Wednesday 31 October 2012

Bring 'em on!!!

I'm ready for the little blighters. Two packets of Réglisse for ME, and one packet of assorted Haribo fizzy sweets for THEM. 

I'm only expecting about 6 children, so I'll join in the non-fun with my skeleton gloves, a bit of make-up, and my Dracula cape. If I knew EXACTLY what time they were coming, I'd organise something really spooky and frighten the bloody breakfast out of them.

I really do HATE Halloween... honest!

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Tuesday 30 October 2012

L'apres midi d'un Cro.

It's usually when I forget to take my camera with me that I see things I want to photograph. Luckily yesterday I remembered it, then came across these. They're Orange Peel Fungus; a beautiful vibrant orange mushroom, that also happens to be edible (not by me).

It was a crisp, sunny, afternoon; perfect sniffing weather for the boys. They were in doggy heaven.

As usual the woods were magical. Ivy carpeting the ground, not another soul around, and the boys running and chasing to their heart's content. I also saw 'swarms' of Palombes, and a few very-high-flying Cranes, all heading south to escape our forthcoming winter. 

And then I came across this beast. It stood about 12 ft high, had huge leaves, and stood out like a sore thumb. Many years ago I planted a tree, at our first house here, with similar leaves. The tree produced masses of long bean shaped seed pods; I wonder if this could be a bird sown seed from that tree? (You may need to enlarge the picture)

Does anyone know what it is?
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Monday 29 October 2012

Siege Mentality.

My people used to own a couple of cottages on the very top of a Welsh hill, where the risk of being snowed-in in winter was quite serious. Snow could drift so high against the doors, that it was impossible to leave. People who lived in the area were advised to keep about 2 weeks worth of food in their houses.

Last winter we experienced something similar here when the roads were so iced-up that, even if one's car would start (the Compact Royce wouldn't), it was impossible to drive.

A couple of months back, Lady Magnon suggested we prepare a survival kit list, just in case this winter should be similar to last. I don't think there's anything exceptional on the list; flour to make (soda) bread, plenty of pasta and potatoes, and a couple of chickens in the freezer.

Of course we already have quite a stock of home bottled, tomato based, conserves, and there are always several large tins of 'confit de canard', and small ones of paté, in the cupboard. Also, if we could make it as far as Haddock's, there are fresh vegetables too (as well as plenty in storage).

Above is the actual list we drew-up a couple of months back. The 'Tins Veg/Fish' refers to tinned peas and tuna in olive oil, without which I can barely survive.

Any further suggestions for the list would be welcome; and, by the way, I have since added 'industrial pack of bog paper'.

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Sunday 28 October 2012

The Willow Ball 2012.

I'm off to today's annual Willow Ball. My partner this year is gorgeous local girl, Eleanor of Aquitaine (that's her above).

Eleanor was a little hesitant to accept my invitation. Like most women, she was worried about her ball gown not being à la mode, she also claims to know little of dances or dancing; other than something called a 'carola' (which she says she does enjoy).

I assured her that she'd most certainly be the 'belle of the ball'. And as for the dancing; I said we'd muddle along somehow.

I do hope Tess will still be offering us her famous Scotch eggs; I really want Eleanor to taste one of those.

We'll see you all there!

Saturday 27 October 2012

Beautiful Bok.

I've eulogised about our Lab' cross Monty on several occasions, so allow me to do the same for Bok.

Just look at him, alert, bright-eyed, shiny coat; what more could one want.

He's also very affectionate (Monty is less so). If I sit down his head is instantly on my lap, when we're out walking he reassuringly nudges my hand every so often, just to let me know he's there. And whenever I look round at him I find him staring at me with pure love in his eyes. I can't resist him; I even allow him to join me on the sofa (much to Lady M's annoyance).

I suppose a happy dog makes a happy owner; just look at those beautiful white gloves. 

Now, if only I could get him to stop chasing cars, tractors, and the factrice; he'd be almost perfect.

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Friday 26 October 2012

Eggcentric Eggs.

My three hens have given me tiny eggs with no yolks, eggs with pointed ends, double-yolkers, and now this crumpled-shell egg. 

Whatever next! 
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Thursday 25 October 2012

Magnon Junior in Pastures New.

Wills, the youngest of the Magnon offspring, and his lovely girlfriend Kellogg, are now permanently installed in Australia.

Wills was born here in France, was educated in Blighty, and has lived just about everywhere that has exotic sandy beaches; he has now decided to settle in Oz. Originally he went to live in Melbourne, but the climate wasn't to his taste, so he's moved up to Byron Bay; the home of beaches, surf, and that relaxed Aussie lifestyle. 

Byron Bay is one of the most northerly coastal towns in New South Wales, almost touching on Queensland on the East coast of Oz. For someone like Wills, it's much more his style. 

He really doesn't muck about when choosing somewhere to live. This house, above, is a classic, and they're already getting stuck into the garden, which (as you can see) really needs it. We spoke via Skype recently, and were given a guided tour.

And, yes, they've also got Wallabies in the garden; well, it wouldn't be Oz if you didn't!

I've said before that I thoroughly approve of both Tenpin's and Wills's move to Oz, If I'd been their age today, I expect I'd do the same.   

And here's a little plug......

Anyone visiting Oz, and looking for useful addresses should consult... Just type in where you are, and it's all there.

Anyone, worldwide, requiring SERIOUSLY professional web design, should visit...

I thank you!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

L'Aguila, Italy. 2009.

Above is part of a shocking 2009 letter that I received from a friend, concerning the terrible death of my 1960's Italian girlfriend, Natascia Monti.

The earthquake struck the town of L'Aguila during the night of April 6th 2009, injuring thousands and killing hundreds. The exceptionally beautiful Natascia was amongst those who died; crushed to death in her apartment (probably as she slept).

Yesterday I learned that 6 scientists, and one government official, have been found guilty of manslaughter, for not having given advance warning of the earthquake. They have each received a 6 year prison sentence.

I have always understood that earthquakes NEVER give prior warning of their arrival, so the process against the scientists is nonsensical. No doubt it will be quashed at a later date, on appeal.

I was obviously both shocked and upset to learn of poor, beautiful, Natascia's demise; but for an Italian court to find these men guilty of manslaughter makes a mockery of both Italian law, and the disaster itself. The Judge should be ashamed of himself, but I expect the 'puppet' had been given strict instructions to condem!

RIP Natascia Monti-Vicentini. 
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Tuesday 23 October 2012

The subject that should never be broached.

General Election, Whitney Oxfordshire May 2010. 'Cameron and his opponents' (Cameron won).

Above is a typical line-up of hopefuls at an English General Election. From the Left. 1. Bloke dressed as 'Jesus' with a bee in his bonnet about some unknown and unimportant (other than to him) subject. 2. Old codger who wants everyone to ride bikes and eat muesli. 3. Retired (or resting) actor who sees himself as another Schwarzenegger. 4. Fat Socialist. 5. Slim Conservative. 6. Monster Raving Loony Party bloke.

It's wherever you turn..... bloody politics. The older I get, the more disillusioned I become with the whole lot of them.

I don't vote any more, and I align myself with no particular party. I prefer to think of myself as a member of some Common Sense Union; drawing the best (i.e. the least disastrous) from each of the major parties.

The problem is that ALL mainstream political parties have been hijacked by 'lobbyists' from the PC, elf-n-safety, human rights, and arms-manufacturing brigades; when what's really needed is a strong intelligent figurehead who's not going to be pushed around.

If you're just about to vote, I hope you make the right choice; not necessarily for YOU, but for the rest of us! And please, let's not elect a bunch of barmy warmongering lying self-obsessed despots; there are enough of those around already.

Monday 22 October 2012

Apples 2012.

I don't think I've ever known an apple harvest as poor as this year's. Every tree is empty; except for this one above, which belongs to my friend José. Very odd!

So this morning, the route of my early morning walk with the dogs was diverted to pass by on our way home.

After the strong winds, all the apples are now on the ground, so with bag in hand (I always have a bag in my pocket at this time of year), I leapt over the electric fence and filled it up.

I have often said previously; the best apples are scrumped apples. Actually, in this case, they're large but rather tasteless (something similar to Golden Delicious), but the scrumping bit was as delightful as ever.

I may take that route again tomorrow morning; the freezer would welcome a few bags full. 

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Sunday 21 October 2012

Wind, Worry, and Ween.

For three nights in a row, the wind was howling and keeping us awake. We could hear tiles moving, branches cracking, and unknown objects being tossed about like Tumble Weed.

Then two days ago I woke to the above (if you enlarge the photo, you can just see our church spire).

Still it blew, still it brought down trees, and still it made us fear that Lady Magnon's flight to London would be cancelled.

But since then it's rained, the wind has calmed, and, yesterday, Lady M boarded her aeroplane for Blighty as scheduled.

So Cro is once again Home Alone for a few weeks (if you can call being with two huge boisterous dogs 'alone').

My only real concern is having to cope with whatever ghoulish children turn up on the night of the 31st, demanding sweets, and threatening to burn the house down if they don't get enough.

Last year I bought a big bag of sweets, and an even bigger bag of my favourite licorice wheels. Guess which they all grabbed first? I was left with a huge bloody pile of sugary sweets (I think I chucked them).

I'm not big on Halloween; especially having to cope by myself.

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Saturday 20 October 2012

Nothing's bloody Changed.

To me it's not mess, it's simply a different type of organisation that just looks like mess.

Of course, I don't really need FOUR penknives by the side of my laptop, nor do I need my tiny 'picture-hanger's level' (foreground by pen), or several mobile phones (some working some not). But for some reason if they weren't there I'd probably panic.

You might be able to see, in the top picture, that I was looking at an old posting that I spotted on 'You might also like', entitled 'Bloody Awful Mess'. I wanted to compare the two messes to see if any 'improvements' have been made. I think the answer is 'No'.

In fact, with all the vegetables in storage I think it's five times worse. I can now hardly move. Lady Magnon is away for a while Christmas shopping in Blighty, so maybe I'll make a real effort, and move things about a bit.

Friday 19 October 2012


Lady Magnon has been wanting to let the hens out of their run for ages; I (on the other hand) didn't want them running around Haddock's, eating all my winter vegs. However, I was interested to see how Monty would behave (Bok was confined to barracks) given three hens on the loose.


Yesterday we found a solution, and managed to get them directly from their run to the paddock, without stopping off at my salads en route. Monty ignored them.

Strangely they didn't really seem too interested in  their freedom. They scratched around under some Sumac bushes until they eventually decided that they preferred the constrictions of their true home, and went back by themselves.

N.B. The hens are 'Turkens'; a rather ugly variety of Chicken with bald necks. They are (usually) wonderful layers, which is why I keep them.

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Thursday 18 October 2012

The Day Begins, Thus.

Mornings (outdoors) always start with a visit to the hens. Even in the early hours they are noisily demanding to be let out. I open their door and throw them a handful of crushed maize; I'll return to them later with some more tasty morsels.

The boys are the real object of my early morning walk. They need to be emptied, and to give vent to their overnight energy build-up. It's always their favourite walk of the day.

Of course I'm always on the look-out for mushrooms. Yesterday morning I found this beauty, which I think is a 'Beefsteak (or Ox Tongue) Fungus'. Apparently it IS edible; but no thanks, it looks a tad 'chewy'!

We are still only half way through the Chestnut season, so I stop to fill my pockets. This year we made a decision to eat many more than we usually do. It's crazy to live in an area that's known for its Chestnuts, and not eat them by the bucket-load. So, no roast has gone un-roasted without roasting some nuts!

And finally home again, and a quick 'good morning' to the horses who each receive a small piece of carrot. I have an insatiable desire to feed ALL animals; my Barbour pockets are permanently filled with dog biscuits, carrots, stale bread, and other miscellaneous unmentionable edibles.

I'm adding a picture of our resident mouse-catcher, Freddie. He's so aloof and secretive that you'd hardly know that we have a cat, but here is the proof; he was waiting for me when we returned.

Hello Fred!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

I've been unwell (and still am).

Lady M: Take these!

Cro: What are they?

Lady M: Never mind, just swallow them.

Cro: They're the size of horse pills.

Lady M: Don't be such a baby.

Cro: If you gave one of those to a baby, it'd choke. What's in them?

Lady M: They're for Arthritis; I think they're made from Pineapple, and were very expensive.

Cro: But I haven't got Arthritis, and I don't care how much they cost; I've got a bloody cold!

Lady M: Well you will have Arthritis if you don't hurry up and take these.

Cro: I'm not taking them.

Lady M: Do you want me to put them in some jam for you?

Cro: I'm not taking them.

Lady M: Shut up and bend over.


Lady M: Well don't be such a big girl's blouse; open your mouth!

Cro: Oh for goodness sake.... anything for a quiet life (takes mouth-size pill).... Jeeee-zusss; that was bloody enormous, I think it's got stuck!

Lady M: You big baby.

Cro: Exits stage right... heads for Haddock's... seeks sympathy from hens... sulks.

Tuesday 16 October 2012


This blog of mine is like an ever decreasing circle, and here we are back at Walnuts again.

I've noticed several people talking about Black Walnuts recently. There used to be two large trees growing nearby, but I've now noticed that they've both been cut down. Probably not a bad decision.

Proper Walnuts have thin shells which can be opened with the twist of a knife, and contain a perfectly accessible large kernel. Why one would grow anything less convenient, I have no idea.

Anyway; it's harvest time, and the nuts are dropping like hailstones. I am a huge fan and advocate of all things Walnut; the nuts themselves, the oil, and especially the Pesto that I make with them. They are also one of natures great medicines, having a myriad of health preserving properties.

I still have quite a lot left over from last year, so the above couple of baskets are all I'm gathering this year.

One proviso; beware of those nuts on supermarket shelves that have beautifully clean shells, they have probably been washed in BLEACH.....Yuk.   
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Monday 15 October 2012

Gendarmes For Sale?

What!.... Cro's bought a Gendarme?.... Surely not!

Well, in fact I bought FOUR.

My latest DISCOVERY at the charcuterie counter are these small smoked dried sausages known as 'Gendarmes', they are quite similar in taste and texture to the Polish 'Kabanos' sausages.

Usually known as 'Landjäger' sausages in Southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, they become 'Gendarmes' in Alsace and elsewhere in France.

'Gendarmes' are made from 50/50 Beef and Pork, with flavouring of sugar, red wine, and spices.

A tasty little 'pocket-sized' snack, that quite probably only appears during the winter Choucroute (Sauerkraut) season.

If you can find them, I recommend you try them. If you like Kabanos sausage, you'll like these.

Oh how I love discovering new edible delights; especially charcuterie delights!

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Sunday 14 October 2012

Sunday Special: Signs of Faith.

Question: Is there any point being a Christian unless you outwardly demonstrate it by dress, declaration, symbolism, or 'club' membership? In fact, is there any point in being a member of any religion without actually telling someone?

This is not a religion bashing post; but a genuine question. I've never hidden the fact that I'm a hard-n-fast atheist, and as such there are certain things about belief in the supernatural that fascinate me.

When I encounter someone 'brandishing' a cross-shaped necklace, as above and below, I always wonder what they are trying to say to me, and why. Are they trying to give the impression of being a 'good person'? Or perhaps just shouting a hearty 'hello, look at me, I'm a jolly Christian'.

And what about all the expensive gold finery worn by the barmy big-wig religion bosses; is it really necessary? Does it make them more 'religious' than their 'flock'? Do they need it in order to demonstrate divine superiority? Or is it worn simply to create a feeling of 'them' and 'us'.

My question really is this. If you genuinely believed in a particular, or unusual deity, would there be any point if no-one else knew?

Unfortunately I see a parallel here between religious symbolism, and car stickers that say 'I heart Labradors' (not on my car, thank you).

Saturday 13 October 2012

Tragic Aristos.

Money, fame, and beauty, would normally be regarded as the passport to happiness. But not so with certain families.

Back in the early 70's I spent a couple of months living at one of my people's cottages on top of a hill between England (Shropshire), and Wales (Powys). One of our near neighbours was Lord Harlech; his huge red brick Georgian mansion was just a stone's throw away.

Harlech had five children; Francis (the present Lord Harlech), Alice (above), Jane, Julian, and Victoria. They epitomised the era's fashion for the children of the privileged to indulge in a lifestyle of drug-fuelled carefree hippy-dom.

My enduring memory of Harlech's children was of his youngest daughter Alice riding bareback in flowing multi-coloured crushed velvet robes. She would pass by our isolated house on a regular basis. She'd wave, say hello, and be gone. She could have stepped directly from an Incredible String Band record cover. The picture above is exactly how I remember her physically; beautiful but slightly soulful.

Harlech's children seemed to live the ideal life; London society during the week, and daddy's palatial pile at the weekend.  

But life is not always how it seems. Julian shot himself in 1974, and dear Alice died of a massive heroin overdose in 1995; she was found with the syringe still in her arm.

Stress, pressure, expectation; who knows what drove them to despair. But a more perfect and privileged life would be difficult to imagine.

The loss of life of an 'aristo' is no more tragic than that of someone from the other end of the social circle, but, somehow,  it seems to be.

Friday 12 October 2012

Two of my Favourite Subjects.

I've been marching up and down in the woods for the last few days, and at last I've been rewarded. The first of this autumn's Cèpes has emerged, which I'm hoping means there are many more on the way.

The one and a half above were consumed almost at once as an omelette (need I say 'Yum'). 

Whoever has read Gabriel Chevallier's wonderful 1934 novel, could not resist buying this eponymous Beaujolais. Simply reading the label is enough to make one dream of truculence, joie de vivre, and public urinals. You'll have to read the book if all this means nothing.

Anyone who (like me) enjoys new wine, will be pleased to hear that the third Thursday of November this year falls on the 15th. Meaning that the Beaujolais Nouveau will be issued very slightly earlier than usual.

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