammer and Sickle' on my beret.
I was hoping that Lady Magnon would have joined me in my day's protest, but she just scoffed and said I should 'bugger off and live in North Korea'.... Charming.... I'm not replying to her; silence is an important part of my STRIKE.
Autumn is, of course, the season of mushrooms. We've already had a glut of Parasols, and now it's the turn of the last of the year's delicacies; the Trumpets of Death, and Rat's Teeth. Both, I'm sure you'll agree, come with delightfully tempting names.
Above, the 'Trompette des Mort' (Horn of Plenty in UK), is rather a bland mushroom. It does however have two redeeming features; once 'up' it stays fresh for quite a long time, and as it's black it can easily be used by the unscrupulous (ahem), to replace Truffles in expensive terrines, patés, etc..
The other mushrooms are 'Dents de Rat' (Rat's Teeth). Again a mushroom that lasts well when 'up', and also grows in long lines; spot just one amongst the leaves, and with a little scraping you'll usually fill your basket.
Called the Hedgehog Mushroom in the UK, this again is rather a bland tasting fungi, but it has the advantage of absorbing whatever flavour it accompanies. Stick them in a chicken casserole, and you'll end up with the impression of having twice the amount of chicken you started with. Can't be bad!
So, it's farewell to mushrooms for a while. We now have to wait until about May for the Girolles to appear; other, of course, than our stock of delicious Cèpes in the freezer.
I quite expect you're as bored with Ecclestone's Formula One Racing as I am (as, I suspect, are many others).
All this tyre changing, filling up with petrol, and stop/go drives-through, is making the whole business of motor racing no more than a series of split-second-timed, blousy, pit-stops, with the occasional slap on the wrist for dangerous driving (a.k.a. overtaking).
So, now that this year's season is over, may I suggest the following. How about a new FORMULA VIRGIN, where racing would be done with one tank of petrol, one set of tyres, and no real limit on engine size etc (maybe a max of 5000cc). Man and motor, against man and motor. Proper, actual, hard-graft, motor racing.
OK, the cars would need to be scrutinised, but let's have some real, Fangio-style, flat-cap-n-goggles, flame spitting, racing. I want to see smoke, oil stained faces, and gritted teeth.
Let's rid the sport of its over-paid prima donnas (including Ecclestone), let's do away with pits stuffed full of geeky overalled technicians, let's banish multi-million pound teams and replace them with talented privateers.
Oh, and Dick; you might just make yourself another fortune in the process!
Signs like the above were (and probably still are) to be found all over my UK home town of Brighton; unfortunately so was lots of dog mess.
If one was to employ a Dog Defecation Operative (for that is what he would probably be called), he would only need to catch two miscreants (half an hours work) per week in order for his salary to be paid, the council to be in profit, and the pavements to be considerably cleaner.
With this in mind, I once wrote to the relevant council department to ask what revenue had been gathered as the result of placing so many £500 Penalty notices all over town.... I heard nothing for several months.
Then one day a small parcel arrived. It contained my letter, pinned to a pile of official-looking inter-departmental ramblings. My original letter had obviously been passed around, and scrutinised. Notes had been written all over it, and post-it notes stuck to every scrap of space.
Questions such as 'Who is this person?', 'Why is he asking this?', 'Is he someone important?', 'Do we owe him an answer?', were scribbled all over both the front and back. BUT NO-ONE HAD SIGNED ANYTHING.
So who had sent me this huge pile of 'jobsworth' bureaucratic missives? To this day I have no idea, other than it must have been a secretly concerned Whistle Blower, who probably had asked the same simple question as myself!
If you were to visit Magnon Towers, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we own TWO dogs. Monty's friend, Bok, seems to think he lives here as well (see yesterday's posting).
We don't feed him, nor do we encourage him, he is just 'Monty's Best Friend'. Lady M returns him to his owners on a regular basis (just a matter of 400 ms away), but he simply comes back again.
I'm seriously considering asking them if they'd like to sell him.... well, he lives here anyway. That way, at least we could make sure that he has his jabs, worm tablets, and nasty insect repellents. At the moment I suspect he goes untreated.
The picture above shows him at 6.30 am (having spent the whole night outside our front door); he was just desperate to be back with Monty.
I'm often asked 'Errrh, what's happened to your hens?'
'Nothing', I reply, 'They're supposed to be like that!'. (enlarge to photo to see what I mean)
The bald neck is in the breed; they're known as Turkens. I believe the name comes originally from thinking they were a cross between Turkeys and Hens. Still, they're very good layers, even if they ARE a bit ugly.
Before I got them I'd insisted that we had jet black chooks (with feathered necks).... but all good plans eh? There's time!
I've said many times, and it's true; I'm no gardener. OK, I grow a few vegetables as a matter of choice and practicality, but as for flowers, shrubs, and fancy designs; I score nought out of ten. Everything I do around the house is haphazard; if it works OK, if not it comes out and I start again.
However, gardening does interest me, and I enjoy a well designed plot as much as the next man.
When quite young I discovered John Brookes (above), and read a book of his about Cottage Gardening, of which he was (and probably still is) a great exponent. I remember very little of this book other than he seemed to view gardening rather how I view painting. His theory was that a garden is nothing without 'background'. His words were (aprox) 'a rose looks wonderful draped around a cottage door, but plant it in the middle of an empty field and it becomes pointless'. An obvious observation, but it needed to be said.
By building my 'tower', the 'background' that Brookes finds so essential has been increased hugely, and a new canvas has been stretched before my gardening eyes. I just wish I knew how to make the best of it, rather than repeating what has worked elsewhere. As my problem is that I know nothing about what plants to put where, it'll have to remain a question of trial and error (mostly error). This is why one needs a Mr Brookes to consult.
John Brookes not only writes about, and designs, gardens; he's also a practical gardener. His garden, Denmans, near Chichester in Sussex is one of the great 20th Century English gardens, and well worth a visit.... Mind you, Sussex itself is one great magnificent garden, which is why it was chosen to be known as The Garden of Eden.
I can't stop myself. As soon as word reaches Cro's shell-like that the Beaujolais Nouveau has been released, I'm hot-foot to the shops for a sample.
Wine is never universally good, it very much depends on the individual maker. But this particular brew was excellent; just the right combination of acidity and fruitiness. It came from Bichat Bros in St Priest.
OK it's all just a silly sales hype, but it's a fun one. I notice also that the wine-makers of Gaillac have joined in the game, and are pushing their Gaillac Nouveau. Well why not, especially if you can sell a €2 bottle of plonk for nearly €4.
Yesterday we took the dogs for their usual walk in the woods, veered off onto a small track that we'd not previously followed, and ended up walking about 200 kms. When we arrived home, we were shattered!
I didn't take any more 'autumnal pix'; I think we've all had enough by now. But I did spot this delightful Star Mushroom (possibly Geastrum coronatum or limbatum). It seemed so perfect in its young state.
Monty also managed to find a complete Roe Deer skull with antlers, which is now bathing in a light bleach solution. But more of that later.
Tis the season when, if I don't pay attention, Haddock's can become completely over-run with weeds. So, where there are no longer crops (and if I have the time), I dig and leave fallow.
As usual we enter Winter with a reasonable selection of vegs. The Sprouts await patiently for Christmas, but otherwise we have Curly Kale, Swiss Chard, Carrots, Cavello Nero, Beetroot, and some rather miserable looking Leeks.
The vines are pruned, and I have put in a short row of Red Onions. In storage we have a mountain of Butternut Squashes, more Red Onions, and a variety of Apples. My glut of Tomatoes, Aubergines, and Courgettes, is all carefully bottled and stacked away.
The large bluey-green plants, centre above, are Purple Sprouting Broccoli which will begin to sprout in late March, and the three hens in the background, top picture, are still, for the moment, laying three eggs a day!
I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I don't think we'll be going hungry this winter.
Jean Nouvel is probably France's finest architect.
He was born in our nearby town of Fumel, in the Lot et Garonne; the destination of my weekly supermarket shopping sortie (I've written, in the past, that the best bit about Fumel is 'leaving it'; I imagine JN felt the same) .
I suppose one could describe Nouvel as the French version of Lord (Norman) Foster; an architect of daring and innovative internationally admired buildings.
So, why am I telling you all this.... Well, we are mid-planning-application for our Séchoir, part of which we wish to convert into a large Summer apartment; and by chance, about 300 metres away, there's another old Séchoir that's soon also to be converted. The owners of this other Séchoir (a very pleasant young couple) are both architects, and guess who they work for in Gay Paree? Yes, no other than Jean Nouvel; so we are expecting great things (although the condition of their Séchoir would give me nightmares).
We have seen their plans, and we have discussed our own with them, so we now await the nod from the almighty bureaucrats who rule over such things.
I very much doubt if our design will meet with acceptance at once, but with a few alterations (to meet with their stringent requirements) I'm sure that eventually we'll get the go-ahead..... Fingers crossed!
These small, round, stone-roofed 'bories' are very much a feature around where I live; one finds them everywhere. They are just big enough for a shepherdess and friend to shelter from the rain (ahem).
This one has been well positioned overlooking downward sloping pasture, with a good view over several hectares.
Reasons for their original construction vary depending on who you ask, but in general they are all-purpose, small, dry shacks, for either human or animal shelter. In other words you do with them what you wish; and with whom!
This is the same building from the back. I photographed it when I recently took Monty down to the lake for a swim; nice, isn't it!
I want to fall asleep in front of an open fire that warmed the feet of my grandfather and my grandfather's father. I want to sit back in the comfort of an old wing chair, and snore the contentment of ages past. I want to be accompanied by a faithful old dog, recumbent on the threadbare, once fine, fireside rug, just as it has always been.
I want to look in the mirror and see something of the smile of my long-departed mother's mother. I want to hear the lonely tick of the antique longcase clock, as I take my meals at the table that's been passed through generations.
I want to peruse the faded sepia photos of distant unknown uncles and aunts; buckled behind their thick leather covers. I want to admire the same paintings that they admired; portraits, landscapes, carefully arranged flowers.
I want to pick up the small framed photo of my first ever dog, and stroke his image. I want to feel the track of a tear on my cheek as I remember my mother singing a favourite night-time song.
I want to sit quietly in my warm, dimly lit room, and remember those that I once loved; those that probably would no longer remember me. I want to dream of special times, that only I would now consider special.
I want to be aware of my past, in order that it becomes part of my future. I want to feel that I belong to a place to which I was destined to belong.
I want to pick fruit from trees that were planted by men who bore the same name as me, and grow crops in the same soil that they tilled. I want to smell the same roses, cook with the same herbs, and trim the same hedges. I want to tread the same garden path as those that held my hand; and kept me from falling.
I want to be part of continuity, both past and future, and I want my children, and my children's children to be the same.
In my neck-o-the-woods, the houses and their accompanying out-buildings are built from simple rough stone, with finer cut stones for the corners and openings. The stones are bound with a basic 'mortar' made of earth and, occasionally, lime. This is fine as long as the roof remains in good condition, but should a tile slip, the rain will soon penetrate the walls, and the 'mortar' wash away, causing them to crack and crumble.
Above is a classic example of what will happen. One can see a bodged attempt at repair at the top, and a hefty metal 'tie' between the front and back walls; neither of which will halt the building's demise once the interior 'mortar' has gone.
This building's exterior (this is not my house) has at some time also been 'pointed', but the danger for these old stone houses comes from above; not from the sides.
At my own home I keep a long forked stick, with which I push back into place any tile that has slipped. This needs to be done regularly each year, as the old 'Roman' tiles are easily dislodged; but it's nothing that the long stick and a ladder can't fix within a few minutes.
(N.B. Traditional Roman tiles are not fixed to anything. The lower concave tiles simply rest on a flat wooden surface, and the upper convex tiles sit over the top. Any rain falling on the upper tiles drips into the lower channel, then off to the edge of the roof).
A rough stone house is only as good as its roof (and, of course, its foundations), so as long as it's kept dry it should last for centuries. My own house is over 300 years old.
When we recently up-dated our kitchen, the idiot plumber managed to clog-up the exterior waste pipe with gravel, so we are having to create a by-pass with a new pipe; this involves us hand digging a long shallow trench about 2ft deep.
About half way along the trench I hit metal, and found the above. I imagine it's an ancient plough that has somehow become buried with time. It was too big to dig out, so I've left it there for some future amateur archaeologist to re-discover.
When I draw up the map of the new pipe position (for future generations), I shall include reference to an 'unknown, non-ticking, metal object'. Nothing like a bit of mystery!
I'm a bit slow to grasp new-fangled thingies for my blog; I did try to add a local weather forecast widget for the sidebar, but I couldn't get it to work so I gave-up.
However, I've recently added the 'You might also like' widget. As I'm sure everyone knows, this adds a few old postings, on roughly the same subject as the current one, that visitors are invited to peruse.
Strangely, I'm finding this really amusing. Very rarely do I return to my old postings, so having a few randomly chosen is rather fun.
It's possibly just the novelty of the widget, but I've found myself going over old subjects by the dozen, and am treating it rather like picking up an old often-read book.
Re-reading my thoughts or attitudes towards certain subjects is enlightening. I've only encountered one so far that I would have written differently. If you have installed this widget, have you found yourself doing the same?
Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) can be exceptionally annoying, but he has his moments.
Monday's wet afternoon was one for staying in by the fire, and Lady M and I ended up watching the last 20 minutes of his 2007 film 'Mr Bean's Holiday'. Some of it was hilarious, although comedians who rely on silly faces and voices usually make me cringe.
This is a clip from his TV series, and must be one of the best; it makes me laugh uncontrollably (I must be easily pleased).
It doesn't matter where you live, occasionally the weather is so foul that you just have to stay indoors, do nothing, light the fire, drink wine, eat MSG laced nibbles, watch trashy TV, and wait for it to pass.
At my local supermarket checkout, the cash machine suddenly rang bells, spat fireworks, and coughed up a fiver. It seems I could have won anything from 5 to 100 Euros, but just 5 was fine. I had to take my winning bill to the reception area and was then presented with the green plastic credit-card style thingy (above), which is impregnated with the €5. When there, I happened to ask the lady if 'everybody' won. No, she replied indignantly, just a random privileged few. So I feel blessed.
I never really win anything, I'm just not that sort; so this was an unexpected surprise. I also noticed, this morning, that my Leclerc supermarket 'loyalty card' has notched-up nearly €50 this year, so the Christmas turkey and Champage will be a seasonal gift to the Magnon household from the immensely wealthy M. Leclerc.
I admit, I'm a bit of an hermit, and tend not to venture too far from home. However, my chum Terry recently told me of a newly discovered dog-walking path, so we decided to give it a go.
The path was staggeringly beautiful, but as usual not another person in sight. We are so privileged, more often than not it's as if we have the world to ourselves.
There was something for everyone. Monty jumped in and out of every available stream or puddle. Lady M was deep in thought, trying to remember her recipe for Moussaka that she's preparing for tonight (I've got the day off). And me, well I kicked leaves, hummed a few Vera Lynn favourites, and took snaps.
This was a 'valley' walk, with high rocky escarpments on both sides. There were gorgeous shade-loving wild plants everywhere.
I'm just amazed that we found no caves (inhabited or not).
With guests around in recent months, we've been trying to keep Freddie out of the house at nights. He has a penchant for jumping up and down on people's beds during the night, and they find it off-putting.
He has a cat-flap into my studio (where he is fed), and I keep the interconnecting door with the house tightly closed.
So, how has he been getting in at night, and dancing the hokey-cokey on my head at 2 am every morning?
We now have the answer. Somehow he manages to climb up, and along, a grape vine, and squeeze in through an opening he's made in a small window's mosquito netting. We caught him in the act!
I suppose it shows feline guile and initiative, if nothing else..... Little monkey; nice, isn't he!
It's rained a bit recently, and this means mushrooms.
Taking the dogs for their early morning walk each day means that I'm first to see what's popped up over night. These beautiful young Parasols were just begging to be picked. They are one of our real favourites, especially like this before they're fully opened. The Italians call them 'Mazza di Tamburo', meaning 'drumsticks'; which, before having their long stems removed, is exactly what they resemble.
Reports concerning crops of both 'Trumpets of Death' and 'Rat's Teeth' should follow soon.
Reorganising the house a bit, has made certain long lost (or hidden) items reappear. I just rediscovered these yesterday.
I bought this rather strange pair of bowls many years ago, and asked the seller if he knew what they were; he had no idea. But I have a feeling that they had a specific purpose in life!
They are quite chunky, with a simple brown glaze on the inside, and a yellowish five pointed star looking up from the bottom. They measure 6½ inches (17 cms) across the top, and have 163A stamped into the base; there's no makers mark.
I'm not certain, but they look as if they may well have been used in an oven.
Any ideas, invented or otherwise, gratefully received.
This charming little girl; bow in hair, and reading something she obviously finds fascinating, is she who now answers to the name of Lady Magnon.
I was looking at the picture and wondering what one can read into such an ordinary every-day shot.
Firstly I suspect it was taken on a Sunday, I can't see her being dressed up like that from Monday to Saturday. It's also Summer, hence the light simple dress. It must have been taken in the morning, as by the afternoon she would have had lunch stains all down her front, and scuffs on her knees (she hasn't changed). And I suspect she was probably off to church (they still did that in Washington DC in those far off days), or maybe some sort of party, in which case she would probably have been clutching a present (unless that book was the present). I also estimate the year as 1955 ish.
Other than that, I'm stumped. Any further (printable) observations kindly accepted.
I'm showing this video (do people still use that word?) to demonstrate how Monty retrieves a ball or stick. He tries to grab it in his mouth, then tumbles head over heels in a grand demonstration of canine gymnastics.
Do other dogs do this? I should add that Monty only does this on GRASS; but when on grass he does it EVERY SINGLE TIME.. Lady M worries that he'll break his neck!
It's already November, and knowing that the man in the red suit gets very busy near to his big day, I'm getting in early with my Christmas wish list.
Lady Magnon asked me yesterday what I wanted for Crimbo. 'A new wheelbarrow' I replied. 'Too expensive' she said dismissively. 'What was the point in asking then' I said, closing the door sharply behind me.
So, no wheelbarrow. However, what I really do want is a huge load of self-digging and non-weed-supporting soil for Haddock's, a new lower back and right knee, and a Summer one-man-show at the Tate in London.
Come on Santa.... not too much to ask, surely. Oh, and you can throw in the Wheelbarrow as well, just to annoy Lady M.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!