Friday 31 August 2012


We have several Fig trees in the garden, the foliage is dramatic and unflappable. This one above is the only one that I have 'played' with.

Several years ago I pollarded it; then left it to re-grow, taking out whatever branches I deemed unnecessary. It has now become a proper tree-shaped tree, with a good solid trunk and round canopy. It is also covered in slowly ripening Figs.

We have very little other fruit this year, so I shall bottle some for winter. I did this a few years ago, and they were really delicious (I'll post the process) . They should be ready in about a week. I can't wait! 

Interesting Fig recipes always welcome.

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Thursday 30 August 2012


It was only a year and a half ago when we planted the Wisteria against the wall of our 'tower'. Since then I've re-routed some Vines, put in a couple of Clematis and a Hydrangea, and behind the open gate there's a Fig.

Already the foliage is doing what's asked of it, and the small building is beginning to look as if it's been there for ages.

We are still sleeping in there, and other than it having been swelteringly hot recently (no electricity for a fan), it's been wonderful. We've been waiting for the traditional August storms to make our Summer's enjoyment complete, but they've all proved to be half-hearted affairs.

Whatever happened to those seriously frightening storms of mid-August; they seem to have disappeared!

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Wednesday 29 August 2012

Why Oz.

Everyone knows that Australia is filled with venomous snakes, man eating spiders, and millions of unruly drunken Cricket supporters.

You can't move for flies, you're obliged to wear full body armour against sunstroke, and if you dare venture anywhere near the sea you'll be torn to shreds by Great Whites. 

So why is it so popular; especially with Brits. Well, I suppose it's the open spaces, the huge expanses of empty beaches, and an immigration policy that filters out criminals, loonies, and dim-wit couch potatoes.

It's not easy to become an Aussie, there's a strict points system for entry; not enough points, no chance, enough points, you're in. Even then the authorities might tell you where you have to live until you are considered a pukka Aussie.

My daughter, Tenpin, moved to Oz about 8 years ago, and her two boys were born there. My youngest son has recently been granted permission to reside, and arrived in Melbourne yesterday.

I would recommend it to everyone; if you have the right character and qualifications, it offers a lifestyle that is up with the world's best.

Photo of Tenpin and Finn on Great Keppel Island Qld (above), by kind permission of Lady Magnon.

Tuesday 28 August 2012


I'm a shorts wearer.

Every year I wear shorts from Spring to Autumn; usually this means from May till October.

I am at an age where I no longer worry about showing my knobbly knees and pale over-wintered skin. If the sight of my naked  limbs upsets, then look elsewhere.

When I was younger and more sensitive, shorts were confined to Summer holidays in far away places, where I was unknown and unlikely to be embarrassed. But now I throw caution to the winds, and bare all.

My long trousers have all been stored away in a drawer marked 'cold weather clothes', and shall remain there for at least another month regardless of weather. 

I have shopping shorts, everyday shorts, ratting shorts (above), special occasion shorts, and even swimming shorts. I love wearing shorts, and when Autumnal weather really sets in, I say au revoir to them with genuine sadness.

Avē Brācae Brevis.

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Monday 27 August 2012

Jus de Raisins.

1. Collect about half a bucket-full of grapes. These are 'Bacco', or 'Baco'; one of the varieties introduced into France from America, after the devastating 1850's European Phylloxera epidemic. They are simply 'root stock' grapes, but highly prolific and they decorate the front of our house.

2. Place the grapes in press, turn handle, and admire how easily the juice flows. This is much better than my old method of scrunching everything with my hands; this way it flows almost clear.

3. Pour into favourite glass, and consume amongst ooohs and aaahs of delight. The juice is still slightly sharp, but in about a week or so should be perfect.

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Sunday 26 August 2012

Humans in Cages.

I've always been a bit 'on the fence' about the death sentence; but mostly on the side of 'anti'.

There is no question, in my mind, that certain people deserve to sacrifice their own lives in exchange for their unbelievably despicable behaviour (a current case in Oklahoma City in the US is a good example), but there are many more borderline cases.

I like the look of these cages above, and can imagine them being made a little bigger to contain a sleeping surface, TV (for exercise programmes, and endless replays of The little House on the Prairie), and a secure opening for the occasional slice of dry bread and half-glass of brackish water. 

They could be hosed down once a week, be easily moved around by fork-lift truck, and the prisoner need never leave his/her cosy confines. A tarpaulin could also be provided in case of exceptionally harsh weather (if the cages were to be stacked outside).

An economic answer to a very expensive logistical problem... Just an idea!

Saturday 25 August 2012

Doppelgänger No 376..

Robert Cornelius, Pioneer photographer. 1839


Cro Magnon, Pioneer painter. 1968

(With a wink to Tess Kincaid of Willow Manor)

Nurse Blunt.

Ah, Nurse Blunt....

When I was small, there was one character in our small Surrey village who was both admired, and feared; Nurse Blunt.

Ms Blunt was the local District Nurse. She was a 'well built' lady (from the Hattie Jacques mould), and travelled around either in a Morris Minor (as above), or by bicycle.

Whenever Nurse Blunt appeared at the door, you knew you were in for a jab. There was no other reason for her to be there. She even tracked me down to my school once, to administer a Polio jab (I think).

I have great nostalgia for the village characters of my childhood, and dear Nurse Blunt counts amongst the best of them. I can still picture her on her bike; navy blue uniform, big billowing cape, and torture kit in the wicker basket. She also wore a hat rather like those worn by off-duty airline trolley girls. 

Our village just wouldn't have been the same without dear Nurse Blunt. I wonder if she is still remembered, with the same affection, by others?

Friday 24 August 2012

7 Knives.

I know what you're thinking; why does Cro have quite so many pocket knives!

Well, the answer is quite simple; I have no idea.  

They seem to accumulate, and at the moment I am even hoping to buy yet another. The mushroom season approacheth, and I do really want a mushroomer's knife, complete with small 'insect removing' brush at the non-business-end of the handle.

By the way, I do own several others, but couldn't be bothered to go find them. I have maybe another 5 or 6; at least 2 of which are at Haddock's.

For the purists, the 2 bone handled knives are Laguioles, and the others are Opinels (but purists would have known that anyway).

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Thursday 23 August 2012

It's Been So Very HOT.

After my recent posting of the fire-fighter and Koala, it's been difficult to get water off our minds.

We have been spending our days just hiding in darkened rooms, and occasionally making a mad dash for the pool (which has usually been overflowing with our neighbours' kids).

No doubt some violent storm will soon bring it all to an end, and Autumn will be along before we have time to complain. But for the moment water is our only saviour; whether we're drinking it, swimming in it, or feeding it to our desperate plants.

Above are 3 rare (childless), and refreshing, pix of the pool water.
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Wednesday 22 August 2012

Idiot Product of the Year?

Here in France it's La Rentrée; the time when all children go back to school, and parents are given huge lists of what each child will require.

Publicity arrives with the post by the bucket-full, and I've just spotted this thoroughly IRRESPONSIBLE advert' amongst the new-academic-year's essential scholastic paraphernalia.

Any parent buying this 'syringe pen' for their small child deserves to be horse-whipped.
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Tuesday 21 August 2012

Everyone Say Aaaaaaaah!

Here's a picture to warm your hearts (not as much as this little guy's, I hope).

Just look at this nice Australian fire-fighter giving water to a parched Koala after a bush fire.

Brings a lump to your throat, n'est pas? 

Photo courtesy of

Monday 20 August 2012

Splendid Orange Wall Update.

It's been a couple of months since the monkeys returned to their zoo, and the result of their labours continues to impress us. OK, maybe it is cracking-up in the middle, but where there are no cracks it's looking, 'uncracked'.

The problem with using untrained monkeys is that they don't understand the importance of 'solid foundations'. To them it's the bit above ground which is important, even if that does mean that it falls down even sooner than predicted.

And, whoever said that monkeys can't build roofs! Just look at the craftsmanship on this fine example of pump-house roofing. You may be thinking that they brought in a local expert specially for the job; but no, the same monkeys also managed to create this perfect paragon of beauty (which we are lucky enough to behold each and every day).

If only ancient Rome could have employed such fine craftsmen, it might be still standing today! Come to think of it.... it is still standing; and without having used any monkeys either!
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Sunday 19 August 2012

The Sunday Nutters.

A lot of people find Morris Dancing bizarre, or even incomprehensible; I happen to really enjoy it.

Imagine yourself on a warm summer's day, standing outside an old English country pub, pint in hand, watching a bunch of 'nutters' (like the Britannia Coco-nut Dancers above) dancing and cavorting like men possessed.

The garish costumes, the often amateurish music, and the rustic prancing, are all classic Morris men's antics. They don't attempt to be perfectionists; they just have fun, amuse their audience, and finish-up with a few well-earned pints.

Long may they continue.  

Saturday 18 August 2012

Brown job.

We call this dog 'Brown job'. He belongs to some people who live about 2 Km's away.

Our neighbours used to have a dog (the one we called The Black Bastard), and he and Brown job were inseparable friends (a bit like Monty and Bok).

Eventually, about two years ago, The Black Bastard was callously given away, but Brown job still walks the 2 Km's each day, crossing two roads en route, to see if his friend has returned.

It's all rather sad, as no-one really cares about poor old Brown job. He's fed and watered, but that's as far as it goes; he's not even very friendly. But he continues to walk for miles each day, rain or shine, hoping to see his good friend.

I wish there was a happy ending to relate, but that's it. The solitary story of the travelling 'Brown job'.

Friday 17 August 2012

Up, Up, and Away!

Yesterday evening we went off on our little summer adventure; a hot-air balloon trip.

We rose to 1700 metres, floated above the spectacular landscape, then, under the unbelievably skilful hands of our pilot, we landed almost back where we'd started. A 'never to be forgotten', two hour, extravaganza.

What a perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky, hardly the whisper of a breeze, and hot sunshine.

Lady Magnon and I have ticked one more box on The Bucket List.

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Thursday 16 August 2012

Austin 7.

Isn't this a lovely car!

When I was a wee sprog my mother drove an Austin 7; I presume it was her first ever car. Hers was actually black, but otherwise just like the above. I remember it well.

I once fell out of it (aged about 4); she was turning a sharp corner in the centre of our Surrey village and someone hadn't closed the door properly. Seatbelts were yet to be invented and I still have the scars on my knees as witness.

When she came to sell it, and move on to greater things (a pale grey Austin A40 Somerset), the garage man who'd delivered the new car, and had taken the 7 in part-exchange, attempted to drive it away but he just couldn't get the hang of it, and my mother was obliged to drive it back to the garage for him. 

A very idiosyncratic little car (they even made sports versions of it). I think its number was WD 594.

And, thanks to my sister (with the kittens), here is the actual car which I now think was probably a convertible Austin 10. 

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Painter's Parasol in Pool Pandemonium.

I'm used to finding Toads, Lizards, and Grasshoppers in the pool, but to discover our largest green parasol in there, yesterday, was a first.

Many years ago we were out with friends when a sudden storm stole a slightly smaller parasol; it was never seen again. You'd think we'd have learnt.

It must have been a sudden gust; otherwise it had been just another very hot day!
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Tuesday 14 August 2012

Bottling Sunshine.

It's THAT time of year again. The only thing I'm doing differently this year is that I'm taking things easy, and doing just 4 bottles at each go.  It makes life easier, and I'll probably end up with more variety.

Yesterday's little lot was Ratatouille; an equal mix of Tomatoes, Aubergines, Courgettes, and green Peppers.

Et viola, that's the finished job. Four 500gm jars (one's hiding) ready for winter Tagines, Curries, and Casseroles. I'll do another 16 maybe, then I'll start on the Figs.

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Monday 13 August 2012

London 2012. The Olympics.

There is no quibbling (other than a few sour grapes from Scotland and maybe France) that the London Summer Olympics have been not only a roaring success, but one of the best Olympic Games ever. And there are two people who deserve special thanks and praise.

Firstly dear old Chirac (above). It was almost 'in the bag' for Paris, until Chirac opened his big mouth and placed his fat foot firmly inside. He made disparaging remarks about the cuisine of both Finland and England, and certain members of the selection committee took umbrage, and decided not to vote for France (I should remind people that England had just recently been voted 'Gastronomic Nation of the Year 2002' by the influential American Gourmet Magazine).

Secondly one has to acknowledge the hard work of Lord Coe. He has worked tirelessly since 2003 to secure and make the games the success that they have most certainly been.

The whole preparation (from start to finish) must have been a logistical nightmare, and the buck always has to stop somewhere. So WELL DONE Seb; you did a grand job, and that buck didn't need to stop anywhere!

My personal congratulations also go to absolutely everyone involved. The athletes, the volunteers, the plumbers, the ticket touts, the road cleaners, the gun firers, and of course the supporters. You were all BLOODY MARVELLOUS! 

Sunday 12 August 2012

Toms not Tom's.

Above is what is commonly known here as 'La Portuguese', a non-F1 Beefsteak/Marmande type tomato that slices into those delicious solid rounds of tomato that we all remember from our childhood visits to France. Seeds are passed around each early spring.

Here is the Italian tomato of tinned tomato fame; the Roma. The perfect fruit for pasta sauces, pizzas, and preserves. It grows in profusion and doesn't seem to give a damn about water. I shall have to go picking.

And this is the tomato I always end-up regretting having planted. We eat the first few with gusto, then as they ripen by the thousand (each day) we end up abandoning them. As you can probably see by the 3 pix above; we are inundated!

I have also grown one other variety this year. A rather ordinary, bog standard, round, average-sized job, that we have been eating up-until 'La Portuguese' began to ripen. I can't remember its name, but now that the 'Portuguese' are plentiful they shall only be used for cooking.

On a separate note, the absolutely charming daughter of some summer-visitor-neighbours has just been by to ask if she can come round to speak English with me. I think I may get her to help with my preserves; chopping, stirring, nattering.... all in English. Can't be bad!
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Friday 10 August 2012

Work Begins at the Barn.

At last, the work on the barn floor is under way. Harvey J and Ollie oversee the builders as 'the bloody JCB man' takes bucket after bucket of hard-core inside (there were 3 more men and a flattening machine inside).

Maybe in two years time the boys will be sleeping there, so I'm very pleased that they've seen the very beginning of the work. I'm now suddenly looking forward to starting work on the interior.

Downstairs will be one large open space with a long table and benches to seat about 20, a very modern simple 'cuisine', and a spectacular sweeping staircase (yet to be designed).

Upstairs..... well we'll think about that later, but it will definitely have a big 'wet-room', and probably one or two bedrooms.

This is what it looked like at the end of the day. We now have to wait until the end of the holidays when (if we're lucky) they'll return to lay the metalwork and actual concrete.  It's a start, at least!

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