Tuesday, 19 November 2019

MP's



This time I think she's gone seriously over the top with her pre-seasonal preparations.

Lady Magnon has not only begun buying Christmas presents, but she's already churning out tray after tray of MP's (Mince Pies). I did notice her wandering off into the kitchen recently with a bottle of Armagnac, and I had my concerns; but I soon realised that she'd begun making her copious amounts of Mincemeat, which are heavily laced with alcohol.

"Cuppa and an MP Cro?"

"Oh, go on then; maybe I'll have two".

I can't resist Mince Pies, and I get a wish too.

She and Boo Boo will probably be elbow deep in Christmas Cake mix before long. I can't resist that either. "Just a small slice, please".

Monday, 18 November 2019

Sardines.



I'm sure I've mentioned here before, that I am a huge fan of tinned Sardines.

At a recent local market, I was advised by a good friend to buy some sardines from a producer who'd come all the way from St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie (85), to the North of La Rochelle. These are Atlantic Sardines rather than the more common Mediterranean ones.

Every inch of the canning process is done by hand; a tradition that Conserverie Gendreau have practised ever since they started back in 1903.

Of course there's a lot of hype involved in the sale of every product, and Sardines are no exception. They claim to be the best (who doesn't), and have their cans illustrated by 'self-taught' local-born painter Suzy Ocadlik. The only difference between these and others, is that the fish are roasted for a while before being canned. They are, of course, in Olive Oil.

I recently surprised myself by making baked potatoes that were split in half, filled with a plump tinned Sardine, and with plenty of the Olive Oil poured over. It was stunningly delicious.

So, are they good? Indeed they are; there is a more pronounced flavour of grilled Sardine than in some makes. I'd give them 9/10.

The tins have a charm.


Sunday, 17 November 2019

Our tiny, but increasingly populated, hamlet.



Not so long ago, things simply went along very calmly and quietly, these days we never know what to expect. Dogs are kicked, cars are parked all over the place, and strange things happen.

At the delightful, yet half built shipping-container holiday village, there is already a 'Gite' in an old converted stone barn beside the owners house; I believe it caters for a maximum of seven holiday makers. When I went by recently there were SIX visitors cars parked outside (above). Yes, six cars for one 'Gite', the one parked on the children's school bus-stop belongs to someone else.

When Lady M took Billy for his evening walk she noticed a whole gang of people standing outdoors, in the drizzly twilight. She said they were looking very suspicious. Maybe it was a stag-do, a cannabis convention, or even a funeral party. It was a sight of which we are not familiar in our quiet corner of the world.


Near where they were standing are the initial diggings of the new Holiday Camp Swimming Pool (possibly similar to the above!!). Piles of earth, etc, are appearing just beyond the entrance. No doubt yet more huge diggers and concrete mixers will soon be making even more noise than before. There is only a derelict house directly opposite the entrance to the holiday complex, but there are three homes within a hundred meters or so who will be severely affected by the inevitable future racket; and we all know what effect pools have on children's decibel levels! We are expecting to hear the noise even from down at our own home, several hundred metres away.

This is exactly why everyone voted against this whole stupid bloody project. The planning dep't bureaucrats who approved it should all be bloody ashamed of themselves.



Saturday, 16 November 2019

Pickled Shallots.



I couldn't find my usual small round pickling Onions, so I bought Shallots instead.

They have been bathed in brine for 24 hrs, and have now been pickled in a sweet red wine vinegar.

I hope they compare favourably with my usual ones. If not, there's still plenty of time before they're needed to go with the cold Turkey etc.


I'm sure I pickled Shallots once before, and they weren't too good, but I've already tasted one of the above and it was fine. 



Friday, 15 November 2019

Twins Seven-Seven.


The first black 'super-star' artist from Africa, must have been Twins Seven-Seven.

Originally a musician and dancer, in 1964 he enrolled on a 'painting workshop' and almost at once became one of Nigeria's foremost painters. International fame soon followed. 


Twins often refused to see other painters' works, simply because he didn't want to be influenced by them.

I remember seeing some of his work in London in the late 1960's. It was 'different', unusual, and refreshing. His subject matter was based on local mythology and culture, and at times has an Aboriginal look about it..


I've never been a big fan of 'ethnic' painting or sculpture, but in Twins' case I make an exception.

He's a painter who's well worth looking at. Google Images has plenty of examples.

The olden days!



Few people now remember, but London's ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) used to be an artist's members club; of which I was a member.

I joined in about 1966, and remained a member until around 1968, when I left to study painting outside of London. The ICA eventually moved from its friendly premises in Dover Street, to Pall Mall where it became an 'Institution'.  The clubs magazine 'Bulletin' was published monthly, and contained interesting articles as well as info about important events. As you might see from the cover, for non-members it cost a Shilling. 

I was just looking at a few of my old 'Bulletins', and was reminded of the hierarchy. Our President was Sir Herbert Read, the Hon Director Sir Roland Penrose, and the director Dr Desmond Morris. All were often present at lectures, exhibitions, or in the bar.

I also notice that our Phone No was Grosvenor 6616....... those were the days!


The Gallery and The Library were exhibition areas. The Gallery was reserved for prestigious exhibitions and concerts, and The Library for us lesser mortals. I exhibited one piece, once, in The Library.

Of course I no longer live in London, but I miss the old ICA anyway. It lost most of its appeal as an artists club when it moved, but in Pall Mall it did become one of the very best exhibition venues.



Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Cranes are leaving.


I've just been out for a walk with Billy and Boo Boo, and we saw hundreds of these Cranes flying over, heading off for Spain or North Africa. These ones (below) were filmed on Sunday, and come from our local newspaper.



They make a beautiful sound as they circle, then head-off in their desired direction; usually in a perfect V formation.

We always wave to them, and wish them well. Then when they return in Spring we'll wave again, and welcome them back.

A truly wonderful sight.


Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Who Really Loves You?


An interesting question!

Lady Magnon just about 'tolerates' me. She tolerates the holes in my shoes, socks, trousers, pants, T shirts, and sweatshirts. She tolerates my unusual sense of tidiness. And she tolerates my intolerance.

My three children have now accepted that I'm the only father they'll ever have. Having drawn life's short straw, they humour me, pretend to laugh at my jokes, and pat me on the head when I demonstrate my dire lack of technical knowledge (and knowledge in general). 

My grandsons know no better. I'm just their 'Grumpy' who supplies them with adventures, danger, and occasionally sweets. 

However, there is one who loves me above all else; my lovely Billy. He follows me around biting my hands and legs, he settles on my lap when I watch TV, staring permanently up into my eyes. In his own special way, he has told me that he would lay down his life for me. 

He is devoted to me to the extent of being 'intrusive'. He has become my very shadow.  


I make no comparisons, but George V had a dog who loved him so much that it would faint every time they met. At their very last meeting, the dog passed out, and remained 'unconscious' for the entire hour of their encounter.

Billy has yet to follow this fine example, but I'm expecting it at any minute.

And, of course, his daddy loves him too!

N.B. I originally wrote the above about Bok in 2013, but it is just as appropriate about Billy today.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Premature Crimbo.


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I think almost all of us must be pissed-off by the constant Christmas hype that has now overtaken most TV and press advertising. I have even seen newspaper articles comparing the quality of this year's Xmas ad's.... Giving them 'ratings'.... As if we bloody care!

If there's one sure way of making people anti-Christmas, it's by bombarding us with commercial rubbish over a month and a half in advance.

Yes, of course I will decorate a tree, eat Roast Turkey, and exchange small gifts with Lady Magnon, but this crazy annual hype really does get on my nerves.

re: The above advert. I do not associate Christmas with Lidl one little bit. In fact now that I've used their ad' as my illustration, I shall make specially sure not to go anywhere near them.

Luckily I am unlikely to see an advert for Leclerc, but would avoid their Christmas section anyway!


Monday, 11 November 2019

Cy Twombly



I haven't written about favourite painters for a while.

Cy Twombly was born in 1928 in Virginia USA, he died aged 83 in Rome.

His painting is very much in the tradition of Japanese Calligraphy; which is probably one of the main reasons that I like it so much. 


He lived and worked in the era of Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns; at one time even sharing a studio with the former.

His work has been a great influence on many younger painters, including myself. The lower illustration is a good example of how the scale and forcefulness of his work dominates any given space.


Even if his work doesn't have immediate appeal for you, if you see that his work is on show somewhere nearby, I recommend you go. Like the large scale work of Larry Poons in the 60's, you leave feeling that your life has changed for the better.


Sunday, 10 November 2019

A bit of a Health Scare.



I recently had to visit the Doc' to renew my prescription; I had run out of certain pills, and hadn't taken them for quite a while.

I really hate having to visit the Doc', and combined with a few other things I was feeling very stressed.

The Doc' I saw was new to me. Firstly she made me remove my T Shirt and shoes, my previous Doc' never asked this of me. When she took my blood pressure she gasped and made me immediately take some tiny pill. My BP was abnormally high and I was given instructions to take readings twice a day for three days; noting three readings at each attempt. I don't think she expected me to last the day.

Later whilst at the pharmacy collecting my pills, I bought a new BP meter (above) which is very simple and efficient, and also cost peanuts. When demonstrating how to use it, the pharmacist saw my high readings, and even suggested I didn't drive home alone!

I'm pleased to say that my BP has now dropped dramatically; probably due to the combination of pill-taking, and less stress.

Anyway, as a result of my scare, I looked on the net for foods to reduce high blood pressure, and I immediately began an improved regime. I have naturally strong willpower, and will have no problem in giving up certain things that are obviously bad for me.

IN are one glass of wine in the evening instead of three, good quality dark chocolate, beetroot, bananas, oats, garlic, choucroute, lentils, yoghurt, and plenty of greens. Luckily all are to my taste, so no deprivation . 

OUT go salt, coffee, cheese, and too much fatty meat and charcuterie.

It's amazing what those pills and a sensible diet actually do. Back to normal again.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Inclement weather.



What does one do when it's raining all, and every, day? Pop down to see Grumsy, of course.

Boo Boo: Can we make some, erm, cakes?

Grumsy: What sort of cakes would you like?

Boo Boo: Biscuit cake.

Grumsy: Biscuits or Cake?

Boo Boo: Erm, gingerbread biscuits.

Grumsy: Gingerbread men or gingerbread women?

Boo Boo: Gingerbread birds.

So, they made gingerbread birds, men, stars, houses, unidentifiable objects, teddy bears, and fish. Some had chocolate buttons for eyes, and they all tasted very good.

Then he went back up to the barn very happy; clutching his bag of Biscuit cake.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Oh no!



Decent wild mushrooms have been in short supply this year, especially our Cèpes which simply refused to grow (in this area). Omelets such as the above will NOT be appearing on our lunchtime tables this Autumn; unless there's a miracle.

I've recently found quite a few young Parasol Mushrooms (below), and have seen a handful of ordinary Field Mushrooms, but the more gourmet specimens have remained elusive.

If anyone tells you that Parasols can be confused with other mushrooms, this one is a classic example. There is no other wild mushroom that grows to this size, this one was 40 cms tall, and the cap 25 cms wide. A really delicious mushroom. Don't bother eating the stem.


Our area is best known for the Périgord Truffle, but it's the Cèpe that has the most influence on our local gastronomy, and a whole year of forced abstinence is akin to torture.

Of course, wise gourmets (such as ourselves) will have bottled plenty last year just in case of such a shortage, but nothing can replace that early morning trip to the woods with the anticipation of finding a good haul of fresh young Cèpes.


A few other favourites have recently popped up. Lady Magnon is our resident 'Oronge' finder, and yesterday she returned with just this one, above; we had it for our lunch. Amanita Caesarea was Caesar's favourite mushroom (as its name suggests) He was right, it is probably the finest of all. Sadly not too common.

As far as the Cèpes go, there's always next year!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Moving to London.


                         

I would like to suggest that all UK school leavers, or graduates, go to live in London for a few years. Not Croydon or Pinner, but central London, where it all happens.

Personally I spent 6 months commuting before moving up to town. Those post-school six months of early trains and very late nights were debilitating. Once I'd found my first bed-sit (in Bayswater) my life changed dramatically, and in many ways I was obliged to become an 'adult'.

London is a great city, and being a part of it is an education in itself. I was lucky to have lived there in the mid to late 60's when 'Swinging London' was at its peak, but everyone's experience of London is wonderful, whenever they live there.

I met fascinating people, did amazing things, and experienced so much that would otherwise have passed me by. Not everything was 'positive'; I was mugged, given rubber cheques, and encountered some horrendous landlords, but generally life was good. Some of my greatest memories are of Sundays, when I would either cycle around town, take busses, or simply walk along the embankment.

Of my three children, just the two boys have lived in town. My oldest currently in Kensington, and my youngest recently in Holland Park. My daughter decided that Oz was more to her taste, and intends to remain there.

Education comes in two parts. Firstly it's all about Ox bow lakes, Latin verbs, and Pythagoras. Then later (and I think more importantly) it's all about LIFE; and learning about LIFE cannot be better accomplished than in that great institution called London.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The great quandary.


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The increasingly popular Boris wanted a General Election; and he's eventually got it (Dec 12th). His Conservative Party will probably win; not necessarily because people love Boris, but because they detest Corbyn and his menacing Marxists.

Only those who like the idea of the UK becoming a latter day Venezuela will put their X anywhere near the Socialists.

However, this election really shouldn't be taking place without a prior 'deciding referendum' about bloody Brexit.

I never thought I'd say this, but, as an alternative I rather like Keir Starmer's proposal; which sadly would depend on a disastrous Labour Party election win. Starmer would re-negotiate Brexit terms with Brussels, hold a second referendum, then as a committed 'remainer'; vote against it. Corbyn,of course, would vote to for it. YOU work it out!

Personally I would like to see a 'remain' party win the election, but not at the expense of Socialism's mismanagement. Just imagine what the two major 'remain' parties would do to the poor UK's economy. It hardly bears thinking about.

Brexit really should have been SETTLED FIRST; and don't say I didn't tell you!


A Sylvan Encounter.



I was in the woods recently when I came across a portly Frenchman with a Gallic moustache, a very wide beret, and an even wider basket containing just two greeny-orange mushrooms.

"Any luck?" I asked.

"Too dry!" he replied knowingly.

"Yes, we could do with some rain" I said, even though I knew we'd had plenty in the past few days.

"Seen any of these about?" he asked me, holding one aloft.

"There's quite a patch of them down there" I said, pointing to a semi-overgrown path behind him.

He looked at me with an air of superiority, in that way that certain natives have of looking at aliens. Again he lifted one of the mushrooms from his basket, "What do you call these?" he asked, in a sneering fashion; obviously expecting me to shrug my shoulders and say "Dunno".

"Well" I began "Back in my own country they're known as Saffron Milk Caps (my translation may not have been 100% perfect), but personally I always call them 'Lactaires', after the Latin name of Lactarius deliciosus".

He looked at me with even more suspicion, and without saying another word, sloped off grumpily towards the path I'd indicated.

Hunters and mushroom gatherers mostly think they know more than anyone else about absolutely everything; this type of arrogance isn't restricted to Parisians; it's everywhere.

It was a good thing that I knew the mushroom's Latin name, otherwise he'd be dining-out on having met some idiot Englishman in the woods who knew nothing about edible mushrooms; which, here, is a mortal sin.

p.s. 'Lactaires' are nothing special, Lady M doesn't like then, so I never bother to pick any. He was welcome to them.


Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Mimi.


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Mimi was (and probably still is) a right character!

Before finding himself back in his native Sud Ouest village, Mimi had worked in Paris at the infamous Alcazar Restaurant and Cabaret (above), where I believe he'd acted as both a server and drag act.

Mimi was as camp as a row of pink winceyette tents. He was tall, quite masculine looking, but with the mannerisms of Frankie Howerd.

Our first meeting was at a pop-up restaurant he started in an old barn, not too far from us. The food was average, he boasted of a resident poet in his kitchen, and egg throwing was a nightly sport. It was slightly unusual to say the least, and we returned quite often. He had a wonderful way of putting all the children at their own table and sitting down with them; cutting-up their meat, etc. Have you ever been to a restaurant like that? I think the Mayor of the village eventually kicked him out.

His second restaurant was quite different; we only went twice (twice was enough). We were served stinking Paté, Ecrevisses that were devoid of any flesh, and other courses that were equally disastrous. He also had some sort of ramshackle club in the cellar where, after we'd finished eating, he would perform outrageous drag acts; often falling over after too much wine. It was a total disaster, but he always had a group of followers; mostly unsavoury looking.

Poor Mimi, someone later burned his house down, and I think he moved away. I rather liked him, he was always brave and daring; and he considered that nothing was beyond his abilities (even if it was).

We may not have eaten terribly well Chez Mimi, but there was never a dull moment; and somehow that was far more important.


Monday, 4 November 2019

A strange Sunday.



Yesterday we lit our first fire of winter 2019; even though it was still quite warm.

Why, you ask? Well, we had no power from 6 am to 5.30 pm.

I have no idea what caused the cut; probably a couple of wires that had come astray, and the bastard EDF failed to repair it for A WHOLE BLOODY DAY. So we lit the fire, and a dozen candles, just for the fun of it; and to amuse the children.

Also, it was a really foul day. Wind, Rain, and plague of Locusts; we had the lot.

Billy was a bit wary of the fire, and retreated to his bed in the kitchen. Come pukka Winter I expect he'll be curling-up in front of it. Time will tell.

The sitting room was sweltering; we had to open the door! 

More foul weather forecast for today, but my fingers are crossed that our electricity will remain ON.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Electioneering.


Canvassing has already begun for the upcoming December 12th General Election.

This was filmed in Barnsley yesterday, as Labour try to quosh fears about their destructive policies.



Lady Quintella Thornsbury-Tiddle-Wynke was just out of shot, canvassing for the Tories.


Saturday, 2 November 2019

MASH-UP: Trump’s al-Baghdadi Speech & Obama’s Bin Laden Speech


Even if you've already seen this, never mind; it's worth watching again.




Friday, 1 November 2019

Oh dear; poor Billy.



Poor old boy, he's had a few strange days.

Firstly he was given a Penicillin pill instead of his Tick/Flea treatment pill; by mistake. He survived!

After that, his obsession with Cake resurfaced. This time he ate half a large Carrot Cake. Naughty.

Then recently Lady M was walking with him on his lead, when he went to say hello to a dog friend; a little dog we looked after for many years whenever his owner was away. The 'person' he was with, then kicked Billy; quite hard. Recently he was throwing stones at him, now it's kicking. After their death threats to poor old Bok, we've come to expect almost anything.

Billy shrugged off the attack, and we're being diplomatic about his attacker; these people need pity, not anger. I'm pleased to report that Billy's OK.

I repeat Kant's observation. 'You can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals'.





Proof (if needed).



It was a warm, dampish, dark evening, and distant Owls were being particularly vocal.

Suddenly we heard a slight rustle beyond the tower, then an eerie sound. We shivered and had a deep desire to bolt for the house and lock the door behind us, but we were welded to the ground with fear.  

The noise became louder, and soon we could see two terrifying figures emerge from the darkness. We clung together; shaking with fear. Death had come to life, and two unhappy souls now came slowly towards us.

"Don't harm us" I shouted. "I'm Type 2 Diabetic, and my wife has a Tarte Tatin in the oven".

"We wish you no harm" came the reply, in a voice that came directly from the underground. "In fact we've simply come for a slice of Pie".

"Oh you wags" I said, recognising a voice. "You had us completely fooled".

Boo Boo, you naughty boy!

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Halloween.



If you celebrate such things; have a good one! Cro xx



Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Post war rib-stickers.


                               

In various ways I was fortunate to have been born just after the end of WWII. It was an age of austerity, and appreciation; it taught us a lot. Even in families such as my own, who were reasonably affluent, we still grew as many of our own vegetables as we could, had our own hens bantams ducks and geese, and grew plenty of fruit.

We were still in the days of rationing, and I think we appreciated every small luxury that came our way.

We ate steamed puddings, plenty of dumplings in stews, and soups that were heavily enriched with lentils or split peas. Whatever was cheap and available would bulk-up our meals, and keep our stomachs happy.

One of the dishes that I particularly liked was my mother's version of Irish Stew. It was made with the cheapest cuts of Lamb, usually 'scrag end of neck', potatoes, carrots, and plenty of pearl barley. The above photo is not of my own, but exactly the same.

It was the pearl barley that I really liked, and I still use it in Irish Stews today. It's an old-fashioned ingredient, and probably unheard of by millenials. In fact I doubt if many supermarkets even stock it.

p.s. Which reminds me. I was buying ingredients for Lady M's Christmas Cake recently, and on her list was a jar of dark Molasses (Mélasse Noire). I couldn't find it anywhere, so eventually had to ask a 'shelf-stacker' who I found in the area where I would have expected to find it. She shrugged her shoulders, and declared "Never heard of it". I'll have to return to the Bio shop where I bought it before.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Bloody extinction rebels.


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We've now had the police's estimated cost of all XR's recent fun-n-games.

Policing the antics of these little darlings who are hell bent on saving the world, cost a staggering £37 Million; enough money to pay the annual salaries of an extra 1,200 policemen. This figure will probably rise as further charges drop through New Scotland Yard's letter box.

The authorities also had to clear-up an estimated 80 tonnes of rubbish left behind by these oh-so-holy, anti-pollution, eco-minded protestors.

Well done chaps. Now back to your comfortable Cotswolds homes, your Land Rovers, and your Hunter wellies; and next time would you please demonstrate in some far-off field (after having asked the owner's permission, of course).

My problem is that I agree with much of their cause.... but I cannot stomach their juvenile methods.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Off their trolleys.


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The Oxford Union is not to be confused with The Oxford Students Union. The Oxford Union is essentially a debating club.

Past Presidents have included Hilaire Belloc, Viscount Stansgate, and Boris Johnson; intellectual hierarchy of assorted political colours.

The Union is also known for the worst type of Snowflake PC behaviour, the latest example of which has been to ban clapping; yes, CLAPPING.

Various silly reasons have been given for the ban, and this timeless expression of approval is now to be replaced by something called 'Jazz Hands'; which I understand to be 'the waving of both hands at shoulder level'. A practice probably learned from The Black and White Minstrel Show.

Somehow I cannot see people changing their lifetime habits, and even the most snowflakey Oxford Union members may well find themselves reverting to the evil practice of clapping from time to time; by mistake.

One really has to wonder what members might have made of the ban, had it emanated from The White House, and Mr Trump.


Sunday, 27 October 2019

Les Palombes.

                                               

In times past, at this season, all red-blooded Frenchmen who owned a shotgun would have been found atop tall trees, in their Palombieres (above), awaiting the passage of these Wood Pigeons.

This annual practice now seems to have all but ended.

Yesterday morning I witnessed a sight that would have made many a French chasseur weep. On my early morning dog walk, I witnessed tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of Palombes passing overhead on their way towards the South West. Some were in huge groups of thousands, others were simply dozens; all were heading in the same direction, at the same speed, and at the same height. It was a scene the size of which I'd never before witnessed; the passage lasted for about an hour. Hunters would have been in heaven.

Most of them passed directly overhead, and I was quite expecting to be splattered with excrement; luckily none came my way.

We always see a certain amount of birds in groups flying off for winter, but I've never seen as many as yesterday. It was quite spectacular.

I did hear a few very distant shots. Some of my chasseur friends used to speak of shooting hundreds every day. I believe they were preserved by being put into the freezer whole, including their feathers. Later they would only eat the breasts, which I considered rather a waste.

I've always rather enjoyed eating Pigeon; Lady M doesn't.


Saturday, 26 October 2019

The bad season.



Not a lot more to do outdoors these days, before spring. There are the vines and creepers still to be pruned, but otherwise not much else.

The lawns have had their last mowing, everything that needs to be dug-over has been, and most of the fruit has been gathered by our unpaid junior slaves.

The leaves haven't yet properly fallen, so no point raking the few that are on the ground.

It's really quite a tedious time of year when, rather than trying to fit everything into our limited daylight hours, I actually go around looking for things to do.

We haven't yet lit an evening fire, so there are no logs to be sawn.

It's not often that I can say that I'm being idle; but at the moment I really am, and I'm NOT enjoying it.

Friday, 25 October 2019

My Mother's Cook books.


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It's worth looking closely at the photo above. This tiny kitchen is as basic as one could imagine, there is paint peeling from the walls, and the 'furniture' has been cobbled together in a rather haphazard fashion; including a rather spectacular French antique walnut armoire. Mr and Mrs Ikea would have a bloody fit.

The lady on the left, holding a glass of red wine (the owner of the kitchen), is of course Elizabeth David; one of the most influential post war cookery writers. The kitchen was in her Chelsea house.

I have quite a large collection of cookery books; mostly of the type that one can read in the way one might read a good novel. My mother had only a very few. Her favourite (most often consulted) was a book that came with her new gas cooker in about 1950. It became her cookery bible.

The Radiation New World Cookery Book was issued by 'New World' cookers, and was designed for use with their 'Regulo Gas Cookers'. It was first published in 1927, but my mother had a much later edition. It's a wonderfully old fashioned ENGLISH cookery book, containing all sorts of recipes for dishes that are now rarely eaten.

Her other favourites which she bought more out of interest than practicality were Elizabeth David's 'Mediterranean Food' and 'French Country Cooking'; both books that changed the whole concept of eating in dull post-war Britain.


I can't say that my mother used David's recipes that much, but she certainly adopted some of the attitude; and we always ate very well. When abroad she would search out certain ingredients that David had mentioned in her books. I remember well her returning from Greece with a large (5 litre) wonderfully decorated can of very large green Olives in brine. I think her purchase was a result of reading David's description of Olives as being "As old as the taste of water itself". Olives were still hard to find in the UK.

After we were married, my mother gave Lady M a copy of the Radiation Cookery Book, and wrote a small dedication upside-down on the back page; she'd opened the book the wrong way round. Lady M still uses the book; mostly for cake making. It's not a book I'd really recommend.

Par contre, I'd recommend every single book written by Ms David; especially her wonderful non-recipe book 'An Omelette and a glass of wine'.


Thursday, 24 October 2019

Scrum down chaps.



Above are four of my old school's current touring Rugby team, wearing their 2019 'designer' tour jackets.

Things have changed a lot since my day, and I'm not sure if it's all for the better.


And this is the rest of them..... I despair!

Yet another silly scam!



Have you received one of these?

Beware, this rather stupid scam is doing the rounds. Of course we all know that we didn't order anything to the value of £315.00, but it suggests that someone has hacked our bank account.

Delete at once. Do not open. It will probably ask you to confirm all you bank details, your favourite sweets, and your inside leg measurement. BEWARE.

However, one really has to ask; if the payment was 'declined', why would they now owe us money?

Logic scammers; logic!





Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Parasols.



It's Parasol season throughout northern Europe; at least I know it is both here and in Norfolk.

I prefer mine in their young state, before they're properly open (above); when the Italians refer to them as Mazza di Tamburo (drumsticks).

Don't bother with the stems, split the caps into 2 or 3 pieces, and fry in Olive oil until lightly browned. Salt very sparingly, and don't add garlic.... they require no extra flavouring.

Don't waste the opportunity; they are one of the best mushrooms available. If you see some, don't kick at them or whack them with your walking stick, pick them and eat them. They're free, and seriously delicious; what more could you ask!

                                


Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Ami or Amie; Billy's New Chum or Chumette.



I can see jealousy ahead. Marley has a rival; the beautiful 'Ami or Amie'. 

She's the new gal on the block, and has struck-up a really good relationship with Billy. Other than his own mother (who he probably doesn't remember) this is the first female dog with whom he's made friends.

She comes into the house, wanders around a bit, then plays with Billy outside for a while before returning the couple of hundred metres or so to her own new home (the Gypsy caravan).

She's a big, dark, heavy, impressive, dog, with a beautiful nature; and like Marley has made herself very much at home here. I like that about dogs, they are trusting and kind natured. The children like her too.


The majority of our friendliest local dogs have been German Shepherds. Many years ago one named Rocko would turn-up in the morning, spend the whole day with us, then return to his home (next door) in the late afternoon. His owners never said a word. Above are some of my then 10 year old son Kimbo's drawing of him.



Monday, 21 October 2019

Grandmothers.



I didn't know either of my grandmothers, so I can't speak from experience, but I have recently been 'observing' one, and I suspect that grandmothers are of paramount importance to most families.

It is said that the last people to remember you are your grandchildren, so it's best to be nice to them.

A grandparent, especially a grandmother, is usually a person you run to in times of need or comfort. Sitting in her kitchen as she bakes a chocolate cake is a memory that will last forever, and of course HER chocolate cake is always the best in the world.

She reads to you, plays cards, and teaches you how to write 'cat' and 'mat'; and how to draw a mouse.

A grandmother is someone you can talk to, someone who will listen to all your woes. When you've been scolded by your own mother, you tell your grandmother how misjudged you've been; and she will always agree.

A grandmother is also someone you take for granted. You turn up, expect food and drink, and leave probably forgetting to say thank you; and she forgives you.

At Birthdays and Christmas you can always guarantee that she will spoil you. She will give you books you will never read, clothes you will never wear, and hopefully some cash that you will waste on some pointless frippery that will quickly be abandoned.

When eventually she leaves the world behind, her grandchildren will be far too busy to attend her funeral; only when they're much older will they shed a few tears in her memory. Suddenly they'll miss her terribly, and regret not telling her how much they loved and appreciated her.

I think it's probably always been thus, and probably always will be.


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Les Bastides du Périgord.


Here is a visual tour of some of the 'bastide' villages around my area; most of which are within spitting distance of chez nous. In just 5 mins, it'll give you an idea of what the S W of France is like. You may even think of visiting.

Villefranche du Périgord is my nearest village.

Sorry about the funereal music;... what WERE they thinking!




Saturday, 19 October 2019

Let them (not) eat cake.



There was a delicious aroma of freshly baked cake in the air, so Lady Magnon decided to play just one more game of Dominoes with Boo Boo, whilst the cake cooled on the kitchen table.

Unfortunately the smell of cake is appealing not only to humans, but also to dogs; and a certain young Border Collie I know had already been tucking in.

No supper for you tonight m'lad!!!

Friday, 18 October 2019

The fate of that old Tobacco Barn.


                            

Readers of this page may remember me writing about a nearby disused Séchoir that was nearly blown to bits in a gale in May 2018 (above). I had considered buying it myself to convert into a large ground floor studio, with small apartment above, but it has now been snapped-up by a Dutch lady.

M, who will later make a small house in part of the barn, has for the moment laid a concrete floor, and installed a rather nice replica 'Gypsy Caravan' (in which she lives). M is the owner of Billy's new girlfriend 'Ami' (more about Ami later).


I have no Gypsy blood in me, but Gypsy wagons have been a part of my life even since before I was born. My mother bought one with her best friend, Pud Cumpsty, when they were quite young, and they used to spend weekends there. Later in my native Surrey village there seemed to be quite a few pukka Gypsies around, and our village wheelwright saw to their wagons repairs. In more recent times I've met several Gypsies, and we even had some non-Gypsy friends turn up here in a horse-drawn Irish wagon. 

I don't know how long M intends to stay in her caravan, but it does look very cosy for the coming winter.

I have often considered buying some woodland, obtaining an old wagon, and parking it in a central clearing (much as my mother did all those years ago). I can think of no more pleasant way of spending weekends, holidays, etc.

I'm quite jealous of M's home; but I think I'd prefer a more sylvan location.

Kushti bok.


Thursday, 17 October 2019

Light snack.



It's usually either a handful of Olives, or some crisps, but at this time of year we eat a few cooked Chestnuts with our regular pre-supper glass of wine. The two go perfectly together.

Having cut a cross into the pointed end of each Chestnut, I boil them for about 15 mins, then, having allowed them to cool a bit, they are eaten with a very light sprinkling of salt.

This year's nuts seem particularly tasty. They have a creamy texture, and a deliciously sweet nutty flavour. I like to think the nuts are of especially good quality this year.

You may not be given the name of the Chestnut variety when you buy yours, but these above are Bouche de Bétizac. A very popular variety, delicious, and one to look-out for.

I'm eating more this year than I usually do; normally a dozen would be the maximum. This year I may quadruple that; they're very good.



Wednesday, 16 October 2019

One man and his Dog.



Border Collies are not really lap dogs, but Billy thinks otherwise.

He occasionally 'leaps' onto my lap from a great distance, often without my having noticed his launch. Luckily (?) Lady Magnon was at hand with her iPad to immortalise this particular leap; performed whilst I was busy sketching.

Thank goodness he's still reasonably small and light; otherwise I might be speaking in a much higher voice.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Multi Pack.



I very rarely buy 'special offer multi packs', but in this particular case it was almost impossible to refuse.

I do like Lentils, they are versatile, healthy, and delicious; especially when cooked a l'Auvergnate.

These are the dark Puy Lentils, rather than the more popular pink Lentils that one tends to buy in the UK. These large tins each hold 820 gms, and cost me a ridiculous €4 for 6 tins. How could one say no?

Lentils of this type used to be the traditional accompaniment for Confit de Canard, but these days Pommes de terre Sarladaise has become more popular. 


We shall be eating these tonight rather like a cassoulet (but replacing the beans for lentils) accompanied by Toulouse sausages, confit de canard, and thick slices of Pork petit salé.

The above photo is NOT of my finished dish, but you get the idea. If you wish to see the pukka recipe, look for Petit Salé aux Lentilles. It's what we peasants eat.


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