Monday 29 February 2016

Where our (your) money goes.

Above is a still from 'Benefits Britain; life on the dole'. I missed this TV series first time round (thankfully), but watched a bit of a re-run last night. What I saw was quite disturbing.

It's a sad state of affairs that Britain's welfare system is abused as much as it is. We all know that it happens, but no-one seems prepared to do much about it. One can now go on TV and brag about how much money you can con out of the government, and even what you spend it on.

Take the man above as an example. His name I believe is 'John'; he is Romanian and claimed to be receiving £20,000 in benefits (which he was hoping to increase). The programme showed him back in Romania, drawing out his benefit money from an ATM, and spending it doing-up his home. He was employing several builders, and was seen handing out cash like sweet wrappers.

He was installing a new bathroom, new windows, and even cladding the exterior with what looked like large marble slabs; all at the expense of the British tax payer.

PM David Cameron has recently been trying to stop the practice of UK benefits claimants having child allowances sent back to their country of origin, but maybe he should look into the foreign property restoration racket first. People like 'John' are making the UK look like one big pathetic Cash Cow.

So, if you're Romanian (or just about any other nationality), and you need some work doing on your home, pop over to the UK, join the benefits Gravy Train, and send the money back home. That new bathroom you've been after for years could soon be yours!

Sunday 28 February 2016

Burka Bother.

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The Burka isn't to all tastes, even within Islam.

Other than the rather downtrodden and enslaved appearance of Burka clad women, there are other problems which are often overlooked; one of which I has only recently come to my attention.

There is considerably less sunlight in Europe compared to the Middle East, and this is causing European Burka wearers to become deficient in Vitamin D.

The result has been a huge rise of 'Rickets' in children born to women who cover themselves from head to foot in black.

I don't suppose they'll change their cultural habits, but maybe they should have sunbeds in private rooms somewhere, or take vitamin supplement pills. We'd all thought that Rickets had died out with the dark ages; it seems not, apparently it's being revived by the Burka.

Saturday 27 February 2016

"Beer is god's way of saying he loves you".

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Something just reminded me of this story.

When I was temporarily living in Shropshire, I had a friend who was a Potato Farmer; he grew potatoes for Walker's Crisps.

One year after he had sent off his hundreds of tons of Potatoes, he received a phone call from Walker's saying that they weren't up to standard, and they were returning them. That night in the pub' he was beside himself; this had never happened to him before, and his entire year's income was at peril.

His farm entrance was on a reasonably busy road, so I suggested to him that he put the spuds into 25 kg bags and sell them roadside. He was receiving X per pound from Walker's, so I also suggested he double that for selling them retail (still very cheap).

The next time I passed the farm gate I saw his huge sign 'POTATOES 25 kg Bag £Y'. There were several cars in the lay-by, and trade was obviously good. His farm-hand apparently spent the next few months doing nothing but bag-up spuds.

I met him in the pub' some time later and he asked Fred (the publican) to put £10 on a slate for me. Beer was 50p a pint in those days, so in gratitude for my simple, and rather obvious, suggestion I received 20 pints of beer. His misfortune had changed into profit, not only for him but also for me.

Long live Beer.

Friday 26 February 2016

Claude François.

When I first came to live in France in 1972, there was only one really big name in French pop music; CLAUDE FRANÇOIS. He was to France what Elvis was to the rest of the world.

Known for his catchy tunes, his tasteless outfits, and his 'Claudettes'; Clo Clo danced his way across our TV screens like an omnipotent god of song. He could do no wrong.

His fame of course, like most French songsters, remained in France. If he is known elsewhere, it is as the writer of  'My way' (Comme d'habitude), and nowt else; but mention his name over here, and people still go into raptures.

His end came in 1978 (aged 39) whilst standing in the shower and trying to straighten an electric wall-mounted light fitting. Need I say more?

Here he is, leaping about with his 'Claudettes', singing one of his BIG HITS. I shall make no further comment!

Thursday 25 February 2016

I breathe again.

The telegraph pole man came very early yesterday morning; I think it was 7.15 am, and hardly light.

Due to the weather and 'sogginess' of the ground, he decided not to change the intended pole, but to change another one instead. I suppose there's some logic in there somewhere.

Anyway, we now have a new pole in a different spot, and the hens were entertained for an hour or so.

I asked when he would be changing the one he'd come to change; he just shrugged his shoulders and said 'some time in the future'.  I do like a man who gives precise answers. 

The resulting mess kept me busy for almost the whole day.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

What Bill SHOULD have said.

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Anon: Mr President, is it true that you've been having 'sexual relations' with a busty intern'?

BC: Yup; it sure is.

Anon: How was it?

BC: Really great thanks; Monica sure knows how to make a guy feel good, she gave it her all.

Anon: Did Hillary mind about this bit of Rumpy Pumpy?

BC: No, not at all. Hillary's a good old sport; she understands that I need to get my hands around some young Californian flesh occasionally.

Anon: And now onto more important matters Mr President; what did you eat for breakfast this morning?

BC: Hey, you're getting a tad controversial there my friend; no comment, no comment!

Isn't it always better simply to tell the truth. Having a bit of 'how's ya father' in the White House certainly isn't illegal, so why the crazy insistence on lying.

It's all in the past now, but I'm sure people will always remember him (and his wife) for this one episode. I heard someone on the radio last night correctly saying 'a scandal is only a scandal if you lie about it'.

My advice (as Monica's blue dress would testify) is that it's always best to come clean!

Tuesday 23 February 2016


Getting my bloody JCB man in means only one thing; MUD.

This time we wanted to replace all the soak-away pipes from our fosse septique; we had a notion that the old ones were getting silted-up.

In he came like a terrier with an itchy arse, digging around, looking down holes, and throwing his arms about. Eventually he found the old pipes, then dug new channels for the shiny red replacements.

This used to be a reasonably level lawn; now look at it. It'll be years before it's back to anything like a cricket pitch again.

JCB digging reflects life; two steps forward then one back.

p.s. The telephone people turned-up yesterday afternoon with some new wooden telegraph poles. They will be wanting to drive their huge lorry over the mud (above) in order to replace our pole, and it's pouring. I see big problems and a helluva mess ahead. I may be shouting a lot today!

Monday 22 February 2016



It was a beautiful day yesterday. I mowed the orchard and we took afternoon tea, with good friends, outdoors. It was T Shirt weather.

I was looking at this old photo of a lunchtime Salad de Gésiers, and I started seriously dreaming of Summer.

Actually, I always dream of Summer.

Sunday 21 February 2016

In Out, In Out, Shake It All About.

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There is no question that the June 23rd referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU will be decided on emotion rather than on economic wisdom.

Newspaper headlines in The Mail such as 'Polish immigrant crime figures top of list', or 'Romanian pickpocket gangs run amok', will sway voters far more readily than studying the finer points of Cameron's deal with Brussels in the Financial Times.

Frankly, sending tax payers money abroad, to the children of migrant workers, doesn't really affect any of us, whereas having our valuables stolen by Polish burglars certainly does, and one couldn't blame any such victim for voting to pull-out.

Lady Magnon, Kimbo, and myself, were discussing the in/out pros and cons recently, and none of us has yet to come to any conclusion. Somehow I think most final decision making will go to the wire, and will probably depend on those biased headline writers from Fleet Street.

I'm beginning to wonder if it'll make that much difference whichever way the vote goes. For the moment there's not much passion from either camp!

Saturday 20 February 2016

Adult Life.

When the above picture was taken I had just left college. I'd turned down the chance of a place at the RCA, and decided instead to move to Wales with my wife and child, to get on with my life.

Living in the country, riding horses, and growing one's own vegetables, was trendy in those days (as it is again now), and a simple bucolic life had great appeal. I bought myself a big old run-down house, and began my life as an  a 'quasi-adult'.

Before college I'd worked in The City, I'd managed a West End art gallery, and I'd run my own antiques business, but looking back, it all seemed like just an extension of school life; the smart suits, exact time-keeping, and strict rules, was hardly any different to life at my alma mater.

To be perfectly honest, I don't really feel like a pukka 'adult' even now. I think of myself as a free-thinking independent hooligan who has certain obligations. I can envisage myself on my death bed still wondering when I get to start taking life seriously.

Friday 19 February 2016

Oy, short arse!

                             Floyd Mayweather's bodyguards tower over him on luxury shopping spree in London

This has to be one of the funniest pictures I've seen for a very long time.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather in London (surrounded by his heavies) looks as if he couldn't hurt a fly. However, one has to remember that he was the greatest super featherweight to light middleweight fighter of his time.

I wouldn't want to take him on, regardless of how tiny he looks; I'd rather take on the big boy on the right.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Bye Boys.

This last week has flown by. Half term holidays are far too short; not on account of the boys, but because of their father who is needed back in the UK at his management helm.

The boys invented new games, invented new magic tricks, played gin rummy and snap, had yet another Christmas dinner, fed the horses with carrots, drove (and crashed) their go-cart at 200mph down the hill, got dirty, laughed a lot, ate new things, went to bed exhausted, and now they really don't want to leave.

Unfortunately I shall be driving them to the airport later this morning, then we won't see them again until summer. 

A bientôt guys.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Dog Club.

Bok had a few of his friends visiting yesterday. Three of them are from next door, and one from about 500 metres away; they visit on a regular basis. They all get on with each other very well.

This is Bok (left) with his rival Iggy Pup. They are the only two males amongst the gang; Iggy Pup being 'complete', whereas Bok isn't. They have very similar markings, but are not related.

And this is Bok with his little harem of admiring girlies. In the background Lulu, in front of her is Izzy, and behind Bok is Jinxy. 

Iggy Pup and Jinxy are the parents of Lulu.

They ran around the fields for a while, sniffed each other's bottoms, then went their ways. I always like to see them socialising; it's their home just as much as it is ours.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

News of Hippo.

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There is no question that Tom Gowans (Hippo) is an heroic character. His life has been filled with tales of daring-do and enterprise. He is the living embodiment of a swashbuckling adventurer businessman. There are several books in him, just waiting to be written.

I wrote asking of news, and have just received a reply. It seems that the abysmal state of the Angolan economy has played merry-hell with his long-standing plans, to the extent that he may have to abandon his proposed holiday complex, on which he has worked so hard, and of which he was so rightly proud.

His leg isn't healing at the rate he was hoping, which is a worry. However, he follows a rigorous exercise routine; cycling long distances with his youngest son Alex.

For those of you who regularly visited his blog (and miss him) I am pleased to report that apart from the results of his country's financial problems (not of his making) he is OK. There are some things over which we have no control, and I'm afraid that Tom has encountered several of them.

I'm sure you will all join me in wishing him, and his family, the very best for the future. Maybe we could even encourage him to start blogging again.

Monday 15 February 2016

The Boys.

Back to the old routine. Two boys, a dog, and plenty of mischief, and even in this bloody rain life is so much better.

OK, the sun does shine occasionally, but they don't miss any opportunity to cover themselves in mud, and make Lady Magnon throw her arms up in horror; all in good fun, of course.

Yup, life is certainly good with Harv', Ollie, and Kimbo around, and I think Bok agrees.

Sunday 14 February 2016

How Things Have Changed!

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My first post-school job was as a Blue Button (trainee stockbroker with attitude) on the London Stock Exchange. Other than my general trading duties, I also had a lot of 'adding-up' to do. It amazes me to think that in those days the above primitive machine was as good as it got.

I often sat at my desk with a telephone in each ear, punching numbers into my wretched machine; praying that I didn't make any silly mistakes; or that some other idiot Blue Button didn't set light to my tie. For an 18 year old it was a bloody nightmare.

Nowadays all that has changed. Dealers sit in front of computer screens, and make complicated deals with the click of a button, and all the resulting accounting is centralised. It's still a nightmare, but more cosy.

I mentioned once before how I regret that my mother never experienced the miracles of our modern digital age. She would have loved Email, Skype, instant photos, and everything else that we now take for granted.

Sometimes (like at this very moment) I look at my laptop and small digital camera, and frankly I'm amazed by all the magic. We take so much for granted these days, when some of us can still remember pre-TV days, rationing, polio, listening with mother, buying salt in large blocks, and Charlie Drake.

In my pocket I have a very small torch key ring, which operates thanks to a tiny solar panel and three LED's; unimaginable a few years ago. Amazing

From hand cranked calculating machines to non-battery light; we've come a very long way in 50 years.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Rekindling an old Tradition.

My son Kimbo is a generous soul, and prioritises his sons futures.

He recently invested in some wine for them. He bought a case for each of them from their birth year vintage, and has laid them down for their twenty-first birthdays.

The wines were very carefully chosen by a renowned wine expert, and are expected to be perfect for when the time comes to pull their corks.

Both Harvey J and Ollie have each signed one bottle from each case, and are very proud of their burgeoning wine cellars.


Harvey J has a case of Chateau Grandis (Haut-Médoc) 2006, and Ollie has a case of Chateau Grand Village (Bordeaux Superieur) 2007.

The buying of fine wines for one's children used to be a more regular practice, but I haven't heard of people doing it much recently. It's a tradition that needs re-establishing.

Friday 12 February 2016

Winter Apples.

I imagine that this must be quite a rare sight.

It's almost mid-February, and this tree still has good apples beneath it.

We've had a few days of frost, a lot of rain, and even some hail since these apples first fell to the ground over five months ago, and apart from the ones which have rotted, the others are all perfectly edible.

They're not the world's finest apple (similar to a Golden Delicious), but at this season one can't be too choosy. For an apple sauce or crumble I divert my morning walk past this tree, and take just enough for whatever's needed.

There's one other nearby tree that does much the same, but the cows were put into that field. So, for a while yet I'll be gathering my freebies from amongst the above, and I shall be doing so in about two hours time.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Baking Frenzy; she doesn't stop!.

It's almost like living in a bakery.

With a couple of grandsons (and their Papa) arriving today, Lady Magnon is taking her grandmotherly duties very seriously, and she's been baking to her little heart's content.

Yesterday it was yet more Mince Pies, and an Apple and Cinnamon Cake; her efforts were boundless.

One thing's for certain; they'll be no shortage of buns, pies, or cakes, when the boys are here.

I just hope they appreciate all her efforts;...... of course they will.

I'm off to the airport after lunch; they'll be here in time for tea.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Charles Trenet - Que Reste-T-il De Nos Amours

Trenet singing one of his most evocative, and nostalgic, songs.

I'm sure that even non-French speakers will enjoy this; in fact you'll probably be humming it for the rest of the day, especially if you play it twice. "Que reste-t-il de nos amours...... tra la la."

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Gone, not forgotten.


One year ago today we lost our Monty, and there isn't a day goes by when I don't miss him.

Having a big, beautiful, and boisterous animal in the house, was really no different to looking after a hyperactive child, and to have him suddenly taken away at such a young age was heartbreaking; it was almost like losing a family member. He was a 'person dog'.

Thinking of ya. The boss, xx.

Monday 8 February 2016


Lady Magnon is more enamoured with Christmas than I am, and this can be seen in her reluctance to give-up making Mince Pies.

With grandchildren soon to arrive, she's back in the kitchen baking pies. The excuse; her jars of (home-made) mincemeat need eating-up.

I like Mince Pies, I like the smell of baking Mince Pies, and I like to see Lady M with her hair, face, and apron covered in flour. It means that I get to have another wish with my afternoon cup of Lapsang!

Sunday 7 February 2016

The Counting.


Above; Our Mayor's 'parlour'.

Just before Christmas, Lady Magnon and friend (St Theresa of the Floral Tribute) went to the Mayor's 'parlour' for drinks, snacks, and a few words from His Worship himself (Alain).

Apparently it was a rather uplifting affair. Presents were handed-out to all the children of the commune (including one for Boo Boo, who was sadly away in Oz), a round-up of the year's events was highlighted, and a complete list of all births, deaths, marriages, new residents, etc, was read-out.

We were discussing the event over lunch, and although to us it seems like a normal village affair, to an outsider it must have been like re-living 'The Counting' at Cold Comfort Farm.

Such events could never happen in a town or city; there would simply be too many things to talk about, but for our tiny 240 resident commune such intimate details are important.

Lady M and St Theresa drank pleasant wine and ate delicious home-made quiche whilst listening to the Mayor listing the passing of Madame X, Monsieur Y, as well as the birth of Petit Z, and the arrival of Wills and Kellogg; and it all seemed very normal. I'm very proud to live in such a village, where each and every resident is of the utmost importance. It makes everyone's contribution very poignant.

A tiny village such as ours only functions efficiently because of the effort made by all its residents, and I think we do a particularly good job.

Saturday 6 February 2016

I'm worried.

It's only the first week in February, and our beautiful weather has already brought the Plum trees into flower.

I live in an area where frosts can destroy fruit crops right up until mid May. Four months of keeping fingers crossed, and praying to St Fiacre. 

We judge our frost period by Les Saints de Glace; the risk of being caught by frost continues up until the 11th (St Mamert), 12th (St Pancrace), and 13th (St Servais) of May.

No wise gardener would plant-out anything in his garden until this risk is over. I usually ignore this rule, and all has been fine in recent years, although I have had everything nipped off several times in the past.

So, with my plums already in flower, I am beginning to fear for my crop later in the year.

Friday 5 February 2016

Plan and Action.


This was my original plan for the barn kitchen....

.... and this is how it ended up.

The washing-up machine is now by the fridge, and the washing machine is out in the barn, otherwise it's much as I planned.

Still a few minor things to do, but generally a good serviceable and spacious kitchen. 

Thursday 4 February 2016

Cecil Rhodes 1853-1902.

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Cecil Rhodes has been in the news again recently. His benefaction of Oxford's Oriel College has caused upset amongst the student PC brigade; they don't like his statue, and want it removed.

There is no question that Rhodes was not only a brilliant businessman, but was also what we would today call a White Supremacist. His extensive mining ambitions were never thwarted by clearing indigenous populations.

I remember learning about Rhodes at school, where he was always represented as a great Empire builder, who took wealth health and education to darkest Africa. What was never mentioned, however, was that he saw the world as one huge British colony. The following was written in his will, which I find rather shocking.
To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible, and promote the best interests of humanity.[49][50]

Rhodes was the world's richest man of his day, he was also extremely proud of his English nationality. He said "To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life".

His statue sits in a niche at Oriel, and personally I think it should stay where it is. Attempting to change history should not be tolerated, especially in one of the world's greatest centres of learning.

As controversial as Rhodes certainly is, one has to wonder how many Africans (or even Brits) would really want things to return to how they were before he brought so much change to their continent.

Rhodes-ia may no longer be called Rhodes-ia, but the wealth-creating mining and infrastructure is still in place, even if a small group of Oxford students refuse to appreciate as much.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

It's Finally Open.

This is our brand new small-town Lidl supermarket. I visited yesterday just to see what's on offer.

Frankly I wasn't impressed. Quality didn't look particularly good, and some prices were even above my 'far superior' usual supermarket. Fruit and veg' looked OK, but so what!

I came out empty handed, and shall not be returning. 

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Dear Oh Dear.


You can always tell what sort of a mood I'm in when I drag out the above picture again; and it usually has something to do with depression and politics (or politicians).

TRUMPALIN: need one say more! What a dreadful prospect for the poor US of A, and what an even worse prospect for his cheer-leaders, who will eventually come to realise what bloody fools they were for having supported him (much like those who supported Blair in the UK; but would now never admit to it). I notice they've also got some disgraced ex-president's dodgy wife in the running.

Over in the UK it's just as sad. Thank goodness they have a good common-sense party in control, and things are going very well for Britain PLC. But on the opposition benches they have a small unintelligent little boy, parading in the body of a scruffy old age pensioner, who is fast dragging his party down into a political nowhereland.

Like most people (excluding certain N Koreans), I happen to think that a healthy democracy requires strong leaders from varying parties who see things from different points of view; however juvenile they may be. This encourages good debate, and hopefully wise decisions. But with a lower-forth-form Commie leading the Socialists in the UK, this just doesn't happen. I think the UK deserves a competent Labour leadership on the opposition benches, not some bunch of misguided PC fanatics.

On most Wednesdays at mid-day I watch Prime Ministers Questions, live on TV, and I'm appalled by Jeremy Corbyn's childish banter. You can say what you like about Dave's education, but when you've battled through debating societies both at school and at university, it doesn't take much skill to make Corbyn look like the rank, misguided, amateur that he surely is.

Dear oh dear; do wake up Labour, and get rid of that plonker tout de suite..... pronto!

It's embarrassing.

Monday 1 February 2016

Nursery Food.

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I think Lady M has fallen in love.

First it was his Prune and Frangipane Tart, now it's his Fruity Steamed Sponge Pudding. Where will it end?

Chef James Martin (above) can do no wrong. If he demonstrated a recipe for Newt's Gall Bladders in Mustard Custard, she'd be off to the kitchen to make it at once.

I don't normally eat nursery food, but I was forced to admit that this was 'acceptably pleasant'. I just hope he doesn't start advocating Grey Beluga Caviare on toast; I'd be broke.

Below is Lady M's Steamed Sponge Pud'. Mr Martin's recipe used Blueberries for his topping; Lady M's used Tayberries.

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