Politics is rearing its VERY UGLY head again almost everywhere. Time to insist that we ALL have the right to certain services and standards.
Ring-fencing should be obligatory for Health, Education, Law-n-Order, Defence, and Pensions. Subsequently we should make sure that the 'unfortunates' of society are properly looked after, criminals safely locked up, and undesirables either kept out or booted out..
Agriculture, Roads, Power, Communications, The Arts, and Sport should all be next in line.
Then, only when institutionalised WASTE has been TOTALLY eliminated.... if there's anything left.... Benefaction.
When will our politicians understand this. Is it really too much to demand of how they spend our money?
I was reminded by a friend recently that the very words 'Ex Pat' conjure up pictures of braying retirees, sipping gins and tonic, whilst filling-in the crossword of a week-old copy of The Times through a be-monocled eye. And, of course, his picture is absolutely correct; we're all exactly like that!
Ex-Pats tend to be viewed suspiciously by the natives of their chosen anchorage. They often speak little of the language (just enough to order their gins and tonic), have no interest in local culture, and build up huge circles of English-speaking chums; regardless of suitability.
I'm often asked by fellow Englishmen 'Do you know Bingo and Fizzy or Rupert and Bunty?'. Of course I don't, and I'm always dying to reply by asking 'Do you know François and Jeannette?', but my question would be as pointless as theirs.
There are many reasons why people chose to live abroad; top of the list is probably the combination of limited finance and anticipated superior lifestyle. Personally I'm pleased to say that I'm here simply because I LOVE France, and it was always an ambition of mine to settle here since my first visit aged about 10. However, I quite expect that most just come for the croissants and cheap wine; and why not?
Gaston; I'll ave my jeen-tonique now please. CHEERS.
We've all seen these adverts for short term 'Pay-Day' loans, but if your credit's that bad that the Acme High Street Bank won't offer you a short term loan, why on earth would you borrow from this bunch of wide-boys.
You'd think that anyone seeing adverts for money at an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of FIVE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED, AND SIXTY NINE PERCENT would take to the hills. But these adverts are becoming more and more common, so I imagine that desperate clients are queueing at their doors.
Cro's advice: Don't borrow money at 5,569%. That's it. Nothing else to say. No more discussion. End of story!
May I present the one member of my family that I've as yet concealed from blog-world, and that is my lovely daughter Tenpin (above).
Ten' and her husband now live in Australia, and it looks as if my youngest son, Wills, will be joining her out there quite soon; though probably not in the same area.
I thoroughly approve of their move to Oz. If I was in my early 20's again I might well have done the same. Although I'd miss France terribly.
Ten' works for a large Australian University, she's just built a beautiful new house, and she has two energetic small boys. If it wasn't for the flocks of Lorikeets (Parrots) that eat most of the fruit from her trees, her Antipodean lifestyle's just as she always hoped it would be.
Lady Magnon is also heading-off for Australia quite soon; grandson sitting, touring, and gallivanting. I shall stay behind, act the old retainer, and mope. Maybe I'll also start my annual pre-Summer 'Adonis-in-a-Week' diet.... it's time.
1. Monty is losing a lot less hair than previously.
2. Our Aspen tree is forming it's catkin buds.
3. The lizards have survived the winter, and are cavorting on the façade of our house.
4. My right foot has rejected the attempt of a giant oak log to break its bones. Ouch anyway!
5. We've begun eating outdoors.
6. Lady Magnon has been spotted with secateurs in hand.
7. My next door neighbours are away in India for 2 weeks. The silence is staggering.
8. The hens are still laying an average of 2 eggs per day.
9. My local supermarket has a favourite Olive Oil on offer at €2 per litre; I shall buy gallons.
10. I've just put a new chain/blade on the chainsaw.
11. I'm going to a funeral tomorrow; not mine!
12. Red wine tastes as good to me today, as when I was 14.
The snows have gone and yesterday, when the sun was shining, it was almost Spring-like. So I went up to the Séchoir to inspect the new drive more closely. I must say, I'm very pleased with my JCB man's work. I told him I wanted it to be NEAT, and neat he has done.
The area on the right, where he has deposited all the earth, will (when levelled) become a new orchard. I shall plant peaches, figs, cherries, pears, plums, and apples. I've not yet decided what, but ONE amongst them will be planted on June 5th to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee; maybe a pear, as they usually become magnificent trees (There's some corner of a foreign field, etc).
Whilst up at the barn I happened to notice this roughly etched date (1976) on the back wall; it had previously been hidden by brambles. I'd always wondered when it was built; now I know. I was living just 300 metres away in '76, but I don't remember it going up. Maybe I was just too busy with other things.
Who would have thought that 36 years later, I would end-up as its owner. Even my own life never fails to surprise me.
There is a movement afoot, back in the UK, to make piss-poor, so-called TV Antique Dealers, into 'Celebs'. Is this happening everywhere?
Above are two good examples; James 'Bingo' Braxton, and David 'Devilish' Harper. Others include Phillip 'The Fox' Serrell, and Eric 'Knocker' Knowles. Each has a silly nickname, which is how we know that they truly ARE 'Celebs'.
So, in future I shall wish to be known as Cro 'The Hermit' Magnon. Others who could obviously do with a celebrity nickname overhaul include Tom 'Mind that Glass' Stephenson, and John 'Mind that... Oh, too late' Gray.
I'm sure you can think of others who deserve a silly Celeb-style nickname. I'm going to lie down.
It's a bit before 8am. There's still some early morning frost about, and I'm wearing both my coat and gloves. Our first stop is to say 'good morning' to the horses, and for Monty to have a quick nibble of his favourite gourmet tit-bit; horse-manure.
Then on to where this mess of 2 metre length Chestnut logs was, until recently, in a nice neat pile. Someone has come along with a big earth-moving machine (not my JCB man) and shoved it all backwards. The pile belongs to ME, so I'll soon have to arrange for someone to bring it to the house.
My friend José's Chestnut plantation looks wonderful at any time of year. If they're lucky, the dogs will find a Hare to chase amongst the surrounding woodland.
Now up onto this stretch of track that runs through the middle of the woods. This is where the dogs recently disturbed what I think must be a Polecat. Both Lady M and myself have seen it on two different occasions, with the dogs in hot pursuit. They stand no chance of catching it!
The dogs have had a good run (no Hares or Polecats today), they're both 'emptied', and I head back home. The sun is up, the sky is clear, and I anticipate a fine, warmish, day ahead. I shall unleash the chainsaw and build-up a stack of logs.... rain is forecast.
I wonder if you're like me. I cannot stand finding traces of butter in my jam, peanut butter, or Marmite.
A certain person (whose name I shall conceal) lived for several years in Washington DC, and developed a liking for that anathema of all things gastronomic... Peanut butter and Jelly Sandwiches.
Now, as a regular European, I'm simply amazed that O'Barmy has not made this practice illegal (with a hefty prison sentence); its continued existence is a disgrace to the whole North American continent.
Imagine a decent European chap opening a jar of British Bramble jelly, to find traces of peanut butter within. YUK, and double YUK. So, my delight has been boundless since Mr Marmite, and some others, began to sell their products in such clever 'SQUEEZY' containers.
I am now able to eat non-buttery honey, and non-buttery Marmite, but jammy butter is still another problem. I can see that my only protection from such abhorrent practice is the classic 'His-n-Hers' method. Hers with; mine without (Oh, did I accidentally give a clue to who this person above might be? Woops!).
Wood burning stoves are certainly one of the 'must haves' of the age. From the tiny croft in Scotland, to the grand Georgian mansion in Chelsea, everyone must have their wood burning stove.
For me, their main asset is that one can light up, then leave the house knowing that the fire is 'contained'; something we could never do with our open fire.
But as far as efficiency is concerned, I have my doubts. Ours, for example, needs to be FILLED with logs before enough heat is generated to notice the difference. Once everything is really hot (this takes at least 20 mins) it works very well. With the old open fire, the heat was almost instantaneous, with a large area of warmth being created within minutes; although probably about 80% of it eventually went skywards.
Another advantage is that a wood burner will burn just about anything. We mostly use Chestnut because it's half the price of oak, but in fact most dry wood will do (except pine).
So, which do I prefer? Well it has to be the stove, and I think the dogs would agree with me; but there was something so nice about a couple of metre-long logs resting on a pair of ancient fire-dogs, and the haunting smell of oak smoke.
Why is it that when it's dry, the sun is shining, and you're ripe with anticipation, your bloody JCB man is always busy. However, when it's freezing cold, the ground is as hard as iron, and all you want to do is stay indoors by the fire, your bloody JCB man turns up.
Anyway, my bloody JCB man has now arrived to cut the new drive-way up to the Séchoir, which will make life a lot simpler. He has strict instructions not to harm the beautiful Oak tree, and to leave things as TIDY as possible when finished..... We shall see!
I took the two above pictures yesterday evening.
And here he is today, hard at work. He's just promised me that everything will be fine.... They all say that; but in him, I have total confidence (ahem).
And this is the final result. We have, of course, to put down crushed stone, grass seed etc. But, I'm sure you'll agree; the boy done good!
I've mentioned previously that my old friend Jock's birthday fell on St Valentine's Day. His mother (one of New Zealand's finest poets) must have been thrilled.
Jock was a bonviveur. Nothing was more enjoyable for him than to eat well in a simple restaurant, whilst passing time with friends.
I introduced Jock to the above nearby restaurant even before he'd settled in France, and we ate there regularly together. He loved the friendly atmosphere, the wonderful regional cuisine (a female kitchen), and the fact that as soon as the all-inclusive bottle of wine was emptied, another appeared as if by magic at no extra charge.
So happy St Valentine's Day to everyone, and a posthumous Happy Birthday Mr Veitch.
This was yesterday morning, and I'd hoped that the bloody snow would have been gone by then, but there's still plenty around and it's mostly turned to ice. When I took the above photo (8am), I also checked the temperature; it was minus 13 C.
My friend Craig kindly drove me to the Car Spares shop a couple of days ago, so at least I now have a new battery for the Compact Royce; and I am, once again, mobile. I even braved the icy roads, and bought enough provisions for us and the animals for another week or so.
I've also just checked the weather forecast, and, guess what; we're promised more snow for today and tomorrow. I have to say I'm getting rather fed-up with it all; log sawing, fire stoking, and being confined to barracks. Much more of this and I shall be writing to The Times (Angry of Lumberjack).
There are not many advantages to Winter, but it does reveal certain secrets. Hidden houses come into view, and previously unseen landscapes open up before our eyes. Even simple pieces of disused farm machinery suddenly appear amongst the brambles.
This beauty, above, has been abandoned in a nearby hedge. It no doubt carved its last horse-drawn furrow just a few metres away; then was simply dumped.
I'm not the sort to have fancy painted cart wheels or old ploughs in my garden; but this is not to say that I don't appreciate them elsewhere.
It's quite a sophisticated plough with a flip over blade, and several advanced depth settings. It really should be in a museum; or in someone else's garden. It doesn't deserve to be abandoned amongst the brambles.
My neighbour has decided that this is the perfect moment to empty his pool. Luckily on this occasion NOT into my chicken run, but down the track instead. So our little chemin publique has now become an ice rink.
The dogs recently left an old deflated ball on the track; you can just see Bok trying to retrieve it from the solid ice. No way matey; not whilst the ice man cometh!
Desperate times require desperate measures. We are snowed-in, and have no bread.
So, this Soda bread is a really quick and easy solution. It takes all of an hour to both prepare and bake.
I used 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of rolled oats (whizzed-up to make a coarse flour), half teaspoon of baking soda, half teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon butter, good pinch of both salt and sugar, and enough milk to make a soft dough.
I then formed it into the traditional shape (using the minimum of effort), drew a deep cross across the top, and baked for about 45 mins in our wood-fired oven.
This is the second one I've made within two days; yesterday's we ate with my favourite St Agur blue cheese. Slightly cave-man-ish, homespun, and rustic, but really delicious!
I recommend it to all (especially in times of need).
p.s. 4 by 4 owning neighbours have now rallied round, and their kindness has provided bread, milk, and butter. We shall survive!!
The compact Royce has been moved to the shelter of the barn, the wood shed is piled high with sawn and split logs, and Cro is wearing 3, yes 3, thermal vests. Winter has arrived.
As a space saving solution for our new kitchen, I had our cooker's gas bottle placed outdoors, with the rubber supply tube going through the two foot thick stone wall. I had insisted on a gas hob, and an electric oven. But the cold weather has unearthed a problem; the pressure valve on the gas bottle has frozen-up, and unless I go out in the freezing cold and pour hot water over it, we have no gas supply to the hob.
Luckily we also have a wood-fired oven in the kitchen, which not only cooks, but also warms one half of the house. So my Sunday morning fried breakfast was safe; even if it was consumed a little later than usual.
How I hate the cold, and snow in particular! I'M STAYING INDOORS.
Almost by accident, I yesterday looked myself up under 'images', and was quite surprised to find the above. There's an illustration of one of my paintings (twice), together with a picture of my good-self looking extremely well coiffed and tidy (I shall leave you to work out which), amongst all sorts of other related and unrelated stuff. Scrolling down further, I also came across a photo of my grandson Harvey J.
Presumably Mr Google makes a random selection from this blog, then posts them under 'images', so why these and not others?
I wonder how they really get there? Have I been accidentally pressing some button that says 'use these at your will'?
Lady dogs tend not to be too picky when it comes to choosing a father for their pups. We know that Monty is (at least) half Labrador; but what on earth could his father have been? Here are some clues....
1. He's permanently hungry.
2. Not very affectionate.
3. Addicted to carrying long ankle bruising sticks.
4. Moults like crazy, and farts a lot.
5. When fed by hand, he removes several fingers at same time.
6. Insists on a very long early morning pee.
And Bok; well he looks and behaves rather like a Border Collie, but he obviously isn't 100%. Any ideas? Again, a few clues...
1. Loves chasing horses and cars.
2. Insists on putting his two arms up on your chest at all times.
3. Very affectionate.
4. When concentrating he lifts his left arm backwards (like a Pointer).
5. Sleeps very, very close to the blazing fire.
6. Never goes for a pee in the early morning.
I suppose, in reality, the only way of knowing their other parental halves would have to have been there at the right moment. And seeing that no-one was, it's simply a matter of guess work! All guesses welcome!
I was looking at our chimney yesterday, and, for no particular reason, I thought I'd show it to you.
This is a traditional local style cap on older chimneys. Made of several, mortar filled, Roman tiles (in our case 15), that lean against each other and are topped to form a ridge.
This stops about 90% of any rainwater entering the chimney.
The stone work on the chimney stack itself is becoming a little tired (after 250-300 years of hard work), so maybe I should think of having it repaired. The 'cap' itself was re-done about 10 years ago, when we had the whole roof relaid.
There's nothing much flowering at the moment, but this Abutilon against the front of the cottage (possibly Megapotamicum) never stops; even at this frosty time of year.
All 'gardeners' of my ilk (the useless kind) will enjoy this plant. You simply pull up a rooted sucker from the base of someone else's plant, stick it in the ground, and, hey presto, it flowers for ever after! It's what I call 'a good doer'!
The plant in the picture is a recently planted sucker from another much older one we have. The original one is known as 'Sue', and was given to me by a friend (of that name) who died at a ridiculously young age from a sudden aneurysm. I always think of her when I tend to it.
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; we also have a Border Collie called Billy. 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!