Thursday, 31 July 2014


Alphonse is a British soldier 'doll'. He was meant to represent a prisoner of the Japanese, which is why he wears a woven raffia hat and has raffia soled black canvas shoes. Otherwise his kit is standard issue UK khaki.

Dear Alphonse was won by my mother in a Red Cross Ball raffle in London; probably around 1944/5.

He was my 'doll'; we grew up together. I've always loved Alphonse. However, for the moment he languishes somewhere in a Brighton loft, which is why I've had to revert to a rather piss-poor drawing. The top part is quite accurate, but the lower part less so.

Underneath his smart exterior Alphonse is a pukka doll, with a hard body, head, and legs, but with his individually made army uniform.

I just hope that someone will take special care of him when I'm no longer around. 

He's the original Action Man; MY Action Man.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

15 things I cannot live without (in no particular order, except No 1).


1. Lady Magnon (I'd be dead meat if she wasn't at No 1).
2. My children and grandchildren.
3. Charcuterie.
4. Haddock's (my veg' garden).
5. A project or two.
7. Sunshine.
8. Peace and quiet.
9. Red wine.
10. Easily accessible mushroom-bearing countryside.
11. Winter warmth.
12. A reliable car.
13. My big Latin, and Etymological, dictionaries.
14. A laptop.
15. Meat.

Simple requirements for a simple life.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Top Fruit.

I reckon we're about to have a bumper fruit harvest. The Pears are looking wonderful, this one above is a Doyenne de Comice; one of the best. I also have a very young Conference which also has several fruits. 

Our main Plum is a Quetsche d'Alsace; a sort of French version of the English Victoria. It's also the Plum that is used for making our local Pruneaux d'Agen.

The Bramley never fails, but our other Apples are a bit hit-n-miss. This one above is a Reine de Reinette, a classic French 'doer', a bit like a Cox. This year it is excelling.

These babies never fail, even after a plague of locusts the one crop you'd be certain of is Figs. 

And then there are the grapes..... bloody grapes; we have mountains of them.

My only real disappointment this year has been the Peaches. They all looked so good in Spring; now they're looking rather pathetic...... Ah well, there's always next year.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Summer Holls; Times Past.

Ah, summer holidays by the sea.

Ice creams, silly hats, crunchy sand sandwiches, an end of the pier show, rain, crazy golf, knickerbocker glories, more rain, more ice creams, then home again.

I've no idea where the above photo was taken, but I'm sure we had lots of fun. It was taken years before the obligatory 2 week cheap Spanish beach holidays were even thought of.

Our aspirations were lower; we didn't complain about soggy chips or lumpy beds, we just 'went with the flow' and made the most of it.

I honestly can't remember much about these early holidays, but I can recall small snippets. Times were good.

p.s. I presume my mother took the photo with her ancient Box Brownie; the woman peering from behind my sister was possibly an aunt.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

July 27th: Belloc Night, and the tale of Jim.

Tonight is 'Belloc Night' (a more comprehensible version of 'Burns Night' for fastidious Sussex folk, and all others who speak The Queen's English).

On this night (27th July) we eat Bread, Cheese, and Pickle, and read verses of Belloc; in my case from his most famous tome 'Cautionary Tales for Children'.

If, like me, you intend to celebrate the life and work of Hilaire Belloc tonight (as I'm sure you will), may I suggest that you read 'Jim' to your assembled party; kids love it too!


    There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
    His Friends were very good to him.
    They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
    And slices of delicious Ham,
    And Chocolate with pink inside
    And little Tricycles to ride,
    And read him Stories through and through,
    And even took him to the Zoo--
    But there it was the dreadful Fate
    Befell him, which I now relate.
    You know--or at least you ought to know,
    For I have often told you so--
    That Children never are allowed
    To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
    Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
    He ran away when he was able,
    And on this inauspicious day
    He slipped his hand and ran away!
    He hadn't gone a yard when--Bang!
    With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
    And hungrily began to eat
    The Boy: beginning at his feet.
    Now, just imagine how it feels
    When first your toes and then your heels,
    And then by gradual degrees,
    Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
    Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
    No wonder Jim detested it!
    No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''
    The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
    Though very fat he almost ran
    To help the little gentleman.
    ``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
    (For Ponto was the Lion's name),
    ``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
    ``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
    The Lion made a sudden stop,
    He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
    And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
    Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
    But when he bent him over Jim,
    The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
    The Lion having reached his Head,
    The Miserable Boy was dead!
    When Nurse informed his Parents, they
    Were more Concerned than I can say:--
    His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
    Said, ``Well--it gives me no surprise,
    He would not do as he was told!''
    His Father, who was self-controlled,
    Bade all the children round attend
    To James's miserable end,
    And always keep a-hold of Nurse
    For fear of finding something worse.

    As you settle down to your bread cheese and pickles, it is worth noting that in Belloc's book 'The Four Men', he reminds us that in Sussex, cheese is not given silly fancy pompous names (such as 'Bishop's armpit', or 'Nun's nasty'), but is simply known as CHEESE.

'In Sussex, let me tell you, we have but one cheese, the name of which is CHEESE.  It is One, and undivided, though divided into a thousand fragments, and unchanging, though changing in place and consumption.  There is in Sussex no Cheese but Cheese, and it is the same cheese from the head of the Eastern Rother to Harting Hill, and from the sea-beach to that part of Surrey which we gat from the Marches with sword and bow.  In colour it is yellow. It is neither young nor old.  Its taste is that of Cheese and nothing more'. 

p.s. I am privileged to own a couple of drawings by BTB (Basil Temple Blackwood) who illustrated Belloc's Cautionary Tales (see Jim and the Lion, above). Poor old Blackers was killed in action at Ypres, aged 46. 

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cro's Catwalk.

This year's long-awaited T Shirts (modelled by Harvey J and Ollie).

The 'twenty four' refers to the number attributed to our department (county, state, region).

The 'je t'adore' simply means that they rather like it here.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Damn, damn, and more bloody damn!


Dear Lady Magnon is a magnet for viruses. She only has to go within a mile of some contaminated bloody schoolboy, and it's as if she shouts "Come hither and infect me".

Every single time she goes to the bloody UK, she comes back with a bloody cold.

Usually my fine physique puts up serious resistance to such invasions, but occasionally (just occasionally) I let my shield slip, and a bloody virus or two attacks.

Recently, when I picked her up at Bergerac airport, I noticed at once that she was holding a box of Kleenex (nothing unusual in that), then once in the Compact Royce she started bloody sneezing.

I am trying to ignore the fact that I now have a running bloody nose, a sore bloody throat, and a raging bloody temperature; however, I am determined to enjoy the summer that I've been anticipating for so long.

I'm off to chew garlic for two weeks.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Summer Lunch.

Simple lunch, courtesy of Richard, Haddock's, and Oooh my aching back. 

OK, this may not be up to the standard of Maxim's in Gay Paree, but I just love eating meals that consist entirely of my own home produced goodies. 
Pukka Summer lunches have now arrived. This one was red cabbage with mayo, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and some lightly curried picked cauli.

And it's all FREE (other than having a few less vertebrae than I was born with) .

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Gentlemen prefer Blondes.

With so many farmers going out of milk production, the countryside is beginning to look so much more interesting.

I've never liked either Holsteins or Friesians (the bog-standard black-n-white milkers), I much prefer to see regional cattle, living where they belong.

Now that my neighbour Claude has stopped milking, he too has gone native and now has a small herd of my favourite cow, the Blonde d'Aquitaine. Here they are just beyond my garden.

However, I did spot a couple of foreigners in amongst them. There's one Montbeliard, and one Holstein.

The Blondes are all youngsters, so maybe the two adult cows are there to give them a thick-ear if they misbehave.

Aren't they beautiful!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Birthday Boy.

                               Flying high: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George arrive at Wellington Airport in New Zealand at the start their Royal tour of the country

A very Happy Birthday to little Prince George. He's ONE today.

I believe that other more lowly born citizens also have birthdays today; but of significantly less importance.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Holiday friendships.


Kids love dogs, and dogs love kids. The two were made for each other.

Both Monty and Bok adore all 'people' (and 99% of all other dogs). There is nothing they like more than making new friends or re-aquainting themselves with old ones. Excitement totally takes over.

Very occasionally the mix doesn't work. I recently mentioned about the dogs (who were on their leads) meeting with two small German girls who, along with their rather stupid 'towny' mother, totally panicked at seeing them approach at a distance of about 50 metres.

My advice is this. If you should meet a dog that doesn't like children, avoid it like the plague; it's probably a baddun. If you meet children who don't like dogs; send them directly to the psychiatrist.

With my two UK grandsons (above) coming to stay, Monty and Bok definitely have a lot of fun times ahead. A boys/dogs mix made in heaven.


And this picture of Finn-n-Monty is my favourite.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Haddock's update. July 2014.

Everything is over-performing. We now have such a selection of different things to eat each day, that it's tricky knowing quite where to begin.

And look; we even have July Sprouts. Love em'.

These Chillies are superb. Medium hot with a beautiful flavour. We had our first one in a simple chicken curry a couple of nights ago. 

The Tomatoes are just beginning to ripen, and, oh dear, we're going to be inundated. Almost time to start my preserving programme.

It's also going to be a very good fruit year. The Apples, Pears, and Plums are all looking very healthy (except my Granny Smith, which I think has Canker). The Peaches, which I thought earlier would do well, have proved a little disappointing. The Figs and Quinces always produce well, so I won't even mention them.

And underneath all those big fat leaves our Butternuts are slowly swelling. Can't have winter without a good quantity of Butternuts in storage.

My 4 self-sown, rescued, Tomato plants (remember them?) are looking very promising. They seem to be producing big Marmande style fruits; I'll keep you posted.

Looks like we'll survive.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Utterly Philately.

Yesterday I received a parcel; it was covered with 17 different stamps.

15 of the stamps were valued at €2.80, and 2 at €3.00. The total cost of the postage being €48.00.

Each stamp was different, and only one (of Fernandel) was stuck on upside-down.

Most of the stamps dated from 1994, with one or two from 1995 and 1998.

There are pictures of Coluche, Josephine Baker, and Yves Montand; plus there are birds, flowers, and even Vikings.

One can only assume that the sender had become disillusioned with stamp collecting, and decided to use them for their originally intended purpose.

How very strange! 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Post-rain lunch.

With the foul weather we've been having recently, Girolles have been thick on the ground. Our favourite use for these delicious mushrooms is a lunchtime omelet.

Unfortunately Richard is on strike, so shop bought 'plein air' eggs had to be used instead.

Girolles don't freeze well, but when washed, they do keep for over a week in the fridge. Maybe Richard will oblige before the current season is over.

I'm not sure if my omelet photo looks particularly appetising, but I can assure you that it tasted bloody marvelous.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Summer returns.

After just a couple of days of warm sunshine the pool temperature has risen to 27 C, my spirits have been lifted, and all talk of a ghastly July have been banished.

Pretty summer dresses are again being worn (by the girlies), smiles have replaced scowls, and early evening drinks are being taken to the sound of running (pumped) water. 

Horse Flies now return by the million, Flying Ants coat the surface of the pool, and we shall be covered in little red spots for the duration.

37 C forecast for today. I love it; ice creams anyone?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

They're in The News again.....


Hamas members (above) doing what they do best; indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets at their next-door-neighbours.

Israel's recent retaliation against these terrorists has brought out the usual dungaree-wearing do-gooders, who, even after all the atrocities of the past decades, continue to support Arab terrorist groups whilst venting their anti Semitic hatred.

I just wish that all the state sponsors of Hamas (Iran, Syria, and others) would stop this crazy supply of weaponry, and redirect their benefaction to the welfare of the actual Palestinian people themselves who are being led into a disaster by a single-minded bunch of warmongering zealots.

The Israelis are a hard working and peace loving people who just want to be left alone to get on with their lives. Their children are well educated, their streets are clean, and their fields are filled with healthy crops. Compare this to the Arabs of Gaza, who are forced to live under the thumb of terror, and receive the only response possible from those that they constantly attack.

Wake up Hamas..... it's time to re-think your policy. Spend your money on bread NOT bombs; and stop moaning when those you attack on a daily basis, occasionally fight back.

As you may have guessed, I am no friend of ANY terrorist group, nor am I an enemy of any nation; full stop.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

This Year's Birthday Prezzie.


Lady Magnon: What do you want for your birthday?

Cro: Nothing.

Lady M: You must want something!

Cro: No, really; I'm fine.

Lady M: Some books maybe? Or how about some new brushes?

Cro: No, honestly; I have everything I need.

Lady M: How about I take you to some fancy starred restaurant?

Cro: No, I'd rather stay at home with a nice big juicy steak.

Lady M: Oh, and by the way, I'm flying to Blighty on July 18th, and I won't be back until the 21st.

Cro: Really? But you'll be back in time for my birthday!

Lady M: Yes. And I may bring Harvey J and Ollie back for you; so how about that for your present?

Cro: Aaah, now you're talking; that would be just PERFECT. Thank you!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Cheap to run.


I've always been a cheap date. I prefer silver to gold, piquette to Pétrus, Peugeot to Porsche, a cosy cottage to a palatial pile, and a good hearty country stew to a Michel Guérard stack of flavoured foams.

I have never seen the point of 'pretending' to be sophisticated by spending a fortune on things that one wouldn't otherwise touch with a barge pole. Nouveau riche 'Celebs' who spend a weeks wages on a bottle of Cristal Champagne, when they would probably prefer a half of cider, frankly just make me cringe. Sudden fame, and its attending bucket-loads of cash, seems to drive 'financial climbers' bonkers.

Has there ever been a top notch footballer who has NOT bought a top notch sports car, or a one-hit-wonder singer who has NOT bought some tasteless ready-furnished 'Executive Home'.

The real problem with this type of behaviour is that the day the supply of cash runs out, those empty bottles of Cristal suddenly look a wee bit sad. And, to make matters worse, all those 'friends' who shared them will more than likely have disappeared and moved on to the next mug with too much cash.

I shall stick to my frugal lifestyle; it's probably the only reason why I still have a few quid in the bank.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Praying Popes. It's cup-final day.


Dear old ex-pope Benny is praying for a German win, whilst current pope Frank is praying for Argentina.

Who their boss will reward will be revealed later this evening.

Get praying boys; the most pious wins (and let's not have any more of that 'hand of god' malarky)

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Demolition, and Window Frame Building.

Work on the barn has suddenly been reactivated, so I have returned with crowbar, lump hammer, and gritted teeth to take out all the boards in the sections where the new windows will go.

The new frames for the windows will now be installed, then I'll be able to get the window man to come and measure-up. There are 5 windows in all; four face south, and one (above the main door) faces east.


Taking down the old boards is the easy bit, putting them all back again around the new frames will be something else..... This is how we finished the day (below).

The slightly smaller opening (bottom left) is to allow for the kitchen sink and splashback, otherwise the 3 other openings are all 80 by 160 cms.

And this is the final opening looking east. It really is beginning to look like a HOUSE.

Ain't retirement wonderful.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Whatever happened to Summer?

Almost the whole of June was beautiful; we swam every day, ate outdoors, and wore shorts and T shirts from dawn to dusk.

Now that July is here the skies are covered (as is the pool), we've had intermittent rain for days on end, night-time storms, the temperatures have dropped, and we have returned to eating indoors.

Our long term forecast offers no real improvement, and temperatures are destined to stay around the 20 C point. The Solar Cover on the pool means that the water retains some of its previous warmth, but it has already dropped to below 25 C. 

It's all rather depressing. I shall return my knitted swimming trunks to the 'Summer clothes' drawer, and do some work on the barn.

Of course inclement weather does occasionally have certain advantages, we suddenly have another crop of Girolles (below).

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Cavolo Nero (Again).

I've enthused before about Cavolo Nero, but this year my crop has excelled.

I planted a whole row; about 20 plants, and we have already enjoyed several pickings. 

As a winter 'green' it is almost without comparison. One pulls the leaves as required from the base, and it simply continues to grow. Last year mine continued until about April; in fact I think they were the last plants to be taken out.

The leaves when cooked have a velvety dark flavour, and I imagine are FILLED with goodness. Personally I remove the ribs, and 'steam' in whatever water still clings after washing. They make a perfect accompaniment to a pork chop, a brace of good quality snags, or even a roasted Woodcock (some hope).

As for growing conditions, they like hot, wet, cool, dry, humid, fire, and brimstone; at least that's what's obviously made them grow so well this year.

I recommend the crop to all veg' growers.  Cavolo Nero is also known as Black leaf Kale, Tuscan Kale, and Black Cabbage.

Just look at the size of those leaves; and not a single bug in sight. Wonderful.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Designer Interiors.

I have no particular desire to live in a house such as the above; not that I dislike it.

My problem is that if I did desire something similar, who the hell would I get to build it?

We live in an area where 'tradition' is all-important, and any divergence from the norm is greeted with a wringing of hands, shaking of heads, and sharp intakes of breath.

At our current project of converting an old Tobacco Drying Barn into a comfortable home, we want to install a simple, not too expensive, yet spectacular, staircase. We've considered numerous designs, drawn dozens of plans, and in every case come to a dead-end when thinking of who we could get to do the job.

The staircase will become a focal point of the very large downstairs open space, and will need to be an important feature (think Tara-ish). Inevitably I end up trying to design a hi-tech, easy-build, drop-down-gorgeous job, that I could build myself. But even then I find myself hunting for materials that simply do not seem to exist in this area.

I WILL eventually find a solution (I think I'm getting closer), and I WILL eventually find a craftsman to assist me (I think I may have someone in mind)..... but for the moment the search is still very much on!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

More Monty Malaise.

Monty really hasn't been his usual self for a while. He's been hiding away in dark corners, refusing his favourite 'Bonio' biscuits, and generally acting out of character.

Lady Magnon took him to the Vet's last Friday, but they couldn't find anything wrong, so we're going back today with more detailed info'.

He seems to have a swelling under, and above, his left eye, and when given a small 'treat' he tilts his head sideways slightly and takes it with great finesse (he usually takes a few fingers too). He doesn't appear to want to open his mouth too widely.

Our present thinking is that it could be either a tooth problem, an insect sting, or a grass seed stuck somewhere. My money is on teeth; but whatever it is, it's making him miserable.

Poor old boy, he really does have more than his fair share of woes.

Later: Just back from Vet's. Prognosis: 10 days of antibiotics; 2 a day. Probably a tooth abscess problem, which is what we thought in the first place..

Monday, 7 July 2014

That pencil pot

It was noticed recently that the pot in my drawing above has its handle on the side. I've owned this antique jug for so long, that I'd forgotten how odd this may appear.

My only explanation is that it was originally used to heat some liquid (milk maybe?) against a fire, thus leaving the handle cool enough to grasp.

What I am sure of is that all such jugs are the same, having one scorched side and one non-scorched side (where the handle is), suggesting that my theory is correct (not sure if this is very clear in the pic). But why would anyone want to heat milk, or any other liquid, in a jug?

If you have any further theories, they would be appreciated.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Serious Sunday: In 5 year's time?

                                  Caliphate: A map purportedly showing the areas ISIS plans to have under its control within five years has been widely shared online. As well as the Middle East, North Africa and large areas of Asia, it also reveals ISIS' ambition to extend into Europe. Spain, which was Muslim-ruled until the late 15th Century, would form part of the caliphate, as would the Balkan states and eastern Europe, up to and including Austria

Apparently this is how ISIS sees the world in 5 year's time, with Islamic states being established throughout the Middle East, N Africa, and even up into Spain.

With the terrifying ruthlessness, speed, and efficiency with which they have taken much of Iraq, it wouldn't surprise me if at least part of the above becomes realised.

Be prepared to man the barricades chaps; pitchforks at the ready!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

And is there Honey still for tea?


I've never liked plates, bowls, or jars, that tell me what I should be serving on them, eating from them, or storing in them.

Big bowls with PASTA written all over them, or cheese boards with CHEESE etched into the wood, are two good examples.

However, I've always liked beehive shaped honey pots with bee-topped lids, which I suppose are quite similar in a way (the above are not mine).

In fact, if I was a Honey eater (which sadly I'm not), the house would be overflowing with antique-ish bee-covered Honey pots. I can almost hear Lady Magnon giving thanks for Diabetes as I write.

I suppose I'll have to own-up, I do own an ancient pale blue enamelled flour bin with FLOUR written on the side, as well as a bread board with BRAED carved into it. We all have our faults; even certain wood carvers.

Friday, 4 July 2014

First Aubergine.

They all look so beautiful, it's almost a shame to cook them.

We have our first Aubergine. I'm determined, this year, to keep on top of production. As soon as things become edible, we shall eat them (or find a home for them).

Last year I ended-up with our Aubergine plants covered with ageing fruits, most of which finished their lives on the compost heap. This year I'm determined to use at least 90% of what Haddock's produces.

If only our Tomatoes were ripening I could crack-on with my preserving programme. It'll probably still be a couple of weeks before I see any quantity of Tomato reddening. I really need my Tomatoes and Courgettes to ripen at the same time, as it's these two that I bottle together mostly.

I always seem to be WAITING for something.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Those Séchoir Steps.

Work advances extremely slowly up at the barn, but at last the front steps are finished. To build, and finish, them took about 2 months; it should have taken one week at the most.

Anyway, the builder managed to adhere exactly to my original design, and I'm pleased to say they have the 'look' I was hoping for.

They'll mellow.

Both the plumber and the chippy have been this week to assess and give estimates, but we still await the electrician. It must be eating all those snails that makes them imitate their pace!

Next report in 2015/6 maybe?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Sod's Law.

Why is it that these almost inedible grapes grow by the million, whereas my delicious eating grapes produce hardly anything.

The above are Baco or Bacco; a rootstock vine that was imported into France after the late 19th C Phylloxera epidemic. We have them climbing all around the front of our house, and they produce grapes by the wheel-barrow load.

My eating grapes on the other hand, that I grow at Haddock's, have about 4 bunches between 6 separate vines.

The Baco grapes make great juice, but otherwise they are harvested and taken directly to the compost, otherwise Hornets swoop on them, and people become nervous.

If only there was a good eating grape with the vigour and productivity of my Baco, I'd be a happy bunny.

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