Saturday, 6 June 2020

Compost fry-up, 2020.



This is a bit of a cheat, but Lady Magnon insisted that we ate a 'Compost Fry-up'.

We still tentatively stick to our 'Veggie Wednesdays', and Lady M just couldn't wait for Haddock's to provide all we needed for our traditional Summer Compost Fry-ups. Most of the above had been bought, or was either lingering in the fridge, or the freezer. 

This really is one of our favourite summer meals. A simple mix of whatever vegs are available, fried in Olive oil, garlic, and butter, and flavoured at the final minute with lots of ground cumin.

If I remember correctly, this particular Fry-up contained Potatoes, French Beans, Red Pepper, Courgettes, and Broad Beans. Delicious.

If you don't believe me; try it.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Dolphin Asks Diver For Help.


Occasionally a small bit of film can renew one's faith not only in humanity, but also in our relationship with wildlife.



Thursday, 4 June 2020

Bay, Grapes, Oleander, Daylilies.



I like the garden at the moment. There are quite a few flowers around, and all the foliage is looking very lush and healthy.

The local wildlife seems happy. The birds sing, the Deer bring their newborns up towards the house, and our lone Hen Harrier has been visiting.

My Mock Orange bush, by Haddock's gate, is in full flower and smelling wonderful, and all the Chestnut trees are also in flower giving-off their distinctive powerful earthy aroma.

We have recently had some decent rain (more to come soon) so my vegetable plants, and seedlings, have revived and are growing again. My fingers are permanently crossed for my Tomato crop; after three years of disease and failure, I'm hoping for a change this year. So far they're looking good.


Our 2020 fruit crops will be very hit-n-miss. Very few Apples, hardly any Pears, a few Plums, no Black Hamburg eating grapes, plenty of Figs, a few Cherries, and of course a tree overflowing with Quinces.

Great Expectations? No; more like, be patient, wait, and see! What larks.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

New glasses.



I'm not good at 'selfies'. I'm no good at pouting, or excessive make-up, nor am I much to look at either.

Anyway this isn't about Narcissism, it's about glasses. My new glasses.

I seem to have been having a lot of new glasses recently; the result of both a boisterous young dog, and my penchant for cheap easily-broken off-the-shelf reading glasses. 

About a month or so ago, I was in my local pharmacy when I noticed an area devoted to reading glasses, and I spotted a pair that looked not only very solid, but also to my taste. They also happened to be of the strength I require; +3.

Anyway, I bought them, and they work well, so I looked for more. I couldn't find any. Eventually I found them online, on the maker's (Loubsol) web site, and tried to order another couple of pairs. I came a cropper right at the final stage of ordering, something wasn't right; so I gave-up.

I then thought I would ask my lovely son in London to order them for me, I've done this before and it always works. I sent him a cheque, and the glasses arrived a few days later. He's much better at ordering stuff online, and has all the required numbers, etc. I can order things through Amazon, but smaller Co's make life difficult for me.

Anyway, I'm very pleased with my new spex. I now have three pairs of them. They are chunky and solid, and look as if they'll last a while.

Amazingly, they were advertised as being for WOMEN. I cannot think of anything less feminine.

No-one's given me a funny look so far! I like them.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Bloody Pentecost.



Having been property-bound for the past two weeks (other than a short trip to buy bread), I'd been looking forward to getting out and about and seeing people other than the dear Lady Magnon.

Off I trot, then find that my bloody supermarket was closed on account of 'Pentecost' (whatever that is).

I do know that it's some religious festival, but it's hardly Christmas or Easter, and why they think it's necessary to close the shops; I really don't know.

This is the THIRD year running that I've gone shopping on the day of Pentecost, and the THIRD time I've found everything closed. I do wish that someone would say "Cro, it's Pentecost on Monday, and everything will be closed", but they wouldn't dream of it.

It's about 25 Kms to my local Leclerc (not the one above), which means a 50 km round trip of wasted time and petrol. I was not happy.

I shall return this morning.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Time (and lives) wasted on hatred.



After yesterday's posting (which I've now deleted on account of the amount of venom) This subject seems to be apt.

Hatred of others is such a debilitating waste of time. There have been several notable cases recently of 'celebs' wishing that Boris had died from his COVID-19 illness. I can think of no nastier desires from those on the left than to wish someone dead, simply because they see things differently, and are usually more successful.

I've known people myself whose whole lives are dedicated to hatred and conflict; they are simply not happy unless they have someone to hate, and people to annoy (usually their neighbours). It's a strange trait, because it ends with them, themselves, being disliked by everyone around them. Hatred breeds hatred.

Such hatred is usually accompanied by invented stories. I suppose in recent times Mrs Thatcher must have been the recipient of more lies and hatred than almost any other person. Mrs T was a very determined woman, and would stand no nonsense. Her sole aim was to bring the UK back from the financial ruin of the previous Labour government; which she did. Along the way she encountered Luddites of the worst sort, and as the economy soon returned to 'boom', she became the perfect target for the left, and they didn't hold back. They still don't!

Boris is now receiving similar venom over his handling of COVID. Every armchair scientist has an opinion, and 'opposition parties' in particular all demand the opposite of whatever's being recommended; simply to be contrary. They have been fighting on the streets of Spain, Germany, and even Hong Kong, and their ilk have been holding demonstrations on the streets of London; including Corbyn's own darling brother, Piers. It's almost as if they are desperate to spread the virus.

Why can't people simply be nice to each other. It costs nothing, it creates calm, and, I'm certain, improves one's mental health. A certain blog Troll comes to mind.


Saturday, 30 May 2020

The unsung pickle.


                                 

Back in the UK, in my native Surrey, we had a small Walnut tree that regularly had a good crop. As Walnuts had difficulty ripening in Surrey, and to prevent them being eaten by Squirrels, the crop was invariably picked early, and pickled.

It is said by epicureans the world over, that the finest accompaniment to a really good mature Cheddar Cheese is a pickled Walnut; and I must agree.

The making of these pickles is a very simple, but lengthy, affair; you will probably not be sampling them for up to two years; by which time they will be superb. The ones below are from 2018.

                                       

It's not complicated. They must be gathered before any wood begins to form inside. Now is ideal, as long as they are of a decent size. Traditionally in the South of England we would pick them during Goodwood Week; but I expect that's been cancelled this year.

Firstly they are trimmed of their stems, etc (topped and tailed), and any blemishes removed, each nut must then be pierced a couple of times with a stainless blade; at the same time ensuring that no wood has started to form.

They are then bathed in brine for two weeks (changing the salt/water every so often), drained, then put out in the sun for a couple of days until they turn jet black. Then they are packed into sterilised jars, and covered with either malt or red wine vinegar, a reasonable amount of sugar, and a few peppercorns. The Walnuts should be totally covered, and left for up to two years before eating (one year is OK).

None of the details is exact... just use your instinct (or consult a pukka recipe, such as the one below).


Friday, 29 May 2020

Danger. A drink with a kick.


It's been 10 days since I made my Elderflower Champagne, and already I've lost one bottle.

The bottles need to be TOUGH. They need clip-on tops, and to be made of good solid glass. Unfortunately I have used a few old Fischer Beer bottles, and others that looked OK, but weren't. Below is one example of the latter which exploded last night..


Anyway, this is also a sign that the alchemy has worked, and I have the product I was after. A very pleasant sparkling drink that is both refreshing and delicious. There's nothing worse than finding your Champagne has no fizz.


Before next year, I really must obtain a lot more bottles like the above. They do the job, and can take the pressure. It's a terrible waste to have them explode!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

A bit of a moan!



The Chestnut trees are about to flower, and in readiness the local beekeepers have brought in their hives.

The problem is that the hive owners never think to supply their Bees with water, and as everyone knows; BEES NEED WATER.

As a result, every year the same thing happens; the Bees make a Bee-line for our old fountain (above) where we always keep water for the birds. They then take over, and use it as their personal water supply. I don't know if you can see in my photo, but they arrive in their scores; you may need to enlarge it.

The fountain is just at the north end of our pool, and frankly the amount of Bees permanently buzzing around is a bloody nuisance.

So please, you beekeepers, would you in future supply water when you bring your hives. We have taken up water to where they are positioned, but now that they know that our water is available, no doubt they will continue to come here. 

It wouldn't take much, and a small amount of consideration on your behalf would makes our summer swimming much more pleasant. Thank you.

(They don't even give us any bloody honey!!!)

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Globe Artichokes.



Reminder to self: I must put-in more Artichoke plants at Haddock's!

I'm wondering what trouble I'll get myself into today; but here goes anyway. My fingers are crossed!

The Artichoke is a very sophisticated little beast. It attracts Ants, and their slavish aphids, by the thousand, its sharp spikes at the end each flower 'petal' are vicious, and the little darlings are very time-consuming to prepare.

But all this is worthwhile. When prepared and cooked they are delicious. Served with a garlicky vinaigrette, they are a perfect addition to a lunchtime snack. 

I was once served a very large uncooked Artichoke in a restaurant as an entrée. I had no idea what to do with it, having always eaten them cooked; I still wouldn't know today! I sent it back and asked for something else.

I also buy canned or bottled Artichoke hearts as a standby, but there's nothing like having them fresh.

As you might see from my photo, I grow the very spiky variety. I really must buy some plants of the much bigger round type.

Lady M is not 100% convinced about them.... more for me! 

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Waiting for the all-clear siren.



I've said in the past that I seem to spend an awful lot of time simply 'waiting'.

Whether it be waiting for plaster or cement to dry, for Lady M to get to the car so we can go somewhere, or for Spring/Summer to arrive; I'm always waiting for something, and if I moan about it I'm told not to be impatient!

Well, I am impatient. Any time spent waiting, is time wasted. It's in-between-time; time that can't be used to do other things, time that is possibly quite short, but seems like ages.

Many now anxiously wait for each evening's details of deaths, new infections, and new restrictions or liberties. Personally I don't.

Mostly, of course, we are waiting for things to return to 'normal'; which may never happen. Some are desperately waiting for science to develop a jab that will make the world immune, others are just waiting for all the shops to re-open. Everyone is waiting for the whole pandemic to become no more than a nasty memory.

One day a siren will sound, and we'll all come up from our temporary homes in The Underworld, and blink in the sunshine. Churchill will declare it to be safe to breathe again, and Vera Lynn will sing patriotic songs.

Carry on waiting; it may be some while.

Monday, 25 May 2020

No More Soup!



It was a mutual decision; soup is no longer being served at lunchtimes, and won't be at least until next Autumn/Winter.

In its place comes salads. From simple soups to simple salads; in the above case yesterday, with a lump of Feta. Very Greek.

Of course for the moment we are having to put-up with totally tasteless Tomatoes, but before too long (fingers crossed) we'll have our own homegrown. I can hardly wait to taste pukka Tomatoes again.

Temperatures are now regularly in the mid to high 20's C, and the pool is being regularly used. One of the pleasures of having it open (even if we don't swim) is sitting there in the early evening with our apéritifs; discussing the events of the day.

June is less than a couple of weeks away, and that means Summer. I've already been wearing just T shirt and shorts for the past month or more, and I'm now looking forward to dispensing with the duvet at nights. I find sleeping without any covers much more pleasant.

Salad days are much more my style.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Garden in Late May.



May is probably the best month in many gardens; it certainly is here.

This never-fail rose was given to me by a gardener friend. He called it 'Pink Pixie', but I have a feeling he made-up the name.


The pool is now open, clean, and in daily use (weather permitting).


I particularly like this tiny spot in the garden. It's the steps down to our pool's pump house, and has more different plants per square foot than any other area. At the moment it is extremely aromatic.


With afternoon temperatures reaching 28 C, our au vent is being used a lot. A nice spot to relax, eat lunch, or take our evening apéritif. It's our outdoor haven, with its own 'daybed', and fridge. The nearby sound of the pool's moving water is very relaxing; perfect for that afternoon 'power nap'. 


And finally, we are short of places to plant these days, but this spot became available last year as the result of our Lavatera having died. It's a very pale pink Rose with a wonderful scent. It's called André le Nôtre. I'm hoping it'll grow to fill the space well.

That's it, I'm now off to Haddock's; my proper garden!


Saturday, 23 May 2020

Billy's nose.



As you can probably see by the above, apart from being a very funny looking pup, when Billy first arrived he had an extremely pink, rather non-committal, nose. Just a couple of tiny black spots and rest was pink.


Now, over a year later, he has become a very handsome boy, his colouring has developed, and his nose is slowly filling-in with black (No, not the children with their pens!).

I certainly think a Border Collie looks better with an all black nose, but of course we like him as he is; regardless.

I'm now wondering, with time, whether his nose will become totally black. I somehow think it might.

Quite a different boy from his first portrait.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Snakes Alive!



I was trimming the Abutilon, when I suddenly noticed someone looking me.

It was a big fat, and very long, Snake, who looked as if he was about to pounce. I don't like Snakes at the best of times (even harmless ones), so I shooed him away, and did other things.

I know my fear of them is totally irrational, but so is it with over 50% of the world's population who feel the same as I do.

In case you were wondering, it's a Western Whip Snake. St Patrick, you are needed.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Summer Holidays 2020.



Tourism will probably be on hold this year; at least, I hope it will.

It's all well and good wanting to get away for a couple of weeks in the countryside, in the mountains, or by the sea, but please think of those of us who are living in rural areas where we are still free from COVID-19.

Town and city dwellers who dream of bucolic freedom risk spreading their urban viruses, and causing chaos where previously there had been calm. So please be aware of our concerns.


Travelling from crowded inner-cities to the peace and quiet of the countryside may sound like your ideal Summer holiday, but do resist. Sunbathe in your back garden or local park; we really don't want you, or your wretched COVID in our tiny hamlet! Above is how they make clear their attitude up in Scotland.

A lot of Brit ex-pats have been unwise enough to rely on income from holiday accommodation, and frankly they need to re-think what they're doing. I've said it before; ex-pats should be financially self-sufficient before moving abroad, and not have to rely on holidaymakers to boost their incomes.

It's a funny old world. Most ex-pats move to the countryside for peace and quiet, then as they find themselves strapped for cash, they 'do up a barn', and let Gites to tourists. It kinda defeats the purpose; and at present could prove extremely dangerous.

There are three Gites next door to us, and a 20-guest 'tin box holiday village' being built just 300 metres away. There is also another Gite within about 400 metres; the new owners of which might not use it as such. I hope they all remain empty; or at least demand that any holiday makers abide by a strict 14 day quarantine on arrival, and another 14 day quarantine on returning home.

I now understand that most governments (other than those whose countries exist almost exclusively on tourist dollars) are suggesting people stay at home this summer. I can but agree.

Don't you hate that word 'STAYCATION'. Ghastly, but an important message for 2020.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Quite a shock.



I was recently in the bathroom, brushing teeth (tooth), trimming beard, and doing general maintenance work, when I looked into the mirror behind the hand basin, and saw a glimpse of myself in the guise of my Great Grandfather; above.

It was quite a shock as I suddenly, for the first time, saw any resemblance between myself and my ancestor. It isn't easy to see beyond his large bushy beard; even though I have a trimmed version myself.

Of course, there are bound to be physical similarities along the same blood line. I certainly see it in my own children, and in their own children, but I hadn't previously seen any particular resemblance to my own spear-side relatives. In fact I look much more like my mother than my father.

It was a slightly perturbing, if reassuring, experience; albeit very fleeting.

A wonderful thing heredity.

Vendanges à Dernacueillette - Terroirs de gueuletons


Arthur and Vincent go winemaking with friend Guillaume Boussens at his vineyard in Dernacueillette; a beautiful 44 inhabitant village (look it up) roughly equidistant to the west of Narbonne and Perpignan, at about 350 m altitude in the beautiful Pyrénées Catalanes, in the Aude.

Here's a brief glance at him at work, and his obvious passion for wine making. A man who loves his home... and its totally natural product. Note the weeds growing amongst the vines.

What a wonderful bloody spot for a vineyard!




Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Alcohol and COVID-19.



It has been claimed that people are drinking a lot more as part of their 'Lockdown' confinement. Looking at published figures, this would seem so; apart from in S Africa where sales of alcohol have been temporarily banned (and probably elsewhere too).

In the USA sales of wine are up 27.6% compared to a year ago. Sales of spirits have increased by 26.4%, and beer/cider by 14%. Overall, there has been an increase in sales of 55% compared to May 2019.

Of course much of this could simply be stockpiling, but research suggests that people (especially women) are drinking more to cope with anxiety and depression.

With many products in short supply, alcohol has become more easily available than either bog paper or eggs. 

Overall, it is claimed that the sale of alcohol worldwide, has increased threefold by 291%, suggesting to some that it could prompt a 2nd major health crisis.

So the question must be, am I (or you) drinking more than usual? My own answer is a definite 'No'. I still enjoy a glass of wine with my evening meal, but no more than that; my days of over-indulgence are long gone, and have certainly not been rekindled by COVID-19.

And you?

Monday, 18 May 2020

Champagne again.



It's mid-May, so time to make Elderflower Champagne.

I'm sorry that Boo Boo isn't here to help me, I'd been looking forward to us making and drinking his very own Champagne.

So, by myself, I gathered a few heads of Elderflower, put them into a bucket with 5.5 litres of water, added 650 gms sugar, the zest of a Lemon, the juice of a Lemon, and two tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

I stirred it to dissolve the sugar, covered the bucket, and waited 24 hrs before filtering and bottling.

What could be simpler!

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Almost an adventure.



Yesterday was a very busy day.

On Saturdays we buy our bread for the week from a tiny baker at a nearby village.

I picked-up a couple of large sourdough loaves, plus the above garlic-encrusted fougasse.

Outside the baker's, I noticed a small road-side stall about 20 metres away. I asked the baker what they were selling, and he replied 'Goat's cheese'. 

So, I also bought a few Cabécous (small round fresh Goat cheeses), and this really delicious looking 'Garlic and Herb' Goat cheese, that will go perfectly with the fougasse. Whilst I was there, the baker turned-up with coffee and croissants for the cheese man. How nice of him.

On nearing home, I was flagged down by my neighbour, José, who very kindly gave me some 'Portuguese' Tomato plants (my favourites), and told me to help myself to Cherries.

Just in case we were short of something for lunch, I also knocked-up some hummus, which was sprinkled with sumac.


Pool opening, pool cleaning, hedge trimming, bread buying, Tomato planting, and Cherry picking; it was a good Saturday morning's work (and a very nice lunch too).

I decided to leave my mowing until tomorrow; I was knackered. I pottered for the rest of the day.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Pool opening; Stage 1.



We decided to open-up a little earlier than usual this year.

The poor old pool has been under wraps all autumn, winter, and spring, and its black plastic cover is, as usual, in a dreadful mess.

Not only is it filled with water, but also with green sludge, leaves, newts, tadpoles, and other things for which we have yet to find names.

Firstly the water has to be pumped away, and for this I use a standard small water pump, which needs to be suspended over the deepest part of the water in a very Heath Robinson manner, with tape, bits of wood, long pole etc. The pump cannot simply be thrown into the water; it needs to be about 2 ins above the bottom. To suck-in all that sludge would probably kill it.

The red draining pipe is quite long, and goes off down into the field in front of the house, where any water-logging would do no harm. I expect there are between 8-10 cu Metres of water that need to be pumped away.


Once we are down to just an inch or so, I shall try to sweep all the sludge into one corner, and continue to drain the rest of the water, I'll then wait for evaporation to do the rest, before removing the plastic and seeing what state the interior is in.

Every year it's the same, and every year it's quite stressful. Soon, of course, we'll need to see if the pool's own pumping system, filter, etc, is working; last year I had to give the main pump a good kick. It worked!

We'll know tomorrow if everything is in order; then it's just a matter of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. 

I may be some while.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Haddock's mid-May.



For the moment, all seems to be going according to plan.

In the beds above are my Tomatoes (4 varieties), red Onions, Courgettes, and Carrots, as well as some recently sown French Beans, and Rainbow Chard; that have yet to appear.


Here, there are Aubergines, Peppers, Chillies, and one small row of 'interesting' Potatoes. 


And this is my newly made small plot for Pumpkins and Squashes. They have plenty of room to spread, and it'll keep them away from my other crops. 

Still to be sown are my Autumn/Winter leafy crops of Cavolo Nero, Swiss Chard, and Perpetual Spinach.

Elsewhere there are Jerusalem Artichokes, lots of Cherries, Plums, Tayberries, Apples, and Blackcurrants.

For the moment all looks well, I'm just praying that my Tomatoes don't catch whatever they caught over the past two years. My fingers are crossed.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Worst case scenario.


Tens of thousands of lives will be lost, once great airlines may never fly again, and countries who prided themselves on high employment rates could soon be amongst the worst.

There is no question that life as we knew it will never completely reappear.


But I have one great fear above all others for the UK; the demise of the good old British 'boozer'.

If there's one thing that the Brits revere more than anything (other, possibly, than their Football teams) it's the traditional English Pub' (whether they frequent them or not!).

The Pub' is often the centre of a community. It's where we all meet, discuss matters of importance, and solve every current international dispute. It's also where we consume our favourite tipples; usually pints of beer. We play games, form quiz teams, and occasionally watch Morris Men dancing in the car park. The Pub' is a bastion of tradition. When The Queen's Head plays The Dog and Duck at Cricket, it's the most important day of the year. Such is the importance of the English boozer.

These days the Pub' is also where one goes to eat good hearty English fare. It's almost the only place these days where you'll find a good Ploughman's Lunch, Shepherd's Pie, or Steak and Kidney Pudding. That sign outside that uncouthly announces 'Pub Grub' is not to be ignored.

Sadly a good percentage of our old Pubs will never re-open, and many villages will never be the same again without them. No doubt people will find alternatives, but that essential part of our culture will be gone forever.

Many Fish-n- Chip shops may also follow the same route, as will many small independent foreign restaurants. All very sad, and all part of the inevitable post-COVID world.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Sleeves rolled up.



It was a damp cool afternoon yesterday, and I suddenly heard a strange whirring noise coming from the kitchen.

Lady Magnon was surrounded by bags of baking ingredients, and was busy whizzing something in a bowl. "I'm making Crumpets for Tea" she said.


They were later toasted, smothered in butter, then served with a pleasant cup of Lapsang. 

Verdict: 10/10

A change of Season.



Normally, at this time of year, I'm never without a penknife and small plastic bag in my pocket, but yesterday I was amiss. 

I had to put a clean square of kitchen towel inside my beret in order to bring my mushrooms home.

It's the start of our Girolle season. Not a lot yesterday, but it's a start. If we have warm weather for a while (which I'm assured we will) there should be mushrooms in the woods for quite some while.


I picked enough for an omelet for two. I shall return tomorrow to pick more. Lovely.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

To the shops again!!



It's been quite a while, and I almost felt like a tourist. It wasn't a particularly pleasant day, but at least it wasn't raining; and the queue was short.

Two weeks since I last ventured out to Leclerc, and quite a lot seemed to have changed.

There were far more cars, and lorries, on the roads, and for some reason the supermarket trollies were no longer in their designated covered parking places, but lined-up in front of the entrance. They did, however, all contain a reassuring message saying that they'd been 'sanitised', for which I thank them.

Once inside, everyone wore masks; including me. One man I noticed was also wearing a visor. I find the masks irritating; they make me hot, and every time I wish to talk to someone I have to semi-remove it. I also find that my reading spex steam-up.

The shelves were still well stocked, but I did notice the absence of certain things. Lady M had specified a particular type of flour she wanted; there wasn't any. The milk I buy was sold-out, so I had to buy the Bio version instead; no harm there. The variety of Potatoes I normally buy were missing. Otherwise, for me personally, all was OK.

After the supermarket I visited Gamme Vert, our local horticultural store. I wanted some more Tomato plants, but there was NONE; sold out. I came away with just a large packet of wildlife-friendly Slug Pellets; essential at the moment, but not what I'd gone for. 

I filled-up with petrol, and headed for home. En route I noticed several people actually wearing their masks whilst driving alone. I didn't really see much point in that, but I suppose it's all part of our new world.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Finding things to do.



With everyone being in lockdown, or supposed lockdown, many are lost for something to do. Without their visits to McDonald's, Costa coffee, or KFC, their lives are incomplete and without purpose. I've heard of people being almost suicidal in response to their confinement.

Of course there are books to read, classic films to watch, even mind-numbing TV Soaps to watch. There are no end of things to do, as long as one has the willingness to absorb knowledge, or even simply be entertained.

One can also have fun with food. Bread baking has become amazingly popular, and firing-up the BBQ has never been more fun. It's a time given to experimentation and discovery, and, frankly, what could be nicer than finding new things to eat, and new flavours!

But still there are those who claim to be bored; and they want their so-called 'freedom'. May I suggest that these people are more 'boring' than bored.

Keep busy, keep your brain engaged, and stay contented. And at the end of each busy day, why not do what we do; sit outdoors (if you can) and enjoy a simple glass of wine and a few nibbles; and watch the world go by. Life will seem so much better.

And don't forget Terry Waite's wise words "You're not stuck at home; you're safe at home".

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Bloody cars.



I'm one of those people who is far happier with a 2CV or Renault 4, than I am with a Nippon Whiz-Bang XX GT Super Turbo Special (Sport Mk 2).

It took me many years, but eventually I mastered the cleaning of plugs, tinkering with the distributor, filling with petrol, and topping up the oil. As long as there was a spark in the battery, I could make almost any car engine start.

Then came all the complications. Electric windows, automatic door locking, digital clocks, no choke, etc. It wasn't long before a car's engine needed to be plugged into a computer at a specialist garage in order to find any fault, and with such complicated engines, there were faults-a-plenty. I was totally lost!


Recently my car (The Compact Royce) spluttered a couple of times, and I panicked. I ran hot-foot to Mr Google and described my problem to him as carefully as I could. An answer came back almost at once.

It was the air filter.... I didn't even know it had an air filter.

So, I took all the details, consulted Amazon, and with little confidence I ordered a replacement. It arrived just three days later, and amazingly it was the right model, I chucked the old dirty one, cleaned out the interior of its container, and the new one fitted perfectly (above).

Since then I have suffered no more spluttering; clean air must have done the job.

p.s. I remember a couple of years ago having a slight problem with my chainsaw. My friend José asked if I'd cleaned the air filter. My reply was (you've already guessed) "What air filter?"

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Scallops.



When I was very small there were two special treats that were mostly kept for our parents; in our house anyway.

Our own home-grown Asparagus was almost exclusively for my father; the garden produced very few spears, and he was reluctant to share it with his children (I do now understand this attitude). The other rarity was Scallops; they were expensive, and as children we were probably not considered to be 'gourmets', and as such they would be wasted on us (I now understand this too). At the time it all seemed very unfair.

Over the years I've developed a real craving for Scallops, I consider them to be at the pinnacle of gourmet dining. I would rather eat Scallops than almost anything else.

These days I tend to buy them frozen. They are still expensive so hardly an everyday treat, but are on hand whenever one has the desire. Fried in butter for a couple of minutes on either side, they are wonderful.

I should add that I'd already eaten half my lunch when I took the above photo, which is why my plate looks a bit frugal. The Oooohs and Aaaahs could be heard in Toulouse.


Friday, 8 May 2020

'Murder Hornets'.


You may have seen in The News, that the USA has found a new enemy called 'The Murder Hornet'. They are new arrivals over there, and they are panicking, hence the name.


We in Europe are quite used to these beasts, they have joined our regular Hornets over the past decade or so, and fly about mostly unhindered.

Here we simply call them Asian Hornets, and like the ordinary European Hornets, we try to avoid them.

If left alone they don't attack, but if you start whacking at them with rolled-up newspapers, they won't be happy. There are about 200 deaths annually from their stings, so best not to upset them.

Personally I just ignore them. We pick all our 'decorative' grapes early (the ones that cover the front of the house) so as not to attract them; but otherwise we just live together as best we can. They are particularly fond of Figs, and we have several trees.

Of course I do bait traps with a mix of beer, jam, and honey, and I do manage to kill several hundred each year (see above photo).

I was unreliably informed a while ago that Hornets are a protected species in Germany, and you can expect a fine of €50,000 if you hurt one.

The Germans are very strange people! Today is VE Day; the day they unconditionally surrendered, all of 75 years ago.


Thursday, 7 May 2020

1st BBQ of 2020.



There's something special about the aroma of a BBQ on a warm summer's evening.

Even more so, for me, if that aroma is of Lamb.

Above was last night's offering; a whole breast of local Lamb, liberally sprinkled with ground Cumin, dried herbs, and some Fleur de Sel. What could be simpler.

All it needed was some Taboulé, and a glass of red.

Yesterday we also had our first bunch of the new season's Green Asparagus. Does lockdown-life get any better?

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

A New Canvas.



I've always enjoyed stretching canvas; it's a very satisfying procedure.

It was my favourite, and most successful, chat-up line at college "May I help you with that; you look as if you might be having problems". Worked a dream!

I use quite a heavy white Cotton Duck canvas, and once stretched the canvas is given a coat of white emulsion (or two), then later given a thin wash of Burnt Sienna to take away the newness. Painting over a warm, rather messy, background takes away any reluctance one may have about making that very first mark on virgin ground.


So, here it is; another canvas all ready for daubing.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

A minor bereavement.



I've owned my very well constructed 'Ray Bans' for about 25 years. Originally they belonged to my oldest, Kimbo, who'd paid a small fortune for them. But being a fashion victim, he soon wanted Hugo Boss, Yves St Laurent, or Armani, and they were donated to his Papa!

Certain things almost become a part of you; favourite shoes, a special tie, or a well loved watch, and to lose them is a disaster.

So it was with my Ray Bans (above, rear). I'd always imagined they'd be placed with me in my final resting mausoleum; glued to my face, like my rings to my fingers. But no; they literally fell apart in my hands as I was putting them on almost a week ago.

Luckily Plan B was already in place, and I had a different pair waiting in the wings (above foreground). When Lady M saw me wearing them she insensitively stated " Those look nice; far better than your old ones".

I didn't speak to her for three days after that, even now I'm reluctant. Fancy saying something like that about my beloved Ray Bans. I was mortified.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Pissed off.



I'm sitting here, in front of my laptop, feeling very tired and slightly depressed. I slept less last night than usual, even less than my regular three/four hours. The phone, and internet, were down, so I couldn't even listen to my internet radio. During the first part of the night I heard Billy being sick, so got up and cleared the mess. When, at 5 am, I eventually got up, I found he'd peed on the kitchen floor, so I had to clear that up too.

On my morning walk with Billy, at about 7.00 am, it started to rain when we were about a mile from home. Both of us ended-up soaked.

It is now raining intermittently, and looks likely to continue all day. It's the sort of day that I really detest.

I have taken advantage, to a certain extent, by catching up on Emails, letters, thanking people for stuff, etc. At least I'm now almost up to date. I probably won't go outdoors much.

Breakfast (for me) was left over chicken tagine with merguez, lunch will be vegetable soup with a beetroot salad and maybe some cheese, and dinner tonight will be spaghetti with a minced beef and tomato sauce. Tea, if we can be bothered, will be Lapsang with lemon jaffa cakes. It's hard not to think about food on a day like this.

I look outside, and even though I mowed everywhere just five days ago, it already desperately needs doing again. Our next promised warm sunny day is for tomorrow (Monday), so in the meantime I simply had to watch it grow.

For a bit of excitement, I might light a fire later in the day, otherwise it's drawing, reading, and maybe a crossword. If it's really foul in the afternoon, I might even watch the country house finding TV programme.

Later in the afternoon, when Lady Magnon was taking Billy for a short walk, he seemed to have an epileptic seizure; and to make matters worse, he has just been been sick again. Having lost two dogs to suspicious circumstances makes us wary. Having had someone threaten to kill one of our dogs is always in our minds.

There; that's it. It's been a foul week. Being in lockdown against the weather is almost worse than against the virus.

It's now the following morning, and Billy seems OK, but we remain vigilant.

What a difference some sunshine will make. It's forecast to be 28 C today!!!


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