Friday, 30 September 2011

Convalescence.

Poor old Monty's still a little sore in the you-know-where dep't; well YOU would be too if you'd just had your bollocks snipped.

However, he's OK; and, between snoozes by the pool, is running around much like before. His mate Bok is being kept away for a while as their play fighting (that usually lasts for most of the day) is a little rough, and could easily see his stitches busting.

We'll keep him quiet for at least 10 days, by which time he'll be all healed up and barking in castrato. Poor bugger! Stitches out on Monday.

p.s. Monty is now 9 months old, and weighs a staggering 38 Kgs (about 84 lbs). No longer the wee puppy we remember from the beginning of the year.
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Thursday, 29 September 2011

London rooms.


Delores over at mybabyjohn.blogspot.com (the feathered nest) has prompted this post; for which I thank her.

When Pip moved into his Barnard's Inn rooms with Herbert Pocket, it always reminds me of my late father and his move from Sussex to London.

Nowadays anyone moving into unfurnished accommodation would probably run straight to Ikea, but in his day things were quite different.

Father's first job was in The City of London working for Morley's; a major clothing manufacturer of the twixt-war era. Being a sensible person he took rooms in nearby Milk Street; a short walk from his office.

In the absence of Ikea or Habitat, my grandfather instructed his village carpenter to make a table with 4 chairs and 2 carvers, a wardrobe, a desk, and a drinks cabinet sideboard. All was made in solid limed natural oak, and other than a bed (which I presume was already there) it was all he needed to furnish his few small rooms.

This furniture that his father had offered him stayed with him throughout his life, and I suspect he treasured them more than any other more valuable or interesting pieces. Unfortunately when they became available I had already furnished my own home, so, eventually, most of the items became surplus to requirements and were sold for a pittance. However, I did manage to save the small compact writing desk which I now myself treasure (no picture I'm afraid, it's in England).

I shall pass it on to my oldest son, with strict instructions that he will, in turn, do likewise.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Addicted to...

There are certain English products that I will not do without.

France produces almost everything I need, but I would never be without any of the above. Marmite, for example, has been a part of my life since I was a toddler; I could never live without it.

England's colonial past has given us a taste for curry pastes and pickles, and Patak's hot lime pickle is an essential part of any Indian meal; just as the Indian influenced Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce is an essential accompaniment  to a good hearty English breakfast.

And what red-blooded Englishman could eat his huge Sunday joint of beef without Colman's mustard and horseradish sauce.

Oh, and as for tea, my life wouldn't be worth living without Lady Magnon's (and my) favourite afternoon cup of Lapsang.

All of the above are now available here in France; apart from the mustard powder!
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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Bonus Bramley.



They look more like a Cox than a Bramley (other than their size), but they really do come from a genuine Bramley tree that I imported from England many years ago.

The reason for their colour is, I presume, extra sunshine. This creates a dessert apple that is almost as good as any other in flavour. However, it does remain a little less sweet than most; which suits me fine.

I should add, for those of you in far flung places, that a Bramley is a wonderful, but usually quite sharp, cooking apple, and, when grown in its native England, is all GREEN (other than an occasional slight blush). But here they regularly adopt red and yellow stripes, redolent of a Cox. That little extra heat and sunshine gives them a boost, and they also seem to gain in flavour.

We've filled about four large boxes with 'perfect' fruits for the winter, and Lady M has frozen several bags-full of purée. The only down-side is that beneath the huge tree it's a foot deep in rotting windfalls. It's that old problem of 'WASTE' again.

Bramley's are still the world's best cooker..... life wouldn't be the same without Lady Magnon's autumn apple crumbles.


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Monday, 26 September 2011

Yesterday morning.

Just back from taking Monty for his first walk of the day. The sun was up, the sky clear, and a light mist left a haze over distant trees. As usual I took a route through the woods where I see no-one, and hear nothing; it's as if Monty and I had the whole world to ourselves.

En route for home, I scrumped a few plump chestnuts that we'll eat this evening, and threw a couple of handfuls of crushed maize to the girls, just to thank them for my breakfast. That's Edwina on the left, and Richard and Richard, middle and right.

This old boy only associates me with carrots, he thinks that every time I pass by he'll get a few rejects. Too early, me old china; maybe later when I do a spot of digging.

I repeat often that my two favourite months of the year are June and September. Yesterday morning reinforced my love of September; it was just perfect. And we even managed a swim in the afternoon.
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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Space Junk.


The recent lump of space trash re-entering our atmosphere, has reminded us all of how much rubbish there is up in the skies.

This extraordinary NASA picture shows the (aprox) 370,000 pieces of junk that permanently wizz around our planet, at speeds of about 22,000 mph.

Whose permission does one have to gain, in order to clutter up space with all this stuff? Shouldn't they be made to tidy it all up..... and can they guarantee that it does no-one any harm?

Seems to me a bit like dumping stuff at sea.... out of sight, out of mind; until you see a picture like the above, or hear of a bus-sized lump of it crashing to earth.

And don't forget; there's another MUCH BIGGER lump on its way..... keep your heads down!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Aligot.


This wonderful winter peasant dish comes from an area to the east of us; the northern Aveyron.

Tomme cheese is traditionally used for making Aligot, but Cantal, or Cheddar would be OK too. It's easy to make, fills the belly, and is delicious.

You will need 1 kg of mashing potatoes, 400 gms of fresh Tomme, 200 gms of thick cream, a couple of cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper ( personally I also add a few splashes of olive oil).

Boil the pots with the garlic, then mash. Add the cream and Tomme whilst stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until amalgamated (it should end up velvety and stringy). Season to taste, and serve with best quality Toulouse sausage, or roast pork.

Nota Bene: If you replace the Tomme with well de-salted (2 days min) preserved Cod, then you end up with Brandade parmentier. Another wonderful dish, which Lady Magnon and I have just enjoyed for lunch!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Monty; complete.

Today Monty goes for the 'snip'. I'm not really sure why we're doing this to him, other than it may stop him wandering. At least that's Lady Magnon's reasoning.

So, goodbye to your family jewels. I do hope you'll still be talking to us when you come home later this afternoon.

Thanks to Viv for the photo.
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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Oy.... that's mine!


Edward (my son-in-law's dad) told me this story the other day.

He was at some airport in America (probably en route to his Naples Florida home) and was waiting for his suitcase to arrive on the conveyor belt. Suddenly he saw it emerge from the unknown, and just before it arrived at where he was standing, an arm reached out and grabbed it.

Edward approached the man and said 'Excuse me sir, you've got my suitcase'.

The man replied. 'This is MY suitcase'.

Edward continued 'I think you'll find that it has MY name on the label'.

The man said 'No, it has MY name on the label'.

At this point Edward grabbed the suitcase, looked at the label, and said 'There you are sir, Edward X: it's mine'.

The other man replied 'That's MY name! I am Edward X'.

Edward then had a much closer look at the disputed article, and could see that it was, in fact, NOT his suitcase.

Amazingly the two men owned the exact same suitcase and had the exactly the same names; coincidence or what!

Edward then returned red-faced to the conveyor belt, where his own case was doing the rounds.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Zenkey?


Zoo keepers in 'Palestine' sprayed this donkey to look like a Zebra, simply because they couldn't import the real thing.

I wonder what the donkey thought about it?

Maybe they could spray me to look like a handsome, young, bronzed, stud (if their skills would stretch that far, and they had enough paint).

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What the.....?

This very sexy lady arrived yesterday, can you guess what she is?

She purrs like a cat.... Oh damn, now I've given it away.

Yes, it's a brand new, stunningly beautiful, Jag XKR; a 175 mph head-turner, if ever I saw one. I'm so jealous.

My son-in-law's dad is spending a couple of days with us, and he doesn't muck about when it comes to transport!

Er, Edward....... may I borrow the keys please?
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Monday, 19 September 2011

Livvy James.

British newspapers are filled with the tale of 10 year old Livvy James; seen here, above, with her mother.

When Livvy left her Worcester school at the beginning of the summer holidays she was still known as Samuel, but now when returning for the autumn term she will be known as Livvy. She has changed from being a boy, to being a girl.

When I was at prep' school I had a friend called Richard Hunter. He was extrovert, flamboyant, and theatrical; what one nowadays might call 'camp'. In the summer holidays he would always come to my birthday parties, where my mother would occasionally perform simple magic tricks. Richard was so impressed that, at one such party, he asked her if she could turn him into a girl.

I really though nothing of his strange request, other than it obviously lodged in my mind (we were probably only 7 or 8 at the time; maybe less). Now, of course, I see what a nightmare it must have been for poor Richard; just like Livvy, he had the brain of a girl, but the body of a boy.

Over the years I've tried to find Richard, but so far no luck. I'd love to know if his wish came true. Maybe he's now called Rachel, and that's why I can't find her.

p.s. Richard had been born a twin. One day he and his brother were kicking a ball about outside their house, and the ball rolled down their sloping driveway into the road. His brother rushed down to retrieve it and met a speeding lorry.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Next Door.


Looking over the wall from Haddock's into next door's garden, I'm met by this huge swathe of wild flowers.

At the beginning of the year they constructed an extension to their car parking area by dumping several hundred lorry loads of earth and rubble; frankly it was an eyesore for quite a while.

Then suddenly top soil was spread all over, the whole area sown and watered, and this is the result.

In my photo you can only see about a quarter of it, but it's really quite spectacular. And, as they're not really 'gardeners', it's probably the best solution to an otherwise difficult sloping area. It's been like this since about May.

Happy Sunday. It's raining here.
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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Who'd Be An Horse ('orse).


In this heat (30ish C) the horses seem to suffer more than most of us. Their faces are COVERED with flies, what grass there is is dried up and scarce, and it's even too hot to be taken out for a ride.
Where they are (in the photo) is just below Haddock's, so I always give them the under-size or deformed carrots, windfall apples, and the occasional scything of lush grass. They also get given some bunches of grapes and handfuls of figs. Otherwise their lives are pretty boring.

I'm not sure which season they must hate most; the freezing cold of winter, or the fly-blown heat of summer.

No, I'm definitely happier being human. An horse's life is not for me!

Friday, 16 September 2011

My Mother and a Fishing Rod.

May I introduce my late mother. It's amazing, she's almost a double for my youngest son; a wonderful thing, genetics.

Mother was a spender; there was nothing in life she enjoyed more than spending money; either on herself or on others.

At one time, after having read an article in the Financial Times, she became the owner of one of the best private collections of boxed pairs of dualing pistols in the UK. She simply went out and bought every pair available by the top quality gun makers Egg, and Manton (as advised by the FT). Then just prior to a world trip that my parents took together, I took the whole collection to Sotherby's for her; and that was that!

Like many women (I suspect), she would buy large quantities of clothes and hide them away so that she was able to say, at a later date, 'Oh, I've had it for ages'.

Way back in the 60's I remember her buying a stainless steel sink and taps. She had absolutely no need for such things, but simply considered them a bargain. They remained in a shed for many years until I eventually found them a home. I could go on with a thousand other examples, but I'm sure you get the picture.

I'm writing all of this because, as our house is in complete turmoil at the moment, strange things are turning-up. I've just found an old fishing rod that she bought for me at an auction in the early 80's. It's in a long green rod bag, and, I think, has never been opened (certainly never by me); so I'll go and do that now.


And here it is. It's in pristine condition, and obviously well made. The makers name is Milward, but that means nothing to me. This is the first time it's seen daylight for over 30 years (maybe a lot longer); I just hope it doesn't suddenly turn to dust.

Now, where's that pond?


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Thursday, 15 September 2011

As if I haven't got enough to do.....

My work on the Séchoir has begun.

I'm replacing all the old cladding boards that are either twisted, broken, or rotten, and am giving the whole caboodle a lick of black all-in-one wood treatment. The only bit that needs serious work is the south facing exterior (with the ladder), where the sun has reeked its havoc on the simple pine boards. The other three sides are perfect.

The next job is to lay a concrete floor throughout. I've just received a quote from my local guy, which includes a rather trendy polished finish (for which they use an amusingly named 'hélicoptère'). I think I may have to approach the Banque de France for a loan, providing they have such huge funds available.

I still haven't submitted the (extensive) paperwork for the planning permission, but I have no doubt that they'll be accepted (eventually). However, we're quite philisophical about the whole business; if by any chance we're refused permission we'll simply save our money and make it into a dance hall, or picnic site, or roller skating rink, or indoor cricket nets, or maybe I'll just build myself a 'plane in it, or a racing car.....

p.s. The man who will lay the concrete has just mentioned to me that it was 'he himself' who originally built the two adjacent barns (we only own the nearest one). I must remember to ask him in what year, and write it over the main door.
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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Times they are a changin'.



I should firstly explain that our cottage was originally intended to be what the French might call a 'Garçonnière'. A play house, a place of entertainment, a little hide-away where we just had fun.
We loved our funny kitchen. It had been built by an badly trained monkey, and was impractical, old fashioned, and messy. Things hung from the ceiling, the shelves were filled to overflowing, and the equipment was out-dated; it was wonderful and we loved it.

But times change. We are now living here permanently, and the old kitchen has had its day..... it has to go.

Yesterday at mid-day I phoned the electrician to ask when he might be coming to install all the new sockets, oven connections, and other dangerous bits. "Tomorrow 8 am", he replied.

So I spent the afternoon destroying 35 years of memories, revealing 35 years of grime, and discovering 35 years of lost pencils coins and shopping lists.

Luckily I had already prepared last night's dinner, but for the next few weeks we shall have to eat out. Lunch will be at a favourite restaurant about 20 kms away, and dinner will probably be something very plebeian such as a sandwich, or a sandwich, or a sandwich.

I am really NOT looking forward to all the wretched chaos, but am trying to pretend that I'm perfectly relaxed about everything.


The electrician has now begun his work. Just look at all these wires; and that's only the half of it!

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Vroooom.... Vroooom.



Oy mister; can we have a go?... It's those boys again; Harvey J and Ollie go motor racing.
The Brighton (fingers-in-ears) Speed Trials take place every September along the prom; it's the one Brighton annual event that I really miss. Luckily my grandsons have taken their places in my stead.

Now all we need is something in which they could compete. An Aston Martin maybe; or perhaps a Bugatti Type 35 ?


Let's try that one Harv'. 

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Monday, 12 September 2011

Haddock's Glut.



Please ignore all the weeds; I've been so busy.... Instead, admire my gals Edwina, Richard, and Richard, scratching around in the background.

I'm now beginning to look to my winter vegs; Kale, Broccoli, Sprouts, Squash, Carrots, etc. All are doing well, and everything is surprisingly bug free. Last year I was inundated by white fly, but they seem to have gone. I wonder what happened, they certainly haven't been sprayed.


Like most northern hemisphere veg' gardeners, we now have a glut of summer stuff. I've finished bottling my Ratatouille (the above made the last lot). We have over 20 500gm jars of Rat', about 15 of Courgettes in Tom' sauce, and 15 of Aubergines in Tom' sauce. 

I've also now processed the last of the Toms; I've bottled 3 large 1kg jars for making winter Tomato soups.


Autumn seems to be closing in fast. Those high 30's temperatures are now gone, and mid 20's to 30 will probably be the maximum for a while. We've started to eat the Butternuts, the Sprouts are swelling fast, and the carrots are plump and juicy.

The only thing not performing as well as I'd like, are the Leeks. For some reason they've hardly grown (see top picture). This is a bugger, as Leek and Potato soup is a favourite classic winter standby.

Time now to think of other things. Wood chopping, fruit storage, tidying all the ignored summer detritus. I can feel my winter depression getting ever nearer.


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Sunday, 11 September 2011

9-11. RIP Olga Kristin White.


My old friend Jock Veitch was a journalist, and at one time in his career had been a medical writer for The Star newspaper of New York. It was through this mutual role of medical correspondent that he had met, and became friends with, Kristen White (above).

I, myself, met Kristen several times at Jock's house here in France, once spending a wonderful evening sitting beside her at dinner. She was a charming, attractive, and fascinating woman; the perfect guest for one of Jock's regular drawn-out gastronomic soirées. We became instant friends; she was the sort of person one warms to at once, and doesn't forget.

On the 11th of September 2001 Kristen was sitting in seat number 21C of United Airways flight No 93; she was intending to fly to San Francisco; in fact her life ended in a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania at 10.03 am, at the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists.

It is thought that flight 93 was destined for either The Capitol or The White House. There was a scuffle on board between passengers and terrorists (I like to think that Kristin did her bit), and the terrorists decided to abandon their vile mission and crash.

10 years have now passed, and I continue to think of poor Kristin. Her life was not intended to end like that, nor were those of the other 3000 innocent victims who also died that day.

RIP Kristin. Our paths crossed only briefly but you left your mark, and I think of you often.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The World's Most Spoilt Brat?


Queen of the Bimbo-Chavs (and daddy's little darling), 22 year old Petra Ecclestone has just bought herself a gaff in California. Not content with just her £56 Million pad in London's Chelsea, she has now purchased this £52 Million ex-Spelling home in Los Angeles. What on earth will she do with it?

It seems that Ms Ecclestone can only find pleasure in life IF it costs a bloody fortune. Even her recent wedding in Italy cost £5 Million (mine, in Gibraltar, cost NOTHING).

For some bizarre reason I was thinking about her this morning, as I took Monty and his friend Bok for an early morning walk. It was about 7.15 am, there was a light mist lying low over the fields and I had the whole silent world to myself. The pleasure I got in simply following the two dogs as they frolicked in a field of clover is indescribable..... and, of course, it too cost NOTHING.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not in the slightest bit jealous of Ms Ecclestone, as far as I can see, she has nothing for anyone to be jealous about! However, had she spent a few millions building a new wing onto a hospital, then, yes, I would be jealous. I just think that she must have missed out on so much in life.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Nuthatch.


The delightful Nuthatch is a much neglected bird, and yet he is probably as common in our European gardens as the Sparrow. He runs up and down tree trunks rather like a Treecreeper, and, if one is patient, can be tamed much like a Robin.

This Chestnut pole rests against a wild hazel nut tree just behind my house, and I came across a Nuthatch wedging this nut into one of its small knot-holes. 

I'm always finding old empty hazel nut shells, with holes in them, but for some reason had never associated them with Nuthatches. I'd always thought they were the results of mouse activity.

The bird returned a while after I'd gone, and finished his task; I later found the empty shell lying just beneath.

A really nice little bird to have in the garden.

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Flat-Pack Armoire.


Don't you just detest bloody flat pack furniture. Mind you, these Chinese chappies are very clever when it comes to squeezing as much as possible into cardboard cartons. There it all is, surrounded by bits of polystyrene, hardboard, and a strange fleecy plastic wrapping material. These cartons also contain the now mythical instruction details (above); complete with an estimated time for assembly. Mine said 2 hours; it actually took all day.

Here's the small armoire that I foolishly ordered several months ago through the French catalogue 'La Redoute'. It arrived in two scary cardboard cartons; I could tell at once that it was going to cause trouble.

So, what did we end up with.... An armoire that is much smaller than it's catalogue picture suggested. I'd wanted to buy an antique walnut armoire, but they are SO EXPENSIVE. Anyway, this will do for the moment; it's only to be used for storage, I'll probably replace it later, it can always be used somewhere else.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

London Today.


John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) has stated that if he had to live in England, he would choose Bath over London, as Bath is one of the few English towns that still appears to be English. He's not being racist; he just wants England to continue to look like England.

Social experiment is always dangerous; whereas natural development usually isn't. The great problem with the Socialist's recent 'door-wide-open' policy, is not that England has had a huge sudden massive influx of foreigners, but that the majority of these immigrants have absolutely no intention to assimilate. They are there for the money and life-style; earned or handed-out (usually the latter).

Oh, and just in case you were wondering why I'd posted the above picture.... It's just an ordinary street in London; the sort where John Cleese doesn't want to live.

p.s. Poor Mr Cleese has recently divorced his wife Ms Alyce Faye Eichelburger. This charming woman, who he rescued from life in a council flat, has recently received a cash settlement of £12 million, plus an annual payment of £600,000 for the next 7 years. Not only was Cleese shocked by the court order; but so was the whole of England. Cleese later said "I think I got off lightly; just imagine what I'd have had to pay Alyce, had she contributed anything to the relationship".

Cleese also said that if he and Ms Eichelburger were both to die tomorrow, HER children would end up much richer than HIS..... Divorce is a wonderful thing in England; as long as you're a woman.

Mr Cleese is thinking of settling in Australia.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A Double First.


The first of this year's Chestnuts have started to fall, and one amongst our recently purchased hens has laid her first egg.

We haven't kept Chickens for over 30 years, but the delight of finding that first egg never fades. And, by the look of the one above, it has to be a double-yolker!

Yes, it was. And I can assure you that it was doubly DEE-LISH-OUS.
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