With all the tales of snow, sleet, hail, and rain from north of La Manche, I thought I'd rub salt into certain wounds and show you our Wisteria and Clematis flowers for one final time.
Everyone likes to think they live in a 'micro-climate', and we are no exception. Just a few kilometres from us, in the village where I buy my bread, the temperature is always much lower than ours. The village name of 'Frayssinet le Gelat' even suggests the colder weather that they often experience. They can be scraping ice from their windscreens whilst we sunbathe by the pool (well, almost).
This year, like last year, I rashly planted out all my tender summer vegetable plants well before the risk of frost was traditionally due to pass. All have remained un-frosted, whereas others in lower lying areas have lost theirs.
I don't want to suggest that we live in a subtropical or Caribbean climate; we don't. Temperatures are usually a few degrees above those of the UK in the summer, and occasionally a few degrees below those of the UK in the winter.
However, for the moment, I'm pleased to be living here rather than 700 kms to the north.
And, just in case you were wondering, our mornings have been quite cold recently; just above freezing (between 3 and 5C). But nature compensates; cold nights means clear skies, and clear skies means sunny days. Swings and roundabouts!
Having said all this, yesterday afternoon was bloody freezing.
This may not look like North Wales, but that's where it is.
The village of Portmeirion was the brainchild of architect Sir Clough (pronounced Cluff) Williams-Ellis, who began building it in 1925, and finished in 1975. Most of the buildings are adorned with reclaimed architectural salvage, and one could be forgiven for thinking that one was actually in Italy.
It was built overlooking the Dwyryd estuary, to the south east of Portmadog. Clough Williams-Ellis adored Portofino on Italy's Riviera, and based his village on the romanticism of such coastal Mediterranean towns and villages.
I've only visited once (a long time ago), and I was overwhelmed. If you are considering visiting North Wales in the future, I recommend you add it to your tour itinerary (along with Trelawnyd, of course), but do expect CROWDS.
The 'tower' is swathed in flowers, it's like this all over.
This Cherry tree is also covered in flowers. It's GHG's tree, so we'll have to make some jam or jelly for him for when he's here in Summer.
Until this Winter I've always just taken cuttings of vines for the garden, but now I've actually bought a pukka grafted Black Hamburg, and it already looks as if we'll have a few bunches of grapes this autumn.
Haddock's is now fully dug and rotovated, apart from a tiny central strip that is still home to a few Curly Kale and Chard plants.
I'm reasonably happy about everything in my patch; it's all been manured, and completely weeded, and I've already planted various onions, cabbages, cauliflowers, aubergines, peppers, chillies, tomatoes, and courgettes. I'm now praying that we have no further serious frosts.
You might notice that some newly planted vines are circling the whole exterior fencing; so, I'm expecting double the size of my annual mountain of inedible grapes this autumn. They should look good anyway! I'll show you the resulting crop at a later date.
A few days ago we returned to find a recorded message on our land line phone.
The wife of a builder that we occasionally use, who has Labradors, wanted to know if we would take a 6 year old Lab' bitch who has been tied-up for the whole of her life (the picture is NOT of her).
Lady Magnon of course at once said 'let's have her', but being more practical I suggested that one dog was really enough.
I telephoned the lady and thanked her for thinking of us, and explained our situation. I also asked why the poor dog had been tied-up.
She said that the poor thing had been one of a litter from her own dog, and they had all found what she thought were good homes. She followed the progress of all the pups, and said that when she occasionally visited this particular one it was always attached. She was not pleased, and eventually demanded the dog back. She hoped we might take her.
It's a sad scenario, but many people in France treat their dogs this way. They have no idea how to look after animals, and think it enough just to feed and water them, then keep them tied to a kennel.
I don't know how much this poor dog will have been damaged by her lack of exercise and affection, but someone will no doubt have a lot of re-training to do. I would have liked it to be me, but it just wasn't possible.
Imagine you work for an advertising agency, and your boss says 'I want you to think of an innovative way to describe a brand new miracle whitening toothpaste'.
My present one (above) claims 'White Now, Instant Triple Power, GOLD, with blue light technology'. Its claims only lacks 'Contains our revolutionary XZ27', or 'With the power of Dentogleem', or 'Developed by NASA', etc.
My usual brand suggests the hardness of diamonds, with 'Code White' whatever that is!
Surely every combination of words for extreme whiteness, and super-restorative enamel strength, has already been used; so, where do they go next!
I think I've seen more ridiculous descriptions on tubes of toothpaste than on any other product, other than on women's face creams, maybe, or wine labels, or exercise machines, or internet connection claims, or over 50's life insurance.... I could go on.
Over this past winter I've been discretely 'half-inching' some soft fruit cuttings from a nearby garden (not enough for him to notice).
In the past when I've walked by his garden in late Spring/early Summer, I've been amazed by the variety of fancy soft fruits that he's accumulated; no doubt all the product of clever hybridisation. He has conveniently planted them all by the side of the road; within easy reach of my secateurs.
I put them all together in this bed (above), and they are now all sprouting nicely.
What I don't know is what is what, so eventually I'll have to plant them all in a row, and just gather what fruit appears. I know there are big fat Blackberries, and Yellowberries, and Whiteberries, and Raspberries, and even some very big Blackcurrants. At the moment we have just Tayberries and Redcurrants.
The only problem will be finding somewhere to put them all; there are over 20 of them. Maybe I'll have to establish a dedicated soft fruit area. More work!
My friend Philippe was telling me all about Iguanas.
Apparently they begin life as carnivores, then almost at once turn veggie. They need that extra initial protein just to get them going.
It seems to me that humans (and most other animals) really should be the same; high protein food is essential at birth (mother's milk), but this soon becomes unnecessary and a plant based diet should take over.
I'm not an advocate for a meatless diet, but we do eat veggie several times each week. I like to classify myself as a part-time veggie. Is that allowed?
N.B. My mate Philippe runs a gardening business; he is also a very good sculptor. He's in the middle of 'single-handedly' building himself an impressively grand house, his stone wall building work is staggeringly beautiful. A real craftsman.
With the type of weather we've been having recently, it's tempted me to get out on the veg' patch, and start planting.
First to go in were the red Onions, and a few Calabrese, white Cabbage, and red Cabbage.
I've also been a bit foolhardy and planted-out 6 'Supersteak' Tomatoes. My fingers are crossed that we'll have no further frosts. I did the same last year and all was OK.
Lady Magnon is very fond of Strawberries, and I suspect she'd fill the whole of Haddock's with them, given half a chance. These are our very favourite 'Gariguette' variety, that I've stuck in an old wheelbarrow.
And look what's popped up. We have swathes of Honesty flowers that seem to have appeared from nowhere.
p.s. Whilst most of our fruit trees are covered with blossom, our mainstay Apple (Reine de Reinette) has almost none. I can see some serious scrumping going on this Autumn, otherwise we might go Apple-less.
1. Bacon sandwich (made with English sliced white bread, and lots of bacon)
3. Roasted Chicken
4. Perfectly ripe Avocado
6. Pork scratchings
7. Tomatoes (outdoor, sun-ripened)
8. Smoked Salmon
9. Duck confit
10. Maynards wine gums (especially the green or black ones)
10½. Pasta (I almost forgot; thank you Jacqueline)
This should, of course, be Cro's 100 favourites, but the task was reducing it down to just 10 (without being pretentious).
The UK has a very strange attitude towards wealth.
In the US, the making of money is applauded. People do not envy or hate; they attempt to emulate and achieve.
In the UK, those who educate themselves and do well financially are hated; even despised. Wealth is seen as cheating, privilege, or even crime. Anyone (excluding ex-Labour prime ministers, footballers, or musicians) who makes a personal fortune is derided as a toff or scum.
Of course those Brits who do make serious money are the ones who possibly employ the ones who complain (if indeed they work), but even that is derided by the 'chip on shoulder' brigade.
I know who I'd prefer to spend an evening in the pub' with, and it wouldn't be with those puerile protesters (above) who hate the Prime Minister simply because he has a few bob.
A nation without individuals who have ambition and drive is a nation bound for failure.
If you're anything like me; when you hear the word 'Plantain', you probably think of large inedible green Bananas.
So, you can imagine my surprise, recently, when I asked my neighbour Claude about a certain plant that grows extensively in all local cow pastures. He informed me that it was called 'Plantain', and that the cattle love it. I believe it is also consumed by adventurous humans in salads, cooked as a vegetable, and in infusions.
Anyway; I digress. On a walk with Lady Magnon yesterday, I found the below; a lone variegated example in the middle of a field. I have never seen one before, and may never see one again.
Presuming that this plant is new to science, I have named it Plantago Lanceolata Croii.
Back in 1995, the combined French ministries of Environment, Culture, Tourism, and Agriculture, had the genius idea of establishing a list of 100Sites Remarquables du Goût.
These sites are nominated in order for them to promote their products and to encourage tourism, and I'm pleased to see that my neck-o-the-woods has now been honoured as part of the scheme, and has joined the ranks (above) in order to celebrate the humble Chestnut.
Chestnuts are big business hereabouts; I look out onto several new and old Chestnut plantations (one of which I used to own).
I'm not quite sure about the clumsy term 'Remarkable site of taste', but if it does some good for the local economy then who am I to criticise.
So, if you're looking for a remarkably tasty Chestnut holiday site (whatever that is) for an upcoming break, then you know where to come.
One of my favourite painters, Rose Wylie, chatting to the future King of England, with my old school chum (now somewhat disgraced) Alan Yentob.
In the days when I managed a London West End Art Gallery, I used to attend several Vernissages every week. Even though the gallery with which I was associated didn't sell modern work (other than cartoons), I was still on the lists of most major galleries as one who should come sip wine and pronounce pompous comments about the rubbish they had on view.
In the late 60's, 'Private Views' were mega celeb-fests; there were always famous faces around. But those who always attracted my attention was a group of four nuns who would regularly turn-up at the most unexpected shows. I always wanted to ask them who, what, where, and why, but I stupidly respected their privacy and left them to their wine. We were on nodding terms, but that was all.
I didn't buy modern paintings in those days (I still don't), but when I look back to some of the painters whose early shows I attended, and had I bought some of their stuff, I would now be worth almost as much as bloody Trump.
This is a sight that most of us witness on a daily basis.
People wandering about, oblivious to the world around them; communicating by machine, and often blocking out all the 'natural' sounds of their environment.
They are to be found in cafés, in supermarkets, on trains, in restaurants, up mountains, and even peddling bicycles. They are like a plague of disinterested introverts who are engrossed in themselves, and their little electronic cocoons.
Children do not come into the world with stickers saying 'Batteries not included'. They are given eyes, ears, and a mouth. They thrive on human contact and communication, then (at some dreadful age) they decide to abandon what nature had given them, and surrender to the use of technology.
Horse riders occasionally use the public footpath behind our house. Not only have I seen some of them actually smoking as they ride (very odd), but lots of them, like the gentleman above, are also plugged into music and texting (tragic). I'm proud to admit that I do neither; even on foot.
Call me a Luddite if you will, but I find this trend quite appalling; and extremely sad!
It's been said many times before, but prior to mobile phones, one never saw queues of desperate people outside public phone boxes. One has to wonder why!
Rachel Johnson (sister of Boris) has been in the soup for noting that West Country based chanteuse Kate Bush, hadn't 'skimped on the pasties' since she last warbled. The word 'fat' is a minefield in the UK; mention it (or even allude to it) at your peril.
Anyway, I now hear that England's wonderful National Health Service is planning to offer expensive (£13,000?) Gastric bypass operations to all obese people (and boy, there plenty of those). The idea being that they would save money later on Diabetes treatment.
I would like to offer a much cheaper alternative; pukka FAT PRISONS.
Prisoners would be made to wear traditional 'cupcake patterned' suits, be kept in chains, and have to work on 'nationally beneficial projects' such as building extra FAT PRISONS (to earn points that could then be exchanged for healthy meal vouchers). No points; no food. No cakes, pies, or buns; just porridge, fruit, and veg.
Only when prisoners had lost enough weight would they be released (on parole). If they subsequently put on one more ounce, they'd be back in prison pronto.
Above 20 stone (127 kg, 280 lbs) and you go to FAT PRISON.
Weigh-bridges could be installed on every High Street, and outside every Scottish Restaurant. Sounds OK to me; waddaya think?
I've just heard someone on the radio saying that if you look at old pre-1970's photos, you don't see fat people. What on earth happened to the world!
It is little known, by those who are unfortunate enough not to have been born in either Sussex or Surrey, that the magical place known as Chanctonbury Ring was 'allegedly' chosen by god to be the very centre of The Garden of Eden.
Since the days when Adam and Eve were in residence, its fortunes have changed many times. It was used as an Iron Age Hill Fort, two Roman temples were constructed there, and today it is still used to ensure the fertility of local girls, who (I'm assured) spend the night under its circle of trees. Why our beautiful Sussex girls should need to improve their fertility; I have no idea.
The trees themselves are Beeches, and were planted in 1760; many unfortunately having being torn down in the great storm of 1987. The missing trees have all now been replaced, but the look (above) will take many years to return.
I am fortunate to own a watercolour, of the very view above, by the noted artist Charles W Taylor. Unfortunately it is elsewhere, so the illustration above will have to suffice.
All Sussex folk, on seeing this view, become filled with pride and renewed vigour. It is the centre of our world, as it was to Adam and Eve all those years ago.
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!