Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Summer.



It's 7.30 am, and I'm just back from my early walk with Billy. I cannot imagine a more perfect morning; the sky was clear, the sun was just up over the horizon, and it was about 18 C. No cars, no people, no noise; perfect!

As a Summer baby, this is without question my favourite season of the year.

With our grass no longer growing, and it slowly turning beige, I have, at last, more time on my hands; time to remember that we are actually supposed to be 'retired'.

With crazy temperatures seemingly throughout Europe, we found ourselves doing much less than usual at home. However, we eat out more, we attend more 'parties', and we generally grasp everything that Summer has to offer. We recently even enjoyed one of our hamlet's lovely evening 'street parties'; although some over-indulged! 

We've already had Summer guests, and are about to have a wonderful invasion of grandsons. Finding things for them all to do will be fun, but I expect their parents will already have most of that sorted in advance. 


So, during the lul, we sit by the pool trying to avoid the hoi polloi, we sip the occasional Pastis, and eat simple dishes that come direct from Haddock's (alas, not the eggs), whilst enjoying this glorious Summer. 

Life is good; our only concern now is Bloody-Brexit (I apologise for even mentioning it). Only 3 months now for our wonderful politicians (who will soon be on holiday for 2 months) to decide the future of England, and her ex-pats. 

Frankly I no longer care what they'll come-up with; our tiny hamlet (holiday conurbation) has been fucked-up anyway, and is no longer the peaceful little gem of previous times. These days I think we would be just as happy to become seasonal visitors, as to remain here full-time. There are still plenty of more peaceful locations out there for us to visit; we shall spend our money elsewhere.  (We, of course, voted to 'remain', but who gives a fuck about us!)

p.s. Actually, at the moment I wouldn't even mind if uber-Marxist, and friend of terrorism, Jeremy Corbyn became PM. It would be fun to see somewhere else as fucked-up as here. I can't wait to see all his supporters saying "it wasn't me; I didn't vote for him"; just as they did with Blair!

If you can, just imagine Ms Abbott as Home Secretary; she'd be even funnier than Tommy Cooper. With that in mind, I actually hope they will be elected. It would be hilarious. What larks!



Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Peaches.



Peaches are much like Tomatoes; their true flavour is only revealed when they are home grown, outdoors, in sunshine.

Like all impatient gourmets, we bought a few 'supermarket' Peaches and Nectarines this year, simply because they looked so inviting, but they were either far too hard, or totally lacking in flavour. Somehow we knew they would be, but we bought them anyway.

Boo Boo's very own Peach tree started the year covered in flowers, then looked promising with masses of tiny fruit. What happened after that I'm not sure. The baby Peaches fell off one by one, and we have ended-up with no more than a dozen edible fruits.

Even so, they are delicious. Smaller this year than usual (no doubt due to drought and heat), but with a magnificent flavour.

Elsewhere our Greengages are just beginning to ripen, and all other Plums will soon follow on. All is OK in the orchard, but my Jonagold apple has lost a big branch; too much weight!.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Buy six, get one free!



We are all familiar with the Supermarket 'BOGOF' deals, usually on cornflakes or sugary children's drinks. But to find that my local (very good) bakery has started a similar scheme, rather surprised me.

Regardless of a free 7th baguette, I would still buy my weekly supply of three baguettes and two 'boules'. I really cannot see what they stand to gain by handing out freebies. Stamping the small card, with different symbols for each baguette bought, is time consuming, and is of no advantage to the baker.

I shall not refuse my free 7th baguette, but I do find the whole exercise a bit puzzling. Perhaps the 'tempting offer' is just for one week only.

I should add that these 'Baguettes Tradition' are totally delicious, and now that our usual baker has recently been sold, we have changed allegiance to the, much nearer, maker of the above.

Next Saturday, I shall return home with FOUR baguettes. Yippee!



Sunday, 28 July 2019

Plantar Fasciitis.



For the past few weeks I've been hobbling about. I knew what the problem was; I'd had it before. It's basically a painful heel.

Plantar Fasciitis is a debilitating condition. It makes life uncomfortable, and takes all pleasure out of simply walking.

Sadly I can't remember the solution from when I last suffered; maybe it cured itself. This time, however, it didn't seem to be going away, so whilst at the pharmacie recently, I asked if they had any shoe inserts. The above is what they suggested.

They are simple leather inserts with a few bumps and pressure points, and the effect was INSTANTANEOUS. I'm still not without some slight discomfort, but the difference is amazing.

I shall probably go back and buy a few more pairs; just to have some in reserve.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Be like Popeye.



I always grow my crops for their taste, not for their beneficial qualities, although when a particular vegetable combines both flavour and health benefits in one; I couldn't be happier.

One such case is Swiss Chard and/or Perpetual Spinach. I grow both. Both are delicious, and both are so good for you that they really should be prescribed 'free' by the NHS. You can almost feel them doing good.

Green leafy vegetables are nature's medicine cupboard. They make the body strong and resistant, and cleanse all those interior bits and pieces that need cleansing. They are a panacea for all ailments. They are the backbone of good health.

I really cannot remember if I've always enjoyed eating 'greens', probably not; but thank goodness my taste buds have accepted them since I was certainly very young. It genuinely worries me when children refuse to eat anything green; they are depriving themselves of so much goodness and energy.

My own grandchildren all seem to enjoy eating salads, leafy greens, and even sprouts; and they are all big strong fit boys. If only all children were thus!



Friday, 26 July 2019

Dirty Money?



Lady M: I'm washing your best shorts and stripey T shirt.

Cro: Oh, thank you darling; did you empty the pockets?

Lady M: Of course.

Cro: Did you find my bank notes?

Lady M: What bank notes?

Cro: The ones in my pocket.

Lady M: Which pocket?

Cro: They were in that side pocket on the right.

Lady M: OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!


Let no-one say that Cro goes around, handing out dirty bank notes; mine are the cleanest in Christendom.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The Garden of Eden.


                                           Image associée

As all Sussex folk know, the very center of the Garden of Eden was positioned at Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex; a high point so perfectly situated atop the South Downs that it looks out over the sea to the South, and towards Kent and Surrey to the North.

Adam and Eve Sussex (their correct family names are unknown, but are thought to have been Starkadder and Fuller respectively) chose their home wisely. Not only was there a good Apple orchard, but the serpents thereabouts were of the friendly variety.

However, eventually their landlord (a Mr Good) wished to evict them, and made-up a silly story about them being members of some nudist club, and he wanted nothing more to do with them.

But he was not all bad. Mr Good took pity on them, and before closing Eden's gate, he loaded onto their Ford Transit van the minimum with which they could survive, before they could find themselves another suitable home.

He gave them a tool box, a cock and six hens, paint brushes and a tube of sepia, six pencils from 2B to 4H, tobacco in a tin, a Latin primer, a selection of verse and prose by good Sussex writers, a small printing press, the basic elements of jurisprudence, a compact medicine chest, a collection of seeds, two pigs, a No 9 Opinel knife (I added the knife), and a large ball of twine.

I know all this to be true because Mr Hilaire Belloc told me so. The rest is history.


Wednesday, 24 July 2019

My Tom Crop.


For the third consecutive year, my Tomato plants at Haddock's have been badly affected by disease, so, in mid-May, as soon as I'd noticed the yellowing and curling of leaves, I planted a few in pots up at the barn.

                                

I planted just two 'Portuguese' and one 'Cherry', just to see how they would perform.


Well, I'm pleased to see that they're doing well. We've been eating the Cherry Tomatoes for quite some while, and the Portuguese are swelling beautifully.


As for 2020, I shall plant all my 'maincrop' Tomatoes in pots up at the barn, and grow just a few 'Roma' and 'Cherry Toms' down at Haddock's where they seem not to be affected.

There's a solution to every problem.


Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Lucky Boy.



I'm very pleased to say that not only did Lady Magnon remember my recent birthday, but she also managed to find the present that she'd so carefully hidden away.

The present, which I'd bought for myself several months ago (and she'd bought back from me), came wrapped in old Christmas paper, and is a rather dapper Mushrooming Knife made by Leopard.

It's a very practical piece of kit. Its brass inlay on the handle is extremely beautiful, and it's a very pleasant object to hold in one's hand. Thank you m'dear!

I expect it'll be quite a while yet, but I can hardly wait for our Cepe season to start.



Monday, 22 July 2019

Doppelganger No 17.


                                                  
Two Brighton workmen dancing.



Cro and Lady Magnon dancing.



Sunday, 21 July 2019

Latest toys.



These wonderful toys were given to me by my son, Kimbo, for my upcoming birthday. They might look like church candles, but they're not!

They are bluetooth mobile (and waterproof) speakers, called 'Ultimate Ears', for poolside music listening. What a great idea.

You can hang them in the trees, hide them in flower pots, or use them as earrings. We could probably even strap them to Billy like paniers, for a more random mobile experience. The sound quality is very good, and even if they were to fall in the pool, they still work.

Thank you darling; a great prezzie. 



Saturday, 20 July 2019

La caravane publicitaire du Tour de France cycliste 2019


If you are a fan of cycle racing, but have not had the pleasure of seeing The Tour de France live, then this will give you some idea of the whole pre-race atmosphere.

The publicity caravan precedes the race itself, and is probably the reason why most people stand by the roadside. The caravan takes about half an hour to go past, the bikes just a few seconds. The caravan also hands out free gifts as it passes, mostly key rings, free samples, and cheap publicity hats. If you wish to see the race itself, you are better off staying home and watching on TV, but if you want all the fun of the fair, then you'll get that by being there in person.

As my local supermarket (Leclerc) is a major sponsor of The Tour, they have been handing out prizes to shoppers. So far I have won a question/answer thing about The Tour in the form of a fan (rubbish), and just yesterday I won an insulated bag for ice creams etc (useful). How exciting is that!




Friday, 19 July 2019

The 'Garden' garden.



The Oleanders are now in full bloom, and should continue for quite some while.


All the pot plants are doing what we asked of them; reasonably so.


Grapes are swelling everywhere (except on my Black Hamburg). I shall attempt to make wine this year, using the traditional 'peasant' method. I'll let you know; the last time I tried, it tasted of petrol.


I love Pears. This one is a Doyenne du Comice; one of the world's very best. We'll have a small crop.


We have several different Hibiscus plants. They are just starting to flower and will continue to do so for at least two months. My kinda plant; they simply get on with it!

It's just so bloody hot, and so bloody dry. Not really conducive to gardening.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Harvest Moon (Neil Young cover)


The grain harvests are mostly over here now, and the fields are filled with bales of straw. It makes me think of this song.

I love the original Neil Young version, but this foursome (Reina del Cid, Toni Lindgren, Carson McKee, and Josh Turner) do it great service too.




Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Billy's first Summer.



Being neither 'mad', nor an Englishman, he stays indoors during the extreme midday sun.

We have established that he doesn't like the heat. He finds a nice spot somewhere on an ancient stone slab, and sleeps until it's cooler.

He loves the early mornings, and equally the cooler evenings, but in between times he's been settling down to snooze in front of Wimbledon or The Tour until things calm down a bit. I really ought to do the same.


On yesterday morning's early walk he saw a baby Fox and a Deer. I'm pleased to say that he did half-heartedly chase the Deer, but soon gave up.

Of course, like all dogs, Billy has his very favourite toy; and for the Summer it's an old towel that we used on his bed. As bedding he didn't think much of it, but as a toy he'll play with it for hours; dragging it around the garden.

If only all our lives were so simple.



Tuesday, 16 July 2019

An Open Letter to Boris (after his kind words yesterday).



I have just heard the appalling news that one of my favourite Brighton Boozers is about to close. The Battle of Trafalgar is one of about three Pubs near to our home that we frequented.

So, Boris, if you should become Britain's next PM, forget about all this bloody Brexit, and USA diplomacy, nonsense, and face-up to far more serious matters.

I am, of course talking about the disastrous closure of so many Pubs. I believe that between 12 and 20 Pubs are closing every week. This is a disaster for the UK, as the Pub is the very foundation of good community life; whether it be in central London, or the tiniest hamlet in darkest Shropshire.

Tax on Beer needs to be seriously reduced. A pint of bitter should never cost more than £1. 

Business Rates should also be drastically cut for Public Houses. I recently heard a Publican saying that his rates were around £120,000 pa; THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! How on earth can we expect our Pubs to stay open if they're having to pay such crazy sums.

Make this a priority policy, and the Tories may even get re-elected. Fail to act; and you'd stand no chance!



Monday, 15 July 2019

A message from B B B Boris, on the publishing of my 3,500th page.

                                                                                                                                                       

Erm, Bonum Mane Cro.

What, erm; what's all this, erm, 3,500 pages business all about?

Cripes; old thingamy tells me, B  B  B  B  Bloody hell, that, erm, ha ha, erm, it's some sort of, erm, numerical achievement. Jolly good.

Erm, well yes, B  B  B Bugger me, erm, it sounds a lot anyway; whatever it is.

So, erm, yes, jolly good, erm, rather busy with all this PM business at the mo'; pop round for a tankard of, erm, cervisium some time.

Sincere vestrum, Ex Borisium x.


Sunday, 14 July 2019

How very British.



Following the unfortunate hacking of Sir Kim's mail, and the subsequent publishing of his thoughts, we were recently discussing how very quaint and old fashioned the British diplomatic service can be, and I remembered that somewhere I had the perfect example.

We've all heard the expression 'Diplomatic Bag', well, if you've never seen one, this is one above.

When a diplomat wishes to take top secret papers from his country of posting, back to the FO in Whitehall, he takes them in a simple canvas bag with a drawstring. No fancy lock and chain, no 'this package will self destruct, etc, no obligatory Aston Martin to avoid thieving enemy spies. Just an open canvas bag in which anything can be carried. A Diplomatic Bag is considered 'territory' of its Embassy, and cannot be violated.

The one above was used by my late Father-in-Law when in both Moscow and Washington. One can only imagine what dastardly secrets (or objects?) it contained! Hmmmm.



Saturday, 13 July 2019

It's a hard life.



With guests around, life becomes quite different. 

Guests love to see all the sights; I don't do 'tourism'. They love to lie by the pool; we never do that.  They want to visit as many good restaurants as possible; yes, we do enjoy that, but my purse takes a battering.

Guests like to take life easy, to get up late, swim, eat breakfast at 11 am, swim, lunch at 4 pm, swim, dine at midnight, before a final floodlit swim, and bed.


In between times, we eat snails, and other delicacies,


whilst enjoying evenings out at our village Marché des Producteurs.


Then occasionally we find little gems that they leave behind, to say goodbye.

After all this I'm exhausted. I need to do nothing for a week (at least).



Friday, 12 July 2019

Beetroot.



I haven't bothered growing my own Beetroot for several years, preferring to buy them vacuum packed, ready prepared, in threes; and for next to nothing.

I can't imagine that there's a great deal of difference between home and farm produced. Both are grown outdoors, both are prepared in much the same way, and both taste very similar; I really wouldn't know the difference in a blind taste test.

However, this year I did put in a row at Haddock's, and they have done very well. I harvested the first few yesterday.

I love the earthy flavour of Beetroot, I believe they're very good for you too; most red things are!

The next time I prepare some, I'll do twice the amount. It goes so quickly.



Thursday, 11 July 2019

Rain?



This photo was taken at 6.15 am on Tuesday morning, and I became quite excited.

For a while it looked promising. The sky became dark, there were one or two flashes of lightning, and the occasional sound of very distant thunder. 


There was even the hint of a rainbow. Then at 8 am it began; just a few drops, then a few more. I became even more excited. 

At 8.15 am there was proper thunder, and it looked as if we might, at last, have some serious rain. Then by 8.30 am it stopped, and we were left with just wet outdoor seats and not much else. The sky cleared, the sunshine reappeared, and it was business as usual.

At about 8 pm (mid-supper) it rained again for about 10 mins; luckily after the BBQ was finished with..

They'd promised it would rain all day, but of course it didn't. Haddock's was bone dry again the following morning.

No rain on the horizon now for WEEKS!



Wednesday, 10 July 2019

What can it be?



I'll give you a clue; it's NOT a Ping Pong ball (it's smaller), or anything to do with sport.

I'll give you another clue (below).


Answer: It's the 'widget' from inside a can of Draught Guinness.

During the canning process, liquid Nitrogen is added to the beer, which, when the can is closed, vaporises and expands, and fills this small widget through a tiny hole. When the can is opened the pressure drops and this gas escapes, forming the creamy head of a classic draught Guinness. Pure genius.

So, there you are. If you already knew all this, then count yourself a brain-box. If you didn't, you can thank me for littering your head with yet another bit of totally useless information.


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Firing a STERLING SUB MACHINE GUN.


I've fired plenty of different sporting guns, but as part of my CCF and Officer Training courses, I was also invited to fire a variety of military weapons. Amongst others was the standard Lee Enfield .303 rifle with a kick like a horse, the Bren Gun that you fired lying down (very unpleasant), and the simple Stirling Machine Gun, which was almost toy-like.

The Stirling was by far my favourite. It sprayed bullets at quite a rate, of which about one in thirty was roughly on target. I believe the gun itself cost about 12/6d to make.

If I'd ever had to lead men into battle, it's certainly the weapon I'd have chosen. It gave a feeling that one was 'clearing a path'.



Those target men 'going down like ninepins' (at the end of the video) must have been faked. With a Sterling it would have been impossible.



Monday, 8 July 2019

Why is this man not locked away somewhere safe?


The first 3 MINS of this are fun, but I wouldn't bother after that.





Sunday, 7 July 2019

Early one morning.



With the crazy daytime temperatures we're experiencing, it's best to try to get things done as early as possible. This gives time to sleep in front of tedious Wimbledon matches in the afternoons.

Early morning temperatures are around 20 C, so it's perfect for working, dog walking, and even just breathing.

Billy and I set off at 6.30 am yesterday morning, and we encountered just one other equally sensible early morning dog walker. I imagine he was Dutch; he was about 8ft tall, and offered a "lovely weather for it" comment as we passed each other. Billy said hello to his small energetic dog, and we continued in opposite directions.

There was a slight breeze, the sky was still slightly hazy, and the Clover flowers, in front of the cottage, looked beautiful.

We saw a Hare, and two Deer, but Billy has yet to show any interest in chasing either.

I planted a few more winter greens, watered everything that looked thirsty, and despaired at my sick, and unproductive, Tomato plants. I'm now off to do a little mowing, before I have a quick swim; then lunch.

pm: More swimming (water 29 C), watched a bit of the Tour's first day.

p.s. I also managed to fit-in a flying visit to market in the early morning. I asked one stall holder if her Tomatoes were grown 'outdoors'. She said that they will be in about two weeks time, so if mine completely fail, I'll have a good alternative source.



Saturday, 6 July 2019

Blackcurrant Cordial.



I've not made cordial before; it was a last minute idea just to finish-up our Blackcurrant crop.

Of course I didn't have any small bottles, so I had to use the above.

The recipe I used came from The Guardian, who suggested one should use the nectar to mix with Champagne; well they would wouldn't they. 

I believe the resulting fizzy drink is known as a 'Keir Korbyn'. Cheers!



Friday, 5 July 2019

The Bells. The Bells.



About 45 years ago (at this time of year) we experienced one of the worst night time storms that I've ever known.

Thunder was set to Mark 11, there were about 50 flashes of lightning per second, and the rain fell in fist-sized lumps. Add 300 kph winds; and you'll get a rough idea.

Lady Magnon and I were clinging onto the bed-head, desperately hoping it would soon pass; the children were fast asleep.

At about 2 am, when the storm was at its worst, I suddenly heard the church bells start to ring. In those days they were still rung by hand, so this wasn't an electrical fault. It sounded to me like someone was calling for help.

I pulled on some clothes, ran to my old blue 2CV, and drove hot-tyre the 2 kms up to the church. I parked as close as I could to the open entry door.

Inside, tugging at a long rope, I found an elderly villager, cigarette in mouth, happily playing his one note tune.

I asked him what was the problem. 'Nothing' he replied; and explained that the sound of bells disperses any hail that might be around. He was thinking of his vines (probably having read Chevallier's 'Clochemerle').

So, with no maiden in distress, child down a well, or injuries caused by lightning, I returned home cold and sodden. Superstition had won the day, and I had learned a little more about what curiosities  to expect from my new dinky little village.


Thursday, 4 July 2019

The Highs and Lows.



Most activities have their ups and downs, and Fruit and Veg' growing is no exception.

At the very beginning of the season, all looked well; and a bumper crop seemed inevitable. However, things can change very quickly depending on weather, etc.

One of the crops to which I was really looking forward was my recently planted Black Hamburg grape; it was covered in wonderful flowering tresses, that have now turned into shriveled musty twigs. Only a few bunches have grapes on them, all the others have suffered from some nasty disease. Frankly, I'm pissed off. All my other rubbish grapes are fine.

Over the past two years my maincrop Tomatoes have died-off prematurely, and I've already noticed my current crop of plants are showing signs of disease; the lower leaves are beginning to curl and turn yellow. I took extra care of my plants this year, giving them a dose of copper sulphate and a really thick mulch of organic compost. I'm suspecting that the disease is well entrenched in the soil.

The major problem is with my large salad Tomatoes. I planted a variety simply called 'Beefsteak'. My other varieties, 'Roma', and various Cherry Toms, are all looking OK, and seem disease resistant. The 'Portuguese' variety that I planted in pots, up at the barn, are also looking OK.

Otherwise, half my Mangetout Peas died early, my Broad Beans were nowhere near as productive as I'd hoped, and my two Butternuts are refusing to grow. My French Beans are very slow.

On the plus side my Courgettes are really producing well, the Aubergines are looking spectacular, and all my leafy 'greens' are looking very luxurient. My Pepper plants remain small, but are covered in flowers and a few early fruits. The Beetroot plants are looking healthy, but I have yet to dig any. Red Onions are ready to harvest. Tayberries have been going crazy; I've made jam every day for the past week or more.


In the orchard, many small peaches have dropped from their trees, as have many Pears. The Apples are looking very good, and we have plenty of Plums and Greengages. My Yellow Cherry is almost ready, and I have placed the ladder against the tree in anticipation.

I suppose it's the same every year, but one forgets.

Golf is a game where before you hit the ball you know exactly where it's going; once hit it has a mind of its own. Veg' gardening is quite similar. When you plant, or sow, you instantly imagine healthy highly productive plants, but in reality they often fail. The successes are uplifting; the failures depressing.


Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Jam.



Since growing Tayberries, I've become quite a keen amateur jam maker. I'm not interested in making other jams; just Tayberry (I know how to do it, and it's easy). Fruit, jam sugar, lemon juice.

The lot I've just made, from the above, was 800 gms fruit, 600 gms sugar, and the juice of about half a lemon.

It also reminds me of my mother, who, without fail, used to make our annual supply of Raspberry jam. My favourite bit was eating the removed 'scum' on thick slices of bread and butter; probably a memory mutual to most children brought up in the country.


Tayberries have a short growing season, maybe two weeks; and produce so much fruit daily that one needs to process them regularly. I've already made about 12 jars, and will probably make just a few more. You might notice (above) that I've made just one jar of Blackcurrant jelly.

And finally let me assure you that this jam is absolutely bloody delicious.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

DAX concours sauteurs 2018


And if you haven't had enough Bull from yesterday, this is how some of our locals from nearby Dax enjoy themselves at the weekends. You just have to love those arm movements!





Monday, 1 July 2019

A Load of Bull.


When we first moved to our village, one of the regular summer entertainments was a travelling show which pitted teams of young men from local villages to a variety of 'Bullfighting Games' known as Courses Landaises.

No Bulls were injured during the games, but plenty of foolhardy young men were tossed about, and bruised a bit.

Mostly the games involved grabbing a rosette from a Bull's horn, attempting to leap over the Bull as he charged at you, or twisting sideways just in time to avoid being trampled.

These games died a natural death, and haven't been played for over 30 years or more. I only went once; it was extremely hot, and, frankly, rather boring.

Below gives a rough idea of what it was all about, although I don't remember the Bull being attached to any rope.




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