Saturday 31 August 2019

(For owners of a) Zodiac T3 Robot.

I must admit that I was originally a little disappointed with my Zodiac T3 robot which we bought back in 2013; it didn't seem to reach all corners, or cover the whole bottom surface, and was regularly getting tangled.

Our pool is 9 by 4 metres, and I use 7 interlocking sections of tubing between the business end, and the vacuum outlet.

This Spring, I noticed that the rubber seal which fits between the pipe and the vacuum outlet hole (the blue multi ribbed affair above) had 'perished', and was falling apart, so I decided that, rather than buy an expensive new piece, I would make my own version by elongating the whole lot by adding an extra foot or so of ordinary spare vacuum pipe, and glueing onto it a cheap white plastic connector (see top photo). 

I don't know quite what this extra flexibility has done to the robot, but it now cleans the bottom almost perfectly, and no longer gets tangled. In fact it's so much better that I did consider offering my simple invention to Zodiac; 'gratis'.

Friday 30 August 2019


Lady M: Did you find any?

Cro: A few.

Lady M: Show me.

Cro: There you are!

Lady M: Pathetic.

Cro: I can't help it; there weren't any!

Lady M: No crumbles for you this winter m'lad.

Cro: I'll go again this afternoon.

Lady M: And make sure you come back with a good bag-full. Twelve Blackberries indeed!

(I did go out again, and came back with a reasonable supply; a winter without Blackberry and Apple Crumbles is simply unimaginable)

Thursday 29 August 2019

A chance meeting.

Anyone who knows The Chelsea Arts Club will know that it's a magnet for celebs from the art and acting worlds. The place is always awash with famous names and faces.

I was recently reminded about the last time I was there. I'd been invited by my chum, the artist Graham Dean (Living abroad, I've never bothered to become a member myself). We'd been happily chatting away, when Lucy Irvine asked if she could join us. She was waiting for someone, and sat with us for about an hour or so.

This was back in the early 80's, when Lucy had recently become a big noise after the publication of her book 'Castaway'.

If real-life adventure interests you, and you haven't read it, I recommend 'Castaway' as a very good read. Lucy answers an ad' for 'wife wanted for a year on desert island', and the book describes what followed. Not always easy reading, but filled with guts and bravado in the face of constant difficulty.

Even in the short time we spent together, I found Ms Irvine a very interesting woman; the type who would take no bullshit. I may even try to find the book again myself; I lost my copy years ago.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Ron and Sandra.

If you have a serious amount of spare cash, I would recommend you buy a painting by Ron Kitaj (above with his wife, Sandra Fisher). Kitaj was one of the late 20th Century's best painters, and your investment would do well.

His wife Sandra was also a very good painter, but not as commercially minded as her husband. She allowed things to follow a natural course, whilst her husband became a super-star.

Below is her painting 'Chess Players'; a deceptively simple composition, well executed, which would sit happily in anyone's home.

They were both around when I was living in London, and I rather regret that we never met. We may well have been in the same room together on occasions, but I wouldn't have known who they were. 

There may have been one photo of Kitaj in Snowdon's 'Private View', but nowadays, with the net, we have photos on hand of just about everyone; so no excuses not to recognise. 

Hugh Laurie's News Flash.

Someone at the BBC must have had a crystal ball!

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Bloody Tea-leaves.

I hate stealing, and I hate people who steal. It goes against everything I believe in.

Many years back, I bought three of these plastic 'trugs', they were reasonably cheap, very useful, and perfect for the kitchen garden. One of them was always kept at Haddock's.

Yesterday morning I was weeding my beans, and turned round to where the trug permanently sat, and it was no longer there! Some thieving bastard had stolen it, and emptied it's previously held weeds on the ground. In the country we are so used to trusting people that such things are never locked away, but sadly some people can't resist their urges.

OK, it's nothing of great value, but it belonged to ME, and it'll now be ME who forks-out to replace it; not dissimilar to paying for our smashed water meter.

I wrote recently that we will soon have to lock things away, due to the influx of tourists in our tiny hamlet. Well it seems as if that day has already arrived, and, frankly, I'm not surprised. I'm certain that we can expect much more of this kind of thing in the future.

So, whoever you are, enjoy my trug, and if I ever find out who you are, be warned; I'm not someone you'd want to know when I'm angry! 

Did I mention how much I detest thieves?

Monday 26 August 2019

Marche Gourmande.

My tiny village gets up to all sorts of activities throughout the year, one of which took place this last Saturday evening.

The 'Marche Gourmande'  is a long night-time walk, peppered with occasional stops for different courses that eventually constitute a complete meal.

The walkers set-off from the church between 7 and 8 pm, and follow a predetermined route through the heavily wooded countryside. Every so often they stop at a farm and consume one part of their meal; then move on to the next.

If you enlarge the map above, you might see what was consumed, and where. First stop was for an apéritif, then a soup in the form of a velouté de choux fleurs, then a plate of charcuterie, followed by an entrecote with haricots verts. Back at the village they continued with some cheese and a dessert, then finished with coffee.

The whole meal was washed down with plenty of red wine, and walkers were advised to take pocket lamps. The route was estimated at about 9 kms long (it looks further to me); I have no idea what time they finished the evening, but I imagine it must have been quite late (and dark).

The early part of the route goes right behind our house, and one small group stopped to ask if I could let them have some string. A lady's sole had completely come away from her hefty walking shoe, and it needed repairing. I found some wide black tape, and did an instant repair for her; I wonder how long it lasted?

On Saturday there must have been about 70-80 walkers. Not really my cup of tea; my dodgy knee would complain too much, but it sounds like fun.

Oh, and the cost? €15 for adults, and €8 for children.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Bucolic Freebies.

Someone asked recently if any of my neighbours gave us free Honey from the Chestnut flowers. Well, yes they do; In fact I was given a pot very recently. I do know that the owners of the woods where the hives are placed, are always given several jars of Honey every year, and these tend to accumulate.

Chestnut Honey is not to everyone's taste. It is dark in colour, and has a slightly bitter taste. Personally I rather like it; it tastes very earthy, and I like the fact that it is 'home grown'.

Other local wild harvests, or, I should say their harvesters, are not so generous. The numerous Wild Boar and Roe Deer who feed on our fruit and veg', are shot by hunters and simply taken away. Never have we ever received a Wild Boar trotter, or a Roe Deer chop. We feed 'em; they consume 'em.

After so many years of fattening their prey, I reckon it's about time we were presented with a Gigot of Venison; just to say thank you. If any of our local chasseurs are reading this, would you bear this in mind!

I'm sure I heard shots quite recently, but the proper season doesn't start until September 9th. Plenty of time to put my name on a list.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Putto in my hands.

Certain people take to swimming very easily; others make a terrible fuss.

Little Mischa is of the former, he sees no danger or obstacle in water. Give him a pair of water wings, and he's straight in. A few days ago I was very slightly supporting his body in the water, but in fact I don't think he really needs his wings at all. Even his curls seem to love it.

This was taken yesterday when the water was 24 C; he didn't complain.

Friday 23 August 2019

The Génoise.


I've never had any instruction in 'building' techniques; I just look at something and try to imagine how it's done. Building isn't exactly brain surgery, and so far it's worked.

One of my favourite jobs in recent years was the construction of the decorative Génoise on our 'tower'. It's an essential element in local buildings, and needs to be done correctly; you'd hardly believe some of the appalling work I've seen by so-called professionals. Why they weren't made to re-do them, I cannot imagine.

Building is fun. One can build almost anything with just a weighted string, a level, a ladder, and a trowel. With that basic kit, the Pyramids were built.

This (above) is that same strip of Génoise today. I'm quite proud of it; I look at it and think "I did that".

Thursday 22 August 2019

Fruit season 2019.

One minute you're worrying about if there'll be any fruit; the next you're overwhelmed.

We have a very good crop of Peaches,

an even better crop of Jonagold Apples,

plenty of Reinette Apples,

a reasonable crop of Plums,

and lots of Grapes.

We also have a healthy amount of Pears, Figs, Quinces, Bramleys, and Nectarines; as well as just one inedible Pomegranate.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

So, boys, what did you do on your holidays?

It was the last night for the Aussie contingent. They were off to Barcelona in the morning.

We'd thrown a few snags on the barbie, retreated to Dangerous Fun and lit the Fire Pit, and scared the pants off the natives with a few fireworks; then the bloody rain started, it poured, and the Marshmallows remained un-toasted.

We all ran back to the house, ate some early Birthday Cake, then all four of the older boys took refuge in the sitting room and exercised their thumbs. The two smaller cousins (out of sight) watched cartoons on TV, whilst Billy ignored everyone. A great evening was had by all.

The London contingent head for the airport later today. Wills, Boo Boo, and the cherub have decided to stay.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

The (Peyrot) Ashes 2019.


It was a beautiful afternoon on 'The Rectangle', as the crowd gathered to witness yet another mammoth battle between England and Australia, in their continuing struggle for The Peyrot Ashes.

England opened the batting, and made a magnificent score of 70 runs for 1 wicket. Australia replied with a slightly disappointing 3 runs; all out. England won the match handsomely.

When The (Peyrot) Ashes will again be up for grabs, we are not sure, but the trophy will be kept here until another fixture can be arranged. 

In the meantime, well played both teams; if only England's adult team could summon the same spirit.

Monday 19 August 2019

England For Sale.

So, Turkey's Military Pension Fund has bought British Steel; what a wonderful bloody state of affairs!

What's next I wonder? Will Knightsbridge be sold to the Chinese, Buckingham Palace to the Russians, and GCHQ to N Korea?

Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me to see that The City was sold to Matron Markle, Scotland was sold to Trump, Wales sold to Tom Jones, and Essex sold to a consortium of David Beckham, Katie Price, and Ed Sheeran. I am personally thinking of making an offer for Surrey and Sussex (as a job lot).

When the rest of England comes up for sale, please be sure to let me know; I might still have a couple of quid left.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Mrs Pins.

Mrs Pins is my daughter Tenpin's bear. She has two baby bears (one bottom left), and as tradition insists; just one eye. She was a present from my mother. 

Of my three children's own personal bears (Bryn, Harry, and Mrs Pins) she has to be my favourite. I've not painted either Bryn or Harry, but Harry does have his own passport (below)

I like bears. They are usually a child's first real possession, and as such are treasured.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Danger looming.

Someone once said 'it's not the name of your political party that counts, but what is right for your country'; and I couldn't agree more.

With most UK political parties in turmoil, our allegiances need to be towards policy rather than the colour of rosette we used to (or still do) wear.

I have always been a 'middle-of-the-road' Conservative voter; neither blindly agreeing with every Tory policy, nor rejecting sensible ideas from the otherwise crazy left. Of course I've always actually voted Conservative, but that was more from fear of the loony alternatives; I'm no luddite; we've all seen what damage they can do.

So, with UK politics (or more the political system) in such a mess, it's difficult to know what one would do in the face of a sudden General Election. Luckily (?) I no longer qualify for a postal vote, but I think I would have abstained anyway.

Dear Caroline (greenie) Lucas has suggested that the country be run by an all female cabinet made up of inter-party MP's; but she was always crazy. One of the more radical of Corbyn's Marxist comrades has suggested going to see The Queen and demanding that The Socialists take over; start building those barricades lads. The schoolgirl leader of the Lib-Dims wants another referendum. And Boris has promised to lock-up more criminals, and ban the use of drugs in prison. Yup; everything is reasonably normal for 'The Silly Season'.

Personally I'd like to sack the whole bloody lot of them, and start again from scratch.

Meanwhile Brexit still looms.

Friday 16 August 2019

The Holiday Business.


From what I've seen, most people in the UK who move from town to country, are looking for a property with 'letting potential'. They not only want a home, but an easy stay-at-home income as well.

Many years ago I was at a party when a total stranger asked me 'when do your lets begin?'. When I realised what he meant, I explained to him that I wasn't in the house-letting business. He seemed amazed that any Brit' living in France didn't augment their income by letting holiday accommodation. He obviously needed the money.

Very few would turn down a little extra income, but when you move to the countryside for peace and quiet, only to import tourists, it rather defeats the purpose. When you find that your surrounding neighbours are doing the same, it becomes worrying.

The S W of France has been popular with British holidaymakers for the past 40 years or so, but this year with Brexit looming I've noticed a distinct lack of GB registered cars on the roads. I fear that many of the Brit' owned cash-cow Gites will soon remain empty; unless they specifically aim for the Dutch market, and are prepared to fork-out for 'expensive management services'.

When we moved to our tiny hamlet, we had just two very quiet neighbours. They were 'cultured' people who loved the peace, quiet, and cleanliness of their surroundings as much as we did, and we got on extremely well. These days things are very different and next summer, if the shipping container 'holiday village' is up and running, there could be about 35 holidaymakers, and roughly the same amount of residents all crammed into our tiny settlement. For someone who really treasured his solitude, it could prove to be a bit over-populated. I'm already encountering strangers in unusual places.

I know it's an old chestnut, but 'the good old days' definitely were 'good old days'. What was once a lovely quiet spot has now become rather over-crowded, and not knowing anything about who all these temporary summer visitors might be, I fear we may all have to start locking things away!

Thursday 15 August 2019

Billy again.

This is how Billy arrived in mid-January, a tiny mess of black and white fur in a straw-lined box. As you might imagine, I was rather taken aback. I hadn't anticipated having another dog after the death of Bok.

This is Billy today, nearing his final size; he's not a big dog, not all Border Collies are. He has a beautiful soft coat, endless energy, and a great sense of fun. I recently went out mushrooming whilst he was absent up at the barn, but 30 minutes later he managed to find me in the thick of the woods. My first dog 'Hamlet' used to do the same; 'find daddy' became his favourite game.

He still has a few 'faults'. He jumps up on us and play bites, he barks at strangers (but I don't mind this), and he has selective hearing when being called.

When we had our beautiful Labrador, Monty, it seemed as if every advertisement for dog food, sofas, or house insurance, featured a Monty doppelganger; now it seems as if Border Collies have replaced Labs, and suddenly they are everywhere.

We have six boys, from two to thirteen, in the house for a while; I'm hoping he rounds them up, and keeps them under control.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

The Bastards!

I'd thought that the buzzing was coming from Bees on a flowering shrub just outside the Pump House door, but I was mistaken; they were inside.

Having 'hoovered' the bottom of the pool, I was just flushing away all the dirt from the filter (backwashing), when I saw a largish swarm of Wasps above the door. They were looking at me with menace in their eyes.

Two of them stung me. One just above my left knee, and the second much higher up on my right leg (ahem). I was of course wearing shorts.

So I taught the little blighters a lesson, and sprayed the nest with Wasp-U-Hate. It seems to have done the job.

As I say almost every other day; "If it ain't one thing it's another!"

And, yes, the stings bloody hurt.

Tuesday 13 August 2019


Yesterday I met my 6th grandson for the very first time. Some time back I'd described him as a 'tousle-haired cherub'; and that's exactly what he is.

He instantly made friends with Billy, and the two now seem inseparable.

Two more grandsons will arrive today, and another two tomorrow. With my three children, and six grandsons around; life is bound to be fun.

Whilst en route from Oz to France, my daughter Tenpin took this beautiful photo. Brighton really is a fabulous city.

Monday 12 August 2019

RIP Izzy.


When you live in the countryside, certain animals become as important to you as their human minders; dear Izzy (right above) was one such.

She was a really gentle soul, and Bok (left above) soon noted her charms. They became very good friends, and would spend long relaxed times together.

Not so long ago, Izzy went missing; but almost miraculously after a week away, she was found still within the village bounds. Due to her epilepsy, she had simply forgotten where she lived.

We'll really miss dear Izzy. I've said before on this page that there are some dogs that I far preferred to certain humans. She never behaved badly, was always friendly, and certainly never threatened harm to anyone. Not something I can say about some humans I know.

Izzy died in her sleep two days ago. So, farewell dear girl, I hope that in dog-world there is some place where you all meet up again. I know that both Monty and Bok would love to see you. What larks you'll have.

Our sincere condolences to her family. Adieu.

Sunday 11 August 2019

La Reine Claude (Greengage).

The Greengage is rather an old fashioned fruit; I can't imagine that many would add them to a modern orchard these days.

Our tree, as usual, has been covered in fruit. Most have bugs inside, but the good ones are easily identifiable. At the moment they are dropping by the barrow-load, and have become so sweet that they are inedible.

I previously picked just a couple of Kilos (above); some we ate simply stewed with Lemon juice and a dash of Sugar, the rest were packed into bags and frozen.

The main problem with Greengages (if indeed it is a problem) is raking-up all that fallen fruit. They are easily squashed, and the task is particularly messy. Our tree is badly situated on the lawn; right in front of our sitting room. Yuk.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Veteran banned from putting American flag on mailbox

I'd thought that it was only in England where patriotism had been banned, so I was very surprised to see that it happens elsewhere too; especially in the USA.

Lady Magnon spent a few years at school in Washington DC, and along with all other children (even though she was English/Swedish) had to pledge allegiance to the American flag every morning.

I presume this no longer happens either!

Friday 9 August 2019

Planning for Winter.

With the way things were going at Haddock's, I feared that we'd have no Winter Greens at the end of this year, and into 2020.

I'm now pleased to see that my Cavolo Nero, Curly Kale, and Swiss Chard plants are all suddenly beginning to grow; there's another row of Chard sown by the string-line. We had some reasonable rain recently, and it seems to have done the trick. 

I'd originally sown a row of Perpetual Spinach where the string-line is, and it hadn't germinated, so I re-sowed with Swiss Chard. Now both crops are starting to grow. I should have waited an extra few days.

It's been so dry and hot that nothing was moving. Some plants died and had to be replaced.  There are about 24 plants in all (not counting the Chard/Spinach) which should be enough. Now I simply need to cross my fingers, and hope that nothing more goes wrong. We have two other rows of Chard/Spinach elsewhere, which we are already eating.

The bad photo makes it all look a terrible mess; it's not perfect, but it's neater than it looks, and it recently rained again.

Thursday 8 August 2019

Vines and Vineyards.


Nearly 47 years ago, when we first came to live here, there were vineyards everywhere. Most small farms grew enough grapes to make about 2000 litres of wine per annum; exclusively for their own consumption. We saw new vineyards planted, and ancient ones pulled-out. Vines were as essential to a farm as Cows, Pigs, Chickens, or Ducks.

Then all changed about 30 years ago. Almost as one, all our local farmers stopped their wine-production, grubbed-up their vines, and an important part of local culture/gastronomy instantly disappeared.

In the small painting above, our cottage can just be seen towards the top on the left. We looked out onto a distant vineyard, where every year we'd help with the harvest. Now, of course, all has gone.

I always have a glass or two of red wine with my supper, as do most households, so I really don't understand why they stopped producing their own. Having said that, there are no Cows, Pigs, Chickens, or Ducks on the farms either. No-one produces milk, and the only crops you'll see are Maize, Sunflowers, and Chestnuts. Much land is now left unproductive.

No doubt the EU is to blame for the change. It may look OK in some big Brussels accountancy book, but it's played havoc with rural society.

p.s. I shall be making wine myself this year; more anon.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

A favourite picture.

Above is a photo of Ottoline Morrell with Augustus John, in Aix-en-Provence.

Aix just happens to be my favourite town in the whole of France. A stunningly beautiful place that, unfortunately on my last visit, had succumbed to the aerosols of tagging graffiti-sprayers.

On her 'blue plaque' in Gower Street, Lady Ottoline is described as 'Literary Hostess and Patron of the Arts'; a description that belies her influence.

John probably needs no introduction, he was simply one of the best painters of his age.

I would liked to have emerged from behind that door, to discover them there. I would have introduced myself, taken a 'selfie', and continued on my way. Oh, how I would have treasured that photo.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

RIP Spud-U-(no longer)-Like.

                                 Résultat de recherche d'images pour "spud u like"

Anyone who knows me would know that I would never have entered a Spud-U-Like restaurant, but this does not stop me from regretting its sad demise.

However, that name makes me despair; and as for those green plastic 'things'......

The gastronomic delight illustrated is (I think) a baked Potato filled with Coleslaw, and cost £3.99. The one in the background appears to be a simple unsullied empty baked Potato, and probably cost much the same.

The small chain of 37 'restaurants' began in Scotland (home of the deep-fried Mars bar) in 1974, and put the humble baked Potato on the gastronomic map. Most popular (I believe) was the baked bean filled spud; a steal at £3.84. I must admit to having eaten these myself at home, but my homemade version cost about 20p.

So, that's it. Goodbye Spud-U-Like. You served the nation well, but tastes have moved on!

Monday 5 August 2019

Happy Birthday.

Today is my father's birthday. Unfortunately he's not here to celebrate it (he would have been 114). 

Happy Birthday Papa.

Saturday 3 August 2019

Of interest to pool owners only!

I know I've mentioned this before, but here is some visual proof of both my problem, and my solution.

I don't know if this has any relation to the age of our pool, and its pale blue liner, but this discolouration has only happened in the past three years. The pool was installed in 2005; making the liner 14 years old (but still in very good condition).

The picture, above, shows how, occasionally, the liner becomes discoloured beneath the water line; it becomes a dirty dull beige colour, and looks quite unpleasant. It reminds me of the ceilings in old Pubs that had become stained by tobacco smoke; not unpleasant in its own way, but not a good look for a pool.

The solution is very simple. I top up the water to above the stained level, then empty a whole Kilo of powdered Vitamin C into the path of the three water jets, and wait for about 30 mins; then, hey presto, the liner returns to its sparkling original colour. It really is magical.

The powder isn't cheap; around €20 per kilo through Amazon. But what a difference it makes to a stained liner. It's now sparkling again.

I like to keep a couple of Kilos in stock; just in case. 

Friday 2 August 2019

The voyage.

Our first memory of the trip would probably be Father at the wheel, and Mother handing out sandwiches as we 'went for a drive'. We played games to battle against boredom; distances seemed endless, and we probably would have preferred to remain at home.

As we grew we learned how the car worked, and eventually took the wheel ourselves. In time the original driver left us, along with the sandwich maker. Now we drove alone, the car suddenly became a very lonely place.

In time friends joined us, some would be with us for the duration; others would fall by the wayside. Some would abuse our friendship, and would be ejected; others would treat the car as if it was their own, leaving their unwanted detritus strewn around, and damaging the contents. They would show no remorse and would also be asked to leave.

Over the years the car would be changed many times; rather like the travellers. Only a few would remain constant company. We never know at what stage the car will break down or run out of fuel, so we are kind to our fellow passengers; never knowing when we will need their assistance instead of them needing ours.

In time, others will come to take the wheel, and we will wave them goodbye and wish them well. It was good having those few fellow travellers who remained constant friends, and on whom one could depend; they made our lives richer.

As we ourselves depart, we can but hope that the new drivers will also find a few long term travelling partners. Life without them can be tough.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Some Success, at last.

My Toms, in pots, up at the barn are now ripening, and are looking good. These are the famous 'Portuguese' variety; a non-F1 breed whose seeds can be kept from year to year.

They are a solid, non watery, variety; perfect for slicing into those classic big platefuls of lunchtime salads. Below is what became of one.

With just a few eggs and some Harissa flavoured tinned Sardines to accompany. Lunch for two; 2/6d.

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