Tuesday, 31 May 2016

An open letter to David Cameron.

Dear Dave,

Less than a month to go, and I think I may have found a solution to your problem with the in/out referendum.

Why not do what the French, and several other EU members do, and simply ignore Brussels when it suits you. If you were to explain this to the British people, and insist upon a new hard-line approach towards European interference (don't bother trying to get Merkel & Co to change), I'm sure that the voters would follow your 'stay in' advice.

Why not insist that our fishermen keep all the fish they catch, allow farmers to sell all the milk they produce, let's not be told by some cheeky anonymous bugger how many immigrants we have to accept each year, and please ignore Matron Merkel when she tells us how many new houses we have to build (the bloody cheek). It works here in France, so why not in the UK?

Just sign the papers, and ignore the diktats. 

Hope this has been of help.

All the best, Cro. (x, for Sam)

p.s. Dave, whilst I have your attention, will you now PLEASE close down the ridiculous Department for International Development (aka 'the bottomless pit'). Thanks.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The gods are smiling.

Foul weather does occasionally have compensation; we are now into Girolle season.

I've only found a handful so far, but in a few days time they'll be plentiful. 

What better way to start a new month than with the possibility of Girolle omelets for lunch. Heavenly.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Drama in The Pump House.

Things don't always go to plan.

A few years back, when opening the pool, we found that mice had been nesting in the electrical control box.  They'd chewed all the plastic off the wires, creating a massive short circuit.

This year (last Friday) I decided to change the sand in the filter; this involves removing the round black thing on top of the filter (big grey thing), removing all the dirty sand inside, and replacing it with new. All went well, I replaced the top, and turned on.

Water immediately started forcing its way out from the sides of the top, making a terrible hissing noise, so I stopped everything and tightened the two bolts. The same thing happened again, so I repeated my tightening and tried again.

This time there was a huge EXPLOSION and the top flew off with terrific force and water shot out like 'Old Faithful'. The top missed my face by a gnat's whisker.

When we eventually found all the bits, I reassembled them and tried again (you can imagine the state of my nerves by this time). I made sure that everything was really seated correctly, and tightened the bolts. I turned on again, crossed my fingers, and luckily everything was OK. No more explosions.

And here it is; up and running.

Me? I have a few more grey hairs, and my nerves are shot. Otherwise all is fine.

What larks!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Not you too, Cro? (you scruffy old bogger).

Ever since the word 'Selfie' first joined the language, I've criticised the notion; much preferring an 'Otherie'.

I suppose it's the possible accusation of narcissism that I don't like, because I'm not a narcissistic person. The very idea of taking a photo of myself is alien to me.

So, on the principle that 'if you can't beat them etc' I decided to join the club. The camera was on the table in front of me, and I went ahead.

I rejected the idea of taking a million pix then selecting the best (à la Lord Snowdon), and restricted myself to just ONE; which I then completely forgot about. Yesterday I just happened to be going through my pictures, and I noticed that my 'Selfie' wasn't too bad; I'm not a photogenic Johnny.

I'm sure I'll never do another one, so, 21st century obsession, here is my offering; it's Cro by Cro.

Do you 'Self'? Please say 'no'.

p.s. I shall NOT be joining Instagram!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Pool opening 2016.

Today we open the pool, and by this afternoon it will look very much like this.....

Without George and Andy, of course!

p.s. The beautiful dark skinned girl (Dee.C.Lee) later married Paul Weller.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Grilling Chorizo.

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I'm pretty sure that the standard Spanish packet Chorizo (above) is available worldwide, but I'm not quite so sure about these ones below.

They are also Chorizo sausages, but designed for frying or BBQ-ing.


Personally I prefer to fry them as they produce a LOT of oil, and on the BBQ that means big flames.

They are spicy but not overly hot, with that delicious flavour of smoked Paprika. These ones above we ate a couple of nights ago with some maize enriched Taboulé.

If you find them in your local shop (and haven't tried them), buy some! They will make your summers even more summery. Delicious.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Elderflower Champagne 2016.

The Elders are now in flower, so time to make some FIZZ.

Take 6 heads of sun-kissed Elder flowers,
the zest and juice of one large Lemon,
two tablespoons of white wine vinegar,
650 gms of sugar,
and 6 ½ litres of water.


Combine all ingredients in clean plastic bucket, stir, and leave covered for 24 hrs.

Strain through muslin, and bottle in strong flip-top 'corona' bottles (see picture 2). Leave for at least 2 weeks before tasting.

N.B. Always open bottles outdoors; they can be very lively. Serve ice cold.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Another Haddock's update.

It was only a short while ago that I posted a similar picture of Haddock's, but with the wonderful combination of sun and rain everything is now growing at a terrific rate; just look at those red cabbages.

We have strawberries, rhubarb, some salads, spring onions, and calabrese. 

Everything (except for our winter greens) is planted out, and we now just need to wait until it's all big enough to eat. 

It's looking good.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Cheek Of It.

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Rachel recently reminded me of an old school friend of mine who once had a very cheeky and cunning plan.

On the first day of a new year at London's Royal College of Art, he turned up for 'Registration' at their Film and TV department.

He filled out all the forms with his name, address, and contact numbers, and joined all the other new students. His name was simply added to a list; and that was that; he'd bamboozled his way into becoming a student at the prestigious RCA.

During the following two years he worked in the department, attended tutorials, borrowed all their expensive kit, and established a business designing record covers for some of the world's most famous bands of the late 60's, early 70's. (He's very well known)

When it came time for his final exams, someone in the department noticed that he'd never actually been admitted to the college, and he was booted out. Red faces were abundant.

I can't mention names, or I'd be lynched; apart from which he'd never forgive me.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Oh dear!

Every year we have Blue Tits nesting in the façade of our house. They squeeze between the stones and carve out little nest caves inside the thick walls.

Usually they successfully rear their young, and all fly off quite happily.

This year one small fledgling didn't make it, the poor thing flew into a window and his life came to a sudden end.

We gave him a decent burial and said how sorry we were, but there's really not much we can do about such tragedies.

RIP small nameless bird.

p.s. I'm afraid that Lady Magnon has just found a second dead baby Blue Tit. This time we suspect Freddie The Cat.

Oh dear!

Saturday, 21 May 2016


Go on, turn the speakers right up and bop around the kitchen.

A very good version of a very good song; and that's official. As for 1952 'Somewhere in Jamaica'; I'm not too sure!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Bloody neighbour's DOGS.

To ensure that the pool water doesn't turn green whilst over-wintering, we cover the whole thing with black plastic. As long as absolutely no light gets through, the water will remain crystal clear. You may in fact see how clear it is through the hole (above).

The plastic is quite sturdy, but not enough to cope with the pack of dogs who somehow managed to get into the pool area.

They've torn a huge hole in one corner, and buggered-up the cover for next year.

We like our neighbour's dogs (even though they did kill our hens), but we would like them even more if they were kept under some control.

As with the horses previously, their own water seems to be in short supply, and I imagine they have come to drink the water that's gathered on top of the plastic cover.

We're not quite sure why the muddy footprints are there.

I think the replacement will cost about €40; not a huge amount. Should I ask him to compensate me? No point; he'd just walk away, he's had years of practice!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

That Telegram!

On the 10th of May 1977, at about mid-day, I was sitting in my kitchen here in France, about to eat lunch. Nearby was the sound of an approaching car, soon followed by a knock at the door.

I was handed the above telegram, and my world nearly fell apart.

The 'Stephen' to which it refers, was my first cousin Dr Stephen Lowe; the nearest thing I had to a brother. He had actually been stabbed 15 times (not shot); his murder having been witnessed by one of his 3 young daughters.

My cousin had moved to Canada in 1972 (the same year that I moved to France) and first practised at St Pauls Hospital Vancouver. He then became Director of Intensive Care at The Prince George Regional Hospital, British Columbia. He represented British Columbia on the Canadian Medical Association, and was an advisor to the Canadian Government. Just weeks before his death, he had been called upon by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to talk to an armed man whose behaviour had become irrational; and had been highly commended for his bravery. I could go on...

Stephen had the longest string of letters after his name that I've ever seen. He had become a medical genius by the age of 35; and was destined for even greater things. Then it all ended.

I've never known the name of his killer, never really known the reason why he was killed (one presumes it was for drugs), and never known what sentence his 16 year old, next door neighbour, scumbag, murderer was given. What I do know, however, is that 38 years later I still miss my cousin terribly, and that the world is a far poorer place without him.

No doubt his killer is long out of prison (or off the naughty step) and is living comfortably with a nice home, wife, and children.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

I'm so upset; Natalie Bennett is to resign.

We heard the very sad news yesterday that Aussie Natalie Bennett is to quit her job as leader of the UK's Green Party. The world of politics will never be the same again; a sad day indeed.

Here she is explaining her party's housing policy to Nick Ferrari on LBC; which, as they only have one MP, will probably not get too far!

They don't make 'em like Natalie any more.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Duravel 46.

Yesterday was Lundi de Pentecôte (whatever that is!); any excuse for a good old Boot Sale.

At first light (8.30am) we drove down to Duravel, a small village about 20 kms away. Above is the stunning view of the Lot Valley, as one descends down into the village itself.

I didn't bother to take any pix of the market, as they're all pretty much alike. However, I did particularly like this entrance to a garden, with its house in the background. A typical scene from our area. Nice eh?

There were a few other delights that I'd liked to have photographed, but the road was so narrow that stopping was out of the question.

Monday, 16 May 2016

One Girolle does not an omelet make.

Last year I didn't eat a single Girolle, yesterday I found just one.

The Girolle season is just starting, and with some warmer weather on the way we should be eating Girolle omelets for quite a while.

So, yesterday's omelet was made with one Girolle, plus a small jar of bottled Cepes from last year. The various sized eggs come from our elderly egg supplier at the local Saturday market. 

Bloody delicious; and if you want to know how it tastes try Maxim's in Paris, and say Cro sent you.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Cavern Capers.

Our first computer was a rather pathetic machine, made by Amstrad; it was a PCW 85120.

At the time (1990), it seemed as if most children had begun to play computer games. We however had other ideas, and told Wills that if he wanted to play such things, he'd have to make his own.

His first attempt was called Cavern Capers. It was a typical early computer game with bombs dropping, and people rushing around trying to avoid them. He soon improved upon this with Cavern Capers 2, and Cavern Capers 3. I don't remember how many versions there were.

Wills found that programming came easily to him; it seemed as if his brain was designed expressly.

Nowadays he designs highly complicated 'infallible' FX trading programmes.

I think our reluctance to buy him those games was right; he certainly discovered a talent that otherwise might not have surfaced. There's a moral in there somewhere!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Busy doing nothing.

I've recently finished all my winter projects and for a short while have had almost nothing to do (other than mowing, gardening, cooking, etc).

When one is a naturally busy person, being without a task or two is quite worrying. I found myself just wandering about aimlessly, looking for something to do.

We shall open the pool in a couple of weeks time, so there'll be extra things to be done from then on. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, 13 May 2016


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As far as I am aware, in the USA it is now legally OK for men dressed as women, to use women's public loos.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I was to wear a long wig, stuff a couple of socks up my jumper, and wear high heels, I would be perfectly within my rights to enter a Ladies 'restroom'. In fact one US state which refused to accept this new ruling (North Carolina?) was threatened with withdrawal of certain Federal funding if they didn't follow suite.

Personally I find this all rather odd. Whereas one has sympathies with genuine cases of gender realignment, one certainly wouldn't sympathise with the few weirdos who will no doubt test the ruling by doing what I suggest above.

Do American women really want this new Federal law; maybe it was pushed through by a bunch of men who simply want access to women's loos. Are American women OK with this?

Where will the law draw the line? Who will be on hand to decide if someone is a genuine transgender person, or just dressing-up for a laugh? Will women dressed as men have to right to use the 'Gents'?

Maybe we are seeing the emergence of the Uni-Sex US Loo.

Thursday, 12 May 2016


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I recently watched a Judge Judy episode where US litigation culture hit a new low.

Some brainless woman had sent her doggy woggy (I think it was a Pomeranian) to the groomer for a haircut, and it was returned clipped a teeny weeny bit too short.

The owner of said doggy woggy (which had two bows in its hair) then claimed that the overly short haircut had caused  her dog to have diarrhoea for five days; and of course she wanted serious compensation.

Judge Judy is no fool, she knows that there is very little hard medical evidence linking a haircut with diarrhoea, and politely instructed the silly woman to eff-off.

US style litigation has crossed the pond, and has now taken a stronghold in the UK's courts (much of it via Brussels), and it's about time someone called 'Halt'. TV ad's encourage us to sue for car accidents, medical mishaps, and every other scratch and bruise imaginable.

When President Trump is sitting at his newly gold leafed White House desk, I do hope one of his first actions will be to put a stop to all this nonsensical 'I'll see you in court' business.

It's gone on too long.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Haddock's Campaign 2016.

After a period of dry and very windy weather, we've now had some rain and calm. Perfect weather for growing.

So far I have planted red onions, red cabbages, white cabbages, calabrese, aubergines, peppers, chillies, tomatoes, beans, salads, courgettes, and cauliflowers. All are doing well, and some should begin to produce something or other for the table within a couple of weeks. Two of the calabrese plants were nipped off at the base by ants yesterday; so those have already been consumed. Nothing goes to waste. 

I have just 6 tomato plants (plus one cherry tom). They are 'F1 Supersteak', and produce heavy crops of very large fruits; many being around 600gms. This provides easily enough to eat salads every day, and preserve several kilos for next winter.

I've reduced the size of Haddock's this year, and am determined to use every scrap of space to the utmost. I'm still looking for somewhere to plant-out all my pumpkin, and squash plants; I'll find somewhere.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Tomatoes (for want of another word).

I try not to buy out of season Tomatoes, but occasionally a recipe insists, and one is compelled.

If I do buy them, I tend to buy these so-called 'Vine Tomatoes'; they look nice and suggest that they have at least some flavour.

These one's above, however, take the bloody biscuit. Not only are they very hard, but they have ABSOLUTELY NO TASTE WHATSOEVER.

They must be a new breed; the perfect prairie growers fruit. I have grown Tomatoes for most of my life; some indoors, but mostly outdoors. I have NEVER NEVER NEVER produced a Tomato that was so totally tasteless. If I did, I'd throw it away at once; why don't these growers do likewise!

For goodness sake you bloody growers; surely you can grow something with SOME flavour; these ones were no more than red fluff.

Livid of Lumberjack.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Prince Harry's in the news again..

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Why is it that so many beautiful young women laugh at his limp jokes, or go weak at the knees when he looks at them? Presumably it's because they all want to become a Princess, and want to bear his little Princes or Princesses.

Otherwise he's rather an ordinary bloke, the sort you'd meet at school and not really bother talking to.

He's not classically handsome, he looks a bit scruffy, and he's certainly not an intellectual; nor is he stupid. I seem to remember that he passed just enough exams to apply for a commission in the army. He's someone who 'scrapes by'.

But his eligibility is up there with the best. His gran' is Queen of England, he probably has an overflowing trust fund, and he associates himself with plenty of good causes; especially the Invictus Games.

Am I envious of him? Not at all. The poor guy is scrutinised wherever he goes; he can't even get pissed without the press splashing it all over the front pages. It isn't easy being born of lofty rank when your own country is full of jealous republicans.

I rather like Harry, he has some rebellion inside him. The press don't like him; they think he should work harder, get himself a wife, and settle down to a 9 to 5 lifestyle.

For me, however, Shakespeare got it 'almost' right, 'Good for Harry, England, and St George'. Yeah; he'll do.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Serious Gardening.

When I was still planning to build my 'tower', a friend said that it was a shame, because I'd lose a lot of the garden.

I replied, on the contrary, I would be gaining garden. A garden isn't just the amount of open space, it's what's in it that counts.

I'm not someone who reads gardening books, but one I did read many years ago had quite an effect on my whole attitude to garden design.

I know the book was by John Brookes, but I can't remember the title; it may have been 'The Outside Room'. In it he spoke of planting a rose in an open field, where it would look ridiculous, but against the wall of a cottage it looks superb. Without the background, the rose had no purpose. That's how I envisaged the 'tower' (above); it was a blank canvas onto which décor would be pasted. As a result, I think my garden has expanded.

John Brookes comes from the mould of Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West, and Sir Edwin Lutyens. with the outside being as important as the inside; the two areas flowing from one to the other in easy natural progression.

I admire these gardeners enormously; they are sculptors of nature. My little building would be nothing without its exterior décor, and the plants would be nothing if grown apart. However, to combine the two adds something pleasant to an otherwise rather plain garden.

I may not know anything about flowers, but I do occasionally take heed of those who do!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Disaster, disaster, disaster!

My good friend, José, popped by yesterday morning; he wanted to show me something.

We are used to having American Blight on our Chestnut trees, but this is something far more serious.

I hope you can see the reddish swellings on the small branch (above), they look rather like Oak Apples or certain hairy growths that appear on wild Roses. Each contains one or two grubs that will mature to become a tiny flying insect that in turn will lay about 200 eggs. As yet there is no real antidote other than an insect that eats them, but reproduces at a much slower rate. All his grafted trees are affected, as well as the wild trees in the woods. They kill the trees.

Already this wretched insect (which hails from Japan) has created havoc through Italy, Spain, and other countries to the east. Entire areas are now denuded of their Chestnut trees.

José is a true Chestnut aficionado. He lives and breathes Chestnuts, and has huge plantations. Our local woodland is also about 80% Chestnut. It is simply unimaginable the impact this problem will have on the area. It will change it radically.

Our mushroom crop (Cepes) will also be affected, as the Boletus mycelium lives in symbiosis with the Chestnut. I cannot imagine life here without Cepes and the excitement of our autumn Cepe hunting. And if you were thinking of laying Chestnut Parquet flooring in your home, you'd better do it now.

Poor José was distraught. He could see his very raison d'etre slowing being eroded. It remains to be seen what shape the trees are in this time next year.

I thought he said it was called Cyneps, but I can't find any reference to this on Google. (p.s. Rachel now tells me it's called Cynips; thank you)

p.s. I've just had a look at my own few Chestnut trees on the edge of our field, and they too have these bloody growths on them. Horror!

Friday, 6 May 2016


Our May is now out, and time (over here) to cast those clouts.

With temperatures reaching 25C in the afternoons, my shorts and T shirt are order of the day.

Visitors will be subjected to very pale arms and legs for a while, but they'll just have to lump it.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Revolting Youf.

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You may have seen pictures of  young people rioting in Paris on May 1st, and wondered what was going on.

Like young Socialists everywhere, the junior French lefties love to lob a few bricks at the cops whenever they can find the slightest excuse.

It must be said that French employment laws are a bloody mess. To employ someone costs almost as much in 'auxiliary payments' as the salary paid to the employee. One needs to think long and hard before offering someone a job in France; it's also bloody difficult to sack them if they turn out to be useless.

The Government has therefore decided to relax certain employment hurdles, and make it much easier to take on the unemployed. They have also made it easier for employers to lay-off staff when times are hard. In fact they are trying to bring Socialist France up to International standards; hopefully to reduce the crazy level of unemployment here.

Of course the unemployed hard left don't like this at all. What they really want is more benefits money, and to be left alone (whilst moaning about the evil Capitalist state).

Yup, young French Socialists are much the same as young Socialists everywhere. Their deep pockets are there not only to accept generous state handouts, but also to fill with paving stones and Molotov Cocktails when the opportunity arrises.

Nothing changes.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Floor & Roof tiles.

One of the things I really enjoy about living where I do, is having easy access to plenty of small scale artisans.

There is a wonderful feeling about going to some man, down the road, and asking him to make something for you.

At the small nearby village of Condat there is one such man. I've bought both my roof and floor tiles from him ever since I arrived in the area. All are hand made from local clay, and all are made in the same way that they've always been made.

Such small enterprises are not rare; I'm sure they exist everywhere. But here they're not regarded as a 'revival'; they never died away in order to be 'revived'.

These ones above are in our 'tower', and if you didn't know, you'd think they'd been in situ for over a century. Plain terracotta, a coat of linseed oil, and some polish, and this is what you get. So much nicer and healthier than industrial made tiles.

This time he just made me a few to finish a small job, but he was as obliging as if I'd ordered a truck-full. Lovely guy; lovely tiles!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

I try again; Cro and Daughter.

Mr Blogger wouldn't allow to me to publish this picture recently, so I've had to photograph it from my laptop screen, and process it in a format that it likes. Sadly the quality has suffered.

My friend, S, who lives on an idyllic Caribbean island, is one of those meticulous people who saves, and files, every single photograph he takes, and has recently sent a whole barrow-load to my son in London. Mostly they are photos that we've not seen before. The above is one such.

My daughter, Tenpin, must have been about 13 when it was taken, and no doubt still had photos of Wham on her bedroom wall. She now lives in Queensland Oz and has two lively sons.

Me, I must have been in my late 30's, was still smoking Gauloises, and, amazingly, had some colour in my hair and beard.

I do enjoy looking back at old pictures, especially ones of me and my little girl.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Early mushrooms.

Mushrooms pop up in the most unlikely places, at the most unlikely times.

I found this rarity, Clathrus ruber, on the orchard lawn yesterday. It's not a particularly good example, so I've added a stock photo as well (below). 


This intriguing mushroom is sometimes known as Red Cage, or the Latticed Stinkhorn, or even the Basket Stinkhorn.

No-one seems to know if it's edible or not, on account of its terrible pong!

Best left in situ, methinks!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Future of the EU.

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The EU is heading for certain disaster.

Applications for membership now include Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. All countries (I'm sure you'd agree) that would bring huge advantages to the few net contributors that would end-up paying their bills. The 28 member countries could soon become 33.

Were they all to be granted membership, it would mean that another 88 Million people would have rightful access to the UK's struggling Health Service, Schooling, Housing, and Benefits.

If the UK was to quit the EU, it would deprive Brussels of an annual £13 BILLION; some of which is already going to help these Balkan countries join the world's most generous benefactors.

I can't see it working; can you? Best to quit now, methinks.

(p.s.  Not really related, but a massive 10% of all 'European' prisoners in the UK are Albanians... imagine what that figure might be if they were all legally allowed access)

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