Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Holiday Souvenirs.

Both my immediate neighbours are off on their holidays; one lot to London, the others to Marrakech.

I've never bought a Straw Donkey from Spain, nor a foam Stetson from the US, but I have returned home from holidays with some quite interesting stuff.

I once returned from the US with a man in front of me on the 'plane wearing about 10 foam Stetsons piled one on top of the other! What a plonker.

We always used to buy strange, interesting looking, foods. I remember once buying small tins of Thrushes in sauce, which were not terribly nice (or PC), and I also remember my mother getting very excited over the purchase of a big, very decorative, 5 litre can of expensive Greek Olive Oil, which turned out to contain big fat green olives in brine. Her knowledge of Greek was zero; but the tin, and the olives were nice anyway!

These rustic dishes (above) come from the tiny Balearic Island of Formentera. I would have bought more but I didn't trust the baggage handlers. I've now had them for over 40 years, and we still use them daily.


And these Olive wood stacking Egg Cups from the Italian Riviera seemed like a very good idea at the time, but don't get used too often. Even so, they haven't joined all those donkeys and stetsons at the tip, and remain prospectively useful. I wouldn't encourage people to buy tinned Thrushes, but there are plenty of other tinned delights awaiting you.

I've bought Argan and Patchouli Oils in Morocco, strange small 'stamped' metal depictions of ears, noses, and eyes, from Greece, and some wonderful 17th C wood carvings from Palma (which went directly to Sotheby's, and paid for the trip many times over).

Part of the fun of travel is what one brings back.

It's very nice to go trav'ling
to Paris London or Rome
Bla bla bla
But it's so much nicer to come home (with some half-decent souvenirs).

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

With Tears in my Eyes.

The end-of-year C word seems to have been resurrected recently, so it's time to think of what will accompany our cold Turkey.

There are two main pickles I associate with our winter feasts; onions and red cabbage. As we are now less than 90 days away from the big feasting and fattening season, I have begun the preparations by starting with the pickled onions.

I cannot envisage my Boxing Day slices of cold Turkey without a few pickled onions.

The small onions were peeled (with lachrymose difficulty), put into a light brine for 24 hours, then bottled in spiced wine vinegar with some sugar. I don't bother with weights and measures when it comes to such things; I do it by eye, and memory.

The pickled red cabbage will be prepared about two weeks before the big day, otherwise it loses its freshness colour and crunch.

I'm almost beginning to feel 'festive' (no I'm not).

Monday, 16 October 2017

Spurs v Bournemouth.

I've only been to one professional Football match in my life, and that was at Brighton & Hove Albion, back in the 1960's. I can't remember who they played.

The noise was so loud that I had a headache for a week.

On Saturday, Kimbo and Ollie went to watch Spurs playing Bournemouth. I'm not a big Football fan, but I do kinda support both Chelsea and Brighton, because they're the only places I've lived that have decent teams.

Ollie was given the Spurs tickets by his school, and as you can probably see, they were way up in the gods.

The score was Spurs 1 Bournemouth 0. Predictable.

My son-in-law is in the UK at the moment, and no doubt he'll be going to watch Arsenal while he's there. He's a fan-atic! I see that they lost against Watford; so he won't be happy.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Amanita Caesarea.

Most serious mycologists will tell you that the very finest of mushrooms are the above; Amanita Caesarea, known here as the 'Orange'.

As the name suggests, it was Caesar's favourite mushroom. It has a very fine and delicate flavour, but is not common. Lady Magnon came upon these two yesterday by chance.

Known in Italy as the 'Ovolo', it is highly appreciated throughout southern Europe; with good reason!

Lucky is he, or she, who has one of these with their breakfast fried egg; as did I yesterday.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Villefranche-du-Périgord, site remarquable du goût

The first of our local Autumn Chestnut Fairs takes place this afternoon (St Caprais), when every possible use for the humble fruit is celebrated.

I've mentioned before that I live in a serious Chestnut Growing Area, the centre of which is the ancient small town of Villefranche du Perigord (founded in 1270); just 7 kms away.

It's where I go on Saturday mornings to the tiny market. It also has some pleasant cafés, shops, bakers, and restaurants.

Here is a short film praising everything that is 'Chestnut'. It also shows a small glimpse of the town itself. The small bakery at 1.00 is where we buy our Saturday bread.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Surprised again; shocked even!

My wonderful children (yes they are) continue to surprise me.

Some while back Wills (above) surprised me by speaking fluent, and what sounded like, near perfect German whilst booking an hotel room in Frankfurt. I had no idea that he could speak anything other than just English and French.

Now he has surprised me again by showing a sudden interest in Sailing. Not only is he learning all about how to make boats do what you want them to do, and go where you want them to go, he is also planning world trips in a two masted ketch; which he has yet to buy. 

I must say; I thoroughly approve of this new hobby, I just hope he invites me along as crew. Me and Boo Boo could catch and cook the fish.

I also hope he buys himself a yacht with no holes in the hull (seriously!).

Thursday, 12 October 2017

EC Regulations.

On 17th September (not even a month ago) I reported that the nice egg man at our nearby market was now following new EU regulations, and was stamping his eggs with some silly nonsense that told us where they came from, and when they were laid, etc (if we could be bothered to decipher the smudged red writing).

Well, I'm pleased to report that in true French style, the new regulations are already being ignored, and my last Saturday's purchase of eggs (above) were all STAMP FREE!

For a moment I'd imagined the French were becoming lackeys to Brussels' bureaucrats, but my faith has been restored. 

Aux armes citoyens, formez vos bataillons. Marchons, marchons. No more red stamping on local free range eggs!

If next Saturday I see him being hauled off to the Guillotine; I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Jam pots.

When Lady Magnon bottles her annual supply of Apricot and Strawberry jams, invariably she uses old 'Bonne Maman' pots; I'm sure you know the ones, they have gingham tops (see below).

However, before Bonne Maman cornered the commercial jam market, people used purpose-made jam pots, which were coveted, and used year after year.

In my more esoteric days, I used to buy antique jam pots. I liked the idea of such things having held home-made jams over several generations. I seriously considered the age and aesthetics of such objects could only improve the quality of the contents, and in a way I think I was right.

I used to have quite a lot of them. No doubt they are still around somewhere, but gawd knows where!

Anyway, here are our current Bonne Maman pots.They're not a patch on the old ones which are very chunky and heavy; they had real jam kudos about them.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Autumn 2017.

Suddenly morning temperatures dropped to frost warning levels. I think it was simply a false alarm, and I certainly didn't rush to bring all my Butternuts inside. I'm an optimist.

It isn't light here until around 8 am, so unless I wish to take Bok for his morning walk in the dark, I just have to wait. This is a temporary nuisance, but I expect the clocks will change quite soon.

This view (above) took my breath away yesterday. The low sun was so bright as it flooded along the little path behind the house, that my cheap camera could hardly cope with the brightness.

So, it's cool mornings, clear skies, and warm afternoons. I haven't yet lit an evening fire, but I quite expect Lady Magnon will be complaining before long.

For the moment I'm on top of all my tasks. I'll probably have a Flu' jab at the end of the month. Traps and poison have been laid for Winter-holiday-making rodents, and I have bought extra lots of flour, rice, pasta, and butter in readiness for the Winter siege. 

All early Autumn boxes are ticked.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Cro's Style Awards, No 6.

This is a one man style statement.

33 year old Kim Jong-Un has carved himself a unique place in the style stakes.

From his really bizarre hairstyle, to his unique glasses, and his even more bizarre suits, he has now taken things to further extremes with his over-wide over-long trousers.

I can't see his style being copied, but well done Kim for going it alone.

A true 'original'.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

There's no such thing as a free lunch!

Amongst Lady Magnon's Christmas presents, I usually add a year's subscription to one of her favourite magazines. Typically Elle Deco, Paris Match, or Elle à Table.

Some years back, I noticed in one of her mags an advert for a wine appreciation club called 'Expert Club'. After enlisting they would send you a free gift, then later inform you of their special offers of 'fine wines'; there was no obligation to buy anything. I happily subscribed.

They sent me the above Waiter's Friend as my free gift. I always prefer to use these rather than the standard corkscrews, and this particular one is of extremely good design and quality.

I believe the 'Expert Club' soon went bust (the name was later used by supermarket chain Intermarché), but I still regularly use my free gift. Who ever thought of sending out such 'freebies' by post must have made a very poor financial calculation.

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free corkscrews; yes! I can't think of any other free gift I've received that was nearly as good.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Mogg-Mania or Moggalomania (take your choice).

Following on from yesterday's page; I doubt if it will happen, but this man keeps being being touted as a future British PM.

Over the recent Summer months Rees-Mogg has gone from obscure backbencher to front page news. Ever since he named his sixth child 'Sixtus', he has been called both a 'toff from a bygone age', and the 'hope for a Greater Britain'; depending on what colour of newspaper you read. 

I'm afraid I know very little of our Jacob. He received an upper 2nd in History from Trinity Oxford, he drives a 1936 3.5 T Series Bentley, and he's a supporter of Somerset Cricket Club. He is also anti same-sex marriage, and anti abortion, which doesn't win him many friends. His superior educational credentials would also rule him out from being admired by anyone to the left of centre. 

His first foray into politics was in 1997 when he contested the Scottish constituency of Central Fife, where he carried out his canvassing accompanied by his nanny. It was said at the time that Rees-Mogg couldn't understand a single word of the local broad Scottish accents; nor could they understand him. He was not elected!

A future PM? Probably not, but he'd be a lot of fun as a future Mr Speaker!

Friday, 6 October 2017

The difference between the parties.

Thank goodness that the Political Party Conference season it now over.

                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Effigies hanging beneath bridge"

I have often said that the Socialists have one major problem; their charming supporters!

Can you imagine a Conservative supporter hanging effigies of Corbyn or Abbott beneath a bridge with the slogan 'Hang the Marxists'? Of course not.

                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Conservative party conference 2017"

Did any witless fool try to disturb Corbyn's speech at Brighton? Of course not.

There's no doubt about it, Socialism boasts of its juvenile pranks, just as it boasts of its equally juvenile policies. The Tories are somewhat better behaved, and, thankfully, far more responsible.

Maybe that's because at their conference they mostly looked like very old age pensioners.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Today there was, is, or will be, a Harvest Moon. Here is Neil Young with his beautiful song celebrating the event.

I just love this song; and its funny video.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Act in haste...

There was panic in the Magnon household; my favourite old potato peeler had gone missing, and Lady M needed to peel Apples. 

She took to her iPad, whilst I took to the compost bucket.

Lady M ordered a replacement industrial pack of peelers, whilst I rummaged amongst a pile of potato peelings and worse.

My spirits were raised when I found my old friend at the bottom of the bucket, but too late; Lady M had already confirmed her order to Amazon and there was no going back.

Her hastily ordered 3-pack arrived yesterday, and although they may at first sight look similar, they are in fact total rubbish imitations.

My treasured old one is made of wood, string and stainless steel. The modern equivalent is plastic and poor quality steel.

Now that my faithful 65 year old peeler has been found, the new ones will be confined to the back of the 'rarely used' cupboard; just in case. Somehow I fear they may NEVER be used.

I may even bury them in the garden. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Thames and Hudson.

When I was a wee lad of just 14, you may be surprised to learn that I became a Latin Scholar. Somehow in my school entrance exam I'd managed to score the highest marks in the Latin paper of my entry year; a staggering 90%.

My Prep' School Classics master was amazed, I was amazed, and just about everyone I knew was amazed.

Attached to the kudos of being a Latin Scholar was an annual bursary of 13 guineas which had to be spent on books. It was also part of the deal that I wrote an annual letter to the bursary committee about which books had been chosen, along with a reasonable critique; about 1000 words was enough.

My Latin studies didn't last for too long. My new teacher was tedious, and made the study of Latin a total bore rather than a pleasure. However my bursary continued for my full 4 years at school.

There was never a question in my mind as to what type of books I would purchase; they HAD to be books about Painting or Sculpture, and the best bet for someone like myself (at that time) were the Thames and Hudson 'World of Art' paperback publications that were very popular, and cheap.

It must be said that the illustrations were very poor, but they gave a general idea.

I have no idea how many books I bought over the four years, but the bookshelf in my study became stuffed with them; friends borrowed them at such a rate that I was obliged to use a Lending Library style system to keep track of who had what.

I only have a dozen or so here in France, the others are in boxes back in England. I still look at them occasionally, although with Google now at my fingertips, referring to them has become rare.

I would never get rid of them. They are like old friends!

Monday, 2 October 2017


I must admit that I was not over enthusiastic about having an Olive tree, but now that it's there, I'm determined to process the fruits.

The tree is young, and the crop small, but I have consulted Signor Google (Olé) and he has given me a simple process to follow. This year is just an experiment, but even so I hope he's right.

Each individual Olive was given a whack with a kitchen hammer to break the skins (I'm sure people in Spain or Greece have a simple machine for this) then I put them all into a jar of cold water. This water must be changed every day for a week, and the glass jar thoroughly cleaned at each change. This, apparently takes away all the bitter juices.

The Olives will then be put into in a brine, consisting of water, salt and vinegar, and stored away somewhere cool.

I will let you know later how things went. Signor Google says it's all very easy; we'll see!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Injury Scare.

About two months ago I awoke with a nasty pain in my upper right arm, up by my shoulder.

I imagine that I must have pulled or torn a muscle during the night, so I rested said arm for about three weeks, hoping it would heal.

Then our wood arrived, and I helped unload it without any problem; the arm seemed to have healed quite well, although I was still in some pain.

Rather stupidly, after my neighbours had left, I covered the wood with a tarpaulin, and moved a huge lump of tree trunk to hold it down at one end. As I was shifting the lump of wood I suddenly felt the most horrible tearing in my upper arm, and realised at once that I'd just undone the three weeks of healing. I was rightly furious with myself!

At this time of year there's so much that needs to be done. We still need to mow, there are logs to be sawn, the pool needed to be thoroughly cleaned and closed-down, and Haddock's needs to be weeded dug-over and tidied. Everything seems to require the use of strong arms. I felt totally buggered, and seriously wondered if the damage would be permanent; I could hardly lift my arm.

More than a month has now passed, and I have recently managed to start the mower without further damage, and I have also managed to start the chainsaw. I still have considerable pain in my upper arm, but I'm taking things gently, and am hoping that the pain will go in time. I still feel as if someone has given me a really hard punch on my arm.

I've been feeling quite depressed about this simple injury; not being able to complete all those Autumn/Winter tasks would have been disastrous. We rely 99% on sawn logs for our heating, etc.

I'm now feeling more confident, but I'm certainly not being complacent. It's permanently at the back of my mind that the same could easily happen again, and I'm praying that I can get through winter without that happening.

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