Sunday 30 September 2012

The Sunday Story: 'Playground Bully'.

An old school friend of my daughter's recently posted this class photo on Facebook, and it immediately reminded me of an incident which both shocked me, and reinforced my faith in 'natural law'.

My daughter, Tenpin, is the little girl in the middle of the photo; fat tie, patterned jumper.

I'd gone to collect her from school (it was usually Lady M who went), and she was very eager to show me how well she could descend the large playground slide. She took her place in the queue at the bottom of the ladder and, in lady-like style, slowly climbed as she awaited her turn. Suddenly some oafish, much older and bigger boy, barged past all the younger children on the ladder and went directly to the top; callously elbowing everyone out of his way as he went. My daughter very nearly fell from about 10 ft up; the idiot boy's behaviour was totally unacceptable.

Tenpin seemed to ignore what had happened and I proudly watched as she eventually slid down the long well-polished slide. When she reached the bottom, she looked around, searching for the queue-jumping oaf. She then purposefully walked to where he was standing, and, in front of his group of equally-oafish admirers, planted a perfect 'right jab' on his nose; which started to bleed. 'Now don't push past me', said my daughter, wagging her finger, 'or I may have to do that again'.

The boy ran off in tears to (I imagine) his 'mummy', whilst Cro and Tenpin walked away briskly, knees bent, pretending to be invisible.

I'm possibly an irresponsible father, because it sounds as if my daughter over-reacted, but I was extremely proud of her; she was only about 7. Hopefully the idiot bully learnt his lesson too; there were no reprisals.

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Saturday 29 September 2012

Differing Styles.

Above is my friend José's new-ish Chestnut plantation. He regularly mows, waters, and prunes; in other words he pampers his trees rather like he does his cows. His plantation is always tidy, and is a real pleasure to walk through.

This plantation, however, is left to it's own devices, and, if lucky, it's mowed once a year (this year by José, but I'm not yet sure why). The lower branches almost touch the ground making it very inconvenient to mow with a tractor. Most years the owner doesn't even bother to collect the nuts.

The field in which they grow is directly behind my back in the top photo. The contrast between the two plantations, as you walk between them, is 'in yer face'.

Anyway, it's all about the final harvest, and although José is always justly rewarded for his attention to detail, his neighbour's trees usually do reasonably well too.  But I do like José's attitude towards his work; he always does everything 'correctly'. 

Last year the first Chestnuts began falling on the 6th of September. This year's Equinox is already behind us, and there are still very few on the ground. I predict that tonnages will be down considerably this year, so look out for ready-peeled Chestnuts in vacuum sealed tins; don't buy them tinned in water, they're horrible. 

We ate our first few fresh ones a couple of days ago with a roasted Chicken... as usual they were delicious. (The Chestnuts were first given an X shaped cut on the pointed end, boiled for ten minutes, had their outer skins removed, and were roasted, complete with inner skins, under the Chicken for the last half hour)

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Friday 28 September 2012

Just Like London Buses.

The big news in the art world is that yet another long-lost (or wrongly attributed; ahem) masterpiece has recently been discovered languishing unloved in some outdoor privy  This time not just any old picture, but an early version of The Mona Lisa by the great Leonardo di Caprio himself.

We originally thought that this other recently discovered version (above) was by my daughter Tenpin, but having shown it to several antique-dealer wide-boys, we now understand it to be the original sketch for the early version (top) of Maestro di Caprio's much later Mona Lisa masterpiece (not shown). Well, you can see it, can't you; it's the way the eyes follow you around the room.

I shall be heading for Bond Street within the next few days for a valuation. So expect a new blog entitled Magnon 'In His Newly Acquired Chateau' Meanderings before too long.

Maybe a small Caribbean island would be nice too....

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Thursday 27 September 2012

Bucolic Bounty.

I've been a bit 'under the weather' recently, and yesterday afternoon was the first time I'd been out with the dogs for almost a week.

I went to see if there were any Chestnuts down. The ones I found were much smaller than usual, with the middle one of the three in each husk very thin. We shall enjoy them, even if the farmers don't have the harvest they were expecting.

On the way home I also found a couple of Parasols. So, tonight it's Roast Chicken with mushrooms, chestnuts, and roatsed 'seasonal vegetables'. Can't be bad... it might even help my wretched cold.!

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Wednesday 26 September 2012

Wot Animals Need.

Dogs are no different to all other animals (or even humans), in as much as they need very little in life. I would suggest these few basics....

1. A meal of good quality food, at least once a day.

2. A constant supply of clean water.

3. A warm, dry, place to sleep.

4. Medical attention, when required.

5. A loving, affectionate, home.

6. And plenty of exercise.

Why, therefore, do so many animal 'owners' (I almost wrote 'lovers') fail on most of the above?

I am constantly faced with the sight and sound of animals that are not so fortunate. A nearby dog breeder keeps his/her Alsatian bitches permanently inside secure cages (prisons), inside a closed barn; they have no human contact, and absolutely no light. And a nearby horse owner keeps his/her 3 horses in a small bramble-filled field (officially they are supposed to have a minimum of 2 hectares per horse); often with no water for days, and with a minimum of food.

Unfortunately, this is how things are in France. Try to complain to the S.P.A. (the French animal charity) and they would simply say 'That's normal'. The rot spreads from the top.

Of course there is no way that I could complain about their activities; my life wouldn't be worth living. But, believe me, I'd love to; even though I'd have to move.

Puppy farms make me sick (you only have to hear the dogs' constant cries), and people who ignore and mistreat horses (or any other animals) should have their effing arses kicked.

The S.P.A. can recommend animal husbandry guidelines till they spew from whence the sun doth not shine, but unless they enforce what they preach..... what's the effing point?

I would like to propose that all puppy farms should be licensed, and regularly inspected. And that all horses should also be registered, and similarly visited on a regular basis. The local registration/license fees would pay for the inspectors, and serious fines issued to any miscreants.

Charity should begin at home.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Windy Schmindy.

A warm wind blowing from the south, means that my washing-line shorts fly horizontally.

There is a definite dividing line between wind and wind.

The persistent warm Mistral-type wind that drives people crazy; I rather like. The wind that tears tiles from the roofs; I do not.

Our present wind (of which we are having plenty) is warm and muggy. It's the type that makes women shake their manes, and constantly remove stray locks from their eyes and mouths. It knocks over poolside parasols, and constructs leafy autumnal skirting beneath hedgerows. It is a distinctly pleasant wind, with a pleasant sound. And I love the way it causes distant trees to sway like a sylvan crowd.

Of all weather's manifestations, wind is the most destructive. Once transformed from wind to gale, and from gale to tempest, I gather the animals, take refuge where my roof is strongest, and hope for the best. But for the moment I'm enjoying watching my shorts fly sideways.

Just so long as they don't end up in my neighbour's field......

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Monday 24 September 2012

The Jam Stirrer's Assistant.

As with most families, my wife and I share the daily tasks. When it comes to Jam making, I do the Bramble Jelly, and Lady Magnon does the rest.

I tend to retreat to Haddock's when Lady M is in the kitchen, but occasionally I'm recalled in order to find a missing ingredient, or her glasses, or to fill in the labels.

'What do you want me to write on this one?' I asked.

'Apricot, you clot!' she replied.

We also have some red jam called 'Oh for goodness sake, can't you see what it is', and others called 'Look, I'm busy, OK!'.

I've recently noticed that we're right out of 'Get out of my kitchen, and take those bloody dogs with you'. And I'm hoping she'll soon be making some more of her delicious 'Just write down what it bloody well looks like',

It's good to have wide selection of interesting jams in the cupboard.

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Sunday 23 September 2012

Winding Down.

How many more balmy evenings will we spend sipping wine on the terrace. How much longer will the thermometer show temperatures over 25C, or even over 20C. How many more courgettes, peppers, or aubergines will we pick from Haddock's before they are all struck down by frost. 

It's almost October already, and for some reason (age, probably) I'm feeling the advance of winter more than in previous years. I dread the approaching cold weather, and have even been drawing up a list for 'winter siege provisions'.

The lower temperatures also announce pool closure time, which we've been putting-off, hoping for that illusive Indian Summer. Next week I quite expect we'll be installing the winter cover; never a good moment.

On the plus side, I'm rather looking forward to taking my painting kit out into the leafless woods. It's been a while since I dirtied some canvas, and the urge is back .

I just wish I had a solution to my oncoming annual winter blues. I suppose the only real answer is a beach house in Bali, or somewhere similar. But until that time, I shall dream of thermal underwear, and April 2013.

Saturday 22 September 2012

1,000 Glorious Postings.

Yes, this is my 1000th posting on this particular blog, and what larks, eh?

As with so many bloggers, this site was conceived to keep my children informed about what was going on in 'Mummy and Daddy's' lives. Of course, they've never really been interested in all our frippery; they have much more important things to concern them than reading about Cro's veg' growing, our chicken's laying habits, or the price of belly pork.

So, may I take this opportunity to thank everyone who's visited, everyone who's clicked the 'Join this site' button, and everyone who's ever left a comment. Believe me, you have all been greatly appreciated.

In case any of you don't know what Cro looks like; or, indeed, in case my children have forgotten.... that's me above (I hope it doesn't put you off).

Happy Millennium to me. Pop, fizzzzzz, glurg, glurg, glurg. Here's to the next 1,000.

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Friday 21 September 2012

Cro's In a Pickle.

For true 'foody-veg-growers', there is nothing more satisfying than laying down stores for Winter, and foremost amongst this is the making of Pickles, Chutneys, and Jams (I leave the latter 2 to Lady M).

Basically, almost anything can be pickled, but it's the fruits of our own labours that are the best. 

This year I'm making 'Refrigerator Pickles', these are pickles designed to be kept cool in the 'fridge, and eaten within about 4 months; they are not heat processed for keeping long term.

One of my favourites so far are my Pickled Green Tomatoes (background). The green toms are quartered (or eighthed), and covered in a hot sweetish pickling brine made from equal amounts of water and white vinegar, with sugar and salt. Almost anything can be added to taste, including chilli, cumin, peppercorns, etc.

This hot pickling brine can be used with most fruits and vegs, with the resulting pickle being ready to eat the following day. Today I shall have a go at some Pears. 

I don't want to state the obvious, but only two things are important in pickle making. Firstly make just one small jar to start with, and secondly always write down EXACTLY what you did, and the EXACT quantities used.  Then, if you like the small jar; make more, or if your seasoning isn't quite right; change it.... Simple.
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Thursday 20 September 2012

Congrats Tenpin.

Above is yet another unfinished family portrait. This time of my daughter, Tenpin, aged about 12. Unfortunately it's a photo of a photo of a photo... and the quality doesn't improve.

Yesterday Tenpin graduated from The Central Queensland University with a Post Graduate degree in Management. Her day-job is working for the university; running one of their large extra-curricular departments. She also has a husband and two lively small boys to cope with, so where she found the time to study, I really don't know.

She's a very busy bee, but she ain't stopped yet. She will complete her Master's degree next year.

So, congratulations my darling. Papa's very proud of you..... but then, he always has been, and always will be!
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Hilaire Belloc.

I've always been a Belloc fan. I would never claim to share any of his genius, but we are both Sussex men, and we both have a strong affiliation with France. I even (wisely) allowed my oldest son to share his name.

Like most people of my age, I first encountered Belloc through his 'Cautionary Tales' (I even own a first edition). Who could forget Charles Augustus Fortescue, Godolphin Horne, or even poor Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was then eaten by that Lion (always keep a-hold of Nurse, for fear of finding something worse). These are poems that follow us through life.

Later I discovered his wonderful book 'The Four Men'; the tale of a journey across Sussex from Robertsbridge in the East, to Harting in the far West. Perfect reading for a Sussex lad.

Strangely, for a Belloc fan, I've only recently discovered that there's a 'Night' (rather like Burns' Night) dedicated to the great man. Annually, on each evening of July 27th (Belloc's birthday), his army of fans gather to read his works; accompanied by bread, cheese, and pickles.

I always seem to be suggesting things, but anyone with small children, grandchildren, or next-door-neighbours of a delicate age (who have NOT had the pleasure of Belloc's 'Cautionary Tales') should buy a copy at once. You'd never regret it!


Wednesday 19 September 2012

My Time Spent In A French Lunatic Asylum.

I know you'll find this difficult to believe, but it's true; Cro did spend some time in a French Lunatic asylum. Or should I say a Hospital for the Perplexed.

It was probably around 1975. We had driven down to a quarry near Aix-en-Provence to pick up some stone. We were cutting some poolside furniture for a client who wanted a particular stone that was filled with shells.

Overnight we were to stay with my friend's family, but no mention had been made of where; nor did I know that his father was the chief psychiatrist at Marseilles' main Mental Institution.

My first indication of being somewhere 'unusual' was when one of the domestics (a trusted female inmate) returned from a shopping trip, and she had bought everything RED. That evening we ate an entirely RED meal. Potatoes, Bananas, Oranges; you name it, it was RED. All cooked and served, of course, by more domestics (more trusted female inmates) who left me feeling distinctly uneasy.

The family's apartment was not big, and I was bedded down on a sofa in the sitting room. All night I could hear strange noises; some directly outside the door. I didn't sleep a wink.

As soon as it was light I started drawing. The view from the sitting room window was staggering; it looked straight across Marseilles' rooftops, and up to the hilltop Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. My friend's father took a shine to my finished drawing, so a photo of the Basilica will have to suffice.

I'm sure I was in no danger; but it certainly didn't feel like that at the time!


Tuesday 18 September 2012

Call that a Lawn?

The sun doesn't always shine chez Cro, and Autumn seems to have arrived early; even some leaves are falling. We've also had one morning temperature of around 7 degrees C. We have had 'some' rain, but whether or not it will be enough for mushrooms, I'm not sure.

After the laziness of Summer, there is suddenly so much to do. Preserving fruit and vegetables is always a priority, then I need to clear away all the detritus up at Haddock's to ensure that I get off on the right foot in 2013.

There are logs that need sawing, cuttings to be taken, and fruit trees to be pruned. There are still some Butternuts and Pumpkins to be put away, and all sorts of vegetables to be pickled.

The lawn is in a terrible state, and all the grapes need to be picked (and composted) before the wretched hornets find them. I shall also need to give all the grassy areas at least one more mowing before Winter.

The only saving grace is that it's now dark until about 7.30am, which gives me a little more time for 'office/studio work'. However, it also means that the boys whine for longer in the mornings too.

I REALLY do need a 36 hour day!

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Sunday 16 September 2012

Harvest time.

The night time temperature recently was so low that I thought it best to bring in the Butternuts.

They might look OK, but in fact they're very small. This may not be such a bad thing as there won't be half-eaten squashes hanging around at the back of the fridge; each one will be eaten in one go.

It's mid-September, we're still swimming, and still no proper rain; it looks as if we'll have a mushroom-free Autumn. Anyway, I haven't let this stop me buying my new Mushrooming Knife.... and here it is; all nice and shiny, with its cleaning bristles ready for action.

Nice, isn't it; just a shame there are no Cèpes to accompany the photo.

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Saturday 15 September 2012

Mr Bok.

Bok really is a lovely dog. He's very friendly, reasonably well behaved, and appreciative of everything.

He's just a black dog Canus Canus Vulgaris (Negra). He has no pretensions above his lowly station, and apart from those evil orange eyes (do enlarge photo), he is really quite elegant. His coat shines, and he has boundless energy. He has also nominated himself as MY dog, and hardly leaves my side. When I sit, his head is instantly on my lap. And if I secretly give him some tasty morsel below the table, he takes it with pure finesse (Monty takes several fingers).

On the negative side, he still has urges to run after cars, and if the horses run, he's after them at once. It's the Border Collie in him that makes him want to tidy up.

He's been with us for just over 8 months, and has settled in really well. He and Monty are still 'best friends', and I imagine they will remain so for life. He has a good bark, and lets us know at once if anything is happening outside.

I should add that he's not all black, he has some white on his undercarriage, and two very nice small white gloves on his hands; although the photo above manages to hide both.

Two years ago we had no intention to have another dog. One year ago we had no intention to have two dogs. Funny how life pans out.
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Friday 14 September 2012

Time Gentlemen Please!

I hope I'm not boring you, but it's been a very long time since I went watch-less.

Time has been the bane of my life. Since my earliest recollections I have been a slave to EXACT time-keeping. At school, poor time-keeping was rewarded by a damned good thrashing; Flashman style senior boys administering several strokes of the cane for even the tiniest of infringements. As a result, I've become one of those sad people who, if I'm invited to dine at 7.30pm, I arrive at 7.30pm.

Also, I've never removed my various watches other than for swimming; and I've always worn them at night. They've been well and truly a permanent part of my wrist.

But my current watch has recently been sent away for essential service and repair (I chipped the glass cover) and I have now been watch-less for over a month. For someone who'd been wedded to his watch, it's a strange experience; and, bizarrely, I'm rather enjoying the freedom of my chronometrical divorce.

Our village has a perfectly good chiming church clock, so I'm never without a regular time-check. And if occasionally I should miss the chimes; then what the hell!

In fact I'm enjoying my lax attitude so much, that I'm thinking of remaining watch-less for the foreseeable future. I may even sell my watch (I have others) and use the cash for something more practical. Other than for travel, I see no future necessity to be aware of the exact time at all (except for lunch, which HAS to be at 12.00 on the dot).

Of course, on the bottom right hand corner of my laptop screen there is always a little reminder, just in case I panic.

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Thursday 13 September 2012

La Chasse aux Sangliers.

In the 'good old days' of Fox Hunting in the UK, the Master of the Hunt was contacted by farmers when they had a serious Fox problem.

Similarly here, the local hunters are contacted by farmers when they become over-run with either Wild Boar or Roe Deer.

My friend, and neighbour, José has recently had trouble with Boar digging up his newish Chestnut plantation. I go through the wood almost every morning with the dogs, and have personally seen the appalling damage they do. But the Chasseurs have yet to come.

I understand that they've received so many requests since the hunting season re-opened, that they simply haven't had the time to get round to everyone's land. It looks as if the Wild Boar population has become completely out of control.

So, until they have a free Sunday, José has erected this classic anti-Boar, two wire, low down, electric fence. The dogs aren't too keen on it, but I expect it'll do the job.

One good side to this over-population, however, is that Wild Boar (which is very good eating) is in plentiful supply. Although why I can never get hold of a free gigot or two baffles me. Come on guys..... just a small one!

N.B. The above are not our local lads; just a picture borrowed from Mr Google. The picture of the fence was taken very early in the morning; hence the dreadful quality.

Wednesday 12 September 2012


Oh, do be careful Peaches, you're about to drop your phone!

Now look what's happened; the bloody baby's fallen out of the buggy. How am I supposed to phone my friends, AND wheel this bloody thing at the same time?

Can someone help; my fingernails will get all scuffed. HELP.... PLEASE.... NANNY!

Poor Peaches; if  Sir Bob had called her Brigid or Bernadette, maybe she'd be able to cope with the more mundane aspects of life.

Biog: Peaches has three sisters; Pixie, Fifi Trixibelle, and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger-Lily. She recently wed Mr Peaches No 2 (unfortunately she still has the name of Mr Peaches No 1 (Max) tattooed on her hand). The unceremoniously dumped child (above) is Astala Dylan Willow; his father (the current Mr Peaches) is Thomas Cohen, singer with some band called S.C.U.M.

'Peaches' is the daughter of Sir (Saint) Bob Geldof; Irish crooner, Stentorian fund-raiser, and all-round good egg.

It's not easy being a 'Celeb'. Oy vey!

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Monty's Pedigree.

The older he gets, the more obvious it becomes that Monty is not at all a pure-bred Lab'.

He's a big lad, and looking through my Boy Scout's Book of Dogs suggests that his mother might have become friendly with a Ridgeback.

His overall appearance is still that of a Lab', but he no longer has that dewy eyed 'butter wouldn't melt' look that is so popular with bog-roll manufacturers. 

I understand that one can send off hair samples to some mad-scientist laboratory in Switzerland, and for several thousand quid they'll tell you exactly what mixed-up variety of dog you possess. Maybe Lady Magnon would enjoy an unusual Christmas present this year!

Any suggestions (about the dog) would be gratefully received.

I know you're wondering what Monty was looking at so intently; it was this vicious snake that had fallen into the pool. Cro (as usual) was obliged to save the day. 

Luckily it was only a baby!

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Monday 10 September 2012

Bottled Figs.

Food, food, and more food. Almost overnight, our Fig trees are filled with ripe, and semi-ripe, fruits. For preserving purposes we need them to be semi-ripe.

When trimmed, and pierced, they are boiled for about 5 minutes, then refreshed in cold water. They are then packed into jars (I do 9 to each 500 gm jar; see final picture), given a good splash of Armagnac, then topped up with a syrup made from 500gms water to 300gms sugar.

After the capsules and screw tops have been carefully put in place, the sterilising takes between 45 and 60 mins, and the jars left to cool in the water.

This is the finished job, and no need for labels. In mid-winter, when we're huddled by the fire, we shall eat these with a big blob of either Crème fraiche, or Fromage frais. Let me assure you that they will be heavenly; and the syrup equally so.

I'll do one more batch of four bottles; then my next major job will be our Paté. Life is all about FOOD at the moment. Preserve it; or waste it!

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Sunday 9 September 2012

A Quandary.

Imagine you have an 'occasional' neighbour who is hardly ever in residence at her tiny 'cabanon'. Imagine also that she has five fully laden, roadside, Peach trees; the fruit on which is perfectly ripe, and dropping by the dozen.

Do you walk past them each day thinking 'what an irresponsible woman she must be', or do you surreptitiously fill your pockets?

What a difficult question.... need I tell you my own answer.

Naughty Cro; but as I often say 'I do hate waste'. Just look at that tree, and there are  another four the same!!!

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Saturday 8 September 2012

I Bloody Despair.

It's been stinking bloody hot here, and my bloody neighbour insists on lighting his stupid bloody wood-fired furnace to heat his water.

Only recently has he erected a pig-ugly row of 'in-yer-face' bloody Solar Panels to do the job (nothing wrong with that, you might think).

But regardless, he continues to light a bloody great fire in his stinking bloody smoking furnace, and smoke out the whole bloody area; even my bloody chickens have been coughing.

Like most 'normal' people, WE have a small immersion heater that heats our water for about two hours a night, without the tiniest wisp of smoke. So why does this bloody idiot find it necessary to have his huge ugly Solar Panels, plus an industrial style smoke stack, to do exactly the same job.

Throughout the summer we've had this unbelievable bloody performance every couple of days. And there was I thinking that 'eco heating systems' were supposed to be people, and environment, friendly.

I should add that his bloody wood-fired furnace is HUGE. Just to heat enough bloody water for a couple of days takes about half a cubic bloody metre of wood!  No wonder he keeps cutting down every-bloody-thing that bears leaves.

My picture may not do it justice, but the whole valley (as per bloody usual) was thick with smoke.......WHY DOES IT SMOKE SO BLOODY MUCH?

M A T R O N!!!!!!

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