Thursday 31 January 2013

Art Student Style Photos.

All this wretched stuff has now gone (thank goodness), but I've assembled these few photos that I took along the way.

They remind me of my student days, when we were constantly being given 'texture' projects.

And look; I'm still going around doing the same thing! 
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Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Story of Rory.

With the work being done in our barn, my new ride-on mower, 'Rory', was forced to spent the worst of the Winter outdoors under a flimsy, and hole-filled, car cover.

At times Rory has been invisible under two foot of snow, the poor boy has been pelted with hailstones, and he's spent countless days under pouring rain. In fact, he could hardly have spent a more taxing and illness-inducing Winter.

Yesterday afternoon was Spring-like and warm, so I decided to see what had become of him. I was expecting to find Badgers, Rats, or even Squirrels amongst his inner workings, but when I took off the tattered cover I was astounded to find everything much in order. He was even quite clean.

Then came the important bit. I had no doubt whatsoever that the small battery would be dead, but turned the key 'just for fun'. He started without even the slightest cough.

In appreciation of his courage, he is now, once again, tucked-up inside the barn (see above), where he is being pampered on the newly laid smooth concrete floor.

Thank you Rory; I love you!

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Of all the gin joints, in all.....

I've visited many bars; and have sacrificed myself at numerous altars to beer wine or pastis, but one temple stands out above all others.

'Les Deux Garçons' in Aix is very special; similar, in some ways, to Paris's 'Les Deux Magots' on the Place St Germain, it acts as the town's village hall, or meeting house.

Found on the Cours Mirabeau, in the beautiful town of Aix-en-Provence, 'Les Deux Garçons' is a haven for tired feet, parched throats, and over-opinionated painters. 

I've only visited Aix once, but managed to visit Les Deux Garçons on several occasions whilst there. The food is supposed to be excellent, but I have no first-hand knowledge.

If you're passing by, I recommend it; just say Cro sent you!    

Monday 28 January 2013

Northern 'Bloody' Ireland.

I recently posted a piece about the current Northern Irish riots. Riots perpetrated by the big-wigs at Belfast City Hall, who decided not to fly the national flag, The Union Flag/Jack, other than on 18 days each year.

I quickly removed the piece because I thought maybe I might upset certain Sinn Fein or IRA sympathisers (not that I could really give an effing toss).

The great problem with Northern Ireland is that the majority of its inhabitants wish to remain United Kingdom nationals. Whereas the majority of United Kingdom nationals would be more than happy if they reunited with Éire.

Once we get rid of Scotland, we will be richer, more stable politically, and happier all round. May I suggest that Northern Ireland follows Scotland's example, and considers a similarly liberating move!

A simple union of England and Wales could conquer the world, unless one of Owain Glyndŵr's boys gets uppity.

My dastardly attitude towards Northern Ireland is bound to upset, but I'm fed-up with the whole bloody bunch of them; left, right, catholic, protestant, unionist, or republican. They behave like little children fighting over sweets; and then have the nerve to call it 'the troubles'.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Romantic Place Names.

In Italy they have Montepulciano, Positano, and Stromboli. In South America, Valparaiso, Tierro del Fuego, and Belo Horizonte. In the USA you will find Chatenooga, Albuquerque, and Pensacola. In Canada, Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, and Saskatchewan. All, I'm sure you'll agree, are fine 'come visit me' names (even if the reality is less appealing).

But it's not only those 'far away places' that have charming and poetic names; think of the UK's Wigan, Cleethorpes, and Splott.

Whoever said that romantic destinations don't exist in the UK?

Saturday 26 January 2013

I'd rather be....


I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm something of a hermit; I enjoy the company of others, but I'm just as content at home, by myself.

In recent times I've been obliged to attend a certain number of social gatherings. The invitations were answered on my behalf, and whereas I would normally have relied on my Bunbury to find a plausible excuse, I have been obliged to accept in absentia.

On such occasions I find myself asking the question 'What would I really like to be doing instead of being here, with all these people (most of whom I don't know)?'

Usually the answer is predictable. Other than being at home with a glass of wine, I would much rather be with just a couple of really good friends, enjoying simple banter, and putting the world to rights.

This is probably epitomised by sitting at a corner table, in a favourite restaurant or bar, with my old mate Jock. In the few years that we fraternised, we must have downed thousands of bottles of wine, shared hundreds of wonderful meals, and solved every problem known to mankind. At least, that's how it seemed, and it suited me fine.

I don't know why, but I've really begun to dislike large social gatherings. Maybe it's a question of age.

Friday 25 January 2013

Helping Grumpy with the Logs.

Sadly, my little helpers have both gone home. What good boys they were!

It really is time I bought a new wheelbarrow; the one above is falling to bits.

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Thursday 24 January 2013

Neil Young, Harvest Moon, and Mr Jacqueline.

Some time back, Jacqueline over at  Beauty in the ordinary  posted this beautiful song for her husband, who had been going through some rough times.

Certain musicians just amaze me. Take a simple tune, a perfect arrangement, serious musicianship, attractive girly singers who know their job, and a straight-forward voice to pass on the message; what more could one want from a love song? I've been listening to this ever since Jacqueline posted it on her site.

I just hope you'll enjoy it too.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Doppelgänger No 21½.

                                          Nigella Keeler.

                                        Christine Lawson.

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Tuesday 22 January 2013

iPad Era.

It's strange to think that my own parents, who both died in the early 80's, knew nothing of computers, digital photography, or the pleasure of Skype.

Nowadays the above scene is perfectly normal. In fact the quicker they learn to explore the possibilities of 'the net', the better equipped they will be for the future.

Harvey J and Ollie were swapping notes. They fly home this afternoon; I'll miss them terribly (and their dad).
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Monday 21 January 2013

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside......

From Left to right. Cro, Harvey J, Ollie, Kimbo, Bok, and Monty. 

We had only just returned from our early morning walk, when the snow started falling again like crazy. Another few inches of fun for the boys, and another few inches of misery for me.

And only yesterday I'd had such hopes.... Bah; humbug!
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Sunday 20 January 2013

Rib-Sticking Winter Soup.

At this time of year, our lunchtime soups need to be 'warming, hearty, and substantial'.

A good example is this simple vegetable soup with Knödel (Ger) or Canederli Tirolesi (It). 

In yesterday's case it was a creamy Asparagus soup with the Knödel (dumpling) made with chopped ham and fresh herbs. Enough to keep me going until cake-o-clock.

p.s. Having consumed the above, I drove hot-tyre to the airport to pick-up my oldest son who was coming over for a long weekend.

Imagine my surprise when I found not only Kimbo himself, but also grandsons Ollie and Harvey J. When I returned home, Lady M almost fell off her perch. That's the sort of surprise WE REALLY LIKE.

The snow all melted yesterday, but is back again this morning!

And by the way it's looking at the moment, their long weekend is going to turn into a VERY long weekend; the snow is really coming down!!!

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Saturday 19 January 2013

Even More Baffled.

I recently posted a piece about the price of frozen NZ legs of lamb, see here. You may find this even MORE baffling; I certainly do!

Above is an ad' that I've just received through the post. It is from the reasonably up-market Leclerc supermarket where I regularly shop.

These 1.8 kg frozen NZ gigots, at €5.62 per kg, cost a fraction over €10 each, and minus €1 per piece for having a loyalty card, they end up as €9 each; about £7. The ones I bought recently cost €15.50; and at the time, I considered those extremely cheap too.

After my previous piece, I received several comments from both Kiwis and Aussies saying that 'down under', Lamb is now quite expensive; in fact, a luxury.

So how come this delicious NZ Lamb is ending up here in France at this ludicrously low price? (I'm not complaining). If anyone knows the answer I'd love to hear it. Meanwhile I'm chucking unwanted stuff out of the freezer to make way for two or three more.

Friday 18 January 2013

A Walk in the Snow. Thursday 17th Jan 2013.

No comment..... No, honestly; I really have no comment.

I have to admit (as much as I hate to) that the snow has brought with it some really beautiful landscapes.

And, as the boys still need their early morning emptying walk, I was out there at 8 am; pocket camera at the ready.

It was a shorter walk than usual; only because the snow was so deep in places that I had difficulty walking through it. 

But, the boys enjoyed it; even if I was shivering by the time we reached HOME sweet HOME. Do enlarge the pix for a better view.

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Thursday 17 January 2013

Snowed-in again.

Bloody snow. Our internet connection has been on-n-off all day, as has our electricity supply; and our satellite TV and radio is predictably non-existent.

So, personally, I settle down with a good book, maybe eat a few walnuts, or just snooze.

Otherwise I just keep close to the fire, and have cake for tea. The bloody snow looks to be staying a while!

However, Lady M's happy; she's built a Snow-Thing-Person on the terrace table.

And, OF COURSE, both Monty and Bok were in great demand (from the local girlies) to do a spot of sled pulling! 

Iditarod, here they come.  I'll stay indoors by the fire, thank you!

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Wednesday 16 January 2013

It's the little things that count (infuriate).

Above is the almost brand new water meter which serves our recently acquired tobacco barn; it was installed less than a year ago.

Originally it had a green plastic, and well insulated, cover; the bits of white, honey-comb like, polystyrene are all that now remain.

So how (I hear you asking) did it get to be in such a terrible state? Well, when my arrogant, half-witted, Parisian, neighbour, built his delightful ORANGE WALL last June, he not only left unbelievable amounts a detritus behind, he also buggered-up my brand new water meter. One of his workmen managed not only to smash the top, but also twist the meter itself sideways (you can probably see that it no longer points upwards, as it should). 

Being of a quiet nature, I asked politely if he would replace the cover; and he agreed that he would.

But, as one might expect of a parvenu Cowboy Builder.... he has, of course, done NOTHING. 

It really is the little things that infuriate; I never imagined that it was too taxing for him to replace what he openly acknowledges that he broke. I'm beginning to understand why he's so universally mistrusted and disliked.

p.s. I can hear cries from all quarters of the globe saying 'Cro, why don't you grab him by the balls, squeeze them till his eyes pop out of their sockets, and threaten to torture his wife and children until the bloody thing is replaced'.

Well, the answer is simple; I'm English, and we just don't act like that. We take our time, drink tea, and prune the roses. In fact we allow miscreants to demonstrate their ineptitude by their normal daily behaviour.

One of these years I may simply ask 'Had any luck finding that meter cover yet?' But I ain't holdin' me breath.

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Tuesday 15 January 2013

You avin' a larf?

Political heavyweight, Eric Pickles (above), has recently put all Englishmen's minds at rest with his optimistic statement about England's near-future immigration numbers.

Eric, who is Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (whatever that is), has estimated the influx of Bulgarians and Romanians (after December 31st 2013) as possibly, somewhere in the region of, roughly, approximately, round about, 300,000-ish.

Let me assure Mr Pickles that he is wrong. Just as Tony Blair totally underestimated the mass immigration influx due to his 'Open Door Policy', so has Eric underestimated the determination of the Bulgarians and Romanians to come and take everything to which (the EU insists) they will soon become entitled.

And don't forget, Eric; they will also require housing, policing, health care, and schooling for their hoards of children.

I reckon you could easily add another zero to your estimate, Eric.... just ask Tony! 

And don't say I didn't warn you. 

Monday 14 January 2013

Squelch, squelch, squelch.

Certain bloggers manage to accompany their postings with cleverly related sound tracks; I've still not (thankfully) managed to achieve this horror, so be grateful.

However, as you look at these photos, I'd like you to imagine the sound of size 45 gumboots plodding through sticky, water-filled, mud holes; with the occasional splash, and curse of 'oh for god's sake' thrown in for good measure.

The ground is sodden, all pot-holes are filled with brown water, and gumboots are worn for every dog-emptying sortie. 

It seems to have been raining for ever, but in fact this isn't the case. It mostly rains at night; conveniently stopping before my 8.15 am walk with the hooligans. We have even been taking afternoon tea outdoors in sunshine. Unfortunately the product of the rainfall lingers. 

As you can probably see by the above, it's squelch, squelch, squelch, all the way home! 
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Sunday 13 January 2013

Owners and their Dogs.

Lady Magnon liked to think that Monty was HER dog, and Bok was MINE.

On the principal that owners grow to resemble their dogs, I shall attempt a comparison.

Bok: Alert, proud, and insomniac. Monty: Comatose, lazy, and a stentorian snorer.

Bok: Lithe, beautifully-groomed, and handsome. Monty: Cumbersome, over-weight, and permanently moulting.

Bok: Selectively gourmet. Monty: Gimme cake, gimme cake.

Bok: Affectionate and faithful. Monty: Gimme cake, gimme cake.

Strange; Lady M has just recently changed her mind about who's dog is who's. Bok, she now says, is HER dog, and Monty has been re-designated as MINE.

I wonder why?

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Saturday 12 January 2013

Like the back of my hand.....

I really thought I knew every nook and cranny of my immediate area.

There's a certain walk that I take several times a week, and if someone had told me that I walked past an ancient ruin that I didn't know about (en route), I wouldn't have believed them.

But here it is (above); I spotted it a couple of days ago. I imagine it's an ancient borie that has long crumbled, and been covered in brambles and moss. It sits against one of the man-made walls of a series of terraced fields; the hard labour of some poor long forgotten peasant who was eking a living from land that was once at a terrible angle. The labour involved in levelling them was worthy of Heracles; now the fields are all sadly reclaimed as woodland.

Then, blow me, if I didn't find another building today (yesterday). It was built against a rocky outcrop, and the interior probably originally measured about 6ft by 12 ft. Very little of it remains, but one can still see by the dry-stone-walling that it was man made (below).

Both buildings are no more than archaeological ruins, and I'm afraid my photos may not be very informative.

I wonder how old they are. I wonder if I'll find any more. And I also wonder if anyone else even knows they're there; especially the second one, which was very well hidden.

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Friday 11 January 2013

Caveat Aedificator.

I'm trying to find a calm way of saying this;... one should always be on one's guard when it comes to paying tradesmen.

Regular readers of this page will know that we have recently had some work done to an old wooden Séchoir that we bought a couple of years back; my builder has laid a perfectly smooth concrete floor over the 7 by 21 metre surface (above).

We were extremely happy with the work; but not so with the finalised bill. It was €1,700 MORE than the original quote (which we had signed and approved)! So where had all the extra costs come from?

A quick phone call to the boss provided the answer; he had 'mistakenly' charged us for work that his son had done over 6 months earlier, and for which we had ALREADY PAID, back in August 2012!

Naughty, naughty, builder;..... it pays to be vigilant. We can't afford to pay TWICE for the same job!

p.s. I have just now received the revised bill; complete with sincere apology. I'll pay it today.

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