Sunday, 31 May 2015

Not Forgotten.

Your resting place may not have been weeded as often as it once was, and your hastily written name plaque is fading slightly, but dear boy you're not forgotten.

When I visit Haddock's either to tend or harvest, there you are, and I always kneel by your side to have a quiet word.

I tell you how things are going, I tell you about Bok and Freddie, and I tell you about all the other local dogs that you knew so well. Nothing much has changed (well, it's only been a few months). 

With our present weather you would have already been down to the lake for some swimming; it'll be a little quieter down there this year, and the fishermen can cast their lines in relative peace. Not that we really cared, did we!

Before too long you'll be covered in Pumpkins and Squashes, and I'll plant some more interesting flowers for you.

You rest now, I'll be back in a while. xxx

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Périgord Oysters?

You never know what'll turn-up in the fields around here, yesterday I found this small 5 by 4 cm oyster on my early morning walk. I'm not sure if it's an actual Oyster, or a fossilised Oyster; it looks to be half and half.

In either case, what was it doing in a field sowed with Maize?

In the past I've found other fossilised bi-valves nearby; one of which was quite a large Clam-type crustacean. I suppose the whole area must have been below water at some time, so one shouldn't be too surprised to find such things.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Séchoir; now and then.


As we acquired it, in its raw state; and what a state! Earth floor, asbestos roof, cobwebs, and plenty of wood munching insects.


Wills and Kellogg contemplating what needs to be done. Long hard thoughts. These two photos above were taken in August 2011.


Now, 4 years on and we're slowly getting there. The bedroom divisions are being plaster-boarded as I write, the downstairs bathroom will go in quite soon, and everything is ready for the kitchen (probably Ikea) to be bought and fitted.

Wills, Kellogg, and Bunny arrive at the beginning of July. It should be liveable-in, but not finished. They can then have fun stamping their own mark on the place.

My yesterday's job, which you might just see, was tiling the two downstairs windowsills. I used ancient-looking quarry tiles (the ones we had made for the 'tower') which when waxed will look wonderful. Very satisfying job.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Itching for Scratchings?

Anyone reluctant to leave British shores on account of their fear of being deprived of their favourite bar snack can now think again.

English Pork Scratchings have been a favourite of mine for years; I'm talking of those fatty ones which usually come with a few errant bristles. The ideal accompaniment to a pint of bitter.

These may not be the perfect alternative, but they're pretty good; and (for purists) they do come with the occasional tiny feather.


Duck Scratchings are a relative newcomer to French gastronomy. As far as I'm aware they first appeared about 5 years ago.

I notice on the very bottom of the label it says that they should be eaten rapidement after opening; what else would they expect? The above have now gone.

Not everyone's cup of tea; I know.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Favourite smells.

                               Résultat de recherche d'images pour "man smelling"

Anosmia must be one of the most frustrating of afflictions. Luckily I am blessed with a finely honed sense of smell, and enjoy my good luck enormously.

I had to think hard about my favourite smells, it's easy to plump for the classics (new mown grass, Chanel No 5, etc), but being honest with myself was more tricky. Anyway..... in no particular order.

1. Ozone in the air from a rough sea.

2. Well made silage.

3. Expensive Patchouli.

4. Roasting Chicken.

5. Ambre Solaire (only on a beach).

6. Tomato plant leaves.

7. Mock Orange flowers.

8. Bacon frying.

9. Ripe Bananas.

10. Lady M's egg shampoo.

11. Gariguette Strawberries.

12. Oil paint and Turps.

13. The 'public bar' of a traditional English pub'.

14. Marmite.

15. Most things that contain Lemon.

16. Bok.

18. The Coconut oil that I use to pamper my feet.

19. Freshly ground Cumin.

20. And, of course, just like the gentleman above; Truffles (preferably Périgord Truffles).

I shall now spend the next few days trying to remember all the things I've forgotten; no doubt you'll remind me. Tant pis!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A nice day, Bok, and Zara.

When the hay has been cut and taken away, it's almost as if we have an infinity lawn.

And here is one of Bok's very favourite people. Bok used to live with little Zara's family; it was her mother who eventually decided that he should come to live with Monty (and us).

Zara comes to see him quite often; she only lives about 300 metres away. Bok is always so happy to see her that he becomes overcome with excitement.

She's one of those lovely children who is completely without 'hang-ups'. She comes to the house, says hello, sits down, has a chat, plays with Bok for a while, then says goodbye and moves on.

If only all children were thus.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Another village, another church.

It's Boot Sale season, so yesterday we went to one in a village not far from our baker; killing two birds with one stone.

The village is called Goujounac (46), and possesses yet another beautiful medieval church; one where I had yet to visit the interior.

The front doorstep appears to be a re-cycled sarcophagus cover; I can't imagine it was intended to be used as a stepping stone.

This ancient cupboard door, by the altar, probably hides all the priest's magic potions; I didn't like to look inside. I think it says a lot about the church's interior; it looks as if it ought to be outside..

There are interesting things everywhere, amongst which was this floor flagstone half way up the aisle. Too little left of the inscription to know what it originally said.

Outdoors again, and another piece of medieval carving; beautiful.

The Boot Sale was rubbish. Luckily the church wasn't. The amazing thing is that almost every village has a fantastic medieval church.... sometime I'll show you some of the others.

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Yesterday our brilliant Heating Engineer, Michael, fired-up the completed heating system. The solar panels were unwrapped, the radiators opened, and the wood fired cooker/water heater lit. Everything worked as expected, there were no leaks, and everyone was happy.

These are the two chunky oak planks that I picked-up from Besse (see yesterday), they will end-up as kitchen worktops behind the above stove. It was a very slow journey home as they bounced about, perilously attached to the top of the Compact Royce. In the picture you can also see one of the new radiators.

OK; it's only an outdoor tap, but it's a rather special one. It's a brand new Italian design called 'SKY' which will resist temperatures of -30 C to +120 C, it is also self cleaning, and non drip. I won't tell you what it cost! I'm not over-keen on the design; but it's the only one of it's type available..


It's also hay-making time. I suspect this lot, in front of the cottage, will end-up as big round bales which will then be wrapped in white plastic. A sort of instant, easy way of making silage.

And finally, as I had nothing else to do, I also opened the pool. No surprises; just one blocked skimmer which was easily cleared, and the water was quite clear. All should be scrubbed and cleaned by this afternoon. I noticed that the water temp' was 16 C...... so no swimming yet.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Besse 24.

Yesterday I went to my nearby village of Besse to order a couple of well-matured Oak planks that will eventually become part of the barn's new kitchen work surfaces.

On entering the village one passes this stunningly beautiful medieval church. I just had to pull-up by the side of the road to take a picture.

The church looks to have been untouched since it was built in the 11th C, and the stone roofing is all in perfect condition. It has of course been slightly altered throughout the centuries; but without losing any of it's essential character. 

Aficionados can learn more by looking at 'Besse, Dordogne' on Wiki.

The sawmill was a little further down the hill, and in its way, just as enthralling.

p.s. Amazingly, there are churches like this in almost every nearby village. Maybe not quite so spectacular, but often equally fascinating.

Friday, 22 May 2015

My Father; revisited.

It's strange how one can know someone so well, yet at the same time not really know them at all.

This was the case with my father, and I've recently been trying to think of him as an individual, rather than as a parent.

He and his older brother were both privately educated at a Sussex Public School (Public Schools in the UK are Private Schools), and he always had that upright bearing that such rigid scholastic discipline instils; you might even see that in his photo above.

After school he briefly studied accountancy (to what level I'm not sure), then ended up in The City working for a major UK clothing/bedding manufacturer called Morleys. After a few years learning the ways of business he set up on his own back in his native Sussex, and became reasonably successful.

Part of his success in life was reflected by his 'public duties', he was even head-hunted to become a Parliamentary candidate. I'll never forget a blazing row he had with Jeffrey Johnson-Smith MP who had come to recruit him. My father told him he would only ever stand for parliament as an Independent Conservative, and not a Conservative..... Expletives were exchanged.

Father was also a very caring employer. All his staff were treated with respect, and were generously rewarded for their hard work. Everyone's holidays and birthdays were celebrated with a well filled envelope, and at Christmas bottles of Scotch were distributed to the bank manager, the gardener, the postman, the milkman, and just about everyone who'd been of service during the year.

Being away at school myself, I didn't spend that much time with him. There was no cricket on the lawn, or fishing together at a nearby pond. We didn't even spend our holidays together as he preferred mountains, and my mother preferred beaches; I leaned towards my mother's taste.  

So what did he give to me by way of legacy? Well, he sent me to good schools, he allowed me to use his tailor (generously picking-up the tab), and he taught me that there are certain standards in life that should always be upheld.

He also taught me to be kind in both act and spirit. I hear so many tales of parental brutality and pscyo-abuse that I am also extremely grateful that he was not amongst that ilk.

Father eventually became a double amputee (Diabetes), and for the last years of his life was wheelchair bound. I looked after him and his affairs for his final few years, and am now very pleased that I did so (I wasn't so pleased at the time; to put it mildly).  He did a lot for me, and it was the least I could do to make sure he didn't spend his final years alone.

I've begun to look on my father much more kindly than maybe I had previously. He was a very private man. He loved his wine and whiskey, and his greatest pleasure (above all else) was seeing his investment portfolio doing well; a typical father really. I don't think that's too bad a memory.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Barn Heat Source.

This is the wood burning cooker that we've installed in the barn. It will roast Wills and Kellogg's vegan Saturnalia feast, as well as heating the baby's bath water. It will also provide all that's required for the barn's 8 radiators (which have now been installed). It's an all singing, all dancing, sonofagun machine. I think it's Italian.

Where the two blocks are sitting, to its left, will be a small log storage area; this has now also been built!

The stove is actually a very hi-tech, Eco machine, that burns very efficiently. However, some smoke will no doubt emanate from its sacred bowels, and here is where it will exit.

A house just ain't a house without a chimney, even a modern hi-tech one.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Labour Leadership Race.

Comrades, I am very sorry to report that the son of my old chum Tricia Milmo (Mr Chuka Umunna, above) is no longer standing as a Labour Party leader candidate.

His good looks, good taste, membership of an exclusive City club, and a healthy private income, would have been a breath of fresh air to an otherwise lacklustre, and outdated, political party. Plagued by their rowdy supporters, and let-down by their even rowdier leaders; it's going to take some doing to get them back to being even half-credible, and Chuka might just have been the man to do it.

No doubt the big-wigs will, instead, opt for a classic Trade Union sponsored lackey from the People's Republic of Islington (or similar). Preferably with a poor degree from the LSE, and more than likely with a social worker/lawyer wife in tow.

So comrades, we can now look forward to some pseudo-communist left-winger, making the party's return to Number 10 a guaranteed impossibility for the foreseeable future. Chuka would have been a very good choice, but intelligence, wealth, and common sense, always spells danger for the left, so probably best that he's quit the race. Maybe they'll give him a shadow front bench job instead!

Ne'er mind Chuka, it was fun while it lasted, and I almost had a new dinner party topic to broach.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Fizzy Pop Time.

One of the delights of May is the Elderflower. Some make Cordial; I make Champagne.

Take 6 heads of sun-kissed Elderflowers, 650 gms sugar, the zest and juice of a Lemon, 2 tablespoons of colourless vinegar, and 6 litres of water. Mix. Leave for 24 hrs. Bottle, and leave for at least 2 weeks. It's as simple as that. 

2 provisos; firstly you MUST use those wired-on flip-top bottles, and secondly always open the bottles outdoors, they can be extremely fiery.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Journee Champêtre.

Yesterday my village held its annual 'Countryside Day', where all things bucolic were treated regally.

Uppermost in most farmers minds are their tractors, and there was plenty of nostalgia for all.

The air was thick with diesel fumes, as they revved them up to the delight of those who'd once owned similar machines.

Some had been lovingly pampered; others not. Bok anointed their wheels, regardless.

There were lots of other 'attractions', but I thought the tractors were the most interesting.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra. Sunday Special.

For those of you who are not off to church on this Sunday morning, here's some alternative fun. Old guys in suits, big brass section, great musicianship, plenty of hats, and driving around London at night in a crazy cab. What could be better!

And I'm looking forward to my glass of Bangarang this evening; cheers!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

First Dog.


In the Autumn, when there were mushrooms about, Hamlet would refuse to accompany me on my forays. He simply would not leave his basket.

Usually about half an hour later, when I was semi-lost deep in woodland, he would suddenly turn up, shouting 'I've found you, I've found you'. He'd have a biscuit as a reward, as I told him what a clever boy he was, and we'd carry on as if he'd been with me all the while.

Like most of us Hamlet was a creature of habit, and one of his habits only became known to me after he'd died. Most mornings he would go off by himself, I'd always presumed he was just wandering about visiting friends. In fact I later learned that every morning he would go up the road to my neighbour's farm and steal two newly laid eggs from the chicken house for his breakfast. The strange thing was that they didn't really seem to mind.

Hamlet was always known as Omelet by these neighbours; reasonably apt in the circumstances.

He was a lovely dog. He also used to bite me quite a lot.

Friday, 15 May 2015

The End Is Nigh.

This is my last piece of barn work for the moment; my job was to build, and plaster, all the downstairs walls.

I'm not sure if you can see (enlarge perhaps?), but I have now built the two walls surrounding the downstairs windows out of heavy concrete blocks. This is because the windows themselves are quite heavy (being big and double glazed), and I want them to be 'rock-solid' when opening or closing.

I shall now leave them for several days before plastering. I also have the kitchen 'peninsular' wall (the low one on the right) to plaster..... then I'll be FREE. 

We're soon going to have to think about building the dining table. It needs to be at least 4 metres long and 1 metre wide, and will need to seat 10 comfortably.... I refuse to eat within elbow touching distance of another diner. Of course, I may never be invited to dine there, not being vegan.

It's a big room. Funsville!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Back to Previous Standards.


It's a terrible thing when the standards of a well loved restaurant begin to fall.

This happened to us recently with a restaurant that we've been visiting for over 40 years. In fact we'd almost lost faith, and decided that our last visit was to be our 'last' visit.

This was not entirely their fault. The French government (in their heightened wisdom) have decided that home grown vegetables, home produced charcuterie, and just about anything else that does not emanate from a factory, is no longer allowed to be served in a restaurant. 'Sanitization' is the current byword; hence the terrible decline in the quality of French cuisine.

However, 40 years of fine lunches, all cooked by the same female hands, can't be abandoned just like that, and we have continued to give them several 'one final chances'; and I'm so pleased we did, as we have just eaten a meal that was back to the 'good old days' standards.

A simple vermicelli soup. An entrée of quiche, celariac in mayo, salad, and hard boiled eggs. A main course of roast beef, stuffed veal, french fries, and peas cooked with bacon. A small selection of cheeses. And to finish, a simple refreshing lime sorbet (above).

All this, several kisses, as much wine we could consume, and plenty of time spent chatting with old friends, all for just €14 each. Can't be bad.

N.B. I'm not mentioning the name or location of this restaurant for various reasons; fame tends to corrupt.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


We only have three Hens at the moment; Richard above, and the two lazy Maran Bimbos.

Richard lays a good sized egg every day, the Bimbos are still too young (I presume), even though they were sold to us as 'point of lay'.

Richard is almost a pet, she sits/shits by our feet, follows us around constantly, and behaves rather like a dog. She is a Hen with identity problems.

These are her eggs, and they're beauties.

Thank you Richard, your generosity will be rewarded in gastronomy heaven.

p.s. And here it is; Lady Magnon used three of Richard's eggs to make a 'light-as-air' sponge cake yesterday, with Gariguette Strawberries and thick cream. 

Oh boy.... Lead me to the confessional.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Melbourne Ska Orchestra - The Best Things In Life Are Free

A little light relief today; something to cheer-up your day. My kinda music, Cro xx

Monday, 11 May 2015

Who will replace Red Ed?

                                    Résultat de recherche d'images pour "labour party uk"

Now that Red Ed Miliband has jumped ship after his party's disastrous election results, I've drawn-up a short list of possible future leaders......

1. The boy from No 35 with the runny nose; Jimmy something or other.

2. Mickey Mouse (but I'm not sure if he hasn't already been a leader).

3. A short plank.

4. Putin.

5. Boris Johnson (who'd have to change the party's name to 'Very Very Very New Labour'.

6. Russell Brand (who'd have to change the party's name to Brand New Labour).

7. Katie Price.

8. and finally... TONY BLAIR.

I reluctantly add the despicable Tony's name to the list because (unbelievably) he seems to be the only leftie politician who's put his finger correctly on Labour's problem. As he so rightly says, they have to make themselves more like the Conservatives if they ever want to win another election; the days of feeble-minded Communism/Socialism are over.

I never thought I'd agree with anything Tony said, but of course... this time he's absolutely RIGHT.

NOTA BENE: OK, I'm simply posting this jibe in response to all the recent hatred, spraying of war monuments, and rioting, by those darling hoodie-wearing Labour supporters who are so eager to demonstrate what a bunch of loutish bad-losers they all are. One has to ask the question; who the hell would vote for a political party that has supporters like that! Unbelievable.

I don't remember such things ever happening when Blair was elected; but of course Tory supporters would never behave in such a vile uncouth manner.

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I've finished my barn wall building, and have also finished most of the plastering. Actually I haven't finished the wall building, I've got two more sections to do where there are windows, but they require a rather different approach. Busy, busy, busy.


Anyway, in between times I've managed to get onto Haddock's, and I've now finished all the wretched digging. Nothing much to report up there; everything is growing as expected, but the only thing edible so far is Rhubarb (which I adore). 

It won't be long before we have Caulis, Red Cabbage, and a few salads, but that's about it.

Yesterday I planted out all my Courgettes, Squashes, and Pumpkins. The soil has been composted and rotovated, and all I now have to do is wait and hoe.

I'm leaving the sowing of my winter greens till about June so that they come right a bit later on towards when they're required. I'm sure that previously I've put them in too early, and by the time I've come to use them they've already been past their best. A lesson learned.

More time please, and a stronger back. Things are getting on top of me!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

A French Garden in May.

My green glazed pots have seen better days; cracked all over, and repeatedly badly repaired.

Richard on the look-out for scraps.

I've extended the vines to the West of our au vent, hopefully this will give extra shade for evening dining.

Pool still closed, we usually open-up on June 1st.

Palm flowers. Pity it doesn't produce dates instead. Hmmmm.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Bok's Babe.

It's official: Bok is in love!

The object of his affection is our very pretty neighbouring chienne, Izzy.

As both Bok and Izzy have been 'snipped', there is (thankfully) no chance of puppies. 

Don't they make a lovely couple!

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