Monday, 17 February 2020

Don't let things get in your way. Or maybe you should.

How many of us have had a great idea, only to be stopped in our tracks by an immovable object?

I think I mentioned once that when I first arrived out here, my aim had been to run a Gite for painters. Not a painting school as such, but somewhere where 'artists' could be based, use studio facilities, and maybe have a joint evening crit', with like-minded people, over a glass of wine or two before supper.

We advertised in The Times, and were soon inundated with enquiries. Unfortunately (and here's the immovable object) my advert' seemed to have been read by most of London's Psychiatrists, who wished to be shot of their most difficult patients for a week or two. We ended-up hosting a succession of extremely difficult, and odd, people; one at least of whom we considered quite dangerous. He had a large sword in his car, and was continuously asking Lady Magnon to pray with him! 

With two small children in the house, I soon reluctantly decided to abandon the business, and I took to stone cutting instead.

In fact the peace and tranquility that we gained by stopping, far outweighed any financial advantages that we might have had by continuing.

 Most things happen for the best, even if at the time it looks otherwise.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Terms & Conditions.

As most people are aware, I'm a rather ordinary, bucolic, 'middle of the Road', law-abiding, liberal thinker, and as such I have very few 'rules' as to who I allow to comment on this page; or even what I find acceptable.

I don't tolerate abusive or insulting language, either aimed at myself, or between visiting commentators. Such people will be deleted at once.

I don't care for radical born-again religious fundamentalists, nor do I allow extreme political views from either the right or the left.

With the left having experienced such a trouncing in the recent UK general election, I've noticed that recently their supporters have begun leaving irrational, extreme, and unacceptably disturbing comments. They too will be deleted. Sadly we are witnessing a massive rise in such radicalism across the UK and elsewhere, and it worries me.

My third criteria has always been to eliminate 'trolls'; those who visit simply to be abusive and contrary. I have no time for them.

As for the Snake oil salesmen, Witch doctors, ATM scammers, and the so-called Illuminati, they are simply puerile, and their posts will be sent directly to my spam folder.

It's not a pleasant thing to do, but occasionally I do find it obligatory to 'un-follow' certain bloggers. This is not because I wish to stop free-speech, but because occasionally certain people become ever more extreme and abusive; almost because it's expected of them. No doubt alcohol plays a big part in such outbursts, so some leeway has previously been offered.

Some may remember a blogger who become totally obsessed by religion; his page continues, but he now has no visitors.

'Un-following' may also give them the opportunity to reflect on their beliefs or behaviour, although it appears that some are so entrenched in their radicalism, that I fear this is no more than wishful thinking.

Otherwise, all other comments are extremely welcome.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

A Bigger Train Set.

It might sound like a simple solution to have rescheduled all meetings in London or Birmingham by 20 minutes (and for Leeds or Manchester a tiny bit longer), but to genuinely integrate 'The Northern Powerhouse' with the UK's business hub (which is London) the country does need the best road/rail communications possible. The North/South divide has existed for too long.

There are people out there who think that spending this £100 Billion is money down the drain (Originally I wasn't keen on the whole project), but we need to think of it as the old Socialist war cry of  'redistribution of wealth'. The money doesn't just disappear; it becomes liberally spread around. From the simple pickaxe and shovel wielding navvy, to the most sophisticated technicians, all will be taking home their fat pay packets over the next ten years or more. Steel works will remain open, ready-mix providers will be assured their employment, and even the police will earn 'overtime' dealing with tree-hugging protestors.

I have often stated that my least-liked human quality is hypocrisy, but just watch as those who have been demonstrating against the government's policy of austerity, now begin to demonstrate against their excessiveness. Where once they demanded more spending, they are now moaning about the high cost of new infrastructure and communications. 

OK, many of us were unhappy about HS2, but let's now get it done. Employ all those extra workers, enhance the economy of the Midlands/North, and make the travel time between London and the North just that teeny bit quicker.

p.s. While we're on the subject of spending large amounts of public money; when comparing the cost of HS2, to that of Gordon Brown's outrageous NHS privatisations (£300 Billion), I suppose it seems like quite a bargain. 

Friday, 14 February 2020

The next Mayor of London?

The race is on for a new Mayor of London, and Rory Stewart (above) has thrown his hat into the ring.

Electioneering takes many strange forms, but Rory's must be one of the strangest. He has asked ordinary people from each of London's 32 boroughs to invite him to stay with them overnight; he promises to bring his own sleeping bag and toothbrush. 

He wants to meet 'ordinary Londoners' in their own homes, to discuss their concerns.

By contrast, if he was simply to visit each of the boroughs for half a day, he could get round all of them in a couple of weeks. Talking to people as they go about their daily business might be more informative than staying overnight in someone's flat. But maybe Rory has some alterior motive up his kilt.

There is no question that ex-MP Rory is a highly intelligent man, some may say on a par with Boris; but high intellect is not the only attribute required to be Mayor of one of the world's greatest cities.

He needs a working knowledge of roads, traffic, infrastructure, taxis, busses, the tube, housing, rich areas, poor areas, parks, monuments, and just about everything else that makes London tick.

I don't know who his rivals are for the job, but he'd probably have my vote. His CV must be one of the most impressive in the whole of the UK. 

Yup; I think he'd make a good Mayor; just ditch the idea of the sofa-surfing! 

Thursday, 13 February 2020

The Decline and Fall.

There is no question that Labour, and their policies, are outdated and need a re-think; their few remaining supporters are becoming desperate to find anti-Tory slurs, always a sign of panic.. Everyone in the Labour party agrees, even with a new leader they will struggle to achieve power within the next 10 years, or even more, unless something very extraordinary happens.

Labour needs to come politically much closer to the Tories (Blair understood this); the Marxist policies of Corbyn, Long-Bailey, and McCluskey are from a bygone age. The UK needs a middle-right, and a middle-left; extremes have no place in adult Western politics. We need policies which put the country first, not some Marxist ideals.

Many in the Labour party are now saying that they need another Blair; but even he was a total disaster. Apart from being personally responsible for most of the unrest in the Middle East (and on our own doorsteps) he also managed to do what all Socialist governments do; create unemployment amongst the very people who voted for them. He was also responsible for mass deportation; 29,040 in 2006 alone.

When 'call me Tony' took power in 1997, unemployment was at 2 Million, by the time he left office in 2007 it was at 2.5 Million; an extra 500,000 on the dole.

Things don't bode well for Labour, but they still attract their handful of followers. Even knowing full well that their party always causes both economic and employment disaster, the people that it affects the most still vote for them.

There will always be a few Lemmings out there; rushing blindly for the precipice. The sad part is; they think they're acting on behalf of  'the working man'. One thing is certain; as Scargill showed the world, they ain't.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Haddock's Feb 2020.

Everything that needed to be dug over, has been. Now only a few bits of late greenery remain.

Still plenty of Cavolo Nero, a row of Perpetual Spinach, and a few lettuces under plastic.

Having said that, it's now when I begin to harvest one of my favourite crops; the flowery sproutings that erupt from all over my Winter Greens.

With the Cavolo Nero (above), I first cut the tops, then I let more sprouts develop all the way down the stems (we ate the ones above last night).

It's like a bonus crop that many veg' growers miss; having taken out all their old plants far too early.

Make a note; don't be in a rush to take out all those old stems, be patient and they'll give you another delicious crop.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Buy these; not those!

On my yesterday's shopping list were 'Prunes'; I usually eat a couple every day, they quosh any desire for sweets.

At Leclerc, I was just grabbing my usual packet, when a man said to me "Why not buy these instead"; holding up the packet above.

I had a look at the pack, and it seemed to offer all my criteria, so I had a chat with him. He told me that they were totally natural, stoned by hand, traditionally dried in the farm's ovens, and were mi-cuits (semi dried). Perfect.

I do like to buy artisanal products wherever possible; especially when it comes to food. I tasted them as soon as I got home; they were really excellent.

When I took the pack from the man; he pointed at it and said "That's me on the front", and of course I instantly recognised him.

What a nice person. He's from very nearby, he's passionate about what he produces, and he even mentions his children Christelle and Sebastien on the packet. Well done M Salliot.

If only all products were thus.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Funny old world.

33 illegal immigrants were recently discovered trying to escape FROM the UK in the back of a lorry that had arrived in Calais from Dover. Yes, FROM Dover, TO Calais.

It seems that these immigrants-come-emigrants feared 'mistreatment' after the UK's exit from the EU, and were now attempting to return to mainland Europe.

Having been discovered by the French authorities, 31 of them were returned to the UK, which not long previously had been their shangri-la. One has to wonder if, on their return, the UK authorities asked to see their 'papers'? Failure to provide, could, I imagine, have meant being sent back to Calais again!

All this after a record 102 illegals had been caught, going in the opposite direction, trying to gain access TO England, last Friday. 

One has to wonder if they didn't wave to each other mid-channel. It really is a funny old world.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Big Bands.

In the early 60's, when I was still at school, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Gene Vincent, were amongst our musical heros. The four piece electric guitar groups had replaced the 'old fashioned' big bands, and music had become more intimate and personal.

One day an order was issued that we were to attend a musical performance by a nearby US Air Force band (from Mildenhall?); frankly none of us really wished to go, we imagined Sousa marches and military rallying tunes; but our presence was obligatory.

I remember the performance well. There must have been about 30-35 musicians, all in uniform, sitting behind their music stands. The conductor walked onto the stage to a rather feeble, unenthusiastic, applause.

Then from the very first few seconds of the first number, the full power of a 'big band' had us transfixed. The amazing sound of the massive brass section filled the hall, and we were suddenly all in awe. It was not only great music, but also great theatre. I think it was the first live concert of its type that I'd attended.

By the end of the hour long concert, everyone was enthralled, and I remember that the final applause lasted for ages. We all talked of little else for days.

I imagine there are still a few big bands around, but most young people would have to be paid to go see them. It's a shame, as they don't know what they're missing.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Mad Marinetti.

Both Lady Magnon and I are big lovers of Pasta. We eat pasta at least twice a week.

Back in 1930, the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (above) launched his famous 'futurist' campaign against the eating of pasta, calling it an 'obsolete' food; heavy, brutalising, and gross. Silly man.

As you could imagine, his pronouncements didn't go down too well wherever pasta was served; i.e. throughout Italy, and elsewhere!

Marinetti suggested his own 'futurist' alternatives to the daily consumption of pasta. He suggested Mortadella with nougat, Pineapple with Sardines, Salami soaked in coffee, flavoured with Eau de Cologne; all of which were to be eaten to the accompaniment of different perfumes, whilst stroking some suitable material such as silk, velvet, or emery paper.

Marinetti claimed that pasta wasn't a food for 'fighters'; he said that it made them placid and slow, whereas meat eaters were quick and aggressive.

Filippo didn't limit his 'futurist' ideas to pasta, he also demanded that all foreign influences in Italy be banned, and proposed that a bar should be known as quistibeve (here one drinks), a cocktail as a polibibita (multi-drink), and an aphrodisiac as a guerro in letto (war-in-the-bed).

Other campaigns against the eating of pasta have failed equally as dismally as Marinetti's, and along with the humble potato and rice; pasta has become a staple of world diet.

Personally I only eat a few varieties of pasta. Spaghetti (my favourite) and Penne with various sauces, and Vermicelli in lunchtime soups.

Life for me would be extremely dull without pasta; and damn Marinetti!


Friday, 7 February 2020

Reprinted from 2011. EU or No EU?

Looking back 9 years, I don't think much has changed in Brussels; other than the UK's exit!

As Gordon (son of the manse) Brown signed away England's sovereignty to the EU, others were openly laughing behind his back. Yes, they really were. They'd just pinned a sign on him saying 'MUG'!

I really don't know if England's membership of the EU was advantageous or not, if it was it was at a very high price; however, certain facts are inescapable.

Let's compare the UK's annual contribution to the EU, with tiny Luxembourg's. Each year the UK contributed €103 Billion, and Lux' €2.3 Billion. UK received back €4.6 Billion, and Lux' €10 Billion. The net benefit per capita was MINUS €937 for every UK resident, and PLUS €16,170 for every Luxembourg resident.

OK, the UK is a wealthy country, and Luxembourg is a tin-pot state filled with multi-millionaires. But what the hell is going on here? I fail to understand why each and every UK citizen should be out-of-pocket by €937, whilst each super rich resident of Luxembourg benefits to the tune of €16,170 (maybe that's WHY they're so effing rich).

You may wonder why I've chosen to compare the UK to Luxembourg. Well, according to the IMF Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world (after Qatar), by GDP per capita.... Don't you, like me, get the impression that something's gone seriously wrong in all this?

Or could it simply be because Jean-Claude Juncker was Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013; and maybe had some influence?

And people still wonder why the UK voted to leave.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

News from Stalag 24.

The escape-proof wire fencing has been erected, and a big white plastic tent, behind the mounds of earth, is (I imagine) covering the construction of the new communal pool at the shipping container 'holiday camp'.

The tent has been there for well over three months, but what they're doing under it I cannot imagine. When we had our pool constructed it was all done and dusted within about two/three weeks.

Maybe they are lining the interior with fancy mosaics depicting Nymphs and Shepherds!

You may just be able to see a green tarpaulin on the extreme right of the photo. Someone has bought an empty cottage on the main (minor) road and is having a new roof.

There is work going on everywhere. Noise, mud, and disturbance is all around us; it never stops. 

And it all used to be so very quiet and genteel. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Big-ish Brother.

I'm not usually paranoid about the spy inside my laptop; frankly I couldn't care less. But this example made me almost think twice.

France is trying to do-away with bayonet fitting light bulbs in preference for screw fittings. Finding plain old fashioned light bulbs has become a nightmare, and I'm certainly not prepared to change all my lamps.

I ordered a couple of packs of 10 bulbs through Amazon, the delivery date of which, by magic, instantly appeared on my Windows 10 Calendar (above). I suppose Amazon and Windows 10 have some 'arrangement'.

Not only that, but a scam Amazon Email also quickly arrived, telling me that my payment of about £30 had been refused, and for some bizarre reason they owed me £170. I would (of course) need to reveal all my bank details to claim my repayment.

I'm sure that my Laptop knows more about me than I do myself, but it's these little things that worry me. To know that there are machines around the world that follow my every move (even ordering 20 light bulbs), is disturbing. Luckily I'm not yet stupid enough to give the scammers all my money.

My bulbs, above, arrived as promised (I ordered them on Monday morning; they arrived mid-day Tuesday); and of course my payment went through OK.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Sudesh Amman.

What a terrible waste of one's life, but if one truly believes in 'martyrdom', and swathes of virgins in heaven, then I imagine it's a good way to go.

In his case, Sudesh Amman wished to die a martyr; he was awarded the dying bit, but as a 'martyr' I'm not sure. Luckily on this occasion the two people he attacked are OK. The only one to die was the misguided religious fanatic who wished to show his god what a wonderful person he was.

Well, I know it's too late, but may I assure you, Mr Amman, that your non-existent god would think you're a total plonker; and would be ashamed of your action. In fact he might even think you're better off dead; you bring disgrace to the whole Muslim world.

Dog sleeping positions.

Monty was the house expert on sleeping positions. Above is his 'Legs somewhere, head somewhere else' position. 

This above was his 'Broken neck' look. A position designed to make Lady Magnon have a fit.

This one was similar to 'Broken neck' but was known as 'Star gazer'.

And finally we have his 'Hang dog' position. A subtle hint that he needed a pukka dog bed.

Neither Bok nor Billy seemed to be continuing in the Monty tradition, they were/are rank amateurs in comparison.

Monday, 3 February 2020

French riot police clash with protesting firefighters in Paris

Everyone, the world over, may be dying from Chinese take-aways, but here in France everything is perfectly normal.

The CRS (riot police) may be running-out of Tear Gas, the water cannons running out of water, and the Yellow Jackets running out of protesters, but everyone still hates everyone else, or wants to work less hours for more money; life goes on as usual.

So, how about a fist-fight between the CRS and the Gendarmes, Doctors against Dentists, or Bakers against Candlestick makers.... it could be arranged!

p.s. The Firemen were protesting about 'better working conditions'; they're complaining that wherever they're sent, it always seems to be on bloody fire!

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Much too early.

I noticed yesterday that the Plum trees are in flower. I have no doubt that they will suffer from frost between now and Springtime, meaning that unless they magically re-flower we won't have any Plums this year.

I've also noticed that the buds on the Peach trees are swelling. Disastrous. My fingers are crossed, but I feel it might be in vain (as it so often is).



I know very little of the interior working of my body. I know that it requires food and liquid, but how it all works; I'd rather not know.

I feel much the same about car engines, plumbing, and electricity. I rely on others to know how such things operate, just as I know about certain things of which they would know nothing.

I know nothing of the stars and planets, nothing about most Chinese cities, and nothing about the manufacture of aeroplanes.

At school I learned all about Ox bow lakes, Pythagoras, and the Wars of the Roses, but I didn't learn the ingredients of a basic Pizza dough.

I can still hardly speak a word of Italian, Spanish, or German. I continue to make silly spelling mistakes, open packets at the wrong end, and burn toast. I am an ignoramus when it comes to so many subjects, but somehow the world expects us all to know everything, and makes me feel stupid if I admit to being uneducated.

We all need experts; as long as that's what they really are. However, I suspect that many 'experts' simply bluff their way around their so-called expertise. Just because someone has a professorship at Dim-Wit University doesn't mean that he/she knows more about the cultivation of Potatoes than I do.

When my children were young I advised them to learn absolutely EVERYTHING they possibly could about one particular subject, whether it be water pumps, FX trading, or the manufacture of gloves. None of them followed my advice (probably wisely), but all have done well.

p.s. What the 'BS' stands for in my illustration, I have no idea!

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Independence Day.

So, that's it. We're no longer members of the EU.

I've lost my €5 bet, and the debt has already been paid (handing-over ceremony, above).

Now we have to wait and see when we'll be kicked out. After about a year's negotiating, they'll probably decide that we'll be allowed to live in our own home for just a few months each year, although I must say, the main losers will be the French. We (and several hundred thousand other Brits) will simply spend our money elsewhere.

After 47 years here, and all our investment, it's now Goodbye Yerp!

Friday, 31 January 2020

'Borrowed' socks.

I think I've posted this photo before, but not in relation to today's subject.

When I left school I remember packing away all my stuff. I had managed to acquire all sorts of things that made study-life reasonably pleasant; a comfortable wing-back chair, a toaster that actually worked, a set of Sherry glasses, etc; none of which I either wished to keep, or could possibly have transported to my home.

Only my clothes and some sporting kit went back with me, but in amongst all the other rubbish, I later discovered that I'd inadvertently added a pair of socks that weren't mine. They belonged to the small boy in the top row on the far left of the photo.

His name was B (Brian) C Ockelford, and his name tapes had been carefully sown into each of the two grey woolen socks.

They must have been very good quality socks as they lasted for many years.... not that I wore grey woolen socks that often. I'm not totally sure, but I think I eventually put them away somewhere, and may still have them.

Looking at the photo again made me smile, as it did every time I wore his socks with his name sown into them; which I'd deliberately left in situ.  

I recently read somewhere that he'd died, and I felt strangely guilty.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Volkswagen Sausages.

Did you know that Volkswagen made sausages? No, nor did I.

And yes, I do occasionally eat such sausages with Choucroute, but I never buy them with 'Originalteil' written on the casings; which I believe could translate as 'Original Spare Parts'. Whatever next!

Wednesday, 29 January 2020


I really hate it when birds fly into our windows. I heard a thump yesterday, then found this little guy on the ground looking dazed.

I picked him up, looked him over, then after chatting with him for a while I put him in the Greengage tree.

He stayed there for a while in the sunshine, looking around, then after about 15 minutes he flew off; probably with a headache.

I'm not sure what variety he is; a Serin maybe. Fare ye well little guy.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

The human cost of 'food fads'.

The picture above may represent many people's idea of healthy foods, but although each element is healthy in itself; overall it seems to be causing problems.

It is now claimed that ONE IN FIVE people in the UK are suffering from gut problems; all due to their 'healthy' diets. Why, I wonder, was I not surprised by this?

Overzealous healthy eating has caused a massive emergence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It's mostly younger people who follow online, unqualified, 'food gurus', and their recommended trendy eating diets of 'clean ingredients', who are falling victims to this sudden outburst.

Nut milks, too many Avocados, and exotic grains beans and nuts, are all accounting for this epidemic of gut problems. 

Time now to abandon such trends, and return to the wisdom of our elders and eat a little of everything (The Great Gran Diet). Variety is the answer.

Drinking a pint of liquified Broccoli and Turmeric for breakfast every day may sound like a good idea, especially if accompanied by photos of radiant, slim, and beautiful, bikini-clad-young-women, but don't be surprised if you spend the rest of the day either in the loo, or at the doctor's. 

Beans on toast, bacon and eggs, or kedgeree once in a while, is now recommended.

Monday, 27 January 2020

THAT Chair.

It was a lovely day on Saturday, so I decided to tackle that old chair I found. I'd previously thought it was made from Oak, but now I think it's Chestnut.

I stripped off all the old seating (and burnt it), glued a couple of bits that needed gluing, then found this number.

173324 is stamped onto the back.... any ideas?

Lady M said it must have been made in a factory, but I'm certain it's an amateur job. I do know that prisoners made chairs up until quite recently, so I'm wondering if that could be the answer.

I would liked to have imagined it was made on the 17th of March 1924.... but the 33 (and not 03) rules that out.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Learning to use machinery.

The photo above shows the workshop at the Art College where I did my one year 'Foundation Course', before going on to my degree course elsewhere.

I attended four different Art Colleges in all, but the one above was probably where I learned the most; and most of that was learnt in this workshop.

It was where we learned how to use dangerous heavy machinery; the sort where one wrong move, and you could lose a hand.

There were all sorts of saws, drills, welding kits (both gas and electric), sanding machines, metal benders, plastic vacuum formers; you name it, it was there. It was noisy and dirty, and even turning some of the machines on was quite intimidating to some of the more 'delicate' students.

The workshop was where we learned about 'possibilities'; how one could transform one object into another. We also learned how to do so with the least amount of danger.

Looking at the picture reminds me of one particular event. My good friend Tony needed to weld something on his motorbike. He brought the bike into the workshop, laid it down on the ground, and started to weld as petrol dripped from the tank just a foot or so away. As you might imagine there was a huge rush for the exit as we all awaited the inevitable huge explosion. 

Somehow he got away with it.

Saturday, 25 January 2020


We've recently had our final delivery of the Winter; I reckon we've now got enough Oak (above) for about 3 years. 

And enough Chestnut (above) for about 2 years. There's more to the left; that's about two thirds of it.

I'm so lucky that my two pukka farming neighbours cut wood annually. I buy the Oak from one and the Chestnut from the other; always really dry wood that comes in one metre lengths.

It's a great feeling, having a stock of wood for years ahead, as well as a chainsaw that works well. With two wood-burning devices in the house; we need it!

Friday, 24 January 2020

New 'Expressions' of our age.

New expressions, to be worth their salt, should be short, distinct, and instantly meaningful.

One of my previous favourites was the two word, computer-associated expression 'User Friendly'. It summed-up all one needed to know.

My current favourite is 'Virtue Signalling'. A fairly recent expression credited to Spectator writer James Bartholomew in 2015, meaning an overt conscious expression of moral values; usually by do-gooding, PC, snowflakes.

From the Extinction Rebellion folk, to Greta Thunberg, to those who constantly shout 'racism', to the current army of Vegetarians and Vegans; they all are guilty.

We are being bombarded by other people's 'holier than thou' morals, whereas once we kept things to ourselves, and quietly got on with the job of doing rather than simply espousing.

Even so, I do like the expression, as it speaks clearly of its meaning. Whether I like the attitude or not, is another matter.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

L'huile de noix des bons vivants - Terroirs de gueuletons

Here we are, back in 'my neck of the woods', in Périgord Noir. Those bons vivants Arthur and Vincent visit a small nearby 12th C Walnut oil mill; eat a bit, drink a bit, and marvel at their surroundings.

Ah, que la vie est belle.

I'm sure that the giant dumpling (Mique) that was shown, must have been introduced by the Brits during the 100 years war. It's good, but sits very heavily on the stomach!! I can't imagine it having been invented by the French.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Proof; if needed.

I recently wrote about the disgusting habit 'travellers' have, of tipping rubbish all around where they stop for a while (until being kicked out).

You will notice in the above photo of me and a couple of my children, sitting in a friend's old Irish Lot wagon, that there is not a single sweet wrapper on the ground; no different to around my own home, a few metres away.

The owners of the above wagon stayed with us for about a month. Their horse 'Joe' ate our grass, and the owners helped around the place, before heading off again for the south coast where they eventually sold the whole caboodle.

When they left, the field I'd lent them was spotless, and being such tidy folk they'd found absolutely no problem finding other places to stay every night on their way down.

Not something one could say about the white van and caravan brigade!

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Auld Hemp.

This dog above is a distant relative of Billy's.

1893 was a significant year in the canine/agricultural worlds. It was the year when Auld Hemp was born, and his birth changed Sheep-farming for ever.. 

Bred by Adam Telfer in Northumberland, he was the first pukka Border Collie (Northumberland is on the 'border' between England and Scotland; hence the name). He was also the first sheepdog who followed orders precisely (or could be trained to do so).

Auld Hemp died back in May 1901 aged 7, but his progeny live on. 

Border Collies are fast becoming one of the most popular pet dogs. Previously Labs were No 1, but I've noticed over the past few years that, in adverts, Border Collies are appearing more often than Labs. Our Billy has a lot to live up to.

This was him playing in the sun yesterday. One thing he certainly hasn't learned from his glorious ancestor, is how to sit still for a bloody photograph. I despair.

Monday, 20 January 2020

'Me too'.

I was reading that the UK's famous 'left-wing comedian' Frank Skinner had recently consciously avoided helping an attractive young woman at an airport who was obviously struggling with her heavy suitcase. He was worried that it could be seen as harassment, and wreck his career. It reminded me of an incident several years ago.

I was on my way (alone) shopping when I came across a car by the side of the road; a woman was standing by looking at a flat tyre. Although I didn't know her, I recognised the woman as being from my village.

Of course I stopped and offered to help, and after about 20 minutes managed to replace her wheel, and send her on her way.

So, would I do the same thing today? If I was by myself (as I had been) CERTAINLY NOT; I would drive straight past. However, if Lady Magnon was with me I might, even though doing such things these days is not as easy for me as it once was.

The 'Me too' movement has made men think again about chivalry; whereas once we would not hesitate about helping a damsel in distress, these days you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would.

Personally I find this very sad. I'm sure the 'Me too' founders didn't foresee this, but it's a natural consequence of what they started. As we all know, accusations against innocent men for the most innocuous of actions has now become endemic; not unlike mentioning the name of a certain 'Duchess' and being instantly accused of 'racism'.

Being caring towards women is sadly something we men are no longer permitted to do (you'd do so at your peril), and most men will be sympathetic with Frank Skinner's reluctance.

A modern by-product, of an otherwise very good cause.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Sunday Story: Cro Meets John, and Sells Out.

In 1967 I was running a small antiques business in London's Chelsea. I dealt in rare early European wood carvings; mostly polychromed religious artifacts (that no doubt had at some time been 'rescued' from abandoned or bombed-out churches). Angels, Cherubs, Saints; all manner of imagery passed through my hands. My only criterion was that it was old, beautiful, and either French Spanish or Italian.

One lunch-time a youngish man came into the shop, gasped, gasped again, and then asked if I would kindly NOT SELL ANYTHING until he returned about an hour or so later.

I agreed to his strange request (I'd never been asked that before), and he returned as promised after about two hours.

The man was an Italianate-American, and he proceeded to buy EVERYTHING I had; it seemed as if my taste was his taste. He explained that he was working temporarily in London, and he didn't want to take money back home. He wanted to buy things... Antiques... My Antiques.

He was renting a small cottage in Chelsea, about two hundred yards from the shop. An exclusive little property in a highly desirable street. We took all his purchases back by taxi, and unloaded them into his kitchen, where, on the table I was slightly perturbed to see a Thompson Machine Gun!

I hadn't yet been paid, so I began to worry. Then a small boy entered the room (he was introduced as Nick) and asked 'Have you been shot yet daddy?'.

I became even more worried. Then the man explained that he was actually over in London making a film. I asked the obvious question, and his reply was 'The Dirty Dozen'.

He paid me in cash, and we half-heartedly arranged to meet-up for a beer in the near future (which never happened; I was too busy), and that was the last I saw of him.

I saw the film 'The Dirty Dozen' a few years later, and discovered my young Italio-American to be John Cassavetes. In my ignorance, I'd not previously heard of him.

I often wonder if he kept the antiques that I sold him, or simply cashed-in back in the US, and made a quick profit. Somehow I imagine that his son Nick still has them. I'd certainly like to think he does.

Cassavetes was a really nice guy. No airs or graces, no big movie star rubbish, just a guy who loved antique wood carvings. As for me, I had no more stock.... nothing to sell, so I quit the antiques business and went to college. I just wish I'd made time to have a few beers with him, but as he later died of cirrhosis; maybe it was good that I didn't.

I don't know the date of the photo above, but that's EXACTLY how I remember him.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Travellers fly-tipping TONS of household and building waste on Tesco car park.

I suppose there are two things that I hate almost more than anything else; cruelty to animals, and fly-tipping.

For those who are unaware, the UK has two lots of laws; one for those who live 'regular lives', and another for 'travellers'.

I don't know quite why it should be, but 'travellers' seem incapable of pitching camp on any village green, cricket ground, or supermarket car park, without leaving behind an unbelievable amount of rubbish.

They stop wherever they please, behave like pigs, and dump vast amounts of rubbish.

If I had my way, this bastard below would be strung-up by his 'nuts'.

What a disgusting individual.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Labour Leadership.

I must admit to having become quite perturbed that the Socialists were going to elect a new leader who might actually have brought them back from the wilderness. For a while Sir Keir Starmer looked to be leading the list of hopefuls, and it seemed as if common sense had prevailed; not something we expect from Labour.

Luckily, dear reader, I now hear that Rebecca Long-Bailey has crept into a 5 point lead, and it's back to normal. 

A die-hard Corbynite (she's backed by Momentum, John McDonnell, and Diane Abbott), if elected she will follow the same crack-pot policies of her predecessor; many of which she herself devised for their last year's Party Manifesto. She might have nicer hair than Corbyn, but her crazy version of hard-left Marxism/Socialism is exactly the same.

Phew; for one nasty moment I thought they were trying to make themselves electable again.... thank heavens I was wrong!

I do hope she wins the leadership race. Don't let me down Rebecca!

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Fiddling on the Roof.

Lady Magnon has been following a particular play on TV, and she was extremely annoyed when our Satellite TV failed. It looked for a while as if she would miss her final revealing episode.

There were nasty storms in the UK, and we did think it might have been related, but I asked around and others had no problem with their Sky reception.

So, we started to hunt for the problem. We started with all the connections at the back of the various boxes; nothing. We re-wired certain bits that looked as if they needed re-wiring; nothing.  Next we went up onto the roof to check that the dish hadn't moved; all looked OK.

Then Wills (my youngest) asked if there were any connectors between the dish and the Sky box; yes there were TWO. The coaxial cable was in three separate bits, connected by two lots of connectors; the first one was fine, but the second one was found to be totally corroded; we'd found the problem. We didn't have any spare connectors so Wills fiddled with the wires, twisting them together in a Heath Robinson fashion. It worked. We'll fix it properly later!

Amazing, isn't it; the very last thing that could possibly have been at fault, and there it was!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Repair Shop 'sic'.

Whilst taking my rubbish to the bin yesterday, I noticed a filthy wooden object lurking amongst the greenery.

As is my wont, I had a look and found it to be a very solid antique chair.

OK, it has one bit that requires some glue, the wood needs cleaning and polishing, and the seat requires some imagination (above). But that's it.

Whilst looking at it more closely I see that it is made of Oak (unusual for here), it has a bowed front, and some very pleasant simple carving at the top of the back. It's a very nice rustic chair.

I couldn't resist cleaning one little bit, just to see what was underneath all that grime. I reckon it'll come-up a treat!

No doubt it's already been replaced by some plastic tat from Chair-u-Like!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

My right hand man.

I always know when cold weather is on the way, because Lady Magnon sits by the fire with her crochet hook and balls of wool.

The subject of her ambitions, this time, was Boo Boo. She was convinced that he needed a bright green mitten.

She looked at her wool for a while, devised a plan, then didn't stop until the thing was complete.

OK, it might look a bit 'interesting', but, I'm assured, the next one (if she makes a next one) should be better.

I asked Boo Boo if he wanted the other one to be the same bright green; he said no, he wanted it to be blue. Lady M refused; she only has bright green wool.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Tree planting.

As regular readers of this page will be aware, I have always planted a tree on the very day of my grandsons births (as well as on other notable occasions). It has always seemed an appropriate thing to do.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that my départment (county) is to adopt a similar scheme, by offering a free tree to the parents of every new-born child within our area. Well done to whoever thought-up this wonderful idea (me?).

I, of course, always plant fruit trees, but, by the look of it, our départment will include all sorts.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Simple Veggie Supper.

Having a few Veggies around is good for practicing my skills. We still do try to eat Veggie at least once a week (often more), but usually it's pasta based.

I tend to stick to things I know, and last night I stuffed some peppers, aubergines, and endive (chicory), with brandade (mashed potato, salt-cod, garlic, olive oil). Above was the pre-cooking stage.

Of the three different vegetables, the peppers were unquestionably the best. They are bottled Spanish piquillos and lend themselves to the process extremely well. The aubergine and the endive were also very good, but lacked the essential tartness of the preserved peppers.

If you have Veggies coming for supper; I recommend. Simple and delicious. With our wood-fired cooker (George) on the go, it made us feel extremely virtuous.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

The Firm.

Without question, a certain amount of rot has set-in amongst the minor members of our Royal Family, luckily by-passing the direct line of descendents who are really all the country either needs or desires; the Queen herself, her oldest son, her oldest grandson, and her oldest great-grandson (as in the picture above). The line of succession is assured, and all behave as one would hope and expect.

I suppose it all started with Edward VII and Mrs Simpson. A pushy American divorcee was too much for sedate Britain. He abdicated, and they eventually fled to live in Paris.

Many years later Ferguson and Spencer both threw petrol on the fire, and in recent times Andrew hasn't exactly helped matters. The saga of Harry and Meghan is simply another demonstration of this inability to behave correctly. 

Harry and Edward have much in common. Neither was blessed with great intellect, both married American divorcees, and both demonstrated an incapacity to cope with their lofty birthright positions.

As I predicted at the time of their marriage, Harry and Meghan will soon be off to live in some erstwhile glitzy 'Hollywood', where their talents will be more appreciated. She will possibly return to soap opera TV, and poor Harry will have to find his true place in society, either constantly appearing on chat shows, or maybe even 'finding a job'! 

Personally I don't think Meghan ever had any intention of staying in the UK. She's married her Prince, ensured her position in life, and will now settle down to the status she's always coveted, back in the USA.

I don't think they'll be greatly missed. Liz, Charlie, Wills, and little George, will look after the firm's affairs perfectly well without them.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Bugger, bugger, bugger!

I've always had a horror of becoming one of those old men with a bent back and walking stick; it always looks so undignified.     

One doesn't like to complain, but I fear I may now be heading that way. Bad backs (like bad knees) are notoriously difficult to mend, and there's little point consulting a doc'. You take a painkiller (if you can be bothered), and hope for the best.

I'm pretty sure that my problem was self-inflicted through bravado. If you are known for having played Rugby, and Rowing 8's, you can never be seen to be weak; and you end-up doing silly things. I was always lifting weights well above the 'elf-n-safety' regs.

So, now it's payback time, and I have permanent pain in my lower back. No doubt certain vertebrae are rubbing together and causing jip. I have the beginnings of a 'stoop', simply because to stand up straight is far too painful.

Living out in The Styx, most of what I do involves heavy physical work, which doesn't help matters. Carrying any reasonable weight is pain inducing. Recently, I've not even looked forward to my morning walks with Billy; something unimaginable only a few months ago.  

Occasionally a push button, couch-potato world seems quite inviting; but I ain't giving-up just yet.

Having said all that, I've recently had a short period of slightly painless days. I wish I knew how the change from pain to no pain occurs; if it's a matter of avoiding certain movements, I'd love to know!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Heating old stone.

Old stone houses, with thick walls, are not easy to heat. They are not designed to be plumbed for central heating; they were built to be heated by fire.

Our cottage is a good example. It would have been impossible to install hot-water radiators throughout, unless one didn't mind seeing the bare-bones copper piping running all over the walls; which I wasn't.

So, we needed to look at how people coped 300 years ago when the house was built, then adapt to today's kit.

The fire in the sitting room speaks for itself, but we have changed from an open spark-spitting fire to an enclosed wood-burner (Gilbert) simply for safety reasons, although I must say I did prefer the way it used to be. I usually light Gilbert at about 4.30 pm.

In the kitchen we have 'George'; our wood-fired cooker. He often stays alight through the night, and I simply have to throw another log on when I get up (as I did yesterday morning). When lit, we use the oven as much as possible. George is very efficient, he produces a lot of heat for comparatively little wood.


I rise quite early each morning, usually at 5.30 am, and in winter I simply light a small oil-filled heater to bring the temperature quickly up to 'acceptable'. It's quick, convenient, and efficient; if not particularly attractive. The above is brand new.

Then upstairs we heat with electricity. A couple of oil-filled electric heaters are connected to simple plug-in timers, and turn on and off as desired, automatically; we also have a wonderful new electric blanket on the bed which is pure luxury.

We've already had a couple of nights of -2 C; still not really cold, but enough to light George. February is usually our coldest month, and heating will be at full blast for about a month. As long as we have enough wood, and there are no serious power cuts, we should be OK.

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