Saturday, 28 February 2015

Favourite sweets.

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I don't eat sweets, but I used to.

Amongst my top favourites as a child were these wonderful Sherbet Fountains.
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Sherbet filled Flying Saucers.
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Anything made from Licorice.
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Maynards Wine Gums (I do still occasionally have some of these).
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And those very non-PC wrapped Black Jacks (I didn't dare show the original wrappers).

Even thinking about them.... and I'm back to 8 years old again.

Friday, 27 February 2015


My personal wardrobe is divided into 3 categories.

1. Ratting clothes: old gardening/building togs, mostly fit for the dustbin.

2. Smart-ish clothes: shopping, weddings, and funerals. Almost socially acceptable.

3. Buck House Specials: ermine, medals, dress sword, etc. (Maybe No 3 just lives in my imagination).

This morning I decided that my current pair of ratting trousers (above) should finally be laid to rest. There is almost as much hole as material, and they are beginning to look a tad scruffy.

Whilst dressing, I declared to Lady Magnon that this would be their final outing, after which they will go to the bonfire. (Am I being a bit hasty here?)

"No, no" she cried "Make them into dusters".

I capitulated. My ratting trousers will now live on to be of further use...... They will be responsible for buffing the silver, dusting the Renoirs, and shining the Chippendale. Wonderful; my £4 spent in 1990 was well invested, albeit a bit rash.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Much missed on the High Street.

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Children growing up today will never know the pleasures of these old High Street favourites. I can hardly believe they're no longer there.

Achille Serre

Timothy White's

C & A



Freeman Hardy Willis

Dunn & Co

And even dear old Woolies.

Just a few of the stores that I always considered to be as solid as rock; time has proved that this was not the case.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Bracken Fiddleheads.


This is an appeal to anyone who eats BRACKEN Fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads come from either Bracken or Ferns; they are the young shoots which appear in Spring, that later unfurl to become the plants we all know.

I have read that the Fiddleheads of Bracken can be Carcinogenic, but I also hear that they are widely eaten; especially in Japan and Canada.


We have a ready supply on hand, so if given the confidence I would rather like to try some. Any info' (especially about the Bracken version) would be gratefully received.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hollande's France.

On the 20 km route between our home and the supermarket (where I do my weekly shopping) are these three dead factories. All have been closed down within the last year or so.

Above was a thriving quarry that produced very high quality builder's Lime. The gate is now closed, the name of the factory blacked out, and the 50 or so men are on the dole.

A little further along the road is this huge Parquet Flooring factory. It has just recently closed leaving over 100 men without work. They all left their names, and how long they'd worked there, hanging on the exterior fence. A very sad sight.

Into the town itself is this sprawling metalwork factory where part of the Statue of Liberty was made. The men are currently out on strike, and it looks as if it will be closing down any minute. The workers are not happy!

Sadly it's these workers who usually vote for a Socialist government, but it's the same old Socialist mismanagement that ends up losing them their jobs. 

Francois Hollande's legacy will not be easily forgotten in the Lémance valley.


Some time ago I enthused about an open terrace that had been built into the loft space of a house near my baker's shop.

This week I am showing you another little gem from the same village, this time almost opposite the bakery.

This magnificent gate leads into a courtyard (and I presume into a coach house) in between two quite substantial village houses. This is not the entrance to some grand chateau or expensive town house, just a village home on a busy road.

The photo fails to show the true grandeur of the gates. I should have asked someone to stand by them to show the scale. 

France does this sort of thing so very well.

Monday, 23 February 2015

'There's no smoke without fire'. Just another Anglo/Swedish misunderstanding.

Lady Magnon: How about smoke for the fire.

Cro: It's not smoking, is it?

Lady M: No, we need smoke.

Cro: Well I don't want it to smoke. I try to avoid smoke; it annoys the neighbours.

Lady M: Whatever you say, I WANT SMOKE.

Cro: However much you shout, and stamp your foot, you're not having smoke!

Lady M: Are you telling me that I'm going to have to go and get it myself?

Cro: Get what yourself?

Lady M: The Oak; I need smoke for the fire!

Cro: Doh (slaps forehead). If you want me to bring in SOME OAK, why not just say so!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Sundissimo Lunchissimo.

Sometimes I amaze even myself.

Take 3 slices of toast; butter them, spread with mustard, top with good quality mature cheddar, pepper, herbs, and a couple of chilli flakes, then zap in the microwave for 1 minute.

So good. So quick. So cheap. Could my Sunday lunchtime snacks be simpler,or more delicious, than this?

You can come out of that cupboard now Nigella; as long as you behave yourself.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Vin Rouge.

I suppose I have to come clean; I'm a slave to the red wine industry.

I do enjoy an occasional beer when it's hot, I hardly ever touch spirits, but red wine suits me just fine. It also happens to be the basic locally made drink, and it's priced to suit my pocket.

Very occasionally I think that I should completely stop drinking the stuff, but then common sense returns and I regret my time wasted on such futile thoughts.

I'm told that wine has many beneficial properties, but probably not in the quantities I consume. I drink about a bottle a day; enough to benefit from its winter warming qualities, but not enough to make me stagger on a white line.  

The only disadvantage I can see to wine drinking is that my daily dose contains about 700 calories; without which I would probably be super-svelte and desirable..... damn it.

Friday, 20 February 2015

A few pronunciation tips for foreigners (Lithuanians, Romanians, Nigerians, etc).


Many foreigners have trouble with English pronunciations. They almost strangle themselves over such tricky ones as Worcesscesstershyerre; so here are a few common town and family names, the pronunciations of which are worth noting.

Cholmondley.... Chum-lee

Marjoribanks.... Marsh-banks

Farquhar.... Far-ker

Magdalen.... Mord-len

Marylebone.... Marl-abone

Shrewsbury.... Shrows-bree

Grosvenor.... Grove-ner

Beaulieu.... Bew-lee

Cholmondeston.... Chum-sten

Leominster.... Lem-ster

Raleigh.... Raw-lee

Beauchamp.... Bee-chum

Caius.... Keys

Home.... Hume

Kerr.... Car.

I do hope this has been of help, and in case you'd wondered, Magnon is pronounced Man-yern (not Magg-non), although I answer to almost anything.

Thursday, 19 February 2015



Sometimes I despair. I sit down, hold my head in my hands, and wonder what on earth is going on inside the minds of certain of my fellow humans.

The world is such a wonderful place, but we abuse it, poison it, and destroy it. Worst of all we kill others simply because they think in a slightly different way to ourselves.

I feel like grabbing those 'certain people' by the ears, giving them a bloody good shake, and telling them to be grateful for the beauty that surrounds them. But what's the point.

Better, I suppose, to be like the majority and simply look after No 1. The 'I'm all right Jack' attitude will suit me fine from now on. The thieves can steal, the trolls can troll, and the idiots forever march forward. I couldn't care less.

As long as Haddock's continues to provide me with delicious tomatoes, my orchard continues to provide untainted fruit, and my fire provides warmth in the winter, I shall now say "bugger off world, and leave me alone".

It amazes me that with all the beauty the world has to offer, there are still those amongst us who think of nothing but blood-letting and destruction. I just don't understand it.

I shall try not to, but I'll still worry about it; it's in my nature!... I don't think I've ever been as depressed about the world's future, as I am now.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tricky Question.

Q. How can you tell when Cro is really happy?

A. When there are small people's clothes hanging on the washing line, the sun is shining, and there are bikes left abandoned on the lawn.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


The tiny village of Montcabrier is about 10 kms from our house. The village itself is nothing special; it's quiet, a bit hilly, and littered with empty 'second homes'.

I visited a nearby vineyard yesterday with the boys, to stock-up on wine, then made a brief detour via Montcabrier to buy some of their delicious pain au levain (sour-dough bread) on the way home. 

I can't believe that this window (above) was originally designed for this very modest house; it looks more suited to some grand château. I suspect it was looted. 

This much grander house has a rather carbuncle-like 'turret' stuck on one corner, I imagine it's a lookout and defence device; the small slits probably designed for shooting arrows at tax collectors, or over friendly maidens' fathers. 

For such a small village, the church is quite grand (aren't they all?). It has a massive bell tower, and this spectacular carved doorway. The interior is quite dull, and no doubt offers nothing but hell and damnation.

Montcabrier is a nice little village but with one major flaw; in Summer the drains stink to high heaven.... French municipal plumbing at its worst.

Carved window 10/10. Baker 10/10. Church doorway 10/10. Drains 0/10..... You can't have it all.

Monday, 16 February 2015

It's easy to make mistakes.

                                Bionic Eye Six Million Dollar Man Bionic eye six million dollar

When my oldest son was at school here, he used to come home in the afternoons raving about some character called Steve O'Steen. We had no idea who this Mr O'Steen was, but were informed that he was some sort of super-hero.

It was several years later that we discovered he was in fact 'Steve Austin' (the Six Million Dollar Man). The French pronunciation making him sound so much more exotic.

On another occasion I was listening to a French radio station when they announced an upcoming interview with Jean Matisse. Thinking that this was probably a son of the painter Henri, I marked the date in my diary and subsequently listened to the programme. It turned out to be Johnny Mathis.

Have you had similar problems?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Proud Grumpy.

My 4 older grandsons, two of whom are with me at the moment, are all now between 6 and 9 years old (I hope that's right), and are slowly becoming lucid, intelligent, and inquisitive young men.

They are also beginning to show signs of their eventual 'manly good looks'. I'm not one who thinks that being good looking is necessarily very important in life, but I certainly think that it helps with self-confidence.

Aussie Finn (above) has Michael York type looks, and is also the potential actor of the family; although from the photo it looks as if he may become an Entomologist.

I took my two N London grandsons with me to the Vet's yesterday. Bok needed a booster jab, and I thought it a good idea to let them see the inner workings of a Vet's surgery. When questioned later, neither of them showed any interest in becoming a Vet'; preferring to opt for the more traditional trades of Astronaut and Police-car driver. 

I expect their aspirations will change.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

I really HATE this man.

                      Monkey Training for a Circus by Chinese photographer Yongzhi Chu: The winner of the nature category shows a monkey being trained for circus in Suzhou, Anhui Province. The town is considered the home of the Chinese circus with more than 300 troupes 

This photograph makes my blood boil; it demonstrates what I most detest about certain humans.

Can you guess what I'd like to do to him?

Friday, 13 February 2015

More Pickled Onions.

In that little brown bowl were the last 4 pickled onions from my pre-Christmas batch. There was nothing to do about it, but make some more.

Twenty minutes of teary eyed peeling, twenty four hours of salty soaking (above), and two weeks of mellowing in vinegar sugar salt-n-pepper, and voila; I'll have another lot.

We eat very simply at lunch; usually thin gruel, simple veggie salads, and cheese. Pickles are essential at lunchtime; onions, gherkins, or walnuts, but I'm now going to suffer a 2 week gap without any pickled onions. My own fault, I should have seen the disaster looming.  

Anyway, here they are, done; now all I have to do is wait. Torture.

I've decided to abandon most of my other pickle making. These onions are essential, walnuts are almost essential, and my lightly pickled curry flavoured cauliflower florets are certainly worthy of another batch. Otherwise I intend giving up making all those other 'also-rans'.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Unsung heroines.


Oh how I loved my life models. Big bouncy blondes, who took their clothes off for peanuts-per-hour. The nicest thing about them was that they were proud of who they were and what they did, and were prepared to demonstrate as much.

And there was I, 2B pencil in hand, scratching away, trying to learn my trade. I hardly noticed them; they were simply objects to be drawn, not living breathing humans with complex lives.

They were 'things' that one studied in minute detail before even placing a dot on that virgin white paper. It was all fraught with danger, and we were reminded as much by so-called bloody experts who couldn't draw a bloody fly; our tutors.


The poor creatures were mostly penniless 'resting' actresses.Young women who, like Micawber, were permanently waiting for something to turn up. They appeared like a latter-day Rita Tushingham in A Taste of Honey.

Most of them would have pleased Rubens more than Mary Quant. They were buxom, stretch-marked, sagging lovelies, who were far more interesting to draw than Twigs or Shrimpton.

I imagine they are all now retired to dreary bed-sits in Eastbourne or Pevensey, and I salute them. I send them kisses and my thanks. They formed me, they made me what I am today, they gave their time so that I could forever-after scribble.

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