Monday 31 October 2016

Splendid Sumac.

The Sumacs are showing their colours. They must be the most flamboyant of Autumn's frippery.

I always use ground Sumac on my home-made Houmous, and would love to make my own.

Does anyone grind their own Sumac powder? Any tips?

Sunday 30 October 2016

The Evil Sugar.

The well-meaning, as well as government departments, have been constantly warning us of the dangers of over-consumption of sugar. It makes us obese, possibly causes Diabetes, and shortens our life expectancy.


I was amused (and somewhat horrified) to see recently that a bag of bio, healthy, artisan-made, throat pastilles, apparently including honey made by 'free-range' Bees on the Bio Mont Ventoux, are basically 99.99999% Sugar. 

Sugar (the main ingredient) is of course Sugar. Glucose Syrup is Sugar. And Honey, which is basically a combination of Fructose and Glucose, is also Sugar.

So, 200 gms of Sugar, dressed-up as healthy throat pastilles (and costing €4.30 no less), turns out to be just as unhealthy, and obesity inducing, as a cup full of granulated sugar; with a tiny, tiny, bit of Honey flavouring.

Could you honestly imagine yourself filling a cup with 90% sugar, and 10% honey, and eating it to soothe a sore throat? No, nor would I.

No wonder the Sugar industry is fighting back.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Two fousand five undrid.

You may need to enlarge this.

Friday 28 October 2016

Satan 2.

                          Résultat de recherche d'images pour "satan 2 missile"   

This monstrous military object is Putin's new RS-28 Surmat Missile; also known as Satan 2.

It is a 40 Megaton weapon, 2000 times more powerful than the bombs that fell on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

It travels at 7 km per second, and has a range of 10,000 kms.

Putin is moving these things up towards the Polish border. If aimed (and fired) at London, it would wipe out all of England and Wales, plus a lot of Northern France, Belgium, and Holland.

If fired into central France, it would destroy the whole country.

I just though I'd let you know what he's got pointing at us.

The only solace in this whole tawdry affair, is that, if he did press that button, so many similar Missiles would rain down on Russia that Putin's teeth would melt.

p.s. The distance between Moscow and Washington DC is about 7,900 kms; also well within range! You'd have less than half an hour to dig a bunker.

Thursday 27 October 2016

Playing Cat-n-Mouse.

It's early Autumn, and Mice are have been looking for somewhere warm to spend Winter.

Both here, and up at the barn, there's been a sudden invasion of Mice; they've been arriving like Swallows in Spring.

I like Mice, but not in the house. There's the whole of France out there for them to squat in, but not here thank you!

Freddie (Cat) does his bit to reduce the population, but my preferred method of eradication is the simple Mouse trap, baited with cheese. It is almost 100% successful, and does the job with unerring precision.

Wills and Kellogg, however, don't like killing the beasts (they're veggie/vegans), so have installed several 'humane' traps which have worked quite well, and the Mice released far away.


I've also tried scaring the blighters witless, and have made this wooden cut-out of a Cat..... Success as yet unknown, but probably nil.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

The New Stuff.

Only a few weeks ago, this was still hanging in bunches on the vines; now it's in my glass.

There's something magical about the process of wine making. There's something even more magical about my Vigneronne giving me a 1.5 litre plastic bottle of new wine; straight off the press (if you know what I mean).

I've been buying my wine at the same vineyard for the past 5 or 6 years, and each year I'm presented with a free sample of the new. What lovely folk.

We chat about the weather, about the pro's and con's of bread, about whatever harvest has just been brought in. We get on very well; she gives me huge Pumpkins, I give her Fererro Rocher Chocolates. We have an understanding between supplier and client that is exactly how it should be.

My car mechanic informed me last week that he will be retiring in March 2017. I just hope my Vigneronne doesn't contemplate something as thoroughly stupid.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

The Rush Is On.

Haddock's has a serious surfeit of green Tomatoes (as well as green Peppers, and Chillies); so, what to do with them all.

I don't usually bother with Chutneys, but this year I've gone against my better judgement, and made one specifically for accompanying curries, rather than cheese (If I say this, it gets eaten. If I don't, it doesn't).

It's a James Martin recipe, in whom I have some faith.

We tested it last night with Rick Stein's Chettinad Chicken curry; it was perfect.

We also have so many green Peppers that I'm stuffing them 'à la Provençal' on a regular basis. I don't really know what else to do with them. They need to be used-up before any serious frost ruins them!

Monday 24 October 2016

Walnut season.

The walnuts are dropping, and the harvest looks good.

I've mentioned previously that I drink two teaspoons of Walnut oil each morning, and try to eat about 8 nuts every evening. Their medicinal qualities are renowned.

Otherwise we make a good Walnut Pesto simply by substituting Walnuts for Pine Nuts, Lady Magnon uses quite a lot for her various cakes, and a lot go into our Summer salads. That's about it.

Of course, any that are left-over from the previous year make wonderful fire-lighters!

Sunday 23 October 2016


Certain dogs are used as status symbols, others as thugs, and many as adornments.

Our two (we now only have one) just came our way by chance.

Monty (the Lab') was a rescue dog, and his best friend Bok eventually came to live with us simply because they were inseparable. 

Monty was much admired, and even the subject of some jealousy; Bok is just a lovely affectionate boy, who'd lay down his life for us. He loves everyone, and is loved by everyone. 

What would we do without dogs in our lives!

Saturday 22 October 2016

Paté v Rillettes.

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Everyone knows about Paté, but do you know about its big cousin 'Rillettes'? I shall try to explain the difference.

Paté is made from coarsely ground raw Pork, with the addition of herbs, etc. This is put into jars/cans/dishes and sterilised or cooked. Rillettes is made from either Pork, Duck, or Goose (or a mixture), which has been slow cooked in stock, allowed to cool, then the meat pulled apart and semi-mashed. This meat is then mixed with fat (from the same animal type), and stored under a further layer of fat. It is not really designed to last too long, unless potted like the jar above.

Additions, and seasonings, in both cases depend on the maker.

Here in France we eat a lot of both Paté and Rillettes. Both are fatty, and should be eaten in small quantities.

We've just recently consumed a jar of the Goose Rillettes (above), made in nearby Cahors. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most delicious things on earth, and eaten with good freshly baked Sourdough bread, must be the zenith of French charcuterie.

If you are lucky enough to find a jar of Mémé Quercy's Rillettes d'Oie in a store near you, buy one. It's not cheap, but you'll not regret it. It is not to be compared to the inferior northern Pork Rillettes du Mans, that one finds in all French supermarkets.

Good Paté is good; good Rillettes is sensational.

Friday 21 October 2016

Twiddling Thumbs.

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This time of year can be very dull. For me it is more tedious than anticipatory.

Mornings can be quite cool, but not cold. Afternoon sunshine can be warm, but not hot. We are in a period of neither one thing nor another.  We're in limbo land; waiting for the winter onslaught.

Being someone who likes to keep busy, I have drawn-up my usual list of jobs to be completed before spring, but this year's list is worryingly short.

I have the caravan to complete, quite a bit of errant Ivy to hack back, some serious weed-killing to be done on gravel paths/drives etc, and possibly a small interior DIY project or two. Otherwise most of my work will be wood-sawing, and general tidying. Haddock's is reasonably weed-free, so will look after itself for a while.

It looks as if we shall not be having any mushrooms, so even that bit of bottling will be denied me.

I shall make paté, nearer to Christmas, and will pickle onions and red cabbage, but all these activities take no more than the occasional 20 mins.

Maybe I'll use my extra free time to make bread. For years I've wanted to make bread that I could be really proud of, but although my attempts have been OK, they have not been what I would call 'special'. I'll let you know.

N.B. The bread in the photo was NOT mine, but that's what I'll be aiming for.

Thursday 20 October 2016

A chip off the old block.

Wills, Kellogg, and Boo Boo are in Thailand for 10 days, en route for Oz.

Thai food must be their favourite. For veggies it is perfect; plenty of choice and wonderful flavours.

Boo Boo's tastes are still slightly undeveloped, so he has a plate of chips; no child says no to chips.

And what child says no to relaxing on a lounger, overlooking some idyllic Thai island bay.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

The Fight Against Waste.

I love Swiss Chard, but have never been terribly keen on the stems. Up until this year I've always stripped-off the green leafy part, and thrown the stems away.

However, I've now decided that this is downright WASTE, and I am now keeping those stems, and eating them. 

Firstly I tried putting them into my infamous 'Compost Soup', but they made it taste earthy. Then I tried cooking them as a separate vegetable, and I think I may have conquered the problem.

I cut the stems into about 4 inch lengths, then sliced each piece into thickish matchsticks. These I boiled for a while until softened, then fried them in Garlic Butter.

I can't see them being served at Maxim's in Paris, but they were 'reasonably' pleasant. Certainly much better than chucking them on the compost.

As you can see, I'm having some more tonight. I give them 7/10.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

RIP Sonja LeVay MBE.

                                  Sonja Le Vay was appointed MBE for services to the community last year

We are sorry to report the death of our very good family friend Sonja.

I know that most of my 'family' readers will remember her with huge affection. Her remarkable life touched so many.

Sonja was married to the eminent orthopaedic surgeon David LeVay (his book 'Scenes from Surgical Life' is worth reading, if you are interested in medical things).

Sonja was a committed Socialist, Nurse, Magistrate, Samaritan, and Quaker. One of her great successes was to co-found a charity to rebuild an orphanage in Bulgaria. She did so much good for her fellow man, that it's impossible to innumerate all her accolades

Those who knew her, or of her, may like to read her obituary from The Guardian.

Farewell Sonja; you were a good'un. My sincere condolences to Jonathan, his brothers, and her entire extended family.

Monday 17 October 2016

Mini Paris.

Playing with Boo Boo has its moments. 

Wills Kellogg and Boo Boo are off to Amsterdam today, on the first leg of their trip to Byron Bay Oz, and I'm on airport duty. 

I may be some while.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Putin's wager.

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So, what's he up to?

He's advising all his foreign envoys to repatriate their wives, and children, etc. Could he seriously be thinking of escalating aggression towards the USA, France, and the UK?

We also hear that he's moving nuclear-capable missiles up to the Polish border, whilst sending warships to bomb Syria.

Maybe he should wait another month until after the US Presidential election, when he may have to deal with the unstable President Trump. He and Trump will probably have a lot in common!

Times are certainly interesting, as well as being bloody dangerous.

I don't like the look of it; no, not at all.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Favourite Bit.

Whether one lives in a tiny apartment, a terraced house, a Georgian vicarage, or a palatial pile, there is usually one part of any property that one particularly likes more than the rest.

In our small home it is definitely our pool's 'pump house'.

It was built about 13 years ago (when we installed the pool), so is relatively young.

The builders simply did the basic block-work, leaving a roofless, doorless, grey lump, with no access down to its interior.  I built the Genoise (the decorative bit between the wall and roof), had the small stone window cut, helped construct the roof's woodwork, did the tiling, rendered the walls, constructed the short wall to the left, built steps down to the entrance, commissioned the two bird finials, installed the urn, and planted all the greenery.

It really has become a delightful little building which gives the pool real purpose. Without it, or with something less attractive, the area would have been a disaster.

Our little 300 year old house has quite a few pleasant features, but somehow this 13 year old one gives me the most pleasure.

It almost has the appearance of an ancient building that has been 'restored'.

Friday 14 October 2016

Spot the difference!

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Where Assad lives (Damascus)

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Where his own citizens lived (Aleppo).

Thursday 13 October 2016

Stage Two.

Stripping out the Caravan has been arduous but satisfying. A screwdriver and lump-hammer have done all the hard work, whilst I simply cough from breathing in all the foul ancient dust.

It's amazing to see how these old caravans were constructed. Everything seems to have been made with the flimsiest of plywood, and comes apart almost by blowing on it.  

Anyway, almost everything has been dismantled, and all it needs now is to construct a couple of beds, and the table, then I'll give the whole interior a lick of paint.

It should be ready for habitation before (excuse the C word) Christmas.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Twixt one and t'other.


Autumn does have a few qualities that I can appreciate. The intervening period of early falling leaves, and total arboreal nudity, is quite beautiful. The woodland path (above) is at its best at this time of year. Green canopy and bronze path, dappled with sunlight.

Still no mushrooms, the Cranes have flown over on their way south, and really quite cold mornings. We've been lighting fires for the past four evenings; a trend I see continuing.

The Chestnut season is in full swing, and I have already given my faithful Husqvarna it's first outing.

Logs are being stockpiled in case of a long period of poor weather, and Lady Magnon has retrieved her furry waistcoat from her winter wardrobe.

My mind has turned to winter stews, warming soups, and sumptuous roasts. I shall not deprive myself, even if my doc' rebukes me. I intend to enjoy Autumn, whatever they say!

Tuesday 11 October 2016

1st Choucroute of Autumn/Winter.


With the colder weather (it was 2 C yesterday morning) comes Sauerkraut Season.

The above photo comes from last year, but was exactly the same as the one I prepared last night.

Like almost anything, the first of the season is always the best, and I've been looking forward to a dish of Sauerkraut even through the heat of Summer.

Officially it should also contain a few boiled potatoes, but I can never be bothered. Just the cabbage and a variety of smoked pork sausages does the job. Lovely!

Monday 10 October 2016

I'm In the Mood For Love - I Roy.

You may not immediately recognise the tune, but here's I Roy having fun with an old favourite in his own special way. Diddly-boop, Diddly-bop.

The musicians, and backing singers, show beautiful restraint.

Sunday 9 October 2016

State of Play.

Winter 'greens' are now being eaten. There are plenty to choose from, amongst which are Chard, Kale (2 types), Perpetual Spinach, and Cavolo Nero.

We still have plenty of Peppers, Aubergines, Tomatoes, and Chillies. 

Bottling is now finished, so plenty of  Spanish Caldo de tomate y patata con pimenton dulce (tomato and potato soup) is appearing in our lunchtime soup bowls. Delicious.

All doing well, and plenty of fresh Figs to enjoy whilst weeding.

Autumn is starting-off quite nicely; if a tad cold. The only down side being no mushrooms.

You can't have it all, but you can hope!


Saturday 8 October 2016

Stage One.

Stage one of the Caravan conversion is complete. It is now almost invisible from a distance. A few well positioned Leylandii, and the disappearance will be complete.

I chose a satin finish Charcoal Grey rather than Dark Green, and it looks OK.

On the front there were two missing windows which I've now replaced in a rather simplistic way. Next thing will be to attack the inside.

They'll need a couple of beds, a table, and some chairs. After that they can do what they like.

I may even lay some carpet. I want it to be simple, but 'reasonably' smart; so they can take some pride in it.

Friday 7 October 2016

Hale and Pace - Yorkshire Airlines Comedy

I hope this will amuse Weaver... It made me laugh anyway!

The attribution to Harry Enfield is wrong!

Thursday 6 October 2016

End Game.

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I used to enjoy a game of Chess. I established my school's Chess Club, and later ran a Chess Club at my son's Junior School in Brighton. I was NOT a good player by any means; I was simply an enthusiastic amateur.

Chess is a game where working towards those last few crucial moves (without showing one's hand) is all important.

It's a war game. The word 'Checkmate' coming from the ancient Persian words (Shah mat) meaning 'The King is Dead'. It is a game of two sides, a strategic battle, and a winner.

Wars are no longer like this. When I undertook my school Officer Training course, the first thing we learned about the art of warmongering was to 'Go in hard, go in strong, and know your enemy'. Obviously those who lead us into wars these days did not attend the same pre-Sandhurst lectures as myself; nor, probably, do they play Chess.

These days decisions to go to war seem to be made by poorly advised committees; their whims based of the premise that if other people are having a rough time, we must intervene. This concept of 'policing' the world has been adopted by just a handful of countries, and between them they have caused (and are causing) more problems than they could ever have imagined.

Honestly, what is the point of bombing the shit out of some third-world, oil-rich, area of scrubby desert, unless there is some specific aim involved? Just saying we wanted to get rid of X or Y does not solve a problem.

We should either leave them alone to sort out their own problems, or have a very solid plan to put it all back together again. Doing neither one thing or the other helps no-one.

In war, as in life, there are people who are quite prepared to light the fuse, then hope it will just fizzle out with an aroma of honey and roses. Well life ain't like that, and there are always consequences. In life people simply end-up with egg on their faces, but in international conflict the effects are far more important and far-fetching.

Go in hard.... go in strong.... and know your enemy'; yes, but I'll have to add to that 'Have a carefully prepared end game at the ready'! And..... if it all ends in a way other than how one had anticipated, don't bloody complain.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

The state of local agriculture.

I had a long chat with my lovely neighbour, Laurence, recently; and what she had to say about farming was really quite depressing.

There are only a handful of crops now grown by farmers in this area; Wheat, Maize, and Sunflowers being the main ones. A few farmers still have dairy herds, but most of the cattle one sees are kept for fattening.

Otherwise there are Chestnuts, Walnuts, and, if one's lucky, a few Mushrooms.

It seems that almost everything is either no longer profitable, or disease is slowly taking over.

My other neighbour, Jean-Claude, has grown several hectares of Maize this year (as he always does), and will sell the crop as seed, rather than making silage. I gather that he will just about 'break even'.

He spreads manure, ploughs, brings in a contractor to sow the maize, he spreads fertiliser, he sprays weedkiller, he waters copiously, another contractor comes in to harvest, the grains are taken away and dried until of the correct moisture content, it is stored, then eventually sold. Every stage costs money, on top of which he has tractor costs, and has to pay taxes on his land. As I said above, he is lucky to break even. (Above is his crop).

We spoke of what other crops could be grown; nothing came to mind that could easily be sold. She also said that this year's Chestnut crop could well be the last one of any real quantity, as the Cynips bug has really taken hold.

Things do not look good.

No young people are wanting to follow their parents onto the land, and I can see the day when farms will be sold to people who have no interest at all in farming. Belgians, Dutch, and English will buy the more attractive farms for their horses, and the others; goodness knows what will become of them. Laurence said they will simply become covered in Brambles; as they did in the past.

Everything goes in cycles, so maybe one day there will be a return to actually growing things, but I think that time is still a very long way off.

Tuesday 4 October 2016


France is a tad obsessed by salt; I can't describe how many varieties are available, even in the most modest of shops. The 7 types above are not all I have.

I was tempted to buy some very expensive Black Salt recently (from Hawaii?) but then woke up and asked myself what on earth I'd do with it.

Above is just a selection of my different salts, from damp grey Sel de Guérande to Australian Wild Herb Salt, and my favourite Celery Salt. I could tell you what they're all used for, but I'd be here until midnight.

I suppose we should all eat LESS salt, but I seem to be eating (or at least buying) more.

Are you are salt aficionado?

Monday 3 October 2016

Memory Man.

As students we gave each other lots of drawings, and other works. If someone liked something of yours, it was usually given away in unexpected appreciation.

Having said how much I liked it, my friend Bill K gave me the above drawing entitled 'Cloud'.

A couple of days ago I was cleaning its glass and wondered what had happened to him. I googled his name and found that he was living (and had exhibited) somewhere in Yorkshire; of where he was a native.

I sent him an Email and said I had a drawing to show him. He replied asking if I was XX from college, and was the drawing of a 'Cloud'?

Considering that the gift was made in around 1969, and that it was just a scrap of paper 4 inches by 6, I was AMAZED that he remembered it.

Anyway, I sent him the above photo, just to remind him.

Some people's memories are quite remarkable.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Stuck Fast.

I remember someone warning me about Superglue, but I probably wasn't paying attention.

I keep knocking off the round handle on our butter dish, and keep having to glue it on again.

This time I used an already opened tube of Superglue, and the stuff came out of all quarters; there was glue everywhere.

It wasn't long before I realised that my right thumb was stuck to the tube; and I mean REALLY STUCK. It wouldn't budge.

Of course, Lady Magnon had just taken Bok for a walk, so I was left there, by myself, with my bloody thumb stuck to a tube of glue. Just my luck.

I ended-up just pulling it off; what else could I have done! It took with it a layer of skin, and was quite painful.

I'll pay more attention next time.

You can laugh now!

Saturday 1 October 2016

Are you kidding, Cro?


Don't laugh; I've just bought a caravan.

I don't want you thinking that I've decided to take to the open road; no, this is a very old, 1979, semi-derelict, van, that I have positioned in our paddock adjacent to the 'Dangerous Fun' tree house. It is for the children to have as their own little cabanon. In the past I've tried to buy a Gypsy caravan for them, but my attempts all failed. This is a reasonable alternative.

Over the next few years I'm hoping to teach the kids to cook, make their own beds, keep things tidy (some hope), and generally look after their own wee 'home'. I have a feeling that they will succeed.

I mentioned to my friend Laurence just a few weeks ago that I was looking for an old, no longer used, small caravan, and she came up trumps almost at once. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for, and at a price that didn't make me wince.

It will be repainted DARK GREEN, and will no doubt be camouflaged by Wisteria before too long. The inside will be re-worked to suit their needs; a couple of beds and a table and chairs maybe. Watch this space!

Now, where are those lucky grandsons?

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