I don't know why, but I seem to be incapable of choosing the right clothes for the right weather.
I'm either too cold, too hot, or too over-or-under dressed. In dry weather I'm often to be seen with Barbour wellies and brolly, and in the rain I'm usually in just a T shirt and soaked to the skin.
When I leave the house I tend to consult Lady Magnon. Will I be too hot in the supermarket? Will I be frozen on the beach? Will I need my wellies? The usual response is a roll of the eyes and her standard "For goodness sake, you're like a clueless child!".
So, my primary 2012 New Year Resolution will be to try to select the right clothes for the right occasion. When I recently mentioned this to Lady M, she predictably replied "Oh for goodness sake, etc etc"....
Women! Just wait till she asks me if her backside looks big in something!
It's been a reasonable year for the Magnons. We are still in rude-ish health, we achieved most of what we wanted to achieve, and we are still just about solvent.
The biggest event of the year (without doubt) has to be the arrival of Monty (Montague-Macbeth Magnon), including his subsequent encounter with the Processionary Caterpillar. He has now, unquestionably, changed our lives for the better; and we can no longer imagine life without him.
Of course, he's no longer the little cutie, above, that we brought home from Miss Tadpole's Rescue Centre. He's now one year old and weighs-in at about 40 kilos (and still growing).
In August we also returned to chicken keeping, with the purchase of 3 point-of-lay 'turken' hens; Edwina, Richard, and Richard (don't ask). Even at Christmas they are still producing a couple of eggs a day; wonderful.
2011 saw Lady Magnon and myself finish our infamous 'tower'. To illustrate my enduring memory of this crazy building project, I've selected this picture of the 'charpente' wood, just as we brought it home from the sawmill... (panic!). I then had to work-out how to saw, hammer and nail it all together to make something that resembled roof timbers; and us, ageing rank amateurs.
Anyway, it all went up OK. We learnt as we went, and ended up with a pretty good job. This is what it looks like now (I really must thank Lady Magnon for all her hard work and patience).
We also began another unnecessary project with the acquisition of an old Tobacco barn and some land, just behind the house. We've already handed in our planning application for the construction of a simple apartment, and we await their decision (fingers crossed).
As you can probably see, all the bare-bones are there. All it now needs is time, a little money, and effort; a nice project for 2012 (providing we get the go-ahead)....... and (amazingly) it's just arrived... Le Permit de Construire est Accordé!
The other great event of the year was the wonderful August Cèpe harvest; the first decent crop for several years. For those who find it odd that I should continually harp-on about wild mushrooms, it should be noted that they constitute a major element of our local gastronomy.
Omelets were consumed, the freezer stocked, and several boxes of dried mushrooms put away for winter Risottos.
2011 was also the year of the new kitchen. We have finally dragged ourselves into the 21st Century, with a non-leaking sink, a thermostatically controlled cooker, and an actual dish washer. It's heaven.
So, we end the year's hard labour with our wounds healed, our splinters removed, and our mouths (mine mostly) duly washed out with carbolic. For the moment we're roughly OK, and we trust that you are too.
May 2012 be drama free, and let's all hope that the predicted world financial crisis doesn't materialise.
We send our very best wishes to all our friends and family throughout the world. HAPPY NEW YEAR.
p.s. Monty's friend Bok, is now officially ours. His previous owner knew he would be happier here, and it was she who suggested his 500 metre move. Welcome Bok Magnon.
I was looking through a list of those who'd left us in 2011, and was surprised by how many 'rappers' had either died of drug over-indulgence, or been murdered. 'Rap' is not my favourite music (in fact I would say it's my least favourite), so their names mean nothing to me. But, even so, very sad to see all those with names like Gang-star, Murd-rah, Thuggo, Gucci-Woochie-Gold-Chain, and MC Fatso, all having died so young.
Lucian Freud, Peter Falk, Liz Taylor, Jane Russell, and my old friend Jet Harris were amongst this year's Roll of Honour, but for me the saddest name to see on the list was that of our National Amy Winehouse.
All of the above have left behind testament to their talents. Movies, paintings, and music; but poor Amy had only just begun. She had so much more to offer.
I was a late arrival to her music, seeing her firstly one New Year's Eve, on Jools Holland's TV show; she was brilliant. I was instantly taken by her, she had true unquestionable genius.
So, I say goodbye to all those above; I'll miss you, especially Amy.
Hang on a while, and we'll all be there to join you. Then, What Larks eh?... What Larks!
Monty and his five brothers were born on December 28th 2010. I wonder where the others are, and if they're being as spoilt as Monty; I do hope so.
No cake I'm afraid, just a nice piece of 'Plat de Cote' from M Bugier.
Happy Birthday Monty, it's Mummy's (Lady Magnon's) birthday tomorrow; I bet SHE doesn't get a nice piece of 'Plat de Cote' from M Bugier.
And for his main present, he has his friend Bok coming to stay with us PERMANENTLY. His owner has finally accepted the strange situation, and asked if we'd like to become his 'official' family. We, of course, said YES.
The fields of Paradise were white with frost, and the sky above was on fire.
The shepherd was certainly warning about something; but what, I wonder?
Yesterday was one of those 'Camera Club' mornings when, had I owned a half-decent £400 camera, I might have been short-listed for National Geographic's 'Photographer of the Year Award'. All was there for the snapping; I just didn't have the up-market kit!
I think I posted this clip before, but, for all you big-hat wedding aficionados, I'm posting it again just so you can admire the 'bridesmaids' who, for some reason, didn't appear in my previous posting. They're really the best bit!
Giving soap for Christmas was always seen as a gentle hint, but these days the making, and giving, of home-made soaps has become highly desirable.
Until recently I had no idea that artisnal soap-making was so widespread, and one of my favourite soap-makers has to be Donna O'Shaughnessy (Winner of 'Cro's Soap-maker of the year award, 2011'), who is responsible for the above.
These particular 'bars' above, I believe, are perfumed with Anise and Coconut (my favourite soap aroma). Apart from which they look fantastic.
Donna lives, and farms, in Chatsworth Illinois; so if you're passing by, do yourself a favour, pop in and buy some of her wonderful soap, superb organic meat, and raw untreated milk (for which she is a tireless campaigner). If you're not passing by, go to......
p.s. Her totally Organic Farm is also for sale. Another good reason to visit her blog.
Saffron Milk Caps (lactarius deliciosus) are plentiful at the moment. These rather evil looking, green and orange, mushrooms are a good winter standby.
Lady M doesn't like them (goodness knows why), so I hardly ever bother to gather them. As she was out today doing her Christmas shopping, I had the younger ones above for my lunch. They were 'good'; no more. On account of their slightly sweet taste, I give them a generous 6 out of 10.
Malachite is, without question, my very favourite stone. For many years I've tried to purchase a silver and malachite ring; I can't find one, so I'll have to have one made. Green is also my colour of preference for most things.
When I was still in the antique business back in London, one of my favourite objects was a small beautifully patinated Roman bronze horse that had been set on a solid malachite base. The bronze itself was about 5 ins tall by about 7 ins long and the simple malachite base just a little bigger. It's one of the few things I now really regret having sold; but business is/was business.
Malachite has, of course, attracted the attention of the mumbo-jumbo squad. They claim its magic powers protects both children and travelers from witches, it protects us against accidents in all forms, and is helpful against undesirable business associations (presumably you throw it at people). Amazingly it is NOT used as a healing stone, but should simply be worn as jewelry (but not if you're feeling negative). I wonder who makes-up all this rubbish?
Personally, I simply like it for its beauty. The fact that's it's GREEN just doubles my enjoyment.
People who own a dog will probably have noticed that when they run, they position their bodies at a slight angle to the direction in which they are heading. This allows the back legs not to touch the front legs when in full flight.
I've recently noticed that Monty points himself slightly to the left of his direction, and his friend, Bok, slightly to the right.
I must conclude from this that Monty is Right Handed, and Bok Left Handed (or the opposite). When running side by side, at the same speed, it is plain to see that they definitely possess opposing dominant spheres!
Yes, I'm sure Monty is Right Handed. Or maybe Left.
Anyone brought up in the era of 'mad cow disease' could be forgiven for thinking that I'm already dead.
I was born immediately after WW2, when food rationing was still in force, but, luckily, my people were sensible enough to realise that 'growing one's own' meant not being deprived. At the aprox 1 acre garden at our Surrey home, we had chickens, bantams, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and a wonderful gardener called Fuller who looked after it all.
Occasionally we would eat roast chicken; but this was rare. Usually the meat of choice was beef, which I presume was more plentiful, and probably mostly imported (we didn't keep cows).
On beef days, when my mother was preparing meals, she would always give me pieces of raw beef to eat; and I loved it. Even today, when ordering steak, my meat has to be served saignante. i.e. Waved in front of a 2000 degree furnace for half a second, then brought directly to the table. The exterior fraction of a millimetre should be well cooked, and the rest, much as it left the field.
Nowadays, post mad cows, people throw up their hands in horror at such things; but I'm still here, and (I like to think) no madder than the average carnivore.
I suppose I must have half-inched a few things in my time; a pencil here, a book there. But I've never been what one would call a 'thief'; I could no more break into another person's house, or steal a car, than I could strangle my own grandmother.
However, I have occasionally suffered at the hands of other people's stealing. I remember, when quite young, going into a toy shop with a much older boy who surreptitiously stuffed something into my pocket. He left the shop first, leaving me to get caught with his swag in my possession (I didn't even know what it was). No matter how hard I tried to explain to the shop-keeper, he gave me a good ticking-off. The other boy (who'd been waiting outside) thought the whole incident a big joke.... I didn't.
Luckily I've never had my home burgled, but I've had plenty of paintings stolen; mostly (I'm saddened to say) during my college days, when I'm sure the culprits were my tutors. I've also sold things for which I've never received payment; this in my mind is also stealing.
This posting has been prompted by a postcard I recently sent to a friend. It was of a simple drawing I did back in 1993 of the 3 houses in my tiny hamlet. It was a semi-aerial view, with the area around the houses having been compressed, in order to fit them onto a small piece of paper.
At the time, I gave a photocopy of the drawing to a neighbour, as I thought their young daughter would enjoy colouring it in. However, I was not expecting them, some weeks later, to give me back a handful of printed post-cards (of the self-same drawing), complete with their own stolen 'COPYRIGHT' on the address side. They seemed to think I would be delighted by such a gift.... I don't know how, but it was amazing that I managed not to go directly to my lawyer.
OK; I'm 6ft 1in tall, and weigh-in at 16 stone. Maybe that's because I've never deprived myself of a decent breakfast; or maybe it's because I'm a biggish lad, that I need a decent breakfast.
It's an old adage that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day'. I'm not saying that I eat a fried breakfast every day, but I probably do 3 or 4 times a week.
And it has to be real food. Real bacon, with no nasty chemicals injected into it. Occasionally real Black Pudding made from proper wet fresh ingredients (adherents will know what I mean). And, providing that my girls are feeling generous, a couple of fried, free range eggs.
40 years ago (when I was a mere lithesome 15 stone) I might well have washed it down with a small glass of red wine, but I can no longer cope with such things, so that's been replaced by coffee. A small glass of either Cider or Guinness would also have been good.
We should never deprive ourselves of the finer things in life. Not only are they not as bad for you as the killjoys would have you believe, but they are also much less expensive than you might think.
Of course the leaders of both France and Germany are upset with David Cameron's decision NOT to join a United Sates of Europe; THEY WANT OUR MONEY!
At the moment there are only a few net contributing members of the EU; The United Kingdom being amongst the most generous. In fact, it costs each and every UK citizen £937 per annum for the pleasure of being a member. We give over £40 million per day to Brussels.
So where should we go from here? Well, I suggest that both The UK and Germany quit the EU, and create some sort of open-ended Anglo/German Alliance. This would control world finance, control European manufacturing, and leave the European no-hopers (including my belovéd France) to sort out their own bloody mess by themselves.
Between Cameron and Sarkosy; which one would YOU trust?
No cakes, no omelets, no meringue, no quiche, no custard, no mayonnaise, no soufflé, no eggnog, no kedgeree.
No simple fried egg for breakfast, no boiled eggs to grace our favourite egg cups (no egg cups even), not even any tempura for the artist. And no eternal questioning about which came first; the chicken or egg.
What would we hunt on Easter morning? How would we glaze our pies? What would we throw at politicians?
Could humans have survived without the humble EGG?
Hamlet was my first dog; the only one to have shared my life prior to Monty. And what a dog he was!
Hamlet came from Yorkshire, where he was bought by some friends at Leeds Market for 10 shillings (50p). For a while he went to live in London, but he ate their shoes when left alone, and was transferred to Surrey where I first met him.
His owners had several dogs at their rambling country retreat and, when fed, poor Hamlet was last in line. The existing dogs rejected him, so they decided he'd have to find another home.
I took him for a long walk one day, to see how I felt about taking him, and decided almost at once that he and I belonged together; on returning to the house I said 'yes'. Unfortunately, on leaving (I was going to pick him up the following day) he suddenly ran out in front of the car and I ran over his front left leg, making a perfect break. Unfortunately again (for him), there was a postal strike at the time, and the Vet' was unable to get the right size plate, so used an oversized one instead. Poor Hamlet's foot for ever pointed outwards, and he had already cost me about £100.
He lived in Wales for a while, then came with us to France. He loved it here.
Hamlet was just a scruffy, medium sized, black-n-tan, 50p mutt; but he was adorable. He died about 30 years ago, and I still miss him. He was possibly the best dog in the world (apart from Monty, of course). I still keep his photo at hand.
Take one smoked Saucisse de Morteau (or something similar), two chunky rashers of bacon (also smoked), some home grown spuds and carrots, and (shame on me) a jar of Spanish butter beans. Add fresh herbs, garlic, coarsely ground pepper, and enough water to cover; and simmer gently for about an hour.
Not only does this make a wonderfully warming winter stew (served with 'proper' home made Coleman's mustard, or a good parsley sauce), but it also makes a superb stock for your following day's soup.
Good old-fashioned vittles. Food like yer gran used to make. Fair-dinkum tucker.... And damn the diet.
I've recently been buying small, and very expensive, jars of Heinz Piccalilli at my local supermarket, so Lady Magnon suggested that I make my own.
I've used 3 kilos of mixed Cauliflower, Beans, Cucumber, Courgettes, and Onion, which have spent the night in a brine made from 4 pints of water to 250 gms coarse salt (above).
The following day they were drained and rinsed, then gently simmered for 20 mins in the pickling liquid, made from 2½ pints of clear Vinegar, 3 tsp Turmeric, 6 tsp dry Mustard, 6 tsp ground Ginger, and 8 oz Sugar. After the 20 mins, the vegetables were drained and placed in sterilised jars, and the remaining sauce thickened with 1½ oz Cornflour, and poured over the vegetables.
It looks good and smells good, but I have to wait 3 or 4 weeks before tasting..... just in time for sampling with my cold turkey on Boxing day.
My daughter 'Tenpin' with her bear Mrs Pins, and the two babies.
'Souvenir' paintings are unlike other work, simply because they're not intended to be seen by anyone outside the family. They're just records of 'how things were', and tend to be a bit rough.
I mentioned yesterday that drawing dogs was a bit of a nightmare; they NEVER sit still... Painting children is not quite so bad, they will sometimes remain still for a few minutes; even so the pictures usually go unfinished.....
....as in this portrait of my oldest son Kimbo. He was only two at the time, so I suppose he had some excuse.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away; we also have a Border Collie called Billy. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!