Sunday, 23 April 2017

Yawn...French Elections Round 1.


It's election day here (first round), so, in order to take one's mind off such tedium, here is a spot of light relief.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Heredity.



Two of my grandsons; Aussie brothers, Finn and George.

Not quite sure what they're up to in the photo; looks like some sort of electronic paint-balling.

When we have our own children we expect them to look like us; when we have grandchildren, not quite so much.

I find it quite strange looking at George (right), because he reminds me of me. He could almost be me at that age.

On the down side, if he looks at me today he will probably see something of the terrible physical fate that awaits him. I apologise in advance.




Friday, 21 April 2017

Greening-up.



Cloudless skies, a few Swallows about, and the distant Chestnut canopies beginning to turn green.

It's what I've been waiting for. I can feel my annual depression lifting, warm blood once again rushing merrily through my veins, and my regular smile broadening by the minute.

I try not to moan too much about Winter, especially on these pages; but jeeze how I hate it. 

A July baby needs July weather, and at last I can anticipate its return; slowly, yes, but I can feel it.




Thursday, 20 April 2017

Not a pretty sight, or site.




With a couple of night-time temperatures falling close to zero, I'm taking no chances.

It may not look pretty, but these old pots protect my more tender plants from being nipped by frost.

Above are half a dozen Supersteak Tomatoes, and below are all my Aubergines, Peppers, Chillies, and a few Calabrese.


There's nothing worse than losing plants due to lack of diligence.




Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Stanley Unwin


One of my early comedy heroes has to be the wonderful Prof Stanley Unwin.

Here he is in 1983 at Speaker's Corner, explaining the introduction of the UK's new decimal currency (I think).





Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Thinking of moving?



                         

Property prices in the UK have gone bananas. It is almost impossible now for any young-ish person (with a reasonable job) to even contemplate buying their own home.

So, let me propose an alternative.

The house above (which has just been SOLD) is an example of what can be bought around here, in S W France.

It was on the market for €194,000 (£164,000 or $205,000), but what it was sold for I don't know; presumably quite a bit less.

As you can see, it is quite large. It needs a reasonable amount of work, but is habitable. It has 4 bedrooms and oil-fired heating. It comes with 2 huge stone barns, 3 garages, a vaulted stone cellar, and a Pigeon tower. It is surrounded by 7,000 sq ms of land; but knowing the state of local agriculture, I expect more could easily be bought.

A similar amount of money back in the UK would probably buy you a beach hut! On the other hand, can you imagine what you'd have to pay for such a house in England?

Anyone who runs a business from home, or does not need to be tied to the UK (or even the US, or Oz) would be crazy not to consider this option. I did over 40 years ago, and have never regretted it.

The above house had been on offer through Charles Loftie's agency here:-

http://www.charles-loftie immo.com/listman/listings/l0158.html

Just click on the 'up to €200,000' heading and you'll see what I mean.


Monday, 17 April 2017

Green v White?



What a delight. As well as buying my usual wine, eggs, bread, etc, I noticed at market on Saturday that the lady selling white Asparagus also had just a few bunches of green.

I do like white Asparagus, but it doesn't have that intense flavour of the green.

When I was younger it was always eaten with seasoned melted butter; these days I prefer Mayo.

I also kept a few cooked spears back for an Easter lunch omelette. It doesn't get much better.




Sunday, 16 April 2017

Look what I found!



It must be Easter. Look what I found in amongst some compost that I was spreading yesterday! I wonder how it got there? It's a small two-piece, tin egg that we've had for yonks.

To all who celebrate Easter; have a good one.




Saturday, 15 April 2017

Les Yeux De La Colline.


I am perfectly aware that this short (23 mins) film will not appeal to, or be understood by, everyone.

It describes how life has changed over the past 40/50 years or so; certainly since I've been living here. It also shows how one young woman is trying to make a go of things where others have failed (not too successfully by the look of it).

The film shows both my area, and the lovely people who've made it such a pleasant place to live.

Women such as Paulette were typical of Southern Perigord. We had our own 'Paulette' as a next-door neighbour, under the name of Madame D. She was, and still is, a great inspiration; sadly she died back in 2010, but her influence is still very much with us today.

I must thank my friend Craig who originally posted this on Facebook. I am re-posting for your pleasure.

It's worth watching; all 23 minutes of it.





Friday, 14 April 2017

European Apple Mountain?



At the top end of Haddock's is our best Apple tree (Reine de Renette) which is absolutely covered in flowers. If only 1% of them become fully fledged Apples we will still be knee deep!


Very rarely have I seen a tree so covered in blossom. Looks like it's going to be a very good fruit year; which makes a change!

I should mention that all other Apple trees are much the same.




Thursday, 13 April 2017

Come fly with me...


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Following the United Airlines fiasco, I was reminded of an airline problem of my own.

Back in about 1980 I was invited to teach out in the Caribbean; it was only a two month course, but the break was very welcome.

I flew to Miami, stayed overnight in the dreadful 'International Airport Hotel', and in the morning went to the desk of my connecting flight airline (CA) to pick up my ticket; which I'd been informed would be waiting for me.

After a short search, the very unpleasant man at the desk said that he couldn't find any such ticket, and that I'd have to buy one! He was as unhelpful as anyone could possibly be.

I went away, thought about it for a while, ate a steak sandwich, then returned to see if anyone else was around. A pleasant young lady then came to the desk, and found my ticket instantly. I saw the unhelpful man skulking in the background, so I waved the ticket at him, and mentioned that it didn't take the young lady very long to find it. He gave me a nasty look, and walked off.

When I arrived at my destination I mentioned to my friend (who just happened to be a director of the airline) about the rude and unhelpful man at the Miami desk, and he said he'd have him sacked!

When my stay was over my friend took me to the island's airport and, as I was a bit late, I went directly to check-in.

The man at the desk told me that the plane was full, but that I could buy a first class ticket if I wished to travel on the flight for which I had already paid. My friend (remember, he was a director of the airline) came over and asked if there was a problem. No, no, said the man smiling nicely, and all went through perfectly well!

Back in Miami, whilst waiting for my flight back to London, I saw the pleasant young lady at the desk of the company with whom I'd flown out and back (CA), and I asked her if the unpleasant man was still around.

"He doesn't work here any more" she replied. He'd been sacked.



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Foreign Students.


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Figures have just been released in the UK, which show that over 50,000 foreign students failed to return home after their courses were over.

Many years ago we lodged a foreign language student (I think he was called Najeeb) who was a Yemeni, but lived in Saudi.

He was a radical Muslim, and didn't miss an opportunity to sing the praises of whatever atrocity was currently in the news. I can imagine him having joined ISIS as soon as he returned home.

After he left us we began to receive letters and phone calls from Barclays Bank. We explained that he had been a student at 'X' language School, and gave the Bank their address (which was right opposite their building).

It seemed that the charming Najeeb had taken out a hefty loan, giving our address and our names as guarantors, then skipped the country.

The bank hounded us for years over something we knew nothing about. The boy was a common criminal and the bank treated us as if we were his accomplices.

I often wonder how such things can occur; maybe it's better that certain (less desirable) foreign students stay in the UK where they can be brought to justice, rather than scoot off home where they can't.



Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Just Perfect!



Occasionally, just occasionally, I feel really sorry for everyone who does not have the pleasure of living where I choose to live.

Occasionally, just occasionally, life is so perfect here that I would love to share it with absolutely everyone.

In recent days Mother Nature has really come up trumps. The skies have been a perfect blue, the birds have been singing their little feathers off, the fruit trees are all in spectacular flower, the temperature has risen to nearing 25 C, and my shorts have been re-animated.

OK, we don't have turquoise waters lapping at a nearby beach, nor do we have exotic Parrots roosting in our trees, but we do have that ever more rare quality; peace and quiet.

Yesterday evening, sitting with a glass of local rouge, a few anchovy-stuffed olives, and both Bok and Freddie at my feet, I was able to forget Trump, Putin, various Ayatollahs, and those poor gassed children for a while, and enjoy what I wish for everyone; perfect peace, perfect weather, silence, and harmony.

All people deserve the occasional dose of perfection in their lives; we are lucky enough to be having some right now. I just wish I could offer some to those who are currently living in dire circumstances around the world, but it just ain't possible.

Glory be!


   

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Diana Crash.


                          

Diana Spencer seems to be back in the news again as yet more tales of her emotional instability are being revealed in some silly book or other. I was never a great fan of hers, but I wouldn't have wished her her eventual fate.

If anyone is still in doubt about how the Princess died, just look at this photo.

In the driver's (Henri Paul's) glasses you can clearly see the reflection of the motorcyclist paparazzi's camera flash. Back in 1997 flash bulbs were very, very, bright. If someone poked a flash in your eyes, even from a few metres away, you'd be blinded for quite some while. You can also see Rees-Jones lifting his hand to shield his eyes.

So, combine the effects of the speed he was doing to escape the wretched car-bound paparazzi, the fact that he had consumed some alcohol, and above all being blinded by numerous camera flashes from the motorcyclists, it was almost inevitable that an accident was about to happen.

Personally I blame the person who took the above photo (they crashed seconds later). The photo itself might have earned him a lot of money, but it also cost lives.

In the subsequent enquiry, the cameraman was hardly mentioned; he was certainly not blamed.




Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Grand National.


                            These female racegoers were spotted rolling around on the floor at Ladies Day - one even ended up with a newspaper covering her head 

The 'Sport of Kings' seems to have become the 'Sport of Chavs'.

Whether it be Ascot, Cheltenham, or Aintree, they turn up in their droves to drink to excess, show off their tattoos, and generally behave like 'trailer-trash'.

I know that the press will always post photos that show them at their worst, but these days it's there for all to see on a massive scale.

It follows a pattern at every major race course. First they select some totally inappropriate clothing, hats, and shoes, then drink as much as they can before falling over and showing the world their knickers.

I'm not a racegoer, and frankly I'm now even less likely ever to become one.

At last weekend's Boat Race I saw no half naked drunks, nor have I at either Rugby or Cricket matches. What is it about Horse Racing that seems to attract them?

Another Great British occasion has gone down hill. What a shame.




Saturday, 8 April 2017

International Cricket.



Give some Brit' and Aussie kids a deserted beach, bat, and ball, and a Cricket match is bound to follow.

This particular match took place on Hervey Bay (Queensland Oz), where teams of cousins and dads battled for honours.

I never heard who won.




Friday, 7 April 2017

The new look.




I'm quite happy with my new plan for Haddock's. I rather like things to be tidy, and this fits the bill.

All is dug over. It's had a good dose of compost, been scrupulously weeded, and to prove it, my back needs a week's holiday.

Not much planted yet; just red Onions and a few Calabrese plants. Within the next few days, I shall throw caution to the winds and plant out my Tomatoes, Aubergines, Peppers, and Chillies, and will keep my fingers crossed for no further frosts.

The Cherry, in the background is filled with flowers, as are the Plums, Peaches, Quince, Pears, and Apples. Yet again I'm hoping for a bountiful crop; but then I say that every year.

And to make things better; even Marie-Ange (my postie) said she liked the new look! 




Thursday, 6 April 2017

Room for one more on top!



When I first worked in The City, I commuted from the South Coast for several months, before I moved up to town, and found my very first flat in Bayswater.

The daily trip from Worthing up to London Bridge was tedious. As a group of us were always the first on an empty train, we had regular seats and played cards for an hour. It was similar on the way home; but even so....

Others were not so lucky. Anyone who got on after Three Bridges rarely had a seat. By East Croydon the train was packed, they were even sitting on every free bit of floor space.

In each direction we played for small amounts of money. We played Solo Whist on the way up, and did the Evening Standard crossword on the way home. I lost money on a daily basis playing Solo, but recouped a bit by being the first to finish the crossword later in the day.

It may be cheaper living out of town, but the toll of commuting is dire. 

I used to feel so sorry for those who never had a seat (even though they'd paid for one), but never enough to offer them mine.



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Rise of the Robot.


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Robots are now everywhere. They mow our lawns, they sweep our carpets, and they clean our pools; they even want to drive our cars.

There are boffins tucked away in secret locations who do nothing but invent machines that will replace humans.

Already our factories are filled with Robotics, whilst able bodied (Luddites?) workers are relegated to a life of enforced leisure.

It wasn't so long ago that a ploughman and his horse would plough an acre a day. Nowadays a driver-less tractor can plough rake and sow as much as you like, day and night, and will also harvest the results some time later. The old style ploughman earned a few pence a week, but the Robotic tractor costs several millions, The economics never seem quite logical.

The most discussed, and probably most dangerous, of the newer inventions is the driver-less car. Already plenty of accidents have happened, and they're not even legally on our roads yet.

I remember back in the 1960's driving through Oxford on our way up to Wales. We were positioned behind a driver-less car which warned motorists of the fact. Behind us was another car that was controlling the one ahead by remote control. No doubt an interesting experiment at the time, but I'm not sure of the outcome.

I don't look forward to driver-less cars on our roads, in fact I'd rather each car had two drivers; one to handle the controls, and another to shout insults directions etc. Oh, hang-on, that reminds me of someone.



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Wee Jimmy Sturgeon.


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Nicola Sturgeon is 'demanding' a second referendum on Scottish Independence. Good for her!

The advantages of separation from the UK are numerous; here are just a few.

Scotland would no longer simply be a part of the UK, it would be a separate and proud independent country.

As an independent country, Scotland would be eligible to apply for membership of the highly successful European Union.

It would also (if granted membership) change its UK's Pounds for the much sought-after European Euros.

Scotland would also be able to free itself from the stranglehold of the 'Barnett Formula', which sees it receiving ridiculously generous hand-outs from Westminster; only just short of those paid to N Ireland.

All in all I can see the appeal. Their export market (for Whisky and Haggis) would be strengthened, their population would all become overnight millionaires, and Trump would probably build more Golf Courses.

I support Wee Jimmy 100%.


Monday, 3 April 2017

Ouch!


                                               

My grandson Finn has been practising his back-flips, unfortunately he doesn't always land on his feet.

I prescribe Vinegar and brown paper.



Sunday, 2 April 2017

Please keep your eyes peeled.



The above is all I have left of the portrait of a friend in Shropshire; it was the first of several preliminary drawings.

I reluctantly accepted the commission, and the whole job took me about 4 months to complete. The finished work was very rich in pre-raphaelite type colours. The mug later became a willow pattered cup and saucer, and her hands became covered with white stitched gloves.

The painting was stolen from the sitter's home about two years after I'd delivered it.

It could now be anywhere; even destroyed maybe. If anyone spots it somewhere, please let me know. My friend desperately wants it back.




Saturday, 1 April 2017

Mountain Music.


I'm not a particular fan of this type of music, but I just love everything about this.





Friday, 31 March 2017

Medical nostalgia.


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Old fashioned illnesses had much more interesting names than they do nowadays.

I've always liked the sound of 'Dropsy'; and 'The Vapours' has a distinctly romantic allure.

Who would not have been proud to have 'Quinsy', or 'Eel thing', or 'The screws', or even 'Stranger's fever'.

The only one you might not have admitted to was 'Bad blood', which I believe was a 'polite' way of saying Syphilis.



Thursday, 30 March 2017

Another random pix selection



The inedible Pear. When on the tree they're too hard; when they drop they turn to mush. The only thing one can guarantee about this tree is that it's always LOADED.


One of our own Pear trees (Finn's tree). Plenty of flowers, now we have to cross our fingers and wait.


Bad Backsville (Haddock's). My digging has begun. My back is aching. I have to continue regardless.


The little flowering plant I found in the middle of my neighbour's field. Doing very well, thank you.




Wednesday, 29 March 2017

60 Days. How's he doing so far?


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When Trump was elected, I was willing to give him a chance, and did so.

But how's he getting on, now that he's actually sitting in the oval office.

Has he built his famous wall, or even started it?

Has he stopped all those nasty Muslims from entering the USA?

Has he scrapped Obamacare?

Has he brought back all those exported jobs that he was so keen on repatriating?

In fact, has he made America great again?

From where I'm sitting the answer seems to be NO.



Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Nice!



One of the pleasures of living in the countryside, and having a dog to walk with every day, is coming across things that I've not noticed before.

These flowers (above) are a case in point.

The fields are covered in Cowslips at the moment (no Primroses), and to find these red variants amongst them is a real treat.

I believe they are simply a red Primula veris, and very nice too.

I may dig one small root, to transplant chez Cro. They may not be the world's most exciting flowers, but they do a good job.




Monday, 27 March 2017

Random pictures from a sunny Sunday afternoon.











It was a beautiful day here yesterday. All the lawns are mowed, Haddock's is mowed, and the orchard is mowed. What a very good boy am I.




Sunday, 26 March 2017

All change at Haddock's.



Always on the look-out for easier and more productive vegetable gardening, I have now established a simpler, more rotation-friendly, plot.

I've split Haddock's into four equal size sections with a narrow path between them. Of course this means I've lost a small amount of growing area, but I intend to make each section more productive (and in certain cases, less wasteful). The 40 cm wide paths were first covered with a landscaping material, then topped with crushed stone.

Digging over my garden in Spring has always been a pain; literally, because I have a bad back (and my rotovator is buggered). But, now having four much smaller areas to work, the task seems far less daunting. Each section can probably be dug over in about 30 mins (back willing).

Manure and compost will be spread liberally, and I shall try to double-dig where possible. I'm hoping that my 2017 veg' campaign will be seriously productive.

All I now need is a statue of St Fiacre on the intersection of the paths, and abundance will be guaranteed.

Haddock's gets smaller and smaller, but the yields are more and more generous. There's a moral in there somewhere!

Digging looms; as soon as the weather gets better.......



Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Taste of Home.


There are always certain foods that, if you live abroad, are almost unattainable. I could travel a long distance to buy them, but frankly it's easier to make my own.

One such treat is Brinjal Pickle; the perfect accompaniment to a good curry.


Luckily I saved the label from my last jar of Patak's, so it was simply a matter of reading the ingredients, and having a go.

I've made it before; the last time I added too much garlic, and rather spoilt it. This time I've followed the ingredients to the letter, and the resulting pickle seems pretty good.


I'll leave it to 'mature' for a few weeks before broaching; then I'll test it with a very simple Rice and Dhal.

I made two 270g jars; the Aubergine cost 55 centimes. Cheap is an understatement.




Speling.



Ever since Dennis Norden's TV programme 'It'll be alright on the night', one often sees the spelling of 'all right' as Mr Norden's easier and more junior version of 'alright'. 

I now fear for the the spelling of the word 'thoughtful'. 

Anyone who has seen this appalling TV advert' for (I even hate to write it) 'thortful', will probably (like me) be filled with horror at this latest mis-use of the English language.

What IS the point of mis-spelling certain words? They make me want to bloody scream. And as for the idiot with the stupid blue wig..... words fail me!

Luckily I can't actually tell you what they're advertising; I always leave the room whilst furiously tugging at what hair I have left (other than yesterday to take the above photo).

I shall NOT be 'searching' for thortful.






Friday, 24 March 2017

Then he relocated.



I took the above photo about 10 mins before I went off to bed.

About an hour later there was a short period of thunder, lightning, and heavy rain. Bok HATES storms, and came to join me on my bed. Freddie also turned up; but he always does.

So, I ended up with a dog on one side of me, and a cat on the other.

Not the most comfortable way of trying to sleep. 




Thursday, 23 March 2017

All good chums.


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Yesterday, politicians of all colours were praising Martin McGuinness as a peacemaker; today they are looking at terrorism very differently.



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