Saturday, 24 June 2017

Carers, caring, and couldn't care less.


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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.



Friday, 23 June 2017

We eat again!



Haddock's is almost filled to capacity. There is just one corner left for a third row of 'Contender' French Beans. 

It's at this stage when everything starts to over produce. With the Beans already starting, I can see that we shall soon have excess. I've tried freezing them in the past, but they don't freeze well. Lady Magnon always asks for plenty of beans; then we become inundated. We can only eat so many!

We're now harvesting Courgettes, Peppers, Beans Onions, Perpetual Spinach, Potatoes, and Salads. We'll also soon be eating Tomatoes, Aubergines, and other Peppers.


There are also Cherries, Tayberries, and Black/Red Currents. It is amazing how much food can be grown on such a small plot.

Some clever person observed that 'Gardens require water; mostly in the form of perspiration'. We'll soon be needing some of the other sort; it's very hot and dry here.


This was our very favourite Cumin flavoured 'Compost fry-up' that was created with yesterday's harvest (above). A vegetarian dream.

The most recent addition to Haddock's is the Brighton Seagull (top left). Yes, it's wings rotate when the wind blows. Kitsch, or what!




Thursday, 22 June 2017

Knife Crime in the UK.


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Last week two London schoolboys died, in separate incidents, as a result of knife crime.

Last year (2016) there were a staggering 32,448 recorded knife crimes in the UK. In certain circles, carrying a knife has now become the norm. It is the preferred weapon of the under 18's.

Many years ago, such offenders were sent off to Borstal, Approved schools, Farm schools, and other 'naughty boy' institutions. Not exactly pukka prison, but the regimes were usually pretty tough.

Nowadays there are Secure children's homes, Secure training centres, and Young offenders institutions. From what I understand these places are no more than 'homes away from home', and they offer very little in the way of correction; I believe attendance is viewed as a 'badge of honour'.

No home is without a knife drawer, in fact a home could hardly operate without knives, so they are within reach of every young person; and a single knife would probably never be missed if 'borrowed'. Many children regularly take a knife with them to school. The situation has now become so serious that police refer to it as an 'epidemic'.

Children are being knifed for 'looking at someone in the wrong way', or 'for coming from the wrong side of the estate', or even 'for talking to the wrong girl'. Anything can be 'wrong', and no excuse is too feeble.

As with the threat of terrorism, knife crime is almost impossible to police. Many do-gooders were against Britain's 'Stop and Search' policy, claiming that it was racist (Theresa May herself was against S-n-S). Why searching someone should be racist I'm not sure, but I suppose they mean it's racist if the person being searched is of 'Afro-Caribbean' descent.

N.B. Having said all that, I must admit to being never without a knife in my pocket. However, mine is there for bucolic purposes; NOT for aggression.




Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ox-bloody-alis.



If there's one blasted weed that I hate more than all others; it's the common OXALIS.

My neighbour's cleaner once boasted that it was thanks to her that I have them all over Haddock's. She had thrown the tiny bulbs over the wall (before I'd made it into my veg' patch), and boy how they spread!

                           

The wretched plants pop up over night, and are simply everywhere. I try to dig out the tiny pink bulbs, but it's a never-ending task.

When each of my four separate growing sections at Haddock's are cleared of their finished crops, I shall simply let the wretched things grow, then blast them with the most evil Agent Orange Oxalis Killer that Monsanto can make for me.

They're driving me absolutely bloody NUTS!



Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Booty from the Boot Sale.



Frayssinet le Gelat hosts the first 'boot sale' of the season that we actually attend, and on Sunday it provided this wee haul.

A very nice set of 10 silver plated 'Christofle' desert spoons. I've only cleaned one so far.

A cute little early jug, for which I cannot imagine any use; other than to admire.

And a silver plated ice cube grabber; fun for the boys, and very practical for Lady M's G & T.

Not bad.




Stung!


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The Bees arrived about three weeks ago, the hives are brought in to pollinate the Chestnut plantations; whilst doing their job, the Bees often stop off en route to drink from our pool.

I have always lifted out bees and other insects by hand when I find them in difficulty on the water, and, until now, I have NEVER been stung.

Yesterday, however, whilst I was busy doing my 100 metres breaststroke, I saved the life of a bastard rogue Bee, and he returned my generosity by stinging me on my finger.

I went directly to the 'net' to look for home remedies, and came across several. Honey, it seems, will do the job, but I wouldn't give the Bee population the pleasure, after such behaviour. Baking Powder can be made into a paste and applied. And the sting can be immersed in Apple Cider Vinegar. I chose a version of the latter.

I soaked the middle bit of a sticking plaster (Band Aid, Elastoplast, etc) in the ACV, and stuck it on my finger. The effect was almost instantaneous, the pain subsided, and I almost forgot about it at once.

In future I will set aside my insect-friendly bravado, and use a skimmer net.



Monday, 19 June 2017

Oh dear, oh dear!


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I suppose it was almost predictable that some idiot would take, what he thinks of as, 'revenge'. But this is NOT the way. This childish tit for tat attitude is not helping what is already a desperate situation. It would have been far more poignant if these criminals (for that is what they are) would have gone to the mosque in Finsbury Park, and shaken the hands of those who were leaving.

Understanding the behaviour of others is sometimes baffling. Just a year ago we ourselves experienced some very bizarre and irrational behaviour from some neighbours. The incident is long over, but we are still perplexed by their motivation even today.

Attitudes can become so fixed in people's minds that all logic is left behind. Hypocrisy can replace otherwise rational thinking. Criminal activity can overpower otherwise law-abiding individuals.

Fanaticism, drugs, and alcohol, can all play a part in such irrational behaviour, but there is no excuse.

How all this will end I have no idea, but end it must or the situation will become dire.



Sunday, 18 June 2017

Laurier Rose.



I'm not a proper gardener (just a tidier), but in my humble opinion the Oleander is the most evocative plant/flower of Southern France. 

I never know the names of plants (except for a few), and always refer to them as 'that red thing by the studio door' or 'the one in the big pot by the pool'; etc. But I do know my Oleanders.


I'm sure I remember this Oleander being much redder than it looks this year. I'm sure I can remember buying it because it was blood red, and not the pink colour it seems to have become.

Anyway, it still looks pretty good, and will continue flowering well into autumn.

I dare not mention to the children that it's one of the most poisonous plants around. They'd be bound to test it.




Saturday, 17 June 2017

Obits and memories.


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I hate reading 'The Obits'; but even worse is finding a good friend amongst those mentioned.

It has always been a tradition that the families of my school's fellow alumni use the pages of the UK's Daily Telegraph to announce their kin's passing. No doubt my own passing will eventually be announced there too.

As you might imagine, I can't buy the Telegraph on a daily basis here, nor do I consult their on line pages too often, but occasionally I do have reason to look at something to corroborate certain facts, and at the same time I always take a look at the obits; it's a mild obsession.

Only recently I found that my good friend, and fellow Blue Button, GB, from my city days, had died. I was reminded about him by a quote from Michael Kidson's recently published biography. Kidson wrote of him "It's like addressing a sheeted tombstone by moonlight, GB is about as lively as an inanimate centenarian". Personally I never found him thus; he was always good fun.

Anyway, I decided to 'look him up', and found that GB had died a while ago. He was two years older than me and led a very stressful city lifestyle. His father had been The Government Broker, and GB was expected to follow in the family footsteps.

In about 1965 he and I did the rounds of the 'season' together. We were told (in no uncertain terms) which city Balls we were expected to attend (these were usually held in nearby livery company buildings) and during the Summer months we both kept our dinner jackets in a cupboard at the office.

These do's were seriously, seriously, tedious; you cannot imagine! Scores of over-dressed, over painted, and over-coiffed young ladies, desperate for a suitable husband, would eye-up scores of city hopefuls who wished to marry into money and land. They were no more than expensive meat markets; I hated everything about them.

Anyway, if the father of the presented young lady was a friend, or client, of one of our partners, GB and I were forced to attend (to represent the firm), and we tried to make the best of the evenings. At least there were usually sumptuous feasts on offer.

So, I was sad to read of GB's passing, it also brought back memories of a certain period in my life that I would otherwise rather forget. However, if it hadn't been for the close friendship of GB, those evenings would have been unbearable; in fact I would have refused to attend.

I shall continue to read the obits, but I'm still hoping not to recognise any of the names!




Friday, 16 June 2017

Pickled Walnuts; update.



The pierced green walnuts had been soaking in brine for 10 days, and it was time to put them out in the sun to turn even blacker than they already were. Two days will do the job.


Don't they look appetising (don't answer)? It's almost unimaginable that they'll eventually turn into delicious tender pickles.

Then into sterilised jars, and filled with vinegar, sugar, and a few peppercorns (no exact measures).


Now I have to wait until about Christmas before tasting. I hope they'll be OK, because they're all I've got until next year.

And, in case you were wondering, this is how they emerge after a year or two's patience.






Thursday, 15 June 2017

Timmy; eat your blues!



I don't know if it's the same everywhere, but I have far more 'blues' growing in my garden than I do 'greens'.

Maybe it's the soil, or maybe it's because of my 'blue fingers', but most of my leafy vegs are decidedly BLUE. The contrast between the green of my Perpetual Spinach (foreground) and the blue of the plants behind them is clear.

My photo doesn't illustrate this as well as I would have liked, but the watering can on the left is also BLUE.

So, forget about your greens, make your children eat their blues!



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Jam Stirrers Assistant.



We suddenly have an abundance of Raspberries/Tayberries; so what to do with them?

I'm not really someone who touches sugar, but occasionally needs take over, and I put my hand to making JAM.

I only made one pot to start with, which could well be one pot too many, and here it is! I reckon it would win first prize at any village WI show!


It set perfectly. Equal weights of Tayberries and sugar, plus a splash of lemon juice; it can't be bad! 

I'll keep it for the boys, for when they come next month. I might even make some more. 

(later). In fact I just have made a second jar, and I tasted it too. Fantastic. I'll probably make a jar a day for the next week; it only takes five minutes.




Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Après la Fête.



My agent wanted a studio shot, and we ended up with this. The original was, of course, much crisper, and with no horrible flash.
It shows me 'hard at work' on a painting called Après la Fête; a partially clothed post-party woman pulling petals from a Daisy (he loves me, he loves me not, etc). Our 'visitor' cat, Thomas, was curled up at her feet.

                                             

This was the finished job a few days later. Again, an awful photo with more flash.



And finally an installation shot of an exhibition that same year (1982?). I'd been selected to exhibit with a prestigious British Gas touring show, in which Après la Fête was included.

Yes, and once I was slim too!

M.B. All these photos are photos of photos of photos etc... Sorry.


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Monday, 12 June 2017

Now look what you've done!



Breakfast time is the only time of day that I usually get to sit down by myself (being closely watched by Bok and Freddie, of course), to contemplate life's foibles. 

As I am up each day much earlier than anyone else I have the kitchen to myself. I eat what I want, drink what I want, and think what I want. At breakfast I answer to no-one.

Yesterday morning, for example, I cleared-up some Cat sick by the bathroom door (very unusual for Freddie), over-cooked two boiled eggs (I mistakenly timed them for hard boiled!), and sorted out most of the world's problems.

At about 7 am, the sun was already up, the birds were singing, and the animals were pestering me for their morning bowls of milk. From the kitchen table I look out through the open glass doors onto perfectly tranquil countryside, I can see four horses, about a dozen Blonde d'Aquitaine cows, and several varieties of medium sized birds (Doves, Magpies, Blackbirds, Starlings, Buzzards, etc). It's the epitome of peace and calm, and it suits my character perfectly.

Whilst tucking in to my unpleasantly over-boiled eggs I made a radical decision, I decided that I shall no longer fret about politics, or political posturing. I shall pull down the blinkers, bury my head in the sand, and say as many Hail Mary's as I can muster. I might even carry a Rabbit's foot.

After the recent bun fight between Santa Claus and the Wicked Witch of the West, I shall in future only mention such things in passing, in a throw-away, nonchalant, sort of fashion (such as here).

And..... the next time I have boiled eggs for my breakfast, I shall time them for FOUR AND A QUARTER MINUTES. I was distracted by all the Mrs May hullabaloo; honestly!.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Artichoke season.



These are the small Artichokes that one buys in bundles at market; leaves and all. They are the secondary growths after the big round heads have been harvested.

                            

Globe Artichokes frighten some people, but they shouldn't. It's quite simple. They are trimmed of their smaller outer leaves around the top of the stem, topped of the unnecessary upper spiky part, and cooked with about 2 or 3 inches of the stem intact.


They are boiled for about 20-25 mins; when cool the outer leaves are removed one by one until the revealed interior becomes lighter in colour. They are then eaten whole, including the stem and choke. At least that's my method. They are usually served with a little vinaigrette. 

This was my yesterday's lunch. Yum!




Saturday, 10 June 2017

Election Results. I breathe again; almost!


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Not an ideal result to the election, in fact it could hardly be worse. But thank god that the British public has seen sense and voted to return a Conservative government; however tenuous its hold. A Socialist government could so easily have ignited the financial ruin of dear old Blighty, and at this time it could almost have been 'terminal'. Common sense has prevailed, and I, like most, heaved a huge sigh of relief; albeit somewhat restrained.

What Blair and Co started, Corbyn and Co could easily have finished. Just be grateful that this won't now happen; not for a while anyway.

However, one mustn't become complacent. It's worth remembering that there are plenty of radical Socialists/Marxists/Communists out there who would happily welcome such disastrous policies as Corbyn and Co promoted. They just don't care.

Thank you everyone who voted for reasonable standards in politics. You would never know how worried I was, and how relieved I am this morning. I breathe again. My own politics are traditionally 'middle of the road'; I can't stand either the extreme left or the extreme right; the idea of an extreme left, Marxist, government was giving me serious nightmares.

This election didn't so much ring the praises of Corbyn, as show disdain for May. An election thrown away by arrogance, and a lack of urgency. This was tub-thumping versus apathy. Corbyn appealing to a young, greedy, something for nothing, population, who care only for today; versus May threatening to take away cold-weather payments from pensioners. No contest.

I shall now try not to think of politics for the foreseeable future.

p.s. I'm still reeling from the thought of Diane Abbott as Home secretary (as, I expect, are many).



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