I don't like winter. It's cold, it's damp, and often foggy throughout the day. Even my long daily walks have become tiresome without the company of my faithful old pal, Bok.
The Moles are reeking havoc on Haddock's Paddock (above), Haddock's itself lies uncultivated, and the few winter tasks that still await my attention remain undone. I have little enthusiasm for anything at this time of year.
My hours are spent wandering around with a pair of secateurs in my hand, occasionally painting some bleak landscape, or sawing logs for the woodburner. When outdoors I seem to be permanently in gumboots, scarf, and gloves.
Elsewhere in the big ugly world, politicians are causing my blood pressure to rise in unprecedented leaps. Even being as deep in the countryside as is possible these days, I am still bombarded with news of foul murders, dangerous nonagenarian motorists, and common Z listers' ice-skating abilities (or lack of).
I need talk of sunshine, garden parties, and girls in summer dresses. I want to throw myself into 28C pool water, cook lamb chops on the BBQ, and pick ripe tomatoes from the garden. I'm a July baby, and my blood is tinged with sunshine.
It'll be May before I start my 2019 veg' growing campaign, and June before I start swimming again. In the meantime I eat body-warming soups, scour the meteo pages for suitable washing days, and wander aimlessly deciding which tasks to avoid first.
For me there are only two important parts of the year; summer, and waiting for summer. The latter always seems to drag, whilst the former rushes by.
If, after all this Brexit nonsense, they come to send me back to England; I shall refuse to go. I'm not bloody going!
They can snap the cuffs on me, drag me to the airport, tie me to a seat, and have half a dozen Gendarmes accompany me back onto Albion's soil, but I shall kick and shout all the way there.
Then, after some hard-pressed local authority have housed me, fed me, and given me plenty of spending money (as they are bound to do), I shall buy an inflatable boat, and sail heroically back across the Channel. I want to remain living right here!
I've lived for over two thirds of my life in France, and I've been a good citizen. I've committed no crime (I'm not that type), I've never asked for any financial assistance, and all my spending money has been imported. I've saved an ancient house from falling into ruin, and I shall eventually leave behind a pleasant home in which discerning folk will live for many years to come. I also pay all my bills on time. In fact, I'm the perfect étranger.
Somehow I don't imagine they will come for me; I'm too much a part of the scene. I'm quiet, reserved, and I blend in with the landscape.
So, Macron, just forget that I'm here. I won't tell anyone, and I promise to continue to be good.
My youngest son, Wills, had a teddy bear named Harry; they were inseparable (maybe they still are). When he was very small, we travelled between England and France on a regular basis, and of course Harry was always an essential member of the party.
Quite naturally, we all had our own passports, so of course Harry needed one too. We briefly considered applying to The Passport Office, but Wills (being Wills) thought he'd just make one for Harry himself.
It's a full size faithful replica, and would probably fool most passport officers. If I lost MY passport, I would be quite upset; if I ever lost Harry's, I would be devastated!!
You can see by the state of it, that it's been very well used. It's also one of the old type passports... so much classier than the new burgundy jobs.
I often find myself thinking that price equates with quality; well it doesn't. The Black Pudding that I wrote about recently (below) was about twice the price of the one above. The one below tempts you with the word 'meat' in its name Boudin viande, whereas the one above is simply known as Boudin Landais; suggesting that it comes from, or the recipe comes from, the Landes area of coastal S W France.
I didn't wish to give-up on Black Pudding eating after my recent experience, so yesterday I returned to the Deli counter and bought the above. Let me tell you that it was exactly what I was looking for; totally delicious, with a very slight flavour of Haggis' seasoning about it.
This will now be a regular addition to my weekly shopping list. Boudin viande (below)will NOT.
Just as a matter of interest, I cut a 4 inch length in two lengthways (as shown), peeled away its natural casing, and fried it with a few slices of Apple and an egg. Bloody marvelous. The best lunch I've had in months. When Boudin is good, it's very very good indeed. I reckon even the squeamish would love this one.
Last night I was searching in my bedside table for some Lemon throat pastilles (I've got a cold), when I came across the above.
It's my late mother's 1902-dated fruit knife. How, or why, it came to be in my bedside table drawer; I have absolutely no idea.
It's very small; just 4 ins long fully opened. It has a very fancy silver blade, which looks at some time to have been used to open a can of beans, as the tip of the blade is a bit crumpled.
My late mother always said that if she wished to contact me (after her demise), she would do so in the form of a four-leaf clover. Well, I've never found that four-leaf clover, but this seemed like a sign of some sort.
I think, maybe, she'd just met-up with Bok, and wanted to let me know that he was OK.
My well loved Husqvarna chainsaw is getting old. It keeps de-tuning itself, and as I'm not good at re-tuning, my visits to my Husqvarna man have become rather frequent.
So, I've thrown caution to the winds, and have bought a new machine; two being always better than one.
It sports the name of a little known German manufacturer (Scheppach), but, as one would expect, is made in China. However, the important bit was the price; €90. The sort of money you'd find down the back of a sofa.
When at the chainsaw shop, I was told that in terms of money/quality it was probably the best model on the market. For the price of a new similar Husqvarna, I could buy three of these. It also comes with a 5 year guarantee.
Of course, as with almost everything these days, I had to assemble much of it myself. I haven't used it in anger yet, but it started just fine!
This beautiful French 'chateau' (about 70 kms E of La Rochelle) is currently on the market at just below £360,000; the price of a Bournemouth beach hut.
As with so many French homes (of all sizes and social standings) it has a very rudimentary kitchen (below).
At our own village chateau the kitchen wasn't that different. When our friend L still lived there, she would produce the most wonderful meals with extremely basic kit. It was her skill that made her cooking so memorable; not the size or cost of her kitchen.
Lady Magnon often watches a TV programme about moving out to the country, and seeing the reaction of home hunters to often huge modern kitchens is quite amazing. I even saw one recently where a very big and very expensive 'high-end' kitchen was discounted because it had cupboards rather than drawers. How that is supposed to help anyone create a decent omelet; I'm not sure.
Kitchens have become status symbols, rather than places where meals are prepared. In fact I am willing to bet good money that the more people complain about their new kitchens being too small or not having the right type of island, the less are their culinary capabilities. As long as the kitchen is huge and expensive, and contains a microwave; they're happy.
Bok seemed to have put on excessive weight over the past few months, so I'd put him on a strict diet.
However, his belly continued to swell, and he recently began to have symptoms that suggested something akin to a urinary infection. This morning (7th Jan) I found him lying in a damp bed, looking slightly sorry for himself; even so, he enjoyed his usual half-hour's early morning 'emptying' walk. He even chased a Deer for a short while.
When we got home, I took him directly to the Vet's Surgery, where a scan revealed that he had an enormous Tumour on his Spleen (above). I was totally in shock; distraught. I really wasn't expecting anything like that.
They operated in the afternoon, and sadly discovered that it had spread to most of his other vital organs. The Vet' said there was nothing to be done.
We haven't had much luck with our animals. We lost our beautiful Labrador, Monty, back in 2015 (aged 4). Then just before Christmas we lost Freddie, our Cat. Probably both poisoned. Now our lovely Bok has joined them.
I am totally distraught. I cannot believe what's happened. Bok was such a lovely boy. This has come completely out of the blue. He was loved by everyone, except one; a jealous neighbour threatened to kill him last Summer. At least she'll now no longer have to bother.
I'll bury him tomorrow afternoon alongside his two buddies, down at Haddock's.
RIP Bok; I cannot describe how much we'll miss him. The house now seems totally empty and sad. Part of the purpose for my living has been taken from me. Once we had three lovely animals to share our lives; now we have none.
I've felt heartache in the past, but this is just terrible.
As with tradition, we removed the Christmas decorations.
And we also went out Wassailing. Our chosen tree this year was little Micha's birthday Apple tree, which received a good beating with a stick, it's branches hung with toast, and its roots anointed with cider. I'm not having much luck with my photography at the moment, so here we were doing the same thing back in 2013. And here is this year's Wassail poem....
Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white and the liquor be brown.
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big.
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such as stores
That the bags and chambers and house run o’er.
It was a cold night, and we drank hot Cider. Recipe: Cider, cloves, star anise, nutmeg, juice of a small orange, dash of ginger wine, and sugar to taste. Heat and serve.
No doubt we will now be finding the shops filled with Easter eggs.
I was recently reading the comments from an ancient blog of mine, concerning the pros and cons of Town-v-Country living.
Those who prefered Country living, vastly outweighed the Townies. As expected, most demanded easy access to shops, pubs, and cinemas, etc, but were happiest when either in their veg' garden, or in front of a blazing fire. I feel much the same.
I was raised in a small Surrey village which boasted an ancient church, quite a number of beautiful old houses, and a central village pond, with a small stone lock-up and ancient Oak tree (above).
The essence of English country life requires a Norman church, Elizabethan manor house, 17th C pub', a thriving village hall, Cricket club, and a good collection of quietly intelligent residents.
The residents would all either drive old 5 litre Bentleys, mud splattered Land Rover 'Defenders', or tractors. Straight-backed young ladies would invariably travel by horse.
The village would be situated in a gently rolling agricultural setting, inhabited by a few pleasant eccentric land owners.
On the question of family pets (very important); pairs of Black Lab's would be de rigueur.
Village shops would have to include a family butcher, a baker, a greengrocer, and a tea room. Where once stood the village post office, we would probably now find an estate agent; but nothing is ever perfect.
I was introduced to the music of Kevin Ayers by my good friend, and fellow painter, Simon Fletcher. So here's song for him that I'm sure he'll enjoy. He's not been too well recently.
In around 1969, we went to a concert in Guildford together, which was possibly part of a promotion tour for the album 'Shooting at the Moon' (below). I still have my copy.
Lol Coxhill was his Sax' player at the time, and spent the entire show fiddling with his electronics; he never did get it right. Mike Oldfield was on bass. David Bedford was on keyboards, and Mick Fincher (unknown to me) on all things percussion. A small but brilliant lineup.
Here are Ayers & Co with 'May I'; a beautiful little song from the album.
Ayers had previously been the frontman with Soft Machine, he died at his home in Southern France in 2013.
Every so often I have a real hankering for Boudin.
I always buy a version called Boudin viande, although I have yet to find much viande in it.
Black Pudding is not to everyone's taste; not even to mine. But occasionally I forget this minor point, and buy some just to remind myself of how delicious it is, only to find that I can 'take it or leave it'.
Boudin, pronounced here as boud-ang, is one of the earliest forms of charcuterie, and is reputed to be filled with essential nutrients. Very good for you.
Next time I buy some (maybe in 6 months time) I shall buy a different variety; my usual Boudin viande contains far too much gras.
I bought myself this piece as a Christmas treat, and fried just three slices of it for my breakfast; the rest went to Bok!
The Scots are very wise; they reserve January 2nd as a 'Hangover Day'. After the revelries of Hogmanay, and New Year's Day, they need another full day to recover. Nicola Sturgeon has the right idea.
I only noticed this important day whilst checking my on-line Calendar engagements. I also noticed that binge-drinking England has no such holiday; I wonder why? They probably need it more than the Scots!
Bullshit beats brains
I have now given up thinking about what is the best thing to do about the
political limbo we are now in with Brexit. It is obvious that our
1 day 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 (except the obdurate and dictatorial) 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!