Thursday 30 November 2017

Let them eat Cake.

Stirring the cake mix is an important ritual in the Magnon household. It must be done clockwise, and a wish must be made (nothing too outlandish). 

I know nothing of Cake baking, but the mix was put to cook for several hours at a low-ish temperature. It's bottom will now be anointed with Armagnac for a week or so, then it will be put away until required for Christmas.

As with last year's Cake (which was excellent) it is a Saint Mary Berry recipe. Just how a rich Christmas Cake should be. Can't wait.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Rolling Stones - Jumping Jack Flash (Live Hyde Park 1969)

Yes, a much younger Cro was there to see the Butterflies released, the Hells Angels misbehaving, and Mick wearing his bizarre frock. I seem to remember being rather underwhelmed by the whole affair.

Here is a reminder.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Happy Birthday Bok.

7 years old today; doesn't time fly.

OK, you're a tad greyer around the muzzle, and you insist on sharing Lady Magnon's sofa, but all in all I think you can stay.

Your favourite Beef Burgers for supper, and probably a few presents; otherwise it'll be extra walkies, and even more pampering (if that's possible).

Happy birthday Bok. Life wouldn't be the same without you. Love Papa xxx

Monday 27 November 2017

Luncheon Club (a tale).

                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "fortnum and mason piccadilly"

When we left school, several of us decided to start a Luncheon Club, simply so we could keep in regular touch.

There were only about 6 of us who intended living and working in central London, so this was not a big affair. Others who would be in town on the prescribed days would have to make their intended attendance known well in advance. Otherwise it was taken for granted that all 6 would attend.

We chose Fortnum's in Piccadilly as our venue, and the first Monday in every month as the day. It worked well for the first few months.

Working in The City at the time, getting to Piccadilly, having lunch, and being back in the office or on the Stock Exchange floor within my allotted hour, wasn't easy, in fact it was a dreadful rush which involved the use of expensive Black Cabs; even so I was always late back. It soon became obvious that we would have to change from a Luncheon Club to a Dinner Club, or risk abandoning the whole idea.

After about 6 months we all agreed that we would meet in the evenings instead. It would be more relaxed, none of us would have to rush off back to work, and we would probably save ourselves quite a lot of money; Fortnum's had been expensive.

I suggested a small restaurant that I regularly frequented in Chelsea.

The restaurant on The King's Road was more fun than gastro'; its walls were amusingly dotted with a thousand clocks, and the food and wine were reasonably priced. We all agreed to the change, said goodbye to Fortnum's, and by the following month we had re-established our illustrious club in Chelsea. We continued to meet on the first Monday of every month.

Including our first few months meeting in Piccadilly, I think we lasted as a dining club for just over a year. Absentees became regular, girlfriends started to attend, and the whole concept soon collapsed. On our final meeting we discussed the problem, and came to a unanimous decision to call it a day.

The only club member with whom I stayed in regular contact, was my good friend Monty. We met up only occasionally, but always exchanged news at Christmas. Now his Email address no longer works, and I don't have his current home address. Looking for him through Google, all I could find was some connection with a Shoe Museum, to which he'd donated some of his late mother's fancy Crocodile skin footwear.

Moral: The good intentions were certainly there, but the staying power was not. I could of course attend our regular Summer Old Boy's meetings in London, but I don't know if anyone of my era would be there, and anyway, it's a very long way to go just for a few glasses of Sherry.

It's now over 50 years since The Sybarite Six first met over lunch at Fortnum's. I know that at least 3 of us are still around, but not so sure about the others. Hmmm. 

Sunday 26 November 2017

Crumpet rings.

Our new Crumpet rings not only help to make wonderful Crumpets, but they are also extremely adept at making perfectly round fried eggs.

There is something very satisfying about round fried eggs; I shall never again give them their liberty.

Saturday 25 November 2017

So very annoying!

Imagine how you would feel if you went to your local shop, and suddenly they no longer sold your favourite brand of Baked Beans or Biscuits or Bangers. We come to rely on our shops for certain products, then if they are no longer there, it's a right bloody pain.

Such is the case with a certain Indian pickle that I used to buy from my local Leclerc. I'd been buying and enjoying this particular 'Simtom' brand of 'Pickles Assortis' for several years. It's a hot and sour mixture of pickled vegetables that is perfect with a simple curry.

Suddenly it was no longer on the shelves. I wrote to the management; no luck. I looked at other branches of the same supermarket; nothing.

So, I tried to find some online; it didn't seem to exist. By now I was wondering if the Co had gone bust.

So instead, I ordered a 6-pack of Patak's Mixed Pickle on line. Not at all the same product, but very nice, and I now have enough to last me through till 2020; or beyond.

Thank heaven for Amazon. I can see myself doing this much more often!

Friday 24 November 2017

The Cure - Friday I'm In Love

I quite liked The Cure, they had just enough style, talent, and lunacy, to appeal to the younger Cro.

Here's Robert Smith and his boys with one of their better songs. I rather like the video too.

Thursday 23 November 2017


On my daily walks around the immediate area, I'm always on the look-out for Stone-Age tools or buried treasure. I check the mounds left by Moles, and I walk across newly ploughed fields. I have found one or two ancient artifacts, but the cache of Roman gold coins still eludes me.

Rather like mushroom hunting, one doesn't look for the object itself, but for colour and form.

Yesterday whilst walking across a harvested Maize field, I came across the above. All I could see was that it was flat thin and round. I was convinced I'd found my first gold coin.

Having given the piece a good wash, I find that it is no more than a One Franc coin from 1941 (it's older than I am; a true antique).

As I do with all such coins, I shall find a crack in one of the ancient house beams, and force it in. Maybe by the time it's found again, it might be worth a few centimes!

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Lady Magnon's Big Day In.

It's the time of year when Lady Magnon assembles all the ingredients for her Magnificent Mincemeat.

All sorts of different dried fruits, candied peels (no green bits, thank you), suet, apples, citrus fruits, dark brown sugar, and armagnac, are all being bought and stored, ready for the big moment.

The biggest mixing bowl has made its appearance, and the special extra-large wooden spoon has been found and washed.

I try to make a point of being absent when the process begins. Lady M doesn't appreciate an audience (or even helpful advice from onlookers). 

Here is what she ended-up with. I had a stir (clockwise only) and a wish.

I can't wait for that first Mince Pie; I'll have to start thinking what I'll wish for next.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Where are they?

Do you know where your children are at all times? No, nor do I, not that mine are really 'children' any more.

My oldest is on business in Singapore. Facebook informs me that he is at Raffles, enjoying a few Gin Slings.

Well, someone has to keep them busy!

Have fun Kimbo!

Monday 20 November 2017

Paquador vs England

To celebrate that People's Favourite 'Brighton and Hove Albion' are now at No 8 in the Premiership league table (ahem), I am offering this genuine video for all true Football fans to enjoy.

Paquador v England.

Sunday 19 November 2017

A Sunday rant.

FORTY-BLOODY-FIVE years I've lived in my tiny hamlet; forty three of which were spent in perfect peace, quiet, and harmony. I've owned two different houses here, (and another a few miles away), but when I started to make our present one livable-in, we were assured by neighbours that our tranquility was GUARANTEED; local by-laws totally forbade anyone from building new homes here.

At the time I had just two lots of neighbours. Immediately next door (100 yards away) were a pair of Parisian, Zen Buddhist, Lesbians, who were a total delight. And the other house (another 100 yards further away) was owned by a man and his elderly mother who spent just a couple of weeks a year here.

Since then all of my original neighbours have died off, and I am left surrounded by those who have arrived since; I feel like the last of an era. I bought, and restored, my ruined cottage for it's simplicity, beauty, and tranquility, but even though we try to live a quiet life, there are always those who try to see that we don't.

Over recent years we have faced some really bizarre behaviour, but now we are facing possibly the worst of the lot. We are to have a holiday village plonked right on our bloody doorstep, and we are supposed to be grateful.

27 (probably rowdy) holidaymakers will soon be disturbing our Summer's peace and quiet; 27 of a type who are prepared to holiday in buried shipping containers, whoever that might be.

In the photo above you might just be able to see the roof of a barn. My youngest son owns the barn next to it (slightly further to the right) so you can imagine his proximity to the holiday camp. The huge mounds of earth show where the old shipping containers will be semi-buried.

The 'newcomer' who wishes to start this holiday camp is surprised (angry even) that all the surrounding residents are against his plans. He doesn't seem to understand that once our treasured tranquility has gone; it will be gone for ever.

We bought our homes for the peaceful bucolic ambiance they afforded; he bought his with the surreptitious intention of bringing in loads of effing holidaymakers. I can hardly explain how bloody mad I am. He arranged an explanatory meeting recently; I couldn't even face seeing him.

The most recent newcomer to our tiny hamlet (a Brit) bought his small converted barn just a year or so ago, and now finds that he is to have a semi-underground trailer park right behind his house. He is understandably furious. No-one had said a word to him about it as he was completing his purchase. I feel more sorry for him than I do for any of the others; including myself.

The would-be holiday camp owner has already fitted several inappropriate fittings to his beautiful ancient home, including an awful 1950's door, and a striped awning; one can only imagine what more horrors are to come. I do wish he would just bugger off, buy himself a more suitable secluded property, and leave us all in the peace that we so covet.

Some people just couldn't give an effing damn about their neighbours! Money is god!

Saturday 18 November 2017

Mouse Season.


Regularly at this time of year, Lady Magnon becomes obsessed by Mice. She imagines that every Mouse within a 20 Km radius is heading for the house, in order to spend the Winter with us in relative comfort.

I am instructed to set traps, plug holes, and gather gallons of Cat urine to discourage their ambitions.

She had a dream recently about a group of laughing Mice on top of our kitchen cupboards; I was of course blamed for their Morpheus induced incursion.

Freddie catches quite a few, but we've already had one in the house recently; luckily he was soon dispatched.

Mice have the whole of France to play in; be warned, WE DON'T WANT YOU IN THE HOUSE.

Now, where's that Mousetrap and some Peanut Butter? I'm told that Peanut Butter is irresistible to Mice.

Friday 17 November 2017

Doppelganger No 3,557.

One is a genuine Balenciaga Menswear fashion show; the other isn't.

Can you tell which is which?

Thursday 16 November 2017

Yesterday in S W France.



Autumn/Winter has really taken hold, and potatoes are now regularly being baked in the ash pan of the sitting room wood-burner.

For crispy skins they are cooked naked; for soft skins they are wrapped in foil. Both are wonderful; we use a variety called Mona Lisa.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Let's get it correct. 'Vaulting'.

I get really pissed-off. I'm constantly hearing people refer to 'Vaulted Ceilings', where they really mean 'Beamed Ceilings'. 


I first noticed this on a TV country-house finding programme; much loved by Lady Magnon. Every bloody house that had nice old beams was referred to as having 'vaulted ceilings'. It drove me nuts!

I've even heard architects (who OUGHT TO know better) wrongly talking of 'vaulted ceilings'.

So, let's get things right. The above illustration is of a vault; either built in stone, concrete, or brick, they are constructed over a template with considerable weight being added to the top to hold it all together once the template is removed.

A beamed ceiling is constructed of wooden beams that hold either an upper floor, or a roof.

Amazingly, when I was looking for a good illustration, I referred to Google Images and found almost nothing but photos of beamed ceilings. The rot has set-in even further than I'd imagined.

I don't know why this should annoy me as much as it does; the problem is, there are far too many people who claim to be experts, but who obviously aren't. Just look in any Estate Agent's window for proof.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Rat's Teeth.

These are pretty much the last of the year's mushrooms. 

Known in the UK as Hedgehog Mushrooms, in these parts they translate as Rat's Teeth, Deer's Feet, or Sheep's Feet. Personally I prefer 'Rat's Teeth' as it describes perfectly the underside of the mushroom.

In past times (40 years ago) I would take a large wooden crate into the woods, which would be filled within an hour or so. I would often return several times during the day. The resulting haul would be sold to merchants who went from farm to farm. I was told at the time that the mushrooms were used in the pharmaceutical industry; but I suspect most went to be eaten. Today's forager would find such quantities almost impossible to collect; the few above took me over an hour to find.

Rat's Teeth are very delicate creatures. They are mostly 'brushed' clean, but they often require rinsing under water. They also break very easily. When cooking, the water used for cleaning floods out, and has to be boiled away before they actually begin to fry. 

So, to the most important thing; what do they taste like?

When eaten alone, they have a delicate mushroom flavour, but when cooked with chicken or lamb they take on the flavour of the meat. Mixed with chicken, not only is the colour much the same, but the quantity of the meat appears to multiply; as if my magic. 

An easy mushroom to identify; those underneath teeth are a give-away. Look in November amongst mixed Pine/Chestnut trees.

Monday 13 November 2017

How to Make Hummus.

My method of making Hummus is not exactly the same as this, but the ingredients are much the same (I never add curry powder).

I use a free-standing 'dedicated' machine to do the hard work, and add ground Sumac, Olive oil, and a few chick peas, to garnish.

So easy, so delicious, and so satisfying to make. I love it.

And here is my version (below). Even the bowl is similar.

This was eaten yesterday for lunch, accompanied by some delicious Chorizo baguette. 

Does life get any better?

Sunday 12 November 2017

The Sunday Book. San Michele.

                                                      The Story of San Michele.jpg

I believe that the bible is still one of the world's best selling books, and this must be another. The popularity of both mystify me.

Swede Axel Munthe's book about the island of Capri has been continuously printed for over 7 decades, and must be one of the world's most extraordinary publishing miracles.

In 1874, at the age of 17, Munthe arrived on the island of Capri, and (like so many) walked the long path up to the village of Anacapri (see book illustration). En route he discovered a ruined chapel, and decided at once that he would restore it, and the nearby ruined villa. The book tells of the restoration of the two buildings, and his life as a doctor in Italy and France.

If you have read the book (and many of you must have) you might agree with me that it is decidedly unremarkable. Factually interesting at most, but not a work of great literature; yet it continues to be a great favourite.

I wouldn't buy a copy, but if your local library or charity shop has it, it's worth giving it a go!

Saturday 11 November 2017

Dried fruit season.

When I was small, Christmas was never complete without Satsumas, Brazil nuts, and (best of all); long decorative boxes of sticky Dates.

The other things I loved were those packs of dried Figs, squashed together into homogeneous blocks.

These above are new to me. They are small, individual, dried 'MINI FIGS', that come from Spain. For some reason, they have a slight dusting of Rice flour.

New products usually spread around the world quite quickly, so wherever you are, I expect these will turn-up on your supermarket's shelves for Christmas.

If you see them; try them. They're delicious, and not too sweet. 

Friday 10 November 2017


We've already had one slight frost, so opportunities for scrumping are now very limited.

However, one abandoned nearby ancient tree always produces fruit that stays on the ground well into the new year, mostly without any ill effects.

Our own stored Apples have now either gone soft, are riddled with bugs, or are rotting; none of the better known varieties seem to 'keep' any more.

This particular Apple (above) should be in everyone's orchard. It's sweet, with a very pleasant flavour, and is probably one of the best 'keepers' I know. One can but wonder why it isn't available at garden centres everywhere.

No-one seems to know its name, or why it fell out of fashion. I shall take a few cuttings next year, and see if I can continue its line before it's lost for ever.

Thursday 9 November 2017

I know, I know, I know.....

Our lovely friend Joan sent the recipe, and Lady M set to work at once.

The mixture bubbled (as it should), and after a couple of hours was set to cook in some (improvised) Crumpet rings.

They took longer to cook than suggested, but that was probably on account of Lady M's fear of too high a temperature.

And here is the very first of her finished products; slathered with butter.

Verdict: 9/10. Very slightly under salted, but otherwise just as they should be. We will certainly be making Crumpets again; in fact I shall buy a set of special rings.

Thanks Joan. Well done Lady M.

Wednesday 8 November 2017

The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra "Bangarang" ft Dawn Penn.

Lee Thompson was the Sax player with Madness, and the lovely Dawn Penn is a Jamaican Ska singer from the late 1960's. Driving through London to a bit of Ska; what's not to like?

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Spot the 'tower'.

Almost hidden from view under its foliage, our little 'tower' is due for a haircut. 

I shan't bother until all the leaves have dropped, but then it'll have some serious pruning. My original intention was to totally clothe it in foliage, but it's gone a little over-the-top. 

It's so covered in Wisteria, that I can hardly see it any more.

Just how I like it!

Monday 6 November 2017


I may not have found any Crumpets, but I have found these very nice Muffins.

Not at all the same thing as Crumpets, but they are treated in much the same way.  Ours were halved, toasted, and covered with thick butter and the world's very best Tayberry Jam (my own).

Now, if only I could get M Epid'OR to try his hand at Crumpets; I'd be a very happy Cro.

I shall now not mention Crumpets again; unless, of course, my prayers are answered

Sunday 5 November 2017

Kickin' leaves.

This was filmed a couple of years ago, but it's just the same today.

Saturday 4 November 2017

Little Miss Cake.

We share the chores in this house; I cook everything that involves salt and spices, and Lady Magnon cooks everything that involves flour and sugar.

Now that she's 37½ years old, she's managed to achieve that wonderful kitchen confidence where she can make brilliant cakes, almost with her eyes closed. 

She doesn't have a huge armoury of different cake recipes, but her Lemon Drizzle, Chocolate, and Walnut cakes are perfection every time. 

I'm not really supposed to eat such things, but when I smell the aroma of cake-baking, I can't resist a small piece with my afternoon cup of Lapsang.

What I now need, is for her to master the making of Crumpets, Squashed Fly Biscuits, and Battenburg. 

I seem to be thinking a lot about food again recently; it must be the approach of Christmas.

Friday 3 November 2017

Dancing lessons.

                                  Image may contain: drawing

I never had dancing lessons, we were simply expected to know what to do; but we didn't!

Lady Magnon, on the other hand, did have some instruction.

When we 'rough dance' in the kitchen she often takes the male rôle (as shown above). She attended an all girls school and during her dance lessons half the girls had to pretend to be boys; she was one such.

She never got over it.

Thursday 2 November 2017

UK, please note!

                      Résultat de recherche d'images pour "crumpets"

There are certain 'National Speciality Foods' that we find regularly in all our supermarkets.

France exports wines, cheese, dried sausages, salt, and expensive water.

Italy sells us pasta, bottled sauces, parma ham, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.

The US sends us their tomato ketchup, cornflakes, peanut butter, orange juice, and Uncle Ben's rice.

Switzerland exports chocolate, more chocolate, and even more chocolate.

Most of these things are to be found the world over.

I would like to suggest just a few things that the UK should be exporting to the whole world; Marmite, Lea and Perrins sauce, and Branston pickle, are probably available in most countries, but PORK PIES, and CRUMPETS are not!

People in the UK don't realise how lucky they are to have permanent access to Pork Pies and Crumpets.

If you are a maker of either really good Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, or Crumpets, would you please have a word with M Leclerc; one of his clients would be extremely grateful.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Halloween Bonfire Night.

Last night two of my neighbours Tracey and Karine had the brilliant idea of combining Halloween with Bonfire Night.

I am not really a fan of Halloween, but having been brought-up in the Surrey Village of Lingfield, I'm very much a big Bonfire Night person.

November 5th was, without question, Lingfield's biggest day of the year. We had a huge flaming torchlight procession through the village, an enormous fire was lit, fireworks decorated the sky, and it was our very own gardener, Fuller, who always made the splendid Guy.

Last night's fire was not as big as Lingfield's, and one wouldn't expect it to be so, but the atmosphere was very much the same. There's something very primitive about gathering around a big fire.

I'm now wondering if we couldn't slowly abandon Halloween, and replace it with Bonfire Night; but I doubt if the French would understand.

I'm hoping this will become an annual event; so much better than going from house to house for sweets!

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