Monday 30 November 2020

Lady M's Mincemeat recipe.


Aaaah...Mince Pies.

Lady Magnon has been making her mincemeat; always a good sign.

Goodness knows what goes into it. Vast amounts of different types of dried fruits, chopped prunes, preserved peel, spices, brandy, and Atora Suet. The Suet I had wisely bought online as it isn't available here, other than in butchery form.

To me, Christmas ain't Christmas without a plentiful supply of Lady M's Mince Pies. Above are several kilos of her mixture, and there will be several more kilos before the big day. She is a slave to her mixing bowl at this time of year, and she hasn't even mentioned the cake yet.

Her kitchen assistant (Boo Boo) can't wait to bake and sample the first lot; and of course to have a wish! (Actually, me too!)

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

Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta.


Fellow students of Latin, may remember having to translate the exploits of Cotta.

Personally I never thought to enquire about who this Cotta actually was; all I knew was that he marched around, on Caesar's behest, with several cohorts; out to conquer parts of Gaul.

Yesterday I decided to find-out more. Unfortunately not much is written about him other than in the famous De Bello Gallico where some details are given of his being wounded, losing battles, and eventually his death.

He was obviously a much admired soldier, and Caesar promoted him as joint Senior Officer in his Gallic Army along side his fellow officer Sabinus.

Caesar sent him to 'Gaul' to conquer the area around the German/Belgian borders. He came across fierce fighting, and eventually was defeated inside his own compound (above).

I'm really no better informed about dear Cotta, but at least some of my past 60 years of ignorance has been laid to rest. 

The strange thing about learning Latin is that one ends-up being able to say that Cotta is advancing to the north with two cohorts, but one never learns how to ask for a pound of Apples, or even ask the way to the Coliseum.

Friday 27 November 2020

Less than a month until Christmas.


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

Swiss News

Switzerland is an interesting country. More correctly known as The Swiss Confederation, she lies land-locked amongst other larger European countries. She is not a member of the EU, but still benefits from most trade agreements.

Switzerland is also a wealthy country. She has the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world, and comes eighth highest in world 'per capita' GDP.

In a country known for neutrality and the brokering of peace deals, she still has military national service for men over 18. They serve about 21 weeks, and about 30% of the population legally hold firearms.

When we think of Switzerland, we think watches, cheese with holes, alpine horns, penknives, chocolate, skiing, fondue, bicycle regiments, and snow tipped mountains. 

I have never been there, and have no real desire to go. However my father and my 'Uncle John' did once go there mountain climbing together. They were half way climbing up some glacier when they stopped for lunch. My Uncle John pulled out an apple from his rucksack, bit into it, and broke his dentures. The apple was frozen solid. He spent the rest of his holiday 'speaking in tongues' and dining on liquids.

That's the extent of my knowledge of Switzerland. If you have anything exciting to add, please feel free to do so.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

What is life, without a project.

Up at the barn, there is construction afoot. The final surface is, at long last, being applied to the terrace.

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

What a shambles.

The barn behind ours is currently being turned into another home. The new owner has been working on it for about a year.

During all that time he's had no water or electricity. The water people came about two weeks ago, and the necessary pipes do now reach to the edge of his land. All it needs is for his plumber to connect the pipes..... The electricity connection has proved more complex.

The nearest point to connect to is behind our house (above), and the EDF have now been to connect a temporary supply. But rather than connect it to our barn's supply (below left), to which the new owner had already fed his cables (the red tube), they have connected to our supply on the other side of the track (below right); meaning that those cables on the bank will now have to be dug-up, re-positioned, and buried underground in the track.

As I said, this is a temporary connection to a building site. For the actual connection they will have to wait another SIX MONTHS.

Now, I may be a bit dim, but what the hell is the difference between a temporary connection with its own meter etc, and a pukka connection in the same spot, with its own meter etc. All the wires and cables are there, but rules are rules, and when they say six months; that's what they mean!

I don't wish to be rude about the EDF (we've never had any complaints, other than power cuts), but it does seem as if they are very fixed in their ways.

When the men were here yesterday, I asked if they were sure I wasn't going to be paying for the other person's electricity; they assured me that I wouldn't be. When I then asked them if they could fix it so that he would pay for mine; they unfortunately said 'no'.

It now looks as if we'll have that horrible temporary box hanging on a nail from the back of our house until May 2021.

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

Blondes have more fun.

The boys change by the day.

Boo Boo is learning fast. He can tell you how many 20 Centimes are in One Euro, what is the speed of sound, and how he likes his pasta.

Mischa (the Cherub) is only just constructing logical sentences, so it'll be a while before he starts quoting The Iliad. He can build monsters with Lego, use the pedals on his big brother's Go Kart, and knows what flavours of Ice Cream he prefers.

It's wonderful having them here. Lady M is constantly elbow-deep in cake mix, or preparing 'cheesy-pasta', or putting plasters on knees.

The children always come first. 'Cheesy pasta' for the boys has priority over a cup of coffee for Grumpy. But that's the way it should be.

Lockdown means that Boo Boo isn't going to school at the moment, but I honestly think he's learning more at home than he would if he was in kindergarten. He has the advantage of two ex-teachers, various degrees, and plenty of different languages. How many kindergartens can match that!

Sunday 22 November 2020

Cosy Nook.

For any recent visitors to this page;....this (below) is where I live.

The fireplace is always the focal point of every home, so I'm showing you ours. It'll give you an idea of what a 300 year old French peasant cottage looks like.

The fireplace was, of course, originally the cooking section of the kitchen; the washing section was performed in the stone sink which you might just see centre-left.  

At first we had an open fire with metre long lengths of Oak burning on ancient fire dogs, which I loved. These days we have installed a wood burner which means we can close up and go away without any risk of the carpet catching fire. The wood burner also doubles as baked potato cooker, and simmerer of stews casseroles etc on the top; whilst belting out heat. 

Generally we only light the stove in the evening; we're hardy folk. Only if we're forced to be indoors during the daytime (snow, rain, locusts, etc) do we light-up earlier; otherwise it's reasonably economical.

I know what you're thinking; it looks old, dusty, cobwebby, spider-ridden, full of mice, draughty, cold, etc, etc. Well you'd be right on most counts, but that's what bucolic life is all about; not forgetting dog hair all over the place. The only things guaranteed to be sparkly clean in this house are things to do with food or it's preparation; on that there is no compromise. 

I'm not keen on modern homes. I find them characterless, and unwelcoming. I want my home to have history as well as future, but mostly I want it to feel 'cosy'; which our does.

Saturday 21 November 2020

Palombière pour bons vivants - Gueuleton

Here are Vincent and Arthur hunting, and eating, and drinking again. We're well into the season when huge flights of Wood Pigeons pass overhead on their way South. The aim of these hunters is to get them to settle on the trees above their Palombière.

I've never seen a Palombière as well kitted out as this one; they seem to lack nothing. These guys are serious hunters, and gourmets, and obviously live very well. It's good to see such traditions being upheld; especially in these strange times.

Friday 20 November 2020

Memories of better times.

Please play the music, then read-on. If it doesn't work, try this.

It's high Summer, and a nearby village is holding it's annual Méchoui and dance. The small public 'square' between the medieval church and the ugly 1950's Mayor's chamber is divided in two; an area given to several long alfresco dining tables, and a space given to dancing.

Bunting and fairy lights are strung between the ancient pollarded Lime trees. Aperitifs are served, then the youth of the village bring round huge platters of spit-roasted Lamb, big bowls of Flageolet Beans, and Salads. Wine is replenished as soon as bottles are emptied. The youth of the village have been well trained, and obviously enjoy their work; nothing is too much for them.

The food continues to arrive. Cheese is accompanied by offers of Eau de vie; which we decline.

It's about 11.30 pm, and the accordionist and his band take their positions on the mobile podium, and he kicks-off with his favourite number Reine de Musette (which should now be playing).

I ask Lady Magnon if she fancies a twirl. We dance for about an hour, then the band plays a Bourrée which we can't dance to, so we stand with all the others in a circle and watch the elders of the village spin around; men dancing with men and women dancing with women. The audience applaud as the ancient dance is demonstrated to all present. A few children join in the fun, trying to imitate their elders.

After the Bourrée we return to the 'dance floor' and show the locals how amateur dancing really should be done. We have no shame about our lack of skill; we simply enjoy ourselves, as does everyone.

At about 1 am, we are tired, and decide to head for home. We spend another hour or so saying goodbye to everyone, before taking to the road.

This used to be an annual event.... I wonder when it'll happen again; if ever?

Thursday 19 November 2020

No, it's not a Pizza.

It's not really Pizza season, but this isn't a Pizza anyway.

I was leafing through Rick Stein's book 'Secret France', when I came across his recipe for Tarte Flambée, and it really appealed.

In Alsace, where this tart comes from, it's known as Flammekueche (pronounce that as you will), and I suppose it is a pizza look-alike.

This (above) is the one I made last night. The main difference is that there is no tomato and no mozzarella on the French version. The base of the Tarte Flambée is firstly spread with thick cream, then thinly sliced onion, then grated Emmental, and topped with tiny cubes of fried smoked bacon. About 20 mins in the oven, et voila! Nothing could be more simple.

Lady M complained that there was no accompanying salad, and I agreed with her; it needed something crisp and refreshing alongside. Otherwise it was very good; a bit rich maybe, but pleasant for a change. Below is Stein's superior version which prompted my desire. It's worth a go... you may like it.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

A question of fish.

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. 

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Lion meat for breakfast.

Garth Leroux is a South African, fast-bowling, cricketer who played for Sussex in the days when I was a member of SCC. Here he is (below) doing what he did best, whilst wearing his SCC martlets jumper.

The Sussex home pitch at Hove was slightly sloping to the South, and often we would see Imran Khan bowling uphill, and Garth downhill; they were both very effective bowlers.

I would often take my oldest to Eaton Road Hove to watch these two playing. We'd sit at the members pavilion from where we'd have easy access to all the players.

When Garth had a particularly good day, I'd tell Kimbo that he had Lion meat specially flown in from S Africa, which he'd eat before the game to give him extra strength. If he got no wickets, I'd say his Lion meat must have been held-up in the post. This became as much a part of the game as the play itself.

Even today, if my oldest, Kimbo, has a poor day with the ball, I will scold him by saying that he obviously didn't eat his Lion meat for breakfast. He usually admits that this was the case!

I've also threatened to send him some, to cure him of his wretched COVID-19.


Monday 16 November 2020

Oranges and Lemons.

In culinary matters, Lady Magnon is best known for her Tarte Tatin, her Lemon drizzle cake, and her Chocolate brownies. She also bakes a mean Lemon meringue pie, fabulous Parmesan biscuits, and her Mince Pies are world renowned. 

Her once-a-year Christmas cake is always eagerly awaited from that very last slice the previous year, right up to the first slice the following year.

She is less known for her jam making. I, personally, tend to make our Raspberry jam, whereas Lady M makes the Apricot jam. There is no logical reason for this; it's just the way things are.

Recently having heard that Seville Oranges were in the (UK) shops, she decided to make some Marmalade. I don't know if she chose a particularly difficult recipe, but its creation lasted a full two frantic days. It required Muscovado sugar, thick cut peel, Brandy, plenty of Oranges, a Lemon, and an assortment of other exotic ingredients.

The resulting Marmalade is particularly good. It has an intense dark brooding Orange flavour, and is, without question, a far superior product to my old favourite Coopers Oxford Vintage 'course cut' Marmalade.

I just hope that her supply will see us through Winter.

Sunday 15 November 2020

The Plank: A Sunday Special.

Save 30 mins of your time today for this. If you haven't seen it, and it's a dull rainy Sunday, this classic bit of 'silent-ish' movie from 1979 could be just up your street. 

It probably has more famous names and faces of the time, than any other comedy short, and is a perfect example of British humour. Be prepared to laugh for the whole 30 mins.

Saturday 14 November 2020


With all next year's post-Brexit nonsense in the air, someone asked me recently if I'd ever regretted moving to France. The answer was obvious; of course not.

It set me thinking. Do I have any regrets at all? I suppose I do have one or two, but they are only regrets 'in passing'.

Firstly I do vaguely regret not having accepted Prof Carel Weight's offer of a place at The Royal College of Art. With the letters ARCA after my name instead of just BA Hons, There is no question that the art world would have taken me more seriously. It was the thought of another two years at college that put me off; and back in central London too. I also had a wife and son to support, and I needed to make money.

Another (half-hearted) regret is that when I sold my original farmhouse here, that I didn't buy another even bigger, older, house, with more land, and more buildings (property was so cheap). I still dream of owning an ancient home, surrounded on all sides by plenty of land; and maybe a lake even. Not only would I have liked the increased privacy, but I would have liked to have established some loosely based agriculture business to pass on to which ever of my children may have been interested.

I suppose I do also regret not tracking-down the little toe-rag who stole my Richard Hamilton 'Adonis in Y Fronts' print (above). I believe it's now worth over £35,000; not a life changing sum, but it still hurts. Had I found him I suppose I might have ended-up at The Old Bailey on a GBH charge; he was an old school friend too!

Otherwise, it's all been plain-sailing. 

Friday 13 November 2020

The Washington Pantomime 2020.

We are pleased to announce that the 'White House Players' panto this year will be that old favourite 'Cinderella'.

The cast is as follows.....

Cinders: Kamala Harris.

Ugly sisters: Malaysia (Salmonella) and Irania (Listeria) Trump.

Baron Hardup: Don Trump.

Buttons: Barking O'Barmy.

Prince Charming: Joe Biden.

Fairy Godmother: Whoopie-Cushion Goldberg.

The story is as follows. Poor Cinders is harassed by her two ugly step-sisters Salmonella and Listeria. Her hapless father, the Baron Hardup, can neither stop their nastiness, nor halt the increasing popularity of Prince Charming.

Cinders receives an invitation to Prince Charming's ball, but her nasty step-sisters try to stop her attending. Eventually Cinders' Fairy Godmother comes to her aid and she arrives at the ball in all her beauty and glory. 

Prince Charming notices her at once, and before the evening is over he asks for her hand in marriage. Baron Hardup, however, is not happy; he sees the marriage of Cinders and Prince Charming as a threat to his lofty position, and tries to stop their engagement. Cinders ignores her father, and with the help of her best friend Buttons, she overcomes his protests and marries her Prince. They live happily ever after.

Any reference to characters living or deceased is purely coincidental.

View from the terrace, yesterday afternoon.

Billy really wanted to round them up, but he didn't think they looked 'woolly' enough.


It was yet another lovely day. I did quite a bit of mowing, more pruning and leaf sweeping, and prepared two gourmet meals.

Wills bought us a new Panasonic CD Stereo system (or systeem as it says on the brochure). Our old Sony system had seen better days and was about 25 years old, so a new one was very welcome. Much of the afternoon was spent setting it up. The sound quality is superb.

I'm off shopping this morning. It's amazing how much stuff gets added to my list over the period of 7 days. We must be eating too much.

Do you have Cows in your front garden?

Thursday 12 November 2020



As an Englishman of a 'certain age', I was quite naturally brought-up on a diet of Edward Lear,  Lewis Carroll, and Hilaire Belloc (amongst others).

The imagery created by Alice and her adventures, Belloc's disobedient children, or Lear's Owl and Pussycat, stay with us for ever. Pre-Disney, the written word prompted our imaginations, much as listening to the Radio did before TV.

Of the above, my favourite has to be Belloc. Who could forget his tales of Charles Augustus Fortescue, of Godolphin Horne, or even poor Jim who was eaten by a Lion (Always keep a hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse). 

Contemporary children don't seem to enjoy these stories and poems as we did. I'm sure there are plenty of good alternatives around, but I can't see them having the lasting literary influence of Carroll or Belloc. Disney versions of the classics may be 'easy viewing', but reading the originals is far more enlightening.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Escape to the Chateau.

On fireside evenings we occasionally watch a TV programme about Brits buying-up all the old Chateaux in France, and turning them into wedding or holiday venues; some more successfully than others. 

One of the more successful renovations has been undertaken by Samantha Cameron lookalike, and all-round hard worker, Fiona Jones (above), at her 800 year old Chateau du Masgelier in the Limousin. She has impeccable taste, and is tireless in her search for perfection.

Even the cheaply restored buildings are usually better in the hands of Brits or Cloggies, than the French themselves, who when looking at an ancient building often see no further than clean modernised exteriors, and white plastic doors and windows. They can strip a house of all vestige of age and beauty in the blink of an eye; and be proud of the fact.

I suppose our present small house is a good example. When I first bought this tiny cottage it was a one room ruin with a lovely old fireplace and a stone sink. I immediately applied for planning permission to double its size, in order to add a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. When my permission was granted it also came with the strict instruction that the whole exterior was to be cement-rendered. I should mention here that, back in the UK, if you were to render over 300 year old stonework, you would probably be sent to prison.

Of course I told the local planning office to b*gger off, and extended the building in sympathetic stonework. You can hardly see the join

Our local village Chateau was owned by a good friend. It was far too big for her, and she eventually sold to an Italian who was based on the Riviera. He immediately sold off all the old Oak panelling, and anything else that was removeable, and created an 'Essex style' interior that made the place look like a tart's boudoir. It has been sold twice since his days, and I believe is now in very good hands. I should add that the beautiful Rose Garden in the huge courtyard, that the Italian had installed; is very beautiful. It was designed by me!

Escape to the Chateau is a fun programme. You might be horrified by some of the 'restoration' work, and enthralled by other bits. The presenter Strawbridge and his wife Angel are fun people, which makes it a good watch.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Covid-19, on a personal level.

I've been unbelievably stressed and depressed recently. We are in lockdown again, and my No 1 son was confirmed as having Covid-19 on November 1st. He has been feeling very unwell for the past week or so, and has been confined to bed. And just when I really needed it, my effing Skype connection with him has also failed. He could call me, but I couldn't call him.

We've also had constant tedious talk of foreign elections, EU threats, murders on our streets, and depressing predictions of a third wave of COVID-19 for 2021.

I always knew that Kimbo was vulnerable. He previously lived in Kensington, in central London's hot-spot, but has recently joined the great exodus and bought a house in a village in Essex. He has behaved very sensibly during the crisis, but everyone needs to venture forth from time to time for essentials; no doubt this is how he caught the virus. Luckily he has been able to work from home, other than the occasional visit to his office.

At my age, to catch Covid is of little importance, but for fathers or mothers of young families the knock-on effect can be devastating. When one hears of a case in one's own circle of family or friends, it is extremely worrying; even thinking about it makes me very upset. 

Back in late-April I lost an elderly cousin to the virus, but she was 96. Since then we have been crossing fingers that we all stay virus free, but the idea that 'it would never happen to us' is no longer valid. We are ALL at risk; and will probably remain so for a very long time.

2 days later... Kimbo is still battling against it. He has a bad cough which is now affecting his chest, and a constant headache. Luckily I have managed to retrieve my Skype connection, so I'm able to call him again as often as possible. I send him my very best 'virtual' wishes, hugs, and kisses; but he knows that anyway. 

Let's now hope that the new Pfizer vaccine eventually does the job. 

How come Trump is the only person on earth to have caught a ONE DAY VIRUS?

Monday 9 November 2020

Sunday Lunch.

My youngest, Kellogg. and the two boys, are now well out of their 14 day confinement, so we decided to celebrate with a slap-up lunch. It was such a beautiful day, we decided to eat outdoors.

Roast Chicken for most, stuffed red Pepper for one, and a wonderful selection of roasted vegs for all. The children, of course, demanded ice cream, and it was Lady M's delicious Sticky Apricot Pudding (Mary Berry), with thick cream, for the adults.

A friend later turned-up for coffee, and the dogs played in the sunshine.

Back in the 70's (I can't remember the exact year) we actually ate outdoors on Christmas Day. At the time we were astounded that such a thing was possible I remember it being a similar day to yesterday. I wonder if we'll ever be able to do that again?

And who had the healthiest appetite of the day? Without question it was Boo Boo. 

At 1 pm it was 18C.


Nancy Ska Jazz Orchestra-Hatcha!

I've posted this before, but it's so good it's worth posting again.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Interesting times.

Oh dear; please believe me that this is a totally non-partisan political observation.

Whatever one thinks of either Trump or Biden, we must accept that we are living through extraordinary times.

Harry S Truman was in The White House when I was born, and since then I have lived through some strange presidencies. There's been Tricky-Dicky Nixon, Ronny 'the cowboy' Reagan, and now Trump; to name just three. 

None has caused as much international horror, concern, and (yes) amusement, as dear Trump. He really is the most extraordinary man. Each time I see him strutting towards a microphone, with that arrogant orange face of his, I cannot help wondering what on earth is going on inside his head; and yet he has an enormous low-paid-worker fan base; not something one would have expected for a Republican POTUS.

Other countries have the occasional unelectable crazy politician who manage to find a following. In the UK they've recently had Corbyn, for heaven's sake. But none has been as bizarre as Trump; and he actually managed to get elected.

I have no idea how long it will take to sort-out all the current mess, but it's certain that there'll be only one real loser; and that sadly is the reputation of the USA. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping must be laughing their heads off.

I wish Biden/Harris a lot of luck. What a dreadful time to be taking over the helm. I suspect times will now be a lot quieter, and far less interesting.

Saturday 7 November 2020

This really annoyed me!

Every Winter I treat myself to 'one' bottle of good quality Single Malt Whisky. I always wait until my favourite supermarket issue their annual 'special offer whiskies' brochure, then I make my choice.

Back in 2017 I bought a bottle of this same 12 year old 'Singleton', and it was excellent.

In the special offers brochure this year it was priced at €22.90, with a discount of €4 which would be added onto my loyalty card; making the final price €18.90. A very attractive price.

When I got home, on studying my bill, I found that I had been charged €23.42 with no mention of a discount having been added to my card. I wasn't pleased.

I felt as if I'd been 'swindled' out of €4.52. No; I HAD been swindled out of €4.52

As you can imagine, I wasn't going to take this lying down; you don't mess with Cro. So yesterday, during my weekly shopping trip, I went to see the nice lady at the 'serious complaints' desk, stamped my foot, and told her to cough-up!

And here is the result (below). €4.52 added to my loyalty card, but no apology from the nice lady; just one of those sneering looks, so beautifully perfected by Parisian waiters.

Eagle eyed viewers might see that I now have €31.49 on my loyalty card. As usual, on Dec 22nd/23rd, this will be spent on the Christmas Turkey, Sprouts, etc. It should cover all my festive costs.

Friday 6 November 2020

4,000th page.

Hi Cro.,

I've been very busy recently, I expect you've noticed.

However, my very good friend, and fellow Covid sufferer, New York born New Yorker Mr Boris himself (your Prime Minister; a bit like a president, but without the power) informs me that you are today posting your 4,000th daily blog page. It's people like you who can make blogging great again; maybe even greater.

Of course Melania and I read it in bed every morning, usually whilst I apply my tan.... no fake news. All good. A goodly view of your splendid world. 

Where you live in Spain (or is it Italy?), I hear that you need a wall. We do very good walls... too many illegals. I like illegals, but there are too many of them, they should be sent back to their shit-hole countries. They eat too much garlic; we could sell them burgers... good healthy burgers, and maybe Coke. It's all good; no fake foods. Melania sends out for them quite often.

My good friend Joe Biden (he says 'hi' btw), nice man, tells me that you actually live in France. Is that a part of Spain? I know I've heard the name somewhere. Is it US territory? I'll have to ask Melania, she knows all about countries-n-things.

4,000 pages is a lot, it's more than 3,000 and that was huge.  We'll all be following you for more adventures, more is better. We prefer more to less. Over here we like big, bigger, and biggest.  

Come over with Boris some time, we'll have a Clam Bake in the yard, with grits and apple pie. Melania makes great apple pie; her apple pie is the best. The bestest apple pie. A great American invention, apple pie; maybe the greatest pie in the world; and beyond. Or, maybe we could meet-up at my golf club in Europe's Scottishland. Have you been there? It's just off the coast of Norway; a lovely island.

Anyway Coe, it's all good. We love you. We read you every morning.  Say 'hi' to Boris, I like Boris, and I like you. I don't like fake news, and you don't deal in fake news. 

Melania also says 'hi' in her funny accent; she's not foreign, she's legal; not like O'Barmy.

Best wishes; great wishes, great wishes.

From Donald (possibly the greatest POTUS of all time; if not more) and my good friend Joe Biden xxx

p.s. I'll let you know if (or when) I have a new address.

Thursday 5 November 2020


I'm very fond of Strawberries; not those bloody tasteless things that come from hundreds of acres of greenhouses in Spain, but pukka sunshine-kissed beauties from the garden.

I've just potted-up 30 new plants of a variety called 'Gariguette'; sweet and delicious with a hint of perfectly ripe wild strawberries about them. Personally I would say they are the best variety around, but then I would.

My other Strawberry plants are in old wheelbarrows, but these I think I'll plant out directly into the soil. They will need slug pellets, and anti-bird netting, but I think they'll be fine. 

If anyone has any innovative hints, I would be very happy to receive them. 

I'm hoping for a really good 2021 crop. God willing.


Wednesday 4 November 2020

Roborace: Oh dear!

If you've ever had doubts about 'self-driving-cars'; look no further.

The cars in this short video probably cost millions, and would have been 'state of the art' in terms of hands-off technology. Gives you confidence, n'est pas; especially the red one!

Tuesday 3 November 2020

The Fattening of Ducks.

It's that time of year again. Down on the farm, the preservation of meat products is a major priority. 

When I first moved to France, the preservation of Pork and Duck products started around mid-October. These days farmyards are empty, so we all buy from either local butchers or supermarkets.

The fattening (force-feeding) of Ducks does not only lead to foie gras, although it is that particular product that usually attracts the most attention.

Of the other products, our favourites are fresh magret (breast), and tinned confit (either upper thighs or legs preserved in fat).

During the foie gras season, once the livers have been removed, the rest of the complete fattened carcasses are often sold either for preserving or roasting. Stripped carcasses can also be bought in most shops; these are also roasted, picked over, and used for the making of stock. 

Tubs of pure Duck fat are sold, as are grattons de canard, which are France's answer to Pork scratchings. Long thin strips of tender aiguiettes (think Pork tenderloin; but from a Duck) are also sold separately at a hefty price.

Every bit of the Duck has its use, the necks are sold for stuffing as cou farci, and the gizzards and hearts are sold by the kilo to be made into 'snacks'.

I know that the preparation of the birds is controversial, and is often seen as cruel. In fact most birds form queues to receive their daily doses of feeding, and show no signs of distress. 

We eat all these products; they are traditional delicacies from the South West of France where we live. They are not everyday foods; more for High days, Birthdays, Christmas, etc.

I have eaten (non-fattened) Gressingham Duck breast in the UK which was very good; possibly even more tender than our local ones here. The one above we ate last night, and it was excellent.

Monday 2 November 2020


I'm fascinated by the word 'Influencer'. From what I understand, this is a person (usually female, and permanently half-dressed) who 'influences' people via social media.

These people all seem to be multi-millionaires, so I'm thinking of becoming (a male version) myself.

My problem is that I don't really know what qualifications are required, or even how one starts to influence.

I'm not over keen on getting my kit off either, but if it is genuinely required (and tasteful), then of course I will.

I've made a few discreet enquiries, and I'm told that a good example of this new 'profession' is the Kardashian family, who are always half-clothed (less than half usually), and have all made lots of dosh. So I will probably need to fashion myself on one of them (the one with the smallest butt hopefully).

Now all I need is to discover what they actually do, and why people are influenced by them. By the look of them, it can't be that complicated.

Look out world.... here I come. Be prepared to be influenced.

Sunday 1 November 2020


This (below) is the latest of a series of spam Emails that I've been receiving recently. Of course it was deleted as soon as I'd 'recorded' it.

Of the two I received the day before, one purported to be from The Inland Revenue in the UK saying that I was owed £670, and would I please send them all my banking details so that they could pay me; the other claimed to be from PayPal saying my account had been hacked, and that some toad in Italy was buying expensive T shirts with my dosh; I don't have a PayPal account. These were also deleted pronto.

In the lead-up to Christmas these scammers are coming out of the woodwork by the dozen. BE WARNED, do not open them, they are after your money!

With so many shops now closed, a huge amount of people are buying from Amazon (me included), so I can see the temptation to delve further. Don't.

Bonfire Night.

Just as many people have been doing, this plague ridden year, we held our Bonfire Night a few days early. When the weather's perfect; take advantage.

As you can see, Bill Gates was honoured this year (not my idea).

On the menu were sausages, baked potatoes, beans, rockets, and red wine. 

I was too busy to take a photo of the blazing Mr Gates, but he burned very well.

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