Thursday 31 March 2011

Morel Season.

It's mid Morel Mushroom season, and as usual I can't find a single one. I've never been able to find them.

I have no trouble finding Cepes, Girolles, Parasols, etc; but Morels, non!

Nature has decided that these delights are for others to enjoy; NOT for Cro!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Cro Benefits From Disharmony.

In the corner of our kitchen we have one of those tall galvanised two-handled florist's pots, in which we keep our walking sticks, brollies, etc; and I'll tell you from whence it came.

Many years ago, back in Brighton, I had taken some rubbish to the local tip, when I encountered a very irate and red-faced man, 'chucking' (and I mean 'chucking') perfectly good looking stuff out of the back of his car. Amongst the pile were several brand new hockey sticks, piles of women's clothing, expensive looking shoes, books, kitchen equipment, suitcases, radios, etc.

Amongst all this stuff I spotted the aforementioned brand new florist's pot, and I asked the man if I could take it.

"Take what you effing like" he shouted. "You can have the whole effing lot, for all I effing care!".

I took the pot and left. It was pretty obvious what was going on, and I didn't want to get involved. What his wife/girlfriend thought when she returned to get her things; I can't imagine. There must have been one hell of a fight; if not a court case!

Anyway, she's not getting her galvanised florist's pot back; it was given to me fair-n-square!

Monday 28 March 2011


The tiny settlement in which I live contains 3 houses, and a rarely-occupied small log cabin. But between us we have 9 vehicles; only ONE of which is ours. Too many?

Sunday 27 March 2011

Blo*dy Car Insurance.

Here in France we are obliged to display two small certificates in the front windscreen of our cars. Firstly there is proof of car road-worthiness; some bloke in blue overalls kicks the tyres for a while, then charges us a fortune. This biannual check is represented by a small blue dated sticker which lasts for 2 years.

The second is the above; a 5cm by 5cm paper insurance certificate, which needs to be torn off, then placed comfortably into a transparent plastic sleeve. In France we pay NO road tax.

I've just received my bill for this year's insurance. Both Lady Magnon and myself are insured to drive the family Compact Royce, and for that pleasure my annual charge is an outrageous €182 (£160 or $256).

Considering that Lady M and myself are both extremely cautious drivers, I consider this no more than THEFT.

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Saturday 26 March 2011

Oh, Those Wasted African Billions!

When 'Lord' Mandy took over from Gerald Kaufman as Britain's most hated politician, we knew we were in the presence of a classic brown-nosed creep; he was dubbed 'The Prince of Darkness'.

So what's he up to now?

Amazingly he's just twigged (the public always knew this) that all the foreign aid money given to Africa over the years, has been money down the drain.

Even the late-arrivals threw their hands up in horror when the 'Merc's for Malawi' scandal broke in 2000. The Scottish Parliament's cash for a fleet of 37 luxury Merc's for the lads, was a Merc' too far.

So why has Mandy only now discovered the truth, or been prepared to tell the truth, when the rest of us knew yonks ago. And why do the Swiss bankers (who are the recipients of so much of this 'filtered' cash) continue not to inform the naive benefactors?

Be warned; Mandy wouldn't now be saying this, if there wasn't something behind it all. The only question is WHAT!

He's got his gong. He's got his over-paid jobs. Perhaps like his chum Blair before him, he wishes to become an 'envoy'; to Africa maybe?

The Middle East has proved nothing but trouble since Tony took over HIS 'envoy' job, so what could we expect from Africa, with Mandy at the helm? Boggle... Boggle... Boggle...

Friday 25 March 2011

Perfect Spring Day.

Yesterday my SHORTS came out from their winter quarters. The mid-day temperature was just above 20 C. And, apart from a few radiation particles, the sky was perfectly clear all day.

All the plum, peach, and pear trees are in flower, and my heavily trimmed quince tree has sprouted its leaves (above).

Everything was incredibly quiet. Only the sound of my own chainsaw in the afternoon (it was also a perfect day for log sawing) disturbed an otherwise idyllic spring day.
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Thursday 24 March 2011

Haddock's Doth Provide.

All vegetable gardeners have seasonal pointers. Late March, for me, spells the season of Forced Rhubarb. Just to lift up those forcing pots and reveal the beautiful colours of new rhubarb, is an unparallelled pleasure.
At the same time of year as our first Rhubarb Crumble, we also revel in the appearance of Purple Sprouting Broccoli. I cannot imagine life without these two small (enormous) pleasures. Thank you Haddock's.

Gouge out my eyes, tear my limbs from their sockets, but let me always have the luxury of late March, home-grown, Rhubarb & Broccoli.
Both of the above were eaten last night, and, need I say it, both were delicious.
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Wednesday 23 March 2011

History and Warfare.

The reason why I was such a numskull at school History, is because it seemed to be entirely based around the dates of historic battles, and who had either won or lost. Personally, my schoolboy mind was much more interested in the practicalities of historical life; how people used to live, build, create, dress, and eat.

History lessons were always peppered with the names of great kings and politicians, the battles they waged, and who they defeated. In our own times we associate Churchill with WW2, Mrs T with The Falklands, and even Blair with Iraq. Each elected leader is almost expected to carve his or her initials on the ever-branching tree of warfare; and also expected to WIN.

I've not served in the armed forces, but I did do my spell of Officer Training. Day one, Lesson one, Paragraph one, told us to 'Know your enemy; Go in strong, Go in hard'.

That way, and only that way (we were ensured), was how to win wars. And for that type of warfare there needs to be an overwhelming moral urgency, a distinct enemy, and a foreseeable 'end-game'. I do hope our current politicians understand that.

There is no question that, like Sadam before him, Gadaffi is an unbalanced, cruel, and evil dictator. But the world is filled with such people. Where does it all stop, and how does it all end?

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Has Cro Lost His Marbles?

I bought these for my grandsons last summer, but could hardly face the idea of parting with them.

I feared that they would immediately be lost, so initially I gave them just ONE EACH. The next time I saw the boys (a few seconds later) both marbles had already gone, so I now feel vilified in having put the remainders aside.

Back in a loft in the UK I have a small collection of 'antique' marbles. These modern ones are not particularly well made, but they are still very beautiful objects.

I've always viewed marbles as a tiny example of man's control of nature. First, dig some sand.... etc.

Monday 21 March 2011

L'Eglise de Saint Pierre de Liens, Martignac, Lot.

I mentioned this nearby village church in my yesterday's posting, and, as I probably won't return to Martignac for some time, I've half-inched a few pictures from the web, to give you a taster. I hope they give some idea of the past (and present) splendour of this exquisite small 13th C church.

Most of the interior is covered in medieval paintings; some in full colour, others in simple black and white. As one would expect, they illustrate what evils will befall you if you're anything like Cro, and what pleasures you can expect if you're NOT!

In both the top and middle pictures you will see carefully positioned flowers in glass vases. Every time I've visited this church, there's been a ragbag of dusty plastic flowers in old baked bean tins; even for this tiny hamlet of about 50 (max) inhabitants, one would have expected at least one person to devote some time to decent flowers (France has no WI).

France is a secular country, so all marriages are performed by the Mayor of your village, town, or city (you can only have a 'blessing' in a church). But wouldn't this have made a spectacular setting for a big-hat wedding!

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Sunday 20 March 2011

Architecture, Age, & Beauty.

One of the greatest pleasures of living in Europe, is being surrounded by its early architecture. Whether it be a tiny cottage, a chateau, or an ancient church, there are buildings around every corner that make us gasp.

Medieval churches are everywhere. Yesterday I passed through the tiny village of Martignac, near Puy L'Eveque in The Lot, where the church is filled with very early primative murals (unfortunately I forgot my camera; but I'll return), and these are not uncommon. In many countries, Martignac's church would be a building of national importance; here it is just taken for granted, and rather neglected.

Above is a good example of what is almost commonplace. The 11th Century church of St Martin in Besse; a village about 15 Kms from us, complete with its original stone roof, a few recently discovered interior paintings, and a spectacular carved doorway. Luckily, all very well cared for.

When I see the abundance of fairy-tale vernacular domestic building in my area, I just wonder if the original builders realised how beautiful they were; or simply did things as they'd always been done? I do like to think that they were all men of impeccable taste.

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Saturday 19 March 2011


In England our milk was always delivered to the house aboard an electric milk float, and the one-pint glass bottles placed on the doorstep at about 5.30am each morning. The milkman was paid every two weeks.

Then 40 years ago, when we first moved to France, I bought our milk from my friend José's father's farm, about 400 metres away. I fetched it each morning in a small, aluminium, one litre, churn; direct from the milking parlour.

Now I buy at the supermarket. Semi-skimmed, in half-litre plastic-bottled six-packs that, if unopened, would last for months. The six-pack above cost €5,46 (£4,80).

I suppose that's progress. How do you buy yours?

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Friday 18 March 2011

Aubrey Beardsley.

Brighton born dandy and 'Art Nouveau' illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley, has lost favour in recent times.

Not so long ago his name was everywhere, and fans of 'Art Nouveau' gave pride of place to his reproductions on their walls. Now, he is hardly ever mentioned. Fashion is a fickle thing in the art world. Will he make a sudden revival? Probably not!

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Thursday 17 March 2011

Clematis Armandii.

This very pretty evergreen Clematis (armandii) has just started to flower, against the wall of our pool pump-house.

It doesn't do as well as I'd expected, here in France; we planted one back in England that is the same age, yet ten times the size, and needs to be seriously cut back annually.

However, it's all part of the springtime awakening process, and its annual appearance gives us hope for the days ahead.

p.s. When I built the pump-house, I commissioned a young local potter to make two traditional bird-topped, tall, green glazed, pinnacles, for the roof. The two birds (in the window) later fell off. Perhaps I should have asked an 'older' potter to have made them. Inexperience; I suspect. Never mind; at least he and his young family ate that week!

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Wednesday 16 March 2011

Crikey! What; no 17th?

Have I missed out on some Bilderberg conspiracy? Has the government decided that in future we shall have only 6-day-weeks? Have The Ides of March spread their influence?

Why does my calendar have no 17th? Could this be the end of the world? I thought THAT was supposed to be next year!

Are 'they' keeping something from us? I think we should be told!

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Tuesday 15 March 2011

Cold Comfort.

This has to be one of my absolute favourite books. A couple of years back I bought myself a new copy, but stupidly left it somewhere in England. Yesterday, however, a kindly Lady Magnon surprised me with the gift of a fresh copy, which she bravely bought on-line.

Cold Comfort Farm is, of course, set in my native Sussex (the epicentre of The Garden of Eden). But I can hardly imagine a more inappropriate cover illustration; it belies the whole essence of the story. An ancient run-down group of farm buildings would have been much more to the point; not a perfect field of rape. The Starkadders; rape? Sukebind; yes!

On the back of the book is the usual dreary blurb (below). However, whoever wrote it must have been absent during his or her English geography lessons. Sorry, no West Country accents due-south of London. We have our own beautiful Sussex lilt; an angelic song-like accent, highly admired throughout Christendom, and beyond.

Of course, none of this editorial miscomprehension (I believe the book comes from an American publishing house; sorry!) can lessen one's enjoyment of Ms Gibbons' classic novel. I recommend it to all who have not yet had the pleasure; as few as that may be.

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Monday 14 March 2011

The End Of The World As We Know It.

In the 6 Nations Rugby Championship last saturday, ITALY BEAT FRANCE by 22 points to 21.

The humiliation. The disgrace. The shame. France will never again be able to hold its head up in polite (Rugby) company.

Just imagine it; beaten by upstarts Italy!!! I can see that Cro's services might soon be required in order to regain some kudos for The Republic's sporting reputation.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Thumbs Down.

Every part of the human body (other than tonsils and appendices) seems to be essential. But it's only when you damage one tiny bit that you realise how essential.

I'm engaged in some building work at the moment, and I've gone and got a stupid bloody SPLINTER in the fleshy part of my right thumb. I know; poor diddums etc etc. But it bloody hurts and I can't dig the wretched thing out.

So I'm temporarily disabled, but unable to take time off. It's just a matter of continuing as per normal, but with the occasional blood-curdling scream thrown in for luck.

Any advice about winkling out deep set splinters would be gratefully received, although I'm really just hoping it'll come out by itself (Yes, I'm a male wimp). Thank goodness I don't use my thumb for clicking on the mouse!

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Saturday 12 March 2011

Winter Landscape.

We are still having some overnight frosts, and our mornings can be bitterly cold. It's that time of year when I find walking in the woods both beautiful, and depressing. The coldness of the bare tree-trunks is only occasionally forgiven by the sight of a small patch of wild violets, or the sound of footsteps crunching on last autumn's crisp fallen leaves.
My annual winter depression has a while yet to fester. When eventually I see a haze of new green in the chestnut canopies, it will begin to lift and I shall breathe again. I might even dig deeper into my box of colours , and find something warmer.
I painted this small picture just over a week ago when it was still wretchedly cold, and although for the moment our mornings are still grey, icy, and stark; our days are actually beautifully warm and sunny. My depression must soon be in danger of lifting, I can feel it in the air.
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Friday 11 March 2011

Monty Visits the Vet'.

Aren't vet's surgeries depressing places. Sterile, usually over heated, and filled with sick and dying animals.

Monty waits patiently. He's already said 'Hi' to all the other patients, and watches intently as they all take their turn in the torture chamber.

His turn soon arrives. He's poked, has his boy's bits counted, and his insides listened to. Then he has an electronic chip planted under his skin, and receives a jab against all those nasty doggy things.

He yelped just a tiny bit; but otherwise all was OK (other than the bill). Who's a good boy then.
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Thursday 10 March 2011

Haddock's. 8am. Wednesday 9th March 2011.

The early morning sun is shining, the sky is clear, and there's plum blossom on the trees. But there's no denying; Haddock's is a total mess! (For anyone who doesn't know; Haddock's is my veg' garden)

I've attempted to rotovate some of the weeds away, but my machine really isn't up to the job (I bought a cheap one).

I'm not intending to plant or sow as yet, but I like to keep things looking as if someone has been paying attention.

However, on the plus side, we are still harvesting Sprouts, Leeks, Kale, Carrots, Spinach, Chard, and Broccoli. As well as having Onions, Potatoes, and Butternuts in storage. Our bottles of Tomato-based preserves are healthy, and we still have plenty of jams, jellies, and pickles. (Oh, and I still have one HUGE cabbage)

The two black blobs (just left of centre) are the Rhubarb forcing pots. Things beneath are stiring; crumbles not far ahead!

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Wednesday 9 March 2011

Fancy-Tickling Towns.

What towns tickle YOUR fancy?

If I was to live in Canada, I would certainly want to be in Medicine Hat; where else!

In the US of A, it would have to be Chattanooga; just to see the Choo Choo. In England, Scratchy Bottom; of course. In France, Condom (not really). In Denmark, Middlefart. And in Austria, I'd definitely want to live in Fucking.

But if by chance I was to return to live in Wales, then where else than in the above; Llanfair something something goggy goggy blah blah sillio etc etc. (Their town sign post begins just outside Molly's farm, and ends in Anglesea!)

Tuesday 8 March 2011


Like most young people who lived in London (in my case between 64-68); I moved a lot. Sometimes I would only stay in a new flat for a matter of weeks.

When I left school I worked in The City and my first bed-sit was in Bayswater; I think I was there for 6 months. Then for some bizarre reason I moved to Paddington Street, where I shared a tiny flat with an old school friend.

For those of you who know London, Paddington Street is not in Paddington; it's in Marylebone W1. On the other side of Oxford Street from Mayfair. Smart-ville, cosy-land, rich folk. But our small flat was a SLUM; ess ell you emm. Maybe it was the only true slum in fashionable W1.

There were huge bracket-mushrooms growing on the stairwell walls, the 'facilities' were Dickensian (sorry Dickens), and everywhere was damp.

The house was owned by an unwholesome so-called antique restorer, who had his workshop on the ground floor. He was a nasty, ugly, little man who spent his evenings either in cheap Soho strip joints, or even cheaper Kings Cross brothels.

One evening I returned home to find my flat mate and the owner rolling about on the floor in a full-on fist fight. I watched for a while wondering quite what to do, then picked the owner up by his collar and gave him a hefty single blow to the chin. This stopped the fight instantly (and almost broke my fist).

We were, of course, ordered to be out of the house by 9am the following morning, which we were quite happy about; other than having nowhere to go or put our stuff.

Most of our things we surreptitiously stored in the empty basement of a Launderette next door. This was later bricked up by the owner; I imagine all our stuff is still there to this day!

It's amazing what one puts up with when you're young. Did you have any similar rental experiences?

Monday 7 March 2011

Happiness is....

This may sound odd, but happiness for me really is......a new blade on the chainsaw.

I've just fitted a new blade to my trusty smallish Husqvarna, and it glides through these hefty oak logs in an instant. We both heat and cook with wood, so when you have to do as much log-sawing as we do; a good blade is essential.

My neighbour has just offered me a whole load more Chestnut; the type that comes in 'tree' form. It'll keep me and the Husqvarna busy for weeks. As I've said before; there's nowt like a good stock of logs; we'll soon have enough for up until 2015 (or even later).

There's an old saying that 'Sawing (or chopping) wood, warms you twice'. It certainly does!

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Sunday 6 March 2011

Wills and Kellogg (Aaaaaaah).

What does life hold for our children? We watch them grow, help them develop, and (probably wrongly) have our aspirations.

The youngest fruit of my loins (above), was born in the wonderful old French bastide town of Villeneuve sur Lot. His beautiful girlfriend is Swedish/Russian.

Wills is not only a very bright boy, he is also a very sensible one. He definitely sees the world as his oyster, and takes advantage of all it has to offer. He works a bit, travels a bit, then spends his winters on some idyllic sun-kissed tropical beach. This year he has given the honour to Thailand, from where he's managing his 'internet empire'.

I tried to raise him (and my other children) to appreciate the better things of life, although I must have gone wrong somewhere, as he's a strict veggie. He'll probably visit France in Spring; but he'll not be partaking of my carefully prepared fatted calf.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Monty, a Canine Adolescent.

Here boy....... fetch!

At just 10 weeks, Monty is growing at an alarming rate, and I've already started to teach him the basics.

He now happily understands that outdoors is one huge welcoming lavatory (and indoors isn't), he's also learning to 'sit', and I've just begun working on 'find gold coins'.

Find the coins Monty....... find the coins!

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