Tuesday 31 January 2012

In The Wars Again.

Poor old Monty, he ambles from one disaster to another.
This time we think he must have consumed some poison. One minute he was fine, the next he was lying on the floor shaking and wobbly. We rushed him down to the vet', where they put him on a drip, and kept him under surveillance over night. Lady M was convinced he was going to die.

When we picked him up the following morning he was fine.

The problem with Labradors is that they're never happy unless they have something in their mouths; a stick, a steak, or a canister of arse-nick. They don't differentiate.

What next, I wonder? Well there is this....

Monty's brother (by adoption) 'Bok', above, goes to the Vet's this morning to have his dangly bits snipped.... Poor old Bok. Why is it that women insist on this? (no answer required, or necessary)

Bok is prone to jumping up on people (I'm trying to stop him). Recently, on a walk, he put his paws up on my chest, and managed to pull my reading glasses off their string; I only discovered they were missing when we arrived home. Yesterday I thought of letting him sniff my current pair to see if he could find the old ones, but whilst rushing about he suddenly stopped to sniff at the ground.... and there they were. Lost then found; all due to Bok.

Monday 30 January 2012

Aurora Cro-ealis?

Last night, when putting my three hens to bed, I noticed this wonderful sky (you might see it better if enlarged).

I only have a cheap camera, so I couldn't capture the full panorama, but there were different coloured stripes of cloud, all splaying out from one central point on the horizon.

The above only gives a hint of the beauty, but it was much more spectacular. The photo was taken looking South West.

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Sunday 29 January 2012

Pater Noster.


Our Farnham who art in Hendon,
Harrow be thy name.
Thy Kingston come, Thy Wimbledon,
On Erith as it is in Heston.
Give us this day our Leatherhead
And forgive us our Bypasses
As we forgive those who bypass against us.
Lead us not into Thames Ditton
But deliver us from Ewell.
For Thine is the Kingston, the Pinner, and the Crawley
For Esher and Esher.
Crouch End.

This is known as the Busman's Prayer, of which several different versions exist.

I'm afraid it won't mean much to those across the pond, but for Londoners, and those from the Home Counties, I trust it will provide a small chuckle.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Amo, Amas, Amat.

In order to be offered a place at my chosen upper school, the 13 year old, knobbly kneed, short trousered, Cro was obliged to sit, and pass, the dreaded Common Entrance Exam. All the usual subjects were there, as well as ancient Greek, and LATIN.

The Latin teacher at my Sussex Prep' school was excellent; he made the subject both interesting and amusing, and I became rather adept.

Eventually I sat my Common Entrance. The papers were sent off to the school of my choice in Cambridgeshire, and we awaited results. When they came back I was shocked; as was my teacher, my friends, and everyone else South of Watford. I had managed to achieve a pass mark of 90% in my Latin paper; my other papers were not of the same standard, but good enough (thank goodness) to be offered a place at the school of my choice.

On the first day of  Michaelmas term 1960 (the very first day at my new school), I was summoned to the headmaster's study and informed that as my Latin pass mark had been the highest of the 1960 intake, I was to become the year's Classics Scholar, with an annual bursary of 13 guineas. The only stipulation was that the money should be spent on books, and a short account of what and why should be submitted each year.

The headmaster also became my new classics master. He was a pig of a man, and made Latin so dull and tedious that at the end of my first year I took a letter to his study informing him that I no longer wished to continue my studies. He was furious; a Latin Scholar had never been known to do such a thing. My bursary, however, continued for the duration, and I spent the money on Art books..... The school's Art Department, by this time, had become my second home.

My relationship with the headmaster continued to decline, reaching the depths when I happened to mention that I'd met his brother; a rather pleasant rakish bit-part actor (obviously the black sheep). I'd seen him in some small town theatre production, and met him backstage afterwards. He'd described his brother to me as a pompous red-faced buffoon; which was exactly what he was.

My current knowledge of Latin is pretty poor, but I do still keep a large Latin dictionary by my side, as well as a large etymological dictionary.... so somewhere, at the back of my mind, the interest is still alive.

Amamus, Amatis, Amant...

Friday 27 January 2012

Oh My God!

Lady Magnon has just returned from a couple of weeks in Blighty, bringing back a few items of unwanted post for me; which included the above.

Just imagine how thrilled I was to learn that my BANK ACCOUNT and BRANCH has been SOLD to Spanish wonder-bank SANTANDER.

My bank has seen many changes over the years. I set up my first account with them in 1964 when they were known as 'Williams Deacons', a small private non-clearing bank in the City of London. This later became 'Williams and Glyns', and eventually turned into RBS... I stayed with them simply because I was too lazy to change.

So, am I worried? Well a quick glance at Standard and Poor's international credit ratings tells me that Spain has a credit rating of A with an outlook of 'negative', whereas the UK has a credit rating of AAA with an outlook of 'stable'.

One might have expected things to have been the other way round, and RBS bought Santander!..... I wonder if the National Bank of Greece also put in an offer!

Q. Why do you think the man in the top picture looks so bloody SMUG? No prize for the plainly obvious answer!

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Thursday 26 January 2012

It'll be All White on the Night.

I suppose, as collectors, we all have our little obsessions (Tom candlesticks, John hens). Mine concerns what we eat off, from, or with.

I collect old (not necessarily antique) French tin-glazed white peasant tableware. At local car-boot-sales or antique shops, I have to be tied down at the sight of an old soup tureen or a large white oval platter. I'd hate to think how many I already have, but there's always room for more.

These sauce boats, with the fixed saucer, are also a particular favourite, as well as their smaller cousins the mustard pots.

Plain white jugs are another must. They remind me of dairies, cheese making, clotted cream; and, of course, ruddy faced farmer's daughters in white lacy aprons.

Strangely in this last photo (of the two jugs) the sides look to be straight; in fact they both splay out quite considerably to the bottom. Proving, I suppose, that the camera DOES occasionally lie.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Yo, Satellite Pro.

In about 1996, my oldest son, Kimbo, was working in America on Hilton Head Island. He was away for 6 months, as part of his degree course.

One of his ambitions whilst in the US was to buy himself a new computer; such things came much cheaper over there, than back in Blighty.

The machine of his dreams was this Toshiba Satellite Pro 435 CDS. It was regarded as State-of the-Art, all singing all dancing, must-have, essential kit for the man about Uni.

He used it for a few years, then just as with his old clothes, shoes, and music tapes, he passed it on to his belovéd Papa.

I continued to use it for several years until its slowness really began to annoy me, and I reluctantly upgraded to an IBM ThinkPad.

It's difficult to imagine now (just 16 years later) how cumbersome these machines were. It weighs about 2 kilos, and is about 3 inches thick. Booting-up in the morning (with dial-up) took as long as it took me to shower, eat breakfast, and take a long walk. But as my son assured me at the time, it was definitely Sate-of-the-Art, so I was happy.

It now sits in a box with several other relics; yesterday was the first time I'd seen it in years.
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Tuesday 24 January 2012

Bloody Awful Mess.

I really must sort out this mess. There's absolutely no room to swing a cat, let alone accommodate the jolly tar who was destined to receive its sting. 

Animal feed, chainsaw, paraffin for the stove, and binoculars for spying on neighbours.

Rotten Quinces, sailing boats, and tins of confit.

Tools, more tools, and my shooting stick.

This is where I attempt to work, but it's more like a one-man boot sale.

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Monday 23 January 2012

A Surfeit of Eggs.

Even with just 3 hens, I'm still getting 3, if not 4 (honestly), eggs a day. And with Lady M away in London, my stock has grown beyond eggspectation. There was only one thing to do; PICKLE them.

Like most pickles, it's simplicity itseld. Boil and peel the eggs, then pour over them, a hot spiced vinegar.

Ideally one should leave them for a few weeks before eating; Voila!

I wonder if other hen keepers are eggsperiencing the same as me? My 3 seem to be laying extra LARGE eggs at the moment too, maybe it's their age, or maybe I'm feeding them too well. Any ideas?

Mrs Lirriper.

May I recommend BBC Radio 4 Extra's current airing of Charles Dickens's little-known 'Mrs Lirriper'.

The wonderful Julia McKenzie plays the part of Mrs P, and the whole production is faultless (other than some kid who plays the 'grandson' in Part 1).

One wonders how many people listen to radio plays these days, but in this case I have no hesitation in recommending that you do so; if only to marvel at Ms McKenzie's acting ability.

It should still be available on iPlayer for a few days.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Pocket Warhol.

I spent about 6 years at various Art Colleges, received a 1st class Hons degree, was encouraged by Carel Weight to attend The Royal College of Art (which I declined), and have about 40 years painting experience. None of which, of course, means I'm any more than an average bog-standard painter.

Above is a painting by Canada's very own 'Pocket Warhol'; a white capped Capucin monkey. These 'pictures' sell for about £250 each, and he can't produce enough for an ever-eager market.

Sometimes I wonder if my life wouldn't have been so much easier had I been born a Monkey. Maybe, even now, I should buy a Monkey suit. Life eh!
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Saturday 21 January 2012

Log Sawing.

I'm not quite sure why, but this winter I've been sawing all my logs BY HAND.

The noisy Husqvarna has remained unused under a bench in the studio, and I've bought a new blade for my bow saw.

We don't use a huge amount of wood; I usually light the stove mid-afternoon, and, until we retire, we probably burn about 8-10 50cm logs.

I also like to saw the wood each day, rather than build up a stock. This means that my daily exercise (as if I needed any more) is assured. Maybe when, or if, it gets colder, the Husqvarna will once again see the light of day, but for the moment I'm quite happy with my noiseless simple saw.

Maybe we're ALL too ready to grasp for some petrol driven machine, rather than do things by hand.
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Friday 20 January 2012

Legalised Crime.

This unassuming small house in Walthamstow, East London, belongs to a Mrs Janice Mason. She'd been left the house by her late parents and had decided to sell.

She found a buyer (for £248.500), but just before signing deed papers, a bunch of 8 Moldavian squatters broke down the back door, and took up residence.

Mrs Mason did the right thing and called the police, only to be told that it was a 'civil matter', and they could do nothing. So, I have a couple of questions.

If these same Moldavians (or anyone else) were to break into either Buckingham Palace, an MP's house, or 10 Downing Street, would the police still do nothing?

If I was a burglar and was caught red-handed, having broken into someone's house, and I said I was simply a squatter, would the police tug at their forelocks and apologise for having disturbed me?

I really have nothing against certain people squatting in abandoned houses, as long as they do no damage and quit when asked, but this crazy lawless phenomenon of turning-up in the UK, breaking into someone's house, then claiming huge amounts of benefit money (there were 8 of them, and one heavily pregnant), has to stop.

The government promised action to make this illegal; but why are they still hanging about and doing nothing?

May I suggest that Mrs Mason smashes all her windows, has all her services cut off, and maybe sends in a few extra Hells Angel squatters to join the Moldavians. That should sort out the problem, even if the cops won't! (If she does things according to UK law, it will cost her a fortune in lawyer's fees etc)

p.s. The above info came from an on-line British newspaper, that accepts 'comments' below each article. I don't think I've ever seen such huge amounts of vitriolic condemnation on any other subject. It really is time that the UK stops being seen as an easy touch, and puts her foot down in no uncertain terms.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Cerebrum Vulgaris.

No, not one of my belovéd walnuts, but a human brain.

This is what separates us from all other animals; a brain that allows us to invent, create, and destroy. In one person's body it can be the power of good, in another's the power of evil. It can command the hand to paint like Rubens or Rembrandt, or it can command the wholesale slaughter of our fellow man.

For some it will make all waking hours a pleasure, for others a nightmare. Some will be driven to hard-work wealth and power, others will be satisfied with sloth. For some it will invent gods and devils, for others it will provide common sense and logic.

All brains are initially much the same, but when given different stimuli, different nourishment, and different arenas; these amalgamate to forge the difference between us. It is thus that we become who, and what, we are.

Each morning when I face the world anew, I have inestimable choice. I can complete my tasks without complaining, or I can do the minimum and moan. I can be honest in my actions, or I can be a cheat, a liar, or a thief. I can think and say pleasant things about, and to, others, or I can be negative, critical, and foul-mouthed.

The human brain weighs an average of 1.5 kilos (20% less for women), and is, until now, the world's greatest computer. One day there will certainly be 'Brain Downloads'; for the price of a beer we will be able to speak Japanese like a native, recite all the works of Shakespeare verbatim, or maybe even sing pitch-perfect.

It should also be noted that a mere Wren, or Blue Tit, has a brain the size of half a pea, but can build a nest that resembles exactly the one in which she was born. Try asking most humans to do that (unless, of course, they've had the 'Housebuilder' download)!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

A Winter's Afternoon Walk.

We headed due South, up where the Wild Boar had been digging the previous night. They make a terrible mess, turning up large areas of pasture on their search for roots and worms.

Past the small patch of delightful wild Parasol Pines.

Past someone's woodpile, and down the steep stony track that's mostly used by weekend hunters.

Then into the woods where, miles from the nearest house, this old marmite hangs from a stunted tree; no doubt waiting for some present day witch to come brewing her spider and dandelion soup.

Then, after chasing some poor Roe Deer, off home again; hopefully with two tired dogs. The boys love being in the woods; they enjoy everywhere, but deep in the woods is their favourite. Mine too.

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Tuesday 17 January 2012

Walnut Trees.

When driving down through France, the sudden regular appearance of walnut trees seems to separate the North from the South.

Imagine a line drawn between Bordeaux in the West, and Grenoble in the East, and there you have your division. Above the line; dragons. Below the line; walnuts.

At this time of year, with the branches bare, one can clearly see the yellow lichens so typical of our trees. One can also see what birds made it their home the previous Spring.

Of course the dogs are always on the look-out for ungathered nuts, and the sound of their crunching accompanies most of our walks. I still make a point of eating about 8 nuts each day myself; but mine are consumed indoors.

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Monday 16 January 2012

WARNING: Truly Shocking Attack Video.

These four vicious Somalian girls recently walked free from a British court after Judge Robert Brown declared that, as Muslims, they were not used to drinking alcohol, and therefore were not really responsible for what they were doing.

Personally I couldn't care less whether they were Muslims, Catholics or Atheists, this was an extremely serious unprovoked racist assault, accompanied by a tirade of anti white hate-comments. They each should have received the MAXIMUM prison sentences possible (and then be deported).

Sadly, this is not an isolated case in England, where criminals can expect the most lenient courts, and pathetic sentences, in the world.

These four above welcomed their freedom by celebrating on 'facebook'. Their poor victim, 22 year old, care worker, Rhea Page, will probably never fully recover.

What the hell has happened to poor old Blighty? I absolutely despair of this new-style, loony-left, human-rights obsessed, 'Tony and Cheery' nation.

And, why is no-one doing anything about it?

Sunday 15 January 2012

Tattoos-4-U... Not-4-Me.

I'm not a fan of tattoos. Maybe I would allow David Hockney to draw something interesting on my upper arm, but otherwise; no thanks.

Tattoo 'parlours' now seem to be on every back-street corner; they're as common as Oxfam, but what 'artistic' training do these people have?

Are they people who, whilst at school, were simply regarded as 'good at drawing', and not much else? It seems that anyone can open a tattoo parlour, providing that all the cleanliness criteria are observed. But the sterile needle isn't the purpose of one's visit; it's the indelible inking that's the objective, and if it's drawn by a talentless numbskull what can one do about it?

The fashion for tattoos is fading, just as the fashion for lazer removal becomes more popular. If I was putting my money into the tattoo business it would certainly be for their removal. Much more profitable, and, in most cases, much more aesthetic!

Saturday 14 January 2012

My Day.

I have a lot on my hands at the moment, so my day is divided between taking these two above on long walks, cooking, feeding, washing up, cleaning (hmmm), looking after 'La Fermette', wood chopping, fire lighting, more cooking, more feeding, more washing up, sleeping (just for a couple of hours), then starting all over again.

I suppose I have to admit to enjoying most of it, and if I get a spare minute I infill with something 'creative'; the only bit I'm really NOT enjoying is floor cleaning.

Monty has been moulting mightily for the last couple of months (I'm amazed he's not yet bald), and the mess it causes is extraordinary. I can sweep and vacuum the whole ground floor one minute, and the next it's as if I've done absolutely nothing. Perhaps I shouldn't bother, and regard it as 'extra carpeting'.

Hair spray maybe?
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Friday 13 January 2012

My Favourite Place.

I don't go in for imposed A to Z blogging, or having to be given prompts for my subject matter. I have enough to write about in my meaningless little life, to keep you bored for a while yet.

However, I did like the idea of a blog I viewed recently that simply suggested posting a picture of 'My favourite place', so I thought I'd simply go and snap it; warts and all. Sadly no dogs were in situ.

A fireplace is always at the heart of a home, and chez Cro is no exception. Our fireplace is in fact the old kitchen; in earlier times all cooking was done over a small open fire. No cast iron range, no vaulted stone oven, no mechanised spit. Just one or two simple utensils, a trivet, and a few flaming twigs.

Occasionally (especially when I'm by myself) I turn off the lights, light the few fireside candles, call the dogs to heel, and, with a glass of wine in my hand, enjoy the stunning calm of it all.

I've posted pictures of my fireplace before, but at this time of year it becomes a magnet.... It literally keeps us alive. This is how it was yesterday afternoon at 4.15 pm.
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Thursday 12 January 2012

The Thursday Doppelgänger.

Ed Miliband; leader of the UK's Labour party

Wallace; movie star, inventor, inter-galactic traveller, and dog lover.

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Wednesday 11 January 2012

World's Simplest Pickles.

New year is when I always prepare my pickled red cabbage and cauliflower (they're both very cheap at the moment). They will join my stock of pickled walnuts, eggs, piccalilli, and cornichons.

Salt the shredded red cabbage between layers, and put the cauliflower florets into brine, over-night. The next day, wash and dry, and pack into clean jars. Pour over cold spiced vinegar, and a few spoons of sugar (if liked), and eat after about 7 days.

Now all you need is some really good Mature Cheddar, a Melton Mowbray pie, or some slices of Cold Goose (or why not all three?); it's as simple as that.

Wouldn't that make a wonderful winter dinner party. Cheese, pork pie, and cold meats, accompanied by various pickles and maybe a little salad. Of course, you'd need an oak panelled room, a slightly smoking fire, a faithful retainer, and several sleeping dogs under the table to finish the picture. I can manage one of the four!
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Tuesday 10 January 2012

That Painful Hand.

A week ago I bored you with the tale of my painful right, then left, hands.
At one point I seriously thought that my life was going to inextricably change for the worse. I could hardly open and close my fingers, all strength had gone, and I was in permanent PAIN. I imagined it would be (and still may be) with me for ever.

But things have now improved. I DID take Ibuprofen for the pain; which helped considerably (thank you), and also kept it as still as possible, which was not easy with all my wood chopping and dog walking duties.

I can still just feel that something had gone seriously wrong, so am being cautious; but in general I think that whatever it was has, for the moment, passed (I'm touching wood). I'm baffled!

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