Tuesday 31 January 2017

All neat-n-tidy.

It is said that you can always tell a good tradesman by the way he leaves his work site each evening.

I think I can say that this man's example is impeccable. He is superb!

Everything swept clean, and all his tools neat and tidy. He puts me to shame.

Monday 30 January 2017

Another 4 months to wait.

Four whole months to go before we'll open the pool. It seems like decades away. In the meantime, we have to look out onto the drab scene above.


At least this next picture reminds me that Summer is out there somewhere, and that T Shirts, bare feet, and wet hair will once again be a part of everyday life again.

The combination of hot sunshine and a cooling pool seem like a distant dream at the moment, so I need to look at pictures (such as the above) to remind me that it really does exist.

Did I ever mention that I really hate Winter? 

Sunday 29 January 2017

Jerusalem Artichokes.

There's a small field quite near us that is 100% overgrown with Artichokes. I hadn't grown any myself for several years, so last Winter I pulled at one of the dead stems and lifted out a few tubers for planting at Haddock's. Above is part of the result.

They're a rather old fashioned vegetable. They're very difficult to peel, they give you awful wind, but they are delicious.

We always used to make soup with them (whizzed-up Artichokes, Celery, and Cream), but I also like them roasted, or boiled then fried. Either way they have a wonderful flavour.

They're regarded mostly as Pig fodder over here, but they are a vegetable not to be ignored.

The last time I grew them, I bought some beautiful large round smooth-skinned tubers from an Asian shop in Brighton. Thinking that they were a new variety I happily sowed a whole row. When I harvested them, they had annoyingly reverted to the usual knobbly type we all know and love. 

Great flavour, but you just have to accept that they're bug*ers to peel; and to keep your windows open!

Saturday 28 January 2017

Chestnut Leaves.

In the past, at this time of year, the Chestnut trees would be totally devoid of leaves, but this year there are two types of dead leaves; one lot clinging-on, and another lot underneath. (see above).

Still clinging to the trees they are small and twisted, and on the ground they are normal Chestnut leaf shape; the former died on the trees mid-season, and the latter fell to the ground in Autumn.

This illustrates the problem we are facing with the Cynips wasp. When this tiny parasitic insect lays her eggs amongst the year's new shoots, it kills off the growth, resulting in masses of dead wrinkled leaves throughout the growing season. This can eventually lead to the death of the whole tree. At a minimum it will drastically reduce the crop of the tree by anything up to 80 or 90%.

Cynips originally arrived in the South of France in 2002, when it was instantly dealt with by cutting and burning every affected tree; this cured the problem at once. Cynips returned again in 2010 and has since spread to a much wider area; including ours.

Much beard tugging and head scratching has since taken place, and certain preventative/curative measures are already being tested. However, it doesn't look good for the future of Chestnut growing in our area, although there are still new plantations popping-up here and there, as certain varieties are less prone to the problem than others.

The Chestnut tree, either wild or grafted, is an essential part of our landscape; to see them all die out would be disastrous.

Friday 27 January 2017

Half-Wholemeal Focaccia.

Our wood-fired cooker will be lit less frequently from now on. The frosty, -6 C, mornings should be less common, and slightly more balmy temperatures well above zero are promised.

So, as we have probably lit our oven for the last time for a while, I attempted some Focaccia. I used half/half wholemeal and ordinary flour, and proceeded as per usual.

I looks good, smells good, and tastes pretty good. Next time, however, I'll revert to my usual 100% ordinary white flour. I don't think the wholemeal flour added anything to the final product.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Compost Bags.

France is usually towards the head of the race when it comes to all things 'environmental'.

You probably heard recently that our supermarkets are no longer allowed to throw away food; These bags are another example of public environmental awareness.

I bought a couple of small purple tinged Turnips recently, and noticed that the bags on offer were totally different to the usual ones. They are very silky to the touch, and are printed with a message saying that they can actually be COMPOSTED. 

I tried never to use the old plastic bags; I just stuck the price label on whatever I was buying. Now I shan't feel too guilty if I'm forced to use a bag.

It will go into my compost bucket, and help to grow next year's Tomatoes. Bravo!

Wednesday 25 January 2017


After my people died, I had the unpleasant task of emptying their quite large Shropshire home. They had managed to squeeze the contents of three houses into one!

A few bits of the furniture were actually mine, but by far the majority was sent off to a saleroom in Shrewsbury where it was sold for a pittance. 

Luckily I had the foresight to keep a couple of bits as keepsakes. My father's small desk, that was a gift from his father, had been part of a set of furniture made specially for him by their local carpenter in Sussex. It comprised of a table and 6 chairs, a sideboard, and the small desk itself; all made in limed Oak. The pieces were destined for his rooms in Milk Street, in The City. Nowadays one would simply head for Ikea.

However, amongst a few small things that I couldn't let go were the above. My father's antique corkscrew, and his almost-antique Owl bottle opener.

I use neither, but they sit at the back of our infamous untidy kitchen drawer waiting patiently. There are certain things that have such strong ties to one's past that they could never be let go; these two are such. 

My own sons have little interest in antiques, but I'd like them to hang on to these.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

How times change.


Victorian Gentlemen's fashion.

                                        for more details follow us on @champaris75 #champaris

Today's gentlemen's fashion.

It seems that all Victorian men had very small feet, and all today's men can't afford patches for their Jeans.

Life's tough in the 21st Century!

Monday 23 January 2017

Double Trouble.

Each Saturday we buy a dozen eggs from a nice old man at the market. Depending on the weather, they are either quite grubby, or, as at the moment, are very clean.

So, what's so odd about that Cro? I hear you ask.

Well, from the five we've already eaten; ALL OF THEM have been double yolkers.

I have a feeling that all the rest will be too!

Sunday 22 January 2017

Winter Interior.

So far our Winter has been cold, dry, and snow-less. I am reasonably content with that, but we still have February to contend with.

There is no question that our climate is changing. We had a reasonably hot, and very dry, Summer, and water levels are dangerously low. I can't remember the last time we had any precipitation greater than light drizzle.

Our recent temperatures have fallen as low as -9 C; a crisp white frost covered everything, and froze our outdoor gas cylinder. 

We try to do all our tasks in the mornings, then settle down at around tea-time to enjoy the rest of the day indoors. Of course clear sky frosts bring sunny days, and being out in the sun at mid-day is delightful. 

I now have a cup of Lapsang by my side, shortbread biscuits are on offer, and the animals are all asleep enjoying the indoor warmth.

Lady Magnon continues to find work for me to do (she has a diploma in 'Delegation'), so we continue to be busy. 

Life is OK.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Crossed Fingers.

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There was I, drawing a Hitler moustache and a pair of Arther Askey glasses onto a picture of Jeremy Corbyn (as one does), when my mind turned to the good people of North America.

At the very moment I was completing Jeremy's crossed-eyes, Mr Trump was saying his oath, and the left were smashing windows.

I still haven't totally dismissed Trump, and will keep my fingers firmly crossed until he does something really stupid.

There are plenty of people around who have 100% faith in his term of office, and I even heard someone on the radio saying that the people of America were 'all very excited'. Well, I just hope they won't be throwing themselves from the top of Trump Tower in the very near future.

Make America great again? We'll see Mr Trump!

It all starts today, and Europe wishes you well.

Friday 20 January 2017

Essential Winter-Warmer Grub.

It was - 6 C again yesterday morning, so some serious gastronomy was called for.

Anyone who has a wood-fired Cooker or Stove will tell you that they make by far the best baked Potatoes.

I have no idea why the flavour should be so different to electric-oven cooked spuds, but it is!

At this time of year (this morning it's still -6 C) there is nothing better for lunch than a bowl of good hearty soup, and a baked Potato topped with plenty of butter and black pepper.

It sets you up for the rest of the day.

p.s. Our wood-fired cooker is pretty basic; not at all like standard cookers. We throw on logs, cross fingers, and hope for the best. Occasionally the temperature goes crazy; sometimes even reaching 350 C (see below)..... WOOPS!

My spuds were cooked in about 15 mins.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Share, and share alike...

Once you give-in to a dog, there's no going back.

Lady Magnon is now obliged to share her sofa with Bok; neither one will budge.

HE thinks it's his sofa, and SHE thinks it's hers. Frankly I just let them squabble about it, and ignore them.

In the evenings, I now sit on my uncomfortable, shabby, wing-back chair, but guess who takes over when I go to bed?

Yes; Bok.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Forking hell.

After yesterday's post, this is rather predictable.

Lady Magnon couldn't find our toasting fork anywhere. She knew exactly where it should have been, but it wasn't there.

She was on her hands and knees looking under cupboards, under the stove, in boxes etc, as I rummaged through drawer after drawer to no avail.

The problem was that our outdoor gas bottle had frozen-up over night, and it had made us adopt our 'pioneer back-woodsman' approach to life. For her breakfast, Lady M was frying bacon over the fire, and wanted toast. Rather than use the electric toaster, she wanted fire-toasted toast. But we couldn't find the wretched fork anywhere.

Call it old age, or old-timers, but we eventually found it just a few inches from where is should have been; hiding behind an ancient wooden chopping block. You could have heard the cheers down in Toulouse.

Our old toasting fork is a beauty. It's made from solid wire, and, as you can probably see from the photo, has a simple extending mechanism so as not to burn yourself.

We don't use it very often, but we really missed it yesterday when we couldn't find it.

All is now well with the world (until Friday).

Tuesday 17 January 2017

To the gunwales.

Cro: Where's that French can opener that I use for Confit tins?

Lady Magnon: Have a look in the top right hand drawer.

Cro: I can't find anything in there, it's overflowing with bloody rubbish.

Lady Magnon: Well, tidy it up then!

Cro: I'd have to earmark a whole month to do that.

Lady Magnon: Which month would suit you best?

Cro: I'll let you know!

Monday 16 January 2017


Thanks to both kindly visitors, and online shopping, I am now hardly ever without a can or two of Haggis in the house.

People often wince when they hear the word 'Haggis', but let me assure you that it really is delicious. Think soft Lamb burger with a peppery edge.

These 392 gm cans of Grant's are probably the best introduction to this Scottish delicacy. I open both ends of the cans, then push the contents out before slicing it into 1 cm rounds. Fried for a few minutes in Olive oil until slightly crunchy on both top and bottom, it becomes a gourmet's delight.

In the past I've incorporated Haggis into stuffing for Chicken and Turkey, or layered it into the middle of a Pork terrine. Its uses are endless.

Above was my yesterday's breakfast. Need I say more?

Sunday 15 January 2017

Nothing Special.

We're well into our 'tedious' period here; mornings are quite cold, days are cool, and either frost or mist can often linger all day. Very little happens.

As regular visitors to this page will know, I simply chronicle our everyday lives; whether they be good, bad, or occasionally 'tedious' (as yesterday).

We choose to live a quiet life, otherwise we would be bored stupid. I'm pleased to say that this is only very rarely interrupted.

I suppose I'm rather predictable in Winter. I often wander aimlessly trying to keep myself busy, I shout at the Television, and I dream of leaving my little patch better than when I found it. Nothing exceptional in all that; there's not much else to do!

There are plenty of Winter days when hardly anything happens. OK, I chop mountains of wood, I light fires, I cook a couple of 'gourmet' meals, but that is every day ordinary stuff; it's far more interesting to write about days which involve something unusual or exceptional.

It has to be said that on days when absolutely NOTHING happens, it's almost a godsend to have unruly neighbours; but having been reprimanded, even they don't misbehave that often any more.

So, please allow me once in a while to write about the absence of an eventful life; as it was yesterday.

I know I must try harder, and will attempt to do so tomorrow.

Friday 13 January 2017

The 3 basic student foods.

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When I was a student I survived on 3 basic 'foods'.

1. Beer. This was usually consumed at Farnham's The William Cobbett, The Coach and Horses, or The Prince of Hearts (known as The 'Farts)'.

2. Chicken and Chips. Bought from the nearest eatery to the college campus, this was the perfect meal for a carnivore student. The only problem being the mice that gathered (and lived) at the back of my VW Beetle to consume left-overs.

3. Patisserie. There was a superb baker in Farnham's Downing Street that sold wonderful rum babas, cream eclairs, and swiss rolls; the young Cro was seduced.

The amazing thing is that we survived; but I imagine all human dietary requirements where there. The body can cope with considerable abuse.

Thursday 12 January 2017

The Law Suit.

I've shown this plaque before, but thought it was worth a second outing. It was one of the very first antiques I bought, when I was still at school. It measures 10 inches by 14. 

It's a cast plaster plaque, dating from between 1780 and 1800, illustrating the eternal conflict between lawyers and their clients. In this case two farmers fighting over a cow, whilst the lawyer milks the profits.

It comes from the era of the Cruikshank/Gillray/Rowlandson satirical political cartoons. It may be by someone called J Bright, but I know nothing of him.

If anyone can throw further light on its origin, I'd be extremely grateful.

Wednesday 11 January 2017


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As if it hasn't enough problems, Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, recently suggested that NHS will soon stand for 'National Hangover Service'.

He said that in winter, at the very time when people are more vulnerable to illness, drunks are having to be gathered from the streets in huge numbers, and transporting them by ambulance is stretching the service to the limit. Those drunks are no doubt the same ones who moan about the NHS being under-funded.

Why people, who have drunk themselves into a stupor, are taken to A & E, I have no idea; an easily sluice-able over-night holding pen/cell would be much more appropriate (with a nightly charge of £200, a packet of plasters at £50, strong coffee at £20 per cup, and delivery by ambulance at £50 per mile). 

Seriously bad drunken behaviour, or simple unconsciousness, seems to be the regular 'aim' of a good night out these days. The slightest excuse for excess sees streets awash with vomit, accompanied by violent and abusive posturing. Rape, or at least unwanted sexual activity, is also common.

We've possibly all been a bit 'drunk' a few times in our lives, and in our youth possibly even slightly misbehaved, but going out with the intention of getting paralytic is a relatively recent phenomenon; it's bragged about, and fulfilled, and the emergency services are then expect to clear-up the mess.

We live in strange times, and the NHS takes much of the fall-out.

p.s. On the subject of A & E, I heard a woman saying recently that she'd been shocked to see her local department filled with people with suitcases, who'd come directly from the airport. None of them could speak a word of English; except being able to say "To A & E please" to the taxi driver. Quite worrying.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Hard or Soft?

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No, not boiled eggs, but Brexit!

Firstly I must reaffirm that I voted to stay in the EU; this doesn't mean that I am 100% against leaving.

I still wonder what the majority of Brexit voters really thought what they were voting for/against.

One thing I do know is that they were against foreign political interference, wide-open borders, and the huge cost of membership.

I doubt whether people were against the free market or the customs union.

There is no reason at all why the UK should continue to pay for access to any European 'free market', in the same way as the UK would not charge EU nations for access to the British market.

Of course the UK wishes to continue to trade with Europe, and to allow them to trade with us, the UK wishes to make its own political decisions without interference from Brussels, and the UK wishes to make its own decisions concerning who enters her borders and who she can expel.

Hard or soft? My sixpence is on 'soft-ish', as based on the logic above. I believe it's what would be best for Britain.

Only time will tell.

Monday 9 January 2017


Revenge at last!

You may remember that I quite recently managed to burn a load of roast potatoes, for which I received considerable criticism and mocking.

Well, it's not only me who does such things (it wasn't even my fault), but others burn things by refusing to take note of timing.

I shan't mention names, but even a new watch for Christmas didn't stop these Mince Pies from becoming charcoal.

They were simply too far gone. She (I shan't mention who) made another lot ten minutes later.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Winter Wild Flower.

We've had morning temperatures of -6 or -7 C recently, yet I came across this tiny flower yesterday, it was in the middle of a field with no other similar plants around it.

It's a beautiful little flower, obviously unaffected by sub-zero temperatures, and with loads of small flower buds ready to open.

I'm wondering if it might be worth digging-up and re-potting. Does anyone recognise it?

Bad photo, I'm afraid.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Satellite v Internet.

I've been a serious insomniac for well over 40 years; I manage about 3-4 hours sleep per night, the rest of my in-bed non-sleeping time is usually spent listening to one of three UK Radio stations through an uncomfortable earpiece.

However, about two weeks ago, my orange Sky Gnome radio (above left) died; I believe they have a 6 year life-span with a very efficient built in obsolescence chip. I've owned two, and both have gone the same way.

The Sky Gnome received its signal from my satellite TV Sky Box; whatever I could view, or hear, on TV could also be listened to on my bedroom radio. It was a good system with easy to use pre-set controls (in the dark).

To replace it I recently bought an 'Ocean Digital Internet Radio WR220 WiFi Wlan Receiver Tuner' (above right). The effing thing didn't work! Even my genius friend Craig couldn't get the bugger working correctly. I may persevere later.

So, back to the drawing board, and instead I've plumped for what I should probably have bought in the first place; a simple Amazon Fire Tablet (as recommended by Craig). It has all I require; a power socket, an earpiece socket, and gawd knows how many radio stations at my finger tips. It was also reasonably cheap, and arrived in the post the following day (well done Amazon).

But this was not without it's own problems. Getting the bloody thing connected to my router was not easy, which is apparently quite common, and it took Craig's genius to sort things out.

It now works well, and if I wished, I could also read or write this whilst lying in bed!

In case you're interested, I listen to LBC, BBC World Service, and BBC Radio 4 Extra. News, Plays, Comedy, and Argument; with a smidgen of Politics thrown in just for fun. I don't listen to music.

Friday 6 January 2017


I'm not a big eater of Chocolates, or any other sweets; but in this case I could be persuaded.

These Lindt 'Pyrenees' chocs are so bloody delicious, that I'm beginning to understand people's addiction.

Oh yes!

Thursday 5 January 2017

Going Shopping?

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Imagine that you are a 30 year old woman living in Afghanistan.

Your husband is away working in Iran, and you need some basic supplies.

You pop out to the nearby market, covered from head to foot in your favourite black Burka, and suddenly you are grabbed by a group of men.

You are marched away by 'The Taliban', dragged to the nearest Square, and beheaded. How dare you go to the market unaccompanied by a close male relative!

Yes, this really did happen just a couple of days ago, and it's worth remembering what these people really stand for. They imagine that what they are doing is following the strict rules of their religion; but who in their right mind would follow a religion if it means beheading a young woman for having gone shopping.

I've just come back from doing my own shopping, and I couldn't help thinking of that poor woman. I wandered around my supermarket stacked high with all possible produce, amongst women happily surveying the shelves unaccompanied, uncovered, and unafraid of being hacked to death by some evil cult.

No-one is safe until the barbarity of these people is ended. Maybe 2017 will see the beginning of their end; I hope so, but doubt it.


It's been said many times, but what a year it was for 'celebrity' deaths.

I shan't attempt to name them all, you can see many in the pastiche above. There were giants amongst them; Mohammed Ali, Bowie, Prince Buster, Prince himself, Lemmie, Leonard Cohen, and more recently George Michael.

Most of us just come and go; others leave a huge footprint. I salute them all, and thank them for having made my life so much more enjoyable than it might otherwise have been.

Acta est fabula; plaudite. RIP all.

Wednesday 4 January 2017


Our Purple Sprouting Broccoli has come earlier this year.

I was given the seeds by a friend who had them sent from the UK. I grew just a few plants, and they were all quite different. The one above has purple ribs to the leaves, whereas the others are all green.

This top main head is almost the size of a small Cauliflower, and the secondary heads are all clamouring to grow.

Maybe the difference between these and my usual plants is due to clever F1 hybridisation, but they certainly are an improvement on plants I've had in the past.

As for flavour they are delicious. They came from Suttons; that's all I can tell you!

Tuesday 3 January 2017

New Year wish list.

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1. I would love it if someone would sort-out the awful blood-letting in Syria, and Iraq, and Yemen, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and Turkey, here in France, and so-called Palestine, etc, etc) . The barbarity of these murderous 'Jihadi' groups is beyond anything we associate with 'humanity', and simply HAS to be stopped.

2. Will all newspaper editors please please stop plastering your pages with pictures of bloody Kim Kardashian and bloody Kanye West. We've had e-bloody-nough!

3. Will someone (Theresa May?) please ban the nonsensical 'Black Friday'.

4. Could someone (Theresa May again?) please stop handing out UK tax-payers £billions in 'foreign aid' to every crook and conman on the planet. The UK needs that money at home!

5. I was going to suggest that the UK Labour party find a proper grown-up leader, but on reflection it's probably better to stay with Corbyn; at least it keeps them confined to the opposition benches for the foreseeable future.

6. I would like to wish for a total collapse of the €uro, but maybe that's a bit mean.

7. Please, please, will someone have the balls to kill-off the UK's Railway Unions (RMT, Aslef, etc?). Political based striking is so tedious and destructive; it should have been banned decades ago. Maybe vigilante commuter groups should find out where those train drivers live, and nail their doors closed. Stopping folk getting to work should be applicable both ways!

8. I suppose I have to mention 'Brexit'. As of January 1st 2017, I think the UK should simply stop paying the daily millions, turn back all foreign lorries and container ships at her ports, then sit back and watch how quickly the EU attitude changes. Take the high ground!

9. I would also like to see people facing-up to the consequences of their own poor behaviour, and stop blaming others; but I think that might be asking too much.

10. And then there's Trump...... I suppose all that we can wish for is that his posse of big-business-brain moguls can turn the USA around for the better. Everyone keep your fingers crossed!


Monday 2 January 2017


Two of my grandsons, George and Finn, playing new year's day Cricket on Keppel Island Queensland Oz.

You can see why they live over there, can't you!

Thanks to Tenpin for the beautiful photo.

Sunday 1 January 2017

Went the year well?

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How do you assess each passing year?

By the money you made, by how you avoided or combated illness, or maybe by what good works you've done?

Much of my own year's achievements must be gauged by how busy I've been. A filled year means a fulfilled year, and 2016 was certainly that!

Otherwise I suppose one has to count contentment, success, and even learning. A year with nothing learnt would be a year wasted.

One of my fun tasks has been the design and near-completion of our son Wills's barn. Planning, organising, and hard-slogging have paid dividends, even though certain elements have had to be re-worked to achieve what I consider to be 'right'. We are now at last looking towards the finishing line; even though it may still be a year (or more) away.

I also assess my year by what I've grown. Last year Haddock's provided handsomely, and we shall continue to benefit until well into March and beyond.

Health and wealth are of course important, but I'm unconcerned by the latter. My diabetes is under control and my back pain bearable; and in Summer I even survived falling from the top of my step-ladder.

Now we need to plan for 2017. What projects we will undertake, what crops I will concentrate on at Haddock's, and how to avoid unexpected disaster.

Let's all hope that we eventually greet 2018 with the same enthusiasm that we greeted 2017, and that all our projects were completed satisfactorily.

Je vous souhaite tous, un tres bonne année 2017.

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