Tuesday 28 February 2017

Spring Sproutings.

My favourite Winter 'green' vegetable has to be the wonderful Cavolo Nero; the Tuscan Black Cabbage.

The long wrinkly leaves have become a mainstay of my preferred meat-n-one-veg style of eating. They are tender, sweet, and very good for you. They are also very easy to grow.

At this time of year, growers are all too eager to pull them up to make way for new crops, but this is a big mistake.


It's now that they start to produce 'sproutings'. At the top of each plant, and all the way up the stems where the leaves were picked, small sprouts appear. These are delicious. In fact I would say that they are possibly more delicious, and even more tender, than the leaves for which they were originally grown.

So, if you have a few plants in the garden, wait a while before you pull them up; they have a treat in store for you!

Monday 27 February 2017

La Maison Bleu.

I have a friend who's father bought a job-lot of paint from British Rail. It was going cheap, so he bought several very large drums.

It was when British Rail were changing their livery from dark-ish green to light-ish blue (1960's ?). They had thousands of tons of the green paint still in stock, and they were eager to be rid of it.

My friend's father painted the house, the shed, the railings, the chicken run, all the furniture, and probably his pencils, in British Rail green.

Of course people started to address their envelopes to Railway Cuttings, or The Station Master, or The Waiting Room, or Platform 5, etc. Apparently he became incensed every time an envelope dropped through the door addressed as such. It was all good fun.

The house above has always been referred to as 'La Maison Bleu' for obvious reasons. It has had the same colour scheme for over 44 years, ever since I've lived in the village.

I wonder if the owner also bought a job-lot?

Sunday 26 February 2017

Change is in the air.

Yesterday two of Bok's chums came to spend a lazy afternoon. His girlfriend Izzy, and her housemate Duke. They just relaxed on the lawn for an hour or so, then went home.

There's a few Daffs around.

Some unknown early mushrooms in the Paddock.

Plenty of Plum blossom.

And a lot of Japonica.

Spring is certainly around the corner.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Fishbone - Ma and Pa

I like my music to have 'Ooomph'.

Here's the highly charged Fishbone with their 1988 hit 'Ma and Pa'. Happy Saturday!

Friday 24 February 2017


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You will need to enlarge this photo to see what I'm talking about.

The tiny island of Formentera used to be one of my favourite holiday destinations. Very few people knew it existed, and it wasn't easy to reach. If I was looking for peace and quiet in a spectacular location; it was where I went.

Everyone knows of Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza, but the tiny island of Formentera, to the south of Ibiza, remained a semi-secret.

In the days when I visited, the small bay (above) of Cala Sahona was almost deserted, and the restaurant on the right (with red roof) was no more than a shaded shack with a simple barbecue. Even in the height of summer there were rarely more than a dozen people on the beach.

Now I notice that the beach is littered with parasols, there's hardly room to move, and the small hostel where I used to stay, has since become a large fancy hotel.

The King of Spain used to moor his yacht in the bay, and swim in the crystal clear waters. But these days I expect the smell of Ambre Solaire is overwhelming, and no doubt Pedalos make swimming hazardous.

It's rather saddening to see how much it's changed and become just another package holiday destination; it used to be quite special.

On one of my trips I built quite a large tumulus (or Cairn) on the rocky cliffs overlooking the sea to the right of the picture. It took me two weeks of hard graft to build it; I wonder if it's still there?

Thursday 23 February 2017

Looks like a nice boy!

                              The Muslim convert changed his name from Ronald Fiddler to Jamal Udeen al-Harith in 1994, before fighting for ISIS under the new name Abu Zakariya al-Britani

As we all know, every single prisoner at Guantanamo Bay was totally innocent; Tony Blair told me!

That, of course, included the charming Jamal Udeen al-Harith (above) who was so innocent that kind Tony Blair gave him A MILLION POUNDS as some compensation for his wrongful incarceration.

One might have thought that Mr al-Harith was set-up for life, but no; his life of innocence was not over, and he decided to head for Iraq to become a suicide bomber.

I do hope that the government will now ask for the money back. I can think of far better things to do with a million quid than to sponsor terrorists (albeit innocent ones).

What a bloody waste, and what a bloody fool (Blair).

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Puériculture (child rearing).

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I can accept almost every whim to do with the raising of babies/children, but these two examples drive me to despair.

I don't know what it is about babies with ridiculously yukky headbands, or kids attached to reins, but to me they seem like child abuse. NO, NO, NO.

They both make me want to SCREAM.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Quilt. A question of origin.

This is the central motif of an old Patchwork Quilt I bought from an antique shop, way back in the 1970's; I can't remember quite why I bothered to paint it.

When I bought the quilt I was told that it was American. Can one tell by the pattern?

The rest of the quilt is standard mixed squares of different materials.

As you can probably see, the watercolour is unfinished; the right hand half was actually the same as the left. I can't show the actual quilt as it's 'mothballed' in a loft in England.

Any info' would be gratefully received.

Monday 20 February 2017

My pal Bok.

Sometimes when I look into his eyes, nothing else in the world matters.

Trump can build his walls, Corbyn can dream of Lenin, and LePen can jump off the Eiffel Tower. I couldn't give a monkeys'.

It's easy to think of dogs as just four legs, a nose, and a bottomless stomach, but they are very complex creatures. I'm sure that Bok understands that he's not one of us humans, but he knows his job and shows utter devotion to his extended 'pack'.

I was sitting with him yesterday morning, just before I took his photo, and I could feel a really strong relationship between us; stronger even that one might have with direct family. He looks at me with total confidence, and knows that, come what may, we'll make sure he's well looked after.

He's been in heaven with the boys here; they adore him too.

It'd be interesting to know exactly what goes on inside his head; but maybe not.

Better to remain 'Canine mystique'.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Beautiful Villeréal.

I went into Villeréal, yesterday, to take photos of their amazing covered market building, but I'd forgotten that Saturday has been their market day since about 1265.

Anyway this is the best I could do. There were simply too many people about to take decent photos.

The covered market 'Halle' is unusual as it has two levels; hence the staircase. I hope  you can get some idea of its splendour.

There were also some rather nice old shop fronts in town.

I'll go again and take some better snaps another day. This (below) is what I was hoping to photograph.

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Saturday 18 February 2017

Boo Boo; painter.

Already working on the portfolio for his application to The Royal College of Art.

Looks good to me!

Friday 17 February 2017

Beautiful Monpazier.

I've been going to and from the airport like a Yoyo recently, so I thought I'd stop-off en route and take some snaps.

Our nearby town of Monpazier is the jewel in the crown of S W France.

Founded in 1285 by King Edward 1 of England, it is one of the better preserved Bastide towns in the whole of France.

Eleanor of Aquitaine lived here, as did Richard 11.

Do enlarge the photos; the town merits it.

If you visit in Summer, the streets are not so quiet!!

Thursday 16 February 2017

Lucky Lady.

I just HAD to show you this.

St Valentine's Day gifts come in all shapes and sizes; some even look like Easter presents.

Luckily, Lady Magnon liked this one (amongst her other prezzies), and I think it will continue to be used.

Nice, isn't it!

Wednesday 15 February 2017

3 Days in the life of an old wooden barn.


Before the wind.


During the wind.

After the wind.

Any more and the whole caboodle will come down.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Christmas (again).

Christmas comes but twice a year (or more if we feel inclined).

What's the one thing you really don't need when preparing Christmas Dinner? That's it;... a bloody power cut!

With gale force winds lashing S W France on Sunday (and yesterday) it was almost bound to happen. The electricity failed just after lunch.

Luckily we have our wonderful wood-fired cooker 'George', so at 3.30 pm I fired him up, and the day was saved.

George is more designed for casseroles than roasts as his temperature control is a bit hit-n-miss, but all was OK. I have a small wooden wedge to hold open the oven door when the temperature gets too high, and extra logs are thrown into his belly when it drops. The Turkey roasted perfectly.

We also had a pleasant St Emilion Grand Cru, some of Lady Magnon's wonderful home made Cranberry sauce, and one of Prince Charles's Plum Puddings. All very nice.

We ate by candle-light (even though the power did eventually return).

Monday 13 February 2017


We don't have a lot of strong winds here, but when we do, they often do some damage. We are into Day 2 of real howlers; I don't like it.

It has always been recommended to keep a chainsaw in the car after a night of strong wind, as you never know when you'll come across a blocked road.

I remember going shopping one morning after an overnight storm and finding quite a large Pine tree fallen across the road; blocking my route.

Luckily a man was already there with his big fat chainsaw, and was making light work of the task.

I moved each log to the side of the road as soon as he'd cut them, and within about 10 minutes the road was once again navigable.

We shook hands, gave each other a knowing look, and returned to our cars. It had simply been another 'everyday' event.

I hope the wind dies down a bit today!

P.S. I'm just back from early morning dog walking; and found this.

A whole section of this old Séchoir has been blown off. The door is looking perilous, and another section on the other side looks to have broken.

It just shows the power of the wind we're experiencing. 

Sunday 12 February 2017

Careers Advice.

Guess what Oli wants to do when he leaves University?

When his plane landed yesterday, he went hot-foot to the cabin to be given a guided tour of the inner workings. He may not be able to see out of the windscreen yet, but he now knows how to fly it.

Chocks away, Cap'n Oli.

Saturday 11 February 2017

The Darling Buds of February.

It's never wise to predict the arrival of Spring, but we have Daffs beginning to poke their heads above ground, apparently Cranes have been seen overhead, returning to their breeding grounds, and our Prunus tree buds (in this case a small red fleshed Plum) are swelling.

It's at this time of year that the Peaches also start to think about flowering, and Mother Nature can be a right bitch.

Plenty of warm daytime sunshine and they are fooled into thinking it's OK to flower, then along she comes and throws some -6 C temperatures at them; and no fruit for another year.

It's for this reason that I try to plant late flowering varieties of all our fruit trees.

C'est la vie!

p.s. With another grandchild about to arrive, my thoughts have turned to what fruit tree I will plant to mark the event; I always plant a tree on the day of arrival.

I recently bought some apples from my favourite supermarket; they were a new variety to me called Pink Kiss.

They are delicious. Medium sweet, very perfumed, a pleasant crunch, good flavour, and a fabulous colour; what more could one ask for!

I went hot-foot to my horticultural supplier, and she disappointingly informed me that they are not available. They are sold only in large numbers to commercial growers. I will have to wait several years for them to come on the market.

So, instead I'll probably go for a Royal Gala.

Friday 10 February 2017

Frost bite?

It was -2 C yesterday morning, and the landscape was misty and frosty. I'm now hoping that this'll be the last serious drop in temperature for quite some while.

Bok, of course, doesn't mind the cold; he has a fur coat. I, on the other hand, feel the cold badly.

However, I have assembled cold weather clothing that copes with most low temperatures; all except for my feet.

No matter many layers of pure wool socks I wear, my feet always end-up frozen.

I need electric socks, or electric gumboots, or an electric path.

Or even better, a shack on the beach in The Turks and Caicos.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Cars eh? Who'd have em'.

Having not mis-spent my youth, I know nothing about the inner workings of a motor car, other than how to clean spark plugs, where to put petrol, and how to meaningfully kick tyres.

However, I do recognise a rattling noise when I hear one.

Some time back I'd had to have some major work done to The Compact Royce; noise was coming from somewhere amongst the back wheels. There's a long metal rod inside the bit that connects the two back wheels that was making a noise on the right hand side, and it took a stonking €500 to fix.

Recently I heard a similar noise coming from the back left hand side, so I took it to my man for another €500's worth.

Luckily he found that in fact the new noise was coming from the front, and replaced the offending part for under €200 (a short rod with two rubber ends).

So, I now have a bonus of €300 burning a hole in my pocket. 

The echo of my huge sign of relief is still bouncing around outdoors.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Curried Stein.

With some recent inclement weather, and a load of tripe on TV, I've entertained myself with a re-run of Rick Stein's series on India.

I'm something of a Stein fan (as you can probably see above) and his TV series' are always worth watching. They combine travelogue and cuisine; what better mix. His India series is sumptuous.

Much of India is vegetarian, and this aspect of their cooking appeals to me enormously.  I would happily become a veggie if I lived in India; maybe with some fish thrown in.

The endless combination of pulses, vegetables, ghee, yogurt, and spices, creates wonderful dishes; I really must learn, and experiment, more.

Luckily Lady Magnon feels the same as I do, and as long as her beloved pasta isn't excluded from the menu she's happy to join me. 

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Tickets please!

                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "bus conductors with ticket clip"

Certain things from way back to my very young age now seem almost archaic.

When I first went to school, I went by bus. From Lingfield, I travelled to East Grinstead to my pre-Prep' school, then to Ashurst Wood to my Prep' school. Later from aged about 7 onwards, I boarded.

I loved those times spent on the top of a bus. There was one particular farm where I always watched out for their huge Turkeys, there was an enormous Monkey Puzzle tree on the way into East Grinstead that kept me fascinated for years, and I swear blind that I once saw King George VI standing by a bus stop somewhere en route, and for ever after looked out for him again.

Bus conductors were usually quite cheery folk. When I was very small they looked after me, and when I was a little older they watched me like a hawk.

Tickets came in long wooden clips that looked like multiple mouse traps filled with bits of printed cardboard. The destination was given and a ticket released from it's sprung clip, a small amount of money changed hands, and a hole was punched in the ticket. It was all very hands-on, simple, and civilised.

Today's children, on hearing this, might imagine that the bus was also pulled by horses, but no such luck; and we didn't wear doublets and hose either!

Monday 6 February 2017

Who lives in a house like this?

This upside-down blue plastic thing is a boat shaped, children's, sand pit; sometimes used as a boat on the pool. It had been put to over-winter out of sight.

Yesterday I lifted it up, and found a leafy nest underneath. I don't know who's living there, but I think it may be Mrs (or Mr) Tiggywinkle.

Hedgehogs are delightful garden creatures, and I like to encourage them. If this is indeed a Hedgehog Winter home, I shall make sure it's there again next Winter too.

Sunday 5 February 2017

The staple diet.

I'm not supposed to eat too much bread, but with our choice of wonderful bakers in the vicinity, it's difficult to deprive oneself.

Bread has been through rough times in the recent past. There was an era when 'ease of baking' was the byword, and unscrupulous manufacturers were selling oven-ready dough to small village bakers everywhere. These small bakers were only too pleased to take advantage, and the quality of bread suffered dreadfully.

I'm pleased to say that over the past 10-15 years there has been a total turn-around, and once again bakers are taking a real pride in their bread.

It used to be that just a handful of bakers within a 10 Km radius were worth visiting; now there are dozens. 

At market yesterday morning, how could we resist a few sourdough baguettes, and a small lump of Duck Rillettes for lunch; as well as our usual dozen double-yolker eggs, of course.


Anyone who has been watching James Martin's French Adventure on TV might have seen the edition from this area last Friday.

Everything he said was TRUE.

Saturday 4 February 2017

I'm Puzzled.

When I sit to watch TV (most evenings), it's rarely without a crossword puzzle in my hands.

As you can see in the photo above, I have three big fat crossword books. The one on the bottom of the pile has just been completed (Hooray), and I have already made a tentative foray into another.

At the rate I'm going, I have enough puzzles to last until I'm at least 240 years old.

Lady Magnon gave the two new books for Christmas 2016; she must have great faith in my longevity.

Friday 3 February 2017


                              Afficher l'image d'origine

Some of the best preserved early Roman/Greek 'ruins' are not in Rome or Athens, but in Lebanon.

This temple above is in the Lebanese city of Baalbeck, and is dedicated to the God Bacchus. One might have imagined it being tucked behind the Coliseum in Rome, or atop the acropolis in Athens.

Hands up; how many of you have ever heard of Baalbeck? Not me!

Thursday 2 February 2017

If the cap fits!


I have to admit to being something of a hoarder. Certain things I just can't face throwing away.

And this is one.... My old Prep' school Rugby colours cap from about 1960. I loved Rugby, I played for my Prep' school, my upper school, and for a short while for a club on the South coast.

I can't remember a lot about my club Rugby days, as I was simply a Saturday afternoon player. I was working and living in London, and took the train down to Sussex specially for the games. I seem to remember that I played for the 2nd XV.

What I do remember, however, was that we played against teams such as London Welsh, London Irish, and Croydon (thugs); some of the toughest southern teams around at the time. We won all three games; but not without injuries.

Eventually, after noticing that I always had a limp or a black eye every Monday morning, one of the partners in the stockbroking firm for whom I worked, suggested that it might be best to stop playing; I followed his advice.

Nowadays I simply shout at the TV. 

Wednesday 1 February 2017


                                   Résultat de recherche d'images pour "diabetes type 2"

Diabetes is tedious. It's not something that makes you feel permanently unwell, it simply has to be managed properly.

Yesterday was my once-every-3-months-day. Blood test, and visit to The Quack to renew all my drugs.

I don't like having needles stuck into my flesh, nor do I like seeing all my blood being drained away into several small phials. I do appreciate that they do need to see what real quality blood looks like, but I wish they'd drain it from someone else.

As for my visit to The Doc's... The waiting room is no less than a concentration of evil germs. Coughing, spluttering, wheezing, and even a few old timers talking to their invisible best friends, it's an overheated, time wasting, nightmare.

As for The Doc' himself, he's a pleasant man who asks me how I am, tells me I'm a tad overweight, then accepts his fee with dignity.  He also gives me a bit of paper which allows me to buy my expensive drugs from an attractive nearby young pharmacist; we only meet four times a year, so I don't see any future for us.

Diabetes is the fashionable ailment of our age. Almost everyone has it, and no-one really complains. We watch our diets (when we remember), take our pills, and cross our fingers that we go neither blind or gangrenous.

I've decided to take slightly more notice of my diabetes; I'd like to lose some of the post-festivities weight, and aim to change my diet to somewhere around 50/50 veggie/carnivore.

I have another 3 months in which to make my radical changes show, when my next blood test will reveal all.

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