Tuesday 31 December 2013

Cro's review of 2013.

2013 began icy cold. Throughout January and February our lives were permanently involved with sawing wood, lighting fires, and keeping those fires fed. It was a huge relief when March turned-up.

It was the year of the tree-house, and when finally finished (above), we were able to concentrate our attention on the barn; and we needed to!

The concrete floor was laid, the septic tank was installed, the orchard mostly planted, and the front door fitted. We've made a good start, but there's so much more to be done.

However, not everything always goes according to plan; blips occasionally turn up unexpectedly. Bok's torn/chewed ear last June being a classic example. Remember this, below? Poor old boy!


Bok, and Monty's new neighbour-friend Iggy Pup also featured quite prominently; in early September he crashed into Lady Magnon whilst playing, and knocked her clean-over. She broke a small bone in her foot and was hobbling for about a month, poor thing; she's still not completely healed. Thank you Iggy!

Summer went well. It was hot and the pool remained at a pretty constant 28 C. For a short while we had four (very well behaved) grandsons in residence all at the same time; not easy to arrange with their parents living at opposite ends of the earth. These two (below) were the first to arrive.


The only downside to our summer was seeing the poor horses without water yet again. I think the 'horse owner' has now been shamed into making some effort, although I still don't think she really understands the basic concepts of 'good horse husbandry'. Sadly, France has a lot to learn about animal care.

Other significant events of the year (to us) have been our oldest son buying his own home (at last), and my own reluctant acceptance of Type 2 Diabetes. I'm taking the pills, trying to be sensible, and keeping my weight down.

One summer event I failed to mention at the time (July) was our village's very own 'illegal' 80's style RAVE PARTY (remember them?). The cops, of course, intervened and some very naughty drugs were found, as well as some naughty alcohol, and several pairs of naughty flared trousers. OK, they probably made too much noise (we could hear it from 5kms away) but this was just 300 kids having some summer fun in the woods. Next time guys, keep the amp' settings down below No 11.

And so I leave our BEST BIT OF NEWS till last. My youngest son Wills and the lovely Kellogg will present us with our 5th grandchild in April (?). What could be better than THAT!


That was our year in brief, and it was a pretty good one. This picture, above, is just to remind myself that summer really does exist, and that it should hopefully return in about 6 months time.

May I wish you all a stress-free, war-free, and disaster-free 2014. And may we all be solvent, and together again, to welcome-in 2015.

My very best wishes to everyone, Cro xx

Monday 30 December 2013

I (don't) wanna be like you-ou-ou.


(This is a re-write from a piece I posted about three years ago).

When I was about 14, I had one of those 'light-bulb moments' that totally changed my life; for the better!

At school we had a communal bathroom with a row of about 8 hand basins; each basin having it's own mirror.

Every morning, myself and a row of similarly aged boys could be seen combing our hair, trying to look like Elvis. We would bend our knees, curl our upper lips, and maybe even sing a few lines from 'Blue suede shoes' as we wetted our locks and fashioned them into a poor imitation of the great man's quiff.

One morning that light-bulb suddenly lit brightly above my head as I looked at my own reflection in horror. What the bloody hell was I doing?

It was like a lightning bolt. I knew that I would NEVER be anything like Elvis; so why bother. I didn't have his looks, I didn't have his talent, and I certainly didn't have his magnetic personality. So why the hell was I trying to imitate his hairstyle?

Everything instantly became clear. I should just be who/what I am, not worry about what I look like, and get on with my life without the weighty bloody baggage of Narcissus gnawing at my heels.

I can honestly say that from that very moment in front of the mirror, I have never worried about what I 'physically' look like.

OK, I've never been 'handsome', but what the hell! It's not held me back in life, nor have I agonised about it. In fact, accepting this reality has liberated me as forcefully as how others must be unconsciously welded to their mirrors.

There is nothing wrong in admiring a film, or pop, star, but to want to be like them is sad. To imitate is flattering, but if by doing so the person imagines that some of their hero's talent will somehow become ascribed to them, then they are being sadly disillusioned.

I remember that very moment in front of the mirror as if it was yesterday; its revelation was truly life altering.

Sunday 29 December 2013

Happy Birthday Lady Magnon.

First it was Jesus, then it was Monty, and today it's the turn of Lady Magnon. Just like the proverbial London buses; 'birthdays' tend to arrive in groups.

I was very indiscreet this morning; I actually asked her that forbidden question. She assured me that she's 37, which, seeing as we were married well over 40 years ago, I'm finding a little hard to believe.

So, happy 37th birthday my dear, and may there be many more 37's to come.

Love from the ole scruff-bag, Cro xxx

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Saturday 28 December 2013

Happy Birthday Monty; 3 today.

When we first brought Monty home, he looked like this.

Now that he's a big boy, and weighs over 40 Kgs, he looks like this.

Happy Birthday Monty (and to your 5 brothers, wherever they may be); you're all 3 today.

Shaushages..... Papa xx

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Thursday 26 December 2013

Après la Fête (No 1)


Turkey: Bloody marvellous.
Roast Spuds: Delicious.
Sprouts: Disappointing.
Chestnuts: Perfect.
Stuffing: Wonderful.
Sauce: Sublime.
Bacon/sausage thingies; Not so good.
Wine (2009 Ch Haut Methee, Gold medal): Excellent. 

Overall: 8/10

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Wednesday 25 December 2013

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Dec' 24th.


It's all done-n-dusted. I've managed to buy a good looking 'properly reared' Turkey, the sprouts are waiting for me up at Haddock's, and all the prezzies are wrapped and ready for distribution. So that's it, if it ain't been bought, it ain't gonna be bought!

Now, on with the fun..... The festivities kicked-off here last night with a pleasant bash chez my friend 'St Theresa of the Floral Tribute'; and with any luck the silliness will continue for the next week or two!

So, have fun, enjoy yourselves, and make it the best Christmas ever. Cro xx

Monday 23 December 2013

Regrets, I have but few...


Yesterday's posting reminded me that one of the things I've really regretted in life is that I've never had a black friend, or even known a black family.

I'm sure some people will think this all very non-PC, but tant pis; it's the truth.

I was brought up in leafy Surrey (just south of London), where there were no black people. I went to a series of all white schools, I worked in bizarrely all white jobs, and then when I was 25 I moved to a 99.9% white area of S W France. My path has never crossed that white line.

I have no idea what I would have learned from any such friendship, maybe nothing; but it would have been interesting to have discovered that for myself. I like to think that any contrast in our exterior appearances would not have made the slightest difference to a friendship, because that's how I view things without having had the actual experience.

In aprox 1973 I was standing on Toulouse Railway Station with my 4/5 year old son Kimbo, waiting for the Paris train, when he suddenly pointed and said loudly "Look daddy, a black man!". I turned to my right and there was this big guy standing beside me, who replied in a booming American accent."ME BLACK MAN". I apologised and explained to him that we lived way out in the country, and that my son had never before seen anyone with dark skin; we ended-up both having a good laugh. Now there was a guy I'd liked to have been friends with.

If this upsets anyone, I do NOT apologise.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Santa Letter 2013.


Dear Santa.

It doesn't seem so long ago that you ignored my last letter, so let's see if you can do any better for 2013.

OK, maybe I haven't been 100% good this year; but I've tried.

Yes, I DID say some rude things about my nice neighbour, and I DID have inappropriate thoughts about that busty blonde checkout girl at the supermarket, but otherwise I've been quite good; I've done nothing you couldn't just overlook.

This year I'm only going to ask for ONE simple present; I'd like a fully operational 'MAGIC WAND'.

The work is going far too slowly up at the Séchoir. I need to get the new roof on, build the interior walls, install the kitchen and bathroom, connect the power, fit the windows, flatten the croquet lawn, speed up the growth of the new orchard, and then to piss into my neighbour's pool from the top of his orange wall (Oh Cro; now you've gone and spoilt everything; you'd promised to be nice to him!).

Your life-long and faithful friend. Cro xx

Saturday 21 December 2013

Aaaah, Christmas Dinner.


Only a few days to go, and I must admit that I'm really looking forward to it.

Hardly a Christmas has passed when I haven't eaten Roasted Turkey. We've eaten Goose on a few occasions, and although I prefer the taste to Turkey, there just isn't a huge amount on them. I usually buy a free-range, organically-reared bird of about 4 or 5 kilos; I shall buy mine on Monday.

So on Christmas Eve we traditionally eat in Swedish Smorgasbord style, with cold ham, pickled red cabbage, other pickles, cheese (always decorated with tiny Swedish wooden mice), and other delights.

On Christmas day itself, it's smoked Salmon and Caviare for a simple light lunch, then the Turkey Food-Fest in the evening. I shall stuff the neck-end of the Turkey with a Port-flavoured mix of sage-n-onion, coarse ground pork sausage meat, chestnuts, and chopped prunes, and serve the meat with just roasted potatoes, sprouts, and a few extra chestnuts. I never go overboard on huge numbers of vegs. For our Christmas desert (if we still have room), what else than Plum Pudding with thick cream and Armagnac butter. All very traditional and simple.

I know I shall eat too much (I always do), but I shall make amends. What I shall NOT do, however, is buy mountains of food as if a great famine was imminent. Hopefully we shall eat extremely well; but sensibly.

May your Turkey be moist, your sprouts actually look like sprouts, and your indigestion be manageable. And if, like me, you really enjoy your time in the kitchen; HAPPY COOKING!

Friday 20 December 2013

Christmas; likes and dislikes.


LIKES. 1. I love that we devote one specific time of year to eating particularly delicious, and expensive, foods. Mankind just HAD to organise that; it would have been crazy not to!

2. I love all the music that accompanies Christmas, from Wham to Wagner. I love the brainless Phil Spector Do Wa Wa's, just as much as the Carols from King's. As an ex-choirboy (Oh yes I was) singing is in my blood, and no more so than at Christmas.

3. I love the kitsch of the decorations. At what other time of year could one possibly decorate our interiors with such appalling, and tasteless, glitz, other than at Christmas time.

4. I love giving presents. Not too many, and not too expensive; just enough to say 'I'm thinking of you'. However, I'm not terribly keen on receiving them.

5. I love the nostalgia of Christmas. Remembering times past, old friends, and even previous homes. Somehow I associate many of my 'best times' with Christmas; and luckily this continues.

DISLIKES. 1. I don't like that preparations for Christmas seem to begin just after Easter. The appalling drawn-out hype and commercialism really bugs me.

2. I don't like that everyone is suddenly supposed to be 'full of seasonal good cheer'. I like to keep to myself, and that includes Christmas. Leave me alone! Thank you.

3. I don't like all the religious nonsense that has now invaded our ancient festival of Saturnalia. All the images of a hippy looking, bearded, Caucasian traveller, just make me smile; and as for the virgin birth nonsense; give me a break!

4. I don't much like the HUGE sugar-overkill either (not that I eat any of it), it is a cynical and unhealthy money-making disgrace.

5. And finally, I really don't like all those idiots who go on lengthy pub-crawls wearing cheap Santa hats, leaving the pavements awash with vomit.



Thursday 19 December 2013

Christmases Past.


Christmas is a very nostalgic time for me; my most poignant memories going back to the early 1950's.

Now that my parents are no longer with us (and haven't been since the 1980's), I find myself looking back to those wonderful Christmases of times past. No TV, carol singing with friends, and making endless paper chains in the kitchen.

Christmas was always pleasantly chaotic. My mother bought far too many presents (not that we complained), far too big a Turkey (up to 14 kilos), and far too much food in general (post-war siege mentality).

My parents also threw classic Cocktail Parties with cheese-n-pineapple on sticks, Black Sobranie cigarettes, and huge bowls of fruity spiced punch. We, of course, could only listen to the revelries from the upstairs landing; but we enjoyed them anyway.

And, can you believe it, we even had actual lit candles on the Christmas tree! The candles (a bit like cake candles) fitted into clip-on tin plate holders; the fire hazard must have been appalling, although no-one mentioned that at the time.

Christmas morning was without question the most exciting moment of the whole year.

If I had a time machine, I would set the dial to 9am on the 25th of December 1952; I would have been 6, and life would have been just PERFECT.


Wednesday 18 December 2013

My Beloved EBP 323.


My first car (acquired aprox 1967).

A white Volks 1200 cc Beetle, circa 1962 (?), numbered EBP 323.

I loved that car. It seemed quite distinguished at the time; classy, but without being pretentious. When I first had it, I would wash and polish it every week (as one does), but one soon becomes blasé and as a student it became filled with chewed chicken bones and greasy chip wrappers, as well as the mice that lived off them.

It followed me through my college days, then came to France with me when I moved here in 1972.

I declared it on my French import papers (as part of my goods and chattels), and about two years later a whole car-full of jolly uniformed customs officers turned-up from Bordeaux, wanting to inspect it. By this time I had already sold the car, so they simply took advantage of the warm sunny day to have a picnic, before making the 150 Kms return trip home.

I'd sold the car to an old friend who later informed me that she had died in Spain; I was devastated.

RIP EBP 323; so many happy memories.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Zoo on a plate!

This just arrived in the post. I'm not sure if, even by enlarging the above, you'll be able to see what's on offer at my local supermarket (E Leclerc), so I'll tell you.

We have Wapiti (Elk) roasts, Llama roasts, Kangaroo roasts, Red Deer steaks, Wild Boar steaks, Kangaroo steaks, Dromedary (Camel) steaks, Zebra steaks, and Roe Deer leg joints.

I was a little shocked to see Elk, Llama, Camel, and Zebra meat on sale, but I'm used to the rest.

When a Frenchman says he's "So hungry, he could eat a horse"; he MEANS what he says!

Personally, I shall stick to my 'tried-n-tested' Turkey.

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Monday 16 December 2013

Taxes; dontcha love em!

Benjamin Franklin famously plagiarised Daniel Defoe when he wrote "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes".

Well I'm not yet convinced about 'death', but as far as 'taxes' are concerned, he was right!

Some time back I received a House Tax (rates) bill for a house I didn't know I owned. At the time I wondered if somehow it had been included in some other purchase I'd made, and I became quite excited. Of course reality soon replaced my exhilaration, and I was sadly informed that it had all been a big mistake.

Just recently another bill has informed us that we own woodland on which we must (of course) pay money to the State (above). The Cotisation des Parcelles Boisées (dues for wooded lands) is not huge; just a matter of €12 (including TVA tax on the tax), but where we wondered was our woodland?

Lady Magnon popped down to see the Mayor, and was informed that 'OK, you may not own any woodland, but your land is being taxed as if it WAS woodland; and you are obliged to pay-up regardless'.

So, there we have it. We must pay a woodland tax on woodland we don't own. Yup, that sounds right!

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Sunday 15 December 2013

Your Christmas Chestnuts.

I live in a SERIOUS CHESTNUT GROWING AREA, so feel slightly qualified to comment on their suitability for whatever use.

Christmas Chestnuts come in various different forms. Fresh (if you're lucky), tinned as purée (natural or horribly sweet), vacuum packed (all glued together), and loose in jars (above).

The above is a relatively new way of commercialising Chestnuts; it's a method that has been used by local housewives for generations, but not on a wider basis. All the work is done, they are presented as 'individual' nuts, and they taste as good as if you'd gathered and prepared them yourself. I'm not quite sure how they end up like this; I think they may be steam processed, and all perfectly peeled beforehand.

May I suggest that you never buy canned 'Chestnuts in Water'; they are horrible. And I cannot see the point of buying 'sweetened' tinned purée either. 

If they're available near you; try to buy them like above, they're excellent. Just the job for bunging in with the Turkey.

Just say 'Cro sent you'.

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Saturday 14 December 2013

A Painter Paints.

Lady M spent 4 years at Art College studying painting; and she used her time well. She knows exactly how to prepare everything in advance, and how to keep both herself and the whole area spotlessly clean.

Here she was, yesterday, painting the bathroom wall (with a bath sponge). She thought it needed a little pre-Christmas 'sprucing'.

In the past she has been known to be a teeny-weeny bit messy; but yesterday she was very 'good', for HER this was almost mess free!

Artistic professionalism, and innovation,  is alive and well in the Magnon household.

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Friday 13 December 2013

My Absolute, Absolute, Final School Memoir: "Meet me at the Fives Court".


I was privileged to attend one of the oldest schools in the world (officially founded in 970 AD, but actually much older). It was an institution where one's 'Honour' was taken extremely seriously.

If a senior boy felt that he had been insulted, he had the option to either flog you, or invite you to 'The Fives Court'. The latter was employed very rarely.

Being invited to The Fives Court involved unwritten rules. Centuries of quivering boys had had to endure its unfair system of settling scores against much bigger, older, and stronger, boys.

It was accepted that the senior boy would ALWAYS win the combat; the junior having been taught his lesson was then obliged to shake hands and thank his conqueror (as was the case with flogging).

Cro had upset some senior 'twit' of a boy, and his 'friends' had goaded him into inviting me to The Fives Court. A time was set, the word was spread, and it looked likely to attract a good audience.

I can't remember the name of the 'twit', nor can I remember how I'd insulted him, but I can remember very clearly meeting him at the fives court complete with his second, who held a white towel over his arm in traditional style. It was all very theatrical, and frankly rather ridiculous. As expected, a good baying crowd had turned up to watch the fun.

The second waved a handkerchief, and shouted something like 'FIGHT '. Then the 'twit' started to dance around me on the tips of his toes, with his fists out in front (Ali style). He was shorter than me, well built, but not at all athletic. I stood and watched as he cavorted around the small enclosed courtyard waiting for his moment.

Well, I'm sure you know what's coming next. I lost my patience and threw an opening right jab to his nose, anticipating that this would encourage whatever bravado he possessed. In fact he fell to the floor, clutched at his bleeding nose, and shrieked with pain. The cheers from the hundred or so boys, both in and out of the fives court, soon drowned all else, and I was carried out shoulder high by the highly amused crowd. The Mummy's boy 'twit' was taken off to see Matron.

Unfortunately this wasn't the end of the matter, and I was later called to explain my 'ungentlemanly' behaviour by another senior boy (who'd been vaguely involved in the affair).

I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I had broken with 1000 years of tradition, and that as such I would have to accept punishment.

I bent over, and received 6 of the most feeble whacks in the history of flogging.

It seemed as if everyone, and tradition, had been satisfied (except, I imagine, the 'twit' himself).

p.s. Just in case anyone doesn't know what 'Fives' is, it is an ancient game, rather like Squash, which is played with a gloved hand, rather than a racquet; and takes place in a somewhat smaller high-walled square-ish court.

p.p.s. In 1970 (the school's millenniary year), HM The Queen came to say kind words, and in memory of her visit the school decided to take-in GIRLS. So, 'meeting in the fives court' is now probably confined to history (unless, of course, it would be for alternative reasons). I had, of course, left by this time.

Thursday 12 December 2013

That Tree 2013.


It's not easy to photograph this year's tree, but if you enlarge it, it may give you some idea.

I've suspended it from a beam, so that the branches come down rather than go up.

There are still more things to go on; the fairy, some greenery, and possibly some birds.

Anyway, it looks very 'Christmassy'.

Especially with the lights on.

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Wednesday 11 December 2013

Dog Club.

When the boys invite some of their mates around for the afternoon, all hell lets loose.

From left to right; Bok's double Iggy Pup, Duke (aka Dook), Isis (the only female around), Monty, and Bok.

For a while, the garden and surrounding area becomes another Silverstone. Less noise perhaps, but much the same speeds are achieved.

There may only have been 5 of them, but it seemed more like twenty.  Duke and Isis belong to my friend José, Iggy Pup to a girl who lives nearby, and of course Monty and Bok to us.

It wasn't easy getting them all in the same picture, so please excuse its poor quality.
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Tuesday 10 December 2013

Extracts from the Christmas diary of a country Parson. The Rev Isiah Magnon 1830-1894.

The Hon, the Rev Isiah Magnon (1868).

20. 12. 1870. 'Dear Diary; why don't all these bloody people leave me alone, anyone would think it was bloody Christmas'.

21. 12. 1870. 'Mrs Magnon, and HER 12 children, now assure me that it IS Christmas, so I suppose I'd better inform my illiterate parishioners'.

22. 12. 1870. 'That's torn it; they all want me to put on some bloody theatrical extravaganza with a donkey, someone giving birth in a stable, and a bunch of swarthy Kings. I suggested we did Dick Whittington or Cinderella instead, but the buggers insisted'.

23. 12 1870. 'A good day; I ordered the Turkey, the Ham, the Goose, and a flagon of Port. I think we should have enough to bide us over the next couple of days..... as long as I get a moment to enjoy it'.

24. 12. 1870. 'The parishioners want me to stay up till bloody midnight. Don't they know that tomorrow is my busiest day of the year; I've received invitations for both lunch and dinner'.

25. 12. 1870. 'Too much Port last night, I'm having a lie-in. Can someone please stop those bloody children singing about Shepherds watching their bloody flocks; I'm trying to sleep'.

26. 12. 1870. 'I've been summoned up to Magnon Manor this morning. The present incumbent, my cousin Lord Tobias Magnon, is in a tiff. It seems that I swore at the bloody village children yesterday, after their bloody donkey left a trail of bloody garden manure all over the isle, one of the bloody Kings sicked-up cake all over the font, and that bloody 5 year old urchin from the Workhouse urinated behind the organ. Thank god we only have this bloody Christmas lark once a year. I hope Toby's got some decent Port in the house'.

27. 12. 1870. 'If is wasn't for that bit of rumpy-pumpy with Constance the scullery maid last night, it would have been another completely ruined Christmas'.

1. 1. 1871. 'I'm thinking of becoming a Bishop; less work, better Port'.

Monday 9 December 2013

Lady Magnon's Tarte Tatin.

There are Apple pies and Apple pies, but nothing compares to a well made Tart Tatin.

Lady Magnon has spent about 40 years perfecting this wonderful Apple tart, and I think she's just about cracked it! The one above we ate last night.

When we first met she invited me to dinner (a rare occurrence in student days). She had prepared a wonderful Estofat de Boeuf  which she served with ribbon noodles, and a superb Tarte Tatin. The young Cro was mightily impressed (and the rest is history).

This upside down, buttery, tart is (when made correctly) the zenith of culinary mastership. If you've never had one.... do so at once.

The recipe for Raymond Blanc's much tidier version is available here. Lady M also adds a pinch of ground cinnamon (but who am I to suggest that Raymond Blanc does likewise).

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Sunday 8 December 2013

School days: A Question of Identity.

This may be a bit long-winded, but please bear with me. I recently wrote about an incident at school which involved the drinking of Sherry. This separate incident took place just a few weeks before, and was..... well, you'll see!


I was sitting in my study, brushing-up for a forthcoming A level exam, when I was summoned to see the Headmaster.

He bellowed at me, told me that I'd always been a nasty disturbing influence (we didn't like each other), and ranted about a phone call that he'd just received. I listened patiently as his regular vermilion face turned puce, then he finally declared that I'd been sacked (expelled). All he added was that he would be phoning my father forthwith and that I'd better pack my things, ready to catch the London train in the morning.

I returned to my study where everyone was intrigued to learn about what he'd wanted.

"I've been sacked" I told them.

"What for?" they asked.

"No idea" I replied. "He didn't say".

"What are you going to do about it?" the three others asked in unison.

"Nothing; I'll just ignore the silly old buffer".

About half an hour later, our fifth study member 'G' arrived back, and slumped down at his desk. "Cro's been sacked" they all informed him excitedly.

G stood up, looked serious (actually, he always looked serious), and muttered something about having to see the headmaster. About half an hour later he returned to the study and said that the headmaster wanted to see me; yet AGAIN.

This time I really didn't know what to expect, and I remember nervously hesitating outside his door. Eventually I very reluctantly knocked; and entered.

"Sit down, Magnon" he said in a much calmer and friendlier tone than an hour before. "There seems to have been a misunderstanding; why did you not say something before?"

"I'm afraid I had no idea what you were talking about, Sir" I replied. "And, frankly, I still don't". Then, in front of me, he lifted his telephone and spoke to my father; explaining that it had all been some terrible mistake, before passing the phone over to me.

After a few father/son pleasantries, father told me to make him apologise; and the call was over.

"What did he say?" asked the Headmaster.

"He suggested that you may like to apologise to me" I said blankly (feeling extremely smug).

He did apologise, but he also accused me of having aggravated the situation by not having asked why I'd been sacked. After a short while I returned to my study where 'G' explained that he'd given MY NAME when he'd been caught returning his girlfriend to her school, after an illicit evening out. The girl's headmistress had phoned our headmaster, and the result had been predictable.

'G' had, of course now been sacked in my stead, and I offered him a sharp right jab to his chin as a souvenir of his unacceptable behaviour. No doubt I also celebrated with a glass of cheap British Sherry.

Sacked, then re-admitted, all in the space of less than two hours had been exhausting, and was well worth celebrating. When I returned home that Summer (for the final time), my father didn't mention a single word about the incident; it was if it had never happened. Maybe he'd not mentioned it to my mother.

You'll be pleased to hear that I shall NOT be posting any more school-boy tales; this final one is enough!

Saturday 7 December 2013

House Rules.


Lady Magnon forgot to spread the razor wire over her sofa last night, so this is what greeted me when I came downstairs this morning.

Poor Bok doesn't look too comfortable; he'd have been far better off in his cozy, XXL, chew-proof, plastic, snooze-a-while, doggy bed. 

But try telling HIM that!

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Friday 6 December 2013

Spice Box.

This old Spice Box only sees the light of day once a year; and now is that moment.

It contains all those 'solid' spices that are rarely used; Cloves, Nutmeg, Star Anise, etc. These are the spices that Lady Magnon uses for her festive fare, and they are kept apart from all the others.

I have no idea how long some of these spices should last, but they all still have wonderful aromas and flavours. Just to open the box is a sensory experience in itself.

As you can see, the inside is divided into six individual compartments, with a nutmeg holder and grater in the centre. 

The tin was made in the days when certain spices were more expensive than gold; hence the serious lock on the front.

I remember carving this little peg (the original padlock has long gone) when I was ill in bed. It helped pass the time, and has been used ever since. I suppose I really ought to find a small antique padlock to take its place.

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Thursday 5 December 2013

Division of Labour.

I'm sure that Lady Magnon won't mind me saying that she is perfectly happy to leave most of the daily cooking chores to me. However, there are certain things that are absolutely sacrosanct.

She insists on making our Strawberry and Apricot jams, and she rules over the annual Mince Pie and Christmas Cake production. She is also in charge of Crumbles, Tatins, and occasional Tea-Time Treats. In other words, she controls the key to the sugar vaults, whereas I am confined to the salt bin.

The annual birth of our Christmas Cake is a major, major affair. I have never known anything else that requires SO MANY different ingredients. Here below is Stage 1; the soaking overnight (in Armagnac) of the dried fruits.

What happens next is something of a mystery to most men. The kitchen becomes coated in flour and butter (after some explosion no doubt?), muffled expletives are directed at the dogs (you have to blame something!), and several hours of pacing up and down, and peering into the oven take place (these come under the headings of Stages 2 to 9).

Stage 10 is the adoration, and relief, on seeing the finished product. The cake is taken out, sniffed, ooohed and aaahed over, and put away until such time as we've all eaten so much that we couldn't eat another morsel (Christmas). It's bottom will also be regularly wetted with alcohol.

And here is the little darling, aged about 3 hours. Wot; no plastic reindeer and no snowman?

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Memorable Christmas presents.

This air rifle, a BSA .177 Cadet Major circa 1956, was given to me by my father when I was around 10 years old.

You'd have to have known my father to appreciate the totally 'out of character' nature of this gift.

Maybe he thought I'd clear-up all the rats that lived amongst the chickens at the bottom of the garden, or maybe he just thought I'd shoot the gardener. I have no idea what he thought I'd do with it, as he gave no indication.

I had carte blanche with the gun. No supervision, no training, and no limit to my targets. I just took it out into the garden, and shot at whatever I fancied; luckily the garden was quite big, and we were also out in the countryside.

Of course, for me, it was just about the most perfect Christmas present imaginable, and I didn't abuse the trust that was put on me (or very seldom anyway), but why he gave it to me in the first place is still a mystery; he just wasn't that sort of person. I would never have given my own children something as potentially dangerous; certainly not aged 10.

My own children did shoot at targets, as do my grandsons now, but it is done with a very low powered air-pistol, and in strictly controlled conditions. These things are NOT toys.

When they are older I may introduce them to my father's Christmas gift, but it'll be a long while before I do.

I should add that the gun is in as good condition now, as it was all those years ago.

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