Wednesday 31 December 2014

Cro's Review of 2014.

It's been a pretty good year for The Magnons.

2014 began mildly; unusually for here there were no snow storms or hard frosts, then a wonderful Spring arrived, bringing with it our little 'Bunny' (now not so little).

Summer was good too. We had our two North London grandsons with us whilst their parents got on with earning their crusts. The parents took them off for a trip to Béziers before leaving the boys with us again for a further week. It was great having them to ourselves, although I don't know if they'd say the same.

Luckily the boys were here for the Plum harvest, and for the first time Harvey J's birthday-tree excelled. Here he is surveying his first very own crop of fruit, which Lady Magnon had converted into a Plum Tarte Tatin. Proud boy; delicious tart.


Throughout the summer our work on the barn advanced. Slowly, but with determination.


Knocking down what seemed like most of the southern wall was hairy; but it had to be done. We now have front steps, a new roof, drainpipes, windows, a staircase, a new floor, water, some electrical work, a certain amount of insulation, and upstairs beams that are no longer blood-thirsty. We're getting there! This is how we leave the barn as we head into 2015; it's beginning to look 'almost' like a house.

Whilst Wills was here he even ordered a very nice looking wood fired range cooker, with back boiler, for the new kitchen. It hasn't arrived yet, but shouldn't be long.


The Cèpe harvest this October was wonderful; in fact there were almost too many. As my main aim this year was to produce plenty of conserves I was in heaven, and we now have stocks for months ahead (below). Cèpe omelets... Oh yes.

Unfortunately 2014 has also had its nightmares. Everyone will have been horrified by the advance of the murderous IS fanatics through Syria and Iraq. Something radical needs to be done about them, but by who and when remains undecided. Meanwhile they grow ever stronger and become ever more barbaric. It's a world-wide disgrace. If there is one collective message to our so-called leaders, it has to be 'sort it out, and quick'.

                                     *      *      *      *

Exceptionally fine weather continued throughout October; something I don't remember ever happening before. Then November had its moments, and even December, although evening fires were eventually lit.


We have a good stock of firewood, we are both in reasonable health, the coffers will allow for an adequate amount of thin gruel through January, we have a new grandson, and we can still put our backs into reasonably hard physical work. We have a lot to be grateful for.

So, I will leave 2014 with a very recent picture of our lovely Bunny. Grown, ain't he!

Not everything has been perfect. My good friend and neighbour, José, was burgled two weeks ago, on a pre-Christmas Sunday afternoon, and it has shocked the whole neighbourhood. Hopefully our 2 dogs would see off any unwelcome visitors, but we are being extra cautious.

As usual I wish everyone a very happy and peaceful New Year. Keep in touch, and may we all be together again to celebrate the end of 2015. Cro xx

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Goodbyes of 2014.

In 2014, the world of entertainment said goodbye to Joe Cocker, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, Billie Whitelaw, Rik Mayall, Lauren Bacall, and Bob Hoskins (amongst others).

A few notable British politicians also bade their farewells. Irish rabble-rouser Rev Ian Paisley will no longer be treating us to his 'dulcet tones', naughty ex Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe will no longer enthrall us with tales of skullduggery, and the man that the KGB apparently referred to as an 'unnecessary simpleton', Anthony Wedgewood-Benn, is no longer 'The most dangerous man in Britain'.

Others I would like to pay homage to here are the passengers and crew of Malaysian Airways flights MH 370 and MH 17, and AirAsia QZ 8501. The 145 schoolchildren and teachers of Peshawar. And all those who were slaughtered by ISIS, ISIL, IS, Boko Haram, Hamas, Al-Shabaab, and all the other myriad terrorist organisations.

There are countless others who deserve mention, but as usual I refer just to those that I made a point of noting in my diary. Rest in Peace all.

Monday 29 December 2014



I no longer play any type of 'sport', but in my day I considered it essential.

In Winter I played Rugby, and in the Summer; Cricket and Rowing. I am of course talking about my school days (other than Rugby which I briefly played later at club level).

I was pretty hopeless at all running and jumping sports, but played a reasonable game of Fives. My Tennis was erratic, and my Golf totally hopeless. Without question my two favourite sports were Rugby and Rowing; especially the Rowing.

Rowing 8's is an interesting pastime. Your feet are strapped onto a footplate, you slide back and forth on a tiny uncomfortable wheeled seat, and you can't see where you're going; only where you've been. Whilst putting all your effort into making the wretched thing go as fast as possible, your safety is in the hands of some small spotty person who shouts at you incessantly (Coxes don't usually stand up, as in the illustration).

One of my enduring memories of rowing was coming across groups of six-fingered Fenland fishermen who'd shout obscenities at us as we snagged their lines with our oars. Our response in perfect nine man unison was always a stentorian.... "Fuck off". It still makes me laugh when I think about it.

As far as competitions are concerned I rowed at Henley, on The Serpentine, and at The Cambridge Bumps; always unsuccessfully. The Cambridge University 2nd crew (Goldie) kept a boat in our boathouse, and used our stretch of the river in preference to their own. We often practiced 'starts' together, and they always pulled away from us with frustrating ease.

Rugby is a fool's game. Other than trying to score a few points, it's basically an excuse for one big PUNCH UP. I loved it, but usually ended up as the loser; which is why my city bosses suggested I stopped.

Nowadays I play Croquet and Petanque. Relaxed, sociable, and unhurried, they are games that can be accompanied by a pleasant glass or two of Pastis. They have neither a time limit, nor officious interfering referees. Rules are mostly ignored, but there is more laughter than fisticuffs.

I suppose I might once have been called 'sporty'..... but not now.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Monty's Birthday.

Monty is 4 today (28. 12. 2014). There's really not a lot more to say.

He'll eat his favourite Knacki sausages for lunch, open a few presents, and probably have a few extra treats, but that's it.

I think he's slowly losing his wild adolescent ways; he now occasionally comes when called, no longer disappears for hours on end rifling through our neighbour's compost heaps, and is almost attempting to be friendly. He's also trying to learn to speak English. 

Nearly 4 years ago he looked like this. Aaaaaaah.


So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Monty. I do hope your pink Summer nose returns to its Winter black a.s.a.p.

Tomorrow is Lady Magnon's birthday (37 again), so we'll celebrate the two great occasions together.

Cro (Daddy, The Boss, etc) xxx

SOME TIME LATER;  Here he is opening one of his presents; a new collar.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Basildon Bond.


I was reflecting on my childhood Christmases, and the presents I would regularly receive each year.

Amongst other things, there was always a Rupert Bear annual, a licorice smokers set, and some writing paper.

For some bizarre reason I always loved my pristine new pad of Basildon Bond writing paper and its matching pack of envelopes.  The paper was usually pale blue, with an almost invisible magical watermark. There was something so exciting about writing all those 'thank you' letters on brand new paper. I can remember the feeling as if it was yesterday.  

I don't suppose many people, especially children, receive writing pads for Christmas any more, nor do they write many letters.

I can't see snail mail letter writing ever making a comeback; can you?


Friday 26 December 2014

How went the day?

I am proud to say that everything went according to plan.

The Turkey was moist and delicious, the roast spuds nicely roasted, the Sprouts just right, and the accompanying sauce; saucy. And what lady could resist my stuffing!

However; the expensive Pécharmant wine was total rubbish. It cost me about €10 (expensive for here), and frankly tasted like a €2 bottle of cooking plonk.

So, shame on you 'Domaine de la Réfrénie', I shall not be buying your wine again, and I wouldn't mind even asking for my money back!

It was abandoned after the first sip, and a delicious (gold medal winning) Bordeaux 'Mission St Vincent 2012' consumed in its stead (about €4).

Any disasters at your end?

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Cro's Christmas Greeting.

My very best wishes to everyone. Cro xx

Tuesday 23 December 2014

There's Nothing Like A Dame....


It's Panto Season.

As with so many, my first real introduction to 'theatre' was through Pantomime. I loved it as a child, and would still love it today, if I had a chance to go. Christmas wasn't complete without shouting "Behind You".

My two favourite Dames were the ebullient Christopher Biggins, and the late Billy Dainty.

Biggins has his detractors, but stick him in an outrageous frock, and he'll make the most mundane of Pantos come alive. Billy Dainty was the same.

Third on my list of favourites has to be the lovely Don Smoothey. I worked with Don on a Summer Show back in the late 60's, and he was an absolute delight.

These three 'Dames' had one thing in common; they are/were all natural true 'SHOWMEN'. Many pretend to be; but very few really are. It's an essential characteristic of Panto Dame-ism.

Viva Widow Twankey et al.

Monday 22 December 2014

THAT annual list.


Dear Santa.

Frankly you've been rubbish at granting my wishes over the past few years, so why don't I just ask you for things I know you CAN supply; or already have!

How about some Type 2 diabetes, a bad back, a painful knee, dodgy teeth, a painful hip, a stiff neck, insomnia, high blood pressure, plenty of cholesterol, and thinning hair. And, if you've got any room left on the sleigh, how about a case of Merlot.

No, I haven't been good this year; nor do I intend to be next year. But even if you can't deliver any of the above, I'll still leave you a glass of Port and some Mince Pies by the fire (because I'm nice).

Your faithful believer, Cro xx

Sunday 21 December 2014

The 21st Century Cost of Living.


How much does it cost these days to live a 'normal' life in a first world country?

I imagine that most people probably have the following expenses (very rough estimates).

1. Internet connection £30 per month.

2. Mobile phone £50 per month.

3. Sky TV (others are available) £20  per month.

4. Films to TV £10 per month.

5. Rent/Mortgage for 'adequate' living accommodation £500 per month (min).

6. Water/Gas/Electricity/Heating/etc £150 per month.

7. Food for family of 4 minimum of £400 per month.

8. Local taxes £100 per month.

9. Car/Petrol/Insurance/Road Tax/etc £200 per month.

10. Pub/Wine/Cinema/General luxuries £150 per month.

11. Christmas Day £2,000 for one day.

I may be way out on some of my estimations, but it would roughly level out. With just the above we have monthly costs of about £1,600, or £400 per week. Add on the Christmas spending, and that's nearly £22,000 per annum.

Not surprising that some people claim to live in 'poverty'. None of the above is extravagant, nor is it ever likely to cost much less than now; things can only get worse.

I think I've probably underestimated everything; it makes you wonder how any of us gets by.


Saturday 20 December 2014

Lady M's B and A Crumble

It's at moments like this that I'm grateful for the time we spent in the summer picking blackberries with the children, it's just a pity they're not here to enjoy them with us.

True, it's the season of mince pies and plum pudding, but nothing beats a Blackberry and Apple Crumble. 

Now where's that pot of thick clotted cream? Diet be damned.

Lady M really does make an extremely good Crumble.

Friday 19 December 2014

Sir Alec Douglas Home.


I was recently going through a list of British Prime Ministers, and found myself compelled to stop when I came to Sir Alec. He was always something of an enigma in British politics. After his brief term of office he seemed to simply fade away; perhaps that it something that all ex-PM's should do.

Wiki describes a polite unremarkable man who worked tirelessly for his country. Cyril Connolly, a school contemporary of Douglas Home's, described the young Alec thus....

A votary of the esoteric Eton religion, the kind of graceful, tolerant, sleepy boy who is showered with favours and crowned with all the laurels, who is liked by the masters and admired by the boys without any apparent exertion on his part, without experiencing the ill-effects of success himself or arousing the pangs of envy in others. In the 18th century he would have become Prime Minister before he was 30. As it was, he appeared honourably ineligible for the struggle of life.,
The most poignant bits of his biography reveal that Sir Alec played a bit of above-average Cricket for his school, received a rather poor degree from Oxford, and has the honour of having served as Prime Minister for just under one year; almost a record.

Part of my fascination with Sir Alec is that his brother, the playwright William Douglas Home, lived in a house opposite the entrance to my people's house in West Chiltington Sussex. Unknown to us at the time, it is where he used to 'entertain' Princess Margaret. I never actually saw the man; his house always seemed empty.

Sir Alec was the archetypal 'Gentleman Politician'; quiet, unassuming, and dedicated to his cause. I suppose he could be summed-up as having been somewhat ineffectual, but a charming person. He died back in 1995; no fuss was made.

p.s. He also happens to be the spitting image of my old school housemaster, David Scott, who died very recently. David was equally 'Gentlemanly'. RIP David Scott.

Thursday 18 December 2014

An Open Letter to Russell Brand.


For those of you who have never heard of Russell Brand (above), he is a foul-mouthed British 'comedian', ex-junkie, and extreme left wing rabble rouser.

Brand has in recent times become the darling of the left with his 'let's bash the rich' puerile diatribe. Certain people just love to hear his type of bile, his amusing way of garbling the English language, and his almost incomprehensible gutter accent; but analyse his words and one finds nothing but anarchistic Marxism.

His current fixation is 'The City'; London's, and the world's, financial center. One of England's greatest success stories.

Brand's other fixation is Nigel Farage; ex-City commodities trader and leader of UKip (a new UK political party dedicated to pulling out of the EU).

His two fixations sit conveniently together.

So, Mr Brand, let me explain something to you..... and I'll try to make it simple.

In 2013 The City made a record trade surplus of £61 Billion; yes Mr Brand SIXTY ONE BILLION QUID. And is on target to increase that for 2014.

It is estimated that each and every worker in the financial sector contributes £83,000 to the economy, compared with £46,000 for other sectors. See here for details.

Just in case your knowledge of maths is similar to that of the English language, let me give a simple example for you to understand what this means. A hospital costs roughly £500,000,000 to build; the City's contribution to the economy could therefore build over 100 such hospitals per annum. Is your junior idealism really worth throwing all that away?

Mr Brand, let me tell you another thing. The financial sector employs 2 Million workers; two thirds of whom are based outside of The City of London. Your silly hatred of the financial world is an insult to ALL those workers.

Rant all you will Mr Brand, but don't forget to read up on the facts before opening your big mouth. Your idiotic adversarial (not 'adversal', Russell) remarks may well get you on Radio and TV, but there's a real world out there, and it needs to be respected; not attacked and belittled.

And do remember, if your beloved Socialists ever get elected again; they'll probably be very grateful for that SIXTY ONE BILLION QUID in the coffers.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Our Christmas Fizz.

I don't know about you, but I very rarely drink pukka Champagne. Frankly I find it overpriced and over-hyped

No, for Cro it's either a Crémant de Bourgogne, a Crémant d'Alsace, or even a dry Italian Prosecco. 

I do, of course, keep a couple of bottles of Mumm in the fridge just in case Wills and Kate should pop by, but it's something we would hardly ever open just for ourselves.

My most recent favourite fizz is this l'Altissime (foreground). It has no appellation d'origine on the label, but is extremely good. The other one in the photo is a good Crémant d'Alsace.

This may sound like heresy, but the important things to me about fizz are its taste, the appearance of the bottle (v important), and the cost. A bottle of l'Altissime costs me about €6 (under £5) and when chilled is perfectly delicious. Unfortunately a bottle of very ordinary Champagne would set me back at least 3 times that, and would probably be unremarkable.

We might have a bottle of Mumm for Christmas Day, but otherwise I'll stick to the Crémants.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

I name this tree.... CRIMBO.

It's official; Christmas has arrived chez Cro, and Minnie/Mickey Mouse (not quite sure which) has been blessed with the most important role of the season (last year we honoured our 'antique' knitted Golly).

We've started a little early this year as our youngest son, Wills, is on a flying pre-Christmas visit from Oz. Unfortunately Kellogg and Bunny have had to stay behind to hold the Mullumbimby fort.

So, we're having a veggie run-up to the big Turkey Fest'; not a bad idea, methinks.

And this is the tree itself. 

As you can probably guess, there is now a big gap in our Leylandii hedge; it'll grow!

Monday 15 December 2014

Game Season.

It's the season for Pheasant, Grouse, Partridge, et al; all fowl that are sadly unavailable here (well, they probably are somewhere).

So to assuage our desire for a slightly 'gamier' bird than our usual Chicken for our Sunday roast we plumped for a Guinea-fowl.

Many years ago I bought about a dozen Guinea-fowl chicks to run alongside our Chickens. Sadly the local wildlife also had a desire for such delights, and they soon fell victim to overnight attacks. I've not bothered since.

If you haven't tasted Guinea-fowl, I would recommend you do so. In many ways it's similar to a really good quality Chicken, but with a slightly gamier edge. The flesh on the birds themselves is also much more moist (fattier) than a Chicken.


Yesterday I roasted the one above with Potatoes, Butternuts, Sprouts, and preserved Lemon; and it was served with Lady Magnon's fabulous homemade Cranberry Sauce.... Almost Christmassy! 

Sunday 14 December 2014

Education, again. A Sunday Special.

Back in 2011 I wrote a piece Here about classroom disturbance in the UK's secondary schools, and the effect it had on those pupils who wished to learn and advance.

My thoughts were, and still are, that a two-road system is so much better. Academic schools for those who are desirous and capable of taking and passing exams, and more trade/skills based schools for those who wish to find employment on leaving school.

Pre Harold Wilson (a 1960's left-wing English Prime Minister) this was indeed the case. Secondary Modern schools taught the majority of children, and Grammar Schools fast-tracked those who wished to go on to college or university. It was a system which worked well.

Wilson changed all this and dumped all children of differing talents together; high achievers and low achievers all in the same classroom. (On his plus side I must add that Wilson did establish The Open University; at least he got one thing right!)

OK, this may sound all very PC and Socialist, but those who wished to learn were often held back by those who wished to just fool about and cause disruption. It is estimated that brighter children are losing an average of an hour a day's teaching through classroom disturbance.

I'm pleased to see that a recent Ofsted report has now come to the same conclusion as myself. Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) is the UK's non-ministerial Government Department for all things educational.

So, now that they've woken up at long last, what will they do about it. Probably nothing; a return to pre-Wilson days will take decades, meanwhile thousands of children who showed huge promise at their Primary Schools are now being failed by their Secondary Schools.... and all because of some ridiculous left-wing social experiment.

I am probably not the best person to lecture government big-wigs, but I think it's ALWAYS better to aim for the Highest Common Denominator rather than the Lowest. They've tried 'dumbing down'; it didn't work. Social experiment is all well and good, but playing with children's futures is not.

Saturday 13 December 2014

With a Wish and a Prayer!

I'd taken the dogs on a walk through the woods to see the ancient Borie (top left), when we came across this wonderful Heath Robinson machine. 

Take one hydraulic ram, an RSJ, and a few bits of assorted metal, and Bingo; you have a home-made log splitter.

Someone's obviously been busy. There were several sawn Oak tree trunks nearby, and the remnants of log splitting.

I have no knowledge at all of engineering or heavy metalwork, which is probably why I admire this sort of machine. It's operated by an ancient looking tractor drive shaft, and no doubt has provided decades of service.

My congratulations to whoever made it.

Friday 12 December 2014

Winter Scrumping.

Most apples have long gone, but this particular variety lingers on.

It's the only apple I know that resists frost, snow, hail, and pestilence. I have no idea what variety it is, but I am very grateful that it exists. It belongs to a neighbour, and lives about 100 metres downhill from us. No-one else takes them.

Up until late November it was bland and almost unpleasant to eat, but now it has aged and had a slight frost on its back it becomes delicious.

I've just been down to half-inch a few for Lady Magnon's latest lot of Mincemeat, and I noticed that there are plenty; maybe I'll go down again and fill-up a whole box,... they last through until about March.

If anyone recognises the variety I'd love to know what it is. Otherwise I suppose I could always take a cutting. As you can see the apples are yellow with reddish spots. The tree is very big, and very old.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Fears averted.


I recently had some trouble in my left hip; I was getting regular 'stabs' of excruciating pain.

My initial home-diagnosis was arthritis, and a depressing picture of inactivity stuck in my mind for several days. I imagined being confined to the house, not being able to complete all the work I've undertaken, not even being able to saw and split logs for the fire. To be honest, I thought I'd come to the end of my useful life, and my future was simply to vegetate and grow old. It was all extremely depressing.

However, the pains have now subsided, and I am left with a small ache, which suggests that my alternative self-diagnosis of a pulled or torn muscle was probably what had happened.

Having only recently been given considerable encouragement about my diabetes control, this was a severe shock to my general medical-state confidence. I had begun to feel like the illustration above, and I didn't like it one bit.

It doesn't take much to make one extremely depressed, and it doesn't take much to have that depression lifted, but every time I have a new ache or pain I know that the time is approaching when I will no longer be able to do all the crazy things I now do.

So, top of my Christmas wish-list this year is a stay-young-n-active pill. I still have so much to do and I can't afford to be either weak or immobile for quite some while yet; if ever.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Jealous? Me?

I'm not a jealous kind of person, but in this case I'll make an exception.

This building is almost next door to my bakery, and every Sunday (my bread-buying day) I look at it with some envy.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about it, but I just wish I had a high-up, open-sided, covered, patio like it.

In Summer I've often gone past and seen groups of people all enjoying themselves up there, with strings of coloured lights, and pleasant music, and thought to myself that I really 'deserve' something similar.

They've taken down the walls by a metre or so, stuck on some chunky supports, and put the roof back on. I presume they've also laid an interior concrete and tiled floor, in case of rain.

My only problem is that I don't have a suitable building, otherwise I'd be making plans.

And Oh, that clipped Yew as well. Beautiful.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Silence is NOT SO golden.


I've had no bloody internet connection for several days. A nice Portuguese man has just been and reconnected me.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday 7 December 2014

Retail therapy?

Not so long ago I needed a cable for my computer. I took along an illustration to the shop that dealt in such things, explained what it was for, and a very helpful salesman sold me what he assured me was what I needed.

When I returned home I could see at once that it wasn't right. It was very similar, but the end bits were too big. I returned to the store and asked for a replacement. They didn't have what I needed, so I asked for a refund.

This was like asking for the bloody moon. Whereas in the UK I would have been given my money back without question, here I was told in no uncertain terms that I was crazy even imagining that such a thing could happen. No, once they have your cash, you ain't getting it back!

I finished by having to buy something to the same value, and ended-up with these two enamel colanders (below). They were the only other things in the store for which I had any use.

Recently I was talking to a friend about such madness, and he told me this.

He had bought his wife a new camera for her birthday. He wrapped the box in nice paper, and presented it to her on the big day. When she unwrapped it, and opened the box, she found that it was EMPTY. My friend had been sold a €200 empty box!

When he returned to the shop he laughed as he explained their mistake, and asked for the actual camera for which he'd paid. They didn't have one (sound familiar?), so he asked for his money back.

They refused, eventually saying that he'd have to take the matter up with head office. Can you believe that?

It was almost closing time, so my friend went into the back of the shop, took a chair, and sat down in front of the service counter. He told them he wasn't moving until he had his money back.

Frenzied phone calls were made and eventually, and very reluctantly, his cash was refunded. He was also made to feel as if they had done him a great favour.

My friend isn't the type to take 'no' for an answer;.... but I ended up with 2 bloody colanders!

Saturday 6 December 2014

Managing Diabetes.

After my regular 3 monthly blood test, my visit to the Doc's was reasonably encouraging.

The number crunching (above) seems OK, my blood pressure was surprisingly normal, and whilst with the Doc' I even had a flu jab. Everything is under control.

So how do I manage to stay in such fine fettle? I don't really deprive myself of anything, I don't overdo things, I take plenty of exercise, and I watch my weight.

I also follow what many would call a 'Mediterranean Diet'. Plenty of fresh fruit and veg', plenty of Olive and Walnut oils, and a liberal sprinkling of Vin Rouge.

I NEVER buy 'ready meals' of any sort. We eat veggie one day a week, and I try to follow the 5:2 diet as much as I can.

It all seems to be working.

p.s. Any nurses reading this, please don't look too closely at the figures above; or if you do, don't tell me.

Friday 5 December 2014

That CAKE.

Lady Magnon has made her CAKE!

Not too much swearing from her this year, but the ingredients were all over the shop. Why do SO MANY different things seem to go into these cakes.

Only one glitch too. After the cake had been in the oven (at the wrong temperature) for 10 mins, she suddenly remembered the Molasses. How could you forget the Molasses?

So out came the cake, it was emptied back into a mixing bowl, and the Molasses folded in. Then back into the tin, and back into the oven (at the right temperature).

Four hours later the baby was born. We'd been out at the Doc's during the latter half of the cooking time, and the aroma on opening the kitchen door was wonderful; pure Christmas. It's bottom now has to be anointed with Armagnac for the next couple of weeks.

This is a much bigger operation that Christmas dinner itself. It took two days in all, gawd knows how many ingredients, and the same time in the oven as a large Turkey. 

If you're interested, she used dear Delia's Christmas Cake recipe. I'll give my opinion when it's broached (Dec 24th), but I know it's going to be wonderful; it always is.

Thursday 4 December 2014


Could these be the very best designed glasses ever in the history of glass making?

What would French households do without their Duralex 'Picardie' glasses. They are used for just about every purpose imaginable; wine, coffee, soft drinks, deserts, etc.

These tiny 16 cl (5½ oz) glasses are superbly designed, cost peanuts, and tend to bounce when dropped. What more could one ask?

And it's the glass of choice for my regular evening tipple (or 2). Cheers!

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Early autumn walk. Dec 2014.

It's not really light here until 8am (7am UK); even then it's only semi-light.

It's my favourite walk with the boys. They run around looking for wildlife, as I just contemplate and kick leaves. This is not the best video I've ever made, but it gives a rough idea of what I get up to just after I've posted my blog, and had some meagre breakfast.

I shall be doing exactly the same this morning, probably with coat and scarf!

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Poem in an Unknown Language.


Trendla trendla yarna hoo

Somtery aurabel larding to.

Pemanbello ansenfellow trandly ing

Mantargo lullingberry tinage fing.

Manso manso tuttelmust fardo

Wizzing trizzing diddledum lardo.

Armay frindig ootoom atch

Sandog trattleditch tiddledin snatch.

© Cro Magnon 2014.

Monday 1 December 2014

Barn Update.

I've been 'building'. The interior walls are at last going up. They are constructed of hollow 20 by 40 cm bricks, glued together with plaster. The insulation is an Eco 35 layer Aluminium foil/polyethylene product, plus 10cm of Rockwool, both of which go just behind the 10 cm brick walls as I build.

I'm not a particularly adept wall builder, but with a spirit-level, and a reasonable eye, it all went well. Now I've got the rest of the walls to do; at the rate I'm going I've got at least another 3 months work (if I go at it every day). I'll probably leave the plastering till later, until Bertrand, our electrician, has made his holes everywhere.

I've also done a bit of plastering at the far end. It'll look better when it's painted white, like the half-timbered bit above.

All in all it's really beginning to take shape, and my design is coming together. It's going to make a wonderfully spacious home; we're almost wishing it was us who were going to live there.

Now I need to find a blacksmith who can make some interesting stair handrails for me. Not easy!

Sunday 30 November 2014

Post All-Hallows Lunacy.


Just one month ago we were out frightening children and feeding them excessive calories, then as soon as the ghoulish costumes were put away the bloody ad's started. Christmas had arrived.

We've now just witnessed 'Black Friday' (or should that be 'Ethnic Friday' in such PC times?), and my suspicions about chavvy, loads-a-money, Britain have been confirmed. The 'less-educated' just can't wait to spend, spend, spend; whether it be with actual cash, pay-day loans, or by ethereal credit cards.

I for one am already pissed-off by all the Christmas hype. This doesn't mean that I shall not be celebrating the big day; I shall. We will exchange simple gifts, I'll buy Swiss chocolate reindeers (yes, those) for the local children, and I shall roast a sensible sized Turkey that will keep us in food for several days. But that's it.

Goodness knows who this Christ chap was, or even if he existed at all. What we do know is that in 320 AD at the Council of Nicea, he was 'deified', and the old festival of Saturnalia was replaced by Christmas; his invented 'birthday' date.

Now, two millennia later, we (not me) fight over flat screen TV's, toasters, laptops, and mobile phones, as the larger stores desperately try to outdo each others 'Special Offers' for the 'Special Season'.

What a bloody state of affairs. May I suggest that all intelligent folk now wait till at least December 15th before thinking about Christmas again.

Luckily this year the two day Turkey Fest' falls on weekdays; Thursday 25th, and Friday 26th. No need to buy as if for siege, no need to empty the bakery shelves of your local Hypermarket, and no need for any holiday panic whatsoever. The shops will all be open again for the weekend.

Will the chavs listen? No, of course not. They'll all be out at Toys-r-us, Asda, or Walmart, buying coloured plastics as if they're on the extinction list, food as if about to disappear, and booze as if being sober for 2 days was a hanging offence.

I know that this subject has been written about ad infi-bloody-nitum, but better that than ignored.

Saturday 29 November 2014

The New Freddie.

Freddie is just over 10 years old.

Like most cats he's always been aloof, independent, miserable, and arrogant; a cat apart.

But recently he seems to have changed. Suddenly he's friendlier and almost affectionate. He's taken to jumping up onto my lap every morning at 5.30am (he's on there now) as I do my computer stuff, and, over the last few days, has even begun sleeping in the comfy cardboard-box bed (above) in the studio; something he's never done before.

Dare I say it, but he's even tolerating the dogs; well almost.

I've always liked to have a 'tabby' around the place. Apart from mouse catching duties, they just make a house seem complete; especially out in the country. 

I was brought up with cats (not dogs), and have a natural affinity with them. They seem to understand that I understand them. 

We're not sure what has prompted this sudden, but very welcomed, character change.... but I hope it lasts.  

Friday 28 November 2014

Lady Magnon; artist's model.

Like most painters, I was lucky enough to use my wife as a model. She was attractive, was usually somewhere nearby, and didn't overly complain.

When we were first married, I used her on many occasions. These were not necessarily for 'portraits' as such, but usually as a figure in a composition. The one above lives in our bedroom; she particularly liked it, so it remained unsold.

I have always hated sitting for portraits, I become bored after just a few minutes. Even photographic portraits I find tedious. Lady M was always more relaxed, and could sit for about 30 mins without complaining. I also tend to shout a lot when working, which doesn't help.

My children were all terrible fidgets especially when they were very young, which was the age when I preferred to paint them. I was lucky if I could get them to sit still for 10 minutes which meant I had to work quickly. Most of those portraits remain unfinished.

I've also painted portraits of dogs, but that's another story.

It's been years since I painted a self-portrait, but I'm thinking about it. Maybe the time is right (as long as I haven't forgotten how it's done). I'll probably become bored quite quickly, and no doubt start shouting at myself.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Misuse of Power?


Rarely do I think that Prime Ministers should be prosecuted as a result of their tenure, but in smug Tony's case I'll make an exception.

I'm desperately trying to look at his 'career' objectively. I certainly don't wish to knock him simply because of his blind adherence to Socialism, although it's sorely tempting.

His disastrous 'open door policy' on immigration has now changed Britain permanently. No consideration whatsoever was given to immigrants health, education, housing needs, or even their personal finances, and as a result things have gone from bad to worse. He has, at least, admitted that he underestimated the effects, but the resulting damage can now never be undone; his cheap apology changes nothing

He also lied to us about Iraq. Whether or not it was circumspect to eradicate Saddam Hussein is one matter, but it was certainly not acceptable to invent a pack of lies to warrant an invasion. Then, when the casualties began to mount, and the lies became common knowledge, he quit his job (shredding inculpating papers as he went) leaving inept Gordon Brown to sit in the uncomfortably vacant chair, as the economy went into meltdown.

As a direct result of his immigration and warmongering policies, many of those who rightly came as refugees from warring Muslim countries have now turned against the country that welcomed them, and have become a serious threat to the UK's national security. It is hardly imaginable, but England now lives under a permanent 'heightened alert' of random beheadings and other atrocities, and the fault lies entirely with Blair.

I have nothing against anyone making serious money; most of us would love to boast even a fraction of Tony's bank balance. But somehow one feels that Blair has used his post-PM influence to stockpile not only a huge property portfolio, but also a bag full of financial retainers. He claims to be not only a Socialist, but also a devout Catholic; closer analysis might prove that nothing could be further from the truth.

Fettes, Oxford, and a Champagne Socialist lifestyle, is nothing unusual in today's Labour Party (or in the past), but forever changing the face of our once 'green and pleasant' Britain is probably the most disastrous of all political acts; ever.

Rather than swanning around the world in a cloud of ever increasing uber-wealth, I suggest the man be prosecuted; and pronto!

p.s. Since writing the above I see that 'wonder boy' (the darling of the left) has been honoured by The Save the Children Fund with a 'Global Legacy Award'. Well deserved too; his 'Global Legacy' is being enacted on the streets of Syria and Iraq as I write; a rare achievement for just one man.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Paté Making 2014.

It comes around so quickly. Yup, it's Paté making time again.

I'm making about 2½ kilos this year, mostly in small 200gm jars; with the just two of us they're more useful than the bigger 350gm jars.

I took about 2 kilos of seasoned coarsely ground pork belly, liver, etc, and a 400gm Duck foie gras.

Nice big walnut sized lumps of the fresh foie gras were placed inside each jar of Paté mix, and the 'capsuled and lidded' jars were sterilised for the standard 3 hrs.

It's always interesting to discover if I've seasoned the mix correctly. Over the past few years I've somewhat underestimated the salt, but I suppose that's better than putting in too much.

Here's my final haul; ten 200gm jars, and four 350gm jars... That's all I'm making this year, I still have a few left over from 2013. The yellow of the fat comes from the foie gras (Maize fed Ducks).

I now have to wait about 3 months before tasting. 

Next on the list is Bacon, but more of that anon.

Tuesday 25 November 2014



If we believed everything that we are fed about Africa by charity groups, it would not be a very savoury place to visit.

All children seem to be either starving or dying of nasty diseases, and have flies permanently attached to their eyes.

Water is only available to those who have had European/American do-gooders install wells and pumps.

Marauding gangs of lunatics slaughter everyone who hasn't learned The Koran by heart.

Ebola is rife, and will end-up killing most of Africa's population, unless they haven't already succumbed to Tsetse, snake bites, or Malaria.

Children can only attend school if sponsored by kindly Europeans/Americans.

Most of African wildlife will soon disappear if not 'adopted' by even more kindly Europeans/Americans.

Everyone above the rank of junior clerk has a Swiss bank account, stuffed with foreign aid money.

And all girls are married off by the age of 8 years old.

Over the past few years I have not seen a single charity ad' that does not represent Africa as being one huge open sewer, with the sick and dying littering the streets. Isn't it about time that the real face of Africa was presented a little more accurately?

A little more charity from the charities, and tourism might suddenly explode. It would probably be the financial saviour of many African countries.

Revolting Youf (repeat).

'Our youth loves luxury, has lack of manners, disregards authority, and has no respect whatsoever for older people. Today's children are tyrants, they contradict their parents, and tyrannise their teachers. They are just very bad'.

Sound familiar? Well, that was written by Socrates in 400 BC (BME). And an inscription on a Babylonian pot dating from a staggering 4,500 years earlier than that, states...

'The youth is rotten from the very bottom of their hearts. These young people are malicious and lazy, and they will never be as youth used to be before'.

So, nothing much has changed. Certain young people will always be a pain in the rectum, they always have been and always will be; we've had the wisdom of several millennia to get used to the idea. I just wish the current crop wouldn't spray silly squiggles all over all our walls.

Youf always gets bad press. I'm just waiting for them to adopt a new trend of helping old ladies across the road, and saying please and thank you! I may have to wait a while.

N.B. I'm repeating this posting from October 2011 simply because it amuses me, and needs to be noted.

Monday 24 November 2014

Hardly changed.

I was recently struck by how little I've changed over the decades, from my cobweb-covered self-portrait of the late 60's, above, to the more recent portrait (© Charles Fenton-Savage) that I use for my blog, and facebook page.

OK, the beard is a bit whiter and soup stained, the wrinkles more prevalent and deeply etched, and the look more mean and menacing; but overall, exactly the same.

Even more amazing is that my finely-tuned brain should continue to think in much the way as it did nearly 50 years ago; irresponsible, self-centred, and reclusive.

Strangers might be forgiven for thinking that I am some angry old codger who shouts at children and ties fireworks to animal's tails, but in fact I'm a sweetheart to the core.

Of course I do have my critics; they are mostly those who've made less money than I have, or are far less good looking. I know at least 2 people of this ilk, and they are both about 102 years old, confused, locked-up and incontinent.

So there you have it..... a passage of nearly 50 years between two pictures. The real Cro (in Dorian Gray mode, top), and his portrait that should have been languishing in the loft (below).   

Quite remarkable.

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