Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Almost Veggie.



I've mentioned previously that we are slowly becoming veggie; 'slowly' being the important word.

Take last night for example. We ate a simple tarka dhal with basmati rice, and a very small amount of tandoori flavoured mushrooms. A simple dish that really required no meat.

I blame Lady Magnon for all this common sense. She's not a big meat eater, and would happily eat very simple pasta or rice dishes every day; actually so would I. 

When Haddock's starts to supply a good variety of vegs, we shall no doubt return to our Summer Compost curries, Cumin flavoured Compost fry-ups, and other 100% Compost meals. Maybe by the end of the year we'll be fully fledged veggies (apart from the occasional roast Turkey, of course).

It might sound a strange thing to say, but I really wouldn't mind becoming 100% veggie, other than I would find it difficult to give up that Christmas roast Turkey!

Just for info; The dhal was cooked with spices, yoghurt, and spinach, and the fried halved mushrooms were sprinkled with tandoori powder and garam masala, with a splash of lemon juice. Lovely.




Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Master Tiggy-Winkle Jnr.



Bok and Lady Magnon found this lost baby Hedgehog, fed it, and returned it to where she thought it's family lived. Then they found it again looking lost. Another day went by and they found it yet again still looking lost.

So, what does Lady M do? Of course she fills a hot water bottle, makes a bed for it, then when it had revived a bit she took it down to the Vet's.


If Lady M has anything to do with it, he'll be King of the Hedgehogs before long; well fed and thriving. We presume this one is an offspring of the adult we found recently.


She returned from the Vet's with bottles of milky 'Recovery Liquid', and a small syringe. Looks like we've got our work cut out! He seems to be feeding OK.


We reckon he's about 4 weeks old. He weighs 100 gms. 

We'll keep you posted!




Monday, 22 May 2017

Journée Champetre 2017.



My village held its annual 'Country Fair' yesterday. No horses this year as someone's thrown a wobbly, and the necessary fields were unavailable. Instead they had a few old tractors and a car or two.

There was an old-ish Peugeot and matching caravan. 


A bizarre over restored orange tractor with a rear mounted engine. 


And a couple of quite nice looking early water pumps.

There were also a couple of organised mass walks (the type where people take ski sticks and rucksacks).

That's it really. Not much more I can say!




Sunday, 21 May 2017

Tangiers 1970.



Before the above photo was taken, I had never tasted Coca Cola.

Morocco was alcohol free in those days, so I had no alternative (other than Fanta or Pepsi). Nowadays things are different.

In 1970 you could openly buy large blocks of hashish (they looked like big cellophane wrapped chocolate bars and contained a government stamp) but a beer or a glass of wine was verboten. You really wouldn't have wanted to drink the water!

On entering the country some evil man had made me have my hair cut short. Lady Magnon had a small pair of nail scissors in her bag, and my luscious locks were unceremoniously left at the port of entry.

Still, nothing can detract from that pleasant shock of entering the Maghreb, with it's medieval ways and customs. The dark cool souks, the henna tattooed women, and the men all dressed in djellabas; it was like entering another era. 

Amazingly it is still much the same; and all within a very short flight from London, Paris, or Toulouse. An essential destination.




Saturday, 20 May 2017

Scrumping Season.



Our own Cherries aren't yet ripe, so for the moment we rely on the kindness of others.



However, we do have plenty of our own Strawberries, and our Tayberries won't be long.

I really love this early red fruit season; it spells hope for a good Summer harvest.



Friday, 19 May 2017

Pocket knife.



A few years back, when my garden knife 'went missing' from Haddock's, my then neighbour (now sadly deceased) showed me the above and asked if it was the one I'd lost.

It wasn't. Mine was an old fixed bladed kitchen knife, so she said 'just keep it anyway'; and I did.

I re-discovered it recently, gave it a good oiling and cleaning, and I'm now using it again (in her memory).

I have a feeling that it's a home-made knife. I know that knife making is a popular pastime in France, and it certainly looks very amateurish.

The blade on my regular Opinel pocket knife had become rather loose, and was opening whilst in my pocket; I have the scars to prove it. The one above is quite pleasant to use, and the blade stays in place.
                                       Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Nontron knife"

Whilst Lady M was recently away gallivanting, I did consider buying myself a traditional 'Nontron' pocket knife, as an alternative eating knife to my Opinel. They are our local knives from a bit to the north of here, but when I saw the prices I decided to stay with my Opinel. A quite simple 'Nontron' knife starts at about €60, and goes into the €100's; way beyond my pocket.

p.s. Having put a 'friendly' notice on the garden gate at Haddock's, my knife was later returned. I have no idea who had half-inched it, but I was pleased to have it back. Naughty, naughty.




Untitled.












Thursday, 18 May 2017

Julie's fabulous Parmesan biscuits.


                             

It must be said that everyone (except for our 8 year old neighbour Sara) who has tasted these delicious savoury biscuits has given them 10 out of 10.

Certainly from the first time we tasted them, we were hooked.

Regular biscuit makers will know what to do with these ingredients (I of course don't).

100gms flour, 100 gms butter, 100 gms freshly grated Parmesan (don't use ready grated), 1 egg yolk, a pinch of chilli powder, and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Do not add salt.

These are whizzed together, formed into a ball, and put into the fridge for a while. It's then rolled out, cut into small biscuit shapes, and baked for about 10 mins.

The finished biscuits are quite delicate, beautifully flavoured, a little spicy, and perfect with a glass of rouge.

Julie introduced us to them about 10 years ago, and ever since they have become a firm favourite in the Magnon household.

Someone arriving for drinks; Lady M gets her hands in the mix. They're a hit every time.

I'm actually eating some whilst writing this!



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Fair dinkum tucker.



Anyone who enjoys chilli sauces that have REAL flavour (and aren't too hot); this stuff is for you.

Lady Magnon has just spent a couple of months in Oz and wisely returned with some bottles of Byron Bay Chilli Co's prize winning 'Fiery Coconut Chilli Sauce, with curry and ginger'. It states on the bottle 'Medium Hot'. In fact it's sweet, and fruity, with just about the right amount of heat. I'm not someone who enjoys a burning mouth.

Perfect with curries, pork chops, chicken, and just about everything else.

There's only one problem with this stuff; it goes too damned quickly!

If you should find some somewhere, I recommend.

(You'd think the Co would send me some freebies, with all the advertising I do for them).




Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Champagne season.



Yesterday was my Elderflower Champagne making day. The sun was shining, it was warm, and the flowers were in perfect condition.

I picked 6 sun-kissed heads of Elderflower, added 600 gms of sugar, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, the rind of a lemon, the juice of a lemon, and 6 litres of water. It's as simple as that.


This afternoon I shall bottle it, and put it away until July/August.

Best to place the bottles away from danger (in a shed maybe), as they can become lively and explode. You need bottles that have wired-on tops, as below.


If you intend making some; good luck!




Monday, 15 May 2017

Sorry.


                              

I HAVE NOW TAKEN DOWN MY PIECE ABOUT OUR ICE CREAM SCOOP.

TOO MANY TROLLS. TOO MUCH JEALOUSY. TOO MUCH CHIP ON SHOULDER.



Sunday, 14 May 2017

Young artists.



Somewhere on a Welsh hillside, circa 1971.

The four adults in the photo were all at college together. Simon Fletcher (see his work here http://www.simonfletcher.org/), his lovely wife Julie, Cro, and Lady Magnon. Also in the photo are our respective first-born sons, and my first dog Hamlet.

Simon recently sent me this previously unseen (by me) photo. I think it must have been taken when we'd just left college.

Great times. 

Photo © Simon Fletcher.



Saturday, 13 May 2017

The village church door.



The door.


The watercolour.




Friday, 12 May 2017

Water.


                                       Résultat de recherche d'images pour "pellegrino bottled water"
It is often claimed that one litre of water weighs exactly one Kilo. Of course, as every schoolboy/girl knows; it is a litre of WINE that weighs a Kilo. The obvious reason being that (in olden times) water was never sold, whereas wine was and it needed to be weighed to assess quantity.

These days water IS sold, and as far as I gather; in huge quantities.

Personally I NEVER buy bottled water. All those added chemicals and injected gas make it unpalatable. If forced to purchase an emergency supply I would go for ordinary plain spring water; straight from someone else's tap.

I have read of bottled water selling for around €400 per bottle. Some have tiny flecks of gold suspended in the precious liquid, and are even more expensive.

However, I myself am now marketing a brand of water (Eau-Magnon). Sold by the glass, it comes from the beautiful village of Lumberjack in SW France, and costs a paltry €50 per glass.

Please form an orderly queue at the door.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Jeans.



I've just realised why I hadn't bought any Jeans for the past 50 years.

As a young man, the style of jeans I liked would probably have been laughed at. But as an X year old they are suddenly acceptable.

I hate skinny jeans, I really dislike jeans with stupid rips all over the legs, and I certainly wouldn't wear ridiculously pre-bleached jeans.

Jeans for me should be hard-wearing, comfortable, and reasonably baggy. In other words; old codger's jeans (see above).

My recently purchased (2) pairs of miser's (cheap) jeans should see me out. They are made of industrial strength denim, and were probably stitched together by Taiwanese weight-lifters. They are super tough.

I like them, and I don't care what anyone says!


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Still in the Land of Nod ?



Yesterday morning we came across Mr Tiggywinkle (above). It looked as if he was half asleep and had rolled down the bank onto the path behind our house whilst dreaming.

I put on my thick leather gardening gloves, and put him back up into the long grass. He still seemed to be asleep; maybe he hadn't yet properly awoken from his Winter hibernation.


Lady Magnon later put some cat food out for him. It was gone next morning, but maybe the cat ate it!

Sweet dreams Hedgey.





Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The local Spring Fair.


If you're interested in gaudy shopping baskets, yucky children's hats, or 1950's women's corsets, then yesterday's Fair was for you. 


Otherwise there were sausages,


more sausages,


and yet more sausages.


And a couple of friendly blokes selling nougat.

I go every year, and it's always the same. However I did buy a single 'Roma' Tomato plant for €1; Romas are always useful for cooking.

That's it for another year.




Monday, 8 May 2017

Roman tiles.



Our house is covered with old hand-made wonky Roman (or canal) tiles.

We had the roof re-done a few years back, using modern interlocking tiles for the underneath, and the old tiles back on top. The roof looks no different now from when it was first built 300 years ago. It wouldn't surprise me if most of the old tiles date from that time too.

The only real problem with Roman tiles is that they can slip. They aren't nailed or hooked onto anything; they just sit there hoping for the best. However, wind and rain does occasionally make them move down-hill and they need to be pushed up again with a long stick. I check mine just once a year, and the whole process of re-positioning takes about 10 minutes. Failure to do this makes it look as if one's roof is about to collapse (and in many cases it probably is).

My once a year time came a couple of days ago, and whilst pushing one or two back into place (usually right up at the ridge) I came across one that was completely broken. This isn't a major problem, as one simply removes the broken one and pushes another into place. No nails to remove; you just swap one for another.

Such roofs need to be of less than a certain angle; a 45 degree, or more, roof would have them sliding off to music. I'm not sure, but I would estimate a roof angle of about 30 degrees would be the maximum for these tiles.

They may not be the most efficient roof tiles, but they look 'right' on an old house. Nothing looks worse than inappropriate tiles on an old building. They shock; I could show you some horrors!



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Rain.


Résultat de recherche d'images pour "rain"

What do you do when it's raining? I'm not an indoors person, so being confined to the house is a curse.

There's always the TV, but it's mostly rubbish. There are books to be read, but my daytime concentration is limited. There are my crosswords, which are good for 15 minutes. There's cooking to be done, which I enjoy. There's also eating to be done, which is a danger to the waistline.

No, I can't wait to get outside again, so I wrap-up in waterproof clothing, resign myself to becoming drenched, and take the dog for short walks. I occasionally run over to the 'tower' where I keep all my more interesting reference books. Sometimes I even retreat to the studio to prepare canvases.

Having a small house with a large-ish garden, most of my daily work is outside. Having to look through the windows at falling rain might be OK for half an hour, but it soon gets on my tits.

You may have guessed; it's been raining.



Saturday, 6 May 2017

Handsome men (a strange subject).


                                           Résultat de recherche d'images pour "very handsome men in the world"

In my constrained opinion, the male world is made-up of 99% very ordinary looking men, 0.5% ugly men, and 0.5% good looking men. The 'ordinaries' rule; being either really ugly, or really handsome, is extremely rare.

Being one of the 99% (I don't consider myself really ugly), I have always wondered what it must be like to be 'staggeringly handsome'. Somehow I imagine it must be a burden, and I'm quite happy not to be a part of that 0.5%.

Back in the mid 60's I had an Italian girlfriend who was possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever encountered. Walking down the street with her was quite an experience. Heads turned almost constantly, and she was stared at openly by all who saw her. She enjoyed the fact that people found her beautiful, but the unwanted attention it caused troubled her hugely. It eventually paid a major role in her tragic life.

Having said that, I would quite like to be 'handsome' for just ONE day, to see what a difference it makes to daily life. I'm sure that people treat good looking people differently; one only has to witness the lives of celeb 'actors', or 'top models' to see that in action.

I'm very happy the way I am, and I very rarely look in a mirror. I couldn't give a monkey's how others see me. I have reluctantly accepted the genes that I randomly received, and just get on with it!

p.s. Trying to find an illustration for this wasn't easy. I'm no expert.



Friday, 5 May 2017

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez.


Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Marie Bronislava Vorobyeva-Stebelska"

In about 1966/7, when I was managing the small 'Fine Art Gallery' in London's Devonshire St W1, I met a lady who's name was Marevna. Just by chance I was recently looking at a self-portrait by someone called Marevna; and I put two and two together!

I'm certain that she'd said she had been the wife of Diego Rivera. We had conversed in French, so I may well have misunderstood the meaning of 'femme'.

However, she was a fascinating and ebullient woman, and we spent several pleasant hours together over a period of several weeks, after which she invited me to stay at some estate in Mexico, where visiting painters were lodged in small cottages and got together in the evenings to discuss 'artistic things'.

Thanks to Wiki, I now discover that she had in fact been the 'mistress' of Rivera, and had a daughter by him.

Marie (Marevna) Bronislava-Stebelska had lived in Paris, where she met Rivera, then later in London (where I met her).

Goodness knows why she invited me to stay at Diego's estate in Mexico; I had absolutely no intention of going, and I don't suppose she had any right to invite me. Both Rivera and Kahlo were deceased by that time, and I have no idea what connection she had with his estate.

Discovering her self-portrait recently (above) brought it all back, and I remembered her well. She was much older when I met her, plumper, and more 'matronly' looking than in the self-portrait. I also remember her name as being Mar-ee-evna; now I know differently.

I wish Wiki had been around at the time; if I'd known her interesting history I would have delved!

A wee snippet of London life in the mid 60's.



Thursday, 4 May 2017

Weird Weather.



Over the past few weeks we've had every type of weather imaginable; other than snow.

We've had a couple of nights of -2 C frosts, hot sunshiny afternoons, strangely warm winds, rain, drought, clear skies, cloudy skies; you name it, we've had it.

Having to cope with all that have been my newly planted tender vegetables, and I worried. The poor things were forced, for a while, to live beneath plastic pots to ward off the frosts, but I'm pleased to say they all survived.


Not so lucky were my table grapes. I only have a few eating grape vines, and they were looking really good; now they are totally frosted and it'll be Autumn 2018 before we have another chance of home grown grapes.

Otherwise the tips of the Fig trees were all nipped, but they will produce fruit I'm sure; they always do!

This time of year is always precarious, false hopes make us unwary. It pays to be vigilant in April/May. It should settle down now.




Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Some corner of a foreign vegetable garden.



Last year I sowed a selection of wild flowers on Monty's grave at Haddock's. This year there's been plenty of vigorous growth, but only Poppies have appeared. Goodness knows what happened to all the other varieties.

I'm writing this because I've recently noticed what I imagine is a new pet cemetery quite near to us. It is a small walled area on a rocky hillside on the edge of a tiny medieval village, with two small graves, not unlike Monty's (see below). I quite expect some child insisted its father made a special cemetery for Tiddles, or Rover.


Monty's, and the two graves above (you'd have to enlarge the photo), are reminiscent of the Late Bronze to Late Iron age 'cists' that are the simplest form of graves; a plain circle of stones covering an actual burial pit.

As long as we remember our poor old departed companions; that's all that matters. I don't think Monty would have wanted a fancy mausoleum.



Tuesday, 2 May 2017

For Rachel.


Certain fields around us are awash with Daisies. This is a tiny corner of one such.





EU Trade negotiations.


                                                   Image associée

With the UK still by far the biggest world-wide consumer of French Champagne (the UK drinks well over 31 Million bottles annually), one has to ask the question "How would its producers react to Britain's exclusion from the EU's 'single market', if Brussels was to play silly buggers?".

International trade is reciprocal; you buy this from me, I'll buy that from you. This applies to cars and cheese, just as it does to Champagne, and if the European market was closed to a non-EU-member such as the UK, then presumably the UK markets would in turn be closed to them. Can you imagine the wrath of Champagne producers if Brussels caused their sales to be decimated. French shotguns and muck lorries would rightly storm the Elysée Palace.

The EU has too much to lose to make irrational decisions. The EU's economy is not the best, whereas the UK has the world's 5th strongest. If VW, Audi, Mercedes, Peugeot, Fiat, Porsche, Renault, Citroen, or even Ferrari no longer had access to the UK market, they wouldn't be too happy.

So, watch your step Junkers, and tell that Matron Merkel to keep her jealousy under control; she's been making some very dangerous pronouncements recently. Bad decisions have a nasty way of bouncing back on you. The UK can just as easily buy their Fizz from the USA or Oz, and in fact the UK herself produces some of the world's finest!

As for paying the EU's £52 Billion exit fee; I think this could be paid, but only after receiving an Access Fee of £55 Billion from the EU to trade with a non-EU Britain.  What's good for the Goose....

Come on Mrs May; get your bloody iron-fisted negotiating act together, and make sure they understand what they'd be missing out on, should their exports be in any way blocked by an independent UK.



Monday, 1 May 2017

Northern or Hen Harrier.


                                Northern Harrier Photo

I'm not bad at identifying wild birds; they've been an interest of mine since I was quite small.

Over the past 10 years or so I've occasionally seen a hawk-type bird that kept me guessing. It flies quite close to the ground, covers a huge area very quickly, then disappears. It's been turning-up just once a year, then we don't see it again for another 12 months.

It is basically all pale grey/white, but with black wing tips. I did think it was a Goshawk, but having recently studied it quite carefully through my binoculars, I'm now 99% sure that it's a Northern Harrier a.k.a. Hen Harrier.

I'm sure it will remain in the area because this year we've seen two of them together, and presume they will breed. I do hope so, it's a stunningly beautiful bird.



Sunday, 30 April 2017

Tony Blair: Investment Banking Intern.


When Blair quit UK politics, he managed to wangle a few extremely well paid jobs for himself (viz).

One has to wonder what Corbyn will be offered after June 8th. Maybe he'll just spend his time trying to twin Islington North with Épernay.





Saturday, 29 April 2017

Olive Trees and Olives



Firstly I must declare that I am not a fan of Olive trees being torn from their native lands, and transplanted into suburban gardens in France, the UK, or elsewhere. I prefer to see them in their natural surroundings. 

However, we have one (bought by someone else, because it was cheap), and I have to live with it.

I have just noticed that ours is filled with flowers, so I wish to know the following.

Are all Olives edible?

How does one know when they're ready to process?

How does one process them?

Is is possible to make good edible Olives on such a tiny scale?

Any advice would be gratefully received; last year we had a decent crop, but over-night they were all eaten by something!

Thanks in advance.



Friday, 28 April 2017

Old Mo.



I just came across this photo.

'Old Mo' was my parents' neighbour in West Chiltington, Sussex. He, and his wife, were a tad eccentric, to say the least.

Prior to his retirement, Mo had been the senior scientist at The East Malling Research Station; specialising in the development of fruit trees. He and I became firm friends very quickly.

He loved France, and when I told him that I was moving here he promised to visit a.s.a.p.

We're not quite sure how he reached our house, but I do know that it involved some hitchhiking, as well as bus and train rides.

The above photo shows him with Lady Magnon, our two kittens King and Barnes (named after a Sussex brewery), and Hamlet the dog, at our first home here..

In West Chiltington, Old Mo had a separate orchard about a mile away from his beautiful thatched home. Called 'Kings and Princes', it contained row upon row of espaliered Apples and Pears, all beautifully pruned into exquisite shapes; reminiscent of The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. 

Mo was an exceptional man. Whilst with us here we benefitted from his huge knowledge. He advised about fruit trees etc, he also took a particular interest in the local Walnut trees and their products; he loved the area and everything that it represented. It was Mo who gave me Philip Oyler's book 'The Generous Earth', that led to my move. 

I often think of him; his permanent smile, his eccentric ways, and his vast knowledge. 

He was a 'one-off'. RIP Old Mo.



Thursday, 27 April 2017

Cynips; the state of play.



Please excuse the bad photo, but I think it does go to show just how badly our Chestnut trees are being affected by this dreadful insect; Cynips.

Almost every young bit of growth has a 'gall' made by this tiny Wasp, and it's killing the trees.

I cannot stress firmly enough the significance of the Chestnut tree to this area. Obviously it bears the nuts themselves, but also the wood is used for parquet flooring, house heating, and tannin extraction, and without the trees we would have no Cèpes (Bolitus edulis). The Chestnut tree means an awful lot to an awful lot of people.

Trials are taking place of introducing other insects to attack Cynips, but by the look of the above, they don't seem to be making much inroad.

A very depressing prospect.





Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Veggie Curry.



I can't tell you how many times I've experimented with Veggie Curries; but I think I'm getting close to my goal.

I like to eat veggie at least a couple of times each week, and I now see it as no different to eating meat based meals. The main difference being that the veggie meals tend to come direct from Haddock's and the store cupboard, whereas meat has to be bought (at a hefty price).

I've made this particular curry several times, and it gets a 'thumbs up' from all who taste it.

Ingredients: 1 small red onion, a couple of large mushrooms, a small tin of red beans, hot curry paste, and a teaspoon of good Greek yogurt. 

Method: Fry the thinly sliced onion in a good splash of vegetable oil, add and fry the chopped mushrooms (1.5 cm cubes ?), add a teaspoon of curry paste and some garam masala, then a small amount of water and salt. Add the washed beans, then thicken to a creamy consistency with a spoonful of yogurt. I occasionally add a small amount of vegetable stock cube, and a few other spices to taste. A pretty basic curry that takes about 8 mins to prepare.

Verdict: Curry, delicious. Recentlyly made Brinjal pickle, nice but could be improved.






Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Brown side up!



I like to see the surrounding landscape like this. All newly ploughed, and ready to sow.

Some of the Sunflower crop has already been sown (just the male seeds), and the rest should be done quite soon.



Above are the field markers showing where the males seeds were sown, and where the female seeds will be. There are usually one row of male to four of female.

Normally the Maize is sown in mid-May, but I think it may go in earlier this year; the ground is certainly ready.

p.s. The house and barn on the right is the farmhouse I bought back in 1972.




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