Imagine you are standing outside The World Art Gallery, and in the tradition of Desert Island Discs, you are invited to select just 8 paintings to take to your desert island. Every work of any merit is found inside the gallery; you must select just 8.
Here are a few favourites that come to MY mind.
1. Spencer's Self Portrait.1914
2. Matisse's Red Studio. 1911
3. Kitaj's The Red Banquet. 1960
4. Derain's Bateaux dans le Port, Collioure. 1905
5. Schmidt-Rottluff's Summer. 1913
6. Dors Carrington's Portrait of Strachey 1916
7. Jawlensky's Still Life. 1909
8. Kandinsky's Composition No 2. 1910
Kandinsky claimed to have painted the very first 'abstract' painting in around 1913, and I have decided to chose nothing pre-1900. All the above pictures I would look at (and admire) on a daily basis. Some I would admire simply for their beauty, others would remind me of a life elsewhere.
Every time I visit The Tate, I go directly to look at Spencer's portrait (illustrated).
Now, tell me some of the one's you'd take to your desert island (if indeed any).
I just know that you'll all be going to The Commonwealth Games on the Aussie Gold Coast in April 2018, and you'll be looking for a nice apartment. Rentals will be as scarce as hens' teeth, so best to book well in advance (now).
This sort of thing looks good. Very comfortable, all mod-cons, security, pleasant pool, and just a three minute walk from Broadbeach's fabulous beach.
Perfect for the upcoming Games, visiting Surfer's Paradise, or even for wearing your flares at Byron Bay.
With a leadership crisis possibly looming in the Conservative Party, may I propose Rory as a future replacement.
He may not have 'film star' looks, but he could be a rising star in other respects.
I am putting my reputation on the line, and am placing an imaginary Ten Euro note on Rory Stewart becoming leader of the Conservative Party (and therefore Prime Minister) some time in the future.
His educational credentials are exemplary. Dragon, Eton, Balliol (PPE), 2nd Lieutenant Black Watch, and several post grad' positions with the Foreign Service, including Indonesia, Montenegro, and S Iraq. Somewhere amongst all that, he also found time to write books about Iraq and Afghanistan, and tutor the young princes William and Harry. He is multi-lingual, and a member of The Athenaeum.
An MP since 2010, the 44 year old's present position is as Minister of State for International Development.
The Conservatives are top-heavy with responsible intellectuals, but Rory shines out. It's a pity one can't say the same about those Merry Marxists on the opposition benches; they would absolutely HATE Mr Stewart. His superior intellect and qualifications are everything they fight, and attempt to legislate, against. Never mention 'meritocracy' to a Socialist!
Don't let me down Rory; Ten Euros is a lot of money, even if it is simply in the ether.
In the meantime if an urgent replacement is needed for Mrs May I propose either Sir Michael Fallon, Philip Hammond, or just for fun why not the rebellious Jacob Rees-Mogg; that'll give Rory a few years for some essential extra experience.
The effects of our late Spring frost are now being felt throughout. We have no walnuts, and very few grapes.
Normally this Walnut tree (above) would be dropping nuts by the hundreds, and as no-one gathers them there would usually be a considerable mess of crushed nuts and shells covering the road. This year the road is clear and clean.
Last Saturday I asked my Vigneron what, if any, his harvest would be, and he reckons he will produce about 35% of his usual amount.
Such is life. One never knows what's around the corner; especially in the countryside.
My very favourite 'local band' are Brighton's own Los Albertos. Named after the pub' where they used to drink, and eventually formed the band (The Albert), they are a bunch of wayward, very talented, Brightonians who play great ska, klezmer, and other up-beat music. When I was living in Brighton I would often see them at the infamous Komedia Club; there was never a dull moment.
This should get the blood flowing on a cool autumn morning. Looks like it was recorded at the Komedia too.
I hear that the BBC will no longer be asking for details of 'qualifications' on a job-applicant's CV. The Socialist-heavy corporation has decided that it has too many well qualified, ex-Oxbridge intellectuals, and it needs to dumb-down and diversify.
There is, of course, good argument for employing those who are simply good at their job, but to purposefully exclude those who are also 'well educated' seems to me like cutting off one's own feet.
I have no personal knowledge of the interior workings of the BBC, but I do know that I actively prefer meritocracy to purposeful dumbing-down. Could you imagine the words 'Ivy League alumni need not apply' attached to a top-job advert in the US? Of course not!
The only person I know who worked for 'Aunty' was my old school friend AY. At school he was mostly interested in drama and the plastic arts, then went on to receive a poor degree (a Desmond) in Law from a non-Oxbridge university. He later became the Creative Director of the BBC and presented their 'Arena' arts programme. I am trying to imagine a less knowledgeable (or even a better qualified) person than A doing the job; I can't. He fitted-in into his role perfectly, and his non-Oxbridge education played little part in his obvious success.
However, finding the very best person for any job should always be the aim. Ideally people aspiring to fill the country's top positions will be well educated (at Oxbridge if needs be), have a bucket-full of common sense, and will know his/her subject inside-out.
I hope that never changes. If it does; we're lost.
The old Yorkshire ruse of shouting down a mine shaft, saying that the first eleven men up will be playing cricket for The County on Saturday, may have worked in theory; but best not try it.
As usual on a Saturday morning, yesterday I went to our tiny local market to buy wine, eggs, and bread (I showed the above picture a while back).
On delivery of my half dozen eggs, the nice man explained to me that as from today (yesterday) a new law says that each egg has to be stamped.
As far as I can see it says 1FRdou01. What this means is that they are free range (1), they come from France (FR), they come from this location (dou), and this is the number of the hen house they live in (01, I imagine my man only has one hen house).
It rather saddens me to see these red ink letters all over my free range, locally produced, eggs. Why can't these meddling bloody bureaucrats just leave things alone.
It may be just another minor liberty taken away from the small producer and his client; but the meddling EU 'politicians' (I use the word cautiously) will soon make sure that no-one, and no activity, escapes their bloody clutches.
I love this work, I love the scale, and I love the process.
I feel as if I have a tiny something in common with Ms Mehretu; the calligraphic quality of her work is something I understand, although in my own case I work on a very different scale. It's a tad like speaking the same language. Her painting above measures 27 by 32 feet.
Ms Mehretu is an American of Ethiopian origin. This painting, that she is seen working on above, is one of two that are apparently the worlds largest. I think they're entitled HOWL, eon (1 and 2).
If you happen to be in San Francisco, you can now see both works at the Museum of Modern Art. Otherwise you could consult Google Images; an example below.
The Chestnuts have just started falling. With hardly any rain over the past month or so, I expect the crop will be smaller than usual, but still enough to have a few roasted over the fire on a cold night.
Also in season are the Quinces. This year Lady Magnon has made both Membrillo and Quince Jelly. It remains to be seen if either will be eaten. I bought a Basque version of Manchego cheese, specially so we could experience the classic combination of the cheese with Membrillo. Not bad!
Of course early Autumn wouldn't be complete without plenty of Figs. This is our daily lunchtime quota.
This is our Oak. The darker half (on the right) is what has just been delivered.
As opposed to our usual Oak, this is Red Oak. It was planted in rows, then thinned; ours are the first thinnings that were cut about 4 years ago. I'm told it burns even better than the other non-planted wild Oak. We'll see.
And this is our Chestnut. I think you can see where yesterday's delivery starts. It was sawn and split just before delivery.
I always feel happy when our wood stocks are newly replenished. We should have enough for about two years or more. In all we have about 12 Cubic Metres of good dry wood.
All that remains now is to saw it into thirds, fill the wheelbarrow, and stuff it into the burner; but not for a while yet.
I do hope we don't have too cold a winter; I really don't like the cold. I'm a sunshine boy!
I'm a great believer in NOT buying expensive gifts for children, especially when they stamp their feet as they demand them.
I was reading a 'social worker's' report recently about delivering presents to 'needy' children last Christmas. She claimed there was never any shortage of hi-tech games, fags, bottles of Vodka, or giant TV sets in their chaotic homes, and the kindly offered simple gifts were mostly thrown onto a pile in a corner.
The above Cricket bat is a good example of my attitude. When my oldest showed interest in playing the game (aged about 8), I took a lump of wood and made a bat for him. The words Botham Power Driver, Test Special, and Boundary Searcher (on the back), were added for authenticity! All these years later we still use the bat, which has become something of an institution. (N.B. He nows plays for his town's club, and has had a series of very expensive bats)
When my youngest was also about 8 he wanted computer games. Instead I bought him a pretty basic computer (Amstrad) and encouraged him to design and create his own games, which he did very successfully. He actually preferred the act of creating the games to playing them; a good lesson was learned. (N.B. His work is now computer based)
I rather despair at all the technology bestowed upon children. A bat ball and tree stump, a skipping rope, or an old bike, are far better presents for children. I'm sure they give them not only more fun, but also an increased sense of values. This isn't frugality, as some might imagine, but a way of getting children to use their imaginations; which can only be a GOOD thing.
Somehow I suspect that things could go very wrong for post-millennials if we're not careful.
In preparation for taking my youngest son's car in for it's bi-annual roadworthiness test on Monday, I thought I'd clean out the storage boxes in the front doors.
Other than bits of half eaten biscuit, unopened sachets of Tomato ketchup, several torches, a broken Slinky, and a whole sack-full of disgusting bits of waste paper, I found the above.
Yes, I've counted most of it (not the brown shrapnel), and it came to a staggering €50+. Also in the collection were several Aussie Dollars, some Swedish Kronas, a couple of Singapore coins of unknown value, and a few items of indistinguishable origin.
I am guilty myself of discarding small value brown coins (we probably all are), but never anything above 20 Centimes. For goodness sake, 1€ or 2€ pieces are actual spending money!
I'm going to have to have a serious talk with that boy; his attitude towards 'cash' will have to change!
(some time later) Lady Magnon did some further cleaning, and found another €5 on the floor, bringing the total to above €55. Unbelievable.
I have been hearing in Mono for the past month or so; my left ear has been non-functioning.
So, what to do? I bought myself some expensive drops, and found a syringe that was left-over from some dog medication, and sorted the problem myself.
Several days of oiling the inner workings, then some warm water injected into into the depths, and Bob's your uncle; I hear again. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of muck inside.
I did wonder if a blast of WD40 wouldn't have done the same job as my expensive Cérulyse. WD40 is based on fish oil, whereas the stuff I bought is Lavender and Almond.
Being deaf is very unnerving, it's like living in a parallel universe of exclusion. I feel sorry for those who have to endure a whole life of deafness. Luckily mine was temporary, and I was able to return to my normal state through a very simple procedure.
If only all medical issues were as easy to rectify.
We've all seen them; Kim jong-un's henchmen taking notes as he waffles on.
So, what are they up to? It seems that the fat boy's words are regarded as ultimate, god-like, wisdom, and not a single word should be lost.
The top big-wigs need to be seen by the hoi-polloi (on TV) writing down every word, and treating their supreme leader with total reverence. I wonder what they do with the scribbled pages when they get home?
Those military chiefs must know far more of whatever he's lecturing about, than the fat boy himself, but they are forced to look as if they are in awe. They must be sick of it.
It really is surprising that someone doesn't take a pot-shot at him.
"The sun is much too sultry, one must avoid its ultry-violet rays" NC.
My oldest boy, Kimbo, starts a new job next week.
I'm not going to over-beat his drum, but he's always been an exemplary person/son.
After school he went off on the classic 'gap year' trip which lasted about two years. He worked his way around the world (without ever phoning home for money), and eventually returned to Blighty saying that he had decided what career path he wished to follow; he wanted to be an Hotel Manager. Frankly we were shocked!
Anyway, off he went to Oxford and got himself a degree in some sort of International Management thingy, and ended up managing a huge American hotel.
He's moved on since then and has been managing hundreds of unruly students at a brand new Halls of Residence, linked to a big Midlands University.
However, I think he's now found his true role in life, and has recently been 'head-hunted'; from next week he'll be working in central London as an 'executive' (I hate that word). His new job title includes the words 'Asset, Management, and Europe'; but that's all I know. I believe he'll be doing a lot of travelling, as well as a lot of delegation. It sounds perfect for him, and his new promotion is well deserved.
So, all the best darling, and don't forget your poor old Papa. One or two meagre Fray Bentos pies each dark, bitter, and lonely winter would be most welcome.
I went to the store cupboard to fetch some pickles, and found Olive Oil all over the place.
One of my jars of Sun-Dried Tomatoes seems to have 'fermented', or 're-hydrated'. They probably weren't quite dried enough. Luckily my other jars are all OK.
I would have thought that being in oil they would have been safe, but as soon as I unscrewed the lid it started bubbling from the bottom, and the Tomatoes erupted; as you can see from the photo they were forcing themselves out through the top.
We learn by our mistakes, and I shall know next year to make sure they are very well dried; 4 days in the sun perhaps instead of 3.
I'm very annoyed with myself, as I'd considered them to be one of my 2017's success stories.
I did, of course, taste them; they were delicious.
It's 45 years this month since I moved to France; I don't remember the actual date.
September 1972 was cold, and the vendor's wife (who just happened to be at the house the day we arrived with goods and chattels) kindly welcomed us by lighting a fire in the main sitting room fireplace.
She took a bale of straw from the barn, stuffed it into the huge open fireplace, and to our horror, LIT IT.
It was at this moment that I realised that the French did things slightly differently to us Brits.
We've had some wonderful adventures along the way, made some wonderful friends, and, as far as I'm concerned, there's still a lot more fun to come.
I was 25 when I bought our first big old farmhouse (we've moved a couple of times since), and on reflection it was a pretty wild gesture. My French was rudimentary schoolboy, my knowledge of French ways almost non-existent, but my enthusiasm was boundless; it was the perfect combination. The property contained wonderful old stone barns, studio space, land, and a small chestnut wood; I had bought myself a home which seemed to contain everything I needed. The house itself had not been lived in for a year or so, but was in good shape; other than having no bathroom.
For the first time in my life I felt totally liberated. My two children (a third arrived later) also revelled in that freedom, and along with our scruffy mutt 'Hamlet', they took complete advantage of what our new bucolic life offered.
Of course a few 'minor blips' have occurred en route, they always do; but it's a sign of having such wonderfully friendly neighbours that we've only had to cope with a couple who aren't.
As it happens, we are now facing another 'minor blip'; a relative newcomer is trying to turn our tiny peaceful hamlet into a holiday park, with a number of semi-buried shipping containers for accommodation, playgrounds, pool, restaurant, etc. We are not amused.
Sadly this is our second unexpected case of unpleasantness in just over a year. One really wonders how certain people can live with themselves. Last year it was classic hypocrisy, this year plain greed; two of my absolute least favourite human traits.
So cheers! I still adore my little world (even though I may occasionally want to stop it and get off), and I hope that you are all able to say likewise about wherever you have chosen to settle.
(Above photo) Cro's usual sartorial elegance; in ratting clothes (at the new home 1973).
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone (except the obdurate and dictatorial) is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 46 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!