Monday 31 January 2011

What The.......?

For years I had absolutely no idea what these things above were. I'd always seen them through the windows of women's hair salons, but never really given them a second thought. As far as I was concerned, they were just 'women's things'; something best not talked about.

It was probably just 10 or so years ago when I asked Lady Magnon what they were. She looked at me with despair, and rolled her eyes into that 'what an idiot' mode.

OK, so now I know (they're just hair dryers, right?). But I still don't understand why it's necessary to sit underneath them for half the day.... or do women's hairdressers charge by the hour?

Sunday 30 January 2011

Anyone for Peacock?

These extraordinary gold and jewell-encrusted peacocks were made by the father of my two grandsons in Australia. His father was/is also in the business, and makes only the very finest, most expensive pieces, for those who have several bucks to spare (not I; nor are they actually my 'tasse de thé').

The peacocks are, at present, to be found (heavily guarded) in a hotel lobby in Macau, Hong Kong.

My son-in-law has made pieces for members of the royal family, and is well known amongst certain of London's most exclusive jewellers, who are commissioned to make such things.

So, if you're looking for a coronation crown, a diamond covered ipod, or just a special gold mascot for the front of your Royce... I'll put you in touch!

Saturday 29 January 2011


This picture was sent to us recently by a friend (you may well have seen it before). I don't know about you, but it fills me with absolute horror... A total nightmare!

I shall tread very very carefully from now on, and would ask you to stop all children (and adults)from partaking in any form of hopscotch, skipping, high jumping, or anything else that involves landing with a thump!.... Better safe than in Hell.

Friday 28 January 2011

Just Another Typical Day.

5.30 am. Wake-up, get-up, dress, stagger downstairs, listen to BBC radio 4 news.

5.31 am. Make coffee, burn toast, boot-up laptop, yawn just once, stretch.

5.45 am. Check Emails, reply to urgent ones only, read favourite blogs, post something fascinating, feed cat, let dog out.

9.00 am. No sign of Lady Magnon, make second cup of coffee, return to studio, wander aimlessly, search for lost dog.

10.00 am. Lady M spotted poking fire.

10.30 am. Ensure that we have the necessary for lunch, walk however many dogs turn-up for dog-walking, bring in logs, stoke fires.

12.00 am. Serve gourmet lunch, make amusing comment about Lady M's night-attire, receive thunderous looks.

12.30 pm. Snooze for 10 mins whilst not-watching some soporific TV show (Judge Judy a favourite).

1.00 pm. Search house for Lady M's lost reading glasses & handbag, fill chainsaw with oil and petrol, saw mountains of logs, separate fighting dogs.

5.00 pm. Prepare dinner, select most appropriate wines, help look for Lady M's lost hairbrush and other essentials, reply to non-urgent Emails, walk various dogs (some previously unseen), first glass of wine.

7.00 pm. Serve gourmet dinner, avoid Eastenders, write various lists, doodle, make sure Lady M has comfy pillows, snooze until bedtime (11.00 pm).

5.30 am. Wake-up...........

p.s. If you should see me sporting 2 black eyes, it's because I walked into a door; honest!

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Thursday 27 January 2011

The Longest Ever Winter?

This winter really seems to be dragging on, and I have to admit; I'm a bit BORED with it all.

There are probably two whole months to endure before I can seriously think of getting stuck into work at Haddock's. Two whole months just to walk the dog, do a spot of painting, practice my bread making skills, etc. Two whole months before we see any vestige of new growth.

Not that I'm idle. I have plenty to do. My days are filled with chain-sawing duties, fire-lighting duties, and pretending to be Jamie Oliver. But I can't wait to start sowing some seeds, rotovate where the onions and carrots will go, and get some proper dirt under my fingernails. I always like to over-fill my days and have TOO MUCH to do.

Spring will also mean finishing off the work on the 'tower', something I've been itching to do for months. Then I shall probably start work on the 'sechoir'; the silvery-grey wooden building you can see upper left above. I'm not going to do too much; just make it more attractive, more business-like, and more fitted to our particular needs.

I also have plans to return to chicken-keeping; I want the black ones with bright red combs, if I can find any.

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Wednesday 26 January 2011

More on Bread.

I don't wish to over-bore you with my bread making activities, but things are progressing.

At last, today I made a loaf of bread of which I'm quite proud, and it's all thanks to YOU. I followed your collective advice (something I rarely do), and it's paid off.

A very hot oven, a dish of water in the bottom, a splash of vinegar, all have gone into making my first ever really good 'pain de campagne'. I can hardly express how pleased I am; I just hope I will be able to repeat the process in the future. It rose beautifully, it tastes good, and it looks like a proper job. SUCCESS.

Freddie Chez Le Vétérinaire

Poor old Fred, he had to endure his annual visit to the quack today. He was poked, squeezed, and jabbed; he didn't enjoy it one bit. Then on the way home he pissed all over his travel box, and all over himself.

Oh the joy to be home again; he would have pissed all over me as well if his aim had been better. Little Monkey!
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Tuesday 25 January 2011


I do become obsessed by certain things; at the moment it's BREAD. I just don't understand why I can't produce a loaf even half as good as the one I showed last saturday.

I used good quality flour, proper fresh yeast, a small amount of warm water, and salt. The finished product is light, tasty, and reasonably crusty; I've just had a couple of slices toasted, with honey, and it was good. But it is also 'cakey' in texture, and lacks that OOOMPH! (any advice?)

I'm beginning to think it's all down to impatience. Next time it'll be given more time to rise, and maybe more kneading time too. More anon.
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Monday 24 January 2011

Desirable Residence?

There are not many ruins left in my immediate area, but this one is just a few hundred metres away. It's looking for what estate agents might refer to as a 'Sympathetic Purchaser'.

I'm really not sure if the house is saveable, but it has some very good features (underneath all the ivy). Most of the openings are still in place and are all of cut stone, and there are also some rather nice stone pigeon holes. Above, one can see both the original windows and shutters still in place.
The attached barn's walls are still standing, and the arched main entrance still in place. The key stone is dated 1880.
I apologise for the quality of the photos, but it's all so overgrown that this was the best I could do.
I've just clicked the 'Save Now' button. I wonder if it'll obey!
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Sunday 23 January 2011

The Sunday Dog!

My friend Terry, Oscar's owner, is off gallivanting again, so he's come to stay for a couple of weeks. He and my neighbour's dog, The Black Bast*rd, are really good friends, and when they're together they're in doggy heaven.

Canine friendships are quite touching, so I like to see them get together as much as possible.

However, Oscar and our Freddie are slightly wary of each other. Oscar wants to be friends, but Freddie, typically, is suspicious of all dogs.

I'm trying to get them used to each other's close proximity, and it seems to be working. The warmth of the stove unites them, and they just stare at each other in a slightly cautious manner. No flying fur as yet.

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Saturday 22 January 2011

Bread can be a Pain.

Bread is a thorny subject. But let me tell you that what you're looking at above is one of the best loaves of bread in the entire world!

It comes from a tiny bakery, in a tiny nearby village, that contains an oven which, I'm told, is an absolute bugger to control. Bakers there have come and gone, and loaves have been burned by the cart load. However, the present baker has managed to master the beast, and he now produces a bread that is the farinaceous equivalent of a perfect rib-eye steak.

Good natural organic flour, proper yeast, and a man who respects his craft, makes this bread pure nectar. (I should add that his wife is a 'Phwaaar'; another reason to buy his bread)

Bring ye not gold frankincense and myrrh; one of these loaves with some Roquefort and a wedge of Rillettes d'Oie would top just about anything.

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Friday 21 January 2011


I'm still pretending to tidy up the studio, and just found this picture.

This little Swedish number is Lady Magnon. The photo dates back to a day in September 1972; the day on which we stuffed two small children, my box of colours, and a mountain of chattles, into a hired Ford Transit van, and set off for a new life in France.

I must have been 25 at the time, and Lady M just 12 (if her present age is to be believed).

I don't remember being at all anxious about moving to a new country, and, by the look on Lady M's face; nor did she.

'Throw caution to the winds', I used to tell myself; and we did. I've lived by that maxim ever since!

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Thursday 20 January 2011

The Wood Pile.

José (he of the chainsawed foot) has been thinning out some Chestnut trees, and I'm buying the lot. He and Claude bought this handy log grabber together, and about 4 cubic metres of wood was delivered to my paddock yesterday afternoon; all in a matter of minutes. I'll have it all sawn up and neatly stacked by the weekend.

Claude's also been taking advantage of the quiet season to cut wood. This lot above will probably be responsible for roasting our chickens, slow cooking our winter stews, and baking Lady M's cakes in about 2014/15. We already have about 20 cubic metres of wood in stock, but one can NEVER have enough.

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Wednesday 19 January 2011

The Outlandish Capt Willett

The gentleman above is Capt Thomas Willett (1610-1674); the first Mayor of New York, USA.

Capt Willett attended my old school in England; albeit a few years before my time.

I was recently reading an inventory of his possessions, at the time of his death (don't ask why). Everything was noted meticulously, down to the tiniest detail; socks, shoes, underwear, et al.

Amongst the items listed was '58 oz of outlandish money'.

It doesn't take much to know what was meant by the use of this word 'outlandish', but being a failed student of etymology, I had to look it up..... Yes, it simply means (or did mean) OF FOREIGN ORIGIN.

A Comment on Comments.

Most of us leave comments on our favoured blogs; it's all part of the fun.

But the methods by which we post such comments have become as varied as a packet of licorice allsorts.

Some demand just one click. Others require Email address, password, and word verification. And some go the whole hog and ask for inside-leg measurement, grandmother's maiden name, and bank account details.

Has Mr Blogger not heard of uniformity?

Tuesday 18 January 2011

January Morning.

Mist lying low in the silent fields, under a huge swathe of multi-coloured sky; that's a perfect January morning landscape.

It's almost 8.30 am, and this is the view from my studio window, as I look out directly in front of me towards the East. Our village church, of which you can just see the spire, is exactly 2 kms away.

There is total silence and total peace, and, if I didn't read papers or listen to the news on TV, I could almost imagine that it was the same throughout the world. Sadly I know differently.
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Faith In Faith?

I've just been looking at a picture of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in The Sunday Times, and at once it made me think of the late Adam Faith (they could almost have been twins).

Many trans-pond readers may not know the name of our 60's 'pop idol', Adam Faith, but he had several UK hits including 'What do you want' (if you don't want money). However, this makes little difference to my tale.

After his pop career, in the 1980's Adam Faith somehow managed to become a Financial Advisor. He even became financially involved with TV's ill-fated 'Money Channel'; leaving him bankrupt and owing an estimated £32 million. He also famously gave financial advice to film producer/director Michael Winner (amongst others); losing him several arms and several legs.

Having been in Stockbroking myself back in the mid-60's, I've always liked Groucho Marx's observation that 'A stockbroker is someone who invests your money, until it's all gone'. I think Adam Faith, who died in 2003, would have agreed with him.

How come such people set themselves up as experts? And what gives them their frightening delusion of confidence? Unfortunately I know people who continue to take advice from 'Financial Advisors'; always losing money in the process. Will they never learn?

Monday 17 January 2011

Thin Lizzie.

Yesterday (Sunday) was like a summer's day. We had clear skies all day, we ate outside on the terrace, and the lizards were basking in the warmth of the sun. Of course I don't expect it to last, but one can but dream!
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Sunday 16 January 2011

Larf? I nearly wet m'self....

I LAUGH. I laugh outloud. If I find something funny (which happens quite often) then I can't stop. I am an inveterate LAUGHER!

Lady Magnon, on the other hand, is not. She can watch the funniest of comedies on TV, and not even crack the hint of a miniscule smile. (This doesn't mean she's not finding it funny!)

So, when I recently heard Lady M burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter (I was in the studio at the time), I couldn't wait to see who, or what, had changed her lifetime's strict regime of self-control.

I could hardly believe it. She was watching an early 1980's re-run of 'Terry and June'; a banana-skin, 'I love Lucy' style, slapstick-sit-com, that would bring out blisters on a hyena..... and laughing her Swedish socks off. Amazing!

Saturday 15 January 2011

Mr & Mrs Brock and Family.

Maybe it's because I was brought up reading Rupert Bear books that I have such an affection for Badgers. As far as I'm personally concerned they do no harm, although I do understand that they both spread Bovine TB disease, and destroy certain crops.

Just 200 metres from my front door is this huge Badger set that probably contains a dozen or so creatures. The photo above shows just one of the entrance holes; in all there are about six.

The whole complex is constructed in amongst a pile of very large old tree stumps, and, I imagine, involves a formidable system of underground rooms and passage-ways. The piles of excavated earth are huge.

Recently some hunters arrived and put down dogs. I believe they shot a couple as they tried to flee; then just went away. If this was done in the name of 'sport', then it wasn't very sportsmanlike. If it was done to rid the area of Badgers; then it was inefficient, incompetent, and stupid.

Why not just leave them alone. I'm sure we can live side by side without reverting to pointless slaughter.

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Friday 14 January 2011

New Life.

Look what I spotted in the garden yesterday. The first miniature daffs of 2011, poking their heads up, and, by the look of it, almost about to burst into flower. Yippee.
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Thursday 13 January 2011

On The Run.

And did those feet in modern time,
walk out of England's jail divine. (with huge apologies to Bill Blake)

People who break society's rules are usually locked away. But in England this often means spending a short while in an 'open' prison, where everyday luxuries (as well as one's freedom) are part of the 'punishment'.

One such prison is Hollesley Bay (a.k.a. Holiday Bay) in Suffolk. In recent times about 250 inmates decided they didn't like it there; and walked off. I believe that quite a number are still at large.

So what do the authorities do in order to round up these dangerous law-breaking criminals? Well they refuse to name them, or to issue their photos, because this would be against their 'right to privacy' under England's wonderful Freedom of Information Act.

So, if you're a criminal (or intending to become one), come to England's green and pleasant lands. Life here's great; even if you get caught!

Tuesday 11 January 2011

The office. 11. 1. 11

This is where I do most of my stuff. You see the comfy Ikea office-style chair, bottom left? Well that's where I'm sitting at this very moment.

I love this room; it has three main purposes. It's my studio, my office, and my DIY workshop. Unfortunately it's also Lady Magnon's junk room, but that's another story.

Ahead I look out onto the winter-covered pool, and to my right is our roofed terrace with unadulterated landscape beyond. There are deer in the fields, buzzards in the sky, and calm all around. It's also raining like crazy.

At this time of year I heat the room with a small oil filled stove. Just before 6ish each morning I turn-on the laptop, light the stove, and before my first coffee of the day is made (blue mug bottom right), the room is warm, the machine booted, and I'm ready for action.

Then, of course, comes the tricky bit! What inconsequential nonsense will attract my meanderings today?
Those with high-powered magnifying glasses will note that my calendar shows February 2010; I was just admiring a picture of Brighton beach huts in the snow.
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Monday 10 January 2011

The Power of Blog.

I am very pleased to announce (banging my own very small drum) that since posting the above, back on 16th Dec, the painting is now in the possession of the Serge Philippe Collection.

M Serge Philippe and his wife have, over the past few years, acquired some wonderful paintings (including two of mine); Hoorah!

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We 3 Knives of Occident Are....

I have 3 pocket knives in daily use.

The 'Laguiole' (bottom) has a horn handle, and stainless blade. This is an indoor, all-purpose knife, that is used for general cutting, nail cleaning, and assorted DIY tasks. I'd rather bite the neck off a wine bottle than use that corkscrew.

The No 8 'Opinel' (center) has a beechwood handle and steel blade. This is in my pocket at all times. It's the knife I use outdoors; mostly when working up at Haddock's. It has no fears.

My latest acquisition, however, is the very new looking No 9 'Opinel' (top) which again has a plain beechwood handle, but this time with a stainless steel blade. This is the knife with which I now EAT.

It's possibly a dying tradition, but here in France, when dining out with country folk, one was always offered a plate, fork, and spoon, but rarely a knife; one supplied one's own. It's a tradition I've always rather liked, and still adhere to.

I'd never imagined myself buying a stainless steel bladed 'Opinel' (heaven forbid), or even a size 9. But, having thrown all caution to the winds, it's proved to be an excellent decision.

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Sunday 9 January 2011

Wanted; Type 35.

I wonder if I could ask you to have a look inside your garden shed, barn, or attic, to see if you've got something that looks like the above, hidden away in a dusty corner. I'm looking for one, and am prepared to pay decent money.

Given a rub-down with a damp cloth, and a lick of paint, they look a bit like this. Just an old car really, no roof, no lights, not much of a windscreen; but I'm not fussy. I just want an old blue car with four wheels, and the word Bugatti written on the front.

I was going to buy a faithful replica made by an English company named Teal Cars, but I think they've folded. Maybe I'll still find one somewhere.

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