Sunday 31 March 2019
As I mentioned recently, I lived in London between 1964 and about 1968. London at that time was the epicentre of all things artistic.
I attended hundreds of vernissages in the most avant garde galleries, bizarre concerts at various locations, outdoor gigs by famous bands, and outrageous 'happenings' at the ICA and elsewhere. It was a time of experiment; and I took full advantage.
One of my favourite evenings from that period was a mixed event of 'happenings' at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square. I remember two pieces in particular. One was a two-man German 'act' called Inner Circle; one man ran up and down the stage, whilst the other did ever more frantic breathing sound effects into a microphone. It was remarkably good. My other favourite was Yoko One who performed two pieces; a Chinese Whisper involving the whole audience (the words were 'Boys Swing'), and her renowned 'Cut Piece'.
I am proud to say that I was one of her more enthusiastic cutters, and I probably cut more from her than anyone else. On reflection I don't know why I didn't keep some of the bits; they might now be worth a few shillings.
Anyway, here is the fragrant Ms Ono, in New York, with someone else brandishing the scissors, a year or so before my own participation in London.
Saturday 30 March 2019
Above shows the close proximity between our friend's Tobacco barn right next to ours (still under conversion), and the holiday 'boxes' just behind her. The photo is a little deceptive, as they are much closer than it appears.
There are three, maybe more, properties that have been seriously affected by the building of our delightful hamlet's holiday village/restaurant/pool/shouting area/etc complex.
Devaluation of property values may not be met with tears from all quarters, but for those with mortgages based on original purchase price, it can be a very serious matter. Of course, I have no idea if any mortgages are involved here; but the threat of 'negative equity' is always there.
Luckily we, ourselves, are not overly affected by the 'Container Village', but several of our neighbours are. Our immediate neighbours, who live in a lovely old farmhouse, will soon have noise and crowds literally a few metres on the other side of their boundary fence; within a stone's-throw of their kitchen terrace. The old Tobacco barn, next to our own (above), now looks out onto the whole construction site (the pool etc has yet to be built). Another small converted barn backs right onto the site. And yet another converted barn, amongst several ruins, is right opposite where there will soon be constant comings and goings at the site's entrance. All of these property owners must be furious; the few with whom we've discussed the shameful affair certainly ARE.
A couple of years ago, if anyone had told us that a group of converted shipping containers would soon be planted in the middle of our tiny hamlet; we would have laughed. However, the local planning authorities, and our own village Mairie, have supported this outrageous money-making scheme, and brought untold misery to the few residents. The worst, of course, is yet to come when the village actually opens for business. Everyone (and I mean everyone) who knows about the project, is horrified.
The more the site advances, the more I despair. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to spend their precious Summer holidays in such an environment, but no doubt some will. You'd have to enjoy sitting in cramped conditions, shoulder to shoulder with other families, their dogs, radios, and children, amongst all the noise and chaos that that brings. Your only peace would come from locking yourself back into your own tiny metal box.
Why on earth he didn't think a little more carefully about his project, I don't know. Our only saviour will be total rejection by the holidaying public, and the project will die a natural death. The question will then be; what will he do with two rows of half-covered empty metal boxes?
The man at the helm is a nice enough guy, but why he was allowed to progress with this crazy project astounds us all.
Meanwhile the property values of those houses most affected have been severely reduced; they have become almost unsaleable. One resident is actually an Estate Agent, and has probably suffered the most. For a once highly desirable small hamlet, this has been a disaster.
If Macron wishes to attract popularity (around here, anyway), he should have the whole site bulldozed.
Friday 29 March 2019
Even though McVitie's dark Chocolate Digestives are one of my favourite biscuits, I do have an issue with the quality of their Chocolate. (You'll have to imagine that the above Sablé Anglais are Chocolate covered).
I suppose their closest competitor over here are Lu's Petit écolier dark Chocolate biscuits. The quality of their Chocolate is far superior, even if the quality of Lu's biscuit base is seriously inferior to that of McVitie's.
I'm just astounded that Brussels has not ordered McVitie's to improve its Chocolate covering, and Lu to improve its biscuit. In fact I'm amazed that Juncker has not ordered that the two companies combine, and create the perfect Chocolate biscuit. McVitie's digestive beneath, and Lu's Chocolate on top.
That would make the perfect Chocolate biscuit, and Brussels would finally have been of some use.
Thursday 28 March 2019
I don't really know what to say about this person, so I'll leave you to make up your own minds.
Enjoy your Tea, and do remember to stir your Tea 'back and forth'; never in a circular movement!
We, of course, do absolutely nothing that he suggests.
Wednesday 27 March 2019
ISIS must be the most blood-thirsty and destructive of all recent religious warring factions.
The end of their so-called Caliphate has at last been confirmed by the US as Baghouz in Eastern Syria falls to SDF forces, and although a few remaining members might be laying-low, their short reign of terror is mostly over.
Now is the time to take captured ISIS members to the courts. To execute to worst of them, and imprison the others for life. Their wives and helpers could receive slightly shorter sentences (plus a few lashes perhaps).
I have no pity, or feelings of leniency, for these vile people. They have spawned a series of world-wide atrocities, and should receive similar punishment as reprisal. The echoes of their reign will continue for decades.
I would like to suggest these people are dressed in orange suits, and have their throats cut in public, but we Westerners are not as blood-thirsty. Let's just 'let them accidently fall' from the top of Trump Tower instead.
Tuesday 26 March 2019
It's not easy to imagine Anthony Wedgwood-Benn, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage, and Dennis Skinner as Brexit-bed-fellows; but they were/are (A W-B is no longer with us). Jezza and Weggie were as thick as thieves (politically) over leaving the EU, and Weggie's words (below) could just as easily have come from the mouth of Farage.
I was never a fan of Wedgwood-Benn. I tended to agree with the Russian KGB who referred to him as 'The most dangerous man in Europe', and 'An unnecessary simpleton'; many agreed with the former, but I would never have referred to him as a simpleton.
Anyway, here he is describing why the UK must quit the EU. Much of what he said I would agree with; even though I voted to 'remain'. His view of Mandelson is interesting; I'd agree with all of that.
I would like to promise that this will be my final Brexit/Chaos posting; but I expect I'll succumb.
Monday 25 March 2019
I lived in London between 1964 and about 1968. London at that time was languishing in its new-found reputation as the hippest city in the world. 'Swinging London' was at its height, and, providing that one lived in roughly the right areas, meeting the world's celebs was commonplace.
One of my more interesting London flats was in Paddington Street W1, just down the road from the Beatles famously painted 'Apple' shop. Our flat was right opposite a pub called 'The Baker and Oven', where the barmaid was a 'resting' folk singer called Shirley. Shirley had previously been married to Jimmy MacGregor of singing duo Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor fame (Football crazy, etc).
One of the fellow regulars at the pub was Jet Harris, and we quickly became good friends. Jet was wildly in love with Shirley, but the feelings were not reciprocated. He was the bass guitarist (in the middle, above) with The Shadows.
I must admit to having rather fancied Shirley myself, and I later booked her to perform at the College where I did my degree course. I think she's still around, and still performing.
Jet had problems with alcohol, violence, bankruptcy, and rejection, and is now sadly no longer with us. He left The Shadows in 1962; a year after the above video. I think one can see that both Hank and Bruce appear calm and contented, whereas Jet looks hyper and nervous. He had become 'the odd one out'.
I'm very pleased that our paths crossed, and we became mates, but he was a very complicated and unpredictable person.
Sunday 24 March 2019
So, who will replace May, when desperation overcomes her?
Over recent years I've made plenty of suggestions. Tory Rory, Boris, Mogg, Hammond, etc; but a new candidate now comes to mind.
I would like to propose Andrea Leadsom. I've watched her on several occasions parrying difficult questions in her role as Leader of the House, and I've yet to see her falter or panic. She's as safe a pair of hands as any.
As far as her suitability is concerned, she has a degree in Political Science, and worked initially in the Banking/Finance sector. She's held various cabinet posts, and after the 2017 election was made Leader of the House, a difficult role that she performs with huge skill (she takes no 'bull' from Mr Speaker!)
It should be noted that on the resignation of Cameron she did consider standing for PM, but finding her support to be inadequate; she backed May instead. Andrea, like May, is an EU 'remainer'.
Leadsom is a lucid and confident speaker, she's an intelligent politician, and she has a ready smile for even her most difficult of opponents. If you didn't know on which side of the political spectrum she sat; you'd probably find it difficult to decipher; I rather like that about her. More common sense than political fervour.
I'm not promising that she'll get the job, but my meaningful vote might well go to Andrea.
Saturday 23 March 2019
I admit it, I am a tad obsessed with the planting of fruit trees.
Yesterday I planted the above up at our barn orchard. It's a Melrose Apple, planted to celebrate the 2nd birthday of my grandson Mischa. His actual birthday tree (a Royal Gala) is opposite, on the other side of the drive; you might just see it in the photo.
I'd not previously heard of 'Melrose', but I'm told it's a cross between a Jonathan and a Red Delicious. Developed during WW2 in Ohio USA, it has now become their official State Apple.
According to 'the net', it's equally good as a cooking or desert apple, with creamy white flesh and a firm juicy consistency.
Sounds good to me!
Friday 22 March 2019
Thursday 21 March 2019
Marley still comes to the house looking for his friend Bok. He knocks gently on the door, looks around, sniffs at Bok's bed, then looks perplexed when he can't find him. When Bok lost his friend Monty, he showed no similar concern whatsoever.
He's still a very energetic pup. I imagine he must be about four, but behaves like a two-year-old. He never walks at walking pace, instead he tears around with boundless energy. I fear for my safety when I hear him coming towards me from behind, at 50 kph.
He's a beautiful boy, and loves to accompany me on my daily walks. It's a shame that someone doesn't take him in hand, and train him. He has the potential to be a really clever dog.
He's very amused by Billy. Isn't he beautiful.
Wednesday 20 March 2019
Since joining us aged 8 weeks, he has already begun to show his true character; especially when it comes to his appetite. He arrived weighing just 1 kg 970 gms, and now weighs in at 4 kg 600.
Last week he visited the Vet' for a jab, and was given a good overall examination. He was pronounced just about perfect.
I'm sure someone must have spilt Rocket Fuel into his Puppy Food, as his energy level is unbelievable. He hardly ever walks, instead he leaps everywhere; not unlike a baby Lamb. Then on our short walks he imitates Usain Bolt. I've already started to acclimatise him to walking him on a lead, and he's accepted it very well.
He is already learning the difference between indoors and outdoors; one being for eating and sleeping, and the other for peeing and pooing. There is still the occasional mishap, but he's getting there.
He has mastered 'Sit', and we're working on 'Basket' (as in 'go to your basket at once'). 'Come by', 'Away', and 'Stay', will be next.
All in all, he's looking pretty good. He's a very amusing little boy. He's still biting everything in sight (mostly hands), and has a penchant for eating shoes. Originally he slept in a tall cardboard box; from which he couldn't escape at night, but he's now moved on to Monty/Bok's oversized chew-proof bed in the kitchen, and feels very grown-up.
His walks are still quite short; roughly 300/400 metres, three times a day. As we are in Processionary Caterpillar season, we stick to nearby routes where, hopefully, none is around. I'll introduce him to the woods later.
He's a very cute little guy with his spotted pink nose and comical ways. I think we'll keep him!
He's much better looking than in the photo.
Tuesday 19 March 2019
I was hoping I'd get through life without having to wear glasses.
For some reason, I cannot part with all my old bits of broken specs. I have boxes filled with assorted lenses, frames, and arms (are they called arms?).
Most have been broken by dogs; our dogs. Because I keep my specs on strings, they hang down in front of me, and are perfect for snagging themselves in dogs' paws.
Many have met their maker in the woods. Whilst mushrooming, and staring at the ground, I get myself caught on branches, and suddenly find I'm 'glassesless'.
Some have just been lost, and never found; but this is rare.
I only wear the wretched things for reading writing or drawing, so they dangle, unused, in front of me for most of my waking hours. I'm slightly annoyed that I need to wear them at all. I don't like them, and see them mostly as unnecessary accidents, waiting to happen.
The most recent accident was at the paws of young Billy. I think he bit them, pulled them off, and sadly I walked on them (outdoors in the dark). They have now joined the huge assortment of broken bits and pieces in my collection.
However, I've replaced them with the above. My oldest said he thought they looked OK; I'm sure I'll get used to them, I was always more comfortable with half-moons!
Monday 18 March 2019
The brain is the strangest of computers.
I'm currently feeding some friends' cat whilst they're away galavanting in Blighty. And, this morning on my way home (as I 'trudged' through half a centimeter of snow), I was reminded of two of my absolute favourite childhood books. I wonder WHY?
Above is Pookie; the rabbit with wings. I used to cry every time my mother read this one to me, and no doubt I still would if I had to read it to my grandchildren.
I still have the books, but I'm afraid they're both in a pretty poor state from far too much use. I'm sure that much of my enjoyment of them was on account of their beautiful illustrations.
Sunday 17 March 2019
Saturday 16 March 2019
I returned to my laptop yesterday afternoon, to find a small black screw on the table, just to the right of my machine. Where the hell could it have come from?
Even after serious interrogation (thumbscrews, waterboarding, etc), Lady Magnon denied all knowledge of the offending object. I searched everywhere to see if anything lacked a small black screw; nothing. I looked up at the ceiling; nothing was up there from which it could have fallen.
So, I'm baffled. It's worrying thinking that something is lacking an essential part; a bit like having pieces left over after having dismantled and rebuilt some simple machine.
I've checked everything that has stood on the table for the past month or so. The laptop itself, my camera, my binoculars, even my sticky-tape dispenser; nothing lacks a small black screw.
It's enough to drive a chap mental.
Friday 15 March 2019
When choosing a restaurant back in the UK (or elsewhere), I would regularly plump for Greek.
The cooking is usually simple but beautifully prepared. Oregano, Lemon, and Olive Oil are regularly employed to enhance meat dishes, and fish is prepared with a minimum of fuss. Very few (French style) fancy sauces are used, and fresh produce is allowed to speak for itself.
Personally I think the Greeks have it right, they are people who love to prepare and consume; and they make it known. Anyone who has eaten in a Greek beach-side taverna will know exactly what I mean.
Above is what you can expect at most good Greek family-run restaurants. Mr Ramsay seems to agree with me.
Just look at that Greek Mama in the kitchen; what a lovely woman!
Thursday 14 March 2019
I'm not big on Royal souvenirs, but I'd rather like one of these.
I believe that these beautiful commemorative souvenirs come from Brazil, and were made to celebrate 'Hary and Megan's' wedding, which I believe was held on the same day as Harry and Meghan's.
Those portraits are uncanny; doppelgangers at their best. I really want one.
Wednesday 13 March 2019
These delicious little, sticky, spongey, 'cake-lets' (Cannelés or Canelés), are flavoured with Rum and Vanilla, and are a speciality of Bordeaux.
They are not difficult to make, but you do need special moulds for them. Along with Madeleine moulds, I would suggest their moulds are indispensable in the well-equipped kitchen.
These particular Cannelés are probably the best I've ever tasted. They were a gift from a friend/neighbour, and came direct from Bordeaux itself.
If you see some on your next visit to France, I recommend. You can see they're good, just by looking at the picture.
Tuesday 12 March 2019
Monday 11 March 2019
Mobility is the dream of every adolescent; it has also been the saviour of the human race.
No more do cousins marry cousins. Since the invention of the bicycle they can spread their nets further afield, and find a mate at the next village and beyond.
In France this mobility came by way of the Solex. A simple motorised bike, that could take its youthful rider away from home, and into foreign parts.
These days the Moped/Scooter has replaced the Solex, but I know which I prefer.
I did own a Solex years ago, and I also owned a Peugeot 103 Moped, both were great little bikes. Very economical to run, and a speed that gave you time to appreciate all around you. I'd quite like to buy another one.
For those who are new to the Solex. You start by peddling, then engage the tiny front-mounted motor by pushing forwards on the lever at the front. This allows you to travel up to about 30 kph; unless you are going uphill, when some extra peddling will be required.
They aren't built for speed, but are extremely economical. I think I'm right in saying that there was a minimum age of 14 for their use. What a wonderful invention.
Sunday 10 March 2019
When, at 3.30pm sharp, one's 'man' declares that 'Tea is served', every Englishman on the planet will drop whatever he is doing, and devote half an hour to drinking his preferred 'cuppa', accompanied by a couple of McVities dark Chocolate Digestives, or a slice of Battenberg.
Loin-cloth wearing 'bearers', on the slippery slopes of the Himalayas, carry boxes of biscuits so that the Sahib can take Tea at that prescribed moment. If the snow is not too deep they might also fight their way through to deliver his Cucumber sandwiches.
Especially trained Sherpas can even be employed to ensure delivery of Lemon Drizzle Cake; but these men are rare (and expensive). Only the privileged can guarantee such delicacies.
Luckily my hearing is 20/20, and from Haddock's I can always hear Lady M's distant voice declaring that it's Tea Time (we don't have a 'man'), and without any disastrous obstacle to inhibit her, there is often that famous Lemon Drizzle Cake to accompany my two afternoon cups of Lapsang.
Lucky is he, or she, to be English at 3.30pm, whether they be in an Igloo in Manhattan, or a Teepee in Barnsley. A subject of Her Majesty should never be denied his or her daily cup of Tea.
Saturday 9 March 2019
Friday 8 March 2019
It's 'sprouting season' at Haddock's. All those Winter greens are now beginning to sprout, and it's those 'sproutings' that are probably the best bits.
Of course, the PSB (above) is grown expressly for its sproutings, but Cavolo Nero (below) and Kale, if left in the ground, will throw up leafy 'bonus' sproutings for several weeks.
This lot was consumed last night.
Thursday 7 March 2019
Brits are used to seeing that just about everything they thought was British to the core, is now owned by foreign companies; but this is going a step too far!
Yes, Malvern based sports car manufacturer Morgan, that quintessential English company, has been flogged-off to Italy's 'Investindustrial'.
Investindustrial already own 31% of Aston Martin (what? you thought they were still British owned?); amongst a swathe of other companies.
I've driven an old Morgan 3 wheeler, and I'd love to drive a Plus 8. The Plus 8 above has been on Lady Magnon's Christmas wish-list for as long as I've known her (Santa ignored her). I'm not sure what she'll think now, knowing that it's bloody Italian.
It won't be long before we'll hear that The Queen has been sold to N Korea!
Wednesday 6 March 2019
Tuesday 5 March 2019
Lady Magnon was watching the beginning of last week's 'The Great British Sewing Bee', when they announced that the project was to make Bell Bottom trousers.
I've always disliked Bell Bottoms, and even though they were at the height of fashion during my London days; I managed to resist in favour of (what later became) the 'New Romantic' style.
Anyway, I was just explaining to Lady Magnon that in around 1966, a friend of mine in Chelsea called Adrian, bought millions of pairs of white US Navy Bell Bottoms, died them pink, yellow, blue, green, etc, and made a fortune on the back of the unpleasant hippyish trend.
Then, blow me down, just as I was telling Lady M all about him, on comes Adrian's face on the TV, with the presenter saying exactly what I'd just been saying myself.
Adrian's face appears very briefly at around 10.25secs, only die-hards would wish to watch any more.
Spooky, or what!
Monday 4 March 2019
My hands are shredded and my slippers are threadbare, there are indelible stains on the carpet, and we keep finding strange things in strange places. Yes, we have a puppy in the house.
I obtained my first puppy just before I left college. He was a scruffy black-n-tan terrier named Hamlet. The amazing thing about puppies is the instant change they have on your life. Not only are they huge fun to have at home, but they also attract the attention of almost every passer-by when you're out-n-about. Anyone who wishes to meet people and make new friends should acquire one without delay.
We were living in North Wales, at the time, and would go into our nearby town once a week on Market Day. With both a cute puppy, and a cute baby, in tow, moving from A to B became almost impossible. Every few paces someone would bend down to say 'goo goo' to the baby, or pamper the puppy. Of course, lengthy conversations would then take place about every aspect of both; how old, what's his name, and in the pup's case, what breed is he?
It was very pleasant having all the attention, but it slowed us down hugely. We only ever had two ports of call in town; one particular vegetable stall, where we bought our week's supply, and a 'health food' shop where we bought wholemeal bread, rice, pulses, pasta, etc (all rare commodities in Wales at that time). Even so, our once a week trip took all morning on account of the admiring passers-by.
I should add that these days I'm as guilty as anyone of greeting small (or even big) dogs in the street.
If you're looking to meet people.... buy yourself a puppy!
p.s. I was walking through the garden yesterday, wondering what the strange noise was. It was swarms of Bees in the Plum tree (below).
Sunday 3 March 2019
Today's world is very strange, but in many ways mine was much stranger. Here are just a few examples.
When I was small, you could enter a shoe shop and look at X Ray images of your own feet through bizarre Dalek-like machines. Certain children had their fingers painted with foul-tasting liquids, to stop them biting their nails. But strangest of all was that many were given giant spoons-full of Radio Malt to give them energy (I think).
Radio Malt was a bizarre product. On reading about it recently, it seems to have been primarily found in post-war boarding schools where is was issued to make children Rounder Stronger and Bulkier. Parents supplied their own giant jars of this horrible vitaminised Gloop. It was sickly sweet, with a taste somewhere between Molasses and Treacle. It's consumption was overseen by the school Matron (or similar).
I am pleased to say that I was NOT a partaker of Radio Malt, but many of my fellow school friends were. I wonder if they still have any teeth?
Saturday 2 March 2019
Friday 1 March 2019
I happen to think that most old buildings look better with a few climbing roses, et al, wending their verdant ways between windows, and around doorways.
The juxtaposition of hard stone/brick and soft foliage has an appeal unto itself.
With this in mind, I have always wondered why England's ancient village churches are not swathed in Roses, Wisteria, or Clematis; surely they could only enhance the beauty of such buildings.
Maybe the killjoy church hierarchy have issued an edict about such things. Perhaps they have declared that the only focus of adornment should be the fragrant vicar, and his highly embroidered 'frocks'!