Wednesday 31 May 2017

Arrogance and Pomposity.

                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Arrogant Trump at G7"

I have never suffered fools gladly, and very rarely do I give a 'second chance' to those who behave badly or who are overtly hypocritical. Therefore, that moment when Trump pushed through the G7 group of ministers was, in my opinion, totally unforgivable, and probably the most telling moment of his short political 'career'.

When he became president of the US, I decided to hold my natural urge to yawn (I wasn't a Clintonette fan either), and I gave him the benefit of time. I wished to see if he would calm his narcissistic ardour, and adapt to the dignity expected of his new unexpected role.

Sadly this has proved not to be, and if anything he has become more self obsessed, boorish, and obnoxious as his term lengthens.

I now no longer see him as an amusing buffoon, but as a dangerous jack-ass.

There must be something wrong with the man. The sooner he goes the better; but by whom they'd replace him, I have no idea. Intellectually, even an Orangutan would be an improvement!

Tuesday 30 May 2017


It is said, hereabouts, that there is never a month of May that goes by without producing a few Cèpes.

Over the past few days I've been scouring the woods, and I'd found a few big ones that were beyond the eating stage, but yesterday morning I found these.

A delicious lunchtime omelette was eaten.

Monday 29 May 2017

Mystery Kale.

My very good friend Margaret gave me a packet of 'mixed' Kale seeds, and amongst them have emerged these plants which I've not seen before.

As far as I can tell they are a new British breed of Kale, and are called 'Fizz'.

They look healthy enough, and are growing at a good rate amongst my regular Cavolo Nero and Curly Kale plants.

Has anyone out there grown these? What did you think of them? 

I think I have 6 of these Fizz plants amongst the others, I'm just hoping they'll give me the same quantity of leaves as my more standard Curly Kale.

Sunday 28 May 2017

28th May; Fred's Birthday.

                           Fred relaxing in the Quince tree.

Today Freddie is 13.

For the past 6 years I've been 'training' Freddie to tolerate dogs. I started by holding him whilst Monty licked the bejeezus out of him; he wasn't all that keen. 

Since then I've slowly encouraged him to be as near as possible to the dogs, and now that we only have Bok, I've tried to show him that he means him no harm. It's taken a long time, but they're now on nose touching terms, although Fred is still a little wary of him. 

These days I often find them lying side by side out in the sunshine; they ignore each other.

He's quite a nice cat. His main fault is wanting to come indoors, then go outdoors, then in again, then out again, throughout the day. He has two cat-flaps, but prefers to make me run about opening and closing doors for him all day long (which I do).

He's a brown Tabby, and was actually BOUGHT by my oldest son for British legal tender money (a very rare thing for a cat).

Happy birthday Fred, you old misery. I love you really, and there will be a birthday treat for you at lunchtime.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Our flower girl.

How many children do you know who bring you flowers when they visit?

Our neighbour S brought us a bunch of Daisies when she came to visit recently.

She really is the most charming and delightful girl, she brightens our day! She's been a regular visitor since she was about 2, and has always felt at home here. She just cycles the 300 metres or so from her home, comes indoors, has a chat for a while, plays with Bok, then goes home; almost as if we were her grandparents. She feels totally at home here, which is wonderful. 

She adores Bok, and Bok adores her. 

Everything is good when she comes to visit.

Thursday 25 May 2017

We breathe again!

It's always a nerve-racking moment, opening the pool for another season; you literally never know what you're going to find after nearly 8 months underneath all its Winter coverings. However, we decided that today was the day!

There's quite a rigmarole to follow before everything can start to operate again. Then when all is completed you hold your breath, and flick that main pump switch.

Luckily this year everything worked. There's quite a bit of cleaning to do, both inside and outside the pool, but as far as the pump and filter and pipes are concerned, they're doing what they're supposed to do.

There's quite a lot of muck at the bottom of the pool (which you can't see), but it tends to gather into 'islands', and isn't that difficult to vacuum up. 

You never know, we may even get to swim before June. It's showing 19 C at the moment, so I think we'll wait a bit.

Suddenly Summer is here.

The life and times of a small picture.

'Man beating his best friend, who's trying to bite the hand that feeds him'. Circa 1990.

This (above) was the first of many rough sketches for what became a small dark painting. It was intended to illustrate the world's dilemmas.

It finished as this (above). Sorry about the awful photo.

The picture later appeared in a drawing I did of Wills sitting at his old Amstrad computer.

I wonder where it'll appear next? Answers on a postcard please...

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Almost Veggie.

I've mentioned previously that we are slowly becoming veggie; 'slowly' being the important word.

Take last night for example. We ate a simple tarka dhal with basmati rice, and a very small amount of tandoori flavoured mushrooms. A simple dish that really required no meat.

I blame Lady Magnon for all this common sense. She's not a big meat eater, and would happily eat very simple pasta or rice dishes every day; actually so would I. 

When Haddock's starts to supply a good variety of vegs, we shall no doubt return to our Summer Compost curries, Cumin flavoured Compost fry-ups, and other 100% Compost meals. Maybe by the end of the year we'll be fully fledged veggies (apart from the occasional roast Turkey, of course).

It might sound a strange thing to say, but I really wouldn't mind becoming 100% veggie, other than I would find it difficult to give up that Christmas roast Turkey!

Just for info; The dhal was cooked with spices, yoghurt, and spinach, and the fried halved mushrooms were sprinkled with tandoori powder and garam masala, with a splash of lemon juice. Lovely.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Master Tiggy-Winkle Jnr.

Bok and Lady Magnon found this lost baby Hedgehog, fed it, and returned it to where she thought it's family lived. Then they found it again looking lost. Another day went by and they found it yet again still looking lost.

So, what does Lady M do? Of course she fills a hot water bottle, makes a bed for it, then when it had revived a bit she took it down to the Vet's.

If Lady M has anything to do with it, he'll be King of the Hedgehogs before long; well fed and thriving. We presume this one is an offspring of the adult we found recently.

She returned from the Vet's with bottles of milky 'Recovery Liquid', and a small syringe. Looks like we've got our work cut out! He seems to be feeding OK.

We reckon he's about 4 weeks old. He weighs 100 gms. 

We'll keep you posted!

Monday 22 May 2017

Journée Champetre 2017.

My village held its annual 'Country Fair' yesterday. No horses this year as someone's thrown a wobbly, and the necessary fields were unavailable. Instead they had a few old tractors and a car or two.

There was an old-ish Peugeot and matching caravan. 

A bizarre over restored orange tractor with a rear mounted engine. 

And a couple of quite nice looking early water pumps.

There were also a couple of organised mass walks (the type where people take ski sticks and rucksacks).

That's it really. Not much more I can say!

Sunday 21 May 2017

Tangiers 1970.

Before the above photo was taken, I had never tasted Coca Cola.

Morocco was alcohol free in those days, so I had no alternative (other than Fanta or Pepsi). Nowadays things are different.

In 1970 you could openly buy large blocks of hashish (they looked like big cellophane wrapped chocolate bars and contained a government stamp) but a beer or a glass of wine was verboten. You really wouldn't have wanted to drink the water!

On entering the country some evil man had made me have my hair cut short. Lady Magnon had a small pair of nail scissors in her bag, and my luscious locks were unceremoniously left at the port of entry.

Still, nothing can detract from that pleasant shock of entering the Maghreb, with it's medieval ways and customs. The dark cool souks, the henna tattooed women, and the men all dressed in djellabas; it was like entering another era. 

Amazingly it is still much the same; and all within a very short flight from London, Paris, or Toulouse. An essential destination.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Scrumping Season.

Our own Cherries aren't yet ripe, so for the moment we rely on the kindness of others.

However, we do have plenty of our own Strawberries, and our Tayberries won't be long.

I really love this early red fruit season; it spells hope for a good Summer harvest.

Friday 19 May 2017

Pocket knife.

A few years back, when my garden knife 'went missing' from Haddock's, my then neighbour (now sadly deceased) showed me the above and asked if it was the one I'd lost.

It wasn't. Mine was an old fixed bladed kitchen knife, so she said 'just keep it anyway'; and I did.

I re-discovered it recently, gave it a good oiling and cleaning, and I'm now using it again (in her memory).

I have a feeling that it's a home-made knife. I know that knife making is a popular pastime in France, and it certainly looks very amateurish.

The blade on my regular Opinel pocket knife had become rather loose, and was opening whilst in my pocket; I have the scars to prove it. The one above is quite pleasant to use, and the blade stays in place.
                                       Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Nontron knife"

Whilst Lady M was recently away gallivanting, I did consider buying myself a traditional 'Nontron' pocket knife, as an alternative eating knife to my Opinel. They are our local knives from a bit to the north of here, but when I saw the prices I decided to stay with my Opinel. A quite simple 'Nontron' knife starts at about €60, and goes into the €100's; way beyond my pocket.

p.s. Having put a 'friendly' notice on the garden gate at Haddock's, my knife was later returned. I have no idea who had half-inched it, but I was pleased to have it back. Naughty, naughty.


Thursday 18 May 2017

Julie's fabulous Parmesan biscuits.


It must be said that everyone (except for our 8 year old neighbour Sara) who has tasted these delicious savoury biscuits has given them 10 out of 10.

Certainly from the first time we tasted them, we were hooked.

Regular biscuit makers will know what to do with these ingredients (I of course don't).

100gms flour, 100 gms butter, 100 gms freshly grated Parmesan (don't use ready grated), 1 egg yolk, a pinch of chilli powder, and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Do not add salt.

These are whizzed together, formed into a ball, and put into the fridge for a while. It's then rolled out, cut into small biscuit shapes, and baked for about 10 mins.

The finished biscuits are quite delicate, beautifully flavoured, a little spicy, and perfect with a glass of rouge.

Julie introduced us to them about 10 years ago, and ever since they have become a firm favourite in the Magnon household.

Someone arriving for drinks; Lady M gets her hands in the mix. They're a hit every time.

I'm actually eating some whilst writing this!

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Fair dinkum tucker.

Anyone who enjoys chilli sauces that have REAL flavour (and aren't too hot); this stuff is for you.

Lady Magnon has just spent a couple of months in Oz and wisely returned with some bottles of Byron Bay Chilli Co's prize winning 'Fiery Coconut Chilli Sauce, with curry and ginger'. It states on the bottle 'Medium Hot'. In fact it's sweet, and fruity, with just about the right amount of heat. I'm not someone who enjoys a burning mouth.

Perfect with curries, pork chops, chicken, and just about everything else.

There's only one problem with this stuff; it goes too damned quickly!

If you should find some somewhere, I recommend.

(You'd think the Co would send me some freebies, with all the advertising I do for them).

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Champagne season.

Yesterday was my Elderflower Champagne making day. The sun was shining, it was warm, and the flowers were in perfect condition.

I picked 6 sun-kissed heads of Elderflower, added 600 gms of sugar, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, the rind of a lemon, the juice of a lemon, and 6 litres of water. It's as simple as that.

This afternoon I shall bottle it, and put it away until July/August.

Best to place the bottles away from danger (in a shed maybe), as they can become lively and explode. You need bottles that have wired-on tops, as below.

If you intend making some; good luck!

Monday 15 May 2017





Sunday 14 May 2017

Young artists.

Somewhere on a Welsh hillside, circa 1971.

The four adults in the photo were all at college together. Simon Fletcher (see his work here, his lovely wife Julie, Cro, and Lady Magnon. Also in the photo are our respective first-born sons, and my first dog Hamlet.

Simon recently sent me this previously unseen (by me) photo. I think it must have been taken when we'd just left college.

Great times. 

Photo © Simon Fletcher.

Saturday 13 May 2017

The village church door.

The door.

The watercolour.

Friday 12 May 2017


                                       Résultat de recherche d'images pour "pellegrino bottled water"
It is often claimed that one litre of water weighs exactly one Kilo. Of course, as every schoolboy/girl knows; it is a litre of WINE that weighs a Kilo. The obvious reason being that (in olden times) water was never sold, whereas wine was and it needed to be weighed to assess quantity.

These days water IS sold, and as far as I gather; in huge quantities.

Personally I NEVER buy bottled water. All those added chemicals and injected gas make it unpalatable. If forced to purchase an emergency supply I would go for ordinary plain spring water; straight from someone else's tap.

I have read of bottled water selling for around €400 per bottle. Some have tiny flecks of gold suspended in the precious liquid, and are even more expensive.

However, I myself am now marketing a brand of water (Eau-Magnon). Sold by the glass, it comes from the beautiful village of Lumberjack in SW France, and costs a paltry €50 per glass.

Please form an orderly queue at the door.

Thursday 11 May 2017


I've just realised why I hadn't bought any Jeans for the past 50 years.

As a young man, the style of jeans I liked would probably have been laughed at. But as an X year old they are suddenly acceptable.

I hate skinny jeans, I really dislike jeans with stupid rips all over the legs, and I certainly wouldn't wear ridiculously pre-bleached jeans.

Jeans for me should be hard-wearing, comfortable, and reasonably baggy. In other words; old codger's jeans (see above).

My recently purchased (2) pairs of miser's (cheap) jeans should see me out. They are made of industrial strength denim, and were probably stitched together by Taiwanese weight-lifters. They are super tough.

I like them, and I don't care what anyone says!

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Still in the Land of Nod ?

Yesterday morning we came across Mr Tiggywinkle (above). It looked as if he was half asleep and had rolled down the bank onto the path behind our house whilst dreaming.

I put on my thick leather gardening gloves, and put him back up into the long grass. He still seemed to be asleep; maybe he hadn't yet properly awoken from his Winter hibernation.

Lady Magnon later put some cat food out for him. It was gone next morning, but maybe the cat ate it!

Sweet dreams Hedgey.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

The local Spring Fair.

If you're interested in gaudy shopping baskets, yucky children's hats, or 1950's women's corsets, then yesterday's Fair was for you. 

Otherwise there were sausages,

more sausages,

and yet more sausages.

And a couple of friendly blokes selling nougat.

I go every year, and it's always the same. However I did buy a single 'Roma' Tomato plant for €1; Romas are always useful for cooking.

That's it for another year.

Monday 8 May 2017

Roman tiles.

Our house is covered with old hand-made wonky Roman (or canal) tiles.

We had the roof re-done a few years back, using modern interlocking tiles for the underneath, and the old tiles back on top. The roof looks no different now from when it was first built 300 years ago. It wouldn't surprise me if most of the old tiles date from that time too.

The only real problem with Roman tiles is that they can slip. They aren't nailed or hooked onto anything; they just sit there hoping for the best. However, wind and rain does occasionally make them move down-hill and they need to be pushed up again with a long stick. I check mine just once a year, and the whole process of re-positioning takes about 10 minutes. Failure to do this makes it look as if one's roof is about to collapse (and in many cases it probably is).

My once a year time came a couple of days ago, and whilst pushing one or two back into place (usually right up at the ridge) I came across one that was completely broken. This isn't a major problem, as one simply removes the broken one and pushes another into place. No nails to remove; you just swap one for another.

Such roofs need to be of less than a certain angle; a 45 degree, or more, roof would have them sliding off to music. I'm not sure, but I would estimate a roof angle of about 30 degrees would be the maximum for these tiles.

They may not be the most efficient roof tiles, but they look 'right' on an old house. Nothing looks worse than inappropriate tiles on an old building. They shock; I could show you some horrors!

Sunday 7 May 2017


Résultat de recherche d'images pour "rain"

What do you do when it's raining? I'm not an indoors person, so being confined to the house is a curse.

There's always the TV, but it's mostly rubbish. There are books to be read, but my daytime concentration is limited. There are my crosswords, which are good for 15 minutes. There's cooking to be done, which I enjoy. There's also eating to be done, which is a danger to the waistline.

No, I can't wait to get outside again, so I wrap-up in waterproof clothing, resign myself to becoming drenched, and take the dog for short walks. I occasionally run over to the 'tower' where I keep all my more interesting reference books. Sometimes I even retreat to the studio to prepare canvases.

Having a small house with a large-ish garden, most of my daily work is outside. Having to look through the windows at falling rain might be OK for half an hour, but it soon gets on my tits.

You may have guessed; it's been raining.

Saturday 6 May 2017

Handsome men (a strange subject).

                                           Résultat de recherche d'images pour "very handsome men in the world"

In my constrained opinion, the male world is made-up of 99% very ordinary looking men, 0.5% ugly men, and 0.5% good looking men. The 'ordinaries' rule; being either really ugly, or really handsome, is extremely rare.

Being one of the 99% (I don't consider myself really ugly), I have always wondered what it must be like to be 'staggeringly handsome'. Somehow I imagine it must be a burden, and I'm quite happy not to be a part of that 0.5%.

Back in the mid 60's I had an Italian girlfriend who was possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever encountered. Walking down the street with her was quite an experience. Heads turned almost constantly, and she was stared at openly by all who saw her. She enjoyed the fact that people found her beautiful, but the unwanted attention it caused troubled her hugely. It eventually paid a major role in her tragic life.

Having said that, I would quite like to be 'handsome' for just ONE day, to see what a difference it makes to daily life. I'm sure that people treat good looking people differently; one only has to witness the lives of celeb 'actors', or 'top models' to see that in action.

I'm very happy the way I am, and I very rarely look in a mirror. I couldn't give a monkey's how others see me. I have reluctantly accepted the genes that I randomly received, and just get on with it!

p.s. Trying to find an illustration for this wasn't easy. I'm no expert.

Friday 5 May 2017

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Marie Bronislava Vorobyeva-Stebelska"

In about 1966/7, when I was managing the small 'Fine Art Gallery' in London's Devonshire St W1, I met a lady who's name was Marevna. Just by chance I was recently looking at a self-portrait by someone called Marevna; and I put two and two together!

I'm certain that she'd said she had been the wife of Diego Rivera. We had conversed in French, so I may well have misunderstood the meaning of 'femme'.

However, she was a fascinating and ebullient woman, and we spent several pleasant hours together over a period of several weeks, after which she invited me to stay at some estate in Mexico, where visiting painters were lodged in small cottages and got together in the evenings to discuss 'artistic things'.

Thanks to Wiki, I now discover that she had in fact been the 'mistress' of Rivera, and had a daughter by him.

Marie (Marevna) Bronislava-Stebelska had lived in Paris, where she met Rivera, then later in London (where I met her).

Goodness knows why she invited me to stay at Diego's estate in Mexico; I had absolutely no intention of going, and I don't suppose she had any right to invite me. Both Rivera and Kahlo were deceased by that time, and I have no idea what connection she had with his estate.

Discovering her self-portrait recently (above) brought it all back, and I remembered her well. She was much older when I met her, plumper, and more 'matronly' looking than in the self-portrait. I also remember her name as being Mar-ee-evna; now I know differently.

I wish Wiki had been around at the time; if I'd known her interesting history I would have delved!

A wee snippet of London life in the mid 60's.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Weird Weather.

Over the past few weeks we've had every type of weather imaginable; other than snow.

We've had a couple of nights of -2 C frosts, hot sunshiny afternoons, strangely warm winds, rain, drought, clear skies, cloudy skies; you name it, we've had it.

Having to cope with all that have been my newly planted tender vegetables, and I worried. The poor things were forced, for a while, to live beneath plastic pots to ward off the frosts, but I'm pleased to say they all survived.

Not so lucky were my table grapes. I only have a few eating grape vines, and they were looking really good; now they are totally frosted and it'll be Autumn 2018 before we have another chance of home grown grapes.

Otherwise the tips of the Fig trees were all nipped, but they will produce fruit I'm sure; they always do!

This time of year is always precarious, false hopes make us unwary. It pays to be vigilant in April/May. It should settle down now.

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