FORTY-BLOODY-FIVE years I've lived in my tiny hamlet; forty three of which were spent in perfect peace, quiet, and harmony. I've owned two different houses here, (and another a few miles away), but when I started to make our present one livable-in, we were assured by neighbours that our tranquility was GUARANTEED; local by-laws totally forbade anyone from building new homes here.
At the time I had just two lots of neighbours. Immediately next door (100 yards away) were a pair of Parisian, Zen Buddhist, Lesbians, who were a total delight. And the other house (another 100 yards further away) was owned by a man and his elderly mother who spent just a couple of weeks a year here.
Since then all of my original neighbours have died off, and I am left surrounded by those who have arrived since; I feel like the last of an era. I bought, and restored, my ruined cottage for it's simplicity, beauty, and tranquility, but even though we try to live a quiet life, there are always those who try to see that we don't.
Over recent years we have faced some really bizarre behaviour, but now we are facing possibly the worst of the lot. We are to have a holiday village plonked right on our bloody doorstep, and we are supposed to be grateful.
27 (probably rowdy) holidaymakers will soon be disturbing our Summer's peace and quiet; 27 of a type who are prepared to holiday in buried shipping containers, whoever that might be.
In the photo above you might just be able to see the roof of a barn. My youngest son owns the barn next to it (slightly further to the right) so you can imagine his proximity to the holiday camp. The huge mounds of earth show where the old shipping containers will be semi-buried.
The 'newcomer' who wishes to start this holiday camp is surprised (angry even) that all the surrounding residents are against his plans. He doesn't seem to understand that once our treasured tranquility has gone; it will be gone for ever.
We bought our homes for the peaceful bucolic ambiance they afforded; he bought his with the surreptitious intention of bringing in loads of effing holidaymakers. I can hardly explain how bloody mad I am. He arranged an explanatory meeting recently; I couldn't even face seeing him.
The most recent newcomer to our tiny hamlet (a Brit) bought his small converted barn just a year or so ago, and now finds that he is to have a semi-underground trailer park right behind his house. He is understandably furious. No-one had said a word to him about it as he was completing his purchase. I feel more sorry for him than I do for any of the others; including myself.
The would-be holiday camp owner has already fitted several inappropriate fittings to his beautiful ancient home, including an awful 1950's door, and a striped awning; one can only imagine what more horrors are to come. I do wish he would just bugger off, buy himself a more suitable secluded property, and leave us all in the peace that we so covet.
Some people just couldn't give an effing damn about their neighbours! Money is god!
Regularly at this time of year, Lady Magnon becomes obsessed by Mice. She imagines that every Mouse within a 20 Km radius is heading for the house, in order to spend the Winter with us in relative comfort.
I am instructed to set traps, plug holes, and gather gallons of Cat urine to discourage their ambitions.
She had a dream recently about a group of laughing Mice on top of our kitchen cupboards; I was of course blamed for their Morpheus induced incursion.
Freddie catches quite a few, but we've already had one in the house recently; luckily he was soon dispatched.
Mice have the whole of France to play in; be warned, WE DON'T WANT YOU IN THE HOUSE.
Now, where's that Mousetrap and some Peanut Butter? I'm told that Peanut Butter is irresistible to Mice.
I get really pissed-off. I'm constantly hearing people refer to 'Vaulted Ceilings', where they really mean 'Beamed Ceilings'.
I first noticed this on a TV country-house finding programme; much loved by Lady Magnon. Every bloody house that had nice old beams was referred to as having 'vaulted ceilings'. It drove me nuts!
I've even heard architects (who OUGHT TO know better) wrongly talking of 'vaulted ceilings'.
So, let's get things right. The above illustration is of a vault; either built in stone, concrete, or brick, they are constructed over a template with considerable weight being added to the top to hold it all together once the template is removed.
A beamed ceiling is constructed of wooden beams that hold either an upper floor, or a roof.
Amazingly, when I was looking for a good illustration, I referred to Google Images and found almost nothing but photos of beamed ceilings. The rot has set-in even further than I'd imagined.
I don't know why this should annoy me as much as it does; the problem is, there are far too many people who claim to be experts, but who obviously aren't. Just look in any Estate Agent's window for proof.
These are pretty much the last of the year's mushrooms.
Known in the UK as Hedgehog Mushrooms, in these parts they translate as Rat's Teeth, Deer's Feet, or Sheep's Feet. Personally I prefer 'Rat's Teeth' as it describes perfectly the underside of the mushroom.
In past times (40 years ago) I would take a large wooden crate into the woods, which would be filled within an hour or so. I would often return several times during the day. The resulting haul would be sold to merchants who went from farm to farm. I was told at the time that the mushrooms were used in the pharmaceutical industry; but I suspect most went to be eaten. Today's forager would find such quantities almost impossible to collect; the few above took me over an hour to find.
Rat's Teeth are very delicate creatures. They are mostly 'brushed' clean, but they often require rinsing under water. They also break very easily. When cooking, the water used for cleaning floods out, and has to be boiled away before they actually begin to fry.
So, to the most important thing; what do they taste like?
When eaten alone, they have a delicate mushroom flavour, but when cooked with chicken or lamb they take on the flavour of the meat. Mixed with chicken, not only is the colour much the same, but the quantity of the meat appears to multiply; as if my magic.
An easy mushroom to identify; those underneath teeth are a give-away. Look in November amongst mixed Pine/Chestnut trees.
I believe that the bible is still one of the world's best selling books, and this must be another. The popularity of both mystify me.
Swede Axel Munthe's book about the island of Capri has been continuously printed for over 7 decades, and must be one of the world's most extraordinary publishing miracles.
In 1874, at the age of 17, Munthe arrived on the island of Capri, and (like so many) walked the long path up to the village of Anacapri (see book illustration). En route he discovered a ruined chapel, and decided at once that he would restore it, and the nearby ruined villa. The book tells of the restoration of the two buildings, and his life as a doctor in Italy and France.
If you have read the book (and many of you must have) you might agree with me that it is decidedly unremarkable. Factually interesting at most, but not a work of great literature; yet it continues to be a great favourite.
I wouldn't buy a copy, but if your local library or charity shop has it, it's worth giving it a go!
We've already had one slight frost, so opportunities for scrumping are now very limited.
However, one abandoned nearby ancient tree always produces fruit that stays on the ground well into the new year, mostly without any ill effects.
Our own stored Apples have now either gone soft, are riddled with bugs, or are rotting; none of the better known varieties seem to 'keep' any more.
This particular Apple (above) should be in everyone's orchard. It's sweet, with a very pleasant flavour, and is probably one of the best 'keepers' I know. One can but wonder why it isn't available at garden centres everywhere.
No-one seems to know its name, or why it fell out of fashion. I shall take a few cuttings next year, and see if I can continue its line before it's lost for ever.
I never had dancing lessons, we were simply expected to know what to do; but we didn't!
Lady Magnon, on the other hand, did have some instruction.
When we 'rough dance' in the kitchen she often takes the male rôle (as shown above). She attended an all girls school and during her dance lessons half the girls had to pretend to be boys; she was one such.
There are certain 'National Speciality Foods' that we find regularly in all our supermarkets.
France exports wines, cheese, dried sausages, salt, and expensive water.
Italy sells us pasta, bottled sauces, parma ham, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.
The US sends us their tomato ketchup, cornflakes, peanut butter, orange juice, and Uncle Ben's rice.
Switzerland exports chocolate, more chocolate, and even more chocolate.
Most of these things are to be found the world over.
I would like to suggest just a few things that the UK should be exporting to the whole world; Marmite, Lea and Perrins sauce, and Branston pickle, are probably available in most countries, but PORK PIES, and CRUMPETS are not!
People in the UK don't realise how lucky they are to have permanent access to Pork Pies and Crumpets.
If you are a maker of either really good Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, or Crumpets, would you please have a word with M Leclerc; one of his clients would be extremely grateful.
Last night two of my neighbours Tracey and Karine had the brilliant idea of combining Halloween with Bonfire Night.
I am not really a fan of Halloween, but having been brought-up in the Surrey Village of Lingfield, I'm very much a big Bonfire Night person.
November 5th was, without question, Lingfield's biggest day of the year. We had a huge flaming torchlight procession through the village, an enormous fire was lit, fireworks decorated the sky, and it was our very own gardener, Fuller, who always made the splendid Guy.
Last night's fire was not as big as Lingfield's, and one wouldn't expect it to be so, but the atmosphere was very much the same. There's something very primitive about gathering around a big fire.
I'm now wondering if we couldn't slowly abandon Halloween, and replace it with Bonfire Night; but I doubt if the French would understand.
I'm hoping this will become an annual event; so much better than going from house to house for sweets!
We went with friends to the Scallop festival in Whitianga; a charming
seaside town in the Coromandal District.
Had a great time...5000 people, lots of wine...
4 years ago
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 45 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), a Border Collie/Black Lab' cross called Bok, a cat called Freddie, plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!