WHY would anyone want to build a skyscraper ONE KILOMETRE high? (It was originally intended to be ONE MILE high!)
The problems in building such a tall tower are almost countless. Imagine the pressure needed for water distribution, how long it would take to get to the top, or even the complications of the sewerage system.
I hear that to reach the pinnacle several different lifts will be needed as the chains begin to stretch after a certain distance. This means taking one lift to a first level, then taking another one, and then (if one was mad enough to live at the top) taking a third. Anyone buying the penthouse apartment would need to spend quite a while in three separate lifts to get home; you wouldn't want to forget to buy the cat food!
Saudi Arabia is not short of empty space (unlike London or New York), so going 'sideways' is not an issue.
This silly billion dollar Kingdom Tower is just a big ego-trip for Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. He wants THE TALLEST; perhaps he has shortcomings in another area.
Maybe, when it's finished, the whole caboodle will be blown over by a sudden gust of desert wind; you wouldn't get Cro up there, that's for sure!
I've recently had a bloody annoying virus (or viruses) in my brand new laptop.
Where it came from I'm not sure, but it seemed to attack after my having looked for something (not bought something) on Ebay.
Luckily I have a friend and neighbour (Craig) who is a genius at such things, and after much hand-wringing he managed yesterday to administer the correct amount of antiviral TLC.
Perhaps the most annoying part of the whole episode was that after No 1 Son (Kimbo) had paid handsomely for a year's worth of Mr McAfee's (deepest protection) 'LiveSafe' security system on my behalf, the bloody thing failed to deliver after just 3 months, and even had the cheek to demand more money.
The virus itself had various evil effects, worst of which was probably all the ads for dating agencies and soft porn sites, that were popping-up all over the bloody place. I ignored them all, but this only made them angrier (and multiply).
I do hope my friend Craig is reading this..... He's saved me from spending the rest of my life in a mental home for deranged Silver-ish Surfers. Merçi; je vous suis infiniment reconnaissant.
Craig has also injected some brand new Microsoft antibiotics, that hopefully will stop these idiot bastards from effing-up my machine for the foreseeable future.
The years haven't improved him. He's still as self-centred as ever, still has that miserable arrogant look that many tabbies have, and is still as unfriendly as he's always been (unless he's sleeping, curled up under my chin at night).
However I do like old Fred. He's quite cheap to run, he's very seldom sick on the carpet, and he can still chew the head off a mouse.
May I suggest that you don't look into his eyes for too long; you might fall into some life-altering trance.
Happy birthday Fred. Tuna for supper (if you're lucky!).
When I was about 16, and still at school, I had a friend whose father was not only extremely rich, but also had a passion for expensive cars and motor racing.
The son (let's call him J) had grown up surrounded by people like Sterling Moss, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, and Jim Clark; as a result of which he rather fancied himself as a future motor racing champion.
To pamper his son's fantasy, his doting father bought him a Lotus Formula Junior car, exactly like the one above.
One Sunday J said he was going off to Snetterton race track to do a spot of practicing, and he invited me along. I watched as he did circuit after circuit, until he finally pulled-up in front of where we were seated. To my utter amazement he then asked me if I fancied doing a circuit or two myself.
Not wanting to sound like a sissy, I immediately said 'yes', and squeezed myself into the tiny cockpit, which seemed no bigger than an aluminium cigar tube. J ran through the finer details with me, and off I drove.
Driving the little Lotus was not complicated, but the sensation of lying just a few inches off the ground was quite frightening. I whizzed round the track at a staggering 25-30 mph (or even less), thinking I mustn't crash, I mustn't crash, I mustn't crash.
When I pulled-up I remember vowing never ever to get into a small racing car ever again. Of course I didn't actually say this to either J, or his father.
I do enjoy driving, and I enjoy speed, but not in one of those things again; thank you very much!
Lady Magnon is very generous, when returning from her distant galivants she always tries to bring back one or two gastronomic delights; preferably in interesting containers.
This year one such was this bottle of Byron Bay Chilli Co Sauce; locally made chez Wills, Kellogg, and Bunny.
This stuff is delicious. We broached it to accompany some roasted Tandoori chicken, with rice and sweet corn, and it really did the job.
On her previous visit to Oz, she returned with a couple of bottles of different flavour 'Outback Spirit' sauces; frankly these were tasteless rubbish; not a patch on this one above.
She returned with 2 bottles; one medium hot, the other HOT. Unfortunately she confused the two, and left the HOT one chez Kimbo in London. I'm hoping he will bring it over, as he's not keen on such things.
I doubt whether this stuff is available everywhere, but if you do ever see it, it's well worth buying.
Sometimes politicians amaze me; these two above in particular.
Thank goodness the current UK government (a centre right party) has managed to get the UK's economy back on track. The UK, according to the World Bank, is now top of the G7 countries in leading the way to recovery.
The Blair Brown fiasco is now well behind us. Dear old Tony, as soon as he spotted that his policies had created a 'brink of disaster' situation, he quit his job and passed the buck to inept Gordon Brown, who flogged-off the family silver (for a pittance), then sat back and watched the economy take a nose dive. Tony has since gone on to make MILLIONS.
UK politics follows this pattern regularly. The left are elected, then leave office with the economy in tatters, then the right are elected and return to more austere policies to bring things back to normality. The left hate austerity so they elect another spending Socialist government, and the country's finances go haywire again. The circle continues.....
This time the UK's 'Cameron and the work-experience lad' coalition inherited an appalling mess, and have worked miracles to rescue the country from disaster; even the loony left seem to have realised this and thank goodness they have; another term of Socialism, and the UK would have started to look like Spain, Greece, or Portugal .
Of course, I quite expect at the next general election, the country will vote for another term of spend spend spend politics, and it'll all go wrong yet again.
May I suggest the following changes to UK Political Party names....
Labour: The Tax, Spend, and Bankrupt Party.
Conservative: The Tighten your Belts Party.
Lib Dem: We haven't a Bleedin' Clue Party.
UKIP: Mr Farage's Party.
Monster Raving Loony: Still The Monster Raving Loony Party.
I have always thought of Scotland as an important and integral part of the UK. True, I've not held it in the same high regard as either England or Wales, but nor had it been tarred with the same brush as Northern Ireland.
All this changed in 1986 and, of all things, it concerned football; a game of little interest to me.
The Soccer World Cup was being fought-over in Mexico, and on June 22nd England was to play against Argentina.
I just happened to watch that morning's TV sports news which came from Edinburgh, and locals were being quizzed about who they would support (NOT who did they predict would win) in the day's England/Argentina game. Every single person interviewed replied 'Argentina'.
I remember being both stunned and disgusted by their lack of patriotism, and I realised at once that my rose-tinted view of Scotland and the Scots was certainly not being reciprocated. My attitude towards them changed in an instant..... and has not altered since!
To any Scots reading this; please, please, vote YES in September's referendum.
p.s. The Argies beat England by 2 goals to 1 (one of which was scored by 'The Hand of God', via the hand of Maradona). The Argies went on to win the cup by 3-2 against West Germany.
p.p.s. If Scotland ever get to meet North Korea in any sport, on any sports field, anywhere; guess who I'll be supporting?
The Eagle has landed, and my sigh of relief could be heard as far away as Paris in the North, to Cannes in the South.
I have drawn up a list of tasks for her. Dog walking, dog walking, and more dog walking. This will give me a little extra time for catching up with all my own tasks that have been on hold for the last 6 weeks.
I was trying to think of all the jobs that have titles attached. There's the armed forces, the police, certain university posts, politics, the law, the diplomatic service, and THE CHURCH. I'm sure there are plenty of others.
To be known as Colonel X, Professor X, Lord Justice X, Chief Constable X, or even His Excellency etc X, is usually a sign of having excelled within a profession or occupation. But what about 'The Reverend'?
The Latin word Reverendus can be translated as 'one who is revered' or 'one who must be respected'. And, in the church, if you end up as 'really really respected', and keep your nose clean-ish, you could even end up as a 'saint'.
The titles and outfits of the church are rather similar to the armed forces. One can only wear certain regalia if endowed with the correct title. No doubt the difference between a Reverend, a Very Reverend, a Right Reverend, and a Most Reverend, can only be spotted by connoisseurs of the amount of gold and embroidery worn.
As an atheist I have always greeted vicars, deans, bishops, etc as Mr X; I have never given them the honour of the ridiculous pomposity that they love so much.
I still find it quite amazing that a 'one book' occupation should continue to award themselves all these barmy trappings of hierarchy. Maybe they'd attract more followers if they did away with all the finery, titles, and high living. They're only ordinary blokes, after all!
No wonder the big-wig bunch above are all laughing (except for the geezer in the middle with the very expensive looking stick).
Work on the barn advances slowly but surely. The roofers have long gone, and the builders turned up promptly afterwards.
Monsieur L and his young sidekick had two tasks. 1. Some interior walls (above), and 2. The steps leading up to the front door (below).
The interior walls are there to separate the house part from the barn part, and for a downstairs loo/shower room. The above pic was taken from inside the barn part.
There's nothing more mediocre looking that penny-pinching front steps. They need to be welcoming in an arms open wide, here comes the bride, hallelujah, kinda way. I hope my design has achieved something of that.
There's a small wall at the back of the steps (bottom right, grey) that I will finish off next week myself with coping stones, and (probably) a Greek urn or two (go on, ask me!)
And this (above) is from the inside. The top step has plenty of room for Kellogg to sit reading a book, whilst watching that Bunny doesn't run off to join the circus.
I'm now working on a practical, but grand, design for the staircase. Again, a staircase cannot be a miserly affair; it must make a 'statement'. My builder (Monsieur L) will have to return to build that later.
It's mid-May, and that means time to make Champagne. Not any old Champagne; Elderflower Champagne!
One of the pleasures of Summer is to open a chilled lunchtime bottle of Elderflower Champagne. We don't drink alcohol at lunch, so this makes a great alternative to our usual glass of cold water (yes, we really do drink water).
Occasionally the alchemy doesn't work and there's no fizz, but this is rare. So, if you're making some, just make sure that everything is spotlessly clean, and that you have these 'flip-top' type bottles. You should be OK. However, when the alchemy DOES work, be careful, and open your bottles outdoors. They can be VERY fiery.
Et voila; 24 hours later, and I have 7 bottles which must be left for at least 2 weeks before sampling. I'll do the same amount again tomorrow.
N.B. For my own personal recipe, just type 'Elderflower Champagne' into the white search strip (top left), and you'll find all sorts of stuff.
In the disgraceful kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls, the biggest loser in the whole vile business is The World of Islam (other than the poor 200 girls themselves and their families, obviously).
If 'spreading the word' is a part of the kidnappers aim, then they seem to have got things very very wrong.
Maybe the decent, law-abiding, Muslim majority, should now adopt a policy of being overtly peace-loving, helpful, and generous; just to demonstrate to the aggressive minority how they would prefer to be viewed.
Boko Haram is just one of countless bloodthirsty Muslim terrorist groups, and as a result of this latest abomination I'm afraid that the first thing that now comes to mind, when people hear the word 'Muslim', is TERRORIST.
Only the moderate majority can alter this concept, and I suggest they get on with it pretty bloody quickly, otherwise the world might just begin to lose patience.
I attended one of those renowned English schools where one did NOT return home each afternoon.
A multi-signature letter was published in this past Sunday's Observer newspaper suggesting that such institutions can damage children psychologically. I'd never really given much thought to this myself; I just took it for granted that from an early age I only saw my parents for limited periods (Lady Magnon was the same).
At school there was no replacement for one's parents, the expression 'in loco parentis' usually referred to some masochist who'd whack you for the slightest reason; however, surrogate 'brothers' were in abundance. Even that, of course, ended aged 17/18 when we all went our separate ways.
The UK's present Prime Minister is often being accused of 'never having lived in the real world', well let me assure people that being away at school certainly IS the real world. Life was pretty tough, and there was no running back to Mummy at 4.30pm to be cosseted and pampered. You had to fight to survive.
So what recompense did we receive in exchange for having been deprived of a proper family life? I think all my good school-friends (and I hope this includes myself) would agree that we became confident, independent, disciplined, free-thinking, individuals. We were all exceptionally good time-keepers, we respected each and every person from ALL walks of life, and we learned that life itself has distinct rules and regulations. We also learned how to both take and give 'commands'.
Did I miss my parents? Not really, I wasn't the type to blub in the bushes; if all you knew was that type of upbringing, it became 'normal'. In many ways it does affect your whole life; but without question 'for the good'.
p.s. Yes, the 'Hoop Trundle' did happen in my day (it has since 970 AD), but those who partook (not me) would NEVER have worn 'training' shoes. Heaven forbid!
Last Spring I was quite shocked at how quickly everything grew at Haddock's. This year it seems to be growing even faster. We are mid the Ice Saints (May 11th 12th 13th) and our Summer crops are already romping away.
I took a slight chance with the Tomatoes this year, and planted them out well before the risk of frost had passed. My gamble has paid off, and the plants are already looking good, and are in flower. I'm hoping this year that all my ratatouille ingredients will arrive at the same time; it makes bottling so much easier.
I have planted both green and yellow Courgettes this year; no difference in taste, just for aesthetics.
And I've put twice my usual amount of red onions in. I shall probably start pulling some of them quite soon; they double as very attractive, and tasty, Spring Onions.
A relative newcomer to the average (non-Tuscan) veg' garden, this 'pick and come again' leaf vegetable is an excellent addition to the winter greens collection.
I have been growing Italian 'black cabbage' for a few years now, and each year I have to remind myself to grow even more than the previous year.
Along with Curly Kale, Swiss Chard, and PSB, it has become an essential winter standby and as with all veg's, it should be eaten as soon as possible; pulling the lower leaves as they appear big enough.
The seeds germinate extremely quickly, and the plants are very easy to grow. About 8-10 plants should be enough for the 'average' family. Cavolo Nero, like many other winter greens, is supposed to be best after a good frost, although I tuck-in as soon as possible.
Plenty of recipes are available online; it's remarkably good with anchovy and pasta.
Sherry over at Spinners End Farm made a comment recently about the new tiles on our barn roof.
Well, here they are. These pressed clay, industrial, tiles are made by a company in Marseille called 'Guichard, Carvin, et Cie', and are one of the most popular tiles in France; they are generally known as 'mécanique'. The one above was slightly damaged, and therefore rejected.
They are perfect for a restoration job such as ours, as they blend in with all surrounding buildings almost at once; then, as they are pukka clay tiles, they gently mellow with age.
To be sure that you have the right tiles, they have a Bee stamped on the bottom of each one.; the mark of a genuine tile. I notice the roofer's also kindly left me a small pile of them as 'spares'.
And here's the finished job. Looks good, doesn't it (the tiles are considerably browner in reality)!
I must say that Monsieur F (the roofer) has proved to be one of the most conscientious and meticulous tradesmen that I've encountered in a very long time.
Apart from the superb job itself, I saw the men actually SWEEPING the entire roof before they left. And the inside of the barn, which was a bit of a mess up until yesterday, is now spotless. It is often said that you can tell the quality of a tradesman by how he leaves the site each evening; Monsieur F left everything immaculate. He's one person I'd recommend without hesitation.
I feel obliged to have a number of 'bottled' wines in the house, just in case 'bottle' type people turn up.
I recently bought a couple of cases of this J P Chenet Premier Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. I think it cost about €2.40 a bottle.
J P Chenet is a huge company that produces very good tasting wines, but somehow you just know that they are the result of chemical jiggery-pokery. The taste is simply TOO good to be true, and the silly bottle shape suggests that they have something to hide!
I remember tasting a wine once that I'm certain had been vinified with a shovel-load of Plum Jam; there is something similar in taste about this Cabernet above, but it IS delicious.
In the background, behind the Chenet bottle, is my usual everyday wine in a 5 litre plastic 'cubi'. I buy it loose from a nearby small private vineyard, and it costs €1.10 a litre. It is made in as natural a way as possible. The grapes are picked, crushed, and left for a couple of weeks to ferment (no Plum Jam added). The resulting juice is then drawn off, and left to mellow in huge containers. It's as simple as that.
Blending wine is OK, but personally I prefer the natural version. It tastes 'correct', and one knows that it contains nothing but pure grape juice. Not something that can always be said about big company commercial wines.
One of the above wines will probably give you a headache; the other will definitely not. No prizes for guessing which is which.
I've just received a few snaps of my youngest son's wedding out in Oz. I rather liked this one; very relaxed. Please excuse my indulgence.
Our risk of frost is now over. The long term forecast predicts minimums of about 6 C and maximums of up to 26 C for the foreseeable future.
This means that I can now plant-out all those tender plants that risked being ravaged by the cold. The Peppers and Aubergines are now in situ, and I have left my Tomatoes to cope without any overnight protection. The only other plants that risked death were the Courgettes, but they should now be OK too.
Otherwise all my winter greens have been sowed, and will be planted-out when (or if) they get to a respectable size.
All is looking good, and I predict copious crops. The fruit trees are loaded, as are the soft fruit bushes.
Mother Nature has, yet again, looked kindly upon the lowly Magnons, and I thank her profusely.
In mid-May we shall begin to think about mushrooms. If the sun warms the soil for the next couple of weeks, followed by a really good downpour, we shall have Girolles in abundance. With Haddock's planted, and a few mushrooms in the fridge, all will be well. My winter depression will clear completely, my shorts will be welded on for the duration, and it won't be long before the pool is open for frolics.
The above is not very clear, but, believe me, this is a Redstart's nest right up under the eaves of our barn, where the men are hammering the laths into place; it has about 4 or 5 fledglings inside. The mother bird returns each lunchtime and evening to feed them. With all the noise and human activity going on, I'm amazed that she hasn't abandoned them.
It'll all be finished soon, so in a couple of days time they'll be back underneath the tiles again, and she'll have her peace returned.
This is what it looks like up there. I braved the ascent whilst the men were at lunch.
The other side is finished, and on this side it just requires a couple of Velux windows to be fitted, the tiles to be put in place, and the guttering fixed.
The men have been very efficient; it's only been a week so far. They've continued to work hard both in the rain and the heat of the sun.
From Coco Chanel to Janis Joplin and now Peaches Geldof; so many have diced with death, and sadly lost.
I can perfectly understand the person who enjoys smoking a bit of weed at the weekend, or has a Gin and Tonic after work each day, but to inject yourself with one of the most dangerously addictive drugs known to mankind, is, frankly, just plain DUMB.
How many people, I wonder, immediately said 'drugs', on hearing that Peaches Geldof had been found dead. Most of us, probably!
The pain of being rich and famous is so often masked or relieved by hard Class A drugs. Did no-one tell young Peaches that Heroin would KILL her?
Having a mother who died of exactly the same thing really should have been a warning. She never got over her own mother's death from Heroin, and I don't suppose her two young sons will get over their mother's either!
Kimbo and family have spent the week in Germany. K and Eva were married in Eva's home town of Bayreuth on 9. 9. 9.
I'm posting this photo of Kimbo and Ollie in a smart looking German restaurant, simply because I really like the picture (and I love the two people in it).
Both Ollie and his older brother Harvey J have been brought up to appreciate eating-out at good restaurants, and I'm pleased to say that not only do they eat what's on offer, but they always behave impeccably.
We have two of these Trachycarpus palms by our pool; one's about 20 years old and very tall, the other much younger (above) and still quite short. They are very decorative trees and each year produce these huge spectacularly gaudy flowers.
But there's a problem. They eventually drop their bloody seeds all over the place; including into the pool itself.
This means that at this time each year I'm obliged to climb into the upper, skin tearing, tops of the trees to cut the wretched flowers off, before they start dropping stuff all over the place.
No-one tells you this when you buy the trees, or even advises you not to plant them TOO near to a pool.
I urgently need a trained Tree-Surgeon Monkey; either that, or I'll have to get the ladder out. OK I'll get the ladder out.
And here's one of the culprits. Spectacular flowers, but a pain in the rectum.
As soon as I'd sat down in front of my laptop yesterday morning (5.30am 1st May), I received a Skype call from Australia. There was a wedding party in full swing.
My youngest son Wills and the lovely Kellogg had just been married in Mullumbimby. In collusion with my daughter Tenpin, they had organised everything in secret (to avoid the Paparazzi) as a surprise for Lady Magnon (and me). The wedding took place in the grounds of the fabulous house that Lady M and Tenpin are renting.
They will repeat the process here in France, where Wills was born, when they are next in Europe.
A good friend of mine popped round to see me recently, and we discussed my intention to increase the chicken flock.
At present I have just ONE hen (Richard), and she offers me one egg a day. As you can see above, I have a constant stock of about half a dozen eggs in the fridge at any one time.
My intention had been to buy another six hens (black ones), but if they all started laying, it could mean that I have a whopping 49 eggs a week. What the hell would I do with 49 eggs (or even 40; or even 30)!
We may have to re-think matters.
I do like Richard to wander about at liberty, but she's recently taken this as an opportunity to lay elsewhere than in her designated nesting box. Thank goodness I discovered her well hidden 'wild' nest, as she now refuses to lay anywhere else. I suppose the only way I'll get her to start using her nesting box again will be to deprive her of her liberty. I'm not sure if I want to do that; maybe Lady Magnon will have thoughts about it when she returns, as retrieving the eggs now involves crawling through brambles.
Total Eclipse of the Blog
Hello, dear readers! Are you in the path of the eclipse? Did you buy the
special glasses? I am sort of in the path and bought glasses . . . however
10 months ago
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 is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 45 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), a Border Collie/Black Lab' cross called Bok, a cat called Freddie, 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!