Wednesday 29 June 2011

Johnny Hallyday. (Who the hell is Johnny Hallyday?)

I've always felt rather sorry for Johnny Hallyday. He's a man who's ambition will never be realised.

Hallyday (real name Jean-Philippe Smet) is France's most famous rock star; a national treasure here, but totally unknown elsewhere.

His dream was to become an internationally known rock star, with the USA as his main target. But he's simply an imitation, and in the country that's known for 'the real thing', he never stood a chance. He's had mountains of photos taken in New York, astride Harleys, and sitting in big-finned pink Cadillacs, but the faux American persona has never cut the mustard.

Some years back he held a sell-out concert in Las Vegas (I think it was Las Vegas), but then we learned that he had personally hired the venue, and all the tickets were sold to his fans back in France. OK, technically it was a sell-out US concert, but it wasn't a sell-out US concert. It was a sell-out in France, but it took place in Vegas.

Hallyday has always been called 'The biggest rock star you've never heard of'. He can sing a bit, he's got the naughty-boy tattoos, he dresses like your granny's idea of a rocker, but he's simply an actor. Poor guy, he must be the world's most frustrated wanna-be.

You may like to know that Johnny is still going strong-ish... although mostly these days doing adverts for Optic 2000; a company that sells cheap job-lot spectacles.... buy one, get your second pair free... you know the sort of thing. Well, if you can't be an international rock star, it's a living of sorts.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Monty's first swim.

It's been so hot, and Lady Magnon has given in to Monty's imploring poolside eyes and insisted that we take him down to the lake. He took to swimming at once; we simply threw a stick, and in he dived.

He's banned from swimming in our pool, as we have a dog-unfriendly liner. But at the lake he can do no harm. At his first attempt he swam like a pro... a very reassuring sight.

Monday 27 June 2011

20th Century Nightmare.

One 20th Century invention, above all others, must be worthy of the title 'Most Infuriatingly Annoying Ever'.

I had recently wanted to buy a nice old repro' Louis XV bed that would have been perfect for our summer guests, but common sense dictated that I bought one of those modern beds with 6 commodious drawers underneath instead. I know, I know... But guests WILL arrive with all sorts of stuff they don't need.

Anyway, I selected the least offensive one from La Redoute, and a couple of days ago it arrived in two decidedly nasty looking long cardboard cartons

On the 'instructions' it stated with unequivocal Chinese authority and humour, that it would take two people, with one screwdriver, 90 minutes to assemble. Well, that didn't fool either of us!

I began at 7.30 am and by lunch I'd put together the six large drawers; 3hrs 30mins. And by 5.00 pm (after much swearing and threatening) the job was complete; another 3hrs.... 6hrs 30mins in all, in sweltering heat.

In my folly, at the same time as ordering the bed, I also ordered a matching armoire, and two bedside tables. I know, I know... They're arriving next week; I can hardly wait!
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Sunday 26 June 2011

More Treasure.

As it's sunday (and blogs remain mostly unread on sundays), I can let you know that here in the land of Johnny Hallyday and snail eating, the 'boot sale' season is in full swing.

On the way back from market we came upon a village that was stuffed to the gunnels with junk; we couldn't resist!

As a connoisseur of all things rustic (or even rusty), this very heavy three spike pricket candlestick just had to come home with me.

Sadly, Lady M has banned me from buying any more white oval plates; I can't think why. You can never have enough plain white antique oval plates! Can you?
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Saturday 25 June 2011


Before Woolworth's closed down in the UK, it used to have the only really good gardening department on the high street. In spring they sold seeds, plants, gardening kit; and best of all, FRUIT TREES.

I bought several fruit trees at Woolies, and the best of the lot was certainly this 'Bramley Seedling'; the world's best cooking apple. I seem to remember it was on 'Special Offer', and cost about £2.

I trimmed it down to the bare minimum, brought it over to France in the car, and planted it on the edge of a small lawn; that lawn eventually became our pool. The pool builders were given strict instructions that the tree should NOT be harmed in any way.

It now sits just behind the Pump House, and has never failed to present us with a fantastic crop. Any recipe that calls for cooked apple would be enhanced tenfold by the use of a Bramley. Pies, crumbles, tarts; all cry out for its use. Once used; never forgotten.

I have no idea if these are available universally; but if they are, I recommend!
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Friday 24 June 2011


The 'Hattatts' recent posting concerning their search for a 'Mad Boy' reminded me of my own fictitious mad boy; a cross between David Niven, Lytton Strachey, and Stephen Fry.

Mine, of course, is simply a 'Bunbury'; and where would I be without him! He has numerous daughters, all of whom have now married several times, he has a whole gaggle of grandmothers all of whom have to be visited in their various care homes or hotels, and he throws monthly dinner parties all of which I am duty bound to attend.

We are also cousins, therefore we have other family in common who also demand attention. And he himself is prone to disasters which need to be resolved.

All these events, visits, and parties sadly coincide with unwanted invitations from elsewhere, and save me from eons of boredom. So I thank my 'Bunbury' (I can't give his name or my cover would be blown), and suggest that everyone should adopt one of their own. They cost nothing, are endlessly faithful, and are an essential friend in times of need!

Thursday 23 June 2011

Cepes, at last.

Our recent weather has proved perfect for mushrooms; hot, wet, and steamy.

We've already had Girolles, we've had a few Parasols, and now it's the turn of the Cepes.

If it was sunnier, I would slice them thinly and dry them outside. But it's a bit overcast, so we'll eat them fresh.

Gastronomy is alive and well, and living chez Cro (and probably elsewhere).... Bonne app├ętit.
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Wednesday 22 June 2011

Nearing Fruition.

In a couple of days time, our 'tower' will finally be finished.
My builder (Baptiste) has arrived to lay the tiles, the Champagne is on ice, and I'm already preparing the ribbon for the cutting ceremony.

In the picture, above, you can see some of the un-laid tiles soaking in a bath of linseed oil. These beautiful rustic hand made terracotta tiles will eventually polish up to look timeless, and hopefully give the room a really wonderful finish. They obviously cost a bit more than bog-standard industrially produced tiles, but the difference (between Aaaah, and Errrh) is worth every centime. They are being laid on (and pointed with) a simple mix of sand and lime, just as in times past.

I hope Baptiste doesn't tile himself into a corner!
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Tuesday 21 June 2011


I'm not big on perfume, but being an old hippie (so I'm told) there is one that I would never be without.

Patchouli Oil is a strange perfume; it's outdoor, musty, and exotic. It evokes memories, and relaxes the troubled mind. It takes me back to when I was in my early 20's, when life was never taken seriously, and all experiences were to be grasped with both hands.

It comes in many forms and price ranges. The small lying down (almost empty) bottle I bought in Marrakesh, it's very pure and very haunting, and came from a rather exclusive shop. The middle one was from Lady M, and is an absolute classic organic fragrance. And the one at the rear is proper cheapo rubbish, as seen in youthful markets and small mumbo-jumbo shops everywhere; not recommended.

Rather like the spice Cummin, the aroma of Patchouli is never forgotten. When I was very first introduced to its charms, I was certain that we would remain friends forever. And we have!
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Monday 20 June 2011

Where's St Paddy when you need him!

I really cannot stand snakes, and would be extremely happy if every single one of them was wiped from the face of the earth.

Anyway, I couldn't help taking a quick snap of this chap who was basking in yesterday evening's sunshine, whilst I was working up at Haddock's.

I presume it's a harmless Grass Snake, which is supposed to be the gardener's friend. But personally I'd rather he was the friend of some other gardener.

I didn't scare him off this time, but if I see him again......
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Sunday 19 June 2011

Fathers Day.

Today's the day when we all think of our fathers; those that are still with us, and those that are not.

My father died about 30 years ago. His interests were mostly concerned with the making of money, and going for long weekend walks with my Uncle John. He was not a gregarious man, but was very generous both to his family, and to everyone who worked for him.

I don't remember my father ever playing cricket or football with me; he just wasn't that type. And frankly, he was probably at his most relaxed when my sister and I were away at school; which (as children) we were most of the time.

I'm pretty sure that 'fatherhood' confused him. I don't think anyone had ever told him how a 'father' was supposed to act. He would never have been seen making a fool of himself (something I do often with my own children and grandchildren), nor would he ever have expressed any form of emotion.

Father was a traditional father; you always knew where you stood with him. 

So belatedly, I thank him for having given me a really great start in life; I suppose I should have said that when he was still alive, but it never crossed my mind.

Saturday 18 June 2011

The Fountain Garden.

My ex-pond small plant garden is coming of age, and considering that my knowledge of 'flower gardening' is NIL, I'm reasonably happy with the result.

I've managed to avoid anything orange (essential), and both my torn-off bits of Aubretia seem to have taken; meaning, I hope, that they will start to tumble over the front as from next year.

Of course, as I know none of the plants by name, I can give no proper report. But those round pink starburst jobs (lower forground) are wonderful. They're some type of succulent (I think), and are doing exactly what I asked of them. I need more 'doers' like that!
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Friday 17 June 2011

Ah, My Favourite Mushroom!

Lady Magnon has just returned from a rain-sodden walk with various dogs; and look what she found!

Parasol mushrooms (L. Lepiota procera) happen to be one of my real favourites, so lunch, over the next few days, is a foregone conclusion (unless the cepes decide to erupt).

Anyone worried about searching for, and eating, wild mushrooms, can be assured that with the Parasol it's difficult to make a mistake. The larger ones (above) stand nearly 12 inches high, and the caps are about 8 inches across; they are often much bigger. No other white gilled mushroom grows to that size, and they always have a distinctive ring a third of the way down the stem. They also have a very bulbous root.

As for flavour, they taste a little like chicken, and make an excellent, and substantial, omelete.

Lucky is he (or in this case, she) who finds Parasols.
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Thursday 16 June 2011

Islwyn Ffowc-Elis.

My relationship to this great man is so obscure and distant that I can hardly claim him as 'family'.

But, Islwyn Ffowc-Elis (of Wrexham) was my late mother's cousin, and as I have at least two blog-followers who hail from 'God's own country of Wales', I offer this simply as a matter of interest.

Islwyn's protagonists claim him to be Wales's most important writer 'ever' in the Welsh language (Dylan Thomas wrote in English). He was translated into several other languages, although I have never, myself, ever read a single word that he wrote; maybe I should!

In 1959, 1962, and 1964, he stood as the parliamentary candidate for 'Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist Party) for Montgomeryshire , but failed dismally at each attempt (not surprising). He also became a Presbyterian Minister in 1950 (poor soul), but the less said about that the better.

That's it. That's Islwyn for you! If you're interested in Welsh literature, do feel free to look him up! I believe his books are still available; mostly, of course, are in WELSH. He died in 2004, and I rather regret that we never met.

p.s. Originally his family name was Ffoulkes-Ellis, but being a staunch Welsh Nationalist he changed it to the more authentic sounding Ffowc-Elis. I wonder if anyone noticed; or even really cared?

Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Return of Mrs Pins.

'Mrs Pins' is my daughter's bear. She is mother to two baby bears (one is bottom left), and, as tradition dictates, she has just one eye.

She was a present from my late mother, along with a monkey called 'Wales'. As my daughter now lives in Queensland Oz, I presume Mrs P is also there; but Wales lives with us here in France.

This is a 'souvenir' painting; not normally for view outside my immediate family, although it did spend many years on a wall in the caribbean. Happily the picture is back again, and will soon go to my oldest son's home in North London (it's a miracle when any family member likes any work of mine).

Welcome back Mrs Pins. I've missed you!
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Tuesday 14 June 2011

Haddock's after the rain.

As someone once said 'what a difference a day makes'. It's rained. In fact, for the moment, it's rained enough for several weeks. It's amazing how everything grows after a good downpour or two; most noticably so at Haddock's, where things had previously been so slow.

Even the Horseradish has suddenly become lush and glossy; almost tempting me to roast a big joint of beef.

I cheated with my Butternut Squash plants this year. We ate our last (from 2010's crop) in February, and the detritus went on the top of the compost heap. Some weeks later I noticed several Squash/Marrow/Courgette type plants growing there, and I planted them out. Of course, I wasn't certain that they were Butternut plants, but as the only seeds I'd recently put there were from a Butternut, I was 99% sure that they were! The above picture shows that I was right. Not wise, but in my case very lucky.

The Artichokes are going bonkers. I have about 8 large plants, and trying to keep up with the supply is almost impossible; especially as Lady M is not as enamoured as I am.

So, we shall eat this summer, autumn, and winter. All is looking good, and another bumper crop is on the cards. My first row of beans is about to produce, and we are ready to start asking ourselves 'how on earth can we eat it all?'.

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Monday 13 June 2011

Monty Update.

I haven't mentioned our new 'puppy', Monty, for a while. He's now 5 months old, he weighs much the same as a small car, and behaves like a typical ungainly youf.

He refuses to come when called, he eats like a horse (we're not sure he isn't one), and sleeps on my sofa at night after having been given strict instructions not to.

His favourite things to eat are horse manure, cow manure, and anything else he finds lying around. He doesn't feel properly dressed without a stick or ball in his mouth, and he still pees in the more bitch-like squatting position.

He's commited no serious misdemeanors up till now. He's had to be disciplined on occasions, but that's normal; I'd worry about him if he hadn't. So, I think we'll be keeping him; even if he does sleep like a Friday night drunk!

p.s. Ms Tadpole at the rescue center omitted to tell us that Labradors FART. So be warned; if you're thinking of getting a Lab' pup, place its basket by an open window.

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Sunday 12 June 2011

Head-masterly Wisdom.

Not only does my old school now take girls, but the 'headmaster' is also a woman. Here she is; the smiling Sue Freestone. Oh that things were thus in my days.

When I left school, the headmaster (a pig of a man) called me, and several others, up to his study for a talk. He had no doubt summoned up all his worldly experience, and whittled it down to two bits of advice that he was convinced would see us through life.

His recommendations were these. Don't visit prostitutes, and don't drink spirits. I won't go into his reasoning for the former, but his logic behind the latter was clear. Whiskey is medicine, and if consumed by the young its great healing power would no longer work its magic when required later on in life.

Well I'm pleased to say that I've unwittingly followed both bits of his wisdom. Although I would happily not have done so, just to be contrary.

My headmaster retired at the same time that I left, and had bought himself a new home on the Dorset coast. His wife and two children went ahead, and he followed by train a few days later; he died on that train on the first day of his retirement. He didn't even reach Dorset.

Saturday 11 June 2011

The Wisdom of Eddie.....

Nothing really changes. This could have been written yesterday, or even tomorrow. I want my own 'Coupe de Ville'; make my dad pay the beel (bill)...... In my case it was a white VW Beetle, but same idea.

Poor Eddie Cochran died in a hospital in the UK's town of Bath, aged 21. He was halfway through his 1960 British tour (with Gene Vincent and others) when his taxi blew a tyre and crashed. Eddie was the only one killed..... RIP  (Rock in Peace).

Friday 10 June 2011

Food For Free.

We've now had some rain; in fact, quite a lot (it's raining again this morning). Enough for us, yesterday, to have our first lunchtime Girolle omelet of the season. We should be finding these now for quite a while to come, and if we're lucky a few cepes as well in about a week's time.

At Haddock's everything has burst into life, and there are all sorts of veg's that are now edible. If we were more sensible we would begin to live almost entirely from what we grow; we have potatoes, beans, onions, artichokes, courgettes, salads, and spinach. We also have rhubarb, cherries, red currants, and blackcurrants. But being an avid meat eater, and addicted to certain local pork, and duck, specialities, our weekly shopping trips shall continue.

So, we're well into the season where our pockets are always stuffed with plastic bags. And with any luck the fridge' will be a regular home to a good bowlful of delicious mushrooms for several weeks to come.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Tower Interior.

I know you're bored stiff with my wretched 'tower', but I'm ignoring your pleas and I'm going to show you even more, regardless! Now that I've finished the plastering (hooray), we can begin to see it all come together. I still have the floor tiles to lay, and the ceiling to paint, but otherwise it's done.

Both the window and the 'arrow slit' give onto the terrace in front of the cottage; within easy shouting distance of 'more Pimms please'.

And this is the view to which any occupants will wake. I'm a country boy at heart, so, for me, nothing could be more perfect. This is also the sliding door that caused the demise of our Cuckoo recently!

Almost time to start ordering the furniture. We're going for classic rustic French, in classic rustic 'taupe'; plus, of course, plenty of antiques.
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Wednesday 8 June 2011

Cherry Tomato Lunacy.

At Haddock's, last autumn,  I made a DREADFUL MISTAKE.

Last year I planted three different varieties of Cherry Tomato (one of each). One was small red and round, one was yellow and pear shaped, and the other was red and oval. All three grew to become HUGE bushes, and bore so much fruit that eventually I just grubbed them up, and put them on the compost (after already having consumed huge amounts). My conserves I then produced mostly from the Italian (Roma), Portuguese, and French (Marmande) varieties, of which I also had mountains.

I should, of course, have put these wretched plants on the bonfire; as NOW, having spread said compost throughout the whole of Haddock's, I have MILLIONS of tiny tomato plants, all desperate to create some new-style LAWN over the entire plot. The hoeing has become a nightmare.

All gardeners learn by experience, and this has certainly has been one for me. As I so often say; 'I should have known better'. This year I've simply selected three self-sown plants (which I'm hoping will be differing varieties), and when done with, they won't be allowed within 50 metres of my compost. No siree; they'll be transported as far away as possible, and all the dropped fruit that has to be raked up will be buried in a very deep hole (several miles away).

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Then There Were Two!

Our surprise visitors have now returned to north London leaving Lady M and myself by ourselves once again. Everything is eerily quiet, but they'll be back in August. We don't have long to wait!

Above, is my grandson Ollie (with our house bear Monty), who, along with his brother Harvey J, is one of the nicest children in the entire world (well, I would say that, wouldn't I).

And here's Harvey J himself, bringing home the first crop of courgettes from Haddock's. They've had plenty of adventures, made friends with some local girlies, and met the other Monty (our new dog) for the first time. A week filled with sunshine frolics and fun.

Hurry back boys. Grumpy misses you already (and their parents, of course)!

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Monday 6 June 2011

Cherry Ripe.

What a year it's been for cherries! I don't think I've ever known another like it; almost every cherry tree in the neighbourhood has been over-loaded, and generous invitations to 'take as many as you like' have been non-stop.

I posted a picture of my first bowl of cherries on May 9th, and we've hardly been without a bowl-full on the kitchen table since that day.  By the time they finish we will have had a whole month of cherries.

Above is the tree that I planted to welcome my grandson George into the world. It's still a young tree, but it's groaning with fruit which are just ripening. I chose a yellow cherry because there are plenty of red varieties all around us, and I'm also told that birds tend not to eat them, thinking that they're not yet ripe! Now that we have some extra land I shall be putting in a few more classic deep red varieties as well.
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Sunday 5 June 2011

Menace from the Sky?

We had some wonderful dark skies a few days ago; usually a good sign (if you're hoping for rain).

We've all been dying for a downpour; but it didn't happen. Just a few claps of thunder, and half an hour's pathetic drizzle; accompanied by a few French hooligan trainee fighter pilots, who tried to dislodge our chimney-pots.

What we need is steady rain for several days (preferably nights). This mamby-pamby 'dampness' does no-one any good.

STOP PRESS: Just had a real half-hour DELUGE. Bring it on!  
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Saturday 4 June 2011

Boot Sale Treasures (?)

If I go to a boot sale, I don't really feel satisfied unless I buy something.

I don't know why, but for some reason we've always wanted a fish kettle. Now we have one; I wonder how often it'll be used!

Otherwise I've just bought a pair of (probably) Italian hand painted salad bowls. Good simple peasant fare; just my style. They ARE being used.
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Friday 3 June 2011

Summer shoes.

I have a reliable barometer, and I also use a pin-pointed local on-line forecast; but the best method of  predicting the day's weather (other than looking upwards) is by checking-out Lady M's shoes.

She has a whole box full of espadrilles. Every colour, every form, and every innovation can be found there. These are her latest ones, which are also my current favourites. Simple navy and white stripes (I chose them).

They don't last; they're not intended to. They're the nearest thing to not wearing shoes, and still keep doggy-nasties from under your feet. Summer wouldn't be summer without espadrilles; they breathe warmth.

When Lady M wears hers; it means hot, scorched earth, hang-tongue arid, sun creamy, cold beery, pool-side, silly hat, tanning, sunshine.... When all we actually need is gum-booting rain! 

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