Thursday 31 December 2020
Wednesday 30 December 2020
We've been having some pretty wild and windy weather lately.
En route to my shopping yesterday I came across a huge tree that had fallen half across the road. Luckily I managed to squeeze through, but it was still there when I returned an hour later. Usually such things are dealt with very quickly. I expect it had gone by lunchtime.
Later, Lady M called me to look at some damage nearer to home. 'Dangerous Fun' had totally collapsed. Over the years, the trees have grown and the structure has been pulled apart; the strong wind did the rest. It's been there since 2013, so it's served us well. It'll serve us again now as firewood, unless I can find some other use for what's left.
Such is life!
Tuesday 29 December 2020
I must admit that I'm quite happy that all the Christmas hullabaloo is now over.
We had a wonderful few days. The food was 98% good, the children really enjoyed themselves, and everyone had far too many gifts. A classic Christmas.
I'm not fussed about staying up till midnight to welcome the New Year. If there's a good line-up on Jools Holland's Hootenanny TV programme, then I might be tempted; but otherwise, no.
Actually, I have looked at Jools's 2020/21 guest list, and other than Ruby Turner, I'm not really fussed.
Our main concerns now turn to Brexit. I'm pleased to see that my E111 health card will still be valid; albeit in a new format, but the prospect of being unable to stay in our own home for more than 90 days is crazy. This really needs to be re-negotiated. Freedom of movement is a universal human right, and MUST be preserved; regardless of any Macron/Bernier puerile Brit-bashing. They lost the game; get over it!
Winter is now here. It has been cold (zero C), very wet, and icily windy; with a few sub-zero nights still to come for early January. There is little outside work to be done, so a spot of extra log sawing duties presents no problem.
Books will be read, afternoon snoozes will be enjoyed in front of the fire, and slow cooked casseroles will warm our bellies. Life isn't all shivering, we enjoy walks with Billy and the children, and we chat with friendly neighbours. I don't like winter; in an ideal world I would now be in Martinique, Guadeloupe, or the Réunion. But, frankly, I can't be bothered.
I'll just have to bloody put-up with it until things warm!
Monday 28 December 2020
Sunday 27 December 2020
Saturday 26 December 2020
Friday 25 December 2020
Thursday 24 December 2020
Wednesday 23 December 2020
Tuesday 22 December 2020
Monday 21 December 2020
Sunday 20 December 2020
Saturday 19 December 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
So, what can we do about the wretched EU?
It looks as if Italy could be the next country to quit the EU. I hear that they will wait a couple of years to see how things go for the UK, then hold a referendum; which current thinking suggests would probably end in a LEAVE vote. They have been treated too badly.
Now, France and Germany are almost exclusively paying for the likes of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and a few other of the 20+ remaining poorer countries. No wonder they are so annoyed that the UK quit.
What I suggest is this. France and Germany should follow the UK's example, put their childish tantrums and belligerence behind them, pre-empt any future disaster, and both quit the EU in order to form a tripartite union with 'England'. All three countries are well positioned geographically, and their economies (regardless of their love/hate relationships) are the strongest in Europe. As a threesome they would make an extremely powerful (non-political) trading union. The smaller but financially secure Holland and Belgium (as they are locked by borders) would also be included.
At their next general elections, the two countries should vote for 'leave' parties. In France for the FN, and in Germany for the AfD. Both countries could then quit the EU; with more middle-of-the-road, less focused, main-stream political parties returned to power a short time later.
This would leave just 20+ EU mostly poverty-stricken member countries, hopefully including a newly independent Scotland, to do whatever they wished. Shake their fists, make impossible demands of each other, and probably run amok; start a war even.
Wouldn't that be fun! What chances do you think there are of this happening?
Yup, that's what I thought.
Thursday 17 December 2020
Wednesday 16 December 2020
Tuesday 15 December 2020
So I simply think of them instead, and being quite an emotional person, I might ever shed a few private tears as well. I see no harm in this.
Monday 14 December 2020
I've just been listening to Juliet Stevenson reading 'A House Full of Daughters' on BBC Radio 4.
The book by Juliet Nicholson is a biography of her family through the eyes of its daughters, with insights into Knole, Vita Sackville-West, and Sissinghurst.
A life of privilege, tragedy, and fame, a circle that most of us will never enter; but one that fascinates.
If such things interest you, Juliet Stevenson's reading is a delight, and the tale it reveals is fascinating.
It should be around somewhere on iPlayer or BBC Sounds.
They've been a staple diet of the Middle East and North Africa since time immemorial.
I imagine they first became popular in the UK with the arrival of Hummus; even then, I don't suppose many associated Hummus with actual Chickpeas. It was a while until tinned Chickpeas appeared on our shelves.
The more I eat them, the more I like them. Not only do I make my own Hummus (below), but otherwise they always appear in my Moroccan Tagines, and in my Chana Masala, which is one of the most common vegetarian curries in all of India; basically Chickpeas and Tomatoes with spices.
Dried Chickpeas will last for years. When reconstituted and cooked they make a highly nourishing meal; add some unleavened bread and you have all you need.
Sunday 13 December 2020
Saturday 12 December 2020
Friday 11 December 2020
Thursday 10 December 2020
Wednesday 9 December 2020
We've noticed over recent weeks/months, that Billy's large sack of (very expensive) dry food has been 'interfered with'.
We keep his food in the studio. It's in a 10 kg bag, which we've occasionally found knocked over, clawed at, and generally mauled. It's been obvious that some creature has been helping itself.
This morning I found it dragged about a foot away from where I'd left it, claw marks all over it, and a good handful of 'croquettes' over the floor. I eliminated all previous possible culprits, and turned my attention to the cat flap, and one renowned local wild cat.
I've now locked the cat flap, and also secured it from both inside and outside with metal grills and a heavy flower pot. If the devil can get past all that, then good luck to him.
Monday 7 December 2020
Sunday 6 December 2020
Billy is a fun dog, but he has his eccentricities.
I really enjoy taking him for his early morning walk each day. He so obviously enjoys himself that every day he makes me smile. He has a beautiful spring in his legs that simply oozes 'fun'. No Deer is safe from a good chasing.
However, he does occasionally show strange behaviour. Every time I attach his lead he curls into a ball as if he's about to be beaten; I have no idea why he does this. He also hates being brushed, and will often snap at us; we have to reassure him that it's all OK.
He has never been abused by us, but occasionally his behaviour suggests that he has; and that he's frightened of us. He quite often shows signs of fear. We did have a couple of neighbours who HAVE been nasty to him, throwing stones, kicking, and hitting him with a stick, etc; so maybe it has left a mark.
Luckily the worst of these people has now moved away. It's strange that whenever we met these people's own dogs they have always come to say 'hello'. If one is kind to animals, usually they reciprocate the kindness. We've always had a lot of canine visitors; they didn't.
Generally he's a lovely dog to be with. He has boundless energy. He'll chase, and bring back, Tennis balls all day long. He's also madly in love at the moment, the object of his passion being a beautiful German Shephard called Amie.
It is claimed that a dog covers about 10 times the distance of his/her owner whilst out walking. In Billy's case I would raise that figure to 50 times!
I should add that his pink nose is now almost all filled-in with black. Another few months and he'll be the most handsome Border Collie in France (well, actually, he already is).
Out in the country the change of seasons is more poignant than in town, and our meals follow suite. Many town dwellers would see no difference between their July Big Mac, and a January Big Mac, but if we were to eat a Greek Salad at Christmas, or a Lancashire Hot Pot in August, it would seem very odd.
Saturday 5 December 2020
Friday 4 December 2020
It is often claimed that the best sign of fresh clean air is that of Lichens growing on trees; the more Lichens, the purer the air quality.
Presuming that this observation is correct, I must be living in one of the best air-quality areas in the whole world. Some of our trees are so covered in Lichens, that one can no longer see any bark. The above is a branch of the Greengage tree just outside our front door.
It is also claimed that the first 'plants' to suffer as a result of polluted air are mushrooms; and in particular Girolles and the jet black Trompette de la Mort; both of which are particularly at risk.
2020 has been a bad year here for mushrooms. In spring we had just one meagre picking of Girolles, we had no Cèpes to speak of. Now in November we are finding very few Hedgehog Mushrooms, and not a single Trompette.
Of course, mushroom growth is dependent on the right amount of rainfall and warmth at the right time, and this is more likely the cause of their rarity this year rather than pollution. Rainfall is certainly a problem, with lakes and rivers being much lower than a decade or so ago.
When we first moved to the village, at this season I would go out looking for Hedgehog Mushrooms with a huge basket. It was always quickly filled, and I would go out again as soon as I'd unloaded them. The merchant came to the house every other day, and he never left without several kilos. I have just returned from the woods with nothing.
Thursday 3 December 2020
These days you are as likely to find a French bistro menu, as a Thai menu. The choice of ethnicity in today's pubs is endless.
The one thing you're probably least likely to find is an old fashioned pub where people gather around the bar with a pint and bag of scratchings. Pubs are now more likely to be restaurants than boozers.
For me, 'a pub' should be synonymous with 'a local', where you go in the evening for a pint, a chat, and conviviality. I don't want my local to become simply a convenient restaurant for passing motorists.
Sadly the old fashioned local pub is fast disappearing, as landlords desperately need the sale of food to survive. Sell food or fold. Things change, and I suppose we have to accept it.
In a post-Covid world, where 10,000 pubs are predicted never to re-open, the traditional non-food-serving pubs (now known as 'wet pubs') will probably be the first to go.
What a shame.
Wednesday 2 December 2020
However, to mention this might cause another 100 years war.
Tuesday 1 December 2020
Softly, softly, catchee monkey.
Monday 30 November 2020
Sunday 29 November 2020
We in the 'civilised world' take water for granted. We turn-on the tap, and out comes clean drinkable water in as much quantity as we require. We water our gardens, fill our pools, and have labour-saving machines that uses the stuff as if there's no tomorrow.
This was all fine when there were just four of us in our tiny hamlet; now there are many many more, and in summer anywhere up to about 50... all of whom use copious amounts of water.
Our water supply comes from a natural spring about 5 kms away. It is purified, pumped-up into a nearby water tower, then pressure fed to the houses.
We've been advised that the spring where the water originates is far less generous than in previous times, and with all the excessive use it doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine our supply slowly coming to an end. It does look as though at some time in the future, houses will need to make their own provision in order to guarantee a supply.
Digging a well is not difficult; one digs down whilst lining the sides with either bricks or giant concrete tubes. One goes as far as when one hits water.
My first farmhouse here had it's own citerne as did most other houses. It was a huge concrete lined hole, about 10 feet in diameter, and 30 feet deep, that was filled with water from the roof. There was a lovely old pump at one end of the terrace which brought the water up to just outside the kitchen door. A bucket did the rest. The citerne was always full.
I can see the day when such citernes will again be essential. With large fibreglass containers now easily available, installing such underground tanks would not be complicated. Having them filled with rainfall is another question. Global warming won't help.
Maybe in the future we'll all have to learn to be frugal with our water again, and treat it as a valuable commodity.
I do hope I'm wrong.
Saturday 28 November 2020
Friday 27 November 2020
Possibly the most asked question of the moment is 'What do you want for Christmas?'.
And possibly the most usual reply is 'Nothing'.
Amongst the presents I gave last year were an Apple tree, a large bag of bird seed, a mushrooming penknife, and some things specifically asked-for that have never been used. With the two boys joining us again this year, no doubt our focus will be on them.
I have already decided on my gift for Lady Magnon, it is simply a matter of buying and bringing home.
For the others I really am at a loss.
This year, especially, excessive spending seems almost immoral. Maybe rather than giving lots of expensive and unwanted gifts, we should simply be grateful for our good health. The world's problems are far from over, so maybe the best gift might be something specific to the pandemic.
For years I gave people 'scratch cards' in with their Christmas or Birthday cards. The idea that someone could win a Million quid always appealed to me (one person did win €100); this year it might be more relevant to give a voucher for a Covid-19 vaccine jab.
Anyway, the important thing is to have a good Christmas. A pleasant lunch, one or two welcome gifts, and no hangover. As usual, I'm really looking forward to it.
N.B. Yesterday I was pruning the Wisteria on our 'tower'. I had leaned a ladder against the wall which the boys soon discovered to be the 'toy of the century'. Up and down they went (whilst being surveyed) and had a wonderful time.
Why buy a £200 X Box (I have no idea how much these things actually cost) when you can go up and down a ladder for nothing!
Thursday 26 November 2020
Wednesday 25 November 2020
50 by 50 cm flagstones are being laid, and it will make a really beautiful outdoor dining/dancing area. I'm not sure yet what they'll use for shade, but no doubt a solution will appear in time.
I always say that the most important room in the house here is the auvent, an outdoor room where one lives from Spring to Autumn. It really should have a roof for when it rains, but I expect they'll soon realise that.
When the barn's exterior wooden cladding is renewed (possibly this winter), a couple of doors made for upstairs (gawd knows when), and the second bathroom completed; all will be finished. It's already a lovely spacious home.
We might even invite Wills's older brother, Kimbo, to come over and cut a ribbon. He's used to such things, and probably by now even has his own scissors.
Things advance, little by little.
Tuesday 24 November 2020
I apologise if the above all sounds rather confusing. It's difficult finding the right words to describe what's going on here. Believe me; the world (and the EDF) works in mysterious ways.
Monday 23 November 2020
Sunday 22 November 2020
Saturday 21 November 2020
Friday 20 November 2020
Thursday 19 November 2020
Wednesday 18 November 2020
English fishing ports such as Fleetwood, Hull, and Grimsby, used to be wealthy towns that supported not only the fishermen themselves, but countless others who catered to the town's fish-based wealth; jewellers, hotels, builders, wine merchants, etc. These days they are almost ghost towns.
English cooler waters supply 90% of the EU's fish, but England itself was restricted to fishing just 14% of that supply. Brussels still considered this too much, so back in Brussels they came up with a cunning plan.
To stop the English from fishing their own fish, they decided to pay UK boat owners to destroy their boats (such as the one above); they had to be totally destroyed so as never to sail again. Either burned or cut-up for scrap, leaving the waters dangerously open to EU boats.
Now, of course, as she is no longer a member of the EU, the UK wishes to fish her own waters again, and sell the catch to the EU as 'English Fish'.
M Barnier isn't pleased. He thinks that even though the UK is no longer under the thumb of Brussels, he still wants Europe's trawlers to take whatever they wish from UK waters. He has even offered 15% of the value of fish caught by EU trawlers in compensation, amounting to around £90 Million per annum.
No doubt some deal will eventually be struck, and then overlooked. There's no question that both French and Spanish trawlers will continue to take as much fish from UK waters as they wish. They will do as they've always done; make the laws, then openly flout them.
What a very different organisation it's become. The UK joined a 'Common Market' on Jan 1st 1973, and left the 'United States of Europe' on Jan 1st 2020.