Tuesday 31 March 2015


Richard obviously has an internal diary as her laying activities coincided pretty much with the advent of Spring.

We have had to separate her from the 4 newcomer 'Bimbos', because she became aggressive with them. Since then she has begun to lay an egg a day; the above of which is just one. The Bimbos haven't yet started laying; other than one soft-shelled attempt.

The above weighs in at 110 gms, and looks more like a Goose egg than a Hen's. It's a WHOPPER.

Monday 30 March 2015

Beards; why all the fuzz (fuss?)!

I'm a bloke. Hair grows on the lower part of my face.

It's what we blokes are like; how we're supposed to be. 

It's normal. 

Get over it. 

It's one of the more obvious ways of telling the difference between men and women. To shave it off is to make us smooth-faced, and more like women.

But beards have had varying reputations. There have been times throughout history when a gentleman was seen as 'undressed' if he did not sport a full beard, at other times he was regarded as 'unrefined'.

At the moment there seems to be a revival in beard wearing, thanks, I believe, to the likes of Brad Pitt, David Beckham, and Daniel Day Lewis. It's now not un-common to hear women being complimentary about facial hair.

My own offering has stayed much the same for about 45 years. I've recently altered its colour to 'salt-n-pepper', but otherwise it's a pretty mild affair in international beard wearing circles.

Would I ever shave it all off? Not on your nelly; it's there to stay. I shall be buried with my beard; let's face it, I'm a bloke.

p.s. I have to admit that the above photo was a 'selfie' (Lady Magnon is away). I'd just come in from plastering, and probably look a bloody mess.

Sunday 29 March 2015


I normally make my own vinaigrette, but (for reasons of laziness) I always keep a bottle of 'ready made' in the house as well. My current choice being either Maille's Balsamic and Orange, or Passion fruit and Mandarin; both very pleasant.

Many years ago I encountered one of those people that one regrets having said 'hello' to for ever after. He was a very ugly, youngish American from Brooklyn, who viewed everything, everywhere, and everyone (outside of the USA) as being desperately in need of his pedagogical enlightenment; I'm sure you know the type.

He imposed himself on me in that 'how can you possibly live without my advice' kinda way. I couldn't get rid of him. He was also an unashamed liar; something that I really detest.

One day whilst I was preparing a simple salad for lunch, I was offered some of his extra-special New Yorker wisdom....

Him: Hey Cro (you have to imagine that grating acidic Brooklyn accent), you know what we do back in the States.

Me: No, what's that Smartarse?

Him: We make something called a Vinny-Gretty.

Me: Really? Sounds good!

Him: We take Oil and Vinegar, Salt and Pepper, and a little Mustard, mix it up, and pour that over the salad.

Me: Wow, that's amazing. And what's it called again?


Me: I really must remember that; thank you so much.

Him: You're welcome.

What would I have done without this radical piece of advice! Even though I still follow his essential teaching, I do have that 'ready made' bottle close at hand, just in case I should forget his wonderful All-American recipe.

N.B. My apologies to all other Americans, who probably find this type of fellow citizen as equally obnoxious as I do. Those of his ilk should never be issued with Passports!

Saturday 28 March 2015

From Sunflowers to Alpacas.

                                      Résultat de recherche d'images pour "sunflowers"

It's less than 20 years since Sunflowers have been grown as an agricultural crop in this area, and now further north; previously they were almost exclusive to the deep south (Van Gogh country).

They are grown here both as the following year's seed crop, and also as an oil crop; but mostly for oil.

I was talking to my neighbour, Laurence, about this year's crops and she informed me that each grower in her little 3 member Sunflower 'syndicate' will from now on only grow once in every three years; cutting the total crop by two thirds. Too much oil about, I presume.

So this reduces her arable crops to Triticale (a type of wheat), Maize, and the Sunflowers once in every three years. What a difference to 43 years ago when I first came to live here.

Back in 1972 there were small vineyards everywhere, every farm had a few Pigs, and the courtyards were filled with Hens, Ducks, and Geese. Milk was also produced by every farm. None of these now exists, and everything is brought in from elsewhere. A sorry state of affairs for a corner of Europe that was renowned for it's quality of produce, and almost perfect growing climate.

No doubt this folly will be corrected at some time in the future; but when remains conjecture.

Farming in this part of the world seems to be approaching a crisis point. I know of several neighbouring farms where the owners are 'elderly' and there is no-one in the wings to carry the batton. Children automatically head for cities, and the countryside is once again becoming barren. What will happen to all these wonderful farms, I don't know.

I can envisage the same happening here, as has in England's southern counties, where the old farms were bought by wealthy Londoners, and the land used for leisure activities.

I hate seeing these once productive farms becoming 'gentrified', and the land home to just a few ponies and alpacas. Many have, and the results are already obvious; a couple of years ago when my own crop of onions was depleted, I was obliged to buy onions that were grown in New Zealand. I think that says a lot about The European Union in general.

Alpacas yes; Sunflowers or Onions no. (I suppose I also ought to add Tobacco no; Barn conversions yes. I'm part of the problem).

Friday 27 March 2015

Barn Kitchen.


Planning a kitchen from scratch sounds easy; but it's not.There had been no plumbing, or electricity in our old Séchoir, so absolutely everything has to be designed and installed from scratch.

Basically we require a sink, 2 ovens (one wood fired, one electric/gas), a fridge/freezer, a washing machine, and a dish washer; plus of course plenty of cupboard space.

It's not just a case of what goes where, but also of how to get rid of waste water and where to position power points. All areas that involve water will be roughly in the same area (2 bathrooms and kitchen), and I'm presuming that both our electrician and plumber are aware that used water flows downhill, and that all wires need to be out of sight. Getting tradesmen together to liaise is almost impossible.

We've found an excellent heating engineer who will install a complex heating system that involves solar panels, electricity, and a wood fired water heater/cooker.

This (above) is the provisional plan. We have plenty of space to play with..... I just hope we can find the dosh.

Thursday 26 March 2015

E Numbers.

I was watching a Rick Stein DVD recently about food in Vietnam, and it was mentioned in passing that the Vietnamese don't suffer from food allergies. None of them breaks out in spots if they eat nuts, none of them is wheat intolerant, and none of them is allergic to shellfish milk or eggs. It just doesn't happen!

So why is it that almost every 1st world child seems to be intolerant of something or other, breaking-out in spots, or permanently in anaphylactic shock.

The easy answer is that it's due to what they EAT. I very much doubt if these conditions are a result of the air we breathe, or the water we drink, or even the clothes we wear. No, it's more than likely to be as a result of some cleverly hidden chemicals in what they are consuming.

When our first son, Kimbo, was born (1971) I went straight out and bought Dr Max Bircher-Benner's book 'Children's Diet' (Bircher-Benner was the man who invented Muesli). It was filled with common sense and intelligent research, and suggested that children should be given a diet based around fresh fruit, vegetables, and cereals.

The book was written around 1945 (?), so E Numbers were probably still thin on the ground, but these days they seem to be in everything.

Today I would much rather my grandchildren ate a carrot from the garden than any of those sugar-laden, factory-made, snack-bars/sweets that come in multi coloured packs with smiling Disney cartoon characters plastered all over them. In fact I would go as far as saying that all food products that use cartoon characters to attract children should be avoided like the bloody plague.

Cartoon characters + multi-coloured packs + E Numbers + TV ads = dangerous rubbish..... Simple.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

PSB et al.

It's a good time of year for us Vegetable Gardeners. There are treats in store.

This PSB (above) has to be my favourite vegetable. Not only is it usually the first proper crop of the year, but it's also one of the most delicious.

It also just happens to coincide with the appearance of another favourite crop; Rhubarb. I'll have to wait a little bit longer for my first Rhubarb Crumble of the year, but it won't be long.

Here are the little darlings, blinking their eyes after having spent the winter under their forcing pot. This was their first, and very brief, view of daylight.

Meanwhile; Lady Magnon makes do with last year's plums for our Crumbles. A pretty good alternative to Rhubarb.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

School Curriculum addendum.


We've all noticed failings in our school's educational standards, and, in the past, I've been known to offer advice in the form of alternative curricula.

May I now offer this extra subject addition.... 'LIFE MANAGEMENT'.

It would 'teach' some of the more basic life skills; amongst others....

1. Speaking without grunting.
2. How not to send 'personal' photos via mobile telephone.
3. How not to start wars.
4. Correct method of wearing trousers.
5. How to walk past a tattoo parlour, without entering.
6. Holding a knife and fork (if owned) correctly.
7. How to sit on a chair (if owned) at a dining table (if owned).
8. Family planning.
9. How to write words on paper.
10. What one does with a 'book'.

OK, it means adding one extra subject to the usual curriculum, but I'm sure we could get rid of some of the unnecessary ones (PE, or RE).

N.B. In my handy illustration above, I do think the gentleman could tuck his elbows in a tiny bit.

Monday 23 March 2015



On leaving school in 1964 I'd turned down a place to study Architecture (don't ask), so I needed to find myself a job.

I really don't know what went through my mind, but I finally decided to offer my services to The London Stock Exchange.

I perused the financial press (FT) to see who was recruiting, and plumped for one of the top-notch brokers called Sebag Montefiore and Co.

I should mention at this stage that the word 'interview' had never been mentioned at my school, and I really didn't know what to expect. I certainly wasn't expecting to be thrown to Lions.

The interview room at Sebag's was dark oak panelled, sprinkled with Old-Masters, and contained very little furniture. There was one large heavy curved antique Chippendale desk behind which were about 10 chairs, and on the other side, in the middle of the room, another single plain chair for 'the accused'.

My interrogators were all of the 'crusty, multi-millionaire, ex-guards officer, city magnate' ilk, and all six of them were extremely intimidating to say the least. I was thrown complicated questions, asked for a sample of my handwriting, and made to feel like a naughty schoolboy who'd gone through the wrong door by mistake. It was a nightmare.

Needless to say, my lack of blue-blood and no millions in the bank, lead to my receiving a 'thanks but no thanks' letter in the next day's post. In many ways I was extremely relieved.

I continued to peruse the FT and found another top broker who was looking for a trainee 'blue button'; Sheppards and Co were the oldest firm of stockbrokers in The City, and highly regarded.

Here my interview was a 'one to one' affair in a pleasant airy office. I was offered the job, told that my salary would be 500 guineas per annum, and instructed to report for work in a week's time.

N.B. Unfortunately, on the day my employment began (a Monday), there hadn't been time to visit my tailor to collect my new City style suit, and I was sent home; they weren't going to have some pipsqueak in a school suit working for them!

I picked-up the suit, bought myself a bowler and brolly, and started the following day, feeling suitably chastised.

I sincerely hope that present day school children are better prepared about interviews than I was.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Circles and Chooks.

Yesterday I was just about to mow the orchard, when I spotted the above..... nice eh?

The Bimbos (as they're now being called) are settling in well. They're not laying yet, but have become very friendly, and are reasonably obedient (in a Chicken kinda way).

Bok is back to his old ways, permanently trying to round them up; where to, or what for, we're not yet sure. They simply ignore him.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Town Planners; dontcha love 'em!

This tiny village, Sauveterre la Lémance, is about 8 kms from our house; I pass through it every time I go shopping.

Previously the road reached out sideways to the houses on either side. Residents walked wherever they wished, and there was enough width for two reasonably wide cars to pass each other.

But the town planners were not happy with this, they wanted pavements on both sides, and a road that would only take one car. Parking has also been restricted to a few designated bays. We now have to make sure that nothing is coming from the other direction in order to proceed.

So far they have spent an unbelievable 2 years on the work, and the pavements are still not laid.

Time, however, waits for no man, and already the wonderful brand new road surface is pot-holed and shabby. By the time they'll have finished laying the pavements, the road'll probably need totally re-surfacing.

I wonder how much it's all costing! There are two small shops in this street, I imagine they'll have to be compensated too; it's all been closed off for months.

It was so much better before; WHY do they do these things!

p.s. Some time I'll write about the village's museum, but that would be too much depression for one day.

Friday 20 March 2015

I'm H.A.P.P.Y.

Some days nothing goes right; on others it's the opposite.

On Monday I was in the depths of depression, but yesterday everything came right.

The wretched broken oven was collected and taken away, and (unbelievably) the very same truck delivered the tree that I'd ordered (above). 

All in all, yesterday was a very GOOD day.

We even opened a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the fact.

Thursday 19 March 2015

My World.

At the moment I'm either elbow deep in bricks and plaster,

or knee deep in blocks and mortar,

or tangled-up in a mess of wires.

Otherwise I'm digging the garden, chain-sawing piles of wood, or mowing (in between waiting for our damaged cooker to be taken away, and a Palm tree to be delivered). I've hardly got time for a glass of rouge.

When will it ever end (did you hear that crack of the whip?)!

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Blue Cheese.

The world of Blue Cheese is littered with blind-alleys. Invariably when I try a new one I am disappointed. People who've tasted 'Danish Blue' or 'Bleu d'Auvergne' will know what I mean; they look OK, but taste insipid.

So we stick to our old faithfuls, 'Societé' Roquefort, St Agur, and now this very good Bleu de Laqueuille; which we have only recently discovered.

Bleu de Laqueuille comes from the Puy de Dome in the Auvergne; right in the middle of France. It's full flavoured and creamy; perfect accompanied by Nairn's or Walker's Highland Oat Biscuits.


The production of this cheese is very small, so goodness knows if it's available outside of France, but if so, it's safe to buy and safe to eat.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Fuck*ng ANNOYED.

You can imagine my excitement when a man arrived at the door yesterday afternoon, saying he was there to deliver the new wood fired cooker (with back boiler) for the barn.

With some difficulty he backed his huge lorry up to the barn, unloaded a big plastic wrapped cube, and with our help managed to wheel the 250 kilo lump of cast iron indoors; into roughly the position it will eventually fill. 

However, our excitement soon faded when we opened the crate to find that the stove had obviously fallen forwards at some time, and there was considerable damage to the front. Four handles were broken off, other bits were bent, there was a chip on the front, and there were some pieces totally missing.

Frankly I find it unbelievable knowing that several people must have witnessed what had happened, but decided to totally ignore it, throw away the broken bits, and deliver it regardless. In fact such things drive me fucking mad!

So, what to do? Well we've had quiet words with the retail company, and we've told them to take the bloody thing away. How dare they try to sell us damaged goods..... Bloody cheek. 

Some days you just wish you'd stayed in bed. I'm FURIOUS.

Monday 16 March 2015

You can't take him anywhere!

Some kids are just like that; you take them shopping and you never know what they'll get up to!

Here's my grandson, Finn, in some Aussie sports shop. Looks like he was trying things on, without bothering to take them off the rails first.

Sunday 15 March 2015


I rather like these Euphorbias; we have several of them growing around the place. They're evergreen, 'sculptural', and have these quite pleasant green flowers.

I thought they'd look good in tall modern pots, so I've dug up a couple of self-seeded escapees, hoping that they'll 'take'.

Do you think they'd grow in big pots? Would they need special soil? Any advice?

Saturday 14 March 2015

Easy Spaghetti Carbonara.

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It's been years since I've prepared this classic of Italian cuisine; too long in my view,

I love the simplicity of such dishes, and, frankly, any pasta sauce that doesn't contain tomatoes is always a very welcome addition to the repertoire (not that I dislike tomato based sauces).

For 2 people.

1. Take a handful of spaghetti, and cook in normal way.

2. Fry about 4 rashers of bacon cut into juliennes, with a chopped clove of garlic, and maybe some parsley.

3. Add some 'pouring' cream and heat until just bubbling.

4. Stir in the cooked spaghetti, serve, add freshly grated parmesan to taste.

Could anything be simpler and/or more delicious?

Lovely jubbly.

Friday 13 March 2015

To Construct or Destroy?

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As someone who is on the creative side of things, whether it be via my painting, sculpture, or interior work, I abhor what these idiots above are doing.

They seem to be out to shock the world by killing, torturing, and, above all, destroying.

Everywhere they go they leave death and destruction in their path. Never do they construct, embellish, or improve. Nothing is 'better' after their passage. Their beliefs (I presume they have 'beliefs') seem to preclude any form of 'goodness'.

Just look at these idiots above; they even destroy their own precious heritage.

I hear they now want to destroy Egypt's Sphinx and its surrounding Pyramids...... The bloody fools.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Four French Hens.

Yesterday we took delivery of 4 new Hens. They are black Marans; good layers, very attractive, and (so they say) very easy to keep.

It's the 'good layers' bit that really appeals, in fact one of them actually laid an egg in its cardboard box, on the way home. Thank you dear!

The next hurdle is to see how Richard gets on with them. When first introduced, she was making a lot of noise; and it didn't sound over friendly. Any sign of hostility from her, and her future will NOT be bright; she might end up being given away.

I'm not after pets; I want eggs.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Come Here!

Lady Magnon: Cro, come quickly!

Cro: What is it; I'm busy.

Lady M: Quickly, bring your camera.

Cro: Wait, I'll have to put some shoes on.

Lady M: Hurry up, or it'll be gone.

Cro: Give me two seconds.

Lady M: Look at that!

Cro: Oh wow.

Lady M: Take some snaps.

Cro: Looks like some of our local shepherds are going to be extremely delighted.

Lady M: What?

Cro: Nothing.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Very Best Sign Of Spring.

The sky was as blue as it's possible to be, and the mid-day temperature was just above 20C. Then voila, just as we settled down to eat our lunch outdoors, there they were; right on cue.

For me the most evocative sign of oncoming Spring is the return of the Cranes. We waved them goodbye in Autumn, and we welcome them home again in Spring.

I apologise for my rotten video, but they really are very high up. It's possibly better to watch on YouTube.

Monday 9 March 2015

Life after Monty.

Dear old Monty, it's been exactly a month since we lost him, and we miss him terribly. We're almost over the tears and hand-wringing (Lady M less so than me), and I feel it's time to look back at his character in an objective fashion; the good and the bad.

First the bad.

He would never be told what to do by some inferior two-legged bloody human; no way!

He moulted for France, leaving a thick beige carpet behind him wherever he went.

He would eat all day long if allowed. Horse manure, rotten animal carcasses, my fingers, etc. Anything would do.

He knew every local compost heap by heart, and would inspect them every day (given the chance); and with certain neighbours putting their excess pasta and meat bones on their compost, this was fraught with danger.

As soon as one's back was turned he would run off; headstrong and devious in the extreme. Luckily we were able to keep this to a minimum.

He loved swimming and had two favourite indoor spots where he would later attempt to shake himself dry; in front of the TV, and in front of our nice new ivory-coloured kitchen units. Need I say more?


Now the good.

He was a beautiful looking dog, with a very strong individual character.

He loved everyone; especially children. He got on with all other dogs, and never uttered a menacing growl.

He was a real pleasure to have around.

He was a 'person dog', he thought just like a human. He would look, analyse, and act; no differently to you or me.

He was single-handedly responsible for us 'adopting' our other dog Bok.

Monty was never what one might call 'affectionate', but during the last month of his life he suddenly began to lick my chin and neck quite vigorously; he would do it several times each day. I keep wondering if he wasn't trying to tell me something.

We miss you baby! Papa xxx

Sunday 8 March 2015

Sell by..... A Sunday Exclusive.

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It is said that if retailers added just ONE DAY to their food sell-by-dates, the UK would save over £100 Million annually.

I've just had a butchers in my kitchen cupboard and found three items that are somewhat puzzling. A jar of Honey had a use-by-date of Dec 2017, some rustic Sea Salt was dated Dec 2014 (naughty me), and a bottle of Olive Oil is apparently good until Nov 2015.

None of these three products really go off. OK, the salt might become solidified, but the oil and honey are almost timeless. I didn't bother to look for others.

Of course there are some fresh foods that need to be eaten within certain 'time-frames'. You wouldn't leave a chicken hanging about in your fridge for a month; but then who buys a chicken not knowing when it'll be eaten (unless it was to be bunged in the freezer)?

When in the supermarket, there are very few items that I scour for a 'sell-by-date', however there is one product that really needs one (but doesn't have one); and that's Fish/Shellfish.

So, why does my totally harmless jar of honey have a ridiculous fantasy sell-by-date, but my kilo of possibly stomach-turning Mussels has nothing at all?

Answers on a postcard.....

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