Monday 31 December 2012

Cro's Review of 2012.

I'm afraid that our year has been dominated by one thoughtless action; the building of this bloody 8ft high orange wall, bang-up-against the boundary of our property. It was erected by my idiot neighbour to replace a perfectly good hedge behind their pool; and, amazingly, they even seemed to think we would be delighted!

Without a 'by-your-leave', they trampled all over our land, dumping piles of sand gravel and blocks. They drove huge lorries up and down, leaving the ground totally compacted. And they left our field filled with general rubbish, and waste lumps of concrete. As soon as they were done, they installed the 20 metres of canvas covered 'Keep Out' wire fence (right), and that was that. Not another effing bloody word; just scowls!

Never have I encountered such arrogance from someone that we used to consider a 'friend'. We're not certain, but we also think he's built it on OUR LAND (by a foot or so). We now no longer have anything to do with him. If one day he should apologise, we'll see; but I don't think insolent parvenu Parisians do that sort of thing. 

When the séchoir is finally finished, we'll be looking out on what might well be a tumble-down, orange, bungalow (complete with rotting window), where once there was perfectly tranquil greenery. As you can probably see, we HAVE started the camouflage work, but the scars from his lorries will remain for ages!

Otherwise it's been a delightful year. We've achieved all we wished to achieve; even the grounded birds were returned to their pinnacles on the Pump House.

The pool itself received more use than other years, I'm not sure if it was simply a question of good weather, or our diligence in managing to conserve the sun-warmed water. Both our UK based grandsons are now swimming properly, so next year will no doubt be even more riotous. 

The dogs are both now 2 years old. Bok's birthday was on the 28th of November, and Monty's on the 28th of December; just one month apart. Of course they had a very big two-dog party. Looking at how they love to lie by the stove, I have a feeling that they prefer winter to summer. We are so happy to be able to share our lives with them.

We'd been waiting for two years for our balloon flight, and on August 16th we finally flew. It was a perfect evening, every local balloon was airborne and, after a two hour flight, our pilot managed to land us in exactly the spot from whence we'd taken off (a few 'Champagne drinking' metres from the Compact Royce). Brilliant; if you ever get the chance, go for it!

The 'tower' continues to enthral us; we slept there from May to the end of September. I still refuse to install electricity, and its simplicity is stunning. Our only problem is Freddie the cat; we usually leave the door wide open at night, meaning that he comes in and jumps on the bed (on us). Little monkey.

Otherwise 2012 has passed quietly. Our daughter, Tenpin, gained her Masters Degree. Our son, Wills, moved to Australia. Haddock's (as usual) flourished. And, amazingly, I was honoured with the naming of a soap!!!


Bars of Crobar can be ordered at Donna, its creator, is an American Maitre Savoneur and Organic Farmer, and these would make wonderful presents (ahem).

So, we continue along our unimportant little paths; we try to upset no-one, and we HAD hoped that no-one would upset us, but some things are beyond our control and we simply suffer in silence. If such a thing as Karma really does exist, then our neighbour is in for a HUGE shock.

And finally to my favourite picture of 2012. The boys giving their knowledgeable opinion about the new orange wall. Those dogs are no fools!

May 2013 be kind to you, and may we all be together again to welcome 2014. Cro, xxx's to all.

p.s. And finally, may I add a huge thank you to everyone involved in last Summer's Olympic Games; you managed to re-install London as the 'coolest place on earth' (which it has always been, in my eyes).

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Sunday 30 December 2012

Would You Adopt a Wild Animal? A Sunday Rant.

This year there has been a preponderance of Christmas adverts asking us adopt a Snow Leopard or a Polar Bear.

The WWF recently ran an advert on UK TV saying 'adopt one of OUR animals for £3 a month'. Who's animals? They don't belong to the WWF. And who gave them permission to offer them for adoption?

This is no more than ' charitable respectability' running a huge multi-national scam.

If I do decide to 'adopt' a wild animal, I want it to be delivered HERE, and I would require the WWF to hand over part of their fund-raising dosh to pay for it's upkeep. That's how adoption works Matey.

Imagine adopting a human baby, and having someone else look after it (or not), and having to pay-up, and being given a Cabbage Patch toy to play with instead. No, no, no.

The only animals that will benefit from these so-called 'adoptions' are of the human kind!

I have no problem with the WWF; I'm sure they do very good work. But offering wild animals for adoption, or paying to name a Whale, or buying some ridiculously distant star, is simply conning the gullible.

Far better to just hand over a few quid/bucks now and again; and forget all this 'adoption' malarkey. It's just a way of getting hold of your bank details, then bombarding you with begging letters until you end up screaming.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Get Back to Work!

My hens have been looking extremely scruffy and bedraggled recently; they were moulting. 

But just yesterday I noticed a marked improvement in their coiffure. They seem to have been given an overnight make-over, maybe I just hadn't seen the gradual process.

They haven't laid a single egg for over a month, so maybe their new appearance will coincide with a more serious approach to their real duties.

For the moment I'm simply forking-out on expensive nutritious food, comfy straw, and a thick pile carpet of wood shavings; and in gratitude they just hang around and do nothing. You'd better get laying soon girls; or else!

Edwina (in the middle with the darkish tail) has now sided with Richard No 1 (left), leaving Richard No 2 (right) being slightly ostracised. I'm not sure quite what to do about this; it's not overly nasty, so maybe I'll just ignore it.

I have no more ground-hugging vegetables growing at Haddock's, so the girls have been given free range. I'm trying to encourage them to scratch away at any weeds that grow; not too successfully as yet!

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Friday 28 December 2012

3,362,823rd most (least?) popular book.

My late Father-in-Law was a British diplomat, and his first posting was to Ankara, Turkey. Here he is enjoying a weekend's Wild Boar hunting with his friend (and author of the above book) Edmund H Giraud. My Father-in-Law is the one on the left with shorts and hefty looking gun; the others are beaters, and crew from the yacht.

I have no idea how successful he was as a hunter (he never mentioned such trifles); we have just this one trophy from Izmir, dated 29th March 1935. He also did a spot of competition shooting at Bisley.

The book above is entitled 'Days Off, with gun, rod, and yacht around Izmir Turkey'. Before writing this piece I Googled 'Edmund Giraud' and was amused to see that his book ranks 3,362,823rd in Amazon's best (worst?) seller list.  

With apologies to my late Father-in Law, but could there possibly be a LESS popular book?

Thursday 27 December 2012

Après la Fête.

So, it's all over bar the sandwiches. The huge white Turkey platter is now empty, the antique sauce boat is carefully washed and stored, and the once-a-year silverware is all re-buffed and hidden away.

All went well. Our small fresh Turkey was moist and delicious, and the vegetables all as envisaged. Dinner was a success! As the cook of the house, I was able (genuinely) to slap my own back.

New Year has, traditionally, always been the major celebration of the year here in France, so we still have that to enjoy. I shall watch Jools on TV, drink too much wine, and join in with slurring the words of Auld lang syne.

In between times, we have two birthdays to celebrate (Lady M and Monty), which, as they are on successive days, we shall combine.

That's Christmas 2012; I trust you all had a good time, we certainly did!

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Wednesday 26 December 2012

Those Prezzies.

The gardening gloves fit like a glove, as do the second pair I received. The warm sensible gum-boot socks look warm and sensible. And the set of three 2B pencils will, I'm sure, come in very handy whenever 2B pencils are required.

I'm not yet sure what I'll do with the 400 metre ball of bright red nylon string, or the bizarre foot pampering device, or even the double-decker-bus-shaped soap on a rope. 

However, Lady Magnon liked her new watch, her expensive fancy hand cream, and the executive wind-up handbag torch. So no tongue pie!

On the Skype front, both sets of grandsons instantly spotted Grumpy underneath the Santa outfit (damn them), and all the children of my immediate area received chocolate Reindeer with red heart necklaces.   

The Turkey was generous in its sacrifice, the plum pudding worthy of several Michelin stars, and the various wines all of such quality that they would have graced the table of Bacchus himself.

So, it's Turkey sandwiches for two weeks, Turkey soup for a month, and only another 364 days until we do it all again (if we're saved).

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Yuletide Message, 2012.

Well, here it is folks; the day we've all be anticipating (except, of course, for those 'end of the world' chappies).

May your Turkey be fat, your aches and pains all gone, and your tonight's sleep like that of a baby.

My very best wishes to absolutely everyone. Joyeux Noël and God Yul.

Cro xxx 

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Monday 24 December 2012


Unashamedly schmaltzy, and hopelessly idealistic, I still love Chris Rea's 'Driving home for Christmas'. It reminds me of my mother trying to force a 30 lb Turkey into a small oven, of inordinate amounts of presents under the tree, of long-departed Aunts and Uncles, and of snoozing in front of 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Some of the best Christmases, for me, were in the late 50's and 60's, when my family would drive up to our hill-top cottage in Wales, overlooking the rolling hills of Powys. If it snowed, which it did often, the morning sunrise would turn the hills pink; it was magic.

So, if you're driving somewhere this Christmas Eve, do have a safe journey, and maybe even listen to this song. Cro xx

Sunday 23 December 2012

Who Lived In A House Like This?

Why's Cro photographing some pile of old stones?

Here it is from the other side, and (surprise surprise) there's a rather dodgy looking doorway.

And on the inside one can see how it was constructed; stones going round and round in ever decreasing circles. One can still see evidence of fire on the blackened back wall and ceiling.

It's an ancient borie. Not our usual type, which is smaller and has an actual flat stone roof, but a very ancient variety of unknown age. I quite expect its original inhabitants dressed in animal skins, and knew nothing of Christmas or roast Turkey.

It lives in the woods, a pleasant 4 Km dog-walk from our house. I wonder how many people even know it's there?

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Saturday 22 December 2012

Baked Potatoes.

I quite expect that everyone who has a wood-burning stove, of a similar design, will do as we always do; and bake potatoes either in the fire box itself, or below amongst the ashes (as here).

We are now well into stew/casserole weather, and slow cooked dishes bubble away gently (in cast iron Le Creuset pots) on the top of the stove; whilst below the fire itself, their accompanying spuds bake beneath the embers.

Foil wrapped potatoes produce soft skinned spuds; unwrapped produces crisp. Either way, they are a very welcome, Euro-saving, bi-product of our stove.

During the worst of winter I have even been known to take a baked potato with me, in my pocket, whilst walking the dogs. Not only did it warm my hands, but was a fantastic hot snack whilst trudging through snow.

Are they done? Supper time, methinks.

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Friday 21 December 2012

It's The End of The Musical World! Richard Strauss. Also sprach Zarathustra.

Yes, I know I've posted this before, but for anyone who missed it first time round, may I suggest you get out the Kleenex, go to the loo (otherwise you might wet yourself), and enjoy.

Not particularly Mayan, but could this be the end of the musical world, as we know it?

See y'all tomorrow!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Call That a Tree, Cro?

It may not be everyone's idea of a festive tree, but as we're by ourselves for Turkey Day, we thought we'd go green, and spare the life of our selected 'living' tree in the woods.

This one will, of course, be strewn with prezzies, and baubles, and have its candles lit. 

But the best bit is, no needles to clear up!

We seem to have gone overboard with red candles this year. No greenery anywhere as yet; I shall have to go out with the secateurs, and do some Holly and Ivy cutting!

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Wednesday 19 December 2012

I'm Baffled.

I am particularly fond of roast lamb. At the weekends we often roast a gigot, and during the week a whole poitrine d'agneau might be rolled and stuffed, or used to create either a tagine or an Irish stew. There is little of the lamb that I don't enjoy.

Last week I bought two frozen legs of lamb. They both weighed 1.9kgs, and they each cost me €15.50. However, had I bought the same sized 'fresh' legs, they would have cost around €28; almost TWICE the price.

The difference is that the frozen ones travel 20,000 Kms, all the way from New Zealand; and the fresh ones come from a  €5 trip down the road. 

Strange, you might say; especially as New Zealand has no subsidies, whereas the inefficient European farmer wouldn't get out of bed unless a hefty subsidy was involved.

OK, I have to agree that the fresh product is possibly more tender than the frozen, but cooking technique should be able to cope with that, and, frankly, it shouldn't affect the price. 

I shall continue to buy my frozen NZ gigot, mostly as a protest. Our taxes pay for EU agricultural subsidies, and the finished product is always sold at a serious premium; meaning that we, the idiot buyers (if indeed we do buy), pay extra TWICE. 

If subsidies are involved, shouldn't the end price reflect that? 

Viva NZ frozen Lamb!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

A Winter Walk.

The ground has been totally sodden by intermittent heavy showers. Animals can no longer hide their passage; this signature was Monty's.

There is very little non green or brown colour about. These Spindle Berries are only just clinging on...

...along with some wild Rose hips which I shall use in the next few days in place of my non-existent Holly berries.

There's also plenty of yellow Gorse, but that can stay where it is.

We often take this woodland path, which has been made entirely by Deer, Boar, and Badgers. It is now so well established that one really would think it was a human footpath.

And so back towards home. The sun is shining, it's reasonably warm, and the boys are tired. I have a feeling that they may well settle down to a long pre-teatime sleep by the fire.

Yup; thought so!

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Monday 17 December 2012

Cro Let Loose.

We all have times of happiness as well as times of sorrow. Mostly though, I suspect, it's a rag-bag mixture of both.

When the above photo was taken I had just left college. I had a 1st Class Hons degree in my pocket, my oldest son had just been born, and I'd been offered a provisional place at the RCA; frankly, life offered just about everything.... probably hence that big smile on my face.

Yet I remember feeling a real sense of sadness, combined with a certain amount of fear. Good friends were left behind, much loved places were never to be revisited, and that relaxed enjoyment of student-life would never be repeated. One knew that there was no going back; life had suddenly become SERIOUS.

So, my new 'serious' life began, and to acclimatise to the situation I threw myself into non-stop 'hard graft' (in between full-time teaching duties). If I wasn't working, I was working (know what I mean?).

Then I got itchy feet, and France beckoned; and I've been here ever since. Now, 41 years later, I'm still trying to take life seriously, and working harder than ever. We manage to take-on crazy new projects as easily as buying a tin of baked beans.

So when does it all slow down? When do I really get to take life seriously? When do I grow up? And when does that feeling of sadness go? I'm pretty sure that the answer is NEVER.

I'm told that letting go of youthful irresponsibility is probably more difficult for men. Maybe that laughing carefree ex-student, sitting lonely on the fence, didn't have it so bad after all.

Why do I always feel like this at Christmas!

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Saturday 15 December 2012

Local Comedian?

As you can imagine, we have very little graffiti out here in the French countryside, so I was amused to see this irreverent youthful inking of 'Marianne'. Not only has she been defaced, but also transgenderized (that's an American word, by the way). 

I quite expect that this is a Guillotining offence; so I'm keeping my distance. They tend to chop heads first, and ask questions after!

The sign in question hangs on a very tall, nearby, mobile-phone antenna; and I find its silliness rather appealing.
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Friday 14 December 2012

That Other Cro.

Once upon a time (a long time ago), a scruffy old man lived in a cave in SW France; his name was Cro Magnon. He dined on Woolly Mammoths, Bison, and Wild Boar.

His descendants stayed in that same area, and they flourished.

Nowadays they live on Confit de Canard, Foie Gras, and Croissants; and their wives run tourist shops for those who come to see where their husband's ancestors once lived.

So, if you should visit, just look up the name Magnon in the 'phone book. You may not find any, but they're there, in some cave, selling trinkets and tins of paté. Just mind your backs, as they also throw stones and spears.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Done Fishin'.

These three rounded and flattened stones are old Dubai fisherman's weights.

My friend Terry (St Theresa of the Floral Tribute) lived in Dubai for many years, and gave me these beautiful old stones when she came to live here in France.

Originally they were just plain stone; they had never previously grown lichen on their exterior, coral maybe, but not lichen. 

I hadn't really looked closely at them for some while, and was amazed to see how beautiful they had become. If lichen really is proof of pure air, then I think we must be in the top league.

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Wednesday 12 December 2012

Pillow Talk.

Monty: Are you awake Bok?

Bok: Of course I am, something's happened to my back legs; they've gone all numb!

Monty: Sorry to hear that, Bok; would you like me to give you a massage?

Bok: Will it bring back the sensation in my legs?

Monty: No, but it'll give me something to do until supper!

Monty: Feel any better yet?

Bok: No, my middle's gone numb now too!

Tuesday 11 December 2012


Guess what? 3 huge ready-mix lorries, 3 other vehicles, and about 10 men, turned up yesterday morning to pour the concrete floor in our séchoir.

The concrete was brought from two of the ready-mix lorries by dumper truck (the ground was too wet for them to get up close), then emptied on the ground for the men to chuck around.  Others levelled as the surface became filled up.

And this is the finished result. 

Someone will return later today to run this upside-down 'helicopter' over the surface to make it really smooth. Then that's it; we have a huge roller-skating surface, or dance floor!

Folks; there IS a Santa Claus!

p.s. It's now 6am. With our current damp weather, the concrete hasn't dried out as foreseen, so the poor 'helicopter' man has been returning to the site all night long. He first returned at 8pm, then again at 1am, and he's just come back again at 5am. As I type, I can hear the machine doing its stuff, about 150 metres away. The concrete has to be 'just right' in order to get the perfect finish. Poor guy!

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