Thursday, 31 December 2015

Cro's review of 2015.

2015 started badly for us. Poor old Monty seemed permanently unwell, and eventually left us on the 9th of February. He was just 4 years old, and we still miss him terribly. Doggy kidney failure. RIP old friend.


Otherwise the year began milder than we'd anticipated, and Spring arrived early. The above 'amusing' photo was taken on March 21st; the first day of Spring. When I spotted its perfect circle, my world changed very slightly.

Most of early 2015 saw me elbow deep in plaster and mortar, as work up at the barn advanced. They now have a bathroom, a beautiful kitchen, a tiled floor downstairs, and a very efficient and complicated heating system that uses wood, sunshine, and electricity; using whichever is appropriate at the time. Wills and family eventually arrived in July, and I'm pleased to say that they were delighted with everything.

Summer 2015 was one of the HOTTEST, LONGEST, and DRIEST that I can remember. In mid July we even left the Solar Cover OFF the pool at nights. hoping that the water might cool down a bit before morning. This was the first year that the water temperature has risen (and stayed) above 30 C; with daytime temperatures above 38 C (in the shade), the pool was the final refuge. I'm not complaining.

Even Bunny had his first swimming lessons; I'm very pleased to say that he absolutely loves the water. I think you can tell by the picture below.


It remained dry until August 9th when we had enough rain over two days to bring up these beauties (below).


The Cèpe harvest was phenomenal. We bottled, froze, and ate them for almost two weeks; every morning gathering more than enough for all of our needs. Occasionally Mother Nature is exceptionally generous (except with Girolles this year). We now have bottled Cèpe supplies for about 2 years.

Life through Summer was hot and lazy, even the cows in front of the house agreed. Then Autumn.

Haddock's once again was bountiful. We were able to fill the stores with Butternuts, Pumpkins, Apples, Onions, and various other crops that were either bottled or frozen. It's at this season that one appreciates all the hard work.

I usually find the tail-end of the year slightly depressing. The return of cold weather, the falling of leaves, the closing of the pool, and the wearing of winter clothes; it's not to my taste. But 2015 was altogether different; we had wonderful weather, with most of October, November, and December seeing temperatures around 20 C with cloudless skies. Right through to the new year it's been very mild.

The lovely Bok (above in the woods) celebrated his 5th birthday on November 28th. A few more grey hairs around his muzzle, but still a real pleasure to have sharing our simple lives.

Wills and Kellogg still have itchy feet and they left France for Oz, well before any expected cold weather. They change hemisphere to follow the sunshine. They're now in Surfer's Paradise until the ice melts back at home.

So, instead of Christmas with Bunny and family, we were alone again. I don't really mind this as, although I love the big day itself, I find the whole Christmas overkill rather distasteful. Here's a picture of Bunny taken just before their departure (trying to escape from prison on a tractor).

Let's all hope that 2016 will bring some peace to an otherwise blood-thirsty world. I can't see it happening, but being an optimist I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with one of my favourite photos from November, when we had a couple of frosty mornings; sunrises such as this always speak to me of new beginnings.

In many ways, 2015 has been a remarkable year.


Have a good 2016, and be sure to join me again in January 2017 to see how things went.

Cro and Lady Magnon xx


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The wood stock.

We've just had our Chestnut wood delivered. I asked José and Laurence what quantity there was; they said they didn't know, and I'd have to measure it myself.... Typical! 

When stacked, it measured 1 metre 50 high, by 6 metres long. I told Laurence she could measure it with me if she wanted; but she said she trusted me. It came to 9 cubic metres in all.

It's all good dry wood, ready to use, and worked out at €225 (that's £164). Considering that the pile will probably last two years (if not more) I think that's quite reasonable.

Our Oak pile is slowly decreasing, which is why I wanted to supplement it with the above. Half Oak and half Chestnut on our evening fire is more economical.

No Winter here yet, but I'm sure it's on its way; some rain is forecast, and January is just a couple of days away.

p.s. How does €25 (£18) per cubic metre compare with where you live?

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Lady Magnon's Frangipane Tart.

How many times have you seen a Celebrity Chef make something on TV that he/she invariably describes as 'the best ever', then actually attempt to make it yourself? Hardly ever, I'll bet.

We recently watched this being made on TV by English chef James Martin, and, frankly, Lady M just HAD to have a go (especially as it was Christmas, and there was nothing in the house to eat.....ahem).

It's a Prune and Frangipane Tart. It has a thin layer of Armagnac flavoured Prune 'jam' on the bottom, then a thick layer of Frangipane, then a few halved Prunes dotted about on top. The pastry base is just an ordinary blind-baked shortcrust pastry (No soggy bottom). The whole was then baked for about 20 mins.

James Martin was so bloody enthusiastic about his tart, and with good reason; this really is delicious!

I just know that this is going to become a regular in the Magnon household.

p.s. It's Lady M's birthday today (38ish). Happy birthday m' dear!

Monday, 28 December 2015

'Fats' Putin on 'Blueberry Hill' with piano solo

A late Christmas present for Rachel, and all other discerning music lovers. Holy smoke; it's VLAD!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

All over bar a couple of sarnies.

Far, far, too much food, as usual.

Not my fault.

I blame Lady Magnon.

I have to see the doc' on Tuesday.

He'll have a bloody fit!

I'm sure I've put on a stone.

Serious, and I mean SERIOUS, dieting for 2016 (for BOTH of us).

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Friday, 25 December 2015

Last Minute Stocking Filler; The Ross Sisters.

My Christmas present to all discerning Bloggers everywhere.


Calm yourselves gentlemen!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Cro's Greetings.

To all my Cyber-Friends everywhere. Cro x

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Driving Home For Christmas

I've always liked the nostalgic feeling in this song. Going HOME for Christmas.

In the illustrations, all the children have scarves, a sledge, and a scruffy dog; just as life should be at this time of year. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Turkey Platter.

This is the largest (I think) of my oval meat serving dishes. As you can see it's plain white, it is quite heavy, and has 'Wedgewood & Co' stamped into the base. It is also faultless.

I bought it years ago at a UK Boot Sale, and this is the verbatim account of the conversation I held with the stall-holder owner.

Cro. How much is that old white plate over there?

Stall holder. Make me an offer.

Cro. I don't want to insult you.

Stall holder. I'm here to be insulted.

Cro. I'll give you a quid.

Stall holder. SOLD!

Every time I use it, I'm reminded that it was one of my best bargains ever; it'll come in very handy in the next few days.

N.B. Wedgewood & Co should not be confused with Josiah Wedgewood & Sons; the latter being a far superior manufacturer.

A very happy Yule, to all who celebrate.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Eau de Vie.


This is our Greengage tree (photographed in summer), almost every year it produces a large crop of sickly sweet plums that are (to my taste) almost inedible.

However they do make wonderfully naughty Eau de Vie.

Eau de Vie is made locally using 'well hidden' stills. Strange wood-fired machines that convert barrels-full of rotting plums into near lethal alcohol are found hidden in old barns, or covered by tarpaulins, deep in the woods.


Hereabouts, the three most popular fruits for making this elixir are grapes, pears, and plums.

Eau de Vie is sold, or passed around, discreetly. I'm not a drinker of strong spirits, but I do like to have a bottle in the house..... just in case.

Here's one that I've just been given.

Will I ever sample it? Not sure.

I've blacked-out the maker's name just in case the Revenue Men are on my tail!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Proof, if needed.

Nothing surprises me any more, even finding both Lady Magnon and Bok fast asleep together on her sofa.

It's a good thing I keep a small camera handy, otherwise I'm certain they'd both flatly deny it!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

New Job for 2016.

                            Résultat de recherche d'images pour "chelsea football club"

Dear Chelsea Football Club.

I understand that you are currently looking for a new manager, and I would like to apply for the position.

Admittedly, I've never actually played football, nor do I know anything about it, but I have played Rugby, Cricket, and rowed 'eights' at Henley. I don't see this as a hindrance or disadvantage, and I'm sure I could learn the rules (including the off side rule) within a very short period. If Beckham can grasp the fundamentals, I'm sure I could too.

As far as my managerial skills are concerned, I have run a village Youth Club, taught Art and Art History, and managed to raise 3 boisterous children. I speak English and French.

I have recently been viewing some of Chelsea's past Football games, and I think I can see where 'the lads' are going wrong. More concentration must be made of where the Goal Posts are actually positioned (if you get my drift); then it would be simply a matter of practising their 'aim'. I am sure I can be of help in this respect.

Back in the 60's I rented a small flat in Bramerton Street; just off the King's Road. This makes me an honorary local lad, and I would be perfectly willing to return to live in the area (on Saturdays).

If for any reason you decline my offer (through discrimination), I am prepared to accept an 'out of court' settlement..... May I suggest a very reasonable £5 Million.

Yours most sincerely Cro. xx

p.s. I have my own First Aid kit.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmases past.


Way back in the early 60's we used to spend our Christmases in a cottage that my people owned at a Welsh beauty spot known as The Old Racecourse, Nr Oswestry in Shropshire. The house stood on top of the very first Welsh hill, west of the Shropshire plains, and looked out over wonderful rolling countryside; its location was stunning.

Above shows what remains of the old Grandstand, with the cottage in the background.

I'm almost ashamed to say that the cottage was hardly ever used. We'd go for Christmas, and maybe a weekend in summer, but that was it. As a result the house was usually in a pretty bad state when we all arived; the heating never worked, and often bits of the house were missing due to the strong winds. But my mother had family in the area, so it was the perfect opportunity to get everyone together.

I remember that it used to snow a lot, and access wasn't easy; there were no tarmacked roads to the front door. We were often snowed in, and in early mornings the whole landscape would turn pink from the amazing sunrises.

Mother never did things by halves. The Turkey was often well over 25 lbs, and would have to be trimmed in order to fit in the small oven. Regardless, it would always arrive at table, perfectly cooked, exactly on time. She was a great cook.

She'd also buy far too many presents, but that's another matter.

We always had a pukka tree, plenty of decorations, a good log fire, and plenty of fresh air. There was even a friendly farmer's dog to accompany us on our long Offa's Dyke walks.

Life was good, and even thinking of it makes me want to turn the clock back.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Mystery Solved.

I've just been looking at an article concerning Atlanta photographer Jason Travis, who cheekily went around asking strangers if he could photograph the contents of their bags, and I thought it might be interesting (?) to see what was inside mine.

I found.....

My wallet (of course)
3 receipts from an ATM machine
A pen
A small note pad marked 'Car Only'
Car keys (they're usually in the car, but I can't be bothered to explain)
My Ray Bans
A red spotted handkerchief
A tiny plastic bag
A safety pin
A two inch nail
And just over €23 in wretched coins

I think that's pretty conservative. No half-eaten boiled sweets stuck to the bottom, no mouldy Scotch egg, and no ancient well-thumbed copy of Health and Efficiency.

I even surprised myself!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Reminder to self.

My meagre presents have all been bought and wrapped.

I've made all the crackers.

The pickled walnuts, onions, and red cabbage, are ready.

Lady M has made her cake.

And I've made all the silly paper hats.

Still to do... Buy Turkey and Ham, smoked Salmon, nice cheese, something special for Bok and Freddie, and some charcuterie. 

Maybe a fancy bottle of Pomerol?  Not sure about that yet.

Oh, and the Sprouts; mustn't forget the Sprouts!

Plenty of time yet...... 9 days?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Pinnacle of Style.

This Pigeon tower, just behind our baker's shop, has always been a favourite of mine. I love the fact that it has at some time been painted blue, and I also love its pinnacle which is in the form of a bird; no doubt a Pigeon.

When building our pool's Pump House about 14 years ago, I tried to make the small building look as in keeping with local style as possible, and, amongst other features, I instructed a local potter to make me a pair of similar bird pinnacles.

My potter was young and reasonably inexperienced, but he produced what looked like a reasonable job. In fact they both soon broke as he hadn't connected the three main elements together properly, and winter frost got into them.

Anyway, with some fibreglass mastic, and a long ladder, they were soon fixed and are back in place, looking good.

Mine aren't as nice as the one atop the tower in my baker's village, but they do the job. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Product Test. Bottled Cèpes.

In October 2014 we had a wonderful crop of Cèpes, many of which I bottled (top shelf).

This was the first time I'd bottled them in water rather than oil, and I was recently reminded that I'd promised to let you know how they stood up.

We use them mostly for omelets, and occasionally Poulet aux Cèpes, and frankly I wouldn't have known the difference between the two alternative water/oil methods. Once well fried and 'omeleted', they taste exactly the same.

Of course, they'll never replace freshly picked mushrooms, but fresh Cèpes are hard to find in mid-Winter.

Anyone interested in my mushroom bottling method (I imagine it would work for other 'substantial' mushrooms), will find it by writing Oh Yes!!!!! into the search strip (top left) of my page; you might need to scroll down a bit.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Fattened Ducks.

Not so many small farmers fatten ducks these days, so I was rather pleased (relieved) to find these few on sale yesterday at my nearby small town's weekly market. It's a dying tradition.

I am well aware that many people are against the practice, and that some countries either ban the production of such birds, or have banned the importation of their livers.

Those who are 'anti' claim the process to be cruel. Those who are 'pro' claim that they are simply replicating nature. Personally I have never seen any cruelty in the force feeding of birds, just a very quick (3 seconds) injection of food that the ducks actually seem to enjoy. The birds never show any signs of stress or discomfort, and they are far too valuable to be mistreated.

I make no apologies in saying that yes, I do buy foie gras every year. I place a walnut sized lump in the centre of my annual production of paté, much the same as every other person in the area who produces their own charcuterie.

Some practises are not perfect, but I genuinely believe that producers of foie gras do their utmost to make sure that their birds live a good life, and my paté without that little central jewel just wouldn't be the same.

One thing is certainly true, birds that are bred for the production of foie gras are far more pampered and cosseted that most chickens that end up on your Sunday table; even the free range bio ones.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Add a splash of sunlight.

Canada (and elsewhere) is renowned for colourful Autumnal colours, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that the above comes from such a country.

In fact it's an ordinary Oak tree with yellowing leaves, caught by the early morning sunlight.

These Pine trees are much the same. Normally their trunks are a dark purple-ish brown, but under the influence of sunrise they become bright red.

This reddening effect is common at this time of year, and never fails to amaze me.

You may need to enlarge the pix.

Friday, 11 December 2015

EDL Man Interviewed for Press TV

Who said that British youth aren't eloquent, intelligent, and politically aware. They're what makes us Brits proud. And as for that Muslamic law.....

N.B. In case you haven't heard of the EDL, they are the 'English Defence League'; a rather nasty extreme right-wing racist group. Above is a typical member.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Helping hands.

All grandmothers enjoy looking after their grandsons/daughters. They also like handing them back again when they've had enough.

For the past few months Lady Magnon has been looking after Boo Boo whenever she's been asked, and has loved every minute of it. She, and Bok, and Bunny (I still call him Bunny), all watch children's TV together, and play with brightly coloured plastic toys. They've made cakes, and pies, and eaten soup together; and Boo Boo has been pulled along in either his tractor or his go cart all around the garden and beyond. He's also become great friends with the hens, and has visited them every day.

He instantly took to Bok, showing absolutely no sign of being afraid of either his size or boisterousness; they have now become very good friends with Bok carrying out essential face licking duties when necessary (quite often). Bunny even likes to play in his bed.

Unfortunately Wills, Kellogg, and Bunny, have now left to take advantage of Australia's summer weather, and Lady M hardly knows what to do with herself. We still have plenty of work up at the barn, and we also have a project to replace our bathroom and fosse septique, so we're not totally devoid of work.

It's just that 'Grummers' and Boo Boo won't see each other for several months, and I know she's going to be very lonely and sad without him (and without the other two, of course); so hurry on back...... we miss you already.

Roll on Spring.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Bugger 3 Michelin stars.

Pukka peasant food is usually the most simple and tasty of all the world's popular dishes.

Take whatever is at hand; i.e. grows (or is reared) in the garden. Combine in a simplistic way, wash down with basic wine, and you have the makings of a classic dish.

Pizza, Bubble-n-Squeak, Irish Stew, Pasta, etc, are all preferable in my book to 'Dove livers (3 ways) with a sea-food foam, wilted air-grown miniature leaves, all set on a bed of wild Lithuanian berries'. No thanks.

Simple Pizza last night; you'd never get one like this at Michel Guérard's 'Les Prés d'Eugénie'.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

What could possibly go wrong!


I'll have six bottles of Bourbon, and a couple of rifles please.

Would you like those gift wrapped sir?

Monday, 7 December 2015

Culture (Joseph Hill) "Wings Of A Dove".

The late great Joseph Hill singing 'Wings of a Dove'.

Just in case you wish to know what he's singing about, the lyrics are here.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A load of cock.

In 1994 there was an event in our nearby bastide town (above) that caused something of a national stir.

It concerned a couple of rather arrogant gay antique dealers who had quit Paris to settle in this small and very quiet town.

They rented a shop, they rented a house out in the country, and everything seemed to be going OK. Then one morning they woke to the loud crowing of a nearby Cockerel, then the next day, and the next; and it all became too much for them. They asked the farmer to instruct his Cockerel not to crow in the early mornings, and the farmer told them to effing well eff-off back to Paris.

Tension arose between the antique dealers and the farmer, which finished with their dispute going to court. The French national TV stations soon got hold of the story, and it went nationwide on the evening news.

Law is often an ass (as we all know), and the two men were eventually awarded ONE FRANC in damages, and the farmer was instructed to silence his Cockerel.

The small town was so enraged (and amused) by the verdict that they a held a 'Country Fair' in protest. There was a huge procession with children holding aloft pro-Cockerel banners, lots of Cockerels were let loose in the streets, and there was free wine for all. The two antique dealers were made to feel like a couple of right plonkers.

Above is the drawing I did to commemorate the event. The antique shop is still there, and the two men still as unpopular as they were back in 1994.

N.B. The lightning strike pin-points the position of their small shop. 

Saturday, 5 December 2015


                               Résultat de recherche d'images pour "old police phone box"

I'm not 100% sure if this is a true story, but I think it is.

In a nearby village there was a 'telecom engineer's' phone box (not unlike the above) built into a wall outside the Mayor's office. It was made of cast iron, and was built like a safe, and was for the exclusive use of engineers who were repairing local land lines.

One day, after an engineer had been using it, a villager noticed that the key had been carelessly left in the keyhole, and very sensibly he took it home for 'safe keeping'. He had several copies made of the key, and gave them to all his friends and family.

From then on if villagers had a long distance call to make, they always used the box. Free long duration calls were being made to all corners of the earth. Rumours abounded that after dark queues would form outside the box; everyone wished to take advantage of this heaven-sent miracle. The scam lasted for several years.

Eventually the Telecoms Company realised that something was amiss, and the phone box was removed. The villagers were not happy and complained. Their complaints fell upon deaf ears!

People Power!

Friday, 4 December 2015

The Best Things In Life Are Free

With the world in such bloody awful turmoil, I'm posting this song again to give a bit of hope.

Have a pleasant Friday.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Fire and Brimstone.

Did you ever get that feeling that something nasty was about to happen? I wonder what the people above thought.

It looks like the UK's Brimstone missiles are on their way to Syria. Our politicians have overwhelmingly voted to go to war, and we are to send fighter jets which will fire these Brimstones at strategic targets. No doubt our pilots will do what's asked of them; but for how long no-one has yet ventured an answer.

These Brimstone rockets cost (including development) nearly £200,000 a piece; it seems a lot of money to take out a truck and its few occupants. One has to wonder how many will be used, as back home our police numbers are being reduced, our border controls are totally porous, and our schools and hospitals are overflowing.

I do hope it's all worth it, and I do hope someone has considered our exit strategy. I think we all need to know when we will draw stumps, when the goal posts will come down, and when we'll all retire to the nineteenth hole. Yes, to annihilate the extremists would be fine, to increase their popularity by extended intervention certainly would not. 

p.s. Anthony Wedgewood-Benn's son Hilary has shown himself to be an intelligent and responsible politician; I can see him giving Jeremy his P45 before too long. If he could find someone amongst his ranks who can count, I could almost imagine the Socialists becoming electable again. Dangerous times. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Men scrapping; the reality.

                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "men fighting"

Fights are never as they appear in cowboy, or other, films.

One of the ghastliest flats I had in London was in Marylebone, in Paddington Street W1; just down the road from the Beatles 'Apple' shop.

Although the address suggested it was quite smart, in reality is was a damp Dickensian cess-pit.

One evening I returned to the house and found my flatmate, Nick, rolling about on the floor, grappling with our landlord. Not what one expects to encounter after a hard day's work.

I stood watching them for a while, not knowing quite what to do, as their arms flailed about only occasionally making contact.

Finally I decided that the best thing to do was to bring the fight to an end, and I prepared myself to hit the landlord. This wasn't easy as they were rolling around on the floor and not presenting me with a good opportunity.

Eventually the landlord seemed to be getting the better of things, and managed to be on top; I threw one sharp punch to his chin. He dropped to the floor and my flatmate pushed him off triumphantly, and stood up.

"What the bloody hell was all that about?" I asked.

"Oh nothing" replied Nick; and that was that.

When the landlord revived he told us to be out of our flat before the following mid-day; which we were quite happy to do.

So, back to my opening sentence. Fighting is never a question of exchanging perfect punches to an adversary, they are usually much more like the weird (and slightly comical) encounter I described above. I only offered one punch, and my fist hurt like crazy. Imagine punching a brick wall.

When John Wayne threw dozens of punches, received dozens of punches, and fell into numerous tables and doors, he and his evil opponent ended-up dusting themselves down, and not even rubbing their chins.

I can assure you it's never like that.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Our Dear Planet Earth.

                                      Résultat de recherche d'images pour "planet earth"

The only thing I dislike about this beautiful planet of ours, are the small percentage of scumbags that inhabit it.

Out there, people are plotting to kill indiscriminately. They wish to create so much havoc that the world's military powers are slowly being obliged to unite against them, and will before too long unleash those famous dogs of war. How it will all end, no-one knows.

In sleazy bedsits, nasty petty criminals are forever thinking of new ways to con your savings out of you, or sell you something that will break after five minutes, or charge you a fortune for doing some simple job that doesn't need doing, or sell you something that says it's Gucci but isn't. They spend more time working out their puerile scams than others do going to work.

Some scumbags are more brazen, they simply break into your home and steal whatever they think will bring in a bit of cash for their next fix or smoke.

The world is filled with evil bastards who either want to steal your money, or would like to kill you. Take your choice!

You may have guessed; it's a dull day, and I'm in a sombre mood.

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