Monday, 22 January 2018

Sir William Connor (Cassandra) 1909-1967.

I was delving amongst the dustier volumes of our extensive library, when I came across the above.

I was somewhat surprised at finding it, and remarked as much to Lady Magnon; who was equally bemused.

Cassandra is a poignant name from my past, but where this book came from neither of us has any idea. On the inside page I see that it was priced at £1.25 (in pencil); having been initially sold at five bob.

Connor was a sketch writer for The Mirror newspaper; and a very fine one. He always wrote with clarity, humour, and some stubbornness. I would liken his eloquence to that of Yeats, and his venom to that of Ken Tynon. His regular column, as well as that of J B Morton's  'Beachcomber' in The Express, was essential reading for the young schoolboy Cro; although where both The Express and The Mirror came from, I can't imagine (our Junior Common Room members took some very odd papers; I took The Telegraph).

His writing for The Mirror stopped briefly during The Second German war, whilst he was away doing his bit between '42 and '46. When he returned to Fleet Street his opening words were 'As I was saying when I was interrupted, it is a powerful hard thing to please all the people all the time'.

Should you be fortunate enough to find a copy of his 'CASSANDRA, at his Finest and Funniest' in your local charity shop; I recommend it.  The book is a compendium of very short (2 page max), beautifully crafted and observed sketches, and is the perfect book for anyone who likes to pop in and out of a good thought-provoking read.

Macaroni Cheese

I believe that John Gray has been looking for a recipe for low fat Macaroni Cheese; a pebble told me.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A wet cold day

What a dreadful day it was yesterday, it rained all bloody day long; weather that we've not known for years. In fact I only ventured outdoors for half an hour in the early morning to take Bok for a walk. The rest of the day I stayed INDOORS.

In frustration, I stoked-up George our wood-fired cooker, Lady Magnon made a 'Narna Cake, and Polly put kettle on t'boil. Eeee, it were a right good day fer staying indoers. Later I roasted a Chicken, wi taters, one of them foreign yella pepper thingies, some Squash, an' some greens; it were grand. Sorry, the weather's suddenly made me go all northern.

When weather is that bad, I like to revert to older methods; maybe even light our way with candles; it is comforting. With a good fire raging in the stove, there's no point using the electric kettle. Luckily for us such ways are done not through necessity, but simply because we enjoy it. Of course in a case of emergency we live in the knowledge that we are perfectly equipped; I wouldn't want to be one of those who rely entirely on electricity.

I hope this wretched weather isn't going to last.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Brown Betty, and the question of Tea.

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In my opinion there is only one pukka type of Teapot; the traditional Brown Betty.

There are a million different fancy Teapots around. They come in all colours, all shapes, and with all types of ghastly patterns, but none compares to the plain brown standard design; usually with a blue interior.

One of my late mother's prized possessions was her extra large Brown Betty that was always known as her 'WI Teapot'. Goodness knows how many cups of Tea it contained; it was huge..

A good Teapot shouldn't dribble, it should be light enough to be maneuvered with skill, and it should be unobtrusive, so as not to take one's mind off the matter at hand; the pouring of Tea.

What one serves with one's Brown-Betty-made afternoon Tea, is another question. Personally I suggest one centimetre thick slices of Battenberg, or a couple of McVities dark chocolate Digestives, or even a slice of Lady Magnon's excellent Lemon Drizzle Cake. The choice is yours.

One thing is certain, however, the Brown Betty makes the BEST cup of Tea.

N.B. The milk in first, or after, question will never be resolved; it's all a question of 'upbringing'. And as for the time of day for the drinking of Tea.... I shall make no comment.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Winter evenings.

Just another ordinary winter evening.

With no nightclubs, pubs, theatres, or michelin starred restaurants to tempt us out at night, we hunker down and read trashy novels, or fill-in crosswords.

Bok just sleeps, Freddie watches the world go by, and Lady Magnon kicks off her slippers. The only sound is that of the washing-up machine whirring away in the kitchen.

We discuss the day's news, commiserate with those who are digging themselves out from six foot snow drifts, and we sip our glasses of warmed red wine. 

There is little on TV that appeals, so I head off early to bed and listen to some ancient comedy show on Radio 4 extra.

Yup, it's a hard busy old life, but winter is like that; you take it as you find it.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The cost of Living.

In July 2001, a very good friend from my college days, T, quit Dubai, where he'd been designing some of those iconic buildings, and came to live here in France.

Not long after his arrival, he asked me a searching question "How much are your weekly outgoings?".

Well, the answer was very simple. At the time I spent on average €50 per week, which included wine and petrol; but not house taxes, water, or electricity (those were paid by direct debit, and still are). He seemed quite surprised that it was so little.

We ate well, drank well, and travelled about quite a lot. We didn't deprive ourselves of anything, and ate out quite often.

T is sadly no longer living here, but if he asked me that same question again today, the answer would be very different.

I now find myself robbing the ATM machine of €300, at least three times a month.

I use the car as little as possible, only frequent restaurants in the summer, and we eat a lot less expensive meats than we used to. There is no question that since 2001, the cost of living has more than quadrupled.

Of course, in those 16 years there was bound to have been inflation, but it does seem to have been excessively high over the past 5 years or so.

Those Euro notes don't seem to be worth very much these days, and putting €20 into the Compact Royce's petrol tank just about gets me home. I suppose I should be grateful that I still have a few of them left.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Without Question, The Very Best Pub In The World.


If you take the A26 from Crowborough towards Tunbridge Wells (in god's own county of Sussex), after about a couple of miles, on the right, you'll come across a classic old Pub set back from the road called The Boars Head.

From the outside you can see at once that this is no ordinary boozer. It's low doors, tile hung facade, and huge chimney stack, tells you that you are about to enter a beer drinker's Jerusalem.

At this time of year, there is always a fire slowly burning in the huge 17th century inglenook; no enclosed wood-burner here, just flames and a wisp of smoke.

The beer is courtesy of the wonderful Harvey's in Lewes, and your pork pie, ploughman's, or pack of pork scratchings will be served to you by a beautiful Sussex wench with a welcoming smile. What could be better?

OK, I've lived less than half my life in England (and about 14 of those years were pre-beer), but I've still managed to assess the standards of many a Pub, and I can assure you that this is THE VERY BEST.

(Don't believe anything anyone might mention to the contrary)

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Preacher Man.

We had the bloody Jehovah's Witnesses around again recently. No matter how rude I am to them, they always come back for more.

I'm pleased to say that this time one of them recognised me, and he immediately apologised for their visit.

This video made me laugh; sorry, but the sound quality is awful.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Hand it over!

I was recently going through an old photo album, and came across some amusing letters.

One of my late father-in-law's postings was to Nepal. Much of his work involved 'pressing the flesh', partying, getting naughty Brits out of prison, holding banquets for visiting dignitaries, etc. All typical diplomatic stuff.

He also received invitations to most major events; one of which was the above. The marriage of his friend the Maharaja's son to the eldest Princess daughter of His Majesty the King of Nepal in 1948.

Sadly not all invitations were what they seemed, and attending weddings was out of the question. It was accepted that having a person 'outside the faith' attend a Nepalese wedding was (in those days) totally verboten, and in recompense a 'bag of money' was sent to those who were unable to witness the ceremony in person.

Of course the FO has rules, and any gifts given to diplomats over a certain value become the property of The Crown, and have to be handed over.

I wonder what the FO does with all its 'gifts'? Maybe there's some big basement somewhere in Whitehall, filled with bags of money, fancy clocks, and ceremonial swords, etc.

Even a simple old invitation from the late 40's has a story.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


I've just finished reading my good friend John Masouri's fabulous book 'Simmer Down' The Early Wailers' Story.

I lived in London between 64 and 69, just when Jamaican Ska, Rocksteady, and Reggae music was first making its presence known in the UK. I was saying to John recently that the very first graffiti I remember seeing was in the underground, somewhere around West Ken or Barons Court, and it consisted of the single word TOOTS. After that first viewing, the word TOOTS started to appear everywhere; graffiti has 'advanced' a lot since then.

Anyway, this is what all that fuss was about (many years later).

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Foreign Cheese.


I have mentioned before that this cheese, above, is just about the only representative of the British dairy industry that one is likely to find in any French supermarket.

I have only recently discovered why!

Back in 2005 The enormous French 'Lactalis Group' bought A McLelland & Son, the Scottish makers of 'Seriously Strong'. So, in effect it's now a French cheese, but made in Scotland (I presume).

The French are so protective of their cheeses, that it was almost obvious that some jiggery-pokery had taken place over 'Seriously Strong'.

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The Lactalis group make all your favourite 'President' Camembert and Brie cheeses; in fact they make almost every French cheese that you are likely to find in any normal (non-deli) shop.

That picture on your cheese wrapper of an attractive 'dairy maid' making cheese in her cosy farm cottage, should in fact show a huge factory. Such is life.

Friday, 12 January 2018


I wasn't too keen on this new Kale variety called 'Fizz'; in fact I fed all the larger leaves to the horses. I found it a wee bit tough!

However, as with all my Winter Greens plants, I left them in the ground to sprout, and they are now doing just that.

Usually the new year's sproutings of Winter greens are more tender than the earlier growth. The only others I have left to sprout are the Italian Cavolo Nero, which produces really delicious young shoots

Haddock's is a bit sparse at the moment; just the remains of the Perpetual Spinach was keeping our scurvy at bay, so these are suddenly very welcome.

So, how were my 'Fizz' sproutings? They were delicious. I cooked them for longer than I will again, as I was still worried about them being tough, but they were perfect.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Bad Season.

Between now and the end of April there is little to do other than stay comfortable, keep the place reasonably tidy, and do some painting.

Haddock's is lying fallow, it's too cold to swim, and all we can do is wait for spring.

The pool cover is filled with water after all the rian, and there are plenty of leaves that still need to be removed. It won't be too long before the Toads arrive, and start laying their long chains of eggs. I tend not to go too near the pool at this season.

In the afternoons we sometimes go 'upstairs' to the barn, make sure it's warm, and have a cup of tea. We occasionally light the woodburner, and play table tennis. The barn is always comfortable, its big open space is so different to the 'downstairs' cottage; we feel as if we're on holiday. 

It's still early in the year, and the weather has plenty of time to turn nasty; we are certainly not complacent.

So, we keep the home fires burning, eat comforting stews and roasts, and make sure that the Husqvarna is kept busy.

Our fingers are crossed that the wretched Aussie Flu doesn't hit us, and that we emerge into spring in good form.

Nothing is certain in the bad season.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Separate Lives?

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Harvey Weinstein has opened a very large can of worms. In his particular case, they sound like very nasty worms!

However, the whole subject of male 'wooing' has now been brought into question. A man can be arrested for whistling at a girl, he can also be arrested for making 'suggestive' comments. Pinching a girl's bottom (once so popular amongst Italian men), would now have most of Italy's (UK resident) adult male population behind bars.

However, I do notice that a recent Christmas TV advert for a Jean-Paul Gaultier perfume, showing a girl feeling a sailor's backside, has met with no complaints.

The can of worms is growing by the minute. When scantily clad girls strut down the High Street, shouting "We're on the pull", they are seen as being 'cheeky', but if an all male gang was to do the same, they'd soon be 'spoken-to' by PC Plod.

Soon no man will be able to approach a girl without first having signed a pre-date agreement. No flattery will be allowed, and certainly no holding of hands. Before that 'first kiss', lawyers will need to be consulted, and lengthy contracts drawn-up.

Could this be the start of all male, and all female communities, that never meet?

After the freedom of the 60's, we may now be at the start of a new regressive sexual revolution; reverting to strict Victorian values. With a huge Asian population living in the UK, maybe 'arranged marriages' will soon also become popular.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018



Right, I'll explain it one more time.

Your right hand goes to the left, and your left hand goes to the right.

Now, let's try it again.

Give me strength!

Monday, 8 January 2018



Atheists such as myself are not excluded from the admiration of churches, cathedrals, etc; in fact we probably count amongst their most devoted fans, as we admire from a different perspective.

Iceland is NOT on my list of  countries to visit, but if it was, this little church at Hof would certainly be on my itinerary.

I've always loved turf covered cottages and other buildings, and this small church is a classic example. The grass lies on top of a stone slab roof, supported by hefty beams. Outside, the 'bumps' in the foreground are of course ancient graves.

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The interior is as simple as one would hope and imagine. A few uncomfortable pews for the audience, a plain pulpit for delivering the fire and brimstone, and a picture of the CEO behind the simple altar. Sky blue ceiling, bull's blood coloured pews, and a relaxing natural olive green for the pulpit and screen are the chosen colours. It really is a beautiful little building.

The church, which was built in 1884, was the last one of its type to have been built in Iceland. Today it is a national monument, but is still used for weekly services.

In its way, just as admirable as the greatest painted churches of Rome.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Wassail.


Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera with me last night so the above of Lady Magnon, from a previous year, will have to suffice.

It was a damp chilly old night, but we went a-Wassailing regardless.

This year's chosen tree was the Jonagold, up in the orchard by the barn.

Her roots were anointed with Cider, her trunk and branches given a good beating, and Cider-dipped toast hung-up for the benefit of the Tree Spirits.

Ye olde poeme was recited (by me), then we all returned home for more hot Cider and Mince Pies.

Wassail the trees that they may bare
you many a Plum and Pear.
For more or less fruits they will bring
as you do give them Wassailing.

Twelfth Night is a busy time. Not only did we go Wassailing, but all the season's decorations came down and were packed away in boxes until next needed. The tree was taken off to the bonfire where it will later be burned. In fact tonight (last night) things are very much 'back to normal'. The house suddenly feels very bare!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Mirror, mirror on the wall....

One of the strangest things about having grandsons, is seeing oneself reflected in their features.

Take Aussie George (my daughter Tenpin's oldest above) for example. We could almost have been twins. That's exactly how I looked at 10-11 years old.

Here he is showing off his new Christmas prezzie keyboard. I do hope he hasn't inherited my musical abilities; I abandoned my melodious mastery of the Cornet, Trombone, and Bass Guitar, after extreme frustration quickly got the better of me!

Go on Georgie boy; play us a toon.

(I wonder if he looks at pictures of me and thinks 'Oh no; that's what I could end-up looking like when I'm older')

Friday, 5 January 2018


If I had kept all my nail clippings since I was little, I would by now have a mountain the size of Snowdon.

My nails grow at an unprecedented speed; it is a constant battle keeping pace with them.

Women often used to say how lucky I was, but I never saw it that way. Being a keen gardener, they are always grubby, and need almost daily trimming to avoid things sprouting from the accumulated dirt.

I am aware that nails depend on Biotin for growth, but I'd never previously thought of seeing from where it is sourced. Consulting Dr Google, it seems that almost everything I enjoy eating is rich in Biotin, so maybe I need to change my diet. (Maybe I enjoy eating those things BECAUSE they are rich in Biotin)

I have nothing against my Frankenstein nail growth, but it would be nice not to have to clip them several bloody times a week.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

In a Reflective Mood.

I was dusting my mother's photo yesterday (as one does), when I suddenly had a thought that she would have adored our dog Bok.

As a girl she'd always owned Welsh Terriers, but she also loved our little college days Terrier mutt, Hamlet. It wasn't so much the look of the dog that appealed to her, but its character. She and Bok would have got on so well.

I know she would have loved our Christmas tree too. Again, it wasn't that it was expensive or beautifully decorated that made it likeable, but the spirit in which it was erected. Ours, this year, was once again the top off a Leylandii hedge, and it touched the ceiling. It wasn't particularly well decorated either, but it had 'ambiance'. She would certainly have approved of my homemade crackers, as well as, Monty, the Teddy Bear for a fairy.

She would have loved sitting by the fire here. The rusticity of our little cottage would have appealed to her enormously. I can picture her sitting with some needles sticking through a ball of wool on her lap, listening to The Archers, Bok by her side, enjoying the peacefulness of it all.

She would also have enjoyed this Saturday's Wassailing, then eventually sighing with relief as we take down all signs of festivities until next year.

She would certainly have said her White Rabbits, because it was her who made ME say them all those years ago.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Fox v Badger.

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Prior to 2004 (when Fox hunting was banned) a rough estimate of around 20,000 Foxes were killed annually by organised hunting.

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However, more than a staggering 33,000 Badgers were culled in England and Wales in 2017.

It is well documented that Foxes do a lot of harm to farm animals and fowl. I myself once had a whole Chicken-run-full of birds killed over night; I think I lost 20-ish, and was not happy!

Badgers, on the other hand do no direct harm to animals; they are mostly veggies. There are, of course, serious arguments about Bovine TB, but it is far easier to inoculate herds of cattle en masse, than it is to hunt down individual Badgers.

Why, therefore, do we still see hoards of urban snowflake anti-hunt saboteurs out in the fields trying to cause trouble for riders who are simply following the trail of some stinking sack? None of these so-called animal lovers seem to bother about the daily shootings, and poisonings, of innocent Badgers.

Could it be that the people who ride-out on horseback whilst wearing smart clothes, are the REAL target of this transparent class hatred? As I mentioned above; the actual hunting of Foxes is now banned, so there is no real reason for the saboteurs to be there.

These 'friends of Le Corbyn' obviously prefer to protest about a group of people riding-out together, than to wave their copies of The Morning Star at those who slaughter Bill Badger and his ilk (which is probably undertaken by 'working class comrades' in cloth caps and gumboots).

Yet another example of urban v rural socialist hypocrisy.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Greater Spotted Apple Bird.

Lady M: Cro, come quickly, there's a strange looking bird in the Bramley tree.

Cro: Where?

Lady M: There, on the middle of that branch; it's sort of pale reddish brown.

Cro: That's not a bird.

Lady M: Of course it is, I just saw it fly in and land.

Cro: You're bonkers.

Lady M: Have a look through the binoculars.

Cro: No, I'm too busy.

Lady M: I think it could be a baby Hoopoe; it's chest is cinnamon colour.

Cro: It's just an old apple.

Lady M: Old apples don't fly.

Cro: Yours do.

Lady M: Come and have a look with the binoculars.

Cro: Come outside, and I'll show you.

Lady M: You'll disturb it.

Cro: Old apples don't get 'disturbed'.

Lady M: Walk quietly.... let's see how close we can get to it..... Oh, OK; it is an old apple; I did think it might have been!

Cro: Yeah, sure.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Wishing season.

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I'm really not superstitious, but before I utter another word on every first day of every month I have to say "White Rabbit, White Rabbit". The first of January being extra special.

What effect does this have? Well, it annoys Lady Magnon, because I always give her a dig in the ribs in the early hours, so that she utters likewise. It also guarantees great wealth, perfect health, and an invisible barrier against those who would otherwise disturb our highly treasured tranquility.

Will it work in 2018? I'm not too sure!

Certain things are beyond the ability of my albino Rabbits, but if I had total control over them, they would be ordered to divert the rivers of Alpheus and Peneius, and clear the nearby stables of their fast accumulating, and stinking, excrement.

I may not be Heracles, but controlling my "White Rabbits" would at least give me some hope.

Happy new year!

P.S. After writing the above, I hear that someone has reported my neighbour to the 'authorities' for building a terrace without planning permission. Yet more proof that our tiny hamlet community has become a cesspit of jealousies, hatred, and retributions.

And it used to be such a calm and pleasant place to live; woe is me!

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