Sunday 30 April 2017

Tony Blair: Investment Banking Intern.

When Blair quit UK politics, he managed to wangle a few extremely well paid jobs for himself (viz).

One has to wonder what Corbyn will be offered after June 8th. Maybe he'll just spend his time trying to twin Islington North with Épernay.

Saturday 29 April 2017

Olive Trees and Olives

Firstly I must declare that I am not a fan of Olive trees being torn from their native lands, and transplanted into suburban gardens in France, the UK, or elsewhere. I prefer to see them in their natural surroundings. 

However, we have one (bought by someone else, because it was cheap), and I have to live with it.

I have just noticed that ours is filled with flowers, so I wish to know the following.

Are all Olives edible?

How does one know when they're ready to process?

How does one process them?

Is is possible to make good edible Olives on such a tiny scale?

Any advice would be gratefully received; last year we had a decent crop, but over-night they were all eaten by something!

Thanks in advance.

Friday 28 April 2017

Old Mo.

I just came across this photo.

'Old Mo' was my parents' neighbour in West Chiltington, Sussex. He, and his wife, were a tad eccentric, to say the least.

Prior to his retirement, Mo had been the senior scientist at The East Malling Research Station; specialising in the development of fruit trees. He and I became firm friends very quickly.

He loved France, and when I told him that I was moving here he promised to visit a.s.a.p.

We're not quite sure how he reached our house, but I do know that it involved some hitchhiking, as well as bus and train rides.

The above photo shows him with Lady Magnon, our two kittens King and Barnes (named after a Sussex brewery), and Hamlet the dog, at our first home here..

In West Chiltington, Old Mo had a separate orchard about a mile away from his beautiful thatched home. Called 'Kings and Princes', it contained row upon row of espaliered Apples and Pears, all beautifully pruned into exquisite shapes; reminiscent of The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. 

Mo was an exceptional man. Whilst with us here we benefitted from his huge knowledge. He advised about fruit trees etc, he also took a particular interest in the local Walnut trees and their products; he loved the area and everything that it represented. It was Mo who gave me Philip Oyler's book 'The Generous Earth', that led to my move. 

I often think of him; his permanent smile, his eccentric ways, and his vast knowledge. 

He was a 'one-off'. RIP Old Mo.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Cynips; the state of play.

Please excuse the bad photo, but I think it does go to show just how badly our Chestnut trees are being affected by this dreadful insect; Cynips.

Almost every young bit of growth has a 'gall' made by this tiny Wasp, and it's killing the trees.

I cannot stress firmly enough the significance of the Chestnut tree to this area. Obviously it bears the nuts themselves, but also the wood is used for parquet flooring, house heating, and tannin extraction, and without the trees we would have no Cèpes (Bolitus edulis). The Chestnut tree means an awful lot to an awful lot of people.

Trials are taking place of introducing other insects to attack Cynips, but by the look of the above, they don't seem to be making much inroad.

A very depressing prospect.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Veggie Curry.

I can't tell you how many times I've experimented with Veggie Curries; but I think I'm getting close to my goal.

I like to eat veggie at least a couple of times each week, and I now see it as no different to eating meat based meals. The main difference being that the veggie meals tend to come direct from Haddock's and the store cupboard, whereas meat has to be bought (at a hefty price).

I've made this particular curry several times, and it gets a 'thumbs up' from all who taste it.

Ingredients: 1 small red onion, a couple of large mushrooms, a small tin of red beans, hot curry paste, and a teaspoon of good Greek yogurt. 

Method: Fry the thinly sliced onion in a good splash of vegetable oil, add and fry the chopped mushrooms (1.5 cm cubes ?), add a teaspoon of curry paste and some garam masala, then a small amount of water and salt. Add the washed beans, then thicken to a creamy consistency with a spoonful of yogurt. I occasionally add a small amount of vegetable stock cube, and a few other spices to taste. A pretty basic curry that takes about 8 mins to prepare.

Verdict: Curry, delicious. Recentlyly made Brinjal pickle, nice but could be improved.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Brown side up!

I like to see the surrounding landscape like this. All newly ploughed, and ready to sow.

Some of the Sunflower crop has already been sown (just the male seeds), and the rest should be done quite soon.

Above are the field markers showing where the males seeds were sown, and where the female seeds will be. There are usually one row of male to four of female.

Normally the Maize is sown in mid-May, but I think it may go in earlier this year; the ground is certainly ready.

p.s. The house and barn on the right is the farmhouse I bought back in 1972.

Monday 24 April 2017

It's Official.

I can now confirm that the May is out, so officially we may cast our first clouts.

Personally I began casting clouts a wee while ago, but since the weather has once again become quite cool, my shorts have only made an appearance in the afternoons.

It'll be OK again quite soon; have no fear.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Yawn...French Elections Round 1.

It's election day here (first round), so, in order to take one's mind off such tedium, here is a spot of light relief.

Saturday 22 April 2017


Two of my grandsons; Aussie brothers, Finn and George.

Not quite sure what they're up to in the photo; looks like some sort of electronic paint-balling.

When we have our own children we expect them to look like us; when we have grandchildren, not quite so much.

I find it quite strange looking at George (right), because he reminds me of me. He could almost be me at that age.

On the down side, if he looks at me today he will probably see something of the terrible physical fate that awaits him. I apologise in advance.

Friday 21 April 2017


Cloudless skies, a few Swallows about, and the distant Chestnut canopies beginning to turn green.

It's what I've been waiting for. I can feel my annual depression lifting, warm blood once again rushing merrily through my veins, and my regular smile broadening by the minute.

I try not to moan too much about Winter, especially on these pages; but jeeze how I hate it. 

A July baby needs July weather, and at last I can anticipate its return; slowly, yes, but I can feel it.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Not a pretty sight, or site.

With a couple of night-time temperatures falling close to zero, I'm taking no chances.

It may not look pretty, but these old pots protect my more tender plants from being nipped by frost.

Above are half a dozen Supersteak Tomatoes, and below are all my Aubergines, Peppers, Chillies, and a few Calabrese.

There's nothing worse than losing plants due to lack of diligence.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Stanley Unwin

One of my early comedy heroes has to be the wonderful Prof Stanley Unwin.

Here he is in 1983 at Speaker's Corner, explaining the introduction of the UK's new decimal currency (I think).

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Thinking of moving?


Property prices in the UK have gone bananas. It is almost impossible now for any young-ish person (with a reasonable job) to even contemplate buying their own home.

So, let me propose an alternative.

The house above (which has just been SOLD) is an example of what can be bought around here, in S W France.

It was on the market for €194,000 (£164,000 or $205,000), but what it was sold for I don't know; presumably quite a bit less.

As you can see, it is quite large. It needs a reasonable amount of work, but is habitable. It has 4 bedrooms and oil-fired heating. It comes with 2 huge stone barns, 3 garages, a vaulted stone cellar, and a Pigeon tower. It is surrounded by 7,000 sq ms of land; but knowing the state of local agriculture, I expect more could easily be bought.

A similar amount of money back in the UK would probably buy you a beach hut! On the other hand, can you imagine what you'd have to pay for such a house in England?

Anyone who runs a business from home, or does not need to be tied to the UK (or even the US, or Oz) would be crazy not to consider this option. I did over 40 years ago, and have never regretted it.

The above house had been on offer through Charles Loftie's agency here:-


Just click on the 'up to €200,000' heading and you'll see what I mean.

Monday 17 April 2017

Green v White?

What a delight. As well as buying my usual wine, eggs, bread, etc, I noticed at market on Saturday that the lady selling white Asparagus also had just a few bunches of green.

I do like white Asparagus, but it doesn't have that intense flavour of the green.

When I was younger it was always eaten with seasoned melted butter; these days I prefer Mayo.

I also kept a few cooked spears back for an Easter lunch omelette. It doesn't get much better.

Sunday 16 April 2017

Look what I found!

It must be Easter. Look what I found in amongst some compost that I was spreading yesterday! I wonder how it got there? It's a small two-piece, tin egg that we've had for yonks.

To all who celebrate Easter; have a good one.

Saturday 15 April 2017

Les Yeux De La Colline.

I am perfectly aware that this short (23 mins) film will not appeal to, or be understood by, everyone.

It describes how life has changed over the past 40/50 years or so; certainly since I've been living here. It also shows how one young woman is trying to make a go of things where others have failed (not too successfully by the look of it).

The film shows both my area, and the lovely people who've made it such a pleasant place to live.

Women such as Paulette were typical of Southern Perigord. We had our own 'Paulette' as a next-door neighbour, under the name of Madame D. She was, and still is, a great inspiration; sadly she died back in 2010, but her influence is still very much with us today.

I must thank my friend Craig who originally posted this on Facebook. I am re-posting for your pleasure.

It's worth watching; all 23 minutes of it.

Friday 14 April 2017

European Apple Mountain?

At the top end of Haddock's is our best Apple tree (Reine de Renette) which is absolutely covered in flowers. If only 1% of them become fully fledged Apples we will still be knee deep!

Very rarely have I seen a tree so covered in blossom. Looks like it's going to be a very good fruit year; which makes a change!

I should mention that all other Apple trees are much the same.

Thursday 13 April 2017

Come fly with me...

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Following the United Airlines fiasco, I was reminded of an airline problem of my own.

Back in about 1980 I was invited to teach out in the Caribbean; it was only a two month course, but the break was very welcome.

I flew to Miami, stayed overnight in the dreadful 'International Airport Hotel', and in the morning went to the desk of my connecting flight airline (CA) to pick up my ticket; which I'd been informed would be waiting for me.

After a short search, the very unpleasant man at the desk said that he couldn't find any such ticket, and that I'd have to buy one! He was as unhelpful as anyone could possibly be.

I went away, thought about it for a while, ate a steak sandwich, then returned to see if anyone else was around. A pleasant young lady then came to the desk, and found my ticket instantly. I saw the unhelpful man skulking in the background, so I waved the ticket at him, and mentioned that it didn't take the young lady very long to find it. He gave me a nasty look, and walked off.

When I arrived at my destination I mentioned to my friend (who just happened to be a director of the airline) about the rude and unhelpful man at the Miami desk, and he said he'd have him sacked!

When my stay was over my friend took me to the island's airport and, as I was a bit late, I went directly to check-in.

The man at the desk told me that the plane was full, but that I could buy a first class ticket if I wished to travel on the flight for which I had already paid. My friend (remember, he was a director of the airline) came over and asked if there was a problem. No, no, said the man smiling nicely, and all went through perfectly well!

Back in Miami, whilst waiting for my flight back to London, I saw the pleasant young lady at the desk of the company with whom I'd flown out and back (CA), and I asked her if the unpleasant man was still around.

"He doesn't work here any more" she replied. He'd been sacked.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Foreign Students.

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Figures have just been released in the UK, which show that over 50,000 foreign students failed to return home after their courses were over.

Many years ago we lodged a foreign language student (I think he was called Najeeb) who was a Yemeni, but lived in Saudi.

He was a radical Muslim, and didn't miss an opportunity to sing the praises of whatever atrocity was currently in the news. I can imagine him having joined ISIS as soon as he returned home.

After he left us we began to receive letters and phone calls from Barclays Bank. We explained that he had been a student at 'X' language School, and gave the Bank their address (which was right opposite their building).

It seemed that the charming Najeeb had taken out a hefty loan, giving our address and our names as guarantors, then skipped the country.

The bank hounded us for years over something we knew nothing about. The boy was a common criminal and the bank treated us as if we were his accomplices.

I often wonder how such things can occur; maybe it's better that certain (less desirable) foreign students stay in the UK where they can be brought to justice, rather than scoot off home where they can't.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Just Perfect!

Occasionally, just occasionally, I feel really sorry for everyone who does not have the pleasure of living where I choose to live.

Occasionally, just occasionally, life is so perfect here that I would love to share it with absolutely everyone.

In recent days Mother Nature has really come up trumps. The skies have been a perfect blue, the birds have been singing their little feathers off, the fruit trees are all in spectacular flower, the temperature has risen to nearing 25 C, and my shorts have been re-animated.

OK, we don't have turquoise waters lapping at a nearby beach, nor do we have exotic Parrots roosting in our trees, but we do have that ever more rare quality; peace and quiet.

Yesterday evening, sitting with a glass of local rouge, a few anchovy-stuffed olives, and both Bok and Freddie at my feet, I was able to forget Trump, Putin, various Ayatollahs, and those poor gassed children for a while, and enjoy what I wish for everyone; perfect peace, perfect weather, silence, and harmony.

All people deserve the occasional dose of perfection in their lives; we are lucky enough to be having some right now. I just wish I could offer some to those who are currently living in dire circumstances around the world, but it just ain't possible.

Glory be!


Monday 10 April 2017

The Diana Crash.


Diana Spencer seems to be back in the news again as yet more tales of her emotional instability are being revealed in some silly book or other. I was never a great fan of hers, but I wouldn't have wished her her eventual fate.

If anyone is still in doubt about how the Princess died, just look at this photo.

In the driver's (Henri Paul's) glasses you can clearly see the reflection of the motorcyclist paparazzi's camera flash. Back in 1997 flash bulbs were very, very, bright. If someone poked a flash in your eyes, even from a few metres away, you'd be blinded for quite some while. You can also see Rees-Jones lifting his hand to shield his eyes.

So, combine the effects of the speed he was doing to escape the wretched car-bound paparazzi, the fact that he had consumed some alcohol, and above all being blinded by numerous camera flashes from the motorcyclists, it was almost inevitable that an accident was about to happen.

Personally I blame the person who took the above photo (they crashed seconds later). The photo itself might have earned him a lot of money, but it also cost lives.

In the subsequent enquiry, the cameraman was hardly mentioned; he was certainly not blamed.

Sunday 9 April 2017

The Grand National.

                            These female racegoers were spotted rolling around on the floor at Ladies Day - one even ended up with a newspaper covering her head 

The 'Sport of Kings' seems to have become the 'Sport of Chavs'.

Whether it be Ascot, Cheltenham, or Aintree, they turn up in their droves to drink to excess, show off their tattoos, and generally behave like 'trailer-trash'.

I know that the press will always post photos that show them at their worst, but these days it's there for all to see on a massive scale.

It follows a pattern at every major race course. First they select some totally inappropriate clothing, hats, and shoes, then drink as much as they can before falling over and showing the world their knickers.

I'm not a racegoer, and frankly I'm now even less likely ever to become one.

At last weekend's Boat Race I saw no half naked drunks, nor have I at either Rugby or Cricket matches. What is it about Horse Racing that seems to attract them?

Another Great British occasion has gone down hill. What a shame.

Saturday 8 April 2017

International Cricket.

Give some Brit' and Aussie kids a deserted beach, bat, and ball, and a Cricket match is bound to follow.

This particular match took place on Hervey Bay (Queensland Oz), where teams of cousins and dads battled for honours.

I never heard who won.

Friday 7 April 2017

The new look.

I'm quite happy with my new plan for Haddock's. I rather like things to be tidy, and this fits the bill.

All is dug over. It's had a good dose of compost, been scrupulously weeded, and to prove it, my back needs a week's holiday.

Not much planted yet; just red Onions and a few Calabrese plants. Within the next few days, I shall throw caution to the winds and plant out my Tomatoes, Aubergines, Peppers, and Chillies, and will keep my fingers crossed for no further frosts.

The Cherry, in the background is filled with flowers, as are the Plums, Peaches, Quince, Pears, and Apples. Yet again I'm hoping for a bountiful crop; but then I say that every year.

And to make things better; even Marie-Ange (my postie) said she liked the new look! 

Thursday 6 April 2017

Room for one more on top!

When I first worked in The City, I commuted from the South Coast for several months, before I moved up to town, and found my very first flat in Bayswater.

The daily trip from Worthing up to London Bridge was tedious. As a group of us were always the first on an empty train, we had regular seats and played cards for an hour. It was similar on the way home; but even so....

Others were not so lucky. Anyone who got on after Three Bridges rarely had a seat. By East Croydon the train was packed, they were even sitting on every free bit of floor space.

In each direction we played for small amounts of money. We played Solo Whist on the way up, and did the Evening Standard crossword on the way home. I lost money on a daily basis playing Solo, but recouped a bit by being the first to finish the crossword later in the day.

It may be cheaper living out of town, but the toll of commuting is dire. 

I used to feel so sorry for those who never had a seat (even though they'd paid for one), but never enough to offer them mine.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

The Rise of the Robot.

                                                   Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Robot"

Robots are now everywhere. They mow our lawns, they sweep our carpets, and they clean our pools; they even want to drive our cars.

There are boffins tucked away in secret locations who do nothing but invent machines that will replace humans.

Already our factories are filled with Robotics, whilst able bodied (Luddites?) workers are relegated to a life of enforced leisure.

It wasn't so long ago that a ploughman and his horse would plough an acre a day. Nowadays a driver-less tractor can plough rake and sow as much as you like, day and night, and will also harvest the results some time later. The old style ploughman earned a few pence a week, but the Robotic tractor costs several millions, The economics never seem quite logical.

The most discussed, and probably most dangerous, of the newer inventions is the driver-less car. Already plenty of accidents have happened, and they're not even legally on our roads yet.

I remember back in the 1960's driving through Oxford on our way up to Wales. We were positioned behind a driver-less car which warned motorists of the fact. Behind us was another car that was controlling the one ahead by remote control. No doubt an interesting experiment at the time, but I'm not sure of the outcome.

I don't look forward to driver-less cars on our roads, in fact I'd rather each car had two drivers; one to handle the controls, and another to shout insults directions etc. Oh, hang-on, that reminds me of someone.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Wee Jimmy Sturgeon.

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Nicola Sturgeon is 'demanding' a second referendum on Scottish Independence. Good for her!

The advantages of separation from the UK are numerous; here are just a few.

Scotland would no longer simply be a part of the UK, it would be a separate and proud independent country.

As an independent country, Scotland would be eligible to apply for membership of the highly successful European Union.

It would also (if granted membership) change its UK's Pounds for the much sought-after European Euros.

Scotland would also be able to free itself from the stranglehold of the 'Barnett Formula', which sees it receiving ridiculously generous hand-outs from Westminster; only just short of those paid to N Ireland.

All in all I can see the appeal. Their export market (for Whisky and Haggis) would be strengthened, their population would all become overnight millionaires, and Trump would probably build more Golf Courses.

I support Wee Jimmy 100%.

Monday 3 April 2017



My grandson Finn has been practising his back-flips, unfortunately he doesn't always land on his feet.

I prescribe Vinegar and brown paper.

Sunday 2 April 2017

Please keep your eyes peeled.

The above is all I have left of the portrait of a friend in Shropshire; it was the first of several preliminary drawings.

I reluctantly accepted the commission, and the whole job took me about 4 months to complete. The finished work was very rich in pre-raphaelite type colours. The mug later became a willow pattered cup and saucer, and her hands became covered with white stitched gloves.

The painting was stolen from the sitter's home about two years after I'd delivered it.

It could now be anywhere; even destroyed maybe. If anyone spots it somewhere, please let me know. My friend desperately wants it back.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Mountain Music.

I'm not a particular fan of this type of music, but I just love everything about this.

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