Tuesday, 30 June 2015

My Blood.

I'm always a tiny bit anxious when I await the results of my three-monthly blood test, but I really shouldn't be.

The important bit seems to be the middle one; the HBA1C section. I believe this is the bit that shows how much sugar (glucose) is in your blood (please correct me if I'm wrong), and mine shows 6.2% (as it has since March 2014). 

Above 6.5% is bad, and below 6% is bad; so I seem to be just right. When I started these blood tests in 2012, it was about 8.2%.

I don't really mind all this medical stuff, as long as it doesn't come around too often. Once every three months is OK.

I keep taking the pills, try to look after myself physically, and curb my desire for all things sweet. As long as I do that I'll probably avoid having to give myself those bloody jabs that diabetics often need; THAT I fear more than anything.

I'm now just back from the doc's. He kept using the word 'perfect', so I guess I'll live. Lady Magnon thought I may have to be 'put down'.

Monday, 29 June 2015


                                    Migrants climb in the back of a lorry on the  highway leading to the Eurotunnel  in Calais, northern France

Most people will be aware of what is happening at Calais; it has become the European equivalent of the Mexico/US border. I have actually witnessed something similar to the above myself.

I was waiting in line to take the ferry from Calais to Dover when a couple of gendarmes started poking long metal poles into a huge lorry right in front of me; they were trying to detect carbon dioxide.

Almost at once people were jumping out and running off; one jumped from quite high up, and I think he broke his leg. He had to be taken away on a stretcher.

At the time I didn't really know what was happening, then after a word with the lorry driver it all became clear. He told me that it was a daily event.

In those days they were all white; probably from Romania or Bulgaria. Nowadays they are mostly from Africa.

What a bloody mess; many of these people are genuinely escaping persecution and possible death, but the majority are just there for the generous UK handouts. Unfortunately they all become tarred with the same brush, and all are viewed with suspicion.

France doesn't want them, England doesn't really want them, Italy is moaning because no-one will take them, and the EU says that the UK mustn't moan about them all wanting to get into England.

So what's the solution? Well sadly there isn't one. I quite expect that some bright-spark in France or Italy will eventually realise that if they give them all visas, they would then have the RIGHT OF ABODE in the UK, and their own problems would be over. A simple £10 ferry ticket would then take them 'legally' to their promised land, and they'd all be given whatever they want. Until that time the arguments continue.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Children Boxing.

Something you'll probably not see again... thankfully.

I myself was 'forced' into the ring at quite a young age with no warning or prior training. When I was at Prep' School, aged about 11, someone announced that there would be a boxing match against some other school, and a list was posted of who would fight whom. It was as simple as that.

I was a reasonably strong boy and won all but one of my bouts. A nasty little creep called Michael Macintosh (his mother was Eve Boswell, who sang the hit song Pickin' a Chicken), tripped me up during a fight, and I fell flat on my nose; he was declared the winner on account of the amount of blood on the floor. Normally I would have beaten him with my eyes closed and both my hands tied behind my back; but...

This clip almost brings back memories, but there was no blubbing in my day!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

My Nurse/Phlebotomist.

                                  Image search result for "Gay nurse"

I didn't like to ask my Phlebotomist for a photo, so the above will have to suffice (just to give you an idea).

Christophe (for that is he) always wears cut-off dungarees and floral T Shirts, and has Arthur Askey/George Burns style green round glasses; he also has Art Garfunkel type hair. To say that he is 'camp' is doing a disservice to the word.

Yesterday morning he came to the house just after dawn, to draw my three-monthly blood sample.

Lady Magnon asked quite innocently if he thought I should have an eyesight test (for my diabetes). I, of course, replied that my eyes were perfect.

"Yes, you have lovely eyes" said Christophe.

"No, no, I meant that my eyeSIGHT was perfect" I insisted. Christophe giggled slightly.

I think that was the closest I've been to being chatted-up, by a guy, for very many years.

He's a very nice bloke Christophe. Lady Magnon has a slightly different opinion; she called him a Hammer Film Clown. I hope he doesn't read this!

Results on Monday.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Swimming prevents colds!

We had a slight problem when we opened the pool this year; although the water itself was spotless, part of the bottom was covered in a green algae that was 'welded' to the liner, unlike the usual algae this stuff wouldn't brush off. We're used to most ills, but not this!

We consulted experts, we consulted the web, and we desperately tried altering the chemical balance. Nothing seemed to work.

Then Lady Magnon read somewhere that Vitamin C (yes, Vitamin C) might do the job, so she started throwing her entire stock of Vitamin C tablets into the pool; and, hey presto, it worked.

So I went direct to Amazon and ordered some Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) powder, which arrived a couple of days ago.

I sprinkled it liberally around, and now the sides and bottom are back to their perfectly clean state.

With all that Vitamin C in the water, we should never be ill again. Amazing the solutions one comes across..... who would have thought that Vitamin C could be used as a pool cleaner!!!

Thursday, 25 June 2015


I've been so busy that I hadn't previously noticed that there's already a good crop of peppers at Haddock's (and even one big aubergine!).

I planted 3 types this year; ordinary bell peppers, long thin ones (not hot), and a few fiery chilli peppers (very hot). All three are now producing.

The long thin ones are my favourites, the variety (above) is called Doux Long des Landes. I fry them whole in olive oil with a tiny splash of white wine and a pinch of gros sel as a 'tapas' type snack. We eat them tepid, when they become tender and unbelievably delicious. Sometimes if they're big enough I stuff them with a garlicky cream cheese, and I also bung them whole into curries.

This chicken curry (below) was the ideal location for a few. They are the perfect accompaniment for a dark brooding earthy curry made with plenty of garam masala, and ground cumin/coriander.


Another of Summer's little treasures.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

How very French.

One of my workmen recently dropped this empty cigar pack.

In England it might contain a warning such as.... 'Would you mind frightfully if we mentioned that one needs to be awfully careful when smoking these delightful cigars, as they might possibly cause a slightly irritating cough'.

Not so in France, where they say (and illustrate).... 'Be warned, these little buggers will totally ruin your sex life'.

Priorities, priorities; the French certainly know how to put people off smoking!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015



A couple of months ago I stopped drinking wine; or indeed any alcohol.

I did this because I felt that I was becoming too dependant on my daily bottle of Rouge, and thought that some time-off would be a good idea.

Firstly I should mention that, after a lifetime of drinking some alcohol every day, I found stopping just as easy as I did when I quit smoking over 16 years ago. Maybe I have more willpower than others, but it was certainly not the struggle one is always hearing about. One day I was drinking; the next not.

But one side of my decision has puzzled me. I believe that a bottle of red wine contains between 650 and 700 calories; about a third of a man's recommended daily intake. I weighed 15 stone when I stopped my drinking, and amazingly I still weigh 15 stone today. Not that my aim was to lose weight (I'm perfectly happy as I am), but I would have thought that after 2 months it would have shown-up on the scales.

I have given myself a year to see how I cope with the idea of no longer enjoying my daily consumption; maybe that will be extended to 'permanent'..... we'll see.

Monday, 22 June 2015


If you have a free square metre of land, may I suggest that you buy a Tayberry plant.

You only need to buy ONE, as they send out suckers by the dozen, and in a couple of years you'd have plenty.

I freeze my excess, and I also make wonderful Tayberry/Raspberry Vinegar.

Thus: Fill a bowl with however many Tayberries or Raspberries you have, cover with colourless vinegar, add as much sugar as seems reasonable, then wait a few days before straining through muslin into bottles. Wonderful on Summer salads (and for coughs).

Otherwise we eat ours with Vanilla Ice Cream.... Nice.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Sunday Special. Catherine Tate - Nan.

Everyone's favourite grandmother.

Many may not have seen Catherine Tate's BBC TV series 'Nan' sketches (too raunchy for some countries), so here is one of the UK's funniest women in action. Be warned.

Saturday, 20 June 2015


It worries me when I read of other people's sick dogs; I have just been reading about John Gray's Welsh Terrier, Meg, who's not too good at the moment.

As I took Bok for his morning walk today I watched as he ran around, tail wagging, shiny coat, and contented with his lot.

I imagine that this is partly why we keep dogs. It's that pleasure of seeing one's own animal healthy and enjoying himself. Of course, when this is not the case it's as equally distressing as it is comforting when they are fit. 

With this in mind, I was very aware this morning of Bok's fitness. I watched him closely as he skipped from scent to scent. A happy dog means a happy owner; not always the case for everyone.

My sympathy goes to everyone who is currently looking after a sick dog.

Friday, 19 June 2015

What's for dinner, Cro?

It seems to happen over night, one minute there's nothing growing, then all of a sudden the place is overflowing.

Not only has this happened with my 'yellow' cauliflowers, but also with the red currents, the tayberries, the courgettes, the red cabbages, and the salads. Give it another week or so, and I'll be able to add beans to the list.

We had a bit of a storm last weekend, with lashings of rain. This means that a couple of varieties of mushrooms will also probably be popping up very soon.

It suddenly becomes a serious problem choosing what to eat. Cauli with a courgette, red cabbage, and tayberry sauce perhaps?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Nuts in May.

I only have to hear the name Candice-Marie, and I'm immediately whisked away into a world of cringe-invoking fantasy. You really have to feel so sorry for Ray. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015


I'm bloody annoyed. I pride myself on being a careful, accident-free, driver, so putting a dent into the front of the Compact Royce really hurts.

I was just back from shopping, and for some reason (I must have been distracted) I failed to apply the handbrake. Just as I was unloading my goodies from the boot, she slowly rolled forward and gently hit a wall. I'd tried to hang-on, but she was just too heavy.

So, there's now a nice dent and scratch sullying her otherwise perfect form, and I'm not sure what to do. Do I fork out some dosh to have it fixed, or do I just put up with it and curse every time I pass by.

Yes, very annoyed indeed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Poor Old Berny!

Back in April I wrote about a 'visiting dog'. We think he's a Bernese Mountain Dog, and he belongs to some people who live about 2 kms away.

This poor dog, who we now call Berny (naturally), turns up here on a regular basis; he seems to think that Bok is his best friend. Bok, of course, thinks otherwise. It's all rather sad.

We don't encourage Berny at all, and we certainly don't feed him, he simply comes here for the company, and some human kindness.

This morning I woke to find him installed outside our kitchen door (above). When I told Lady M that he was there she told me that she'd seen him there the previous night; he must have stayed there all night.

Now, as you probably know, I am an animal lover; I especially like dogs, but this is becoming ridiculous. When we're working up at the barn we are usually surrounded by a 'Dog Club' consisting of about 4 or 5 dogs. They hang around hoping for a kind word and a tickled tummy; presumably things they don't receive at home.

It's now 7.15am, and I'm just about to take Bok out for his morning walk. Bernie will accompany us, and hopefully will find somewhere else to go afterwards. As much as I like him, I really don't want him here all the time. I first wrote about Berny here...


p.s. His owner drove by last night looking for him. I told her that he'd spent the night sleeping on the terrace etc. I expect when she finds him he'll be chained up.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Conserving integrity.

There is one expression in the UK that is of paramount importance when asking for planning permission for either restoring an old house, or changing the use of an existing agricultural (or other) building to domestic use.... That is, to 'CONSERVE THE INTEGRITY OF THE BUILDING'.

Strangely, here in France, it seems to be the opposite.

Back in about 1978 when I asked for planning permission to restore and extend a tiny ruined cottage (built circa 1750) where we now live, I was told that when finished the whole building must be cement rendered. To me this spelt no less than architectural assassination; and I ignored their instruction. The idea of covering over beautiful ancient weathered stone walls with concrete was just plain madness.

But the French themselves love to take an old building and make it look new. They will start with a 'picture postcard cottage' and change it into something modern. In fact they are often ordered to do so as part of their planning application.

I don't wish to sound as if I know best, because I don't; but as a designer/artist I do understand a bit about aesthetics.

Take this as an example. One of our neighbours is doing much as we are, and is converting an old Tobacco drying barn into a house, but where we are trying (with difficulty) to preserve as much of the original look of the building as possible, she has hidden all reference to both the original use of the building and its mighty structure. The old barn has already been re-clad  with synthetic boards, and I believe that all the interior beams etc will eventually be hidden. Again I don't wish to say that she is wrong and we are right, but just to point-out the difference between the two cultures. Such practices in the UK would be totally outlawed.

Personally I'm of the opinion that certain finishes are more appropriate to an industrial estate, than on the exterior of an old séchoir à tabac; but who am I to dictate. For a brand new-Eco build they would look fine; for a restoration project, not.

It really is no exaggeration to say that without the Brits and the Dutch, much of the beautiful old French vernacular architecture would have been lost.... We like to preserve it; for some reason, they are not so concerned.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


                                Résultat de recherche d'images pour "man swearing"

I seem to be surrounded by people who fucking swear all the time, and, frankly, I find it fucking disgraceful.

Firstly there's our 'rather eccentric' electrician B. B is a man unto himself, he only turns up for work if he's got nothing better to do, he is extremely messy, and he swears like a fucking trooper (for no apparent reason).

I can't count the times that Lady M and I have heard tirades of expletives (en Français) coming from some distant corner, only to find B happily fiddling with his wires. I'm not sure what he actually finds so frustrating; his work, or something else entirely.

Then there's my weird ex-neighbour C. C moved away from our little hamlet a few years back, but because he moved into a tiny village house, he kept a vegetable garden some 300 metres from here. He now turns-up almost every day to hoe and harvest; also I imagine to escape the claustrophobia of his new garden-less home. I pass by his patch on a regular basis whilst walking the dog, and more often than not find him mid-expletives. Just yesterday morning I discovered him using the most stentorian floral language whilst hoeing his potatoes. I imagine some terrible lifetime frustration is at last being given vent.

Of course, I'm not immune myself to a bit of rant. If some plaster slips from my trowel, or my hammer misses its target, or I'm painting some Bozo who won't sit bloody still, then I'm known to say 'bother' or 'damnation'; and who could blame me.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Everything seems to be going so fast this year. It seems like only yesterday that I was wheel-barrowing tonnes of logs into the house, and now, as if by magic, it's stinking hot and the pool is already at 28C.

The lawn has turned it's annual beige colour (see above), I have courgettes caulis and peppers ready for eating at Haddock's, and my long trousers have been locked away until October.

Worst of all though is the thought that my bloody birthday is now only just over a month away, meaning that in less than 14 months I'm going to have a particularly unpleasant zero after my age.

The only plus side to this roller-coaster year is that I'm soon to meet my new fifth grandson Bunny, who'll be here before too long. His parents must then be prepared not to see him again for quite some while, I've got lots to show and teach him; the sooner he learns about everything, the better.

I suppose that time has been going by so very quickly because we've both been ridiculously busy; better, I guess, than the opposite.

Friday, 12 June 2015

More deliveries, and a bit ov a giggle.

Yesterday it was the turn of the Washing-up Machine, and the Fridge to be delivered.

Again, both were ordered through 'Darty', and the same delivery men performed their impeccable routine.

Everything was checked over, and set-up (as far as they could be without electricity).

Before arriving at the barn the delivery men phoned to say they were almost here. Lady Magnon was highly amused when they asked if they were to go down the Chemin de Cro (Cro Road; but using my actual name instead of Cro).

Many years ago, my oldest son, Kimbo, noticed on his Sat Nav that the little road leading down to our tiny hamlet had no name, so he registered it as Chemin de Cro.

We hadn't really thought about it for years, so were thrilled to hear that the name is still registered up there on some distant Sat Nav satellite..... What my neighbours think about it, I can't imagine; maybe they haven't noticed.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

New Machine.

It's arrived, and thank goodness it DOES have that QWERTY keyboard I wanted. My fears were unfounded.

I attempted the set-up myself, but soon realised that it was best to call in an expert, so I asked my friend Craig to help. I feared all sorts of viruses creeping-in uninvited. Craig, of course, is a genius with such things, and the machine is now 'safely' up-n-running. 

It's slightly different to my previous machine, but I'll get used to it in time. The only thing worrying me at the moment is Picasa; I've managed to download it, but it's very different in operation to previously. The old machine is still working (just), so for the moment I'll use that for processing my photos.

So, I have Email again, I have Skype, I have Spotify, I have weather forecast, I have all of your blogs, and the screen behaves itself without its ghastly flashing. I wonder how long this one will last!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Appleby Horse Fair 2015

                              Local businesses agreed to reduce their opening ours in anticipation of the annual fair in a bid to stave off anti-social behaviour 

Appleby Horse Fair finishes today. In case you've not heard of this, it's one of the major annual UK gatherings for the 'travelling community' (Gypsies, tarmac spreaders, heather saleswomen, etc).

I remember many many years ago seeing an interview on TV between Fyfe Robertson (remember him?) and an elderly Irish Gypsy gentleman. It was recorded at the time of the Appleby Fair, and went pretty much like this.....

Fyfe: They say that you leave an awful lot of mess behind you when you come to Appleby (you have to imagine Fyfe's broad Scots accent).

Man: Yes Sir, we do do that (you have to imagine the Irish accent here too).

Fyfe: And they say that you break down fences and camp illegally on private farming land.

Man: Yes I'm afraid we do do that too Sir.

Fyfe: And some say that you steal their chickens and vegetables.

Man: Yes, I must admit, we do that too.

End of interview. There was really nothing more for poor Fyfe to ask. I wonder if the interview is still available somewhere; it was a perfect demonstration of honesty.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


They're cheap, quick, and delicious. The perfect al-fresco lunch for a hot day. Just one kilo between the two of us; that's plenty. 

Five minutes cooking, ten minutes eating, and they're gone.

And how about a few new-season's Apricots to finish off with (before the cheese, of course).

Monday, 8 June 2015

Boot Sale Booty.

At this time of year, a Sunday wouldn't be a pukka Sunday without a Boot Sale or two.

Yesterday's was the turn of nearby village Prats du Périgord; a pretty little village where the stalls are mostly run by locals, and not professionals.

My haul? Just a couple of things to demonstrate my love of all things 'rustic'; an old wooden grain shovel and a 2 litre brown jug. The jug I shall use for lunchtime iced-water, and the shovel; no idea. ,

Both were bought from an old acquaintance (M César), at a combined price of €7. I nearly bought some beautiful old kitchen scales for the barn's new kitchen, but Lady M said no.

There's a much bigger sale next Sunday..... what larks!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Siesta season.

Imagine, if you can, a pleasantly warm June day. It's 2pm and about 30 C in the shade. Now that my plastering duties are over, what else would a discerning ageing layabout do than take an afternoon nap.

I head to the 'tower', throw myself down onto its big comfortable bed, and at once find Bok, curled up, lying by my side.

Any slight breeze makes the flimsy curtain billow up, resembling a sail-boat's spinnaker. I hear buzzing of bees, and songs of birds, as both Bok and I doze off for about ten minutes. 

Getting back to work again is the worst part. I always feel more sleepy after a quick nap than before. Something tells me that I should abandon my summer post-lunch siestas, but I know that when it's hot again, Bok and I will return to the 'tower', and snatch those few very pleasant minutes relaxation time. It's a hard life.

I'm off to an early morning 'Boot Sale';.... I'll let you know.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Haddock's in June.

I really enjoy being up at Haddock's.

It has that old codger, make do, ramshackle, feel about it. I feel as if I should pepper my writing with 'ooh aahs', and 'thees' and 'thous'.

Just look at those red cabbages, and those red onions, and those tomato plants; wonderful. And in the background my courgette plants are not far off flowering. Elsewhere some pumpkin seeds that I saved from a 2014 Halloween gift are now romping away, and I have a few tiny peppers forming. I am also eating the red onions as spring onions.

Of course I ought to be out there weeding and hoeing but my excuse is a bad back, and it's also bloody hot.


All our early cherries were eaten by birds, but our strawberries are looking good and we have red currants. 

I think I mentioned before that I'd planted a few self-sown lettuce plants in between the onions (you might just see them), they're not the world's best but when cut they regrow, and if left to flower the seeds automatically sprout the following year; no idea of the variety, but they're a great addition to the garden, and entirely free. This is one above; the inner leaves have slight reddish tinges.


So this is now our daily lunch. A bit of salad, a spring onion, tomato (not ours yet), and maybe a couple of Richard's hard-boiled eggs. From now-on, we try to eat only what we grow; give it another couple of weeks and we'll be self-sufficient until winter.

Friday, 5 June 2015


                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Opera singers"

I am not an Opera fan, but like the curate and his egg, I do find it good in parts.

Like so many children, my first taste of theatre was through Panto. I loved it then, and I still do. In fact I find many similarities between Panto and Opera.

Just prior to 1600 the Camerata de' Bardi decided that humour, acting, and music, could all be jumbled together to create one theatrical art form that they amusing called 'the works' (i.e. opera). At the same time they inadvertently invented Panto. When Biggins sings 'Why does a red cow give white milk when she only eats green grass', he is in fact following that long tradition of drama and song.

If you search your local music store for Operatic music, you will probably find a good selection of 'Famous Operatic Arias' CD's; this is because the only interesting bits of any Opera are the arias. The infill is frankly a lot of nonsense (as is the case with Panto).

In most Operas this infill is no more than obscure boring tale telling whilst 'warbling' (I use the word loosely) the dialogue. The audience is obliged to listen to this tuneless and pointless anti-music whilst waiting for the next aria. In most Operas there is about 95% infill, and 5% aria; if you're lucky.

I would like to suggest that all the well known operatic arias are combined into one theatrical work, the words rewritten, and neatly fitted into the storyline of Mother Goose or Dick Whittington. Only then will I sit through two hours of Opera (and/or Biggins).

N.B. Christopher Biggins in an English actor/raconteur/Panto dame/party goer/and general embarrassment.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

A Positive Post.


My computer is still hanging on..... JUST.

Yesterday the barn's new Cooker and Extractor-fan arrived (the previous one was the wood-fired cooker for winter cooking and heating), this one has a gas hob, and electric oven.

But this is not so much about the cooker itself (which looks good), but about the company we bought it from and its delivery.

It was ordered on-line from a company called DARTY; a well known electricals store in France.

Yesterday afternoon their brightly coloured van arrived at the barn, complete with two smartly uniformed men.

The cooker was carried into the barn, checked all over for the slightest blemish (there was none), and its legs assembled. They then proceeded to check that everything worked OK, they replaced the gas 'jets' to accommodate bottled Propane, and made sure that all the instruction manuals etc were there. Only when they were 100% happy with absolutely everything did they ask us to sign the paperwork, and set off back to Villeneuve sur Lot.

Compared to all the other deliveries we've had recently (excluding our wood-fired cooker), this was a revelation. These guys were simply 'perfection'; what a change from some of the bloody useless Bozos we've had delivering things recently.

So, anyone out there thinking of ordering electrical appliances on-line (in France), you can rely on DARTY..... I give them 10 out of 10; a very rare score.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Woe is me.

I'm having computer trouble. I've ordered a new one, but it doesn't arrive until the 9th (next Tuesday).

So, just in case this one should die before then, I would like you to know that I am not spilling tears over my inanimate keyboard; no, I shall be spending my time on alternative leisure pursuits. 

This will involve cooling myself off in the pool, and snoozing in the shade of my au vent.

However, I'll probably be back tomorrow, so you can ignore all of the above!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Better than Rap.

Two days ago, my kettle suddenly started singing (above is not a particularly good example of its repetoire).

So far I've noticed a couple of Vera Lynn favourites, The Shangri-las 'Leader of the Pack', and some bits of Elvis.

No doubt the kettle is also capable of 'penning' new tunes, and I'm willing to part with it for 'a price', plus 10% of any future royalties. Offers (in cash) in a plain envelope, please, to this site.

p.s. I used to have a singing fridge. It would sing 'scales'... and really quite well!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Spot the Cro.


A bit of fun for Monday 1st June. No prizes on offer, but considerable kudos for correct observation.

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