Sunday 31 December 2017

Cro's Review of 2017.

2017 began with a long period of sub-zero temperatures, and occasional rain; -6 C was not uncommon during January.

January, of course, also saw the inauguration of President Chump; some were happy, others were not, division between the USA's left and right has never been greater.

In mid-February Lady Magnon left for Australia in anticipation of the arrival of our new grandson. Boo Boo Minor (Micha) was born on March 22nd, and in line with tradition I planted an apple tree to mark the day. Then in late March all my children and grandchildren managed to get together in Australia for a family Jamboree and celebration.

Cricket was played, Koalas and Kangaroos were stroked, and even venomous snakes were handled (by mistake). I stayed behind to look after Europe, and especially our wee corner of it..

Early April seems to have been glorious almost everywhere, and here was no exception. Once again I ignored the fact that frosts can be expected until mid-May, and Haddock's was planted-up regardless. I crossed my fingers, and prayed. The new cruciform layout at Haddock's can now be seen on Google Earth; oh yes!

We did, in fact, have a couple of nights of frost, and the Vines and Walnut trees were nipped; but not my veg' plants.

It was an exceptional month for flowers, and the 'tower' was covered in the most amazing display of Wisteria and Clematis; which is exactly how I'd originally planned it.

Mid year, back in the UK, things were not good. Westminster Bridge, Manchester, London Bridge, the Grenfell Tower fire, and Finsbury Park; the horror stories seemed never ending.

We had expected Summer 2017 to be quiet (last year was the opposite); but it wasn't to be. This otherwise peaceful little outpost became as animated as anywhere else. Friends, family, and a near neighbour's business ambitions kept us on our toes. The boys loved their new 'headquarters'; they even threw a very successful dinner party!

Weather-wise, Summer was a bit hit-n-miss. Had it been non-stop heat I would now be complaining, so a little bit of everything probably suited us quite well, although I expect we moaned at the time.  I should also mention that the pool remained crystal clear all Summer long; fellow pool owners will appreciate my relief on that score.  


So, to round off, it's been a strange year. The UK's Marxists showed their nasty faces at the General Election in early June. Gullible adolescents were given ridiculously false hopes, and amazingly they actually fell for them. It could all have gone so very very wrong. Politically the Brits have a lot to be relieved about, and grateful for; the Yanks were not so lucky. The prospect of seeing the UK as a 'Cuba without the sunshine' is always present; we live in dread.

I'm also pleased to report that the two other members of our family are getting along just fine. They are (at long last) quite good friends.

We will remember 2017 for many things. Kim Jong-Un's juvenile nuclear threats, Hurricanes, and the Las Vegas massacre being just a few. Planet Earth is a very strange place sometimes. In our own tiny sphere, we've had to come to terms with the prospect of having some ridiculous holiday village planted right on our doorsteps. I despair!

I can't sign off without showing you a photo of the newest Magnon. Here he is, the delightful Micha Magnon. He and big brother Boo Boo get on very well together. What a cutie!

That's it for another year. It's been great conversing with you. Let's hope that 2018 will be kind to us all, and I look forward to another 12 months of merriment mayhem and madness.

Cro, and Lady Magnon. xxx

Saturday 30 December 2017

How did they do that!

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Many of us who watched Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve, must have wondered how on earth its mid 15th C builders managed to construct that amazing fan vault ceiling; and why it doesn't simply fall down. The chapel's fan tracery ceiling is the world's biggest, and was completed in 1515.

It's the 'close to horizontal' form of the ceiling that baffles the viewer. It seems almost impossible that all that weight can remain in situ.

Such a ceiling relies on a few basic essentials. Extremely solid exterior walls (probably with ordinary, or flying, buttresses), extreme accuracy from the stonemasons themselves, and plenty of weight from above. The medieval stonemason would have known the process, but not the theory behind its success.

The process is roughly as follows. Once a very solid wooden template had been constructed, the main cross ribs were placed in position from one side to the other, and secured with a key stone; these were quite solid and stable. Then the major inter-connecting ribs were added, and the huge keystones (bosses) secured to hold everything in place (the decorative bosses at Kings weigh about 1,500 kilos each). Only then can the decorative infill begin, using all the other solid ribs as support; sand would probably have been used to hold-up the exact positioning for the newly laid stones. Eventually when all was in position, several tons of stone rubble was placed on top to create a huge downward force, and (hopefully) secure everything in place.

During the whole process, the stonemasons would have seen nothing of how the finished job would look from below.

It is claimed that the wooden template was often burned away to reveal the ceiling in all its glory, as the builders stood back with fingers crossed. It certainly would have been a very tense moment.

So, when you next look up at some vaulted fan tracery, I hope you will be like me, and marvel at the skill of the medieval builders who managed to do all that with just hammer chisel rope and a lot of prayer.

Friday 29 December 2017

Happy Birthday Lady M.


So, who's the little girl with the questionable glasses, wonky teeth, and a nice dog called Mack? Yes, of course it's the young Lady Magnon in her Washington DC days. It's her birthday today.

The years seem to pass by so quickly these days. It doesn't seem so long ago that I was looking forward to Summer.

Nowadays birthdays become just another fleeting part of the year, and the numbers tot-up.

Happy Birthday anyway; ignore the numbers, revel in the celebration; and let's hope for many more.

Best wishes my dear; Champagne tonight.

Thursday 28 December 2017

They loved each other so much.


I would say that Monty and Bok loved each other with a passion; they were inseparable.

They met when they were still 6 month old pups, and remained faithful to each other until Monty's sad demise.

Then suddenly, when Monty was no longer with us, Bok seemed to act as if he'd never existed. Previously when I mentioned Monty's name, Bok would immediately sit up and look for him; after his death it was almost as if he'd never heard the name, or knew to whom it had belonged.

We'd made a point of showing Bok Monty's lifeless body, and he attended his funeral (at Haddock's), so I imagine that he understood. But to suddenly behave as if he'd never existed took us by surprise.

No doubt Dogs understand death, and perhaps they simply draw a line. Bok's reaction was to block-out his memory, and instantly take over as Top Dog in his stead.

No howling at the moon, or tears over his vacant bed; just total disinterest. Very strange.

It's Monty's birthday today, he would have been 7. We miss him.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Appearances can be deceptive.

Newly born, they always look a bit like a mud-filled pudding basin, covered with dirty paper, muslin, and old string; not the most attractive things on earth.

We had agreed this year, NOT to have a Plum Pudding (Christmas Pud'), but then I found Lady Magnon up to her surreptitious elbows in dried fruits and brandy, in a steam filled kitchen. She simply couldn't face the idea of not having a Pud', complete with hidden coin, brandy butter, and thick cream (no custard in this house), as part of the big eat-fest.

We have always liked traditional fare at Christmas. Almost all of what we eat, and the way in which it is prepared, would have been familiar in Victorian kitchens. Roasted Turkey or Goose, stuffings, traditional accompanying vegetables, and home-made Plum Pudding; would have been prepared in a very similar manner in all but the very poorest of households.

So, look what was underneath all that junk; a perfectly cooked, and shaped, Christmas Pud'.

Now that my appetite is more modest than when I was younger, I find eating anything at all after a kilo or so of Turkey meat, rather daunting. But, not to be thought a killjoy, I always have a small piece of flaming Pud', just to make that wish;..... and I usually regret it.

Maybe Christmas Pud' should be served as a meal in itself, just a big slice, a generous amount of brandy butter, and a nice big dollop of thick cream. Only 4,000 calories, and enough fuel for a week!

I should add that Lady M's last minute Pud' was bloody excellent.

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Went the day well.... again?

It's the traditional regularity that I enjoy the most. Knowing that on that one special day, each year, the table will be groaning under the weight of a Roasted Turkey, accompaniments, and Plum Pudding.

Elsewhere in Magnon-world, they were eating Sushi, veggie something, and a Turkey crown with Duck legs.

We, however, stick with tradition, and shall be enjoying the remnants for the next few days; plus, I have put one whole cooked Turkey breast in the freezer for a later date.

It is no surprise that at our ages, we have pretty much all we need, so no big presents. The Fortnum's hamper (that everyone had denied sending) turned-out to have come from my lovely daughter Tenpin (thank you darling), and Lady M was delighted with her new handbag. I'd been told which one to order, and Mr Vuitton had been up all night adding the finishing touches (ahem).

So, another Christmas is over, and only another 12 months to wait till it comes around again, and frankly I'm rather looking forward to it.

Monday 25 December 2017

Happy Christmas.

No Rudolph or jingly sleighs this year; here's Catherine Tate instead.

If you can spare 8 mins, it's worth watching right to the end; while the Turkey's roasting!

p.s. For those who are unaware, Ms Church is a much-admired Welsh singer (every Welshman thinks he/she has a good voice) who was known for her drinking and left-wing views.

Right everyone, gather round and behave yourselves, it's Christmas.

Q: What do you call someone who doesn't like Christmas?

 A: A rebel without a Claus!

Sunday 24 December 2017

It's Christmas Eve.

To everyone who visits these pages, may I wish you all a very enjoyable Christmas Eve, and a wonderful Christmas Day for tomorrow.

May your Turkey be moist, any gifts be to your taste, and the day's company to your liking. If, like me, you are putting a Yule Log on your fire tonight, may it burn well.

This is ours (above); which will be put on the fire later tonight.

This evening we shall listen to Carols from Kings, speak with friends and family, and enjoy the warm ambiance of our small 'cosy' home.

We wish you all a very happy festival, however you choose to celebrate it. Cro & Lady Magnon xx

Saturday 23 December 2017

Sans Day Carol (Rutter) Ely Cathedral Choir

After 1000 years of being an all-male institution, in 1970 my alma mater decided to admit girls. Of course they soon wanted to do everything that the boys did, and that included becoming choristers.

So, here is the Ely Cathedral Girls Choir (plus a few male lay clerks) singing the beautiful 19th C Cornish 'Saint Day Carol'.

In my day we only had male choristers, but the girls do a fabulous job. Turn down the lights, relax, and enjoy.

Friday 22 December 2017

My brood. No 1 son, No 1 daughter, and No 2 son.

Here he is, in all his splendour. I think I've said before that No 1 son, Kimbo, has always been (in my mind) an exemplary person. He had his aims and ambitions, and has achieved them all (so far). Well done.

It's good when one can say with total honesty that one likes one's own children, and all three of mine have turned out to be really nice people. 


Tenpin isn't as forthcoming with new photographs as the other two, but I recently found this one on Facebook. Just imagining her crossing some Rajasthan desert with a couple of Camels makes me smile. I never know quite what's coming next with Ten'; she keeps us surprised. She has also done very well in life.

And finally, here is young Wills at the helm of some boat, on the Aussie high seas..... Aye Aye Cap'n. Wills is the property tycoon of the family..... where will it end?

So, a very special 'Happy Christmas' to each of my three my darlings. I'll speak with you soon!

p.s. The big question is 'WHO SENT THE FORTNUM'S HAMPER?'

Thursday 21 December 2017

Christmas Cards.

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I no longer send cards; just Emails, plus greetings via my blog page.

Lady Magnon, however, likes actual cardboard cards, and has recently been distributing them to one and all.

I believe that, included in her distribution this year were one or two to right plonkers that I wouldn't piss on if I found them on fire; and she was duly ticked off. We all have moments of madness (actually, I never have them). Sorry, but if you're off my Christmas card list; you STAY off.

It wasn't so long ago that we would receive anything up to 100 cards every Christmas, but I would be surprised if this year we have much more than 20. The whole idea of sending cards in stamped envelopes has almost died-out.

I actually welcome this trend, as receiving last minute cards from those we'd forgotten always involved an awful rush to get one off before the last posting date. It was a right pain.

One may not be able to prop a Christmas Email with the other stiffies on the mantelpiece, but I suppose that's progress.

If anyone receives a greeting from ME at Christmas, they should know that it was sent with sincerity, and genuine good wishes; never by mistake.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Clare Leighton.

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I'm lucky to own a copy of this wonderful book, mine with an extremely torn and tatty dust cover.

However, it's not the outside that matters, it's all about Clare Leighton's magnificent illustrations.

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These are two of my favourites from the book; lopping the Willows (February), above, and ploughing (November) below.

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I'm not sure what other work Ms Leighton produced, but her month by month Farmer's Year is a total delight, and it's what she's mostly known for.

Google images should supply the rest of the illustrations.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Ne Irascaris Domine (Byrd) Ely Cathedral Choir.

William Byrd's 1589 Ne Irascaris Domine (do not be angry, Lord), filmed in the Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral.

During my four years spent in Ely, I attended services in the Lady Chapel every morning. A truly stunning location; perfect for the cathedral's combined male/female choirs. You will note that the boy choristers are much younger than the girls; the boys are members of The Choir School, whereas the girls are all members of the upper school.

N.B. Cromwell's hooligans knocked all the heads off the lower surrounding stone carved 'niches', however I do know of one that still exists; it's well hidden, but I could show it to you if you meet me there. Cromwell lived in Ely from about 1635 onwards; I'm surprised no-one knocked HIS head off.

The true beauty of The Lady Chapel is probably best appreciated if you watch this on YouTube; and do make sure that your laptop is linked to a really good sound system.

Monday 18 December 2017

Boo Boo on Skype.

He wanted to show me how you make patterns out of coloured sand, in a bottle. He did a great job.

Then he wanted to show me how you empty it all out again.

Then he wanted to show me how, if you mix all the different coloured sands together, you can make an all-brown filling for the bottle. 

He's a clever boy, our Boo Boo; a scientist in the making.

Sunday 17 December 2017


It's up. Atop the tree is this year's fairy; our 'house bear' Monty.

On the sofa is helper Bok.

Countdown to Crimbo.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

The Crib is out (extreme left), the Swedish Bock is out (extreme right), and our Christmas candle stick has been lit. There are a few early cards on the dresser, and in the evenings we have been sitting by the fire with the lights off. 

I suppose the only thing that would complete the festive scene would be two feet of snow, and a few Reindeer outdoors.

I shall cut the tree tomorrow, struggle to mount it upright in some leak-proof bucket, and drape it with seasonal kitsch. Christmas then will be officially 'open'.

I'm not sure why my attitude has changed, but this year I've really been looking forward to the whole caboodle. Bring it on!

Saturday 16 December 2017

That Cake.

She can't be left alone in the kitchen.

The last time I saw the cake it had its bare bottom in the air, and was being bathed in Armagnac.

Now I find that she's been playing with it, and just look what she's been up to! There are Robins in a tree, a hand-made marzipan Reindeer (yes, that what it's supposed to be), and a few other unrecognisable creatures. It has become a veritable snowed-in menagerie of animals, snowmen, and Santas.

It was hidden away in a giant Le Creuset dish, where no doubt she'd hoped I wouldn't find it. Ha ha; you can't hide a Christmas cake from Cro; even at night (hence the poor photo)! 

Yesterday afternoon, we just had to try a slice. Need I say more.....

Friday 15 December 2017

Parcels, parcels, everywhere.

A big parcel arrived yesterday. It's always nice when a big box arrives from Amazon; even if you already know exactly what's inside it.

This was a naughty Christmas present to myself, a dozen packets of my favourite Pork Scratchings.

We're planning a big diet for the new year, so I may have to put some of them away until a later date; although they do have an 'eat by' date of 26 Jan 2018. Hmmmm, not sure.

Then, imagine our surprise when later in the day we returned from dog walking to find another big parcel waiting for us on the terrace table. 

I wonder what it could be?

Looks interesting!

Thursday 14 December 2017

Off to the moon again.

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President Trump has just announced that the USA will once again point rockets at the Moon and beyond.

I don't know how much money it costs to go swanning around in space, and landing on floating lumps of dusty rock, but I do know that the money could be much better spent down here; where it's really needed.

We pollute the air, we pollute the soil, and we pollute the waters; so much so that people talk of our lovely planet being uninhabitable in years to come, if it's not blown to bits by nuclear weapons.

So what do they want us to do?  Are we really supposed to go to live somewhere where there is no air to breathe, no soil in which to plant our crops, and no vegetation whatsoever. Are they effing kidding?

Dear Mr Trump; why not simply try to make our true 'home' a better place to live. Let's not poison it any more than we have to, let's reduce the massive world over-population, and let's no longer rape and pillage every ounce of the world's minerals in order for the few to become inordinately wealthy.

And don't think, Mr Trump, that we didn't notice your mention of 'Military uses' in space; because we did!

No, let's not go back to the Moon, Donald; it's really not a very nice place, and I for one am certainly not going to live there.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Christmases Past.

My earliest memories of Christmas are from our, then, newly built home in my native Lingfield, Surrey.

My father had designed the house (above) on the back of an envelope; this envelope was then passed to our local architect, a Mrs Swann, who straightened all the lines, and re-organised the plumbing so that nothing overflowed into the kitchen sink, etc. The resulting house was attractive, roomy and comfortable. It also came with about half an acre of garden; maybe more.

Like so many houses, it had a large sitting room that was rarely used. We ate, and relaxed, either in the breakfast room or the dining room. However at Christmas the sitting room became the focus of our attention.

For children Christmas is the biggest and best day of the year; bigger even than birthdays. The food, the presents, and the excitement of the big day outdid all others.

My mother loved buying and spending, and she usually overdid the amount of presents we received. I don't think we were 'spoilt', but the pure number of presents was always overwhelming. She loved to see an excessively large pile under the tree. She would even wrap a single pencil.

There was always a proper fresh cut tree, decorated with glass baubles, tinsel, and small lit candles set in clip-on tin holders. The rooms were festooned with paper chains, made at the breakfast room table by my sister and I, licking foul tasting glue on specially bought multi-coloured strips of paper; something that would probably be seen as 'child abuse' today.

My mother's love of excess also ran to her choice of the annual Turkey, they would weigh anything up to 27 lbs; huge monsters that would often have to be trimmed to fit into our average sized cooker. No freezers in those days so everything had to be assembled one or two days before the big event. My enduring memories of those early Christmases are of cooking, cooking, and more cooking. We spent our days watching intently as the essential Mrs Belton and mother prepared all the delicacies.

The days after Christmas were dedicated to eating the left-over Turkey in as many varied ways as possible; the sign of an adventurous and frugal cook. When I hear of people these days who 'bin' the remains of their Turkey after their Christmas Day lunch; I despair.

Letter writing began on the 27th. Every aunt and uncle had to receive an individual letter, thanking them for the awful tie or pair of gloves they'd sent. Extended family never seemed to have an ounce of good taste; so much stuff just got 'put away'.

When our own children were young we always did much as my people had. There was never a shortage of presents, food, or decorations. They now continue the excess with their own broods.

Even here, with just the two of us, I shall make sure that everything is done correctly. There'll be no cutting corners whilst I'm still around, even though our Turkey will only weigh around 4.5 Kilos (I've already ordered it).

My people sold our Lingfield house back in 1960, and moved down to the South coast. I missed it hugely; so many good memories.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Turner Prize 2017.

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This year's Turner Prize has been won by Lubaina Himid, a 63 year old, born in Tanzania.

Frankly the four-person shortlist for this prestigious annual art prize was uninspiring. Ms Himid was possibly the best of a bad lot, although her work looks more (to me) like illustration for cheap novels rather than prize winning painting.

I think The Turner Prize is due for a return to real standards in painting or sculpture.

Above is an example of Ms Himid's work. Make up your own mind!

Monday 11 December 2017

Hate Crime?

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I hear that 'Wolf Whistling' is possibly to become a 'hate crime'. I believe it already is in one northern UK town.

I should say here that I have NEVER whistled at a passing girl, nor would I ever do so.

Whistling at attractive girls has been a part of life since Adam first whistled at Eve. It is simply an outward appreciation of feminine beauty.

Young, and older, women spend hours (and a fortune) making themselves beautiful. They paint their faces lips and nails, choose their clothes very carefully, and spray themselves with expensive 'come hither' perfumes. They do their utmost to make themselves look and smell as attractive as possible.

If all that work is then appreciated by a couple of builders leaning over their scaffolding, can that really be seen as 'hatred'?

I have just been listening to a Radio 'phone-in' programme about the subject, and I was pleased to hear that most women were flattered by the attention they provoked, even if they did think it was a bit 'common'.

I fear that the man-hating radical feminist movement have been lobbying again. They really should relax.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Here today, gone tomorrow!


Some time ago I mentioned about rescuing some discarded Blackberry cuttings from a nearby garden. They were of a particularly good thornless variety; but, although they started off well, sadly none of them survived.

The garden from which they came was quite large. The man who worked it comes from a village 7 kms away, and had generously been offered free use of the strip of land by my lovely neighbour L.

He grew a vast amount of produce; far too much for just he and his wife, so I imagine he was selling it.

The garden has now been stripped bare; hardly a single plant remains. The unpleasant man in question was a big supporter of the proposed 'holiday village' (even though he doesn't live in our tiny hamlet), and was exceptionally rude to L (how crazy is that!), to Lady Magnon, and a few others who were against the plan. He has always been a loud-mouthed old fool for whom rudeness and oafishness was a way of life. As a result, he has now been deprived of his free patch of land, and all that it offered. He's now taken out all his winter vegs and perennials, and has departed with his tail between his legs.

His was the second case of such rudeness that we have experienced in the past couple of years, and both perpetrators have lived to regret their silly outbursts; proving, I suppose, that it always pays to be courteous and well behaved.

Some simply have no idea how to behave, others do; boorishness does not distinguish. Good riddance to him.

Saturday 9 December 2017



I am not totally convinced by the whole concept of SUPERFOODS; especially of the type 'Berries found only on the northern bank of some Tibetan mountain lake, that can only be reached by a tribe of Arab Pygmies, riding on the backs of female Yaks'. I'm sure you know the hype!

However I do believe in the healing qualities of Oats, Garlic, dark green vegetables, and Choucroute; plus a few others.

Choucroute's qualities rely on that fact that it is fermented; a process that increases its nutritional and health benefits.

It is known to aid digestion, improve the immune system, aid weight loss, and reduce stress.

It is also supposed to reduce the risk of cancer, invigorate the heart, and make stronger bones; but what 'superfood' doesn't? Who knows!

Regardless of all the above, I do love the taste of Choucroute. It is cheap, plentiful, and good for you. To me no winter would be the same without it. We tend to consume ours in the 'Alsace' way, but it's just as good with a pork chop.

The above half kilo of cooked Choucroute cost a mere €1.50. A bargain!

Friday 8 December 2017


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I have always been fascinated by aesthetes. From Regency dandies, via Withnail, to certain present day Arabic squillionaires, their insistence on 'style', and accepting only the very finest or rarest is laudable. They also keep an awful lot of people in work.

Personally I have never been in a financial position to afford the title of 'aesthete', but I have had the pleasure of knowing one particular person who did.

M was at school with me, and he always stood apart from us other mere peasants as never ever accepting the 'norm'. I think it was he who insisted that we only smoked Sobranie cigarettes in our study rather than Woodbines or Player's Weights.

Whereas the rest of us furnished our study with tatty threadbare easy chairs, M purchased an ornately covered antique Chaise Longue. At one time he bought an early Silver Dollar which he sent off to Garrards in Bond Street to have made into a silver money clip. Very chic. On leaving school he bought himself a rather swish Lancia, whereas most of us made do with a bike or the tube.

His first flat was in a Georgian block by Oxford Circus with a uniformed Doorman and a Concierge; he also became a member of a prestigious Gentlemen's Club in St James. Both addresses looked very exclusive on his embossed note paper.

The strange thing is that even if I'd had the money to live such a lifestyle; I wouldn't have. To M it was normal. I think he was much influenced by his mother who drove a lovely old battered Royce, and wore hand-made Crocodile skin shoes. I was the type who just went along with the usual high street Hoi-Polloi; vest and pants from Marks, food from Sainsbury's, and all my aspirations aimed on next month's salary cheque.

M spent his life searching-out the best of everything. He was tall and slim, with longish silver blonde hair; he certainly looked the part. He wasn't at all 'dandyish', but one could tell that everything he wore was expensive. I don't think he was hugely wealthy; just discerning. He never married, nor did he ever have a 'job'. His life's aim was to live as well as he possibly could within his means.

I hadn't heard from M for ages, and I thought he may have died, but he's suddenly contacted me again, and I'm pleased to learn that nothing of his old life style has been sacrificed. These folk are few and far between, and should be preserved (possibly in a Museum!).

I don't know why he bothers with me, he must find me terribly dull.

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