Sunday 31 October 2010

The Sunday Moan: Leave Them Alone!

I become totally incensed by needlessly attaching tracking devices, or numbers, onto wild animals. This is a picture of some effing university scientist 'tagging' a whale shark.

I have two questions. Why do these people think it so necessary to go around tagging every wild creature they come across? And secondly, who gives them the effing permission to do so?

Of course I can appreciate the desire to understand certain elements of migration, breeding patterns, and species quantities, but on the principal that wild animals either belong to no-one or to everyone, how come MY or YOUR permission has never been sought for tag-requiring-studies?

Why can't we just leave wild animals alone, it's the human intervention that does them so much harm. Our Zoos seem to be filled with named, tagged, and numbered endangered species; all there for 'conservation purposes'. A few years back some zoo-bred wolves and bears were 're-introduced into the wild', onto the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain (at huge expense). These human-trusting creatures survive by eating sheep, so the local farmers shot them. So much for 'zoological conservation'.

Saturday 30 October 2010


Samhain, All Saints, Toussaint, Halloween, October 31st. Call it what you will, it's the ancient Pagan celebration of the end of harvest time, and of the end of summer.

Some dress-up in witch, ghost, or skeleton costumes. Some use it as an opportunity to hone their blackmailing skills (give us some sweets or we'll smash your windows). And some (ahem) try to ignore its very existance, by becoming deaf to the door bell.

Here in France, Toussaint is the time for chrysanthemums. These wretched plants are EVERYWHERE. I'm not even sure if it isn't obligatory to purchase them. Graveyards become carpeted with thousands of potted plants, and their foul smell and horrendous colours invade every supermarket, petrol station forecourt, and roadside lay-by.

Toussaint used to be the time when I quit France for the winter; prefering the much more sedate English celebrations of Guy Fawkes Night (Nov 5). In Sussex, we burn effigies of Guido (Guy Fawkes) himself, The Pope, and usually a most-hated politician or celeb, atop huge bonfires. All accompanied by wonderfully dangerous processions and firework displays.

If Pope burning sounds like your sort of entertainment, you can glean more info about Guy Fawkes Night in Sussex (see picture above) on the web. Google 'Lewes Bonfire Night'. You might be surprised by what we get up to.

Friday 29 October 2010

Self Portrait No 2 as Student.

Some time back I posted another, quite similar, student-days self portrait (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; 8th June 2010), done when I must have been about 22/23.

This one, which I probably painted just days later, I'd almost forgotten about. It's been sitting on a top shelf in the studio gathering cobwebs and cracking-up for years. I think a twelfth generation of mice are still in residence behind it. I couldn't get it down to take the photo, so that's why the elongation is as such; the blue bit bottom right is a fly spray thingy that just got in the way, nothing to do with the picture.

There must be thousands of such pictures stuffed away in dusty lofts, all painted by ex-young-high-minded-aspiring-student-artists.

I wonder what I was thinking about; what my ambitions were? I do remember what was mostly on my mind in those days, but that's another story....

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Thursday 28 October 2010

The Pinnacle of Success.

Photo courtesy of Carol Miers.

The roof looks as if it's finished; but, alas, it's not. It's just that I'm so pleased to have positioned the pinnacle that I thought I'd post this picture.

Now then Cro, back up that ladder and finish the back!!

Little Britain - Press Conference Sir Norman Fry number 2 of 3.

I always manage to end up with a blank space when I post anything from You Tube. Just scroll down... It's there, I promise.

I need a little laughter in my life at the moment, so here is some English comedy at it's best. Sir Norman Fry (David Walliams) could be any one of dozens of our 'real-life' politicians. Matt Lucas is perfect in the role of his all-knowing, all-forgiving (ahem), wife.

British politics is such fun; it's filled with characters like Sir Norman Fry, and we just can't wait for the next juicy scandal to come along. Talking of which, there should be another one quite soon!

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Evening Is Nigh. (But not as nigh as all that).

I seem to be having a series of bad-news days. Maybe at my age it's quite normal to hear of old friends dying or becoming seriously ill.

However, Cro is alive and well, and extrememly pleased to be so. OK. I have one or two little niggles that I could do without (a dodgy knee, diabetes, and a spot of sciatica), but the Teeth, Tripes, and Waste Systems (very important), all function as designed.

Maybe my pleasure in being alive is because I live in a place that I love, I'm completely mobile, and my current building project is both fulfilling and going according to plan; proving (I suppose) that the brain also continues to function reasonably well. None of my three children is in jail. None of them is a junkie. And none of them is stupidly over-ambitious for either celebrity, or wealth.

I have beautiful grandsons, a wife who knows how to make a damn good Lemon Meringue Pie, and a small circle of really excellent friends.

But one of these days it is quite probable that all this will change, and I will become just like someone I know locally (and sadly others elsewhere) who is desperate for it to end. I have great sympathy for such people, and would happily assist her (and the others) if legally possible. However, most of us are destined for a difficult end, with inhumane treatment, and unnecessarily drawn out courses of pointless medicine; all of which could be easily avoided.

Allowing an easier end is such a difficult arena. It's filled with loopholes, possible criminal intent, and legal pitfalls. But one day I'm sure it'll all be sorted, and the dignity that dying deserves will eventually be offered to us all. I hope that day is not too far off. Unfortunately I know of far too many cases where doing the 'right thing' has already been denied.

p.s. I've just heard that my friend has died, and am so pleased that nature has replied to her desperate calls. Pam, an ex-actress, lived overlooking the lovely old nearby town of Puy l'Eveque, and had become totally absorbed by the wildlife in her small garden. She recently published a book about the birds that visited, and it almost seemed as if her life's work had been completed. So, RIP Pam Ive. We'll never watch a firework display without thinking of you.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Doppleganger 2

David Coulthard: F1 Racing driver.

A well-worn Easter Island statue; with chisel-cut features.

Monday 25 October 2010

New House, Queensland.

No, I've haven't taken up estate agency. This is my daughter, Tenpin's, new home in Queensland Oz. Her previous house was a classic wooden colonial style house on stilts, with open areas beneath, and balconies all around under a shallow sloping roof. Very attractive period living.

But now, with her two energetic small boys growing by the second, she and her husband have decided to move slightly out of town where space is no longer at a premium. It's still very much in a raw state as the building work was only recently finished. But when they have time, I'm sure it will become a beautifully landscaped and decorated home.

Oz has a lot going for it, and those who fulfill the strict entry requirements will certainly reap the benefits in the long term. I thoroughly approve of their move, and with 'the west' in the state it's in (and now inescapable from), I probably would have done the same myself.

The Apprentice.

Lady Magnon has been begging me to show her how to tile a roof. So I've given in and allowed her to get up that ladder.

This picture makes everything look so small; but it certainly doesn't feel like that from the top of the roof. Cementing those ridge tiles is seriously hazardous. Maybe I'll instruct Lady M to do that too!!

Oh no, it's monday! Can't we have two sundays? It poured all day yesterday.

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Sunday 24 October 2010

Saturday 23 October 2010

The Tiles, The Tiles.

So, here they are. Our hand-made roof tiles have arrived. 1100 tiles all with the makers distinctive finger prints on the top half. The bottom half (the half that shows) is sprinkled with a gritty sand before firing to give them that delicious 'digestive biscuit' grainy look.

And these are the floor tiles. They measure 22 by 22 cms-ish, all are hand made, and when eventually treated with linseed oil and polish, are the most wonderful tiles you can imagine. The greyish looking one is just there to show you what the backs look like. These tiles could easily be 16th C, almost as if I'd bought them 'reclaimed'.

As Prof Stanley Unwin would say..... 'Deep Joy'.

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Thursday 21 October 2010


Roy Wood (The Move, Wizzard, etc).

An Indian Sahdu (Sackcloth and Ashes, etc).

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Here We Go Again.

There's nothing the French enjoy more than a good demo, riot, or revolution. It gives the CRS the opportunity to show off their undoubted skills, and the masked hoi-polloi the opportunity to vent their anger against the world.

Give them a bus to burn, a brick to lob, or a trailor-full of manure to dump, and they're as happy as a 'cochon en merde'.

I really couldn't give a fig about the age of retirement in France, most people want to continue working past retirement age anyway. But I do want to be able to buy petrol without a hoard of pimply be-masked yoofs shouting at me in my car and giving me the one-finger salute.

Go on Sarko. Give in now, it'll save you the bother later.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Havoc at Haddock's.

I'm having a crisis at Haddock's. The wretched deer are slowly munching their way through my winter greens, and I'm having to cover their favourites with ramshakle wire netting. Otherwise they simply jump over fencing, and eat at their leisure. I'm going to have to do something more secure for 2011.

This is what I keep finding each morning. Swiss Chard and Perpetual Spinach plants eaten down to ground level. Remember that foul tasting stuff they used to put on childrens nails? Well I need something similar for my plants. My friend José suggested a liberal sprinkling of mothballs, but I think they've eaten those as well. They probably thought they were mints.

Luckily there are certain things they don't seem to care for, these include Cabbage, Kale, and Sprouts (a bit like a lot of humans I know). The late planted autumn cabbages (above) are amazing. I don't think I've ever grown such beauties. The carrots, to their right, have all had their tops nibbled off, but the carrots beneath, thankfully, are OK.

Bloody deer!

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Monday 18 October 2010

The Annual Chestnut Fair.

This last weekend, our local town payed tribute to The Chestnut. This annual fair brings together all those who grow, eat, or honour, the humble Chestnut. It normally also gives praise to the world's greatest mushroom, the Cepe, but this year the season has already passed, so none was on view.

As usual, merchants lined the main street. On sale were sausages,

Chestnuts (of course), although who would buy them I can't imagine; they're everywhere for free!

and a multitude of Chestnut products.

Unfortunately the weather was against a big turn-out, but who cares. We bought a bottle of freshly squeezed apple juice, and returned to our first proper fire of the season. Perfect for a cold rainy afternoon, there was even a Norman Wisdom film on TV.... Mister GRIMSDALE!!!

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Sunday 17 October 2010

The Sunday Thought: Bloggers.

This question has no doubt been asked many times before, but subsequent to Andrew Marr's statement (thank you Tom), who or what are bloggers? There seems to be a number of constants. When I read the 'about me' profiles of different bloggers, several things crop up time after time.

Of course, above all we love writing. We are often involved with 'the arts'. We are outdoor people, gardeners, and nature lovers. I think we probably like animals. We are family conscious. We read. We go to the theatre and the cinema. Hopefully, we are cultured individuals.

We are probably insomniacs, as we always find the time to do things that others don't. We are disciplined folk.

We probably like antiques. We would certainly never drink from, or eat off, plastic. We are also lovers of good food; what we eat, and where it comes from, is important to us.

I think we are 'good' people. We don't steal or act irresponsibly. We are probably how we wish our friends to be.

Do you recognise yourself?

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Saturday 16 October 2010

Pastures New.

Public spirited brothers Harvey J and Ollie, have become not only talented DIY experts, but also meticulous cleaners, tidyers, and REMOVAL EXPERTS. Well done boys!

My oldest son, Kimbo, and his family will be quitting Edinburgh any day now, and moving down south to London; well, just north of London.

He's not decided where he'll be living as yet, but he likes the look of St Albans. Unfortunately so do many others, hence it's one of the most expensive places in England.

St Albans is a fine city with a beautiful cathedral. In Roman times it was the first main town out of London when heading north on Watling Street; originally known as Verulamium.

Last night my son's staff threw a huge party in his honour; which he was attending in full Scottish regalia evening dress. We had a preview via Skype; sporran, sgian dubh, ghillie brogues, et al. Hmmm. Hope he got home all right!

Friday 15 October 2010

Foodie-Cro's Pickled Chillis.

I don't know why, but this year French supermarkets seem to have run out of jars of pickled chillis. Did last year's world-chilli-crop fail? As an addict I find this unacceptable, so I'm having to produce my own.

I buy these biggish, reasonably hot, green chillis from my supermarket at about €2 per kilo. The preparation is child's-play. I do about one kilo at each go.

Cut off the stems, slice halfway down one side, and carefully remove most of the interior seeds with a small spoon. Then when washed and dried, sprinkle with salt (about a serving-spoon full), and cover with a clean cloth. I stir them around about twice each day as they release water. After 4 days wash them thoroughly to remove the salt, pack into a suitably sized jars, and cover with vinager. I also add about 2 tablespoons of sugar. After about 1 or 2 weeks they are ready to eat; but don't keep them too long.

As with all preserves it's wise to keep an exact record of your quantities, then for your second batch you'll know what to add more, or less, of. The same goes for 'Grandma's and Eggs'.

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Thursday 14 October 2010

Old Chestnuts.

I used to own these two wonderful old chestnut trees. They were in a small wood that came with the first French farmhouse that I bought way back in 1972.

These are very old grafted trees that produce excellent quality nuts. Unfortunately disease has now claimed many amongst them, and I fear for these two also. Notice where the cows have been rubbing themselves against the delicious swirling and knarled bark.

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Wednesday 13 October 2010

Oh No, It's Cro's Blooming Blunder.

I'm sorry to go on about my wretched roof, but there's no doubt about it; I cocked-up big time.

This is what comes of being a rank amateur, and trying to work things out on paper, or in one's head, rather than asking a seasoned professional.

You see the small 'planks' that come out from the longer ones (the ones that end up right on the edge to make the 'sweep'), well they're too long, and will all have to come off and be re-cut.

Part of the whole roof effect involves the final tile of the overhang lifting slightly to create that pert and sexy curve that makes local buildings so special; and I got it wrong.

So, yesterday I took them all off, re-cut them, and re-positioned them. It pained me to do it but it was essential.

The waste of a day? Not really. Hopefully it'll give peace of mind for ever after, and if this is my only major fault, then I guess I should be happy. Only time will tell.

Actually, yesterday went very well. Not only did we do all the above but we also got most of the new waterproof membrane up, Lady Magnon single-handedly installed a thick layer of insulation (horrible job), and I even started nailing up the laths. Dinner last night was eaten with smiles; and very few expletives.

Another hot sunny day is forecast for today, so things should advance well. In a few days time we'll probably be blaming our tile-maker for keeping us inactive (if he does).

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Tuesday 12 October 2010

Vive la Différence.

Gentleman's Relish (Patum Peperium) 71g, about £3.50

Creme d'anchois 100g, about 75 pence.

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Monday 11 October 2010

Sussex Pond.

If you live in a part of the world where winter is approaching, then this might be of interest. Not for the dieting feint-hearted, this rib-sticking cold-weather pud' comes directly from my neck-of-the-woods back in England's finest county; Sussex. The picture above is not a good one (colourwise), but it does at least show the structure of the finished product.

I'm not going to give you the complete recipe; just a hint of the alchemy. If it sounds to your taste, then Google will provide the exact details.

Sussex Pond is classic 'nursery food'. A steamed suet crust pastry, filled with a whole multi-pierced lemon, butter, and sugar, then steam-cooked for 3 or 4 hrs. The stock-photo I've used doesn't really do it justice.

Amazingly (for a good Sussex boy) I've only ever eaten this ONCE. My friend Terry (an honorary Sussex-girl) cooked it for me, almost by cohersion. We all agreed that it was overly SWEET, so if the idea appeals try making it with about HALF the recommended amount of sugar.

N.B. This 'half the sugar' business applies to jam-making and almost everything else you can think of. Everything tastes so much better less sweet! When I was first married, the authoritarian Lady Magnon insisted that I stop lacing my tea and coffee with sugar; I have since been eternally grateful.

Sunday 10 October 2010

The Sweep of the Roof.

Everything has its highs and lows. And yesterday I experienced both.

My saturday project was to finish the 'sweep', and cover the whole structure with a waterproof membrane.

The sweep outwards just above the 'genoise' is (I think) typically French. It may look like a rather sharp change of angle in it's raw state, but when tiled it softens to a more gentle and sexy curve. It changes the look of a roof from being severe and angular, to fairy-tale and welcoming.

Lady Magnon has lost her fear of ladders and heights, and was running up and down like a pro. So we worked very well as a team, and finished the woodwork in no time.

However, the rolls of silver, multi layer, all-dancing, waterproof, insulating stuff, proved to be a complete bloody nightmare. Firstly the layers were not sandwiched together properly, as I'd imagined. They were simply lying on top of each other, rather like seven layers of tissue paper. As soon as a section was cut, it would fall apart. This stuff might be OK for the interior wall of a garage, but for a tall pointed roof; NO THANKS. An expensive purchase that I ripped off the roof again, in total anger and disillusion; it's now been dumped.

I shall wait until monday and revert to my tried and tested reinforced transparent plastic sheeting. If it's still available.

It's a horrible feeling to be so elated one moment, then completely depressed the next, but unfortunately that's how yesterday finished.

As you can probably see from the above photo, the whole place is a mess. I've simply had no time to tidy up, mow grass, gather fallen quinces etc. I think I need floodlighting... then I could probably continue to work at night!

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Saturday 9 October 2010

At Last, The Roof.

This is how the wood came back from the Sawmill; my friend Danny having supplied the necessary 3 metre long trailor (and hefty Land Rover) for it's journey home. The Sawmill owner said 'I've cut you much more than you need, but I'll only charge you for what you ordered'. Even then I couldn't get him to take any money; he was too busy. Nice man!

And this is how we finished the day, with still quite a lot more to do. I don't think I've been more tired after a day's work for yonks. I was exhausted. Lady M, I'm pleased to say, was as fresh as a daisy. Women are so much stronger. She and I did all the work by ourselves, and it was a stinking hot day.

This picture is just to show that Cro is no different from all other tradesmen, craftsmen, car washers etc. 'Builders cleavage' is alive and well, and happily exhibiting in the south of France.

I've just seen that rain is forecast. So if anyone knows of a rain dance that will hold off the possibility of a downpour over the next few days; I'd be extremely grateful. I'm putting the music on now; lots of dancing PLEASE.

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Friday 8 October 2010

Bush Quotes (from "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue")

I'm still having trouble with blank spaces, but do scroll down for a moment of fun!

Laughter really is the best medicine, so having recently posted a sample of 'Round the Horne', I'm now offering a snippit from another BBC radio comedy show 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'.

I apologise in advance to all our trans-pond cousins, but some of you really must have voted for this guy!!!

The Question Master on the show was Humphrey Lyttleton, the jazz musician. A rare talent, sadly no longer with us; Humph went his way in 2008. They tried, but I'm afraid the programme didn't survive his demise.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Controle Technique.

Every two years I recieve a letter such as the above; this one arrived yesterday. It explains that they wish to kick the tyres of my Compact Royce.

So, I give her a good wash, Hoover the inside, and remove all the old sweet wrappers from under Lady M's seat. I deliver the car, and explain to the mechanic that she's in the rudest of health. Then he kicks the tyres before trying to shake her to bits. If she survives the proscribed shaking time, he kicks the tyres again and gives me a little piece of paper that I have to stick in her front window. That's it for another two years.

Just in case anyone isn't aware, we have NO ROAD TAX in France. So in the front window of all French cars you'll find just two small square bits of paper. Proof of tyre kicking, and proof that she's fully insured. That's it!

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Wednesday 6 October 2010

Walnut Season.

Monday's gale force winds and torrential rain have brought down walnuts by the barrow-load. Above is just a small sample of our newly gathered 2010 stock, which will easily last us through to next autumn. I love walnuts, and eat several each day (highly recommended for good health).

Walnuts contain Linoleic Acid (an Omega 3 fatty acid) which can help reduce Cholesterol, and also has an anti-inflammatory action. They contain Iron, Selenium, Vitamin E, and Zinc. It is also said that eating walnuts can reduce the risk of heart disease (what doesn't). So, all in all a pretty nifty nut. Doctor Cro says 'Eat 6 walnuts a day'.

N.B. The exceptionally clean walnuts that one finds in supermarkets and elsewhere have often been bathed in a bleach solution. This takes away blemishes on the outer shell (usually a sign of a bug inside), and gives them that 'come buy me' look that supermarkets love. Beware! Posted by Picasa
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