For a while in the mid-60's I was the manager of a small Art Gallery in Devonshire Street W1.
My boss, Miklos, had been to view a nearby sale, and I'd been given the job of going to bid for several lots he'd earmarked; one of which was a large portfolio of early (or old) etchings.
I bought the portfolio well under his maximum price, and returned to the gallery, complete with another couple of lots.
Miklos immediately started to search through the portfolio, becoming angrier and angrier as he realised that the one etching he'd wanted was missing. It had been placed amongst a load of more ordinary prints to attract bidders; then carefully removed. Such practices, sadly, were commonplace in those days.
However, in amongst the less interesting prints he discovered a very small black and white print that attracted his attention. It was about 4 by 5 inches in size (the image even smaller), and quite amateurishly etched. It illustrated a battle, with two 'cherubs' holding a swag depicting the location and date. It was not particularly inspiring.
I'm afraid I've forgotten the exact details, but it illustrated a skirmish from the American civil war, and looked to be very rare. It might even have been a sole surviving example.
I was instructed to take it to The Parker Gallery in Albemarle Street, and to ask for £500 (a lot of money in those days). The Parker Gallery was (and probably still is) one of those lovely old-fashioned Oak-panelled galleries that only dealt in the finest and rarest.
They looked at it under a magnifying glass, held it to the light, passed it around, then asked how much I wanted for it. I was almost embarrassed to ask for the £500, but I did so. They didn't flinch!
To my amazement they wrote me a cheque and the deal was done. I came out feeling that, had I asked for £1,000 they would probably have paid it. It must have been an extremely rare print.
Its sale made the missing etching from the portfolio seem unimportant; and we still had about another 100 etchings to sell.
p.s. I'm afraid the illustration above is nothing like the etching, but I couldn't find anything more suitable.
Charles and I have grown up together. Ever since my mother first bought me National Savings stamps featuring his portrait, I have lived in parallel to him; without us ever meeting.
To me he has simply been the 'heir to the throne'; a role adopted by accident of birth, that cannot have been his natural choice.
He, along with his sister, are possibly the hardest working members of the royal family. He has several appointments every day, several changes of dress, and often works well into the night on official matters.
He has managed to avoid repeating the unfortunate gaffs of his father, yet has inherited the regal bearing of his mother. He has learnt the job without complaining; at least, not in public.
His legendary love of nature, and tireless campaigning against all things polluting, brought him much criticism and ridicule from his urban detractors, but most now understand the importance of his life-long concern, and even campaign alongside.
I like Charles. A friend of mine who was at school with him always described him as 'charming', as do those I know, who have met him briefly on official duties. I don't think there is any question that he will make an excellent head of state.
So, I wish you a very Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness, and may you enjoy many more. Cro x
At this time of year one expects to be cold, so sunny days are even more welcome than waking up to the hot and sunny days of high Summer. Eating outdoors at mid-day in November is a real bonus.
I was putting away my 'evening' shorts recently, and, when emptying the back pocket, came across €170 in banknotes that I'd totally forgotten about. The pleasure I received was very similar to experiencing our warm sunshine at the moment. It is the unexpected which gives far more pleasure than the expected.
On so many occasions I've been invited out specially to meet someone who I would 'love and find totally fascinating', only to be bored to bloody death. On other evenings, that I've dreaded, I've discovered someone genuinely fascinating, who was the saviour of the day.
I've been to numerous hyped-up restaurants, and eaten badly, and to greasy-spoon dives where I've eaten like a king.
I've also been to fancy expensive concerts of all sorts, and been disappointed; yet listened to street buskers who were magnificent.
So, I'm enjoying our Indian Summer, and am taking full advantage. My Vitamin D tank is slowly filling for 'slow-release' over Winter.
Today is Remembrance Sunday. Exactly 100 years since the end of WW1, and at 11 am we shall remember the dead by holding a two minute silence. Of course there now remain no more ex-combatants.
Now we tend to remember the 'old soldiers' from World War 11, where there were so many outrages committed, that it is difficult to highlight just one.
However, one that is very little known is that of Budapest, where Jewish women were taken by the Germans to the edge of the Danube, told to remove their shoes, and were callously shot. Their bodies falling into the river below. Around 20,000 women were murdered this way.
Artists Can Togay and Gyula Pauer have created this memorial (above), consisting of 60 pairs of cast-iron shoes, so that those poor tragic Hungarian women are never forgotten.
On 'Remembrance Day' we tend to think mostly of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during the two world wars, but there were countless more victims from other nations who also deserve to be in our thoughts.
Those poor innocent women are just one such group; victims of appalling, and senseless, German barbarity.
Let those victims (and their perpetrators) never be forgotten. RIP.
Having finished writing this, eaten a simple breakfast of Parasol mushrooms on toast, and taken the dog for a long walk, I shall take my trusty Husqvarna to the wood pile, and cut a wheelbarrow load of logs for the evening fire. Luckily it's not raining.
I shall then head for the woods; not to look for mushrooms this time, but to try to re-find a spot where I'd noticed a superb landscape just crying out to be painted. I'm pretty sure I can find it again. If successful, I'll return with my kit in a few days time, to complete the actual job.
I'm still extracting those tiny bloody pink Oxalis bulbs from Haddock's. They really are the most annoying and persistent of all my garden weeds. I do a small patch each day, and try to find every single bit (some hope). This will employ me for about 15 mins; I become very easily bored with the task.
I shall then make Vermicelli soup for lunch.
A friend has no Walnuts, so I shall go to gather a couple of Kilos for her. There are loads about. I'll probably gather a few Apples for us at the same time; Lady M has promised a Tatin.
'George', our kitchen wood-fired cooker hasn't been used for about 8 months, We'll probably want to fire him up again before long, so I'll take it to bits for a thorough cleaning. It doesn't take long, but it's a dirty old job; the chimney pipe is the worst bit!
I have a small paint job to do on the 'tower' ceiling; that will take a max of 10 mins.
By then it'll be time to think about supper. I'm thinking either Italy or India.... not sure yet, but more likely Italy.
Fred is purring like a steam train.... how am I supposed to think!!!
Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed his WWW in 1989, and since that date has seen his genius invention become one of the world's most controversial.
The dark web (whatever that is), extreme porn, social media, fake news, on-line grooming of minors, hate speech, and horrific terrorist videos, are just a few of the web's more evil attributes that Sir Tim could never have predicted.
Inventions can never be uninvented. We are now stuck with it. Personally, I find all my own uses for the net to be extremely handy (Email, blogging, on-line newspaper, Picasa 3, etc). The sites that cause so much controversy don't interest me. I do use 'facebook', and since my recent drastic thinning of several so-called 'friends' (mostly selfie addicts), it is now simply a vehicle for the exchanging of news, and photos; with real friends and family.
Sir Tim, I believe, gave his invention to the world, with no patent or royalties attached; others, of course, have made huge fortunes from his gift to the world. His only regret seems to have been the use of the two forward slashes, which he now says he would have changed.
Tim's latest project is to establish an international 'Contract for the Web'. This will invite both Governments and Internet Companies to adopt a set of ethical standards. Sounds a little like closing the stable door, after the horse has bolted, but good luck.
Every season, everywhere, has its high points; although I'm still trying to find some for our Winters.
We are still having quite pleasant weather, but the mornings are cool. The leaves are beginning to change colour, and they are beginning to fall.
This morning I went to see my wine makersto fill-up a couple of 5 litre plastic containers, and as is their wont, they presented me with a free 1.5 litre sample of their new wine.
On returning home I went to find a few more mushrooms, and picked the above. I also put a few straggler Chestnuts into my pocket.
On the menu tonight will be a Cèpe omelet, followed by a few roasted Chestnuts, all washed down with some of the delicious new wine. Of course.
Autumn is also time for Paté making. I'm no longer making ordinary Paté (I can buy better than I can make). I'm now concentrating on my more luxurious Paté, with a big lump of foie gras in the middle. Just ten 350 gm jars for the moment. I may do a few more later. The jars are being sterilised as I write. Three hours at a rolling boil. Above is the finished job.
She appears to be enjoying her role as 'The Duchess of beautiful Sussex', and her adoring global fan base loves her. The Markle Sparkle seems to be doing reasonably well.
But I do worry that, like Harry's Mum, she already seems a little over-keen on the limelight, it's the actress in her; although it must be said that Harry alone would hardly draw the same crowds, which is why he always used to hang around with his big brother.
I wait now to see how things go when the new royal sprog arrives in Spring. Hello, and OK Magazines (other trashy magazines are available), are probably planning a '200 page Special Edition' to welcome the enfant. The baby (I hear it will be called Prince OJ if a boy, and Princess Ja-Ka'neasha if a girl) will predictably be paraded in front of all the world's press. We will hear its shoe size, its IQ, what expensive couturier it frequents, what schools it will attend, who are to be its numerous fading-pop-star-godparents, where it will live, what are its favourite nappies, prams, baby grows, chocolates, ice cream, etc, etc.
May I respectfully suggest that Meggers takes a slightly more discreet role as befits a consort. The papers are already filled with photos of her (as they sadly were of Harry's Mum). They never tire of telling us what she's wearing, and how many times she changes her outfits each day, how much they cost, how big her 'bump' is; and even how her pregnancy is coming along. We are even informed that her gumboots cost £120; who cares! I imagine some overpaid secretary is commanded to issue numerous daily 'Press Statements' with all the details, none of which are of any interest to anyone but themselves.
One doesn't wish to be critical of the poor girl, but I am getting a feeling of Markle 'overkill'.
And, as if all that wasn't enough, she has to cope with her awful warring family back in Redneck Hillbilly land. Where did she find them! They get worse and worse.
Great Yarmouth has been in the news, for reasons other than Rachel's house hunting.
The headmaster of a Great Yarmouth school (Great Yarmouth Charter Academy) has ensured his place in the annals of haircut-history, by coining the name 'The meet me at McDonald's haircut' for the style adopted by these boys above.
This enlightened headmaster, a Mr Smith, finds the hairstyle so offensive that he has banned it from the classroom.
No-one is certain quite how the name came about, but it is thought that the wearers were likely to say to each other "Meet me at McDonald's".
My own hairstyle could be known as 'Red Sea Special'..... a parting of the waves, with a dry, and bare, passageway through the middle.
I knew it had been the 1st November, because I remembered to say White Rabbit (twice), but somehow I'd forgotten that the next time I would say White Rabbit (twice) it would be December; and December means cold roast Turkey, pickled onions, and pickled red cabbage.
I can't face Christm*s without pickled onions; it just wouldn't be right. There are certain things like sprouts, chestnuts, and roast spuds, that make the great day's feasting what it is, and pickled onions are amongst those essentials.
After 24 hrs in brine, they are bathed in sweetened, spiced, vinegar, then left to mature for a few weeks before broaching.
N.B. The pickled red cabbage is prepared about two weeks (or less) before the big day; any sooner and it begins to lose its crispness.
Whilst topping-up with rouge recently, I noticed a strange looking pump, whirring away outside the vineyard's chai.
Being an inquisitive cove, I asked Madame what it was doing. 'Cooling the pink wine', she told me.
Now, I'd never heard of pink wine having to be cooled (other than before drinking), but it seems that the process of making red and pink are quite different.
For pink, the juice must not be allowed to rise above 17 C, so a giant cooling system is lowered into the fermenting juice, through which cold water is constantly circulated. At least, that's how my vigneron does it.
France likes to tell you not only what to do, but also how to do it.
DIY products are probably the worst culprits. When painting your house you need to check that you have the right paint for the job; there are ceiling paints, wall paints, passage-way paints, door paints, cupboard paints, furniture paints, paints for toys, etc, etc; I could go on. Woe-betide you if you use sitting room wall paint on your bathroom ceiling.
I recently bought a small tube of ready made plaster to fill some tiny cracks (it was easier than mixing my own). When it came to choosing the right product, it suddenly became a nightmare. There were products for small cracks, big cracks, cracks in the bathroom, outdoor cracks, ceiling cracks, wall cracks, cracked lips; you get my drift. I eventually plumped for the cheapest, which did the job perfectly.
Now, I've just noticed the above written on my black rubbish bags. It tells me to tie-up the bag a minimum of 10 centimetres from the opening of the bag. Not 5 centimetres, or 15 centimetres; it has to be 10.
Of course, being a rebel, I simply grab two top corners of the bag and tie a knot with them. I just hope the bag-police don't find out.
OK, some people probably do need to be told how to live their every waking moment, but others can usually calculate how things work. I like to think I'm amongst the latter.
My shorts have been put away, the woodburner has felt its first flames since Spring, and my thermals have been given their first airing. We have a put a more efficient duvet on the bed, and I have even resurrected my scarf and beret.
Sunday was bloody cold and wet; as was yesterday. Even my early morning mushrooming sortie failed to lift my spirits.
Temperatures will rise again, but the shock of 4 C in the early morning was painful.
I don't like Winter. I don't like the cold, and I'd almost forgotten what rain was like.
Hell and damnation, it'll be over 7 months before we experience pukka Summer sunshine again.
I'm being a bit lazy, and am re-posting this from 2010.
This picture, by David Hockney, is of Peter Schlesinger (his boyfriend at the time) getting out of a swimming pool in Los Angeles. The pool was owned by an American gallery owner (called Nick), but you knew all that!
I'd been to David's 1970 retrospective at London's Whitechapel Gallery, and he'd invited me for tea that afternoon.
David lived in a first floor flat, in a rather dour and unassuming house in Powis Terrace, Notting Hill, but the inside was quite different. He'd managed to buy the first floor flat of the house next door, and had knocked the two into one, creating a huge space. His studio was large and airy, and on the day of my visit he was working on a painting of a couple in The Luxembourg Gardens with their backs to the viewer. I don't think I've ever seen the finished job.
When it came time for actual tea, David reeled off the most staggering choice of different flavours; predictably I chose Lapsang. The tea was made, and served, by the lovely Peter (seen above getting out of Nick's pool), who was wearing an apron and not much else.
It's possibly worth noting that on the day of my visit, David's studio was totally empty (other than the job he was working on). Later that same week I was invited to tea by artist Ivon Hitchens at his ramshackle Sussex home; the place was piled high with framed paintings. David sold everything as soon as the paint was dry; the great Ivon presumably didn't.
When I left Ivon, his wife gave me a huge peony from her garden, but by the time I'd reached home it had completely fallen apart; beauty so fleeting. Ivon died not long afterwards; David, of course, is still going strong.
I like to think that I keep the Ivon approach to work alive; I also have a pile of unsold paintings.
France's delightful President Macron recently stated that if the UK leaves the EU with 'no deal', he will block the port of Calais, in order to force the UK into paying a £39 billion divorce settlement.
What a complete and utter fool. I do hope he has discussed this with all French exporters of cars, champagne, wine, and cheese, etc, because they may not be happy; nor would their employees who would find themselves out of work. French exports to the UK are worth around €32 billion annually.
I also hope he's discussed his plan with all members of the French hospitality business. UK tourism to France is huge, and to send all those holidaymakers elsewhere would spell disaster for a great number of people; and the national purse. British tourists to France make up the biggest sector, representing around 20% of their total annual visitors.
There's a wise old saying "Make sure your brain is engaged, before putting your mouth in gear". There are a lot of politicians around the world at present, who should heed that advice.
I think Macron must have attended the same School of Economics as little Jeremy Corbyn.
You know that feeling, when you open your front door first thing in the morning, and two horses are staring at you on your lawn! Well I experienced that feeling yesterday.
The little Monkeys had found a weak link in their fence, and made an audacious bid for freedom.
Frankly we didn't mind too much as there's plenty of nice fresh grass for them to eat at the moment, and as long as they don't treat the fence around Haddock's as they did their own; I'm not over fussed.
However, after lunch I was getting a bit tired of them looking through the window, so I very bravely returned them to their home, repaired their fence, and gave them a good talking to.
Another time, girls, just don't leave huge hoof-prints on the lawn.
Eating out in restaurants, when I was very small, was a rare occurrence.
My father had a favourite German restaurant in Soho where we would occasionally eat, otherwise my only other true gastronomic experience was at Veeraswamy's, off Regent Street.
Veeraswamy's was (and still is) one of the very best Indian eateries outside of India. Founded in 1926, it has maintained its exceptionally high standards to this day.
I must have been about 6 or 7 when I ate there. I remember it as firstly being a haven of peace, just off bustling Regent Street, and secondly a palace of exoticism, with waiters in turbans and Indian Raj-style finery. It was pure theatre.
Unfortunately the one thing I don't remember about the restaurant was what I ate; but I do remember finding it all wonderful.
Lady Magon has just returned from a shopping trip to London and the South Coast, and where did she and No 1 son Kimbo eat..... of course, at Veeraswamy's.
No Raj inspired finery and turbans these day, but the same, if not better, standard of cuisine. Lady M enthused about the food for days. I'm just sorry I wasn't there to have enjoyed it with her.
I love Indian food. Other than the quality and simplicity of Mediterranean cuisine, Indian definitely ranks amongst the best.
It's not cheap, but if you're nearby; try it. For a lover of Indian food, it's a once in a lifetime experience. You won't receive a discount, but just say 'Cro sent you'.
Rachel McKinnon (36; above, centre) won first place in a recent championship cycle race, for women in the 35-44 age group.
The competitor who came third wasn't happy, as McKinnon is a sex change rider. You can possibly see from the photo that he/she is a much bigger and 'better-built' person than the other two. In fact he doesn't seem to even try to hide the fact that he really is a man. He/she also seems to be lacking certain female elements in the upper chest department, which is a slight give-away.
Surely there is only one way to settle definitely what sex a person is, and that certainly ISN'T by asking them.
We are all born with sex chromosomes; XX for females, and XY for males. There are a few exceptions, but these are extremely rare. Our chromosomes at birth stay with us for the rest of our lives.
With 'gender choice' becoming almost tediously common these days, isn't it time that a baby's gender on his or her birth certificate was determined by chromosome testing, rather than a quick look downstairs? A standard XY Male can wear female clothes and make-up till the cows come home, but that doesn't make him a woman. I really don't think Ms/Mr McKinnon should be competing against women, even if it does sound a bit harsh.
I'm perfectly OK with any man who wishes to live as if he is a woman (and vice versa), but when it comes to taking part in sport it's not really in the spirit of competition.
The good old days of hefty Russian 'female' weightlifters, with 5-o-clock stubble, are over.
At least on the sporting arena, things should be equal. With Ms/Mr McKinnon I don't think they were.
Maybe he thought that 'MASTERS' meant it was for blokes.
Brandade is a mixture of Mashed Potatoes, Salt Cod (Morue), Garlic, and Olive Oil, with a few other bits and pieces thrown in as desired.
It's always been on the menu at one of my favourite nearby restaurants, and I've been wanting to make my own version for as long as I've been a client; i.e. for decades.
I recently discovered this ready-made variety (above), so as I had a burning desire for stuffed Peppers (Haddock's is overflowing), I decided to see if it compared favourably to that of the restaurant. It did; and in fact it was fantastic.
I didn't think of taking a snap of my own cooked Peppers, so I've had to borrow one from Mr Google. Mine looked much the same, and was delicious.
There was a decent amount of brandade left over for lunch the following day (now, yesterday), so I made some simple fried fishcakes; also bloody delicious.
Any hollowed vegs can be stuffed with brandade, and all are superb.
You may not be able to buy the ready-made version above, but it's very simple to make.
Here is the 'Chirpy Cockney', Joe Brown, singing 'I'll see you in my dreams'. I think you'll like this. Nothing special, but good to see that the old boy's still going strong. This was always the closing number at his concerts.
I've only seen him once, and that was way back in the late 60's in the West End play 'Charlie Girl'; he was excellent.
I've been regularly driving to and from our local airport for years, and have kept meaning to stop and photograph this old semi-ruined building en route.
It contains the remnants of one of the most interesting walls I've seen in decades. It seems to have been made from a combination of old roof and floor tiles, laid in lines. I have a feeling that I've seen a nearby sign pointing to an old tileworks, so the connection is obvious.
It's such a beautiful wall, obviously built by a thrifty amateur; I hope they look after it.
Anyone driving through France will have seen these old painted adverts for Byrrh, they were as common as the ones for Dubonnet, and St Raphael.
Not many of these lovely old painted signs still exist, and I have always wondered what exactly it was. I knew it was an apéritif, but of what ilk I had no idea. So, yesterday I bought a bottle.
Byrrh is a 'vermouth' made from red wine, aromatics, and essentially; Quinine. Now owned by the Pernod-Ricard group it is known as a 'tonic wine'; also as a good hangover cure (presumably as long as the hangover was not due to over indulgence of Byrrh).
Like most people we have an interesting array of apéritif wines in our collection. Some are rarely sampled, but this one I think will go quite quickly.
A bit sweet for my own personal taste, but delicious even so. A perfect combination of aged wine, spices, and the oakiness of old barrels. The perfect cold Summer apéritif.
There is no question that Christmas is the most expensive, wasteful, and appallingly polluting, one day festival in the world.
It's annual 24 hr effect on the environment must be equivalent to several months at other times of the year.
The amount of shitty plastic, tape, string, and paper used must be horrendous, and in these more aware times we continue to fell trees and pump oil just to continue this ridiculous over indulgent tradition.
I have nothing against a mid-winter festival were we sing traditional songs, eat the best we can afford, and spend more time with our families, but the extent to which commercialisation has taken over is no less than shocking, and a disgrace; as well as doing unquestioned harm to the planet.
So, what should we all do to improve matters?
Hopefully people will now be more aware of the terrible plastic pollution around the world, and they will avoid buying those ghastly multi-coloured plastic toys, etc.
Every year, as we unwrap our gifts, we end-up with huge piles of torn printed Christmas wrapping paper; this is never considered as pollution, but of course it is, and it must be reduced.
Let's all buy just enough food for a pleasant Christmas lunch/dinner, and not morph into blind siege mentality at the very mention of festive eating. I still hear of people 'binning' the remains of their HUGE Turkeys after the big day; this horrifies me.
And on the question of expense, why don't we all spend sensibly, and refuse to go into debt just so little Johnny can have the latest X Box, or iPhone.
Most of all, let's enjoy the holiday season by singing carols, exchanging small gifts with loved ones, and eating 'reasonably' well; and NOT by leaving the planet on its knees.
I am growing three types of Winter greenery; Curly Kale, Perpetual Spinach, and Cavolo Nero. I also have some Purple Sprouting Broccoli, but that's more for next Spring.
The Kale has to be a favourite. Like Cavolo Nero (also a Kale), one simply picks the lower leaves, and works upwards as desired. With luck they should still be producing well into Spring, when they also begin to make sproutings from the stem. They are a wonderful Veg'.
My plants are remarkably bug, and disease, free this year. I simply inspect the back of each leaf, strip the curly leafy bit from the stem, and steam very quickly in salted water. A bit of Garlic Butter completes the job.
Kale also complies with my insistence of 'Meat and one Veg'. A small chop or steak with a serving of Kale, and that's all one needs.
Thank gawd I eats me greens; just eating this stuff makes me feel rejuvenated!
*Have any of you seen the film HUGO ? It was made in 2011 so it's not new,
won Academy Awards and Baftas and I'm obviously late to the party but I
3 days 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 46 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!