Just one month ago we were out frightening children and feeding them excessive calories, then as soon as the ghoulish costumes were put away the bloody ad's started. Christmas had arrived.
We've now just witnessed 'Black Friday' (or should that be 'Ethnic Friday' in such PC times?), and my suspicions about chavvy, loads-a-money, Britain have been confirmed. The 'less-educated' just can't wait to spend, spend, spend; whether it be with actual cash, pay-day loans, or by ethereal credit cards.
I for one am already pissed-off by all the Christmas hype. This doesn't mean that I shall not be celebrating the big day; I shall. We will exchange simple gifts, I'll buy Swiss chocolate reindeers (yes, those) for the local children, and I shall roast a sensible sized Turkey that will keep us in food for several days. But that's it.
Goodness knows who this Christ chap was, or even if he existed at all. What we do know is that in 320 AD at the Council of Nicea, he was 'deified', and the old festival of Saturnalia was replaced by Christmas; his invented 'birthday' date.
Now, two millennia later, we (not me) fight over flat screen TV's, toasters, laptops, and mobile phones, as the larger stores desperately try to outdo each others 'Special Offers' for the 'Special Season'.
What a bloody state of affairs. May I suggest that all intelligent folk now wait till at least December 15th before thinking about Christmas again.
Luckily this year the two day Turkey Fest' falls on weekdays; Thursday 25th, and Friday 26th. No need to buy as if for siege, no need to empty the bakery shelves of your local Hypermarket, and no need for any holiday panic whatsoever. The shops will all be open again for the weekend.
Will the chavs listen? No, of course not. They'll all be out at Toys-r-us, Asda, or Walmart, buying coloured plastics as if they're on the extinction list, food as if about to disappear, and booze as if being sober for 2 days was a hanging offence.
I know that this subject has been written about ad infi-bloody-nitum, but better that than ignored.
Like most cats he's always been aloof, independent, miserable, and arrogant; a cat apart.
But recently he seems to have changed. Suddenly he's friendlier and almost affectionate. He's taken to jumping up onto my lap every morning at 5.30am (he's on there now) as I do my computer stuff, and, over the last few days, has even begun sleeping in the comfy cardboard-box bed (above) in the studio; something he's never done before.
Dare I say it, but he's even tolerating the dogs; well almost.
I've always liked to have a 'tabby' around the place. Apart from mouse catching duties, they just make a house seem complete; especially out in the country.
I was brought up with cats (not dogs), and have a natural affinity with them. They seem to understand that I understand them.
We're not sure what has prompted this sudden, but very welcomed, character change.... but I hope it lasts.
Like most painters, I was lucky enough to use my wife as a model. She was attractive, was usually somewhere nearby, and didn't overly complain.
When we were first married, I used her on many occasions. These were not necessarily for 'portraits' as such, but usually as a figure in a composition. The one above lives in our bedroom; she particularly liked it, so it remained unsold.
I have always hated sitting for portraits, I become bored after just a few minutes. Even photographic portraits I find tedious. Lady M was always more relaxed, and could sit for about 30 mins without complaining. I also tend to shout a lot when working, which doesn't help.
My children were all terrible fidgets especially when they were very young, which was the age when I preferred to paint them. I was lucky if I could get them to sit still for 10 minutes which meant I had to work quickly. Most of those portraits remain unfinished.
I've also painted portraits of dogs, but that's another story.
It's been years since I painted a self-portrait, but I'm thinking about it. Maybe the time is right (as long as I haven't forgotten how it's done). I'll probably become bored quite quickly, and no doubt start shouting at myself.
Rarely do I think that Prime Ministers should be prosecuted as a result of their tenure, but in smug Tony's case I'll make an exception.
I'm desperately trying to look at his 'career' objectively. I certainly don't wish to knock him simply because of his blind adherence to Socialism, although it's sorely tempting.
His disastrous 'open door policy' on immigration has now changed Britain permanently. No consideration whatsoever was given to immigrants health, education, housing needs, or even their personal finances, and as a result things have gone from bad to worse. He has, at least, admitted that he underestimated the effects, but the resulting damage can now never be undone; his cheap apology changes nothing
He also lied to us about Iraq. Whether or not it was circumspect to eradicate Saddam Hussein is one matter, but it was certainly not acceptable to invent a pack of lies to warrant an invasion. Then, when the casualties began to mount, and the lies became common knowledge, he quit his job (shredding inculpating papers as he went) leaving inept Gordon Brown to sit in the uncomfortably vacant chair, as the economy went into meltdown.
As a direct result of his immigration and warmongering policies, many of those who rightly came as refugees from warring Muslim countries have now turned against the country that welcomed them, and have become a serious threat to the UK's national security. It is hardly imaginable, but England now lives under a permanent 'heightened alert' of random beheadings and other atrocities, and the fault lies entirely with Blair.
I have nothing against anyone making serious money; most of us would love to boast even a fraction of Tony's bank balance. But somehow one feels that Blair has used his post-PM influence to stockpile not only a huge property portfolio, but also a bag full of financial retainers. He claims to be not only a Socialist, but also a devout Catholic; closer analysis might prove that nothing could be further from the truth.
Fettes, Oxford, and a Champagne Socialist lifestyle, is nothing unusual in today's Labour Party (or in the past), but forever changing the face of our once 'green and pleasant' Britain is probably the most disastrous of all political acts; ever.
Rather than swanning around the world in a cloud of ever increasing uber-wealth, I suggest the man be prosecuted; and pronto!
p.s. Since writing the above I see that 'wonder boy' (the darling of the left) has been honoured by The Save the Children Fund with a 'Global Legacy Award'. Well deserved too; his 'Global Legacy' is being enacted on the streets of Syria and Iraq as I write; a rare achievement for just one man.
If we believed everything that we are fed about Africa by charity groups, it would not be a very savoury place to visit.
All children seem to be either starving or dying of nasty diseases, and have flies permanently attached to their eyes.
Water is only available to those who have had European/American do-gooders install wells and pumps.
Marauding gangs of lunatics slaughter everyone who hasn't learned The Koran by heart.
Ebola is rife, and will end-up killing most of Africa's population, unless they haven't already succumbed to Tsetse, snake bites, or Malaria.
Children can only attend school if sponsored by kindly Europeans/Americans.
Most of African wildlife will soon disappear if not 'adopted' by even more kindly Europeans/Americans.
Everyone above the rank of junior clerk has a Swiss bank account, stuffed with foreign aid money.
And all girls are married off by the age of 8 years old.
Over the past few years I have not seen a single charity ad' that does not represent Africa as being one huge open sewer, with the sick and dying littering the streets. Isn't it about time that the real face of Africa was presented a little more accurately?
A little more charity from the charities, and tourism might suddenly explode. It would probably be the financial saviour of many African countries.
'Our youth loves luxury, has lack of manners, disregards authority, and has no respect whatsoever for older people. Today's children are tyrants, they contradict their parents, and tyrannise their teachers. They are just very bad'.
Sound familiar? Well, that was written by Socrates in 400 BC (BME). And an inscription on a Babylonian pot dating from a staggering 4,500 years earlier than that, states...
'The youth is rotten from the very bottom of their hearts. These young people are malicious and lazy, and they will never be as youth used to be before'.
So, nothing much has changed. Certain young people will always be a pain in the rectum, they always have been and always will be; we've had the wisdom of several millennia to get used to the idea. I just wish the current crop wouldn't spray silly squiggles all over all our walls.
Youf always gets bad press. I'm just waiting for them to adopt a new trend of helping old ladies across the road, and saying please and thank you! I may have to wait a while.
N.B. I'm repeating this posting from October 2011 simply because it amuses me, and needs to be noted.
OK, the beard is a bit whiter and soup stained, the wrinkles more prevalent and deeply etched, and the look more mean and menacing; but overall, exactly the same.
Even more amazing is that my finely-tuned brain should continue to think in much the way as it did nearly 50 years ago; irresponsible, self-centred, and reclusive.
Strangers might be forgiven for thinking that I am some angry old codger who shouts at children and ties fireworks to animal's tails, but in fact I'm a sweetheart to the core.
Of course I do have my critics; they are mostly those who've made less money than I have, or are far less good looking. I know at least 2 people of this ilk, and they are both about 102 years old, confused, locked-up and incontinent.
So there you have it..... a passage of nearly 50 years between two pictures. The real Cro (in Dorian Gray mode, top), and his portrait that should have been languishing in the loft (below).
I hear that there have been riots in the Netherlands as a number of the PC brigade have taken exception to the Christmas figure Black Peter, calling him 'racist'.
I'm getting pretty pissed off with all these claims of racism. Black Peter is no more racist than I am. He is simply a black faced traditional figure that, in certain countries, is associated with St Nicholas.
Personally I think it's 'racist' to claim that people who put black make-up on their faces are 'racists'.
It is common amongst black women to lighten their skin colour (rather like Michael Jackson) in order to make themselves look more like white folks; are they racist? Indian mystics who cover their faces in white ash; are they racist too?
Can't we all just live and let live, and accept that there are countless variations of skin colour. Simply because someone dresses-up with their face painted black, brown, or multi coloured, doesn't make them a bloody racist.
Nor is a panto dame 'sexist'; they're just having fun.
About 6 months ago I bought a cheap 250gm pack of dry roasted and salted Peanuts, specifically with the aim of one day making Peanut Butter. Yesterday that day arrived.
I suppose it's pretty obvious how one makes Peanut Butter, but it had never previously crossed my mind to actually do so.
It's a strange process. For quite a while it looks as if it's just going to remain as a sand-like pile at the bottom of the whizzing machine, then after about 4 minutes it suddenly turns into a smooth paste.
Nothing was added; just plain old Peanuts. Tastes very good too. I shall buy another pack of the same Peanuts for the winter store cupboard.
All I have to do now is to discourage Lady Magnon from putting jam on the top of it..... She picked up some awful habits whilst living in Washington DC.
The compact Royce was recently taken for its biannual test of 'roadworthiness'.
It passed OK, but with a recommendation that I change the front tyres on account of uneven wear.
I'd already noticed that if left to its own devices, the car would pull to the right, and I'd wondered if the tyre baldness had anything to do with it.
With new tyres fitted, the car now drives in a perfectly straight line, so the answer to my question was resolved; it was definitely the tyre.
All four tyres had been replaced about 2 years ago, so they were all of the same age, and same type. Why just one should wear so badly I don't know. Maybe the culprit was just badly made. I notice that it was worn on both the inside and outside.
I usually change my tyres every 2 or 3 years, whether they need it or not. I don't do a great milage so it's enough.
Above are the two actual tyres in question; one can clearly see the difference.
Sunday Times readers may possibly have seen this a couple of weeks ago.
When you encounter a recipe with a title such as 'World's Most Elegant Winter Pasta', you simply HAVE to give it a go. I have reasonable faith in Mr Oliver's work, so I threw caution to the winds.
If you enlarge (US embiggen) the pic, you might be able to read Jamie's ingredients. However, for my own version (I always muck about with recipes) I omitted the Leek, used just Cavolo Nero, Garlic, Olive Oil, S & P, and Parmesan. I chose Spaghetti rather than either Penne or Linguine.
This is what my version looked like...
Verdict: We were in two minds about it; we thought it 'pleasant', but maybe just a tiny bit uninteresting.
Would I eat it again? Possibly/Probably, but I would have to inject a little more flavour; not too much, but it needs a 'certain something' to bring it up to standard. I give Jamie 7/10.
It's a good veggie pasta standby; try it and see what YOU think.
Being a Sussex/Surrey border lad, I was brought up with these beautiful Herstmonceux 'trugs'. They were always a part of normal everyday garden life; a staple, as common as the garden gloves and secateurs that they usually contained. Traditional Sussex trugs are made from Chestnut for the handle and rim, and 'cricket bat' willow for the body. For those who own them, they are very well loved objects.
Here in France, however, our trugs are more mundane. They are green or brown plastic, and are considered almost as throwaway objects. They soon develop plastic fatigue and fall apart, although I've had the one above for over 20 years (they must have forgotten to add fatigue powder to the plastic mix).
This does not mean that they are not useful. They are used for grape picking, chestnut/walnut gathering, and mushroom hunting. They are to France what the Herstmonceux version is to Sussex. Mine above has a small ring of tape on the handle, to differentiate it from those of others at collective harvesting times.
It's been years since I've owned a pukka Sussex trug; maybe one day I'll treat myself. Ones like the above (top) are true works of art; often copied, never equalled (and also very expensive).
I was listening to some bloke on UK radio last night who was complaining that some recently bought sausages contained only 38% meat. He added that they should contain at least 85%.
Well, I wouldn't dream of buying sausages unless they contained 100% meat.
My regular purchase of a kilo or so comes in one piece, is made in front of me, and contains just coarsely ground pork shoulder, salt, and pepper. That's it... no bread, no rusk, no mechanically recovered horse meat, no sludge, no MSG, no preservative; and the casings are natural intestine!
Poor old Red Ed's having a rough time of it. Some of his acolytes seem to think he's not fit for the job.
In reality, it's not the leader of the party who's at fault; it's the barmy brigade of celebrity hangers-on who do the damage. I suppose the best current example of such folk is uber-loony Russell Brand.
I now hear that the son of an old friend of mine could be next in line for the Labour leadership. The Hon Patricia Milmo's son, Chuka Umunna, is being heralded as Labour's new saviour. Maybe so, but I do hope he can take the inevitable flack that goes with the job (and that he doesn't invite Russell Brand to headquarters for policy meetings).
The UK, as with all democratic countries, needs a credible multi party system, so it's time to make your minds up Labour. Chose wisely, the clock is ticking.
When I left school, it was traditional to carve one's name into the bricks of a wall. Some of the more ancient walls became totally overcrowded, so other more recently built walls were used in their stead. The one above seems to have been adopted by boys from my era; I recognise a few of the names.
I have mentioned previously that I've left a carved Maltese Cross in all the homes I've owned, as proof of my passage. I wonder if the idea of doing so originated from the above?
This is my most recent Maltese Cross, which is on the 'tower'.
Have you left your mark somewhere? Will you leave your mark somewhere? Or does the idea simply seem frivolous?
Art College education in the UK normally consists of two different stages. Firstly there is a one year 'Foundation Course' where one learns everything from oxy-acetylene welding to the basics of industrial design. Secondly there is a three year degree course, in one's specific chosen subject.
My Foundation Course was at a rather piss-poor college on England's South coast; a small institution with a rag-bag of inferior lecturers, who were all extremely lucky to have found employment.
Other than learning how to draw, vacuum mould plastics, and use extremely dangerous wood-working machinery, we were also required to attend extra-curricular seminars; one of which was on Philosophy.
Our Philosophy lecturer was a woman called Maggie H. A slight, bumbling, ineffectual young woman, who probably knew less of her subject than many of us students. Making her life as difficult as possible was an essential part of our weekly fun (I can't give her full name as she now holds an important professorship at a well-known British university, as well as being the author of several highly regarded publications).
After one of her more meaningless seminars I was walking along a corridor with her when she suddenly stopped and asked me (in a very serious hushed voice) "Do you see yourself as a Christ-like figure?".
I was somewhat taken aback by this very odd question, and tried to figure what she expected me to answer. Eventually I decided it would be more fun to reply "Yes".
She walked off, and didn't speak to me again. After all these years I'm still wondering if I shouldn't have just been honest and said "Of course not".
After yesterday's posting, I feel I need to offer this.
I have always fancied owning a Zoot Suit. They are just so incredibly stylish.
I'd exchange the wide brimmed hat for my Sunday beret, and maybe do away with the chains, but otherwise I can see myself shopping, eating out, or even taking the dogs for their morning walk, dressed in one of the above suits; preferably the dark one. Oh yes.
If you've ever imagined yourself becoming a brain surgeon, delving into the spongy grey matter that really should never be seen, knowing that the tiniest of mistakes could be fatal, then this is the book for you.
Henry Marsh guides us through the most intimate details of operating on Aneurysms, Haemangioblastomas, Medulloblastomas, Carcinomas, Oligodendrogliomas, and other unpronounceable cerebral ailments.
The book is both amusing and informative. It gives an unusual insight into the secretive world of the most delicate surgical procedures. It shows his compassion for every single patient who subject themselves to his genius. It also demonstrates his humanity in the face of the most difficult of decisions.
Blood and guts is not my usual preferred reading, but I find this fascinating. Looking for your next 'good read'? Try Henry Marsh's 'Do No Harm'.
Up at the barn, our new orchard and Croquet lawn has recently become covered with Molehills.
OK, they're cute little creatures with cosy patchwork waistcoats and bijou underground homes, but Moles are also a dreadful bloody nuisance.
There are various methods of ridding oneself of Moles; some more efficient than others. My own favourite, and at which I've been the most successful, are these English Mole traps (not for English Moles, you understand; but made in England). The French equivalents are hopeless.
My son Kimbo recently sent me the two above.
When set correctly, this is the result; a cleanly killed Mole who will no longer rampage beneath my lawn. If you have the same problem, I recommend these ones which we purchased through Amazon; don't buy the French ones.
N.B. If the above disturbs you, I'm sorry. But, for us country folk, Moles really are a pain in the rectum.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!