Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Multi Pack.



I very rarely buy 'special offer multi packs', but in this particular case it was almost impossible to refuse.

I do like Lentils, they are versatile, healthy, and delicious; especially when cooked a l'Auvergnate.

These are the dark Puy Lentils, rather than the more popular pink Lentils that one tends to buy in the UK. These large tins each hold 820 gms, and cost me a ridiculous €4 for 6 tins. How could one say no?

Lentils of this type used to be the traditional accompaniment for Confit de Canard, but these days Pommes de terre Sarladaise has become more popular. 


We shall be eating these tonight rather like a cassoulet (but replacing the beans for lentils) accompanied by Toulouse sausages, confit de canard, and thick slices of Pork petit salé.

The above photo is NOT of my finished dish, but you get the idea. If you wish to see the pukka recipe, look for Petit Salé aux Lentilles. It's what we peasants eat.


Monday, 14 October 2019

Billy and Marley.


                               

First it was Bok and Marley; they were great buddies, and played together for hours.


Now it's Billy and Marley; again great buddies, although Marley tends to treat Billy as a rather inferior, young whipper-snapper. 

We love having Marley around, he's a really lovely dog, and the children adore him too. Sadly I think he'll have to be a little bit careful when he visits, as Lady Magnon recently witnessed some nasty man, who lives nearby, chucking stones at him (and possibly at Billy too). As Kant so rightly observed "You can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals". 

There's no excuse to throw stones at such a lovely dog as Marley, all he wants is to be friendly; whether that be with other dogs or humans.


Sunday, 13 October 2019

St Caprais Chestnut fair 2019.



We always go to the St Caprais Chestnut Fair, and invariably it's held in beautiful sunshine.

Yesterday there were some giant Pumpkins on show.


And plenty of Chestnuts being roasted.


Lots of different flavoured Goat cheeses.


My baker was there too with her wonderful bread.


And a nice girl selling plant flavoured syrups.

A pleasant afternoon in a nice village, and I came away with just a large Sourdough loaf; nothing else really tempted me. Next Saturday will be our own local Chestnut Fair, and I expect to buy much more.

These fairs really spell AUTUMN.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Tatin.



Lady Magnon is a world champion Tarte Tatin maker; at least I have awarded her that title myself.

A well constructed Tatin is the pinnacle of Apple Pie making, anyone who says differently is plain WRONG. Those across The Pond who go on ad infinitum about their mother's/grandmother's Apple Pies have no idea how good a pukka pie can be.

A Tarte Tatin is an upside-down pie. First a butter/sugar caramel is made in the bottom of the pie dish, then the sliced (Bramley) Apples are laid out in a reasonably neat pattern, then pastry placed over the top and tucked into the sides. After the alloted cooking time, the pie is turned out onto its bottom to reveal the caramel infused Apple, smiling up at you.

All you then need is a dollop of thick clotted cream, and VOILA. Heaven.


Friday, 11 October 2019

How things change.



I was recently thumbing through certain pages of my 2008 book 'Je t'adore 24', when I was particularly taken by my description of the generosity and helpfulness of my neighbours, when I'd arrived here in 1972. 

Life was very different back in the 70's. Hay bales were smaller and more manageable and we all helped to fill the barns before nightfall, small vineyards were everywhere and needed plenty of helpers at harvest time, and neighbours combined efforts to complete all sorts of tasks.

Today those bales are huge and heavy, and are left outside, the vineyards have long gone, and all those tasks that needed many hands are either done by machine, or not at all.

Most of my neighbours now concentrate on four main crops; Hay, Maize, Sunflowers, and Chestnuts. Some may keep a few cows, hardly anyone keeps Pigs Chicken or Ducks, and much of their land lies idle. A lot of the work is now done by contractors, and share-cropping is common amongst those who grow sunflowers. The only time that neighbours seem to assemble is when making silage, and several giant trailers are needed to follow the harvester.

My next door neighbour made silage from his Maize this year, which was immediately sold to someone else; leading me to suspect that his few remaining Cows will soon go.

Life is certainly quieter for local farmers, but no doubt the money still rolls-in from Brussels and its 'single farm payment'. However, so much has been lost in human terms. The camaraderie of times past has gone, the gastronomic competitiveness at harvest banquets has all but disappeared; and even the traditional cuisine of those peasant farmer's wives has been replaced by packaged Italian fast foods. Not one of my pukka farming neighbours now has Hens in the yard.

Having said all that, it's still a lovely place to live. The genuine natives of the area are still some of the most charming and generous that I've encountered, and, frankly, I still consider myself highly privileged to have been able to live here.


Thursday, 10 October 2019

A Welcome visitor.



It's still pitch black when I get up in the mornings, so I have to rely on Billy to let me know if any creatures are around outside.

Yesterday morning he let out a couple of very quiet barks, so I went back indoors and fetched both my torch, and my camera.

This was the first fully grown Hedgehog I've seen for years. He (or she) was rolled into a ball, and didn't move. I expect Billy frightened him. I don't suppose he liked my camera flash either.

I consider it a sign that Mother Nature is doing a good job, when I see Hedgehogs; all is well in the countryside.



Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Doing one's Duty.



It is the duty of every grandmother to spoil her grandchildren rotten, to bake mountains of cakes with them, and play endless games of Snakes and Ladders; even when really tired!

Lady Magnon loves her role, and makes the most of it. Her days are filled with children, dogs, and flour. Boo Boo is a big-time consumer; no longer has one activity stopped than he insists on another starting. It is seamless entertainment, only occasionally interrupted with a play-fight or two with Billy.

When Boo Boo was born we all offered possible names. His cousins Harvey J and Ollie suggested 'Chump' and 'Jesus'. He was known as Bunny for a while, but we have now all settled on Boo Boo; thank goodness.

What a nice, bright, little boy.



Tuesday, 8 October 2019

No Charge!



Someone (whose name I shall not sully) left my car ignition on for a couple of days recently, so when I came to use it yesterday morning; the battery was dead.

Luckily Wills had the above, and it was fully charged.

It's a small 'jump starter', which is charged via a USB socket. Turn on, attach the leads to your dead battery, and Bingo!

What a great idea. You can even keep the thing charged-up via your cigar lighter in the car (no-one smokes cigars in the car these days). 

There's only one problem; it costs about €250. Ouch!

Monday, 7 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion (XR).



Climate change will happen regardless of what we humans try to do about it. Fighting against nature is futile. It is possible that we could slow some progress by reducing our toxic emissions, but halt its advance; no.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with the XR people, but certainly not with their methods. They should be allowed to protest, and lobby parliament, but not to disrupt the lives of ordinary working people. Take your protests to a park or a field, but don't block the streets of central london, or close the runways of Heathrow. London is a 24/24hr city, and it's residents/workers will not be happy.

They must be very careful not to lose the sympathy of their supporters. If just ONE life is lost as the direct result of an ambulance having been blocked in a traffic jam, their less vocal sympathisers will leave in droves. If they think that by demonstrating outside Smithfield meat market, we will all become Vegans, then they are delusional; those traders and porters at Smithfield are a bunch of burly Cockneys, so be prepared for a thick-ear if you disrupt their day's work, and that applies to everyone of any age or sex.

Personally I think we'd do more for the planet by being a 'doer' rather than a hooded and masked 'trouble-maker'. Leave the 4 x 4 at home when you go shopping or for your morning coffee. Buy a bicycle or walk to work (if in fact you do work). Buy loose, if possible, rather than in plastic wrappers. Use a wicker shopping basket for your weekly shop. Stick a few solar panels on your roof to power your TV. Simple changes to our usual practices add up.

These are practical things we can all do on a regular basis; bringing London's streets to a standstill won't help anything; just annoy.


Sunday, 6 October 2019

Pokey Lafarge - Baby's Coming To Town


It's Sunday, so here's a classic example of Pokey's superb, down-to-earth, Country/Swing music. Great musicians; no mucking about, just real talent and quality.




Saturday, 5 October 2019

Boots.



I've frequented Boots ever since I was a tiny boy. Our lives have run in parallel for the past 70 years. Boots and me are like cousins.

Boots has a special place in the lives of most Brits; we are inseparable.

They soothe our pains, heal our verrucas, and put plasters on our cuts. They develop our photos (or they used to), they provide our glasses, and see-to our prescriptions.

Boots is that essential part of every town's high street; they are the Ravens of The Tower. They are as dependable as Coutts & Co, and as far as I know, as financially viable.

I really feel that if Boots were ever to disappear, the very essence of Great Britain would leave with them. There is no doubt that it is the likes of these stores that puts the 'Great' into GB.

Viva Boots.

N.B. My youngest recently visited England, and I'd asked him to bring back a couple of items. Where did he buy them? At Boots of course!




Friday, 4 October 2019

Best fruit.



Our fruit season is almost over. There are still Figs and Quinces, but there would be, wouldn't there!

Time to reflect on quality. The Conference Pears were superb, but we had very few. The Reinette Apples were abundant, but they're no comparison to a Cox. The Jonagolds were both good and productive, but they are HUGE.

Without question our best eating Apple (I know they're known for cooking) was the Bramley. The red one in the foreground of the photo, above, is a Bramley. They are crisp, very tasty, and sweetish; what more could one want.

I have other trees which should start to produce next year (Melrose and Gala) so it remains to be seen if they can compare to the Bramley; somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Pastures new.



We have made a joint decision that this winter we shall throw caution to the winds, and change bedrooms.

Our present bedroom is very small, cluttered, and is lacking decent insulation. However, it's reasonably easy to heat, and is directly above our kitchen and its wood fired oven.

The bedroom to which we intend to move (The Library, above) is much bigger and contains FOUR beds (1 double, 2 singles, 1 child's), and is well insulated. It is situated above our sitting room, and, therefore, our wood fired stove which in Winter is lit daily. It is equally as cluttered as our present room, but that can be sorted. It has low beams, but a pleasant atmosphere.

I have never taken comparative temperature tests, but I imagine that The Library is always a few degrees warmer than our present room.

Others may change bedrooms on a regular basis; but not us! We have stayed faithful to our present lodgings, and have never slept in the other room; keeping it mostly for visitors.

'The Library' may sound like rather an ostentatious name for such a small room, but it's where many of our books are kept. Otherwise it's known as 'The Other Room'.


Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Conference Season.



First it was the Liberals in sunny Bournemouth, where schoolgirl Jo Swinson's only policy was to 'remain' in the EU, regardless of what her party members seemed to think.


Then it was the Communists Marxists Socialists in the chic south coast town of Brighton who promised to reduce the standards of education by banning all high-flying private schools, and possibly making Oxford and Cambridge into Polytechnics.

They also want to abolish all illegal immigrant 'Detention Centres' (great idea), force compulsorily purchase of all empty properties, introduce 'rent capping', and have the right to buy any privately let housing.

They want no restrictions on the use of the UK's NHS, schools, or courts, by international legal or illegal immigrants. A true Socialist 'Free for All'.

Also high on their list is to give 10% of any Company's shares to its workers each year, as well as introducing a 4 day (32 hr) week with no pay cut. Voting age would be lowered to 16. 'Re-wilding' 25% of Britain's best agricultural land is also a major policy, which would help with post-Brexit food production (erm; is that right Jezza?). All sooper-dooper policies.


Next it was the Tories (the people's party) in more down-to-earth Manchester. They promise to build 40 new hospitals, outlaw the import of African hunting trophies, give a good-talking-to to anyone found with a knife (or fork) in their pocket, legalise pinching girls bottoms, and make Boris 'King of the World and the entire Universe'.

With a General Election on the cards; the choice is yours!


Monday, 30 September 2019

November 1st ?



Nothing is yet carved in stone, but in a post-Brexit world, Brits living in France will probably be limited to a 3 month stay each year. During the other 9 months, they will simply have to go and live elsewhere.

It is estimated that about 150,000 Brit families live in France; probably couples much like ourselves, living out in the countryside.

Not counting house expenses (water, electricity, rates, etc) each household probably spends about £1,500 per month on general living expenses; about £18,000 per annum (much as elsewhere). If one multiplies that by 150,000, it contributes a lot of 'new money' to small local communities. Take away 9 months worth of that spending, and you can imagine what effect it would have on small local economies.

Many tradesmen, service providers, and local shopkeepers, have become dependent on foreign money. They have expanded their businesses, and profited enormously from keeping newcomer Brits and Cloggies happy. The Cloggies will remain, but the big-spending Brits will either sell-up, or reduce their visits to just a few weeks each year. We know when we're not welcome, and there are plenty of other countries where we are! (Croatia?)

Both Brits and Cloggies are perfect immigrants. Both nationalities are mostly law abiding (other than a very few exceptions), we tend to restore old buildings (that might otherwise have been lost) to a high standard, and we contribute hugely to the cultural life of our communities. Mostly, however, we live on imported 'new money', which is a gift for any economy. We ask for nothing 'financial' of our hosts in return.

I have heard of villages where almost 80% of the residents are Brits (nightmare); these villages will die. They will return to how they were before their Brit restorations.

Frankly we no longer care. Our own tiny hamlet has been totally buggered by the frantic chase for tourist €uros, and we mourn the loss of its bucolic tranquility and gentility more than we do being kicked out by Macron. One has to wonder if all those €'s spent trying to attract tourists, will now fall flat.

I just hope that, in future, we'll only have to pay 25% of our local rates bills; it wouldn't be fair to charge us the full 100% if we're banned from living in our own homes for 9 months of the year, would it!


Sunday, 29 September 2019

Nigel Farage on LBC. Brexit update.


Uncle Nigel on LBC, talking to a supporter.



You'll be pleased to hear (I'm sure) that all is going very well with the UK's Brexit negotiations. Whilst Boris's boys smooch with Matron Merkle, et al, over in mainland Europe; back in the UK all is sweetness and light.

I hope you all have a peaceful Sunday.



Saturday, 28 September 2019

Rice and Peas.



Let's say you went into an English Fish-n-Chip shop, and ordered Cod, chips, and peas; what would you expect to be served?

The Afro/Caribbean population are up in arms because naughty Ikea are selling 'Rice and Peas', whose 'Rice and Peas' are made with Rice and Peas, and not Rice and Kidney Beans. They are shouting 'Cultural appropriation'; the new snowflake accusation that covers all racial non-PC ills.

On the radio recently (LBC) several Afro/Caribbean complainants were asked if they knew the difference between Peas and Kidney Beans... they simply laughed. Of course they did, and if Ikea are selling Rice and Peas; that's what they mean, otherwise the trades description folk would probably go crazy. That is not to say that it's an altogether different matter if one was in Jamaica.

No-one seemed to have visited an Ikea restaurant to taste their Jerk Chicken. Personally I would have been far more concerned about the Chicken than about the Peas being Peas, and not Kidney Beans. Having eaten Rice and Peas (Kidney Beans) out in the Caribbean, I can assure you that it's really not that big a deal. The quality of a decent Jerk Chicken is far more contentious!

It was apparently The Queen herself (although I doubt it), who when asked about 'American English' (this could well have been 'Jamaican English'), replied "There are only two types of English; English, and incorrect English". People can call Rice and Kidney Beans whatever they like (even 'Rice and Peas'). I shall not be complaining.

Confused? I hope so. You really do have to have nothing better to do, than to make a fuss about bloody Rice and Peas.

May I suggest that Ikea adds the word 'Garden' in front of 'Peas'. Then the Afro/Caribbean PC brigade might not behave like spoilt children.


Friday, 27 September 2019

10cc - I'M NOT IN LOVE


This beautiful song definitely needs another airing. 74 year old Eric Stewart is still going strong. Great song Eric!




Thursday, 26 September 2019

Dripping.



When I was a wee lad (post war), we ate a lot of Beef. I'm not sure, but I suspect it was cheaper than Chicken or Pork, and was considered 'every day food'; not like today. 

I know that our village butcher (Mr Bryant) was always well stocked, and my father also had a 'black market' supply from some nearby based Canadian troops, who had far too much; it was sent over in huge quantities, either chilled or frozen.

Of course, one didn't only eat wonderful roasts, but there was also that miraculous residue called 'dripping'. I loved dripping on toast, with maybe some Bovril or Marmite; it was heaven on bread, and, in those days, still not regarded as unhealthy.

These days I might occasionally eat steak, but big joints of Beef are prohibitively expensive; so no pot of dripping in the fridge (I would never buy commercial pots as in the illustration).

However, being in S W France we DO have plenty of Duck fat, which in many ways is quite similar, and on occasions I prefer to have Duck fat on my toast than butter, and there is never any shortage.

Yesterday morning I had a real craving; my breakfast HAD to be toast with Duck fat and Marmite. It was bloody gorgeous, and I felt 6 years old again.  I don't suppose it's any more unhealthy than either dripping or butter, and it tastes wonderful.

p,s,. If you were to ask any under 18-year-olds about 'dripping', you'd probably get a blank stare!



Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Grumsy's (Lady Magnon's) helpers.



With no chimneys that needed cleaning, we had to find alternative work for the boys.

On the south end of the pool, behind the Pump House, is a large Bramley Apple tree, that, as usual, is loaded with fruit. And seeing as the boys love Apple Crumble, Grumsy enlisted their help to process some more apple.

In between bursts of rainfall, little Mischa manhandled the wheelbarrow, whilst Boo Boo gave instructions, acted as 'controller', and gave criticism where criticism was due.

There was a lot of peeling, chopping, and boiling, and the kitchen was filled with the strong aroma of Bramley. When cool, the cooked apples were bagged-up and frozen, and placed in a drawer that also contains Blackberries (in plastic cups).


Whilst at it, Grumsy made a crumble for last night. Perfect for a slightly Autumnal evening. 

I think we should survive winter.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Goodbye Summer.



I'm posting this picture once again, simply because it gives me such pleasure. I can feel the warmth, and the joie de vivre (whatever that is in Italian).

Don't worry; Summer, and al fresco eating, will be back again in a few months time.

In the meantime, today we close down the pool. I'm not looking forward to it, but.....


Monday, 23 September 2019

In Readiness.



It's past mid-September, and already the farmers are spreading their nets in the Chestnut plantations.

I see that a few Chestnuts have already started to fall, and they appear not to have suffered too badly from the hot dry summer. 


The first to fall are always eagerly awaited, I cut a cross into the pointed end and boil them for about 15 mins; lovely sprinkled with a little salt.

The 2019 crop is looking OK; I've never known a really bad Chestnut year. They are deep-rooted trees and always find moisture.

We are desperate for rain. Even after yesterday's feeble attempt, it's still like the bloody Sahara here.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

A boy's best friend.



Small boys seem to have a natural affinity with dogs. I imagine they see each other as equals.

Boo Boo and Billy get on very well, but for the moment they never go on walks together.

The reason for this is simple; Boo Boo doesn't wear shoes, I have no idea why. Walking any distance here involves stepping over very spiky Chestnut husks (especially at the moment), and although Billy can simply avoid them; Boo Boo can't.

I'll have to buy him some new Gumboots before Autumn; whether he'll wear them or not is another question, but if he wants to go walkies with Billy, he'll have to. And as for joining me on mushrooming searches.....they will be essential.

NB. Billy had his 'snip' last Tuesday..... He took it very well, and he's still talking to us; thank goodness!


Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Darling Buds Of May Theme Song


Recently, whilst eating some lunch, I heard this theme tune coming from the sitting room. I think it's ITV3 who are re-running the 'Buds of May' series.

Regardless of whether one enjoys the programme or not, the theme tune is an amazingly evocative piece of music in it's own right. English countryside, birdsong, and sunshine; all is there.





Some unpleasantness.



I suppose we have become well known for leading very quiet, simple, but well-organised lives; I am amusingly known as a 'hermit'. The most animated activity around here is either mowing or log sawing; otherwise we are very disciplined people who do everything by 'routine'; probably a result of our mutual strict schooling.

Therefore, it comes as a shock to us (as it has on a couple of other recent occasions) that certain people's lives can be so thoroughly erratic and turbulent that they verge on the psychotic. Something so alien to us that it is totally incomprehensible.

I don't wish to go into details, but the person in questions' life is totally chaotic and without aim, other than controlling everyone around them by outrageous demands, threats, and even violence.

I try never to allow other people's problems to become my problems, but in a few recent cases it has been unavoidable, and amazingly (probably in most similar cases) the miscreants try to turn accusations of 'guilt' back onto us; not unlike accusing a teetotaler of being 'permanently drunk'; a very puerile tactic, only semi-believed by the very gullible.

It is extraordinary that a single disturbed life can have such an effect on so many around them. Luckily our own involvement with this person has been transitory, but for some it has been permanently life-changing, and dramatic.

The above illustration is Lady Magnon's souvenir of a recent encounter. Not pleasant, but we try not to show animosity. Mental health problems are complicated enough as they are!




Friday, 20 September 2019

Rubbish Collection.



Back on April 27th I wrote a piece entitled 'What a load of rubbish', outlining a new plan for robbing us blind over rubbish collection.

In future, if we throw away just one small bag of rubbish per week, we will be charged between €130 and €150 pa for simply thinking about it, then another €80 or €100 pa for actually placing our black bags in the rubbish bin itself. The bins will only open after having been accessed by a personal electronic tag, which will count our every usage.

I see several consequences of this bright idea. Vandalism (very popular in France) will be high on the list; a sharp kick to the computery bit will disable it pretty quickly, and all access with then be 'free'. Others may simply throw their black bags into a hedge from their cars; having made sure that no evidence of 'the thrower' is left inside. And a third option will be to dig a deep hole in the garden and bury all cans, bottles etc; with the rest being burned.

At present we compost all vegetable matter, we burn paper, and the rest is taken to our local recycling bins. We are reasonably conscientious; but not 100% perfect.

Any day now, a (well paid) man will call at the house to help us fill-in a complicated form (name, address, etc).  Personally I think there should be fewer meddling bureaucrats, and more free rubbish collection bins; but who am I to suggest such a thing!

The crazies can now say what a raving lunatic I am!



Thursday, 19 September 2019

RNLI.


Anyone who has given money to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), has probably done so in the presumption that it all goes towards brave men/women who help hapless sailors or swimmers in distress around our island waters. That was certainly my own impression.

But no; it seems that much of the donated money is sent abroad whilst currently 135 British RNLI lifesavers are being given the sack back at home, through lack of funds.


The charity's chief executive, Mark Dowie (£189,000 pa salary) hands out £3.3 million to some strange foreign causes. He pays for 'burkinis' for Muslim girls in Tanzania (above), free creche places for small children in Bangladesh, and training for foreign countries on how not to upset illegal immigrants. 

And all this whilst demands for RNLI services at home are at an all-time high.

I couldn't count the amount of times I've plunged into a river or the sea in my ordinary everyday clothes. I would have thought that girls in Tanzania are just as capable of such things; they'd dry-off much quicker too in Tanzania. Do these girls really require special outfits, paid for out of our RNLI donations?


Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Les Vendanges 2019.



Yesterday's date was chosen for our wine-making on account of the amount of Wasps and Hornets that were around. If we'd left it any longer they would have been everywhere.

I'm not sure how many buckets we filled, but it felt like hundreds.


In the absence of a grape mangle, or clean feet, I opted to crush the grapes by hand; a distinctly satisfying task.


And this, above, is our Cuve. A converted plastic dustbin with plastic tap. Everything went inside.

Will it work? Well the principle is the same as in times gone by, so we can but wait and see. If it does work, we should have some wine in about two weeks. What it will taste like is an altogether different matter.

I am reasonably confident. Watch this space!



Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Mob of pre-war Bentleys attack Goodwood


I thought you might like to see, and hear, a bunch of pre-war Bentleys going around Goodwood. A really unique experience. The sound is delightful.




Monday, 16 September 2019

Veggie guests.



This is a favourite; and well worth considering if you are inviting veggies for supper.

Its official French title is 'Péquillos farcis a la Brandade de Morue'. 

Small 'whole' bottled red Péquillos Peppers are stuffed with 'Brandade' (a purée of mashed potato, salt cod, olive oil, garlic, s & p), then baked in a 200 C oven for about 30 mins. 

3 or 4 each, with a little salad, makes a substantial, and delicious, meal.

This classic of the Spanish Tapas bars is the perfect standby for when veggies call; as long as, of course, you have access to the bottled Peppers and Brandade (which I buy ready made). 

Bon appétit.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Happy Birthday Ten'.



It was Tenpin's birthday yesterday. Here are a couple of pictures of her Bear, Mrs Pins.


This one includes a picture of the birthday girl herself.



Caller Who Used To Run Port Of Dover On What No-Deal Brexit Will Really ...


Poor Iain Dale; the uber doom-monger hardly knew what to say when presented with 'facts' from a sharp end caller. He looks genuinely upset, I love the way he eventually tries to pass the buck to the fragrant Emily Thornberry.

Iain, and other fair-weather-critics, sit back listening to No Deal 'worst case scenarios' (of which they have no first-hand knowledge), as the people who do the actual job simply carry on, and get things done.

"There might be a shortage of Cheddar at Carrefour, but there won't be a shortage of Brie at Tesco" Spread the word Iain!!.... and Pigs will fly.




Saturday, 14 September 2019

The world's most beautiful home.



There are certain properties that I covet; and this is one. 

Possibly the most beautiful home I know (and have stayed in) is the above Sussex farmhouse called Humphrey's Homestead. I just wish I could have found a better picture for you. It's a stunning property.

HH is situated on a very quiet country lane, a few miles from Arundel in West Sussex, and is a classic large early stone and flint built farmhouse, with a wavy peg-tiled roof and ancient interior beams. A couple of similarly constructed outbuildings have been converted into houses for family members. It has become a fabulous 'family community'.

It was the home of Wilfrid Meynell and his wife the poet Alice Meynell. Of their eight children two were Viola and Francis Meynell; both writers/poets in their own rights (see Wiki).

The house is a treasure trove of objects and memories. Paintings by Bloomsbury members nonchalantly hang in unexpected places, a portrait drawing of Alice by J S Sargent hangs in the smoky atmosphere of the huge sitting room inglenook. Much of the old antique furniture has been painted-on by visiting artists. I believe that Lawrence wrote his 'England my England' whilst staying there. The ambiance is thick with cultured indifference. 

I presume that my friends, who are Meynell family members, still own this lovely house (I cannot imagine them ever selling it); I've hardly seen them since I was an usher at their Arundel Cathedral wedding back in the late 60's. To me the house is perfection in every way. Their Bonfire Night parties were unforgettable.


I've just found another picture; probably as equally bad as the first. 

Oh to own such a home!


Friday, 13 September 2019

In Limbo.


                                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "twiddling thumbs"

It's surprising how little there is to do in September. OK, I could pick more Apples, etc, or IF it had rained enough there would be mushrooms to be gathered.

The grass isn't growing, nor are the weeds; in fact there is very little that needs my attention. All I can remember from yesterday (other than taking Billy to the Vet's) was repairing the mechanism that lifts our pedal bin. Hardly a fulfilling day.

There are small children who require entertaining; Boo Boo and Lady M made chocolate brownies together yesterday. There is Billy to take for walks; but one can only walk so far each day. And there are general 'groundsman' duties that need to be seen-to; raking leaves, etc. Otherwise I pop up to Haddock's several times a day to see if anything has grown, and moan about the constant noise from neighbours' ongoing projects.

The pool temperature might rise over the next few days, so there'll be swimming to do; otherwise it's just a matter of thumb-twiddling, cooking, eating, and drinking. It's a hard life.


Thursday, 12 September 2019

At the Vet's.


Billy is a member of an exclusive VIP canine treatment club, and actually has private consultations. In fact it's a money saving scheme, with certain benefits. It wouldn't surprise me if he'll receive a birthday card too. I'm sure you get the idea.


Here is just after we'd arrived for his yesterday's consultation; trying to escape.


The reason for his visit was to have a thorough health-check, and to arrange a date for his 'snip'.

Poor boy, his family jewels will be removed on Tuesday 17th. I haven't had the heart to mention it to him!

I have a feeling he may make life difficult for them.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Melrose (the apple), and others.



I can't show you a photo of my magnificent Melrose crop from Mischa's tree, because there was only one tiny apple; I've had to borrow a picture from Mr Google instead.

However, I did get to taste it, and it was probably the best of all our different 'eating' varieties.

It was crisp, tasty, and with very slightly creamy/yellowish flesh.


My Reine de Reinette apple (above; which has the reputation of being France's best) have performed well, and I just hope they keep better than in previous years. My Jonagolds are HUGE again, and will be harvested later. We also have plenty of Bramleys; of course.

This winter I am determined to find (and plant) a Cox's Orange Pippin; which is probably the world's best apple. I did have one here years ago, but it succumbed to Honey Fungus; and died.

I shall also try to find a Victoria Plum tree. I had one back in England, and it was magnificent. There is nothing to compare over here.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Monday, 9 September 2019

Change of season.



Our mornings are now cool, currently around 6 C; rising to above 25 C in the late afternoon. The pool's temperature indicator, is leaning towards 'unswimmable'. Autumn is very much on its way.

The orchard is covered with fallen Apples, Peaches, and Figs; and our Quinces are being thrown by the children for Billy to retrieve. Wasps and Hornets will soon be with us as the Grapes ripen and become sweet.

We are desperate for rain. Molehills have become large piles of fine dust. Nothing is growing. Watering Haddock's doesn't help. If we don't have a good downpour quite soon, we'll have no more Aubergines, Peppers, or Courgettes, and the few late Cauli's I planted will shrivel and die. But most importantly the Chestnuts will refuse to swell, and we'll have no Mushrooms.

On the plus side, most of the tourists have returned home, the lawns have hardly needed mowing for weeks, and our evenings are still warm enough not to warrant a fire. I continue to sleep on top of the duvet, rather than under it.

I'm now looking forward to finding Choucroute in the shops, to eating buttered baked Potatoes, and preparing wine-rich casseroles of Beef, Chicken, or Rabbit.

Lady M has filled countless freezer bags with cooked Bramley Apple, and I, in turn, have supplied plenty of Blackberries. I have prepared a decidedly small amount of Tomato based preserves; but luckily we still have a good supply from last year, so we should be OK.

It won't be long before trailer loads of Chestnut and Oak logs are added to our dwindled piles, and we'll be ready for the cold.

I shall continue to wear shorts for a while; returning to longs is defeatism. It may be Autumn, but my legs are unaware.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Wing Commander Kenneth Horatio Wallis DSO MBE CEng FRAeS RAF.


Well after my time, Wing-Co Wallis used to occasionally visit our mutual alma mater to give demonstrations of his infamous 'autogyro', flying over from his Norfolk home of Reymerston Hall.

Fans of the Bond films may remember Ken from the 1967 film 'You only live Twice', where he doubled for Sean Connery flying around in his rocket-firing mini 'copter.

Wallis was a true British hero, and dare I say it; a rather eccentric one.

I'd heard that he'd died, but I didn't know when. It was back in September 2013.



What a wonderful old gent'.


Saturday, 7 September 2019

Tu quoque mi fili (Et tu, Brute).



To have a brother who was Prime Minister, regardless of differing political opinions, would normally engender some filial pride; and even loyalty.

But, when on the same benches, even if your political stance remains slightly apart one would have thought it best simply to say nothing and argue in private.

Boris's brother Jo Johnson has now quit the cabinet, as well as his Orpington seat (a 'leave' constituency), where I hear he has hardly ever been seen other than at his original election in 2010, and his re-election in 2015. There will be no love lost between him and his constituents (a staunch Tory bunch).

It will be interesting to see if he follows his close friend George Osborne back into journalism; either with The Standard, or at his old job on the FT's Lex column.

Time to put the knives away, boys; or Daddy will smack your bottoms!

You really couldn't make it up.


Friday, 6 September 2019

1st Olive crop



I'm not in favour of old Olive trees being torn from their native Italian hillsides, and transplanted into chic bourgeois homes in The Cotswolds, Périgord, and elsewhere. However, a certain person from my family did buy one, and I now have to accept it as part of our garden.

OK; it's now there, and as it produces fruit, then they need to be preserved, and the person to ask about such things is our Greco/Kiwi friend from http://local-kiwi-alien.blogspot.com/ who knows all about such things. 

I followed her advice, and above is a part of the result of our last year's crop (which we ate last night). 

They are OK; no more. They could have been a tad saltier, much bigger (I can't do much about that), and more flavoursome. However, they are pleasant, moreish, and (most importantly) home made.

I was looking forward to a second crop this year, but our tree is fruitless. Next year! 

Overall score: 6/10.


Thursday, 5 September 2019

Poor old Blighty!



I may not live in England, but it has always been high on my list of favourite places; probably because I was born there.

The England of my youth was Surrey, Cambridgeshire, and London. I was once mugged in London (Bayswater); an unexpected sucker-punch from one of three Irishmen put me on the floor before they took everything of value from me, but otherwise my life has always been quiet and untroubled. Today I fear I would be constantly looking over my shoulder, in case of a random attack by 'point-scoring' gang members.

But this is not what worries most English people; it is of course the crazy fallout from effing Brexit. A situation that has arisen over the past few years that was previously totally and utterly unimaginable.

There is no question that the EU has changed from being a trading partnership (The Common Market), to an interfering political group, hell-bent on becoming a single state, and folk are not happy.

Irrational 'No Deal' scare tactics have become ridiculous, with the 'remainers' claiming that half the population is going to die through lack of medicines, and the other half through lack of food. The 'leavers', however, claim that most people won't notice any difference whatsoever after the UK's exit. If anything, things will get better.

What we will notice, however, is the continuing rumpus between the leavers and remainers. Whichever way it eventually falls, there will be roughly 50% of the population who will continue to be angry; and this will NOT go away. It could last for generations.

Even with my serious EU reservations, I continue to be a 'remainer' for obvious reasons; and I have still not given up hope. However, if England was to quit Europe I cannot see my life changing one iota. My Pound may be exchanged for a few less Euros at the ATM, but that won't affect my weekly outgoings or life-style. I also quite expect to see Oxford Marmalade, McVities biscuits, and Cheddar cheese continuing to be sold at my favourite supermarket here; and if you genuinely think that Perrier water, Citroens, Brie, and Tintin books are going to disappear from the UK, then think again! And as for those medicines (isotopes et al), the lorries carrying them are marked, and are given priority clearance at their port of entry.

The Brexit process has gone from being 'troublesome', to being akin to a Monty Python comedy show (The Ministry of Silly Talks), with our pathetic politicians playing the major roles.

But one thing I can assure everyone who lives in GB, is that any temporary fallout from Brexit would be NOTHING in comparison to having Corbyn, Watson, McDonnell, and Abbott in No 10. The poor would become poorer, unemployment would rise dramatically, and the rich would simply move South. It has always been thus; and would be thus yet again!



Wednesday, 4 September 2019

A teacher from the past.



These two above are 'Artist's Model' Billie Despard, and her new husband, the Sculptor Hilary Stratton, on their wedding day at Chelsea Old Church in 1937.

Billie's aunt was a well-known Suffragette, and Hilary was an excellent sculptor, who also worked with/for Eric Gill.

Before applying for my Foundation course, I did evening classes at Chelsea, then enrolled at the tiny Horsham School of Art; just to get some work in my portfolio. I needn't really have bothered as I had no problem being accepted onto my course.

However, Hilary Stratton had been a part time sculpture tutor at Horsham, and during my time there I was just about his only serious student. He was an extremely pleasant man, and we got on very well together; he even invited me back to his home on a couple of occasions where I met the lovely Billie.

The web is very short on information about both Hilary and Billie; he was quite an influence on my early college life. The web is filled with tales of Eric Gill, mostly on account of his bizarre philandering, but his sidekick, Stratton, hardly gets a mention.

This, below, is the only work of his of which I can find a picture. It's a war memorial near Chichester in Sussex, and is attributed to Gill; even though Stratton actually carved it.


Well, Hilary, I'm doing my bit to have you better known. What a nice man you were; a real goodun!



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