Saturday 30 April 2011

Exclusive Wedding Pictures!

Well, we're back from the wedding, and as promised here are a couple of pictures. Firstly the happy couple, just about to leave for their honeymoon; don't they look radiant!

And for all you foodies out there, this was the cake. Not really traditional, but a tasty alternative to the 'push-in-face' cakes made from sugar, flour, sugar, eggs, sugar, more sugar, and butter.

It was good to see so many blogger friends there too. We spotted Tom Stephenson exchanging punches with his mate Chicken John, and in the front row was Molly with her friends from the US, Amy Saia and Linda. There seemed to be an Aussie contingent in the middle seats, we noticed Carole and Little Stalky both waving miniature star dotted flags, and from Canada came Jacqueline and her sister Victoria who jointly shared the 'most original hat' prize. There was also a surprise visit from Budapest, with Jane and Lance appearing in full Hungarian traditional national costumes (hmm, interesting).  And I'm sure I spotted Willow, assisted by T Clear, handing out early invitations for her September Ball (I think she may have invited Bristol based Eva to be guest singer). 

The French contingent was surprisingly small; just us and two Sue's; one of whom seemed to be in Piggy Heaven.

Gosh, aren't weddings fun.

Friday 29 April 2011

There Will Now Be A Short Intermission:

It's the wedding today; I'll be back tomorrow with some pictures! Just talk amongst yourselves for a while...Tra la la, tra la la. Here comes the bri....

Thursday 28 April 2011

Absent With Leave.

I shall be away for a couple of days. I'm off to London for a family wedding (well done for spotting me at the last one above).

Wills and Kellogg have recently returned from Thailand, so we're all heading off together to London for the final fittings of our respective suits, dresses, caftans, hats, etc.

The wedding is on Friday, and I'll probably show some snaps when I return.

I am relying on technology to post this automatically, in my absence.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Kitchen Oils.

We are constantly bombarded with 'new' information about the suitability of edible oils. Frankly I find the whole business confusing, so have reduced my consumption to just three types.

I'm pretty sure that Olive Oil is not going to kill me. I consume a large amount; mostly from small southern producers, such as this delicious oil from Chateau Coujan in the Herault. My friend, the watercolourist Simon Fletcher, designed their simple 'wine-like' label.

Otherwise I use Colza Oil (rape). I buy 'Bio' because it seems to be so much better than the 'non-Bio'. It has a rich deep yellow colour, and actually tastes good (almost as rich as Olive Oil).

Other than these, I use a small amount (maybe only 1 litre per annum) of Walnut Oil, which is used exclusively on salads and new potatoes.

Oil is a 'slippery' subject. They contain good acids and bad acids, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, vitamins, omega-3 alpha-linolenic fatty acids, cholesterol, and goodness knows what else. The whole subject is a minefield of medical (and gastronomic) confusion.

Any interesting takes on oil-usage would be welcomed. What oils do YOU use?

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Nurse Kellogg.

Kellogg's been doing what all good nurses do; administering plenty of TLC to the patient. Monty's thinking of extending his recuperation for as long as possible!

My youngest son Wills, and the lovely Kellogg, have just returned to Europe having over-wintered in Thailand and Cambodia. They will be with us for a couple of weeks.

Monday 25 April 2011


There are certain things in nature whose very existence have to be questioned. The Processionary Caterpillar is certainly one.

Last thursday evening, as is usual, I took our new 4 month old pup' for his pre-supper walk; when I returned, I found him to be listless rather than his usual ravenous self. I imagined that he'd eaten something that disagreed with him. About 20 minutes later my friend Craig arrived and instantly diagnosed his having chewed (or even just licked) a Processionary Caterpillar..... NIGHTMARE!

We drove directly to the vet's, where he was given various jabs, and I was able to see the extent of his injuries. His tongue was swollen and blistered, resembling a battered blue-ish raw steak; he was obviously extremely distressed.

The next morning he couldn't eat or drink (he still can't), and had already begun to look thin; frankly I was was relieved to see that he was still alive. As instructed, I returned to the vet's as soon as they were open, and they kept him there for surveillance and rehydration.

These bloody caterpillars are common in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece; in fact anywhere warm where there are pine trees, and each year a number of dogs die from contact with them. Monty will no doubt lose part of his tongue, apart from which, I'm just hoping he'll make a full recovery.

So, be very very vigilant. This year I have still to find any, but certain dogs will have no problem searching them out. These creatures can be almost anywhere, not just in their traditional long lines across the road; and for a Labrador pup', like ours, they appear to be just another unmissable gastronomic tit-bit!

For the moment Monty is still very distressed, and he's lost a lot of weight through his inability to eat properly. I'm sure all his normal functions will return quite soon, and he'll again be the lovely pup' he was before his horrible experience. I'll let you know.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Wedding Nerves?

Wedding nerves? Well, not exactly.

When we were married (in 1969), the soon to become Lady Magnon and I had just crossed from Tangier in Morocco, over to Gibraltar; where we tied the knot in the registrar's office. I think I've mentioned before that John and Yoko were married just before us.

The day we'd left Morocco I had unwisely bought, and eaten, a tuna and chilli sandwhich from a small outdoor food stall, and it had an immediate effect on my stomach.

During the actual marriage ceremony I'm ashamed to admit that it was necessary for the registrar to take a short break whilst the young-ish Cro visited the 'facilities'.

Did your marriage go according to plan? Or do you know of someone's that didn't? I'd love to know that I'm not alone!

Saturday 23 April 2011

Monty Python - Salad Days (HD and subtitled)

I remember going to see this bright-young-things show 'Salad Days' when I was quite young; I was taken by a kindly Aunt and Uncle.

The only bits I really remember are the incidental music, and the song 'We're looking for a piano'. This little bit of tomfoolery from the Python boys would have made the original show considerably more interesting!

Friday 22 April 2011


Over the years we've accommodated numerous strays; both cats and dogs. Scruffy Doris had (I imagine) been dumped by a returning holiday-maker, and I found her soaking wet on a main road; miles from anywhere in a storm. She was a nice little dog, but had a penchant for digging huge holes. One day she simply disappeared. The drawing actually depicts her quite well.

Crocket was one of the ugliest cats I've ever seen. The reason I named him/her 'Crocket' was that I thought he/she would have made a reasonable back-woodsman's tailed hat..... but even then.

I try not to judge animals by their looks; they're all nature's offspring, however unpleasant looking.

And then there was Korky, who was found underneath a friend's car. Something nasty had happened to the tip of his tail; run over maybe (I hope it was nothing nastier). He was a nice cat, and kept us amused by tearing about chasing invisible foe.

There have been lots of others. These silly drawings all come from my 'Scraps' book, into which I glue records of everyday events; it contains some seriously bad drawings.
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Thursday 21 April 2011

My Dinky Village.

I've not given a guided tour before, so here we go. Perhaps one of the nicest features of my village is the entrance to our church. The interior doesn't see much of me, but I did exhibit some paintings in there once.

This is the church itself; some lovely fat buttresses and carved archways. Otherwise pretty typical of small village medieval churches. No paintings inside sadly.

And here is where once lived the village curé. These days new Catholic priests are as rare as hens teeth, so it now accomodates holiday-makers instead. The land in front of the presbytery is where, each thursday evening in summer, we hold our village 'Marché des Producteurs'; a giant picnic set amongst wonderful food stalls.

If you wish to get married in France, this is where it happens (especially if you live in my village). The Mayor's Office is a very important part of life in France; it's where everything is decided, and where bureaucracy rules.

And this last picture is taken outside the Mayor's Office, looking back up to the church. Under these plane trees is where the village boot sale is held at the beginning of July.

Other than that, our staggering population of 240 live scattered amongst 18.5 square kilometres of perfect unspoilt countryside. That's it.... that's my village. Not much of it, is there!
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Wednesday 20 April 2011

One egg or two?

My oldest son, Kimbo, is an unashamed gourmet. He likes the best of everything, and never misses an opportunity to try new delights. He discovered these Goose eggs at his local Farmer's Market, and couldn't resist.

One egg covered three pieces of toast, and I understand it was delicious.

When I was a student, I would occasionally turn up at my parents home with a friend in tow. My mother would always fry up a few eggs (it was easy and quick). She would ask 'Four eggs or three?". My friends would reply predictably "Oh, just the three thank you!". Pity she didn't have goose eggs; she could have done just one each.
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Tuesday 19 April 2011

Energy of the Future; Energy of Now!

My good friends and neighbours, José and his daughter Laurence, have recently gone into the Electricity business (agricultural diversity).

The roofs on both these long old wooden 'séchoirs' (tobacco drying sheds, very similar to the one we own), are now covered with solar panels, and all the electricity produced goes exclusively to the French National Grid (do enlarge the picture to see properly).

I believe it'll be about 15 years before the initial investment is paid off, but after that it's pure profit from the sky.

I know there's some doubt over the pollution caused by the manufacture of such panels, but I'm sure that'll be sorted out before too long.

Isn't this what we should all be doing? We're certainly considering something similar for our séchoir; but for our own domestic use only, not to light up the whole of France. I'd love to watch TV, or run the washing machine, knowing that the electricity came free.

It'd be a big investment, but to be self-sufficient in both electricity and water is no longer a dream; it's available to all of us (yes; at a price).
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Monday 18 April 2011

Suave Harv' & Ollie.

Having one's own children is good enough, but having grandchildren is on another level.

It's confirmation that one's own works were good; and that the human system is a success. The gene pool has been carefully fished, and the correct formula put into action.

These two cool dudes are my London based grandsons; the children of my oldest son Kimbo. They'll be with us in July/August; one of the highlights of my year. Nice boys; Cool shades!

Sunday 17 April 2011

I'm Such A Messy Bugger.

I don't mean to be; but I really am a messy bugger when it comes to painting (and life in general). Actually, on reflection, I think the above looks quite tidy.

I'm meticulously clean, and well organised, when it comes to everything concerning food; even though the kitchen itself looks more like a rag-n-bone man's garden shed (that's about to change). It's the same in the garden, and at Haddock's, where I like everything to be in order; but, to be honest, the weeds, slugs, and insects have the upper hand.

Now with an ever-growing, lolloping, permanently hungry, adolescent dog (4 month old pup') in the house, there are bits of chewed shoes, bones, and sticks, all over the place.

I'm almost at the stage of just giving-in to all the mess, dust, and rubbish.

Did you ever see programmes about barmy old people who live with 20 cats, a dozen dogs, and mountains of urine-soaked newspapers?..... Well I'm seriously considering that as an option.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Gnome Sweet Gnome.

This strange looking object is my 'Gnome'.

I'm an insomniac, and rather than get up at all hours, I prefer to stay in bed until about 5.30am whilst listening to the radio.

My Sky Gnome is linked to my Sky Satellite TV system, and allows me to listen to various favourite radio stations throughout the night. I have about 8 stations programmed in, amongst which are BBC Radios 4 and 7 (now 4extra), World Service, and LBC. The Gnome is wireless, has an 8 hour charge,  and can be used anywhere up to about 30 metres away from its transmitter. It also has an earphone, so that I don't disturb Lady M.

Unfortunately the transmitter (a similar looking box) has suddenly failed on me, and the bloody thing no longer works. Frankly this is a disaster. It's probably an interior fuse that's blown; or worse. I'm undecided whether to take it to a specialist for repair (sounds expensive), or simply buy a whole new caboodle (slightly more expensive).

Amazing how not having radio can really disrupt life; well, mine at least! I've been getting up at 4am!!!

STOP PRESS:  I've decided to go for the 'new' Gnome option; that way I'll have two recievers, and one transmitter..... perfect!..... I've ordered it on-line.

Friday 15 April 2011

The Bock.

Have you put your Christmas decorations away yet?

Most of ours were put away on 'twelvth night', but, for some reason, our 'Bock' has stayed on my well-organised desk.

Regular readers will know that Lady Magnon is of Swedish extraction. And it seems that if you marry a Swede, you also marry a 'Bock' (a traditional Swedish Crimbo decoration).

Ours is a classic model; about 50 years old, straw made, and, as usual, covered in red ribbon. 'Bock' is Swedish for Goat, and tradition has it that Santa Claus used to ride on a Goat when delivering his presents. Although many other reasons are given for its symbolism.

I think Mr Bock will stay on my desk until Christmas comes round again.

p.s. One of my neighbours has a new Border Collie pup'. His name is also Bock; I wonder why?

Thursday 14 April 2011

Cro A Snob? Maybe!

The conversation went a bit like this....

Friend: "Have you got any thickish wire; an old coat-hanger would do?"

Cro: "If you mean a wire coat-hanger, the answer is an unequivocal no!"

Friend: "Why's that?"

Cro: "Because there are two things in the world of coat-hangers that would never cross the Magnon threshold; those made of either wire or plastic!"

ex-Friend: "You bloody snob!"

Cro: "Idiot!"

I know people who only drink the finest wines; they're known as wine-snobs. Others who always buy expensive foreign cars; they are car-snobs. But I've never thought that because I insist on wooden coat-hangers, that I would be considered a coat-hanger-snob.

If being a 'snob' means that I think I'm superior to my fellow man; then I'm certainly not one (because I'm not). But if it means that I search out quality in certain things, then I suppose I'm guilty; and proud to be!.

Viva timbaris hangare-coatem! (dog latin for piss off ex-friend)

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Pasta Not So Pronto.

OK, I'm a foodie; and about 3 years ago Lady Magnon acknowledged my love of simple Italian fare by buying me this basic pasta making machine.

I'm ashamed to say that it has yet to prepare any pasta, and I bet there are tens of thousands of other machines similarly confined to the backs of  'men's' cupboards (next to the wok, and the blood splattered mandolin).

It's not that I don't want to use it; I'd love to. But when I suddenly decide that's it's a pasta night, I go straight for that jar of 'dried'.

Other than soup pastas (vermicelli, stelline, seme di riso, etc), I only eat three varieties; spaghetti, tagliatelle, and penne rigata. Frankly, the other multitude of shapes I find 'unnecessary'.

I'm in need of encouragement. So if you use a pasta machine on a regular basis, or just know how to do so, I'd rather like some user-friendly tips; no matter how simple.... Otherwise I'm ready to go!

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Red Cross Nurses.

During the last war, many expectant mothers from London were sent out to the countryside to give birth; things were considered much safer there. One such reception village was adjacent to my native Surrey village of Lingfield; it's called Dormansland. Apparently, throughout the war, the whole village was permanently awash with hundreds of heavily pregnant women.

Like so many who wished to 'do their bit', my mother enrolled with the Red Cross to become a temporary war-time nurse, and her main duty, after some initial training, was to walk the pavements of Dormansland just in case any of the expectant mums was to be 'caught short'.

I believe that my mother (not amongst those above) was the only nurse during the whole period of the war to actually assist in an outdoors delivery; 'on the pavement'.

The baby was a boy, and the young woman assured my mother that had it been a girl she would definitely have named it after her.

Well, I suppose you can't have everything. She did receive a few kind letters from The Queen, however; but then I believe everyone did in those days.

Monday 11 April 2011

Treasure Trove?

It's not uncommon, in my area, to find stone-age implements; arrow heads, axe heads, scrapers, etc. So seeing that my neighbour, Laurence, had just been doing some serious ploughing, I did a bit of 'field-walking' to see if she'd turned-up any treasures.

What I wasn't expecting to find was the above. I imagine it's the speedometer from a Massey Ferguson tractor. The only questions are, which one, when did it fall off, and has she noticed that it's missing? It looks quite new.

I shall pop up to see her some time, and I'll let you know!

Sunday 10 April 2011

The Wood-Pile.

Now is the best time to stock up on wood for next winter. Up until a few years ago we had a huge open fire, but this posed problems so I installed this simple but very efficient Godin Stove. In the winter we can now light up in the morning, then leave the house without any worry of returning to find the place burnt down.

All our wood burning is now 'contained'; in the DeVille cooker in the kitchen, and in the Godin in the sitting room. This means that we no longer need too much of the very expensive Oak that we used to buy; prefering the much cheaper Chestnut that does almost the same job. Chestnut 'spits' so a 'contained' burner is essential.

I reckon we've got about 20 Cu Ms in stock (there's some you can't see), and I have another 4/5 Cu Ms waiting in a neat pile still in the woods.

The Chestnut, which has all been cut 'fresh', needs a minimum of 2 years to dry; I leave it open for the first year, then cover just the top from the second year onwards. 

When it's stinking hot (as it has been for the last week), it's almost unimaginable that we shall be in need of so much wood. But winter comes around again very, very, quickly!!! 

Saturday 9 April 2011

What Happened To Good Manners?

I was recently appalled by an act of gross bad manners, so I reprint this 'edited' piece from my 2009 book 'Périgord Life. Je t'adore 24, Encore'. It also contains a few other moans.

NOSTALGIA MOMENT: I am of an age where I can remember a very different, and more pleasant, Europe.

I used to have faith in the police force; now I don’t.

I used to believe that if one needed the recourse of the legal system, that ‘right’ would always conquer ‘wrong’; this is no longer the case.

I used to live in the knowledge that my National Insurance policy would look after me ‘from the cradle to the grave’ (Although I never actually received an Insurance Policy stating as much. Did anyone?); this no longer happens.

I used to think that our well-paid immigration officers would ensure that no fanatical anti-British/French terrorists would be allowed to settle here at our expense; hordes of them have been welcomed with open arms.

I used to respect politicians; now I see most of them as no more than dim-witted fat-cat fraudsters.

I used to think that to speak correctly, to write legibly, and possess good manners, were qualities to which one should aspire; nowadays they seem to be qualities to be derided.

Eating in the street was simply not done, we gave up our seats on the tube/bus for women, we opened doors for the elderly; all these have gone, and I, for one, find it all very depressing.

I’ll have my pill now please Matron.

Friday 8 April 2011

Pear Blossom.

This Pear Tree is just a few metres from the house. It's huge, ancient, and magnificent. And always bears mountains of fruit.

However, it's also pretty useless. Just before the fruit is ripe, it's grainy and as hard as a rock. And the moment it ripens, it falls and turns to mush. I've known this tree for 40 years, and in all that time I've only managed to eat a handful of pears that were caught 'just right'.

Every year it's the same. We admire the blossom in spring, and make definite plans to do something with its certain bounteous crop. And every year we fail.

However not all Pear Trees are thus. On the day that my grandson Finn was born, I planted him a 'Doyenne du Comice'; probably the world's best pear. We've already eaten its fruit, and it's wonderful; I recommend the variety to anyone wishing to plant a Pear Tree. One picks the fruit in October, and leaves it until November before eating. Yum.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Phew, What a Spring Scorcher.

When Lady Magnon dons her shorts, and reads the paper in the welcoming shade of our flowering Quince, I know that summer has sent out a recconaissance party.

27C yesterday (seemed more like 35C). So I mowed, sowed, and bared my manly chest to the sun. I just hope that it'll last (the sun, I mean)!

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Happy Birthday John.

Yesterday was my friend John's birthday. I've never seen so many birthday wishes on a facebook site!

His latest, recently published, book on 'Bob Marley's Wailers' is a magnificent tome. John is a world renowned authority on Reggae music, and his book is a must for anyone interested in Reggae, or music in general.

So, a slightly belated 'Happy Birthday' John. May you celebrate many, many, more!

Tuesday 5 April 2011

The Last of the Carrots.

Traditionally we plant our root crops on Good Friday (22nd April, this year); i.e. Onions, Potatoes, and Carrots. I've learned the hard way never to rush anything.

Amazingly we are still digging our Carrots from last year's spring sowing. They're no longer 'perfect', but they trim up OK. These I've just dug this morning; in the half light.

They will go into a garlic, cummin, and harissa, flavoured Lamb stew, alongside some chunky Potatoes and Butter Beans; and gently cook for about 2 hours. Rustic fare!.

Monday 4 April 2011

Franglais or Frenglish?

In 1994, M Jacques Toubon introduced a law in France (The Toubon Law), making it madatory for all official publications to be written in FRENCH. He also 'encouraged' all others to avoid the use of English.

Why? I hear you ask.... Don't the French speak French any more? Well, it seems not; they prefer English, hence the law!

Poor old Toubon (now universally known as Mr Jack Allgood) was fighting a losing battle. Even the manufacturers of this nearby, recently installed, box of electrical gubbins (above), couldn't resist one little bit of English. 'Outdoor' indeed; et pourquoi pas 'dehors'?

I'm with 'Allgood' on this; the French have a perfectly good language, why not stick to it?

Sunday 3 April 2011

The Golly Dating Agency.

This could be the world's only Non-PC dating agency.

Our Golly (that's him on the left) has found an on-line Belle (that's her in blue). They're hoping to meet-up in the near future, They've already exchanged Email addresses, so we're hoping for a successful outcome.

Gollies of the world unite...... at 'The Golly Dating Agency'.

(I thank friends Serge & Sami for the Emailed picture)

Saturday 2 April 2011

Mexicans This Way!

I continue my recent woodland theme.

A couple of days back our weather turned dull and damp (it's now back to 24 C again), so we took young Monty for a long walk along pastures (woodland) new.

When about an hour into the woods, we came across these two brand-new trail signposts.

So the question is this: Is the US now full to the brim? Are they sending their Mexican overspill to France? What illicit products are those donkeys carrying on their backs? I think we should be told!

Friday 1 April 2011

The Woods.

There's something about woodland! And nothing I like more than walking through the thick of the trees, either mushrooming or just taking the dogs out.

If I didn't think it so 'homespun', I'd join Prince Charles and become a 'tree-hugger'.

However, I shall content myself with painting and drawing woodland. I've done it since I was quite young (above is from 1974, at my parents home in the beautiful Sussex village of West Chiltington); and I think I'll continue until I die.
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