Saturday, 31 March 2012

Dog Run.

So, what have I been doing on this 'phew-wot-a-scorcher', 28 degrees C, Spring day? Well I've being building a secure run for the dogs, complete with a Caribbean style kennel for 2.

They seem quite happy with it, and as yet no eascape committee has been formed.

It will make my life just a little easier knowing they are safe outside, whilst I potter about elsewhere. I've never liked chaining them up, and this is a good alternative. When the big Aspen (off to the left) is in full leaf, it should offer additional shade.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Targetted food.

Ever since Monty was a wee slip-of-a-pup, Lady Magnon would only ever buy him food that had a picture of a Lab' or Retriever on the pack. In his early days it had to be a cute Lab' puppy picture; nowadays it has to be a full-grown, alert, and attractive adult.

I'm pretty sure that most dog food for adult, full-sized dogs is much the same; it's just the picture that changes. OK, certain dogs may need certain extra vitamins, but in general it's just 'dog food'. The stuff she used to buy was UNBELIEVABLY EXPENSIVE; at least the stuff I buy now (above) is affordable.

So I'm wondering how much we really buy through photographic association.  Personally I hardly ever buy 'branded' goods, but if I did, and I was to associate packaging illustrations with the type of person expected to purchase, then I would never buy Scott's Porridge Oats, Uncle Ben's Rice, or O Fokk-Mee's 2 minute rice noodles.

However, I might be tempted by a few litres of Sir 'Humpty-Dumpty' Fortesque-Strawberrynose's Merlot-in-a-bag (with free handy straw). Especially if the illustration was of me!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Un-Friendly Fountain Garden.

Just a year ago, I decided to abandon my tiny fish pond and create a 'small plant garden' instead. I'm not very good at flowering plants, so choosing what would go where was rather haphazard. All I knew was that I wanted Aubretia to hang down at the front.

Most of the plants were just taken from elsewhere and transplanted, a few others I bought. Anyway, I'm quite pleased to see that it is still doing well.

I have plenty of interesting foliage, a few flowers, and the prospect of more to come.... My only real problem was doing away with the water that so many friendly creatures found essential. 

These toads, that used to live in the pond, have now taken to life on the pool cover, on which there is still a small amount of water. The results of their labours are illustrated below. I shall have to place them, and their eggs, in a bucket, and take them down to the lake.

I feel as if I should apologise to them, but I don't think they'd understand.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Signs of Life.

Things at Haddock's are, at last, beginning to show signs of life. The Broccoli is almost ready for picking (what there is of it), and should continue to flower for another few weeks.

Beneath the 'forcing' pots, the stunningly beautiful Rhubarb is beginning to sprout. This is when it's at its best; young, tender, and free from slug damage. I shall give it another week, at least, before enjoying my first Crumble.

Otherwise, the Horseradish is growing well, and, just like every year, tempting me to buy a big joint of Beef.

And, of course, my dear ugly-duckling hens (they're supposed to look like that; they're Turkens) are still laying well, so I shall be making what real men never eat; Quiche Lorraine.

Even with Lady Magnon away in Koalaland, I shall not starve; blesséd be Haddock's.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

As Sick as a Dog.

This isn't Monty (I didn't take my camera), but it easily could have been.

Yesterday I took Lady Magnon to catch her 'plane in Toulouse, and, as I was to be away from the house for several hours, I took the two dogs along for the ride.

Monty has been car sick in the past, but this was when he was very small, and I thought he'd grown out of it.. How wrong I was.

He vomited about 4 times. Once, when he performed all over his blanket (and himself), I was forced to pull up beside a dangerously busy road, to avoid it being spread all over the fine leather upholstery of the compact Royce..

Eventually I just let him get on with it, and cleaned up when I returned home. Cleaning up VOMIT is NOT my forté.... Yuk and more Yuk.

Bok, however, was the perfect passenger.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Petrol Rationing.

We already have water usage restrictions in place for next month, and I quite expect fuel rationing plans are being drawn-up at the Elysée Palace, La Maison Blanche, and Whitehall.

Last week I filled the (petrol) tank of the Compact Royce, at a cost of nearly €100, and my friend Craig informs me that he has recently seen petrol at €2 per litre on sale nearby.

Above is a petrol rationing book that was issued to my mother in 1956 during the Suez crisis, and (I imagine) never used. If certain middle-eastern problems persist, I can well imagine we'll be seeing them again.

If the price of petrol does go through the roof, I see only a few options. Live in town, buy a horse, or invest in an expensive pair of hob-nailed walking boots. I certainly won't be using the Compact Royce as regularly as at present. I simply won't be able to afford it!

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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Le Rêve de Dimanche.

My friend Sami has just sent me this picture of one of my paintings that hangs in her sitting room.

It dates from 1988, and is entitled Rêve de Luxe. That's all..... it's Sunday.

My youngest son Wills, and his girlfriend Kellogg, are leaving today to spend a few months on the beach in Bali, and tomorrow Lady Magnon leaves for Australia. Bon voyage both; and, most importantly, stay safe!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Bird Boxes.

Now look here you birdies, this year I don't want to see any scruffy old nests in my trees. Last year they were littered with twiggy, grassy, mossy, monstrosities that made the whole place look like a tip.

This year I want you all to confine your squalor to the insides of the neat little bird boxes that I've painstakingly provided; AND, I'd be grateful, when visitors arrive, if you'd all try to make sure that your feathers are clean, tidy, and correctly in place.

From now on, this will be a tidy bird zone; I shall even leave a receptacle for your old discarded egg shells.

Any bird found making the place look like a junk yard, will be plucked, imprisoned, banished, or all three.

p.s. Those making well camouflaged nests (in Leylandii hedge, etc) will be exempt from the above punishments; there will also be prizes for 'best-kept nesting boxes', 'cutest brood of fledglings', and 'most melodic singing'.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Butternuts; Time to Go....

We had a super bumper crop of Butternuts last year; I must have stored-away at least 50.

But, like everything, they have a shelf-life, and their time is up. We ate the final one about two weeks ago; the last few, below, are now showing their age (ahem), and will be composted.

Still, they lasted through to mid-March; not bad, eh?

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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Toulouse March 2012.

When Serbian 'Black-Hand' member, Gavrilo Princip, murdered Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in June 1914, little did he know that his pointless action would lead to a World War that would take the lives of nearly 40 Million people. Yes, 40 million people!

One wonders if, likewise, the al-Qa'ida or Mujahidin terrorists of today, realise the possible consequence of their individual actions.

In nearby Toulouse one such terrorist has been on the rampage, killing military personnel, as well as school children, and, rightly or wrongly, I can see a time when some bellicose western politician will loose his or her patience.

We all need to be so very cautious, re-assess our allegiances, and return to respect and love for our fellow man. Failure to do so could have the most terrible consequences imaginable.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lucky Hand?

The image is not very clear, but it shows a hand (mine) in bas-relief, cut into a piece of flat stone.

I cut it, and, as I was building a small 'potting shed' at the time, included it in the wall to amuse the children. It became our 'lucky hand', and everytime we needed some good luck, we would place our hands over it, and beseech whatever was required.

One day, before leaving for a trip in my huge, massively over powerful (and thirsty) Rover SDI 3.5 V8 monster, we all touched the hand as usual..... and the wretched car refused to start. Not a whisper!.

We looked into all the usual causes of non-starting, but could find nothing. In my frustration I sold the car to a local scrap yard, and replaced it with a wonderfully simple Renault 4L (the one you could put a calf in the back).

All this happened many years ago, and no-one has since touched the 'lucky hand'. I suppose It really should now be known as the 'unlucky hand'.

I didn't regret getting rid of the crazy Rover, It was too powerful, noisy, and thirsty for the French countryside; the Renault suited me much better.

The hand is still there!
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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Amy Winehouse with Jools Holland - Monkey Man

Jools, Amy, and a glimpse of Rico on slide trombone... what could be better?

Vernal Equinox today. Spring has eventually sprung.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Return of the Birds of Paradise

Back in 2004, when we built our pool, I decided that it should be very much a part of the house and garden; not a separate entity. I landscaped all around, planted shrubs and trees, and built the 'pump house' to resemble a small pigeon tower (or some might say, thunder-box).

The icing on the cake was to commission a young local 'struggling' potter to make the two finials (or pinnacles). They were to be glazed in dark green and topped with traditionally shaped birds. He took quite a while to make them, then one exploded in the kiln and he was forced to start again from scratch; we had already been waiting for over two months.

Eventually he finished, and they were put in place amongst much downing of Champagne. They looked wonderful.

Unfortunately, in his inexperience, he had not fixed the birds correctly onto the main body of the finials, and during one long, wet, and frosty Winter, the two birds parted company with their bases and fell to the ground; luckily without too much damage (one lost a beak, and both lost some glaze).

Their replacement was top of my Winter 2012 'to do' list, and today I had no further excuses. Don't you think they look so much better? I've glued them back on with one of those mastic pastes you mix with a hardener.

Just in case you were wondering, after considerable discussion (back in 2004) I decided to have one bird facing due East to watch the sun rise, and the other facing due West to watch it set. I couldn't come-up with anything more original.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Happy Sunday Horses.

For most of the year, the horses are either freezing cold, too damned hot, or they're covered in swarms of wretched flies. But at this time of year they must be in heaven.

Perfect 25 C weather, no flies, and little to do other than mooch around all day, and eat.

They've finished-off almost everything I've grubbed-up from Haddock's, but they do occasionally throw an envious glance at my few remaining purple sprouting broccoli plants.

Naughty naughty. Not yet my beauties; just like me, you'll have to wait.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Breakfast Revisited.

Just when Spring has really sprung, our 3 hens have quit laying. Ever since they began, they have been laying either 2 or 3 beautiful eggs a day, even through the harshest of Winters. Now; nothing for two days!

Luckily my eldest son sees to it that his Papa is never without a regular supply of Gentleman's Relish (Patum Peperium); a respectable alternative to 'The Full English'.... The other jar shown above, 'Délice de Tomates Confites', is, of course, bought locally.

For those who've not yet had the pleasure, 'Gentleman's Relish' is a very strong flavoured paste made from Anchovies, Butter, and a few select spices. Eaten on hot buttered toast at breakfast (de rigeur at Boodle's), it is one of the best ways I know to start the day. 

'Délice de Tomates Confites', on the other hand, is made from Dried Tomatoes, Green Olives, Anchovies, Olive Oil, Cumin, and Red Wine. Again, wonderful on hot buttered toast.

Probably by the time I've posted this, my hens will have changed their minds, and they'll be laying like the clappers..... And lo; here's their meagre offering; 1¼ eggs. I shall have to have a quiet word with them!

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Friday, 16 March 2012

Time Team meets Cro.

I've posted this picture before; it's the new drive up to our Tobacco drying barn (séchoir).

Yesterday I was taking some rubbish up to a bonfire when I noticed something white and shiney, half buried, half way up the incline. Looking at the picture, I would say that it would have been nearly a metre below the original surface.

I called Lady Magnon over to witness the dig, and set-to with my archaeologist's trowel; being cautious not to damage what I hoped was valuable buried treasure.

Above is what I unearthed; not some exquisitely carved ivory figure, but a set of animal teeth. No doubt the other set is there too, along with all the rest of its skeleton; but I'll leave that for posterity.

So what have I uncovered; any ideas? A Cow, a Horse, a Wooly Mammoth? (The pattern of display in the photo is just random)

NOTA BENE: 'Time Team' is an English TV programme, presented by a very small person who watches others dig up gardens/fields with no apparent aim or result.... At least I actually found something.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


When one is known for one's elegance, fashion sense, and impeccable taste, it would not be unusual for personal hygiene products (for example), that reflect those qualities, to be named after the person involved (ahem....Cro).

We would be quite happy to wash our hair with luxurious O'Hara Suds, or bathe in warm water scented with Bardot Bath Oil.... So, it would come as no surprise to hear that a certain 'artist', known for his way with words, and his sartorial elegance, should be honoured by the naming of an exclusive, perfumed, hand-made 'savon';..... Viz CROBAR.

This rare and highly sought-after soap is the creation of Maitre-Savoneur Donna O'Shaughnassy of Illinois USA (  And its catchy name 'CROBAR' the snappy prize-winning invention of fellow Maitre-Savoneur, the lovely Ms Cocobong (

I am thrilled to say that I have just received a selection of CROBAR soaps, for myself, Lady M, and the Magnonettes, for which I am sincerely grateful. Blogging is full of surprises, and my chance encounter with Donna has proved to be one of the most inspiring and informative. (She is not only a soap maker, but also a tireless campaigner for organic foods and natural farming methods)

All that remains for me to add, is that Donna's 'Crobar' soap is scented with Clove Powder, Cedar Wood Oil, and Beer (beer being the most important ingredient.... obviously), and is available, along with many others, by mail order from

I can recommend it wholeheartedly; and a HUGE thank you to Donna.

Cro (just call me Bubbles) Magnon.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Boot Hill; Lumberjack.

Should I pop-clogs here in France, this is where they'll bury what's left of me.

Despite the cross on the gates this is not part of the church, it's actually owned and run by the Mayor's office (Mairie). I've already asked them about cost etc, which, compared to a plot in the UK, is very reasonable.

My first house in the village is directly midway between the cross and the right hand pillar, and up a bit. And our present house is top right hand corner. Both well within view of Boot Hill.

French graveyards tend to be rather garish affairs. They usually contain large mausoleums (often covered by a type of greenhouse), and are decorated with strange beaded wreaths, brightly coloured pottery flowers, and morbid glazed pictures of the deceased.

Personally I've given instructions for a respectable sized lump of stone, a small brass plaque, and a fig tree. 
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Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Hello Freddie; like a little breakfast?... Bye Freddie; see you this evening!

Good evening Freddie; hungry?... Bye; see you tomorrow!... And that's about it.

With two boisterous and demanding dogs in the house poor Freddie keeps to himself, and therefore tends to get overlooked. So here he is, doing what he (and every other cat) does best.... sleeping somewhere safe. 

Sweet dreams Fred.
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Monday, 12 March 2012


Figatelli (from 'Fegato'; Corsican for liver) is a delicacy, little known outside of France, or its native Corsica.

Possibly not for all tastes, Figatelli is a pork, and pork liver, dried sausage that is usually lightly smoked. It has a strong liver flavour, and is mostly eaten cooked; although I myself always eat it as it comes.

I doubt it, but this may be available in your local top quality supermarket, otherwise you will have to visit a good Deli.

If interesting flavours are your bag, I recommend searching it out; but I wouldn't give it to your Granny or small children. Lady Magnon isn't too keen either.

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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Birthday Boy.

It's my oldest son's birthday today. This is his birthday card, based on a drawing he did of our neighbour's cows when he was small; I didn't date it, so I've no idea how old he was at the time.

Kimbo has always been the nearest thing to the perfect son. He performed well at school, never caused us anguish, travelled throughout the world without phoning home for cash, gained his degree in Oxford, speaks French, he bowls and bats well (cricket), and has never been unemployed. He is also married, and has two lovely boys.

He has a wonderful sense of humour, and when we're together there's never a dull moment....  He's also an uncompromising gourmet, which suits me fine.

I miss you terribly
you know how it is,
for when we're apart
it's such a rotten swiz.

Happy birthday darling. Papa xxx

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Saturday, 10 March 2012


I am a huge fan of chicken. Roasted, curried, southern fried, I like them all ways.

Some time back I witnessed an elderly couple in front of me in a supermarket checkout queue, purchasing a silly packet of two chicken breasts. I noticed that the price was, something like, £2.50; whereas the whole chicken  that I myself was buying was just £2.70. I felt like having words with them, but bit my tongue.

It was after this experience that I decided that, should I one day become Minister of Education, I would add CHICKEN STUDIES to the curriculum of every single school in the nation.

I would make sure that everyone knew how to joint a chicken, knew where all the meaty bits were to be found, and had total understanding of its bone structure. I would also make sure that all pupils (including veggies) knew exactly how long it takes to roast, to fry, and barbecue the wee beasty. They would learn to make stock with the bones, and be aware of what herbs and spices best increase its flavour.

Finally when their studies were over (5 years), in order to pass their Chicken Studies exams they would need to have total mastery over at least 100 chicken recipes.

Advanced students would also study EGGS (another 5 years).

Friday, 9 March 2012

Sky TV.

Now, this is weird.

We have English Sky satellite TV beamed into our home, but very recently ITV 1 (one of the major UK channels) disappeared. An on-screen message said we needed a new digital viewing card. I phoned a friend who has the same system and it was suggested that I simply take out the old card (which I had been informed was essential, and had cost about £110), and use the Skydigibox without it. I was both bemused and suspicious.

So, I turned everything off, and out it came. Turned back on again, and, lo and behold, I now have ITV 1 (and all the other channels) back again. Not ITV from the South East as before, but from Central England. I suppose I'll have to now cope with local news from somewhere called Nottingham, but at least I've saved £100 or more.

If the Skydigibox works perfectly well without a card, what was the point of selling me the bloody thing in the first place? Yes, I know; just to get money out of my pocket. CHARMING!

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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Bloody Leylandii.

It's that bloody time of year again; bloody hedge cutting season. I suppose I really ought to have a motorised trimmer, but doing it by hand does seem both therapeutic and reasonably good exercise.  

The hedge is only about 20 metres long, so it doesn't really take too long. Even so, I treat it as a part-time activity; a little bit now, a little bit later. I never do it all at one go.

Hedge connoisseurs may have noticed that mine is  Cupressocyparis leylandii quad-bikius, a particularly dense growing sub-species that has been specially developed to shield against noisy neighbours, and their children's anti-social modes of transport.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Boys.

'I love you Bok'

'I love you too Mont'.

Poor old Bok. Only 15 months old, and he's already had 3 different homes. No wonder he's so affectionate; it's his way of asking if he can stay with us for ever. And of course he can.

Lady Magnon's just got-up, and was singing 'Three blind Mice Cats' to them; not surprisingly they were heads-up-n-howling, so I let them out.

Now they've chased Freddie up a tree, and here he is (above) saying 'Come and get me, you bunch of lilly-livered cowards'. Later he went up onto the roof (below) with his beach towel, copy of Cat Gossip, and a tube of Ambre Solaire.

And it's still not yet nine-o-clock.

p.s. In the afternoon Monty went to the vet' for his annual Jab. We were a little shocked to see that he weighs 42 kgs; he's been put on STRICT a diet. 

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