Tuesday 30 September 2014

I need 'Smell-o-Blog'.

We are totally addicted to this bread. Just smelling it sends us into raptures.

Every Sunday morning we drive the 10 Kms to Frayssinet le Gelat to buy two of their fabulous 800 gm Sourdough Loaves (pain au levain); one to eat at once, the other (when cool enough) to go in the freezer. Its flavour is a bit like a cross between good ordinary bread and English crumpets; delicious enough to eat by itself.

Have you ever wondered why a Boulangerie is called a Boulangerie? 

Up until the 17th Century all bread in France was baked as 'round' loaves; The Boule in Boulangerie simply suggests a round (ball) loaf.

Nowadays every shape imaginable can be bought. Is that an improvement; probably not! 

I'm pleased to say that my baker restricts himself to about 6 different loaves; some very big. I'll buy one one day to show you.

Monday 29 September 2014

Bunny's Passport.

Right.... Bunny was born in Australia, to an English father (my son) and a Swedish/Russian mother (my daughter in law).

As for his grandparents, I am as English as you can get (even though I've lived three quarters of my life in France), and Lady Magnon is English/Swedish; leaning towards English. On his other side they are Swedish and Russian (as stated above).

Bunny's great grandparents (on our side) were mostly English. Lady Magnon's father even being a senior English diplomat (with an MBE, no less), although her mother was 100% Swedish.

Bunny's father (my son) was born in France, but has always held an English passport.

As he was born in Oz, Bunny has Australian citizenship, but with the family's proposed move back to Europe they quite naturally wanted an English passport for him, but it has been turned down.

Being slightly perplexed, they phoned Sweden to ask if he could have a Swedish passport; they said 'yes, no problem'.

Have I missed something here, or are those nice people at the UK passport office playing silly buggers? OK, he was born in Australia, but in my eyes Bunny's as English as James bloody Bond!

Sunday 28 September 2014

The War Explained. A Sunday Special.


So, there you are. I'll be asking questions later!

Saturday 27 September 2014

It's that time of year again; damn it!

It's not fire season quite yet, but there's now't wrong with being prepared.

It was a fine sunny day yesterday, so as Lady Magnon clipped the Leylandii hedge, I set to with my trusty Husqvarna and axe, and made a start on the huge pile of Chestnut tree trunks I bought last year. 

I think I need a humidity meter for my wood. I've seen one advertised for about €50; I wonder if it's worth it? Do you use one?

Wood simply doesn't burn properly if it contains over 20% humidity; ideally it should contain between 15 and 20% moisture to burn correctly. The above wood has been drying for about 3 or 4 years, but the interior still felt quite dampish.

I think a meter could come in handy. Any advice?

Friday 26 September 2014



It has been claimed, disparagingly, that Vermeer utilised a Camera Obscura to facilitate his work. This may well have been the case but it doesn't alter the quality of the paintings themselves. Only certain 'purists' seem to be upset by such horrors.

I have known several 'easel painters' who use 'mechanical aids' in their work, whether it be photography, light boxes, slide projectors, or even a simple pantograph.

I knew one painter who couldn't draw for toffee, and this had a terribly debilitating effect on his work. He now works from photographs and a light box, and produces work that is good enough to make him a reasonable living.

Another painter I knew would take his half completed 'light boxed' paintings out to where he had taken the original photo, and have a snap taken of himself 'supposedly' painting al fresco in front of the subject matter.  I imagine he felt very guilty about his methods, and thought this would convince any skeptics of his talent (it probably didn't).

Personally I don't use any 'aids' in my work, as it's the physical act of drawing or painting 'from life' that is the most important part. To use a 'mechanical aid' would (for me personally) seem like cheating.

However, I do think that people who use such things should not be secretive or ashamed about it. If the resulting work is of good quality, I doubt if it would make that much difference anyway.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Some Fountain!

This beautiful old fountain has provided clean drinking water for the good people of my local small 'town' (village) since it was founded by Alphonse de Poitiers in 1270. 

Nowadays the water is no longer drinkable.

A while back, some bright bloody numbskull was building a new home uphill from the fountain, and managed to allow his Septic Tank soakaway to run directly into the spring that provided the water for the fountain.

Was he prosecuted?..... No of course not...... After nearly 750 years, they simply put a sign up saying 'Eau Non Potable' (non drinking water), and that was that.

Ain't life wonderful! 

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Multifarious Landscape.

One of the real pleasures of inconsequential painting, is that one can simply amuse oneself doing what one enjoys the most.

Going out into the woods with paint and canvas, or even pen and paper, then taking the minimum of time and effort on a quick job is extremely liberating.

The finished products mean nothing to anyone but myself, and without the freedom of this blog they would stay 100% unviewed.

The symbolism is basic, the 'colour' monotone, and the image somewhat calligraphic.

Welcome to the world of inconsequence, Cro-style.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Cro's Lamb Tagine.


With a large North African population in our immediate area, Couscous has been a part of our weekly menus since we first moved here 42 years ago.

Essential accompaniments to Couscous are meat or vegetable Tagines, and usually Merguez sausages.

The one above was flavoured with Cumin, Cinnamon, Chillies, and preserved Lemons.

The vegetables were Potatoes, Chick Peas, Courgettes, SLICES OF QUINCE (thank you Rachel), Aubergine, Green Pepper, Carrots, and Red Onion. These should all be cut very 'chunky', and have plenty of colour. They should also preferably be home grown; as were most of mine.

Meat came in the form of a few cheap cuts of Lamb, and a few Merguez. The finished dish was served with Couscous and lashings of fiery Harissa (yellow box below).

I didn't find any QUINCE in my dish, but, as I made enough for two nights, I'll be on the look-out tonight.

N.B. The reason why the couscous is so yellow, is because I added some turmeric. It just adds to the overall colour.

Monday 22 September 2014

Final Boot Sale of the Year (for us).


Always around 21st-22nd of September, the lovely little nearby village of Prats du Périgord holds its annual Boot Sale.

It's one of those sales where all the locals bring out their junk and sell from their front gardens; well some of them do.

As usual there were piles of old clothes, plastic toys, and cracked china. It's rare that we buy anything at Prats, but we go there anyway as it's usually the last of the year, and it was also a perfect morning.

I bought a bag of big fat Hazelnuts (mine have been useless this year), and a small Masonic box (possibly either a lady's powder box or a cufflink box).

Some of the nuts (€2) will be sown in compost, and the emerging baby trees planted out somewhere, and the box (€1) will be used to store stamps. Not a bad morning's work.  

Below is the beautiful medieval church, which is right in the center of Prats du Périgord; nice eh?

The small Masonic box has proved to be solid silver, and has cleaned-up quite nicely. Not bad for €1 (80p); it looks a bit like a Masonic bicycle bell.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Yesterday Evening; Hailstones.

Five minutes before this we had been dining outdoors; eating Lamb chops and Taboulé, and listening to the sweet sound of distant thunder.

No sooner had we gone indoors than the familiar rattling sound of hail was suddenly everywhere. I managed to film a tiny bit before being hit on my bare foot by a big-bugger (expletive inaudible).

And this was the resulting sky just five minutes afterwards (below).

Serious stuff, but not enough rain to bring up mushrooms.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Why do I feel like this every September?

Oh, it's a long long time from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game.
Oh the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November.
And these precious days I'll spend with you.
These precious days I'll spend with you.

As I was walking the dogs yesterday morning, I swear I could hear Lotte Lenya singing the above inside my head; I believe it was written for her, and she definitely produced the best rendition of it.

N.B. If you don't know Lotte Lenya's 1957 version of 'September Song', it's on YouTube.

Friday 19 September 2014

All over, bar the hangovers.


Well it's all over. The bloody Scots want to remain British; and who could blame them.

Somehow we all knew they would vote 'No', but it would have been fun to watch them on the brink of disaster had they voted 'Yes'.

A big waste of time, a big waste of money, and more than enough hot air.

Off to your bed now Jock, and dream of what MIGHT have been, had your fellow countrymen not demonstrated their common sense.

Harvest 2014.

The Butternuts are now all indoors. Not quite the crop I was expecting, but it'll see us through to Spring. I have 21 fruits of various sizes.

This, surely, must be the world's very best Pear. The Doyenne de Comice is sweet and juicy and delicious. If you have a spare corner somewhere, I recommend you plant one. A good Pear is a real pleasure to eat, but so often overlooked in favour of Apples..

This extremely red baby is a Reine de Reinette apple. Also known as the 'King of Pippins', it is often compared favourably to the Cox's Orange Pippin. Let me tell you now that it does NOT compare; it's a good apple but the Cox is far superior.

As with all fruits etc, it's sensible to have a selection of varieties. My very young Conference Pear was good this year, and my recently planted Jonagold apple produced just 3 edible fruits. 

It's been a decent fruit growing year, other than for my Bramleys, which were HOPELESS. Lots of Plums in the freezer, and we shall be eating Figs for quite a while yet.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Angry Hornets in a Jam Jar.

Firstly may I apologise for the disgusting state of my finger nails; I'd bin gardnin'.

I'm never sure if people know what I'm talking about when I use the word 'Hornets'. So these are they.

Our Fig trees are filled with the blighters at this time of year, so I stick these home made traps amongst the branches. Hornets look like giant wasps (only 3 or 4 times the size), and have a mighty sting; two stings can kill.

For the come-hither sludge in the traps, I use cheap beer, Lady Magnon's Apricot jam, and sugar; they just can't resist.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

A Visit to the Doctor; French Style.


Pre visit. Blood test; Phlebotomist's charge €9

At Doctor's. Wait over an hour, then 10 minute consultation; €23

Pharmacy; A few pills, €113.62

Blood test bill; €50.22

Total; €195.84

Repeat every 3 months, if not insolvent.

If I had followed the exact same procedure in England (and this applies to any visiting Frenchmen/woman) it would all have been FREE. That's equality Europe for you.

It's a good thing my paintings sell for thousands!

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Sparky and the bloody JCB man.

Most modern homes require mains electricity, unless of course one can afford an extensive (and expensive) all-singing solar system; we can't.

I can't remember when we actually asked our local man to take the electricity cable from that light beige plastic thingy up to the barn; it must have been about two years ago! We have heard an awful lot of excuses since then. 

French regulations insist that the cables are capable of taking 2 million volts, could be used to lift a 10 tonne lorry, and must be surrounded by a hefty plastic 'conduit' that could stand the weight of five elephants. All this must be buried at least a metre deep; two metres to be safe. 

Anyway, the guys arrived yesterday afternoon. One started digging with a mini-digger, then when he hit rock continued with the bloody JCB.

So now that we have buried cable, I wonder how long it'll be before the cable gets taken through the barn wall and the sparks begin to flow. Don't hold your breaths.

p.s. The little round bit, on the light beige plastic thingy, is for 'meter reading'. The man comes along, points his zapper at the circle, and bingo. Maybe they're like that everywhere now; I have no idea!.

Monday 15 September 2014

Damaged finger.

Since Lady Magnon presented me with this ring (above), it has not been off my finger.

The ring itself is based on a symbol that I have left (carved or otherwise) in every home I've owned.

Recently the skin underneath the ring has started to itch, and today I could no longer stand it. It's now gone very red.

As you might be able to see (second finger from right), the skin has become irritated by something, and I shall not be replacing the ring until it has completely healed up. A few days maybe.

Below is the symbol in our current home. If you should find something similar in your own home... it might well have once been owned by Cro.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Apple growing in England.


We've all heard about Kent apple growers grubbing-up their orchards. In fact between 1985 and today, land devoted to England's EATING-apple-growing has reduced from 13,000 hectares to just 5,000.

By contrast, the amount of land devoted to the growing of CIDER apples, during the same period, has increased from 4,000 hectares to 7,000.

So what does this say about apple growing in England? The simple, and most obvious, answer is that the healing qualities of the 'apple a day keeping the doctor away' has largely been exchanged for an increased consumption of alcohol.

I have nothing against people drinking alcoholic drinks (I myself do my bit to preserve our French vineyards), but the decline in home-grown fruit means huge imports of (usually) tasteless apples.

Would it be cynical of me to suggest that the government also makes a lot more money from the tax on alcohol, than it ever would on the sale of fruit?

I feel a 'conspiracy theory' approaching.

Saturday 13 September 2014

M and M (for which I apologise in advance).

7.15am. Mists.

And Mellow Fruits.

Keats had it right!

Friday 12 September 2014

For Quince Tree owners only!

Just a thought, but I can almost imagine this 'dish' having had its place in the medieval kitchen.

Fry thin slivers of Quince in oil and butter until softened, sprinkle with a little sugar and ground cinnamon, and serve with either cream/yoghurt/fromage frais etc.

It may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it uses up a few more of those wretched Quinces, and it tastes pretty good too. Enough reason to try it methinks.

I'll have a go at anything to save all those beautiful fruits from going on the compost.

Thursday 11 September 2014

The UK's New Flag.

I've been busy painting out all the blue bits on our Union Flags, in anticipation of Scotland finally going her own way.

England has generously bailed-out Scotland for the last few hundred years (currently to the tune of £17.6 billion annually), and yon wee caber-tossers are now stumbling towards an uncertain, un-bankrolled, financial future. Hopefully she will be able to stand on her own two feet for a while without having to run cap-in-hand to the IMF, but who knows!.

I do pity an independent Scotland. They would have to apply to join the EU, and if accepted would be obliged to adopt the wretched Euro as their currency; as all new members are obliged to do. As temporary non-EU members, they would also no longer have right of abode in other EU countries. What a prospect!

I find it all very amusing. It's a bit like watching kilted Lemmings teetering on a precipice.

Och aye the noo Jimmy. Vote YES (I can't stop laughing).

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Chestnuts roasting on an open........

It's official; gloves and scarves can now be brought out from their summer quarters, and placed beside your wellies and raincoat by the front door.

The Chestnuts have begun falling, and it's not even mid-September. 

I love Chestnuts, but we eat very few. I shall certainly have some this weekend with our roast Chicken, and probably a few more later on when it begins to get cooler. 

Otherwise we shall prepare a couple of bags-full for the freezer, which will come out at Christmas to enjoy with the annual Turkey-fest.

It's almost Autumn folks; but still feels very much like summer here!

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Herbs and Spices 2.

I've written on this subject before, but repetition has never held me back.

Yet again I've been delving into the spice cupboard looking for what is superfluous. You know the ones; those right at the back that haven't been opened since 1990.

First job was to put aside all those that are used regularly, secondly to line-up those that are used only occasionally, then see what's left; and, if brave, eject.

Not that much went to the dustbin. Mostly it was old stuff that had already been replaced by fresh.

However, I did ask myself when I would ever use my Amchur powder, or that nasty looking tiny box of 1980's Asafoetida, or even that pale yellowy brown stuff with no label. The answer of course was NEVER, so they've all gone to rest.

Yes, I know; next week I'll be desperate for them and curse myself, but I was in a chucking out mood.

Most used spices: Ground Cumin, Garam Masala, Haldi (Turmeric), Curry Powder, Ras al Hanout.
Most used (dried) herbs: Herbes de Provence, Parsley, Oregano, Mint.

N.B. The above is only a tiny part of my Herb/Spice collection; it actually occupies about 4 or 5 times the shown space. We ALL have far too much.

Monday 8 September 2014

More Barn Carpentry; another week goes by.

One of the unforeseen advantages of having a ceiling that is 'suspended' from above, rather than 'propped' from below, is that from the ground floor the ceiling seems to float, with no visible means of support (other than from the sides).

It's only when one reaches the first floor that the mystery is explained, and the 'suspending' mechanism becomes obvious. At least that will be the case when the floorboards are laid, and the structure is no longer transparent.

Things are certainly progressing. I have now found, and bought, the parquet floorboards (2 metres by 14 cms by 21 mms) that I've been looking for (above is about half the amount), and the excellent 1.14 metre wide staircase is in place, but not quite finished; it will have some aluminium cladding added later.

After the flooring is laid, the next job will be for the windows to be fitted in mid October, then we shall close up for winter and relax.

The circus will all start again in March 2015, when we shall begin to consider the kitchen and bathroom designs, Hopefully Wills, Kellogg, and Bunny (Yo Bunny) will then be here to make all those difficult decisions about style, colour, and kit. Very exciting.

p.s. I will probably make the dining table over the coming winter. It is to be 4 metres long by 1 metre wide. I love BIG dining tables; it will seat 10 in non-elbow-touching, gastronomic, COMFORT.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Morning routine

At about 7.15am each morning, I open the kitchen door and this is what happens.

The boys rush off at great speed, say 'hi' to the horses (i.e. bark at them), then return to me for their first, more orderly, walk of the day. It's as if they just HAVE to get rid of all their built-up over-night energy.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.


When did you last read Byron; or indeed, have you ever read any Byron?

He must be one of the most famous un-read poets of the past millennium; in fact I believe that, today, at both Oxford and Cambridge (Byron himself was at Trinity Cambridge) his works remain almost unstudied.

However, Byron's is a name that we all recognise, and probably treat with respect; even though he is mostly remembered for his 'club foot', his good looks, his bisexuality, his affair with a choirboy', his incestuous relationship with a half-sister, his love of exotic animals, and his early death aged 36.

The only thing that Byron is NOT remembered for, is his poetry.

Myself, I associate him with a quotation which is extremely pertinent today. 'A celebrity is one who is known to many persons, who he is glad he doesn't know'.

Were he alive today he might have written 'A celebrity is one who we're all glad we don't know'.

He used to sleep with his hair in paper curlers! Oh yes he did.

Friday 5 September 2014

Some Like It Hot.

These are my 'medium hot' chilies; the sort you can just about eat raw without ending up in A & E.

Now that they've turned red I'm drying them in the sun to make chili flakes.

My tiny black chilies (the ones that look so menacing) are still black, and show no signs of turning red. I tried one yesterday; OUCH, I'm going gently.

From Pasta sauces to Moroccan tagines, I tend to sprinkle a few chili flakes or powder in most dishes. Not to make them 'hot', but to add a slight piquancy to the eventual flavour. Nice!

One of the above went into a chicken curry last night (as well as 3 of the black jobs).

Thursday 4 September 2014


I am drawn to re-read certain books on a very regular basis.

I always read Hardy's Jude the Obscure once a year. It is such a depressing book; maybe it's that which makes me feel so much better once the final page is turned.

Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm is another that I re-read regularly (I've just finished it for the 100th time).

But perhaps the book I return to the most often is Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall. My ancient 1937 Penguin copy is falling apart from over usage; it requires some serious mending.

The book, which was dedicated to Harold Acton, contains this Author's Note (below), which, frankly, I would have thought somewhat superfluous.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

September Fruit Bowl.

Ah, September!... I wouldn't mind betting that most country folk's current fruit bowls resemble the above.

All those wormy windfalls, the ones the birds got at, and the ones that are starting to go bad, get brought inside and eaten as quickly as possible. The peelings and off-cuts usually ending up like detritus from 'the feeding of the five thousand'.

Just before taking the above picture, I had thrown out a few of the more evil examples. Some were simply too far gone. 

They may not look too good, but they all taste just like their more 'perfect' cousins.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Proof, if needed.

                                            Derbyshire Fairy Hoax

It used to be a common question; 'Do you believe in fairies'?

Well, proof is now available, and, yes, they really DO exist. This mummified example above comes from deepest Derbyshire, where traditionally they believe in almost anything.

Oh that Conan Doyle was still alive to see the vicious slurs against him rescinded.

Only one question about fairies remains to be answered; why do they always live at the bottom of gardens?

Monday 1 September 2014

The Whys and Wherefores.


As with so many bloggers, my page was originally conceived  to inform our three internationally-dispersed children about the antics of their parents; this continues to be the case, other than on a very few exceptions when I become incensed by certain examples of human behaviour. And, yes, my children DO read my page, they just don't leave comments.

I talk of my vegetable garden (Haddock's), my amateur building skills, bucolic wisdom, our local gastronomy, my dinky village, our grandchildren, the dogs, and a few other family related subjects.

Occasionally I also poke fun at accepted 'rights and wrongs', whilst leaving veiled clues as to my own rather liberal private views.

A blog is a wonderful platform for expressing oneself on limitless subjects. However, from time to time the loonies turn up and try to bring extreme politics or opinions into an otherwise peaceful frame, which I find rather sad.

I must have lived a very sheltered life because I've never previously been 'threatened' simply for expressing my dislike of decapitation, rape, and torture; but these 'internet trolls' are out there, and as pathetic as they may sound, they DO need to be taken seriously.

So may I now declare that if you are an extremist of any political colour, it might be wiser to leave your comments on a page that is dedicated to such (nutters-r-us.com). In fact, if such nescient comments appear here in future, I have decided that I shall delete them at once.

I have nothing against a wide variety of viewpoints, in fact I thrive on them; it's just the plain asinine, and/or expletive-laden, lower IVth form comments are no longer welcome.

Before you open your mouth, choose profound over profanity; because profanity never inspired change. Anon.

Have a cool, calm, and creative day!

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