Monday, 24 July 2017

Day 1: The fun begins.



Other than having a break-down near Brive, their journey went according to plan (ahem!).

The big German car is now at a specialist garage having its gearbox looked-at, and Kimbo is driving a courtesy Renault Clio. He's not happy with it, although to me it looks perfect. 

Above, Harvey J helping Uncle Claude.


The Fire Brigade made an appearance.


Unwanted boarders were given fair warning.


And so to lunch.....

Yup, it's all aboard HMS Dangerous Fun for the next two weeks.




Sunday, 23 July 2017

Doppelganger No 7¾.



                                   mummy-portrait-of-a-young-woman-3rd-century-louvre-paris

Picasso portrait of Jacqueline 1962.


                                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "picasso portraits de femmes"

2000 year old Egyptian portrait of a woman.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dangerous Fun.



New for the boys this year is the Dangerous Fun Caravan (Pirate's Lair), complete with their original (now tattered) flag, which has been framed. I have also built a simple outdoor fire pit for cooking sausages, marshmallows, etc.

The caravan now has two 'beds' and two comfortable mattresses, so I'm hoping they'll spend at least a couple of nights in there.

There's a picnic table and benches, a couple of bikes with flat tyres, a frying pan, and not much else.

Let the Dangerous Fun commence!




Thursday, 20 July 2017

Building.



Given my time again, I would have done more building. It's a very satisfying amateur occupation.

You don't need a diploma to throw up walls in either stone, brick or concrete blocks; it's not difficult. It requires a radio (to relieve brain-numbing boredom), a string with a weight tied to one end, and a £2 level.

The fun bit is trying to make whatever one is building, blend in with what's around it. My Pump House certainly wouldn't have been the same without its cut stone window, hand thrown pinnacles, and greenery.

Much of the appeal of the area in which I live, are its ancient buildings. Many of our towns date from the late 13th century; the era of The Hundred Years War. Beautiful old arched shaded walkways, wood or stone pillared central market places, and decorative carved stonework openings, are commonplace. 

It must be said that traditionally the most conscientious restorers of our local buildings have always been the Brits or the Dutch. They tend to have a natural respect for the integrity of an ancient building; far more than the natives. Not always the case, but in general this is so.

Inappropriate industrial roofing tiles are now very common. Bizarrely shaped window openings and plastic doors are incorporated into otherwise beautiful old stone-built cottages. No horror is too far-fetched.  There seem to be few restrictions when it comes to modernising ancient farmhouses or cottages.

Nowadays 'buildings' come in various unusual forms. One of our neighbours (and friend) is building a Holiday Village. He already has a 7 person 'Gite', and has been given permission to install several ready-to-go Shipping Containers which will be semi-buried beneath the ground in his field. I hear that the containers come complete with kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc, and apparently all they need is to be positioned, made as invisible as possible, then have the pipes and wires connected. That's it.

Both Lady Magnon and myself have surprised ourselves by our joint lack of concern about the project; there's no holding back progress!  Anyway, it would have been hypocritical of us to think otherwise, in light of the conversion of our Séchoir. 

The entrance to his new 'Village' will be opposite an empty semi-ruined house on the 'main' road, so none of us will be directly affected.

Another friend who previously lived in a fabulous Yurt wanted to install several more as holiday accommodation, but was refused permission, which we've never really understood. I can't see why they would say 'yes' to Shipping Containers, yet 'no' to Yurts; there doesn't seem to be a great deal of logic in the authority's choice of holiday housing.

C'est la vie. Hey ho!



The months ahead.



I love Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers.

At this time of year, I get up at 5.30 am (as I do every day of the year), pull on a T shirt, a pair of shorts, and my old pumps, and I'm ready to face the day.

As we approach full-on Summer, we have suddenly realised that our diary is much fuller than we'd anticipated. 

Kimbo and the boys arrive any day, we have a big wedding to attend, and we have more parties and dinner-parties on the horizon than is decent.

On top of all that there are village fêtes, boot sales, and al-fresco meals to be attended; not to mention several other visitors.

We also plan to visit various restaurants that we have ignored for the past few years, although when we'll get time to do so, I'm not sure.


We have a field of Sunflowers in front of the house this year, so the above is now what we look out upon. It looks like the next couple of months will be non-stop misery.

Now, where are my swimming things?




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Dring...dring...


                            Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Ringing telephone"

I very rarely answer my home telephone; either because I'm not there to hear it ring, or if it's at lunchtime I'm 99% sure it'll be some infuriating foreign twat (probably a Nigerian idiot pretending to be from Microsoft). I don't have a mobile (well, I do, but I don't use it).

My true friends all know to leave a very short message on the answerphone, and I phone them back at once.

I am sick to death of bloody cold calls from scammers, salesmen, opportunists, and the like.

It's always the same. The phone rings four times, then silence, then the answerphone switches off. It happens about ten times a day.

Most French nuisance callers understand the traditional English greeting of 'Fuck off', but a few are persistent.

I would never, never, never, buy anything from someone over the phone; nor (I hope) would I fall for some idiotic scam. If I need something I go to the relevant shop.

I really don't know why they bother. The telephone Co must be making plenty of money from these people, but it also makes people like me want to do away with a land line.

Yesterday I did answer a call, and it was an astrologer! Heaven help me!





Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Growing older (me and them).



My only regret about growing older, is the prospect of not knowing what will become of my six grandsons.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have grandchildren usually study their development from Day 1. We keep a discreet eye on them, and our fingers are permanently crossed for their futures.

I'm not one to hope for great things, I would rather see a natural talent developed, than expect them to shine academically. We've already had one genius in our family in the past 70 years (sadly, not me), so I'm not expecting another one too soon.

I've always imagined the one above (Finn) as a future actor. I have no idea if he has any plans for his eventual career, but I would like to see him in at least one school play (if they have such things in Oz), just to see how he reacts. I have a feeling he'd like it; he has a natural theatrical flair.

The others are just being the scampish boys that they are (and should be); none of them shows any particular leaning, other than one who is a gifted Cricketer.

Career choices for the future will take a lot of careful thought. The most important thing is that they gain satisfaction from their eventual occupations (and hopefully earn a decent crust).





Monday, 17 July 2017

Nothing really changes!



June 2014.


July 2017.

When you find that perfect spot; stick with it! One hand in the water.




Sunday, 16 July 2017

Johnners and Aggers. The Sunday Giggle.


Cricket may well baffle those from across the pond, even some Brits find it a complicated game.

Cricket commentaries can be a lot of fun. I dare you NOT to laugh at this snippet.

Johnners at his best; he's the one on the left, Aggers is on the right.





Saturday, 15 July 2017

Sudden glut.



As you can see, I turn my back for a few minutes, and there are Aubergines everywhere!

One of my favourite ways of eating them is to slice them in half, cut a criss-cross pattern into the flesh, then simply fry in plenty of olive oil for about 5 minutes; turning once or twice. I then leave them to cool, covered, until required.

However, my latest experiment was to 'curry' them. The Aubergines were cut into manageable sized pieces. In a reasonable amount of Rape Oil I fried a tsp of ground Cumin, a tsp of ground Coriander, a tsp of Garam Masala, and a tsp of Kashmiri Chilli Powder.


When well amalgamated I threw in the Aubergine pieces, and cooked for a while. I added some Lemon juice, and a splash of water to loosen. At the last minute I also added a few chopped Cherry Tomatoes, and served with a dollop of Greek Yoghurt.

                            

Verdict. Really good, but maybe next time I'll add some red Kidney Beans. With all the Aubergines at Haddock's, I'll certainly be doing this again.



Friday, 14 July 2017

Doppleganger No 23,411.



Résultat de recherche d'images pour "mussolini"

Donaldo Trumpolino.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Trump"

Ben Muscle-Meeney.

(I believe Trump is in France for Bastille Day)



Thursday, 13 July 2017

My 2017 Single Malt.



Lady Magnon thinks it's the start of a slippery slope; she fears I might become an old sop. 

Last winter I consumed a bottle (over several months) of 15 year old Aberlour single malt, and I must say it was stunningly good. I'm not a drinker of spirits, but a wee dram of good quality whisky in front of the fire on a cold night is wonderful. I literally drink a thimble full, just for the flavour.

I've now bought a bottle of Singleton (nothing to do with Valerie) 12 year old single malt for this coming winter. I've not heard of Singleton, so my fingers are crossed. It looks impressive, so I hope I've made the right choice.

My late father enjoyed his whisky, but always drank 'blended'. If he was still alive I would buy him single malt; there is no comparison.

It will probably be broached just before Christmas, and with the amount I drink, it should last until April. I'm rather looking forward to it.

If anyone has tasted this 'Singleton', I'd be interested to hear your opinion.




Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Méchouia?



I've often written about the little treats that I missed from my native England (mostly now available here), but have not thought much about what I would miss in return if I was to live back in the UK again.

Large tins of confit, wine at €1.10 per litre, and several items of charcuterie come to mind, but there are other less well known delights that I would also miss terribly.

For example, our Summers would not be complete without the Tunisian Salade Méchouia (piquante) which accompanies our simple lunchtime salads.

This is a mix of grilled hot Peppers, Bell Peppers, and Tomatoes in Olive oil. Sounds basic enough, but it lifts an otherwise dull salad to dizzying heights.

When (if) I was obliged to send a lorry over to France to collect confit, wine, and charcuterie, I would also have to import several dozen jars of Salade Méchouia at the same time.

I would REFUSE TO BE DEPRIVED!




Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Naughty Schoolboys.



In a recent book written about my specific era up at school, these two paragraphs brought back wonderful memories. The (Bill Hunt) mentioned in para 2 was my partner in crime.

Yes, we brewed beer, we certainly ran a radio station, and the making (and igniting) of small bombs was a particular pleasure. 

I remember one particular bomb that we designed to separate a smallish tree from its mooring (which it eventually did very efficiently). We dug around the roots, placed the device inside the hole, laid about two yards of 'Jetex' fuse, lit it, ran like bloody hell, and hid behind a large tree. The noise was deafening (we were informed later that it could be heard over 5 miles away). Our return to school was by way of a highly meandering woodland route, in order to avoid any over-zealous nosy policemen.

The grave robbing was conducted by a friend. The Cathedral authorities had decided to make their rather bedraggled graveyard into a modern 'Garden of Peace'. All the ancient headstones were moved to against the Cathedral's walls, and the ground was ploughed rotovated and levelled before being re-sowed. During this work all sorts of bits and pieces came to the surface, and my friend went out each night with his torch to see what had appeared. His collection was impressive, and rather ghoulish; not my cup of tea at all. 

There was not only a 'secret motorbike' at school, but also several secret cars. Another of my good friends ('G' was later sacked) owned a Morgan 3 wheeler, and an Austin Healey 100/6, which he kept in a secretive distant car park. I would occasionally take the Austin Healey for a drive; a fabulous car. This was probably my most reckless activity; thank goodness I was never caught.

Some of these 'hobbies' might sound a tad irresponsible, but what else would you expect from several hundred boys in their teens?




Monday, 10 July 2017

Wild Food.



It's amazing how much wild food there is around where I live.

This Apple tree (above) is a good example, and it's just about to have its first real crop. I've followed its progress from a tiny sapling, and wondered if it would ever produce decent apples. It is growing just a few metres back from a small track through the woods, and was no doubt sown by bird droppings. I'll let you know how the apples taste nearer to Autumn.


Otherwise there are mushrooms (above are some I gathered yesterday), walnuts, chestnuts, edible 'weeds', berries of all sorts, small wild plums, wild cherries, and grapes, all growing in carefree abandon.

It's no wonder that Stone Age man made his home here. With an abundance of natural caves around, fish in the rivers, and plenty of game in the woods, they really lacked nothing.

If one was determined enough, and possessed a decent rifle, I quite expect one could live pretty well here without ever visiting a shop.

However, to make life complete, my cave would also need to be equipped with some good pans, a constant supply of both olive oil and red wine, and a few dependable Chickens.



Sunday, 9 July 2017

Spray Alert.



Whenever I see, or hear, one of these machines arriving, I run for the house, close all the doors and windows, make sure the animals are indoors, and try to hold my breath for the duration.

I remember once seeing a whole bunch of local children running along behind a similar sprayer. Goodness knows what chemicals they use, I certainly wouldn't allow my grandchildren to do anything so foolish.

I quite understand that farmers need to control diseases and insects, and I don't complain as long as they do it whilst I'm safely lying underneath the bed with my gas-mask on. 



Saturday, 8 July 2017

Refuge.



When it becomes oppressively hot and humid (anywhere over 35 C, like yesterday), this is to where we retreat.

It's the single room of our so-called 'tower', that Lady Magnon and I built a few years back.

It is cooling; usually with a light breeze. It is reasonably uncluttered (for us). And the bed is big enough for the three of us to take our afternoon siesta very comfortably (the third member being Bok). At nights only Freddie is allowed access; unless there are storms. 

The room has a Franco/Moroccan feel about it, and is very relaxing. There is no water or electricity, so no disturbance. The room is also away from the house. 

Methinks it's time to move in before our real summer begins (which we did last night)!




Friday, 7 July 2017

Green, Fairway, and Rough.



When you live out in the countryside, grass control is a constant battle.

I treat my grassy areas in three distinctly different ways. In front of the house is our lawn (above) which is mowed to 'Putting Green' quality. 

Bigger areas such as the orchard, paddock, etc, are mowed less meticulously in 'Fairway' style.

The rest, which is turned into hay twice a year, is left as 'Rough'.

For someone who last played Golf back in the early 1980's, I do cling to certain aspects of the game, even if I no longer swing a club in anger.

Bok prefers the 'Green'.



Thursday, 6 July 2017

Kohl Rabi.



This is not only the first Kohl Rabi I've grown, but it's also the first I've eaten.

I followed advice and treated it as a Célerie Rémoulade. It was peeled, grated, squeezed of its juice, and mixed with Mayo.


Verdict. OK, but nothing special. Quite a nice nutty flavour, and pleasantly crisp. Even so, I'd rather have Celeriac. 

I don't think I'll bother growing them again. Lady Magnon agreed.



Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Naked Ladies.


Let's face it, young men and naked ladies; sounds like hard work doesn't it.

In fact after your very first five minutes, life drawing simply becomes a discipline. You draw; she sits. You're dreaming of Ursula Andress; she looks like Bernard Manning. You're trying to get your drawing to look half-bloody-decent; she's got an itch that simply won't go away.


Then some overpaid lecturer (who pretends to be an expert) comes along and criticises everything you've spent the last two hours doing. You rub it all out and begin again. She's moved. I've moved. Your pencil breaks. Your hands are covered in charcoal dust. You give up and go to the pub. And, hell's teeth, it starts all over again the following day. 

Weeks, months, years, you sit in front of these sad penniless models, scratching away with your 2B. They hate it; you hate it. The paper mills of Scandinavia are put on overtime; the lead mines of North Wales take on extra choristers.

Why do we do it? Because it makes us LOOK! That overpaid twit can tell at once if you're just 'SEEING'. So we are forced to LOOK, LOOK, and LOOK again. 

The two examples above (circa 1969) are just throw-away reminders of those wonderful days. I've long forgotten her name, but she was a good model. She probably should have been sitting for Mr Rubens; just look at those thighs, or was I dreaming!




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Maria




Does anyone out there have any form of communication with 'Maria'?

It would be very good to know that she is OK.

She's too good a person just to disappear; we need her back.

It's only blog-world for heaven's sake, but I, like others, become attached to our invisible friends, and worry about them.



Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Tapas Time.



May I suggest that if you grow Peppers, you should also consider growing these. 

I've mused about these before, but it's worth doing so again. Here the variety is known as 'Doux, Long des Landes'. As the name suggests, they are mild (not hot) peppers, and long in form. They are those long Peppers that you eat in Tapas bars throughout Spain.

They are fried whole in Olive oil until the skin blisters a bit, and are sprinkled with coarse Sea Salt whilst frying. The process takes about 5 mins. Then they are left to soften, and when tepid are eaten as a side dish, or appetiser. Totally delicious.

But be warned. It is said that one in ten is 'hot'. Personally I've never encountered a 'hot' one, but I look forward to the occasion.

The above were the very first of this year's crop, that's why there were so few. I don't think I've put in enough plants.





Monday, 3 July 2017

Weasel.


                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Weasel"

It must be about 20 years since I've seen a Weasel, then yesterday I saw one in exactly the same spot as all those years ago.

It's reassuring to know that even though they are unseen, they are still living in the same place.

Behind our house is a narrow pathway, and beyond that a bank, which was originally fronted by a stone wall; now totally covered in grass brambles etc. Presumably it is amongst the hidden stones that our weasels live.

These small creatures (6 to 8 inches long) are a sign that all is well with nature. I can't tell you how pleased I was to see this little fella today; especially as I expect Freddie has had his eye on him!

p.s. Not my photo.



Sunday, 2 July 2017

A Culinary Experiment.




We have LOADS of these small semi-wild Plums. They taste very good, and have one great advantage over our other Plums; they never ever have worms inside!

Being a huge fan of Japanese Umeboshi, I thought I'd have a go at making my own version of Pickled Plums.


The Plums were cooked in equal amounts of red wine Vinegar and Sugar until just softening. I added some Salt, Peppercorns, and Chilli flakes; then straight into the bottle. 


I'll leave them for a week or so before tasting.

I'm not over-confident about them, but if they are even reasonably tasty I shall see them as a success. With so many Plums otherwise going to waste, one can but experiment.

The weather's been so foul here recently, that there really hasn't been much else to do.



Saturday, 1 July 2017

Summer?



Just a few days ago we were basking in temperatures over 35 C, and I was complaining of my lawns turning the colour of sandstone.

Since then it's rained, it's poured, we've had thunder and lightning, cold, strong wind, and hail. Poor Bok, who hates storms, has been trembling almost non-stop for days.

The solar cover has been back on the pool for almost a week, and the water level has risen by about 3 inches. When I put the cover on, the water temperature was 27 C; now it is down to 22 C.

Today is the 1st of July, and hopefully things will change.

Can you believe it, I'm just about to take Bok for his early morning walk and I shall wear my Barbour, hat, gumboots, and scarf. It's like October!




Friday, 30 June 2017

Instructions for Visitors.



Occasionally I get half way through a book, and wonder why on earth I'm reading it. I then think 'I've got so far, so I might as well try to get to the end'.

That was the case with this rather lacklustre book by Helen Stevenson about her village in The South of France. I really don't know why I bothered.

I learnt only one thing from this book. Apparently one never refers to 'Champagne Socialists' in France because Champagne is not regarded as elitist. Instead they are known as 'Caviar Socialists', because Caviar represents a love of luxury, incompatible with Socialist principles.

Here in France, the drinking of Champagne is almost viewed as patriotism (I certainly see it thus).

You learn something every day!




Thursday, 29 June 2017

Robots.


                

When The Countess of Shopville next visits her 'out of town' Hypermarket, buys things she doesn't need, with money she doesn't have, she may possibly choose to go through an un-manned checkout, and allow basic robotics to deal with her purchases. She might also pay with an arbitrary swipe of a plastic card.

I have just been listening to a radio programme about the 'frightening' future of robots, and it seems that the UK is lagging behind. Whereas the UK has just 15,000 robots in use at present, other countries such as Germany, China, and Japan, each have about 150,000.

What jobs are now safe? Even your mooning bricklayer is being replaced by machines.

Children leaving school should think very hard about what careers to follow.



Wednesday, 28 June 2017

My day.



My day has been drawn out for me in advance.

There will be little time for slacking. My tasks have been timed to the minute. From 5.30 am (when I write and post this stuff), to about 15.30 pm (when I pick-up Lady Magnon from the airport) not a minute will be wasted. By the time we reach home, I'll be shattered.

My only problem is that more rain is forecast, but hopefully I'll get all my jobs completed.

Other than my usual time-consuming duties, Freddie has to have his worm pill; never an easy job. I still have one small lot of mowing to do. And I shall prepare a delicious dry Chicken Curry for Lady M; after her day's travelling, I know she'll enjoy that.

I'm beginning to really hate that airport, I've seen more of it this year than I would ever have imagined possible.

I'll catch-up with you later!




Tuesday, 27 June 2017

It's never ending.



It's that time of year again. All our lawns turn beige, and stop growing.

I don't mind the 'stop growing' part, but beige crunchy grass is not my Tasse de Thé..

We are promised rain, and maybe even storms, for this week so perhaps some green will return.

Of course just because the grass doesn't grow, it doesn't mean that everything else stops. The grass still has to be mowed, as annoying foot-tall spindly yellow flowering weeds soon spring up everywhere, making the lawns look a total mess.

I can't really complain. It takes me just 40 minutes to mow with Rory (my ride-on mower), and another 20 minutes with the ordinary mower. One hour a week to mow the whole caboodle ain't so bad.

I can hear the sound of distant thunder as I write. Rain may be on its way!


(5 mins later) And it was! And boy did it rain!




Monday, 26 June 2017

The Red Dot.



Painters are fickle folk.

We like our work to be appreciated, we like to think our life's study/work has not all been in vain, and most of all we like to see the occasional 'red dot'.

We can work for decades, then one day sell a minor work for a few £'s, and it all suddenly seems worthwhile. It's not the money; it's the appreciation.

Personally I've had more work stolen than I've sold, which in its own way is flattering, but I'd like to have had more financial return. This has probably been my own fault as I've allowed some disastrous galleries to show my work, and placed my reputation in the hands of rank amateurs. I've occasionally exhibited in quite prestigious locations, but always in mixed non-selling shows.

I'm working more at the moment than I have for the past few years, and I'm toying with the idea of showing work again, but I would certainly be much more selective about the location and its curator/manager than I have been in the past.

My last exhibition here in France was enough to put anyone off!




Sunday, 25 June 2017

Breatharianism.


                           

These two individuals, Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello (above), claim never to eat. They occasionally sip a thimble-full of diluted fruit juice (once a year) but otherwise (apparently) they live on air.

Looking at their photo, he seems to be struggling slightly with her weight. I wonder where all that came from? She claims to have gone through a whole pregnancy without eating.

The good news must be that we can send them to arid parts of Africa, where they could teach the natives not to worry about starvation; and just breathe instead. That'll soon have them fattened-up.

Another world problem solved?


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Carers, caring, and couldn't care less.


                                      Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Carer with client"

Caring for the sick, disabled, and elderly is a subject about which much has been written recently. Carers think they aren't appreciated, are underpaid, and are much maligned. They are right!

This is work often undertaken by immigrants who will do almost anything to earn some money; however paltry.

Most carers work for independent, private, companies, who pay their workers peanuts whilst charging their clients a fortune. I recently heard of a man paying £1,000 per week for two hours attention, seven days a week; that works out at over £71 an hour, for which the carers themselves were paid about £8 an hour (if that). £100-ish for the carer, and £900 for the company, and that's just for ONE person's care. Someone somewhere is earning a bloody fortune on the backs of the incapacitated.

Back in the early 1980's my people asked if I would return to the UK to look after them. They were both in 'terminal' ill health, and I was happy to be in a position where I could be of assistance. My mother died a couple of years later, and father soon became a double amputee. I was in shock, to say the least.

When told he would be returning home (with no legs), I remember asking the people at the hospital how I was supposed to cope. 'Oh, don't worry' they assured me 'you will have an army of carers coming to look after him'. I took him home and waited.

Of course no-one came, no-one phoned, and frankly no-one cared. I was left to cope alone. I shall leave the daily chores to your imagination.

So, I know something of what carers have to deal with; I've been there.

Personally I think the 'caring profession' should be State, NHS, managed. This should not be a money making scheme for eager cost-cutting businessmen. The Care Home racket is bad enough; the Visiting Carer racket is becoming even worse.



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