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.
Tuesday 17 November 2020
Monday 16 November 2020
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
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
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.
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).
Wednesday 11 November 2020
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
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 8 November 2020
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
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.
Friday 6 November 2020
Thursday 5 November 2020
Wednesday 4 November 2020
Tuesday 3 November 2020
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.