Above is Bunny Wailer, sitting on the terrace of my Brighton house.
Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley were raised together; they were step-brothers. Bunny was an original member of The Wailers, and is one of the last few remaining 'fathers of ska/reggae'.
Recently my oldest son phoned to say that Bob Marley's son was staying at his North London hotel. And, as he was just off to welcome Marley Jnr to the hotel, he asked me to remind him about Bunny.
My good friend John Masouri (who lives in my Brighton house) is a world expert on reggae music and his recent book 'The story of Bob Marley's Wailers' is a definitive work on the subject. John knows EVERYONE in the world of Reggae.
So, oldest son mentioned me, mentioned John, and mentioned Bunny, and an instant bond was cemented.
Strange how circles become completed. I hope he gets a free ticket to see the show.
Imagine the scene. Lady Magnon is returning from a very long walk with the two dogs. Both are on leads, and both are (unusually) behaving couthly.
Suddenly they both bolt; yanking their leads out of Lady M's tiny and delicate hands (ahem). They head for the woods and send a Roe deer running back across the road and down into the valley beyond. The two dogs look bemused and sniff at the ground as they meander to and fro in front of a slightly miffed Lady M.
On arriving home she noticed that her watch was missing and at once recalled the deer incident; it must have been then that it had fallen off.
This time she takes the car, eventually finding the watch in the middle of the road. It had been run over by at least two tractors and several cars.
It was in two pieces, screwed-up, but amazingly still ticking, Even more amazingly Cro was able to flatten the twisted metal strap and re-attach it to the watch. OK, there's a scratch or two, but it's working; and that's what matters. Above is the result.... you'd never have known!
I've always had a sneaky admiration for Jainism; especially their attitude towards all living creatures.
This may sound odd for a devoted atheist, carnivore, wasp/slug killer, but it's their attitude towards even the tiniest of insects that appeals to me.
On almost a daily basis I rescue insects from the pool. Usually I fish them out with my bare hand, hoping that they will recognise my kindness and not sting me. As of today they have all shown gratitude and NOT stung me, but I quite expect that one day one will (but not out of malice).
However, my application to enrol as a Jain would, no doubt, be instantly rejected, as I do swat horse flies, wasps, and hornets; something I wouldn't do if they left me alone. If Jainism contained a codicil that allowed slug and black fly eradication, as well as turning a blind-eye to wasp/hornet/cabbage white butterfly killing, then I might just pass the test.
The illustration above is the symbol of the united Jain sects; it was only recently agreed upon, in 1974. The swastika is the most important Jain symbol, it represents peace and well-being; the hand and wheel represents non-violence. Two Jainism ideals that we should all adopt, although I wouldn't recommend brandishing the swastika; a few may not understand..
When we think about French cheese, we think of Camembert, Brie, or perhaps Roquefort.
But here's a not so well-known baby that is worth trying. Salers is a Cantal style cheese from the Auvergne, produced artisanally by the dairy farmers themselves (this is NEVER a factory cheese), and aged for a minimum of 9 months on the farm.
It's an unpasteurised cheese, and there are just about 100 producers. It has the strength of a really good quality mature Cheddar, but with a definite Cantal edge.
It's never cheap, but always good. If you can find it in your local deli, I recommend you try it. The one above was delicious. Lady Magnon and I have made a resolution to buy a large lump each week; a resolution I shall have no difficulty in keeping!
This magnificent 13th Century tower is on the small farm/vineyard about which I spoke yesterday.
The lovely farmer's wife (also see yesterday) seemed quite surprised when I asked her about it. I suppose if you live with something day in/day out you become blasé about such things. But she was quite happy to relate this tale, which she found quite amusing.
The tower originally stood apart; the other bits (the winery) being added much later. It was built simply for defence during the early period of The Hundred Years War; when naughty Englishmen were out to conquer all they encountered. Whether this was under French or English control, I don't know; property changed hands often in those lawless days.
The story is that the 'Seigneur' (as she called him) had heard that he was about to be attacked, so ran up his tower and barricaded himself in with his valuables, family, and food supplies. The enemy fired arrows, threw stones, and probably shouted insults, but he wouldn't surrender. Eventually they decided to burn him out, and built huge fires all around the base (the scorch marks are still there). I presume that did the job, and they probably all died of asphyxiation.
I asked her if they used the interior for anything these days. She replied 'no'.
If it was mine, I'd make a study right at the top, and would be typing this from there.... but it isn't mine, so it remains empty. Shame.
At 6 pm on most summer evenings, Lady Magnon and I sit beside the pool under a tall palm tree and partake of our first glass of wine of the day.
The dogs always join us, and usually sleep beneath our small round metal table as we discuss the events of the day. However, they are instantly alerted by the slightest sound from beyond the hedge, or elsewhere.
Yesterday was no exception, and some inaudible sound made them both suddenly leap up from their sleep; barking and tearing about looking for invisible intruders, and upturning the table at the same time.
Unfortunately my antique 'every day' glass was on the table as they stood up, and is now deceased.
So, goodbye old friend. You've served me well. It isn't your fault that we've introduced two hooligans into the household, and I promise, in future, to be more vigilant.
It's an increasingly popular question; should hugely obese people pay for two seats when they buy their flight tickets (or any other travel tickets)?
I believe that certain airlines are already asking VERY big passengers to buy a second seat (refusal means they don't fly), and other companies are charging a 'Fat Tax'.
The silliest thing is that someone weighing-in at 8 stone is only allowed the same baggage weight as someone weighing 30 stone. It makes nonsense of the whole caboodle.
I don't do much flying these days; dogs and chickens have seen to that, but Lady Magnon flies quite often and the question of baggage weight limits drives her crazy. Does the picture above touch a nerve?
If I owned just one square foot of soil; this is what I'd grow on it. Wonderful Superfood Swiss Chard.
Personally I don't eat the stems, I find them uninteresting and too earthy tasting. They are confined to the compost, and returned to the soil the following Spring.
Ideally the leaves should be boiled in just the tiny amount of water that clings after washing. Once drained, I add a decent lump of butter and turn it around in the pan until everything's coated.
Chard is the one vegetable that shouts out loud how good it is for you. You can almost feel its healing, warming, properties as you eat it. Those huge dark green silky leaves are a boosting panacea for all ailments, and they really perk you up when you're feeling low. Vitamins A, K, and C are in abundance, as well as Iron. It must be amongst nature's most effective medicines, and really should be available on prescription.
Chard is also very simple to grow, and their beautifully glossy leaves would even compliment the most fastidious flower bed.
Oh, and any imperfect leaves can be given to the chickens; they love it, and it can only be beneficial to them too.
Mid-July is always a danger point in the annual life of Haddock's. It's the time of year when Summer guests start to arrive, and normal everyday weeding duties tend to be forgotten, or put off till mañana. If I'm not vigilant it can become swamped by weeds.
However, everything is flourishing. Piles of Courgettes are restricting movement in the kitchen, and the Tomatoes are almost ready. We are eating Swiss Chard, Kale, Beans, and Red Onions; and we've not had to buy any salads since March (I grow the red oak leaf ones).
Why am I so surprised when something grows so well! Just look at this Red Cabbage, ain't she a beauty. And I have 5 more, all equally beautiful.
There are a few Black Fly on a couple of the bean plants which I treat with either diluted washing-up liquid or nettle juice, but very few other bugs. Even the Cabbage White butterflies don't seem to have been laying their usual amount of eggs.
Any day we're going to have one huge Tomato glut. I have about a dozen plants, all of which are fully loaded. My 2012 preserving campaign will soon need to be en route.
You are unexpectedly selected to become Minister of Education, and your first task is to re-organise the entire country's school curriculum. What do you scrap, and what do you promote? Here's a few of my own thoughts.
OUT: Learning the dates of wars, sovereigns, or revolutions.
All foreign languages other than Latin and French.
IN: Chicken (anatomy, husbandry, and cuisine).
How to find a good Tailor.
I could go on but they'd have lessons until midnight, as well as all weekend.
Lady Magnon (red trousers, black espadrilles) took the two dogs for a walk two nights ago. As usual they ran off into the woods in search of real or imaginary foe. Lady M then heard a terrific squeal, and the boys returned, hot paw, looking rather sheepish. Only when she was brushing Bok some time later, did she notice a perfectly round (non-bleeding) hole in his side, the size of a 50p coin (3cm diameter).
So, yesterday morning it was off to the Vet's, and a few stitches later, this is how he returned.
White patch; stitches. Purple patch; anaesthetic. White lampshade; ear trumpet.
Poor old Bok. Never a dull moment; I think he does it on purpose just for the attention!
The mystery is; what caused it? Wild boar, Roe deer, Badger? Unfortunately we'll never know.
When I was just a wee sprog, my people had a small Hazel Nut grove at the very bottom of the garden. There were Filberts, Spanish Cobs, and Kent Cobs; about 6 large bushes in all.
Each Autumn we would descend with old bed sheets, and spread them beneath the bushes. Then we'd all shake the trees until the crop fell into the sheets; the nuts were later preserved by covering them with sand. Then through the winter's evenings, Father would sit by the fire, cracking nuts with an ancient metal nut-cracker, and dipping them into salt. I still have his old nut-cracker. and use it myself for the exact same purpose.
We are destined to have a very poor Walnut harvest this year, so I was pleased to see that certain of our wild Hazel Nut trees seem to be excelling themselves. The one I photographed (above) is just below Haddock's, and has a wonderful crop of extra large nuts. It'll be interesting to see if the Squirrels allow us to keep any; they become very possessive in Autumn.
p.s. This is slowly becoming a 'food blog'. And looking at the vegetable bounty that's about to erupt at Haddock's, it'll be even more so very soon!
Considering that we live miles from civilisation, it's surprising that the local authorities keep our road-sides so beautifully trimmed. It's common from Spring through to Autumn to encounter large tractors cutting back all the vegetation from beside small country lanes, leaving everywhere extremely neat and tidy.
Unfortunately their obsessive neatness also spills over onto woodland tracks and other non-essential pathways; often cutting-back flowers and plants that we would prefer were left alone.
A case in point are Brambles; the mother plant of the wonderful Blackberry. The weather this year has been perfect for a good crop, and they are just now beginning to swell, but what's the betting that the tractor driving road-side trimmers turn up just as the fruits ripen?
Autumn wouldn't be the same (for me) without Blackberry and Apple crumble, and I have no doubt that we'll manage to gather plenty of berries. I always freeze the very best of them in cheap disposable plastic cups. Just the right amount to accompany a couple of Bramleys under a blanket of buttery crumble..
It's been raining and, as the soil has been previously warmed, we've a good chance of having some mushrooms.
One of our favourites at this time of year is the Parasol, a meaty mushroom that's best gathered and eaten whilst the cap is still not totally open (don't bother with the stem).
The Parasol is one of the most easily identifiable of all mushrooms. It stands up to 30 cms high, with its cap up to 25 cms wide. It has white gills, a prominent ring just below the cap, and a bulbous foot; unmistakeable.
When I was small, living in the Surrey countryside, all haystacks looked much like the above. They were usually constructed in the field where the hay had been cut, and were properly thatched on top; often with beautifully fashioned hay birds or animals at each end of the roof, which acted as finials.
There were annual competitions for the best made and most beautiful haystack, and farmers took real pride in their construction.
Nowadays things are a little different. With all the ease that comes with big efficient machinery, this is the result. Call me old fashioned, but I don't need to tell you which I prefer!
It's never wise to hanker after the past, but I really do miss the craftsmanship and everyday aesthetics of previous times. The Industrial Revolution gave us so much, but it's also taken so much away.
Les Dawson: It was a sweltering day, and I was parched. I went to the nearest house and knocked on the door. The woman who answered was as ugly as a sack of chisels; I asked her 'do you think the woman next door could spare me a glass of water?'
I've known Robbie all his life, but he died last night. In his heyday he was an impressive, almost 'vicious looking' dog, but in fact he's always been an old softy.
We named him Robbie 'Baskerville' on account of his size and look, and over the years he'd become a really good friend. Most days he would pop by the house for a biscuit, have a pee (or worse), then continue his round of the other nearby houses.
Robbie belonged to my friend José, and accompanied him everywhere; usually in the back of his truck. I know he'll miss him terribly.
Dogs come and go. They all have their own particular characteristics, likes, dislikes, and ways of doing things. Robbie was a calm, take-life-easy, faithful old chap, and I'm very sorry to see him go.
So off to the big kennel in the sky with you Robbie..... I'll catch up with you later.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away; we also have a Border Collie called Billy. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!