Thursday 30 June 2016


One of my Elderflower Champagne bottles has just exploded.

I only made 7 litres this year, so I can't afford to lose any more. We need something to drink this Summer!

At least I know that the alchemy has worked!

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Bloody Cars.

Fizz, steam, hiss, panic, HELP, jeeeeze, garage, hands in air, shaking head, expensive, next week, take numbers, order radiator.

Yesterday: deliver car, no new radiator, wait half an hour, radiator arrives, walk around village, bloody hot, watch mounted Gendarmes riding about, visit church, back to garage, more head shaking, mon dieu, yellow liquid, prepare bill, pay bloody fortune, stinking hot, drive home, throw myself into pool, cold beer, life OK again, relax, breathe.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Old Pals.

Meanwhile (deep sigh), we have guests from the USA.

When Lady Magnon (left) was living in Caracas Venezuela, Jane (right) was her best friend.They would make mud pies together, play together with their puppies, and generally do what small girls do.

The last time they met was about 25 years ago in Monterey California, where Jane and her husband live.

Jane has been on a singing tour of Spain with her choir, and popped in for a short stay whilst en route to Switzerland.

Lawrence, Jane's husband (middle), is the author of  'In Defence of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics Economics and Human Action'. Don't you just love that word 'Chaology'... the science of Chaos. Wiki will tell you of all his other exploits.

It's only a short visit, but it's great to see Lady M with one of her childhood buddies; musing over old times. It's like they'd never been apart.

Monday 27 June 2016

What a bloody mess!

                                       Résultat de recherche d'images pour "referendum ballot paper"

Just a few days ago I was by myself in the pool doing my 100 metres leisurely breast-stroke, basking in 30C of clear sky sunshine, and (unusually for me), feeling incredibly fit. Everything seemed perfect, and I smiled outwardly as I swam. Life was good!

Now I feel depressed and angry; not only because the referendum vote went against my way, but also because the result has brought out the very worst in people.

The 'cheap seats' are insulting both Dave and Boris, the press are blaming northern lefties, the Scots are wanting to leave the UK, everyone is gunning for Jeremy Corbyn, Corbyn is gunning for Benn, and the leaders of mainland Europe are plotting reprisals.

The Conservative party is in turmoil, the Labour party is in turmoil (it always was), and the Liberal Democrats are promising to re-join the EU. Frankly there seems to be no part of European society that isn't angry one way or the other.

So, what to do. Firstly I suppose we should detach ourselves from all the hatred, we should try to be positive, and we should just hope that someone with real guts gets to deal with Brussels. There's a big mess which needs to be sorted.

The inept Corbyn has now sacked his only front-bencher with an ounce of common sense, and half his team have resigned as a result. No doubt more reprisals are already being hatched.

As far as the Labour party is concerned, Hilary Wedgwood-Benn would make quite a good leader; he's a clear logical thinker (unlike his father). As for the Conservatives maybe Theresa May could do the job; she is forthright, calm, and intelligent, and she doesn't suffer her fools gladly.

There's a lot of shit flying, and frankly I don't want to be a part of it; wake me up when it's all over.

If only the Common Market had remained the Common MARKET.

Sunday 26 June 2016

My little village. What's on, Summer 2016.

Having been a little depressed and confused over the past couple of days, here's something to boost my morale.


Everything from spit-roasted lambs, to Baroque music, a Pétanque competition, and a boot sale; my dinky little village puts on a pretty good selection of events throughout the Summer.

Well done lads, and well done to all at the Mairie.

Saturday 25 June 2016

EU Blame.

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Over the years I have been VERY critical of the inefficient and interfering EU; and I think rightfully so.

It's not rocket science; if anyone is to blame for the UK's decision to ditch the union, it has to be those who run it.

There is no question that Merkel and her acolytes wish to control a European state. The Germans cannot forgive the loss of two world wars during the last century, and are now trying to spread their influence through financial and industrial strong-arm tactics instead. The people of the UK have simply said "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH".

Yes, I voted to stay inside the EU, but I can see quite clearly why the people of Britain voted to pull out.

I blame Merkel, the EU commissioners, the bureaucrats of Brussels, and all the recipients of gravy-train perks; I also blame the 'old boy network' at the top of the EU pyramid; just look at the Kinnock family if you want a classic example.

I also blame Blair's open door policy, and the pathetic Corbyn's limp-wristed stance.

But, don't worry too much. It's going to take a long time to detach ourselves from the club, during which time mainland EU countries will be shitting themselves hoping that, as the UK is no longer a member of their exclusive single market, we will still allow the huge amount of imports that we've been forced at accept over the past 40 years. We were even forced to accept 20% of our milk and dairy products from Europe; that can stop for a start.

If British politicians have the balls to take the upper hand, I'm sure the UK will thrive; if they allow themselves to be dictated-to as before, they will not.

Merkel, Hollande, Tusk, and Junker are all now expressing their sadness at the UK's leaving the fold. They really should have thought about that before, when Cameron was trying to negotiate terms.

In 1975 the UK joined a COMMON MARKET; not a COMMON PARLIAMENT.

Friday 24 June 2016

Window Cleaning; French Style!

French hinges are not like UK hinges; ours slot on from above, and can be lifted off quite easily.

I don't clean windows too often; this isn't a show house by any means. But occasionally I do take the windows off, sponge them with soapy water, then hose them down to remove all the suds. It's easy, quick, and does the job.

These ones also needed a light 'oiling' with linseed; it preserves the wood and gives it a 'glow'.

The windows were made for us by a local man about 35 years ago, and have lasted very well. We replace bits of missing putty occasionally, but other than that they simply receive a really good cleaning about every five years; whether they need it or not.... More than enough!

Thursday 23 June 2016

It's HOT; cyclists are melting!

With temperatures now reaching over 30C, there's really only a few things we can do. Either we spend our time in the shade here...


or we cool ourselves in the water here...

Otherwise I'm usually working here (which I do early in the mornings whilst there's still a bit of shade).

Or best of all we do a bit of this in the evening.

It's a hard bloody life.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Woof, woof.


I've shown this picture before, but as it's a favourite of mine I'm showing it again.

It's an 'American Primitive', painted on a split panel of what looks like hand-hewn Walnut. I imagine it was once part of a cupboard, and not intended to be framed as such. It has been partly 'restored' around the head and mouth.

On the back, in very faded ink, is written.... Mrs Ellen McAulay, Fitts Corner, Wyoming, 1842. No name for the dog, or why she painted him.

On several occasions when visiting dogs have seen the picture, they've put their front feet up against the wall beneath it, and barked. I think Mrs McAulay would have been very amused.

It hangs in our sitting room.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Mr White (son of chef).

                             Not so fun now: Marco was left stunned as the full scale of his antics with the actress, 30, were shown to him - followed by the hammer-blow that his fiancée Kim Melville-Smith had failed to turn up for the show

I don't watch 'Reality TV Shows'; I like to think that I still have some functioning brain (and reasonable taste), and I'm not particularly interested in watching other people have 'sex'.

But these shows appear to be popular, and are no doubt partly responsible for the ongoing decline and fall of the UK; not that I wish to put myself forward as an arbiter of public morality.

The idea of putting a bunch of Z listers in a pretend TV house, then waiting to see who shags who first, is to my mind rather abhorrent.

Mr White (with the tattoos above) may have his adoring pre-pubescent fans, but to most of us he's simply an attention-seeking half-witted Neanderthal lookalike. Unfortunately he now has that celebrity status which he so desperately sought.

Well, at least his mother loves him; actually I was just reading that she doesn't!

Monday 20 June 2016


When I came to live here in 1972, I'd imagined that I was the first Englishman to step foot in the area since the 100 year's war. 

I later learned that the village Chateau had been owned by an English family since the 1930's (I think); we later became good friends, and still are.

So you can imagine my surprise when, not long after we'd arrived, I noticed an English registered car outside a nearby village house. I knocked on the door, and the occupant was as equally amazed as I was to find a fellow Brit in the area (even though she is a Kiwi). Nowadays there are Brits and Dutch everywhere.

Margaret (for that is she) is an international garden designer and author of note. Her book 'Tropical and Subtropical trees: A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide' is a classic. Her garden here in nearby St Caprais has just been featured in a French 'Homes and thingies' mag'. 

One doesn't meet many 'remarkable' people in life, but Margaret is certainly one. Life would never have been so much fun had we not met.

Poor Margaret is going through a few hip and knee-related health issues at the moment, so she is a bit out of action; but you can't keep a good woman down, and she's still working on garden designs from her sick bed.

Here she is in her beautiful garden with her funny dogs.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Saturday 18 June 2016

No licence? No problem!

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In France not having a pukka driving licence does not stop you from driving a car. It just has to be something like the above (although newer models are available).

There is a small amount of reading-up to do before you set off, but it is very basic and does not involve lengthy lessons, driving tests, etc.

Otherwise the rules are these; your car must be a two seater, have an engine of no more than 4 Kw or 50cc, and have a maximum speed of 45 Kph (I think this is right).

So, there you are. If you're a really hopeless driver, or you've had your driving licence taken away, you can be back on the road in no time; provided that you're willing to be seen out driving something akin to a Noddy Car.

Nothing in France holds you back, but you do have to be over 14.

Are other countries like this?

Friday 17 June 2016

Awash with Goodness.

The weather here in Sunny Southern France has been foul. Rain, wind, sunshine, fog, cold, hot; you name it, we've had it. And it's been perfect for growing!

The first of our Cauli's is ready; this one we ate last night.

The beans are in flower, so we'll be eating those in about a week's time. Lady Magnon scolds me if I don't provide enough.

The Spinach is up and about; I love Spinach. I will make a Saag Dal tonight to celebrate.

These Red Cabbages are growing much too quickly; I really don't know what I'll do with them, make instant fridge pickles maybe?

I didn't have much room left for my Pumpkins this year, so I've enlisted the help of an old compost heap. So far my plants seem to be enjoying themselves. These are those big, ribbed, powdery grey jobs. I'm expecting a bumper crop.

Don't you just love the word 'bumper'!

Thursday 16 June 2016

Clement Freud.

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My first active involvement with politics was when I was still at school. I offered my canvassing services to Sir Harry Legge-Bourke, and ended up doing the menial task of posting flyers through letter boxes. Sir Harry later bought me a pint of beer as thanks for my invaluable assistance!

In 1973 Sir Harry died, and a by-election was called. Ely (where I'd been at school) had been a staunchly Conservative town since Adam, and from my home in France I'd imagined that another Conservative would quite naturally replace him.

However, dog food celeb' Clement Freud (above) stood as the Liberal candidate; and won the seat. I was genuinely shocked.

It was only then that I realised how fickle people can be, especially when it comes to politics. The idea of having a 'celebrity' as their MP had swayed the voters away from their natural convictions en masse.

I am only writing this because of yesterday's shocking 'alleged' revelations that Mr Freud was both a paedophile and a rapist. He now joins fellow paedophile fat-boy Cyril Smith, and snappy-dresser Jeremy Thorpe (who was tried in 1979 for attempted murder) in that exclusive Liberal MP's Club of criminal perverts and odd-balls.

Freud died back in 2009; it might have been better if his victims had spoken-out earlier.

Too late now!

Wednesday 15 June 2016

The Sidhe.

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Ever since The Sidhe were rudely expelled from their native Éire by the evil bastard Druids, they headed South and crossed the seas, in order to head for a new more peaceful home in Aquitaine.

Here they installed themselves in sun-dappled woodland glades, where they are little seen, or even known of, by native populations.

However, those who venture amongst the Oaks and Chestnuts, well before the dew is off the Badgers' whiskers, do occasionally see them; I myself have caught glimpses.

Rather like W B Yeats who, in the Liffy kissed city of Dublin, saw The Sidhe disguised as copies of The Irish Times, I spotted several yesterday morning whilst out collecting mushrooms. But they are no simpletons The Sidhe; as soon as I turned to face them, they transformed themselves, not into old newspapers, but into gnarled and ancient trees.

I shall see them again; I am sure, and they will again hastily transform themselves into trees so as not to be seen. And as soon as my foraging is done, they will dance amongst the bracken as is their wont, leaving their tiny footprints to be spotted by those who dare to dream.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Top Fruit.

Early Spring looked very promising, all our trees were covered in flowers, and it looked as if we were in for a bumper crop.

Now, however, the truth has become plain to see; there's hardly any fruit on the trees at all.

Some trees never fail, our Bramley usually has quite a good crop, as does the wretched Quince. No doubt all our Fig trees will over perform as usual, but it's the Apples, Pears, Plums, and Peaches that we really need, and there are hardly any.

Wiser and more philosophical gardeners than myself would simply shrug their shoulders and say 'there's always next year', but I'm more the type to shout, feel cheated, and become pissed off.

Our Spring started early then became wet and windy, exactly what fruit trees don't like. We are now paying the price.

Above was just a tiny part of last year's crop; no such bounty this year I fear.

Monday 13 June 2016

Two birds, one stone.

Every Sunday morning I drive to the small nearby village of Frayssinet le Gelat to buy my week's supply of bread; their's is the best in the area.

Luckily, my trip yesterday happened to coincide with their annual village Boot Sale.

It was a pretty average sale; all the usual stuff, broken plastic toys, chipped plates, unwanted holiday souvenirs, etc.

Anyway, Lady Magnon spotted this bike which will be perfect for the boys this Summer; we only have one bike at the moment, and this extra one should stop any fighting.

For a mere €25 it has plenty of gears and gizmos; just what boys like.

I shall spray some WD40 onto all the moving parts, and pump the tyres; that's as far as my knowledge of bike maintenance goes.

Looks pretty cool, don't you think?

Sunday 12 June 2016

A man's work is never done!

Cleaning Girolles takes almost as long as finding them.

Most mushrooms are simply cleaned with a damp sponge, and maybe a brush, but Girolles have to be washed under a steady stream of water. Dirt gathers both between the gills and on the top, and the only way to dislodge it is with water.

One of the consequences of this washing process is that when frying, rather a lot of water comes out which has to be 'boiled' off before the frying process begins.

It's a lengthy business, but the rewards are great. A Girolle omelet is a beautiful thing.

I'm spending quite a lot of time at the kitchen sink at the moment.

p.s. My arms are not wrinkly; the camera lies!

Saturday 11 June 2016

Maurice and Karl.

I mentioned Maurice a few years back when he was living in his Volvo estate car with his dog Rex. Other than the car and dog, he owned just one white plastic chair.

Nowadays he has an old caravan parked in our neighbour's poly/barn, where he lives with his latest Alsatian, Karl. I think there was another dog in between; he's a big Alsatian fan.

Maurice pops round to see us every so often, he's a friendly soul. Unfortunately he speaks in an almost 100% incomprehensible voice. I think he must have had a stroke at some time, and it has affected his speech badly. 

Anyway we get by. We talk about dogs, and life, and the weather, and how awful certain things are, and how he loves it here. My best bet with Maurice is to keep talking, and not give him time to reply. That way I don't have to ask him to repeat himself.

Poor old Maurice; life hasn't been kind to him in his later years. He's been living just down the road in his caravan for the past 4 or 5 years, otherwise I don't really know much about him.

Karl is a lovely dog.

Friday 10 June 2016

While the sun shines.

The smell of newly mowed, and drying, grass is everywhere. 

Most of the silage and hay making is done, and farmers can concentrate on other things. 

It's like having a beautiful new lawn in front of the house; now, where are my golf clubs?

Thursday 9 June 2016

Heroes/heroines: Ron Kitaj.

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There are very few painters whose work makes me gasp; Kitaj is one.

He was one of that highly influential group of RCA students from the late 50's/early 60's that included Hockney, Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Pat Caulfield, and Derek Boshier (amongst others). Some of the liveliest work since the glory days of Matisse.

I was at school when these guys were at the RCA, but their influence even reached as far as the backwaters of Cambridgeshire. In 1961 my wise Art teacher (Norman Wadey) took me down to London in his tiny MG to see the 'Young Contemporaries' show at The Whitechapel Art Gallery, at which all the above were exhibiting.

The young 15 year old Cro was literally astounded. I'd never seen anything like it; it was like being born again into a whole new unknown world of painting. Kitaj's work shone like a beacon, and his 'Jewish Philosophy' subject matter a total revelation.

Kitaj was blessed with superb draughtsmanship, and rare intellect. He was an exceptional colourist and created complex and challenging compositions. He was top of the class.

Kitaj left us in 2007, unfortunately to suicide. At his Tate retrospective in 1994 he had been unfairly savaged by the press as being a pretentious name-dropping Yankee poseur, and he moved back to the USA in disgust. No doubt this attack, and the death of his wife (the painter Sandra Fisher) led to his demise.

Thank you for all your wonderful work Mr Kitaj; I love you. RIP.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

First Courgettes.

The first new season picking of any vegetable is always a delight, even just a few baby Courgettes.

These we ate for lunch. They were diagonally sliced, fried in garlic butter, and eaten tepid.

What could be better.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Heroes/heroines: Ivon Hitchens.

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Being in the business, I've quite naturally met many 'well known artists'; we tend to congregate. One of the most inspirational having been Ivon Hitchens.

When he invited me to his ramshackle home near Petworth in Sussex, it was FILLED with paintings. One could hardly move without squeezing past stacks of framed pictures leaning against the walls. There was a subliminal message in there.

Ivon painted first and foremost for himself, and his relaxed visual influence continues to be seen in works by Howard Hodgkin and his many acolytes.

We didn't spend a long time together, enough for a tour, tea, and a chat, but his wise words rang true throughout. His work ethic, and unflinching dedication to his craft, were exemplary. So many well known painters often become no more than 'picture factories' once they become popular, but Ivon remained very much an 'Artist' to the end.

I salute you Ivon. RIP.

Monday 6 June 2016


Sometimes I wonder why I bother to grow Cabbages. I only grow a few, then have difficulty thinking of what to do with them.

This one was young and very tender. I took out the core, then ROASTED it with lots of garlic butter in between the leaves, it was cooked beside half a Chicken. Experimentation occasionally pays off; this time it certainly did. It was bloody delicious; we ate the lot.

Now I'll have to think of what to do with all the others. Bubble-n-Squeak maybe? No, I think I'll do this again; it was so good.

Any other suggestions gratefully accepted!

Saturday 4 June 2016

Wonderful News!

I'm sure that Hippo won't mind me passing on such good news, but his lovely wife Marcia has given birth to this beautiful baby girl, who will be known as Charlie.

I'm sure you will all join me in sending big blog-world congratulations.

Red Fruits and other matters.

We've already had plenty of Strawberries, and now it's the turn of the Cherries.

Unfortunately this year the weather has been against us; with all the rain we've had the early ones have swelled and split, and frankly their flavour is not as good as it should be. Of course it's only just the beginning of the Cherry season, and with some up-coming sunshine on their backs they'll be OK again quite soon.

I thought I'd also just let you see my Calabrese 'aftermath', and there's even more to come from that same one plant. 

It's worth remembering; don't grub-up your Calabrese plants too quickly!

Friday 3 June 2016

My first true gastronomic experience.

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When I was about 8 years old I stayed with a family in Dieppe as part of an exchange scheme. I spent a few weeks with them, then their son returned to England to spend a few weeks with us. Such things were popular then; I don't know if the same things happen nowadays.

As part of my time with the family we went on a round trip to Normandy, down into the Loire valley, across to Paris, then back up to Dieppe. It was a tour filled with wonderment, and some memorable food.

I wish I could remember where this particular restaurant was, but this is what I recall.

It wasn't a 'restaurant' in the classic sense, it was more of a woodland 'taverna', with rustic vine covered pergolas and even more rustic tables and benches. Running through the middle of the establishment was a small stream.

I don't think the place even had a menu, as with so many French eateries you just ate what you were given. In this particular case I believe it was famous for this trademark dish.

I remember seeing the chef dip a huge wire scoop into the stream and pull out a mass of small wriggling silver fish; something like tiny Sprats or Whitebait. These were drained of excess water then tipped directly into a large pot of boiling oil. The fish cooked in a matter of seconds and were served 'crispy' with a slice of lemon and some salad. As soon as one plateful was finished, another appeared.

As a small Surrey lad who had never travelled further than East Grinstead, I was enthralled. I seem to remember that we ate the fish whole, but maybe we removed the heads; it doesn't really matter.

It was a totally different attitude to food than I'd ever known. None of your meat and two vegs, but piles of tiny, just cooked, tiddlers. They were delicious, and we were actually encouraged to eat with our HANDS.

Such food, and even the method of eating it, is now commonplace, but in those days.....

Thursday 2 June 2016

Nancy Ska Jazz Orchestra-Hatcha!

Three bones, three saxes, three trumpets, and even a french horn. Live music outdoors on a summer's evening somewhere in France. What could be better.

Very rare to find a Ska band that sits and reads music; usually they're leaping about like a bunch of Whirling Dervishes!

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Veg' Growing: Pros v Amateurs.

This is a good example of the difference between commercial veg' growers, and backyard growers such as myself.

A commercial grower would simply remove the head of this Calabrese plant, and ditch the rest.

However I wouldn't dream of doing such a thing as there are always secondary growths ready to be harvested.

You may have to enlarge the second picture to see what I mean, but there are at least four secondary growths which will easily make another couple of meals in a few days time. The commercial grower wouldn't be interested.

The global wastage must be enormous. Shame on them!

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