Kris Harbour was a London based Engineer who yearned for freedom.
He ditched his £400,000 mortgage, ditched his job, and bought himself an 18 acre plot in Wales, where he built this house for £4,000.
There has been a huge rise in the whole concept of what are referred to as 'Hobbit Homes', mostly they are legally built, but often they are not and are eventually pulled down.
I have always been in awe of people who build their own homes from either the materials found around them, or from what they find on Ebay or at the local dump or junk yard.
I don't know if my village owns any spare land, but I would love to see a few hundred acres being offered to people who wish to build self-sufficient, sustainable, alternative homes. I'm sure it could only benefit the village, and would bring in a bunch of very interesting and inventive people.
Ever since she first tasted this, she's been hooked.
If she could have it on her morning cornflakes, she would. If she could fill the pool with it, I think she'd do so. If she could have it as a flavoured toothpaste, there's no question that she would brush her teeth 20 times a day.
It's a little too sweet for me, but even so it's very pleasant. Your Hot Dogs would never be the same again.
Oh, I didn't say, did I...... it's mustard with honey.
When Mr Brandt sold us this oven, he guaranteed it for one year.
It broke after one year and four days, and when asked if they would ignore the four days, the bastards said 'NO'.
Since then we have had to find inventive ways of using it. We've done all sorts of oven dances, dial twiddles, and switch flickings, and until recently we'd managed to roast the fatted calf without too much difficulty.
However, the in-built 'annoyance programme' has recently totally taken over, and I haven't been able to use it for about a month, so it had to go.
The 'DARTY' men arrived, and instantly threatened to dump the new oven at the end of the drive, because our access is a bit narrow. Then after having refused to install it, because of some minor technicality, they unceremoniously dumped it in the 'Tower'.
When they'd gone I phoned Bertrand (our electrician), and he promised to come a.s.a.p.
We knew it was dodgy asking to have it installed on Friday 13th; the 16th proved a much better bet, and all is now well. Bertrand did the job in a matter of minutes.
I should add that the 'DARTY' company delivery men have always been exemplary in the past; which is why we use them. These two last Friday were a bloody disgrace. I shall be writing!
p.s. Whilst looking for our replacement, we were amazed to see how many ovens don't have an interior light. I would have thought they were as essential as the ones inside a fridge.
It was just about the most important NATO summit of recent times. One might have hoped that dear Juncker (His Excellency Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission) would have resisted that third bottle of publicly-funded Pétrus for breakfast.
What a bloody disgrace he is, and in front of all the world's most powerful leaders.
I can almost lip-read Mrs May at 30 secs, saying "Pissed as a fart!"
This was the second 'picnic' of 2018; last week's was a bit of a wash-out, and we didn't go.
As usual, our own village event is probably the most popular within a good radius, it wasn't exactly packed, but I would think there were at least 400 people present.
We went with several friends. Margaret (top in white), who lives nearby, and some others from the UK. I love spending time with our old friend Margaret; we turned up in this area at about the same time all those years ago, and have been good friends ever since. Her book 'Tropical and Subtropical Trees' remains the world authority to this day. She is a mine of information of all things horticultural.
On offer last night. BBQ'd Duck breasts, Confit, simple salads, and SNAILS. I was in heaven.
Sandrine, our Boulangère, was also present, so it saved a Sunday 20 Km round trip to her bakery.
The Greengage (Reine Claude) is a strange fruit. One minute it is green and unripe, the next it is yellow-ish and so sweet that it's almost impossible to eat. Catching them 'just right' is a cat-n-mouse game that takes considerable guile.
This year our tree is surprisingly loaded and bug free. Normally almost every fruit is inhabited by some bucolic vilain that leaves a transparent dribble from its temporary home.
2018 will be a good year. We will freeze plenty, as well as having occasional pies. We will also consume plenty in situ; the best way.
It's a pity my ordinary Plums aren't doing as well.
Normally, through the night, I listen to London based radio station LBC, but recently I've been so incensed by one particular extreme left wing, republican, misogynistic, Scottish, uber opinionated, Corbyn loving, sun hating, football hating, Mrs May obsessed, snowflake, presenter, that I've changed my early morning allegiance to the BBC's World Service.
The other morning I came across a short 10 minute item called 'More or Less'; a programme dedicated to numbers.
The proposition was Carl Sagan's 'There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the world's beaches'.
Well, impressive calculations were made, and huge figures bandied about, and the conclusion was that Sagan's statement was correct.
In fact they even came up with an estimation for the number of stars in the sky as being....
That's a 1, followed by 22 zeros. About one zero above the calculation for the grains of sand.
Having seen some of Rachel's recent townscapes, I thought I'd re-post this page from 2011.
All trained painters treat their drawings differently; our training gives us the confidence to scribble away as we like, without paying too much attention to the final look of the work.
I love going out with just a pen, brush, and sketch pad, and recording things in my own particular (peculiar) way. I never worry about drawings being 'good', or even necessarily accurate. It's just being there, looking at something, and jotting it down, which is fun.
These three sketches of a nearby town were done over a period of several weeks, I think I drew almost every inch of the place......
..... including the little back streets. Nothing special about them, but in this one I remember that I rather liked the old 2CV van, probably more so than the buildings.
Lady Magnon recently accused me of wearing a swimming costume that was so faded, it was almost impossible to tell what had been its original colour. It had in fact started life (about 15 years ago) as red, but is now a very flattering faded pink. I told her that it clearly demonstrates that I'm not a 'tourist'.
I know it's stereotyping, but the above photo does represent classic 'tourists'; you can spot them a mile off.
Going on holiday for many means buying a large selection of brand new gaudy 'seaside' clothes, and they wonder why they get mugged. Walk along the prom' in that stuff, and you're asking for trouble.
Most well-known Spanish (other countries are available) sea resorts are awash with pickpockets, con-men, immigrant gangs, and other general criminals, all of whom are just looking for gullible tourists.
So take my advice, when on holiday try to look like a local; old clothes, no flashy cameras, no studying of tourist guides in pavement cafés. And don't forget, when travelling, take HALF the amount of clothes you think you'll need, and TWICE the amount of money.
When we see these machines in the fields, we grab the animals, close all the doors and windows, and hold our collective breaths.
In the case above it was spraying the Sunflowers. I have no idea what chemicals are being used, but it's probably best not to breathe it in!
Hidden off to the left are about a dozen Beehives that were brought in firstly for the Chestnuts, and secondly for the Sunflowers. It does seem strange to spray with insecticides just when they're about to do their job.
Trying to think of a favourite vegetable, is like choosing a favourite child, or colour, or landscape. It's probably best not contemplated.
At this time of year we are awash with Courgettes, French Beans, and these long Peppers; all of which come high on my list. But having to plump for just one, it'll have to be the Peppers.
These are not hot Peppers. When they have been lightly fried in Olive oil, with a slight sprinkling of gros sel, they are left to become tepid, and are simply delicious as an accompanying snack with a salad lunch.
Here they are known as Piments, Doux long des Landes, but no doubt this name changes from country to country.
I'm now just off to tuck into the ones above! Need I mention the word 'delicious'.
It's been hot all over Europe, and, apart from a handful of bikinied sun-worshipers, we've all been desperately looking for SHADE.
I have always claimed that the most important room in any local house, is the 'au vent'. A covered outdoor room where one can eat, snooze, read, and enjoy alfresco living without the risk of sunburn or rain.
If, like me, you enjoy the son et lumiere of Summer storms, then your au vent is the perfect spot to sit and admire.
In the above photo it was 30 C in the shade, and goodness knows what, out in the sun.
The French Air Traffic Control people have been on strike again. As soon as the sun shines, they down tools, and head for the coast. They do it every year.
So, no planes landing at nearby Bergerac airport over the weekend. Am I sorry? NOT ONE BIT.
As you will see in the photo I took yesterday (above), there is not a single vapour trail in the sky. A very rare sight. Bravo!
Also, no doubt my supermarket, and the local street markets, will be temporarily devoid of all those loud braying English women in their big straw hats, long diaphanous frocks, and oversized ugly sunglasses. Bravo again!
So, yes; I'm supporting the strikers. May they continue (at least until Lady M wishes to go shopping in London again).
Carrying on from yesterday's posting, it made me think back to my other neighbours from when we first moved here.
Apart from Jeaninne and Odette, who lived next door (middle house above), these were the others; all of whom are deceased, other than two of the couples who have moved away to our nearest small town.
Our little hamlet consists of two interconnecting tiny 'settlements'. Ours has three houses, the other has four.
In our 'settlement' (lieu dit), there was us and Jeaninne and Odette, with the third house only being occupied for only a few weeks in the year (house on left above). M. Week (pronounced Vek) was a German teacher from Paris, and his holidays were spent here with his ageing mother. I believe his mother loved it here, but M. Week prefered the bright lights of Gay Paree. He always drove down from Paris, but when here he travelled by Mobylette. I never got to know either him or his Maman; they were never here long enough..
The other 'settlement' is built around the road, and has an altogether different atmosphere. Two of the houses being so close (either side of the road) that lumps are often knocked out of their stone walls by passing lorries, military vehicles, etc.
One of the houses (on the right above) was lived in by an elderly lady and her brain-damaged son. La Sidonie (as she was known) was a rather sour-faced lady, who never really spoke to anyone. Her home was primitive, and she lived a very meagre lifestyle. She had no visible signs of support so I imagine she survived on basic State assistance. Poor Roland, the son, had been born with some genetic problem, and had been left permanently damaged. He would stand at that window all day long, rocking too and fro, and smiling. I always waved as I went by, and I think it made his day.
The house opposite was always empty (on the left above); it was eventually bought by a quiet couple, who, now that they can no longer cope, have just moved into a local retirement home.
Further down the road is a semi-derelict house that was lived in by an ex-Mayor of the village, and his wife. They were a very pleasant couple, and he officiated over the public phone box, which was situated in a tiny wooden shed by the side of his house. He never had a clue how much to charge for our calls. The phone box is happily long gone, as people now have their own. I remember his shotgun being run over after he'd lent it up against the back of a tractor. The barrels were very bent, but he simply bent them back again, and continued to use it. He was that sort of guy!
Opposite the derelict house is where the new Holiday Complex, Pool, and Restaurant is to be built. That house was lived-in until a few years ago by a couple who bred Geese for foie gras etc. They were a pair of old-time grumpies, and saw everything as negative. There's always someone who likes to cause conflict; thankfully they too have now gone.
Of all those residents from way back, there's only me left.
Oh how our tiny hamlet has changed over the years, from quiet haven of peace to what it's become today.
When we first took up residence in France in 1972, our only non-local, non-farming, neighbours were a couple of Parisian lesbians called Jeannine and Odette.
They were charming, very quiet, and intelligent people, who liked their world to be orderly and 'correct'. There was never a discarded sweet paper, never any noise, and their lawns and flower beds were always perfectly groomed. In many ways they liked their world to be much as I do mine.
J and O were Zen Buddhists, and their daily work consisted of translating obscure Asian religious books/tracts into both French and English. Such things were still fashionable in the early 70's, so I imagine it kept wolves from their door. We quickly became very good friends.
In about 1980 they decided to move to a smaller, more manageable, property, and built themselves a nearby wooden 'eco' house; which, after a very short while, lost its original appeal. They then surprised us by announcing that they had bought a home in a mountainous area of The Cevennes.
They asked a friend and myself if we would help with their move, which we were only too happy to do. A couple of weeks later we set off towards the mountains with a fully loaded rental van.
Eventually we arrived at a seriously ruined roadside house and barn, overlooking bare and bleak mountains. We were amazed to find that this was their new home. It was miles from anywhere, and had no services installed. We were very reluctant to offload their beautiful antique furniture into this tumbledown wreck, and asked if we couldn't find some safe storage somewhere else. They insisted all was OK, and we did as asked. We were very concerned about leaving them there, in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a mountain, with no visible sign of amenities or comfort. We imagined them sitting cross-legged on a rocky outcrop, slowly starving whist chanting some Zen mantra.
I believe it wasn't long afterwards that they 'divorced', with Odette returning to Paris, and Jeannine heading for the south coast. They are now sadly both deceased.
If only they had stayed as neighbours. They were such charming and intelligent people; it was a real pleasure to have them here. It's never been the same since.
The above picture from 1997, shows Cro being admonished by Odette for prioritising mushroom hunting over painting (which I didn't). The church (top right) is that of our village.
It's 50 years since Tony Hancock died, and the BBC's 'Radio 4 Extra' recently paid homage to the great man. It reminded me of the following.
Hancock came to live on the edge of my Surrey village in the late 1950's (?). The first visual manifestation of his presence was an abandoned white Mercedes 300 SL Roadster by the village war memorial and pond, that his girlfriend (later wife) Freddie had crashed whilst drunk. The crumpled car stayed there for about two weeks; goodness knows why!
Hancock had bought (or more likely rented) a pleasant house next-door to a friend of my fathers', on the outskirts of Lingfield, towards Blindley Heath. My father's friend was quite excited at having such a famous new neighbour, but did his best to hide his enthusiasm. He simply presumed that at some time they'd meet, and wisely decided not to rush round with his autograph book.
One day, he saw Hancock striding up his drive. He immediately presumed that he had come to introduce himself; in fact he's come to complain that he could see their washing line from his sitting room window, and demanded that it be re-positioned.
That was their one and only encounter, and my father's friend was extremely happy when Hancock eventually moved on.
It's well known that Hancock was a difficult man. He was seriously alcoholic, and had 'demons'. Regardless, I always loved his shows, and listening again recently to several episodes of Hancock's Half Hour was a real pleasure.
We have one of our own (the vicious Bok above), and regularly welcome several of his friends who come to visit. They are a very nice bunch who are all extremely well behaved.
On Sunday a strange dog turned-up as I was working at Haddock's; it was a dog I'd not seen before. She looked hungry and thirsty, so I gave her some water and a couple of biscuits. She was an odd looking creature who obviously had some German Shepherd in her parentage, but with the other half having rather short legs. However, she was friendly.
She and Bok seemed OK together; he's always pleasant to females. Then suddenly, totally out of the blue, she turned on him, and a really vicious fight broke out. Lady M bravely tried to separate them, whilst I gave the beast a bloody good whack with a stick; and she ran off. Luckily Bok was fine; if a little understandably shocked.
Then early yesterday morning, whilst cleaning the pool, a small black French Bulldog (from the same home as Marley) started barking at me in a really unpleasant way. It was baring its teeth and coming forwards, showing no signs of fear. A really nasty, almost cartoon-like, creature. Again I grabbed a stick and showed him that I meant business; he reluctantly backed-off. In my 'dog book' it says that French Bulldogs are gentle and peace-loving, they are also described as good-natured, affectionate, and courageous.
Well, courageous maybe, but as for the rest I'm not sure. His house-mate Marley could hardly be more different.
Little episodes such as these are unpleasant, and luckily very rare. It won't change my attitude towards Boks visiting friends, but if I see either of the above two again (especially if the children are around) they'll be shown the door (and a big stick) pretty darned quick.
I don't suffer human fools gladly, nor do I tolerate canine ones.
Today: Bok and his girlfriend Izzy. Now she really is the perfect visitor.
I've made the Jam, I've frozen probably more than we'll eat, now is the time to make our Vinegar.
There is nothing better on a simple summer salad than freshly made Raspberry (or Tayberry) Vinegar, and good quality Olive Oil. It is sweet, fruity, and refreshing.
To about 500 gms of Raspberries I add about a pint of colourless vinegar, and half a cup of sugar; all quantities are to taste. Two days later it is strained through muslin and boiled for a short while to kill off any yeasts, and remove impurities. It is then bottled and is ready for use.
When I first came to live in my village, the chateau (above) was lived in by a woman and her three children, who soon became very good friends.
The children grew-up and left home, and L remained rattling around in her big house so the family eventually decided to sell.
Unfortunately she sold to a dubious Italian wide-boy who stripped the house of its old oak panelling, and anything else of value that was removable, and installed a host of cheap chavvy fittings that would have looked better in a Footballers' 'executive home'.
He also somehow forgot to pay L, and was eventually taken to court.
The next owner, C, did his best to restore the house to its former state, and spent between 15 and 20 years (?) doing so. He also (for some bizarre French reason), had almost every exterior square centimetre of the house sandblasted; to be rid of any vestige of its great age.
C has decided to move on, and a new man is now at the helm. We haven't yet met, but I hear that he has an important collection of old cars. Whether or not the cars will be kept here at the chateau, I don't know; but I do hope so. He sounds like fun.
p.s. This more recent photo (below) shows the small Rose Garden I designed for the Chateau (lower right quarter). Nothing particularly original, but I'm glad to see it's still there.
Whilst most of us in Europe are enjoying a period of beautiful sunshine, soft fruits, and BBQ's, there are still one or two out there (no more) who can only see blackness. If I'd posted a picture of cute puppies the trolls would always find something nasty, and insulting, to write.
I cannot understand the desire to be hated by everybody. I'm sure the world of Psychiatry has a word for it, and possibly even the relevant pills to take, but how much nicer, and easier, just to be pleasant to one's fellow man.
Insults roll off my back like water from a Duck, but others do take things seriously. I know exactly who I am, what my achievements have been, and why I choose to live the way I do, so no attempt at puerile criticism can upset my daily life. I also understand that under-achievers can hold jealous grudges against those they see as higher up life's ladder, but insults won't help them on their quest to achieve the same; if indeed that is what they seek.
My advice to these people is to try to spend a whole week being pleasant. Remember never to speak unless it is with some praise, and see how people's attitudes changes towards you. You might even begin to enjoy life.
The Chestnuts are in flower. Hay is being cut. We're swimming again. Wasps are making a nuisance of themselves (so are the bees that were brought in to harvest the Chestnut pollen). The excess fruit from our Bramley tree is falling like hailstones. The Oxalis continues to annoy me. Haddock's is blooming. My mower (Rory) has now been repaired. Everything will soon need watering. The outdoor wooden chairs have all been oiled. Still a surfeit of Tayberries. Pure blue skies. BBQ in full swing. Life is good. Freddie has overcome his fear of dogs. Grapes are swelling on the vines. There's a strong smell of newly cut grass in the air. Boo Boo can now recite the alphabet; not necessarily in the right order. It's hot.
Here they are folks; the three most dangerous people to hold positions of power in recent times. One from the US of A, one from the UK, and one from Germany.
The true extent of their collective folly is not yet at its peak; it'll be in the decades to come when everything goes thoroughly wrong. Believe me; at the moment we're simply experiencing the relative calm before the storm.
The world has already celebrated the fact that two of them no longer weald power; and it looks as if more Champagne will soon be opened, as Matron Markel is possibly on the way out too.
Now all we need are people with enough clout to limit the bloody mess they've left in their wake, and, frankly, it will take a bleedin' miracle.
Following-on from yesterday's posting, I found this a bit odd.
Like many, we tend to use old Bonne Maman jam jars for our own jams and jellies. The only problem is that the lids have built-in obsolescence; two years re-use is probably their maximum. I have plenty of glass jars, but a fastly reducing supply of usable lids.
Mr Amazon suggested these 12 lids (above) for $17.08 (€14.74 or £12.91). $1,40 each seems a lot of money just for a few simple lids; that's about the price of a jar of jam!
So, whilst shopping yesterday morning I bought a pack of 6 brand new Le Parfait jars, complete with lids, for €4.99 ($5.50 or £4.10).
Something, somewhere, don't seem right!
Also whilst chez Leclerc, I plumped for the Aberlour Single Malt Whisky for my winter tipple. I decided against the Jim Beam. I think I made a wise decision.
Total Eclipse of the Blog
Hello, dear readers! Are you in the path of the eclipse? Did you buy the
special glasses? I am sort of in the path and bought glasses . . . however
10 months 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!