Lady Magnon shelling Walnuts for a cake, Bok on the prowl, Cows watching the whole event.
Just another day at the cottage. We were actually waiting for a huge lorry to deliver all Wills-n-Kellogg's stuff from Australia. Lady M decided to fill in the waiting hours with a spot of cake making; it calms her nerves.
The furniture eventually arrived (bloody loads of it), the cake was baked, the Cows moved on, Bok had a little sleep, and we had our afternoon tea.
John Gray, over at Going Gently, recently asked the question 'Where is your still place'?.
I had no hesitation; mine's up at Haddock's, and here's the very spot. From this chair I contemplate life's follies, and listen to my vegetables as they grow.
Monty's grave is just forwards to the left, after which there's nothing but the undisturbed landscape. The only sounds are those of distant tractors (occasionally), and the only movement that of some cattle, and a few horses. It's as peaceful a spot as anywhere can be these days.
And this is part of the view when sitting (not that I get to do too much of that these days).
p.s. My hand-hewn contemplation chair was found abandoned by some nearby dustbins; it's been serving me well for quite some while. Why do people chuck out such things; it's as solid as the day it was made.
I am well aware that photos of sunrises and sunsets are the fodder of naff camera clubs, but occasionally I look out due East from the studio, and am amazed by the early morning sky. This one yesterday was almost ablaze, and over in the West it was totally pink.
Well done Mother Nature; behold your works are good!
These are the last varieties to appear of the year's 'edible' mushrooms. The white ones are Hedgehog Mushrooms, and the black ones are Trumpets of Death. They should be around for a few weeks yet; both have the advantage of staying fresh, in the ground, for quite some while.
The small haul above was fried ensemble to make a small lunchtime omelet; a couple of eggs and a few minutes in the woods produced a meal fit for a king. A very lucky king too.
Although very stylish (if not somewhat bizarre) the Burka has its obvious problems. How would you recognise your sister in the street? How do you know who you're talking to? How would you try to look your best for a passport photo?
Eating out also has its difficulties, as shown in this secretly filmed example.
So, in my continuing awards list, I'm afraid that the Burka fails to score. Fun in many ways, but not very practical when eating spaghetti.
Lunch in this part of France is known as La Soupe. And that's exactly what it is.
There are two basic soups that are eaten by almost every country family; Vermicelli Soup (usually made with chicken stock), and Tourin which is much the same but with the Vermicelli being replaced by slices of stale country bread.
It has to be good natural bread, week old sour-dough is the best. When cooked for a while, the bread becomes gelatinous and delicious. This is a peasant dish; pure and simple. You could try it with Ciabata, but certainly not Mother's Pride.
Plenty of crushed Garlic is fried in a small amount of duck fat, a dash of white wine added, then a good chicken stock. The soup is seasoned to taste, parsley and ground black pepper added, then the slices of bread placed on the top. Having then been cooked for a while it is left for an hour or two before re-heating for lunch. Occasionally cheese is grated onto the top, but this is not essential.
There is another local tradition involved with one's lunchtime Soup. When down to one's final soup-spoon of soup, half a glass of red wine is poured in, and the whole lot drunk direct from the bowl. This is called chabrol or faire chabrot, and is an everyday practice.
How the other half lives, eh?.... French internal central heating. Lovely.
I just happened to be looking up into the very top of our biggest Oak tree (The Royal Oak), when I spied this nasty looking nest.
It's a Hornet's nest, and is about the size of 3 footballs. I know it's still in use as I can see the big beasts buzzing around. With my binoculars I can even see the entrance hole where they go in and out.
So, what to do! Well the Hornets don't survive Winter, so probably best to leave well alone. I've known people set light to them, but this one is right at the top of the tree.
At some time during Winter the whole nest will drop down, so I'll try to take some close-ups later. For the moment, they're not troubling us, so I won't trouble them.
In case you're unaware, a couple of stings from these nasties (and you don't get some treatment pretty darned quick) it's 'goodnight'.
I rather liked Punk. An explosion in a tramp's wardrobe suddenly became a fashion statement.
My favourite piece of Punk clothing was Vivienne Westwood or Malcolm McLaren's wonderful 'Bum Flap'. Usually in tartan, it served absolutely no purpose; it just hung at the rear doing nothing. Pure genius.
W B Yeats
When I left college, I bought a very reasonably priced house in Wales, just over the border from North Shropshire; an area I knew quite well. It was located in a tiny hamlet, tucked away
in the gentle folds of Powys sheep-rearing country.
At one time the house had been a pub; it was built of heavy granite, was very old, and quite large. The house also had a big orchard which came with planning permission for another house.
In between teaching duties I spent about a year restoring the old place, which involved installing its first ever bathroom and loo.
After 2 years I sold the house and orchard separately; let's just say I did very well out of it. A good two year's work.
The local man I'd originally bought it from was NOT happy. He told me he wouldn't have sold it to me if he'd known I was just going to make a quick profit. When I told him I was moving to France he became irate, and told me that he hated the French. He was an unpleasant and negative man, full stop.
Of the other few residents of this tiny hamlet, one shot our neighbour's dog (and nearly shot ours), one used to wet her hair every morning from a filthy water butt, and another had never ventured further than about 10 miles from her home. They were a very odd, and insular, bunch of interbred six fingered Welsh weirdos. I disliked each and every one of them. For someone who'd come from the South, had spent several years living in London, and been through 5 years of Art College, they seemed like the worst type of primitive and unpredictable yokels. I was extremely pleased to leave.
Such small insular communities are probably quite rare nowadays, but it was a good lesson in having a really good look around before buying a house; anywhere. I must add that all other Welsh people I've ever met or known (outside of that dreadful hamlet) have been extremely friendly and pleasant.
The photo above does make the Welsh women look like a bunch of witches; which is exactly how I viewed those village residents. When I left the UK, and settled in my present village, the people couldn't have been nicer. What a change!
This tiny window has become my outdoor mini-museum of objets trouvés. A sort of tiny cabinet of curiosities.
The collection comprises of a small bronze Corinthian capital, a small bronze crucifix, a small bronze Indian lamp, and a small bronze cat.
Also present are some pieces of broken plates, handles of broken pots, the lens from an ancient pair of spex, a ball bearing, a rounded stone, and a piece of fossilised tree; all unearthed at Haddock's.
No flattish surface goes uncluttered in the Magnon household.
I suspect that most homes have a similar spot somewhere.
Girolles are normally a Spring mushroom, but this Spring there were none. In fact I was beginning to think that 2015 was to be the very first year for over four decades that I would not have eaten a single one.
Luckily that situation has now been rectified, and there is a small late growth that will supply enough for a few meals.
The lot above will be fried with thin bacon 'matchsticks', garlic and parsley and tossed into spaghetti. It will also be given a liberal sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan and good olive oil. A surprisingly simple, yet delicious, almost free meal.
There should also be a few left over for a meagre Girolle omelet for Wills. With Kellogg and Bunny away in Sweden, he's at risk of veggie starvation.
Yesterday I went to pick-up my weekly 10 litres of local wine, and M le Vigneronvery kindly gave me a one and a half litre bottle of his two week old 2015.
He and his wife, and their daughter, are such nice people; they epitomise the generosity that is endemic in this part of the world. Nothing is beyond them. I often feel ashamed that I can never match their wonderful largess; I just don't have the wherewithal.
This gift of new wine has now become an annual affair, and tonight I shall cook a few chestnuts and enjoy consuming the two seasonal products together in front of the fire. I can hardly think of a better way to spend an autumnal evening.
p.s. Last year I described the new wine as tasting like half Ribena (blackcurrant juice) and half vinegar; this year's is much sweeter and very fruity. it's absolutely bloody delicious. When it's ready to be sold, in a few months time, I predict that it will be superb.
Every person who's been lucky enough to taste some of these, always asks for the recipe. Lady M did exactly that when we first encountered them at artist Simon Fletcher's house; his wife Julie is a superb cook. I suppose I really ought to call them 'Julie's Amazing Parmesan Biscuits'.
I think Lady M's ingredients are as follows: 100gms each of butter, flour, and freshly grated parmesan (don't skimp on quality), and an egg yolk; plus some chilli powder (quarter tsp) and a few cumin seeds (1 tsp).
Wizz up to form a ball, refrigerate for a while, then roll out and cut into small biscuit shapes. Don't over bake (about 10 mins; keep watching).
Other than the first four ingredients the rest is according to taste. Don't add salt.
The biscuits are delicate, simple to make, slightly spicy, and totally delicious; perfect to offer to guests with a glass of rouge.
It's still nice and green out there, and the Chestnut harvest is almost over. I have gathered all the Walnuts I require for the Winter, and 'amazingly' we have just eaten the first of our Curly Kale; which I planted less than two months ago.
Fires are being lit in the evenings, the TV is getting far more attention than usual, and I often find myself wandering aimlessly.
Leek and Potato soup is back on the menu, and Butternuts are being roasted with our weekend feasts. Salads have now been banished.
My long trousers have made a reappearance, a warm Arctic Fleece has made my early morning walks more comfortable, I wear gumboots for most of the day, and I have been searching the house for my gloves (as yet unsuccessfully).
There is still some Maize to be harvested (for grain), but most previously cultivated land is now 'brown side up'. The distant field in the photo has been sown with Rye Grass.
Soon my final load of wood will be delivered, and the sound of chainsaws will once again rise from the woods. The hunters will pass by at weekends, and lost dogs will turn-up at the house asking for food and water.
If it's dry over the next week or so, I'll do a final mowing of the lawns and orchard, then hope that all will remain perfect until Spring.
In the meantime, I shall dream of sunshine, the pool, my shorts, salads, al fresco eating, grandchildren laughing, new growth, and girls in Summer dresses.
BBC TV has just announced it's new Winter schedule, amongst which is this brand new reality show which is bound to be a real favourite; it might even replace 'Bake Off' in the top ten list.
'Celebrity Bomb Disposal' will be exactly as described; celebs attempting to de-actify real bombs. The present line-up for Series One includes Julian Assange, Katie Price, Jeremy Corbyn, Vladimir Putin, Rolf Harris, Donald Trump, and Anne Widdicombe.
There will also be a live audience who will be encouraged to give false advice; shouting 'Cut the yellow wire', etc, and will applaud when things go a tad wrong (they will, of course, be behind a splatter proof shield).
One celeb per week will be 'eliminated', and 'the last man standing' will be given the choice of either leaving with nothing, or attempting one more 'very tricky' bomb disposal to win £1 million.
Sounds like fun, don't you think? It should be a blast!
Contestant nominations for Series Two are already being sought.
Each morning when I put-up my day's blog, I go at once to my 'dashboard' to make sure that it has actually been published. More often than not it hasn't. It appears on my own laptop, but presumably not on others'.
I then have to start all over again, re-publish; then check again.
This can often be repeated several times before the bloody thing appears on my dashboard; it can take as many as five attempts.
Does anyone else have this problem? Does anyone know why this happens? Does anyone know how it can be rectified?
I'm wondering if it's because I have so many (2,300) postings backed-up that are blocking up the system, and maybe I should start clearing stuff from years ago. Any advice would be welcomed.
N.B. I'm not sure how one can illustrate one's 'dashboard'; so a picture of a cute kitten will have to suffice.
If it is possible to have such a thing as a 'favourite bird', then mine is without doubt The Heron.
So when I saw this one yesterday sitting on the horse's water trough, about 300 metres away, I just had to try to take its photo. I hope you can see it.
Without the help of a telephoto lens, I pressed the junior zoom facility on my very cheap camera, and the above was as close as I could get, then I held the camera up to one of the lenses of my battered binoculars and I got the one below. In both dreadful pictures you can just about see the beautiful bird.
National Geographic will certainly NOT be contacting me; I would need a much better camera!
Teddy boys appeared when I was about 8 years old, my small native Surrey village boasted about five of them; and very exotic they were too.
There was a couple in our village, Mr and Mrs F, who used to work for my people (she worked in the house, and he did the garden; that sort of thing), and they had a son called Robin.
Robin was amongst the last intake to do his National Service; a two year stint in the army. He went away as a typical village youth, and returned as a motor bike riding Teddy Boy. He had become the village's Mr Cool.
Teds wore long drape jackets, drainpipe trousers, winkle picker shoes, bootlace ties, and wore their hair in a big frontal quiff. The bunch above are pretty typical.
As a boy I'd never really thought about fashion as such, so suddenly seeing these very slick and stylish young men around was quite a revelation; I remember being seriously impressed.
I'm trying desperately hard to like Autumn, but I'm only being partly successful.
I can appreciate the changes in colours, the fruits, the falling leaves; but I still can't get over the wretched cold, and having to say goodbye to the pool for months on end. And I certainly don't look forward to having to light fires every bloody evening; even though I do enjoy the result.
However, I find walking in the woods much more interesting than in full Summer, and as we're also in Mushroom season, returning with a bagful of Parasol mushrooms, or Hedgehog mushrooms, is always a bonus.
Any day now all the acorns will be dropping, as well as the Oak's leaves themselves, leaving a good old mess to clean up. Then the vines will need pruning, all the fruit trees will need attending to, and Haddock's will need to be completely dug-over and rotovated, in a futile attempt to avoid too much weed growth before next Spring.
On the plus side, the few Curly Kale plants that I put in last month seem to be romping away, and my fear of having no Winter 'greens' looks unwarranted.
So, we're hunkering down, everything's been stored away, and before long my shorts will be replaced by long trousers. But before all that, let's enjoy the last few days of relative warmth; 20 C suddenly feels very pleasant, and the Autumn skies are glorious. I try to be positive, but it's not easy.
Some time back I mentioned that I was looking for a classic 'Wing Back Chair'; perfect for my daily post lunch 10 minute power nap.
So you can imagine how pleased I was when a lady we know phoned and asked if I wanted one. I'd mentioned to her that I was looking for one just like hers, and as she's moving back to the UK she wondered if her ageing chair would be of any use.
OK it needed a couple of springs mending, and the cover has seen better days, but it's a genuine Parker Knoll chair and exactly what I wanted; even its colour and scruffiness suits our house.
Unfortunately someone else has had his eye on it. Bok has noticed its arrival in the sitting room, and has declared it 'a dog bed'. Personally I think it's a bit small for him; don't you?
I've just read a very disturbing report, of which we should all be aware; please take notice.
In this post-holiday season people are posting innocent photos of their children's seaside antics on Facebook and elsewhere, and, it seems, that many of these photos are being copied and downloaded onto paedophile web sites. Unbelievable; but true!
I once made the naive mistake of posting a picture of one of my grandsons wearing nothing but my wellies (he was facing away from me), and I was seriously shocked to find, some time later, that a whole lot of really disgusting anonymous comments had appeared. I took the piece down at once, but am now wondering if the picture wasn't copied by some pervert and is presently languishing on one of those filthy sites.
I also had one other worrying comment when showing a picture of my neighbouring girlies enjoying themselves in our pool. Some Irish Pixie left a nasty comment about dirty mackintoshes; again it worried me, but I just put it down to his obvious ignorance. One just doesn't expect these things.
So beware, that innocent photo of your sons, daughters, or grandchildren posted on Facebook might well end up where you wouldn't want it. I've certainly learned my lesson; we should all be extremely cautious.
Do you believe?
*Fifty-Five years ago on November 22, 1963, president John Fitzgerald
Kennedy rode alongside his wife Jackie in a motorcade through the crowded
streets of ...
3 weeks 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 (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), 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!