Saturday 31 March 2018

Fred the Cat.



Cats are strange beasts. They are basically wild animals, but like to think that they belong in a human world. They are all too happy to accept our food and water, but they generally wish to stay aloof.

Freddie has always been relatively 'unfriendly'; he's not a lap-cat. However he regularly sleeps tucked under my chin at nights, and his resulting purr could rival Stentor.

Like all Cats he changes his mind quite often. One day he will sleep in the hand basin, the next in the oven (not literally). Recently he has taken to joining me on the dining table when I come downstairs in the mornings.

I rather like him sitting in front of me (although Lady M doesn't). To me, a cat should have just three basic qualities. They should look decorative, be good mousers, and show at least a tiny bit of affection.

I think Freddie just about qualifies.




Friday 30 March 2018

Farage on Fishing.



Nigel Farage came into some criticism recently from certain fair-weather urban 'environmentalists' after his Thames fish-dumping spectacle. They should, in fact, have thanked him profusely for raising the issue; after all, it is what they claim to expound!

His recent Westminster high-jinx was highlighting that an estimated one whole trawl of fish is thrown back into the water for every three that are kept. i.e. 25% of all fish caught are thrown back into the sea; DEAD.

This isn't because the fish are not wanted. When sorted, certain fish are designated slightly 'too small', and must be discarded. But if they've been caught anyway, and are already dead, then why not eat what is perfectly good food rather than throwing it away. Go to any fish restaurant in mainland Europe, and you will find undersize fish on the menu; why is it that only the UK follows EU rules to the letter?

Farage is right to highlight this stupidity (he's right about many things), I hope that when we quit the EU that this fishing nonsense will be rectified. Even if the 25% was used as fish-meal, it would be better than the current irresponsible waste.

Three trawls where everything is used, must surely be far better for fish stocks than four trawls with a quarter thrown back dead.



Thursday 29 March 2018

Man has sex; Corbyn is anti-semitic.

                             
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Sometimes one really has to wonder about the suitability of certain UK newspaper editors.

There have been two stunning revelations from our national newspaper hacks recently, concerning Trump and Jezza.

Do they think we don't already know about what's going on? Do they think we will all gasp in horror at their shocking revelations?

Regardless of searching-out billionaires, it is not uncommon for certain types of women to throw themselves at rich men. It must also be said that certain very rich men throw themselves (wrapped in their oodles of banknotes) at certain types of women. Take a quasi-attractive porn star, and a squillionaire with loose trousers, and the result is pretty darn obvious. This is not 'news'; just a Stormy in a teacup.

And, surprise surprise, a senior Marxist politician who cosies-up to his 'friends' Hezbollah and Hamas, is hardly going to buy his new suit from Solly Rothschild's tailor shop in Golders Green. He's been making his thoughts clear for decades.

For goodness sake; tell us something new!



Battling the Blizzards (not that we've had any).


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My hatred of winter and cold weather has calmed recently; I suddenly find myself much more tolerant. Maybe I'm better equipped than I was previously.

I now own thick long-sleeved thermal vests, very warm thermal jackets, and very cosy thick woolen socks for my gumboots. I also have really warm gloves, and one of those Russian style furry hats that is kept for the very worst of the cold. The only bit of me that now actually feels any cold, is my face; maybe I should also buy a Thug-U-Like black balaclava.

This winter (17/18) we have suffered temperatures as low as -7 C, but even in such arctic conditions I haven't really felt particularly cold. Normally I would have been complaining loudly.

We're now into a period of fog, wet, and cold, yuckiness. Maybe it's all a question of age; I seem to be grateful for every new day, however nasty it may be.


Wednesday 28 March 2018

The Fruits of his Labour.


                                 

One or two readers may remember this row of exceptional Soft Fruit bushes that a 'neighbour' was growing on the edge of his borrowed veg' patch. They were all very fancy new hybrid varieties, and the fruits were amazing.

The man in question was later 'rather rude' (appallingly so) to the person who had kindly allowed him the FREE use of her land, and he has now departed; tail between legs. A very stupid man indeed; good riddance.

He had all sorts of hardy-perrenial plants on his plot. There were fancy varieties of Blackberries and Raspberries (above), as well as Rhubarb, Strawberries, and an ornamental crab apple tree. Before quitting his plot for the final time, he stripped everything of interest and gave them to another neighbour.

I was hoping to have rescued a few plants following his departure; but to no avail. He left nothing behind.


However, I walk past the spot where they were growing on most mornings, and I noticed that a few remaining stems, in amongst all the detritus, had started to sprout leaves. Of course there's no way of knowing what varieties they are, but I've pulled a few, and now await to see what's what. Seeing as they were all very special varieties, I'm sure there'll be something amongst them worth keeping.

One is always happy to see the back of uncouth neighbours. His unpleasant memory will live on in the soft fruits that I hope we shall harvest in the future; we may even drink a toast to his very welcomed departure, as we eat our winter Blackberry, or Raspberry and Apple Crumbles.



Tuesday 27 March 2018

Stone walling.



My next door neighbour is having some stone walls built, and their man (who I think is either Spanish or Portuguese) is a real craftsman.

He is slow, very slow; but every stone is studied and perfectly placed. He even manages to get the composition of colours right.


Nowadays, when building in stone, it is usually only the facade that is actual stone. A concrete block interior wall is built, then the stones laid in front. The space between blocks and stones is filled with whatever is to hand, mixed with concrete. You'd never know the difference.


I'm not sure yet what they're building, but as long as they're not in a hurry I reckon it'll look very good indeed. It's just a matter of getting 'Pedro' to turn up!

The above is about 6 months (occasional) work; or even more.




Monday 26 March 2018

I'll take two please!



Everyone with a garden needs a wheelbarrow. I need at least three.

At this time of year I have two permanently filled with logs, and I need another one for 'general duties'.

I also have two retirees that double as strawberry planters.

I've just bought the two above. Wheelbarrow aficionados will have noticed that they are Skoda Barrows, with the twin exhausts.

If you don't already know the joke; DON'T ASK.




Sunday 25 March 2018

The 4 stages of Lady Magnon's Buns.



Stage 1. Mixing, kneading, proving.


Stage 2. Forming into recognisable shapes.


Stage 3. Baking.


Stage 4. Eating.

Just as hot mince pies are the taste of Christmas; well buttered, halved and toasted, hot-cross-buns are certainly the taste of Easter.

Thank you m'dear; delicious!




Saturday 24 March 2018

Drumming-up donations.



Following-on from yesterday's posting, the other day whilst photographing abandoned agricultural machinery I noticed a whole load of old Oil Drums dumped in some nearby woodland. I've been looking for one for ages so I asked my neighbour if he was keeping them for some special reason. He said he wasn't, and was only too happy to donate one!

I reckon there are only a few things one can do with old Oil Drums. Start a Caribbean Pan Band, cut them in half lengthways to make rustic BBQs, or make a Garden Incinerator. My intention was to do the latter.

I wore-down three entire metal-cutting discs on the Angle Grinder, cutting off the top, then the pointed end of my Pickaxe swiftly dealt with making several holes in the bottom. I propped it on three terracotta pots, stuffed it full of garden detritus, and lit-up. 

It works a dream, and I saved myself about €50 by not buying some cheap trashy commercial version.

In the future I may even use it for 'hot smoking'.

I'm not yet sure if its positioning is permanent, but that can wait. I was anxious to see how well it worked, and it was perfect.

p.s. On the right you can see my two wheelbarrow strawberry beds. I'm just off to buy another two wheelbarrows this morning. I need a minimum of three working ones, plus as many old ones as I can get for my strawberries.




Friday 23 March 2018

It all starts here...



My 2018 vegetable campaign has now begun.

Yesterday I put in two rows of red onion sets, and filled a second defunct wheelbarrow with strawberry plants. I'd already established a new patch for a few 'Jerusalem' artichokes.

I have planted more soft fruit bushes, and replaced the 'globe' artichokes and rhubarb crown that perished last year.

Pretty much everything has now finished, so, other than my perpetual spinach, I will soon take out all the remaining 'greens' plants. The spinach will keep giving for a while yet; I'll take them out when their spot is required.

The fruit trees are all looking good, and I have tidied-up the north end of Haddock's. I like a tidy patch.

Other than a bit of digging, I shan't do a lot more until mid-April, and I must say, I'm really looking forward to it.



Thursday 22 March 2018

How life was.



This house, above, was the last true peasant farm in my immediate area. A few years back it was bought by a Dutch family, who are slowly restoring it as a future retirement property. You cannot imagine the state it was in when the 'M' family lived there.

Back in '72, when I first bought my original Farmhouse, the 'M' family of three lived there. The brutish husband, his poor tiny slave of a wife, and their Bull-like son who did all the hard work; I think he slept under the table.

I always used to help with their wine-making, and hay making. This was usually followed by a meal in their primitive kitchen. Although the whole place reeked of misery, there was a rustic charm about their ancient way of life.

They killed one Pig each year, and made all their own Hams, Sausages, Patés etc. As well as their vines, they also had a small vegetable plot that produced the spuds and greenery. In those days most farmers grew a few acres of Wheat which was given to the baker in exchange for the year's Bread. It was all they needed.

Pleasant families lived pleasant lives even if they were very poor. Miserable families (like the M's) lived miserable lives, and nothing could change them.

If you have the time to watch some of the short video below, you will see something of the way these people lived, not all that long ago. Plus a great recipe for a 13 day Soup; but do remember to clean your fingernails! Probably best to skip to begin at 1 min 50.





Wednesday 21 March 2018

Abandoned Kit.


Just some of the abandoned farm machinery that we passed on our afternoon walk yesterday.

















Tuesday 20 March 2018

Bok and Marley.




Bok's mate Marley often turns-up in the early mornings for our first walk of the day. He's a bit boisterous for Bok, but he's slowly calming. He's a really lovely boy, and is desperate to learn (I'm teaching him 'commands' in English).

He and his stable mate wonder around, visiting everyone in turn; saying hello to all his canine and human pals.

If our late Monty's limited wanderings are anything to go by, Marley's owners must have received a mountain of nasty Emails by now. He's very much a free spirit, and is permanently in a neighbour's garden (where Monty strayed 3 times). In Monty's case it resulted in an unpleasant rebuke; so one can only presume that it's the same for Marley's owners. His 'inbox' must be overflowing!

We abided by the request. Marley's owner obviously didn't.


Monday 19 March 2018

Chagall. 1887-1985


                          Image result for Chagall man at table

I'm quite a fan of Chagall's work, but I'd not seen this one before. Now I'm an even bigger fan.

This painting entitled 'Man at Table' was painted in 1911. I can find no explanation about the imagery. It's quite unlike his later more dream-like works.

There is a beautiful looseness and naivety about his work which often illustrate 'folk tales' from his native Russia. Even when he moved to Paris in 1910, he continued to paint of the influences from his early life back in Belarus.

Essentially he was a 'Jewish Painter', whose work one critic described as 'Hebrew jazz in paint'.

It's that Cat that makes it; don't you think?



Sunday 18 March 2018

Some pleasant Sunday music.


Nice version of this old classic, with just a hint of Chet Atkins.





Saturday 17 March 2018

Taj Brighton.


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Most British towns have a store similar to the one above. With so many diverse nationalities all over the UK, Asian/Middle Eastern foods are now sold everywhere.

Taj in Brighton is a real favourite of mine; it is also perfectly positioned opposite Waitrose, so, when there, I do all my shopping in one spot.

                               

This shop is a dream. It's big, and they sell everything you could possibly imagine, from the rarest spices, to unheard-of fruits and veg'. Just walking around the shop is like being on holiday.

The smell is wonderful, and continuous Arabic music completes the exotic picture.

Here in France we have three main groups of immigrants, those from North Africa, The Caribbean, and Vietnam. Most supermarkets cater for much of their basic needs, and street markets sell the rest. There are very few comprehensive stores that sell 'exotic foods'; at least, I only know of one, and that is miles away.

If I was granted one wish, it would be to import Brighton's Taj, and re-plant it near to my usual Leclerc supermarket.

Honestly; I promise I would never moan again!



Friday 16 March 2018

I blame his parents!


                          

My people had a friend who was at our Consulate in Dieppe (N France), and he knew of a family in the town who were looking for an 'exchange student' for their son Didier. He thought we might be interested.

The family in question were described as genteel and pleasant. The father was an architect, and they lived in one of his own designed houses overlooking the town and sea. They also claimed to have some 'gallows' in the garden; which later turned-out to be swings. They sounded quite suitable.

So, aged about 10, off I went to stay with Didier's family. I think I was to stay for two weeks; in which time I was no doubt expected to learn to speak perfect French.

After the first week we set off on a trip. We headed West along the Normandy coast, then South to the Loire valley, then East towards Paris, then back again North to Dieppe. It was a trip that lasted about four days, and was a wonderful experience.

At one stage we visited a restaurant where nets-full of wriggling tiny silver fish were pulled out of a small stream (which ran through the middle of the outdoor sitting area). These were floured, then instantly deep fried. Big platefuls of these tiny fried fish regularly arrived at each table with wedges of Lemon. I'd never seen anything like it before, and found the whole experience fascinating (and delicious).

Didier's family were totally charming, and after my two week stay, he came to stay with us in Surrey.

Above is Didier, me, and our cat Tiddles (all our black cats were called Blackie, and all the tabbies were called Tiddles), at our Surrey home. I've always wondered what happened to Didier. I've looked for him on the net, in the phone book, etc, but no sign of him anywhere. I would liked to have thanked him for the important part his parents played in forming my love of France.

p.s. Those jeans I'm wearing were the best ever. They were very faded, very baggy, and very comfortable. I loved them. They don't make them like that any more!




Thursday 15 March 2018

The Bee's Knees.



After my Tuesday's posting, I'm pleased to announce that Lady Magnon is now on Opium.

Her doc' seemed to think that everything was 'roughly' OK, and has prescribed painkillers.

When I can get her down from the ceiling, I shall also try to make her rest-up for a few days.

Yup, it's the 'Ides of March', and I'm expecting Mr de Quincey to arrive at any moment.  

Opium indeed!




Wednesday 14 March 2018

Good Conversation.


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The last time I smoked dope in any meaningful quantity was in Tangiers (Morocco).

We had bought what looked like a big 'chocolate bar' of Hashish, complete with its Government Stamp, and soon set-to with a few joints on the shady flat-topped rooftop of our 'hotel'.

Unfortunately hashish has an instantly soporific effect on me, and I fell into a long and deep sleep, whilst Lady Magnon and our American friends all floated away down to the casbah and dined on delicious Couscous. When I awoke I was not happy; I'd missed a wonderful evening. It was at that very moment that I decided that Hashish was NOT for me.

When I'm in good company I want good conversation, not the incoherent ramblings of spaced-out dope-heads to a background of Hendrix. And I certainly don't want Morpheus nipping at my ankles.

One of the real advantages of wine-drinking over most other 'stimulants' is that it encourages lively conversation. I don't think Bacchus coined the maxim in vino veritas; but he should have!

Dionysus may have championed 'ambrosia' (probably Amanita Muscaria), but as a conversationalist he would never have matched Bacchus.


Tuesday 13 March 2018

Lady M's knees.



The poor old dear has been hobbling around recently. Her knees have been giving her jip. Yesterday morning I took her to be radiated, and above are the results.

So, what's she been up to? Too much praying? Too many can-can high kicks? Too much mountain climbing?

We're not sure. The photos look pretty normal to me (an amateur). 

She's off to see her quack again tomorrow morning to analyse the snaps, and I'm just hoping that her return to sprightliness doesn't involve the knife, just chemicals. 

Our fingers are crossed.



Monday 12 March 2018

Doddy.


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Dodd has died.

I grew-up with a wonderful set of British comedians; Tommy Cooper, Kenneth Williams, Ted Ray, Norman Wisdom, Stanley Unwin, Charlie Drake, and of course Doddy to name just a few.

Their careers began before television made them into household names, and they mostly honed their skills either with ENSA or in music hall.

Back in the early 80's a friend of mine went to a Ken Dodd show at some big Country Club near Liverpool. He had been invited by a business client, and hadn't been particularly looking forward to it. When I spoke to him about it the following evening, he couldn't praise Dodd enough!

I think the show was supposed to have started at 10 pm, and should have lasted for two hours. My friend eventually left the Club at about 3.30 am, having had one of the best nights of his life.

Dodd was well known for over-running his shows, he never wanted them to end; he simply enjoyed himself too much. He always left his audiences desperate for more.

I never saw Dodd live myself; frankly he wasn't really my style. But there is no denying that he was a superb entertainer. Most current comedians will name comics such as he as the greatest influence on their careers.

Here's one of his gags "The man who invented 'cats eyes' did so after having caught a cat in his headlights one night. Had the cat been walking in the other direction he would have invented the pencil sharpener".

Goodnight Doddy; sleep well.



Last year's Walnuts.



2017 was a bad year for Walnuts here. The trees (along with many vineyards) were damaged in a late frost, and that was that.

Luckily I have one tree that is slightly protected from frost, and I was able to pick just enough green immature nuts to make about a Kilo of pickles; one large and one small jars.

Pickled Walnuts take time. They are best kept for a couple of years before broaching. Yesterday I decided to open the small jar; just to make sure they are OK.

Branston is always good with cheese, as is good home-mixed mustard; but best of all (especially if you have some really tasty mature Cheddar) are a couple of pickled Walnuts.

When I get to the actual pickling stage with my Walnuts, I always add sugar. It takes away the tartness of the nuts, and brings out the flavour. If you intend to pickle some this early summer, I suggest you do the same; it makes all the difference. And make sure you pick them before any interior wood has started to form.

N.B. In a year's time the yellow-ish interior should turn completely black, and they will soften even more than they already have. Delicious.


Sunday 11 March 2018

Holiday village; update.


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I suppose we now have to accept that we have lost our battle against the proposed 'holiday village', which is to be built (or buried) in the midst of our tiny hamlet. We are not happy, but trying to fight against French bureaucracy isn't easy; even if they know that their original decision was illogical and crazy.

The owner of the site already has one 'Gite', which he converted from a disused stone-built barn. His this year's lets began a few weeks ago, and when I passed by yesterday morning, there were FOUR cars parked overlooking the road, opposite a semi derelict house. When his buried metal boxes are all occupied, there could be up to another TEN cars parked there, making a total of FOURTEEN. He also has permission to build a restaurant on the site, so goodness knows how many more cars that will bring in. A veritable giant car park will soon be established, unlike anything our quiet bucolic haven has ever seen.

Lady magnon and I occasionally discuss this disaster over our lunchtime gruel, and we try to envisage alternatives that would have met with little, or no, opposition.

One such idea was for Gypsy Caravans. Had he parked a few holiday wagons amongst an orchard of Apple and Pear trees, I doubt if anyone would have complained. It would have been 'decorative', holiday makers would have loved it, and he probably would have earned the same sort of money.

OK, modern Gypsy caravans are not as decorative as the old one above, and it would take some time for an Apple orchard to become established, but the results would have been so much nicer.

Why he has opted for semi-buried old shipping containers.... I cannot imagine!



Saturday 10 March 2018

Career change!



I mentioned yesterday that an old friend had operated on Lyndon B Johnson. Paul Nener (The Rev'd Canon Paul Nener as he now is) had been a medical student with my cousin in Liverpool, and like my cousin had been a straight A's student; an erstwhile medical genius..

Having mentioned him, I decided to 'google him' to see what he looked like today; he is only just about recognisable from when we last met.

Having been a top-notch surgeon (you need to be, to operate on a US president), Paul later turned his back on medicine to become a priest.

I'm saddened to say, but I find this totally incomprehensible and shocking. Why someone with such obvious talent and knowledge should leave it all behind to become a purveyor of Fairy Tales, I really cannot fathom!




Friday 9 March 2018

The worst post-WW2 US Presidents.


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According to a Quinnipiac University Poll, here are the USA's worst Presidents.

Chump
Obarmy
Tricky Dicky
Someone called Carter
George Bush
Clinton
Lydon Johnson
Ronny Reagan
Gerald Ford.

I'm not quite sure why Chump is top of this list. He's only served one year so far, and who knows, he and Fat Boy might end-up as great 'peacemakers'.

Obarmy in second place comes as no surprise. The good people of the US feel that they've done their bit for race relations, and can now forget about such things for the foreseeable future.

Tricky Dicky needs no comment.

Carter. Didn't he grow peanuts?

Bush, together with Blair, should be in prison.

Clinton is still trying to get the stains out; I believe his wife is carrying the baton.

Johnson. A friend of mine was part of a small team who operated on Lyndon in Oct' 1965. My friend has now given up the knife, and is a priest in London (why?).

Ronny was good fun; always amusing to have a bit-part actor in the oval office, and Nancy was cute.

Ford. Something to do with cars maybe? Not sure.


Positions of power tend to attract those who should never be allowed to hold it. It's the same the world over.


Thursday 8 March 2018

3,000th. Corbyn writes...


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I recently received a letter from 'Daphne' in Bigglesthwaite, who asked 'Is it true, Jeremy, that Mr Magnon has now written a staggering 3,000 pages of his remarkable blog page?'. I wasn't sure about the answer to her question, so I had to consult my, erm, 'secretary' Diane.

Well Daphne, it looks as if you are correct. My 'secretary' confirms that Mr Magnon's remarkable blog has indeed turned its 3,000th page.

I do, of course, read his blog each morning with my Oats and small glass of diluted Wincarnis; it keeps me au fait with the world's vibes (as we young people say).

As it happens, my 'secretary' Diane and I often read his words together over breakfast (she arrives for work very early, you understand). Once Diane has cleaned-up after her regular Islington Pork Sausage and Spotted Dick, we go through all our important reading together, which includes Mr Magnon's blog. Diane often takes notes of Cro's food comments too.

So, many congratulations Mr Cro; power to your pen. I shall, from today, make it Socialist/Marxist Party policy that all my front benchers read your page each morning, and your fine words will then be discussed over Beer and Sandwiches before our day begins in Earnest (Bevan).

Many Congrats, you old Tory; Jezza x



Wednesday 7 March 2018

Wiggo.


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The clever race planners who devise the ever more challenging routes for the Tour de France, do so in order to make the race not only spectacular, but also to push the riders to the absolute limit.

It is not uncommon to have riders scale and descend five or six 'mountains' whilst on a day's 200 km Pyrenees or Alps stage; often in searing heat. This requires being in tip-top physical condition. An enhanced Asthma inhaler could NEVER replace being a mighty fine cyclist. It simply ain't going to happen. Riders such as Armstrong and Wiggins were at the top of their game, even if they did suck a few dodgy peppermints on the way round.

Personally I couldn't care less if a sports-entertainer of any sort takes a slight 'stimulant'; he or she is just there for our amusement. If  Bonnington, Hamilton, Rossi, or McEnroe gave themselves a wee boost (as they all do) to achieve the ultimate, then who am I to moan about it.

I don't want to see my heros eyes spinning, or behaving like 'spiced-out' zombies, but if a few extra glucose tabs will help them; then OK.

Sir Bradley Wiggins is probably innocent; certain countries simply can't stand to see a British cycling team (Sky) winning, and will do anything to discredit them!


Tuesday 6 March 2018

Waitrose.



I'm not sure what this map says about Blighty, other than there are more Waitrose stores in the South than the North. Maybe the Scots and the Welsh simply prefer Tesco; I doubt if it has anything to do with affordability.

Just for the information of non-Brits, Waitrose and Tesco are popular supermarkets.

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This map (above) shows the distribution of Walmart stores across the USA. As opposed to Waitrose's North South divide, Walmart has a West East divide.

I have no first-hand knowledge, but I believe that Walmart is at the cheaper end of the market, so one can presume that the right half of the US is where the 'bargain hunters' live. 

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Such maps are informative, but probably say less about society than we are led to believe. The world now has TWO major stores that are believed to be cheaper than most others. Lidl and Aldi are both German owned, and attract people from all walks of life; the rich and the poor.

As you can see by the distribution of Aldi stores across the USA, they follow the same pattern as Walmart stores; occupying the right hand side more than the left.

I'll stick with Leclerc!



Monday 5 March 2018

Ouch!



Way back in January of 2012, I had severe pain in the fleshy bit below my thumb on my left hand. Between my commentators and Dr Google, we decided that it was probably 'Carpal Tunnel Syndrome'; an unpleasant, but hardly life-threatening ailment. The pain subsided after about 3 weeks.

Two weeks ago, the same bloody thing returned; just when it was quite cold, and logs had to be sawn.

It's the starting of my Husqvarna that's the tricky bit. No push button starter button for them-there Swedes; just manual tugging at a rope (about 6 times to start it). I managed it, of course, but it did my problem hand no favours. Also my right arm/shoulder is still painful, so frankly it was all a bit of a sado-masochistic exercise. 

My hand is already less painful than two weeks ago, and I expect the worst will have gone before mid-month. 

I just hadn't expected it to return, and I found it all rather depressing. It's the little things that annoy when one starts to age. 

However, I've been extremely brave.



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