Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Dog Club.


We are very lucky where we live. At the end of our road, about 60 metres away, is the mid 14th Century 'village church' of old Brighthelmstone (now known as Brighton). 

St Nicholas Church has a surrounding ancient burial ground, plus a large open grassy park. Possibly well over two acres in all.


On the other side of the road is a separate 'Peace park', which again is about two acres of open land, dotted with old gravestones and mature trees. The 'Peace park' is fenced on all sides, and has a very heavy cast iron gate at the entrance (above); perfect for dog walking, or in Billy's case 'dog running'. 

He never fails to meet an established friend, or make new ones. This morning just as I was leaving he met a look-alike Border Collie; we left just too early. They'll meet again another time to play together.

Here he is, below, having great fun with a 3 month old Australian Shepherd Dog. They didn't stay still long enough for a decent photo, but you get the idea.


Of course the owners also all become friends, and the dog-owning community is wide, varied, and very interesting. Another bonus of city life.

Yesterday I had my first experience of taking away Billy's detritus. Really not as unpleasant a process as I'd imagined. Another side to dog-owning life; it HAS to be done!

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Lost and Found.



Never a dull moment.

Yesterday, whilst dog-walking, Lady Magnon found a couple of plastic cards in the churchyard; maybe it was even Billy who found them. One was a Driving Licence, the other a Santander, contactless, credit card. Both were currently valid.

My first instinct was to call the police to see if anyone had reported them either stolen or missing. I was fobbed-off by some 'clerk' who suggested that I try 'Social Media'.

The only form of 'Social Media' to which I subscribe is Facebook, so I entered the name which appeared on the Driving Licence, and up she came at once. Luckily she had an unusual name.

I sent a message, to which she instantly replied. We arranged that she would pick up her cards chez nous that afternoon. She wasn't very forthcoming about how she'd lost them, but she had cancelled the bank card. It still remains something of a mystery. Anyway, she was extremely happy to have them back.

I have only lost my wallet once. It was at Cahors railway station, and it contained not only money, but all my plastic cards and other important stuff. I was totally devastated. Two days later a 'tramp' arrived at the house with the whole lot intact. As you might imagine, I was instantly elated. I crossed his palm with silver, and thanked him profusely. He claimed to have walked the 50Kms from Cahors to return it.

p.s. Not long before the girl arrived, I was looking out from our front bay window and was shocked to see a beautiful young Fox lying down on our doorstep. 

Monday, 25 October 2021

Flint Walling.


I love Flint walls.

In her fascinating 1936 book 'Sussex Cottage', Esther Meynell briefly talks of her love for Flint walls. Having been brought-up in Sussex, they had always been something I'd taken for granted, but she made me look again at them in a new light. 

Unfortunately the book is in France, so I cannot refer to it. 'The net' is woefully short of all the intriguing names I was looking for. However, here are a few favourites that I do remember.

This very regular form of round Flint work, above, is called 'Potato Plant' (for obvious reasons). The rows of Flints are separated by a line of pointing, and the whole job looks extremely smart. It's a shame that this nearby example has been painted. 

A method reserved for high status buildings, churches, etc, is this 'Square knapped' work. You can imagine the hours of work involved 'knapping' every Flint to the same size; an art in itself. The Flints are then laid almost like bricks; a very beautiful technique.

And finally, possibly the most common method of building with Flint is known as 'Snail Creep', where halved flints are arranged in an almost haphazard way, leaving a very pleasant looking textured wall, bordered by either stone or brick.

Flint walling is not exclusively found in Sussex, examples can be found throughout East Anglia; especially in Norfolk; in fact wherever Flint is found. These three examples are from within a few metres of our own 'Flintless' home.


Sunday, 24 October 2021

It's been a week.

 

I've been back in the UK for a whole week, and I'm loving it.

At home I've been painting, decorating, and doing general DIY jobs, but outside I've been either shopping, organising, or at my local. Kimbo has forced me out to 'The Caxton', which is about 100 metres away (above).

In France our house came totally equipped. Everything from several different types of salt, a huge variety of curry pastes and powders, apples on trees, and a ready supply of Cavolo Nero growing at Haddock's; it had all that I needed at easy reach. However, returning to a house that had almost nothing except for a few basics that Kimbo had supplied, is quite an experience.

Every day I write a long list of essentials. Mustard, chilli sauce, gherkins, capers, tinned tomatoes, pasta of various shapes, rice, fatted calf, etc. For the moment I am making daily shopping trips rather than my usual once a week. 

I have managed to register with a doctor, I have my bus pass on order, and I have semi-sorted a banking dilemma. I'm not totally happy with contactless card DIY shopping; but I'll get used to it. Otherwise, everything is going according to plan.

What I hadn't expected was to receive several calls each day on our land-line from people with thick Indian accents trying to sell me things that I don't want. I had hoped to leave that side of life back in France; but they've found me!

Everything is going well, and we are having fun. We even had a Thai take-away last night; it was spectacular!!


Saturday, 23 October 2021

Possibly the best grocery store in the world.

 

There are plenty of great food shops around, but this one beats the lot.

In Brighton's main 'Western Road' shopping area, you will find M & S, Primark, Waitrose, a small Tesco (I think), and plenty of the usual suspects. It has everything. 


At the far West end of the road is Waitrose, and right opposite is 'Taj'. Taj is not only a wonderful grocery shop, it is also the most comprehensive exotic food store that I've ever visited. Just going through the front door is a delight to the senses. There is always Arabic music playing too.

One of the things I always miss in France is any homage to foods from the outside world. Yes we can buy a few English, Indian, and N African delights, but the choice is extremely limited. At Taj you can find just about anything, and a multiple choice of brands too. If they don't have it, it'll be there the following day for you to collect. Nothing is too much for the management.

They also have a lunchtime takeaway service. Home made Indian curries, N African tagines, and various veggie dishes are sold loose for you to eat at home or in the office. Delicious.

Amongst all the various things I've looking forward to doing again in Blighty, my visits to Taj have been very high on the list.

p.s. You might see in the photo that there is a crossing right outside the shop entrance. I once came out, and a tiny lady asked if I would help her across the road. She was about 5 ft tall, very frail, and looked to be well over 90. I took her arm, put my hand up to halt traffic, and we crossed the road 'leisurely' together. Once on the other side, she said 'thank you' and continued on her way without another word. It was a first for me, and was somehow extremely rewarding; I felt elated all day.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Bardot.


I wrote back in 2013 about my meeting BB in London, but seeing this photo recently took me right back to the day of our encounter. This must have been taken a few days before we 'met'.

She came into my antique shop in Chelsea in about 1966, looked around a bit, then said something like 'Zat iz bootyfool', and left. She didn't buy anything.


Bardot had just married the wealthy Gunter Sachs, and unbeknown to the world's press, part of her honeymoon was spent in London. You can imagine my surprise when she walked into my shop. But that wasn't the most interesting thing.

She came in with her chauffeur; a stunningly handsome and tanned Frenchman, dressed in classic black chauffeur's livery with long leather knee-high boots. Sachs was in the background and seemed totally disinterested in her. Maybe he didn't speak French?

I thought at the time that it would have been more understandable had the chauffeur been wearing a Saville Row suit, and Sachs the chauffeur's outfit. 

It came as no surprise that their marriage lasted only two years. I hope she did well 'financially' out of him; and I'm sure that he enjoyed dining out on having been married to BB. Cash for her; kudos for him.

 

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Hopes Dashed!


Regular readers might remember that I had been looking forward to reacquainting myself with certain English 'delicacies'.

Amongst the list were Pork Pies, vacuum packed Kippers, Battenberg Cake, Scotch eggs, and good ole British 'bangers'.


The 'bangers' came by way of Sainsbury's, and were described as Cumberland Pork Sausages. I was looking forward to them. 

They were disgusting; I would hardly give them to Billy.


So upset was I with these bangers, that I looked-up 'Cumberland Sausage' online, and found them to be not dis-similar to the French pure Pork sausages that I'm used to in France.

As you can see above, the 'meat' content was just 70% (pureéd, not course ground), with the other 30% being made up by additives; half of which I can't even pronounce.

What's wrong with pure coarsely ground meat? Add some salt and pepper maybe, but otherwise just leave it alone! It's that bloody simple!

 

Paolo Conte - Via Con Me


I must have originally heard this Italian song in France. Whether it reached out internationally I have no idea.

By chance I heard it again recently, but had difficulty finding it as I'd forgotten the singer's name.

If you do know the song, I'm sure you'll enjoy hearing it again. If you don't know it, I hope, like me, you find it mesmerising.


Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Culture Shock.... It's good to be back.



On either side of The Channel the rules remain the same; absolutely no dogs on the sofas.

Life, it has to be said, was previously very quiet in our tiny hamlet, but we kept busy with plenty of regular bucolic tasks. 

Sadly life had also become accompanied by a few who (I imagine) are unhappy with their lot, then compensated by visiting their anger and frustration on others. I could never imagine Billy having stones thrown at him, or being kicked over here; fortunately people are more civilised than that.

We are now back in the world of pleasant reality where everything goes at a fast pace driven by energetic people of vision and verve, and where friendliness is a way of life. We have left our sleepy hamlet, for the serious hustle, bustle, and urgency of the young en masse, where people smile and randomly say "hello", eccentricity is almost obligatory, and neighbours leisurely pass the time of day as once they did back in France. 

We arrived on a Saturday evening and the city was buzzing. The young (18-30-ish) were everywhere in huge numbers, and were out for a good time. Driving through the crowds wasn't easy, it was like New Year's Eve in Trafalgar Square. The bohemian atmosphere for which the city is famous, was palpable.

Fellow dog-walkers become instant friends; Simon and Ziggy, Max and Rufus, a man with a red beard with a black dog, and others that came and went too quickly to remember all their names. All around there is an instant feeling of being back home, but in a totally different and friendlier world; I honestly thought I would never say such a thing. 

Neighbours that we've known from way back were genuinely pleased to see us again, and welcomed us 'home'. We've already had several callers, and consumed plenty of wine and champagne together.

Amongst all this amazing energy, our little street remains peaceful and almost 'undiscovered', yet right at the epicentre of this wonderful city. The mostly Georgian/Victorian houses are well kempt and reflect their hyped values. Their owners all appear to be happy and successful.

I've only been shopping once. A new Sainsbury 'express' store has opened nearby, and my purchases were accompanied by modern rock/swing music rather than the depressing dirge that I'm used to in France. The clients were all young (except me), rather than all being old back in France.

New restaurants of all nationalities have replaced uninteresting shops, and if there are empty shelves, a lack of petrol, and a feeling of post-Brexit depression; it certainly isn't here. Do not believe the hype.

Where some nearby towns (Worthing, Eastbourne, etc) are known as 'God's Waiting Rooms', this city is alive, well, and buzzing. We already feel invigorated. It's wonderful.

Yes, our dustman have been on strike, and yes there are piles of rubbish everywhere, but they are going to remove it very soon. The Foxes, Seagulls, and even Magpies, are putting on weight, and will no doubt be very miffed when their 'pop-up restaurants' are removed.

Work on the house continues. The main work has been done, but not the finishing. We shall have workmen in dribs and drabs for a while yet. However, all is looking great, and we have no complaints.

All in all, I'm very happy with our re-location. My 'hermit's cap' has been temporarily put away, and I'm really enjoying my new-style freedom. 

As long as Covid's kiss passes me by, I shall remain content, and be patient before we return South again; we have a huge amount of work to do. 

We shall soon have our booster and flu jabs. I should add that the carefree folk of Brighton seem to be blissfully unaware that Covid even exists!

p.s. And yes; I'm still wearing shorts!

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Some are 'doers', others just talk!


Mud Island is a Wildlife Sanctuary in Moreton Bay, off Brisbane in Australia. Although only inhabited by birds, it has become littered with rubbish.

Enter the OCEAN CRUSADERS, who give their time to clear rubbish from such important sites. They have already cleared 580 Kgs.

My daughter, Tenpin, is the one in the middle. Well done to all those who get their hands dirty doing such essential work. No gluing herself to a lamp-post in Oxford Street; she gets on with the job!


 

Friday, 15 October 2021

Bitcoins.


Probably like most people, I was very dubious about the whole concept of Bitcoins when they first arrived back in 2008/9.

As someone who started his working life receiving a weekly brown paper pay packet containing notes and coins, it is difficult to imagine a currency that only exists in Cyber-land. 

Fortunes have been made and lost through Bitcoins and other Crypto currencies. Personally I would be very hesitant to invest, but I do know those who have, and they've done well.


Just recently El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as legal tender, alongside the US dollar. Otherwise Nigeria is the biggest user of the currency. Africa, Asia, and S America are also all big users, whereas N America, Europe, and Australia are hesitant.

With the predicted disappearance of 'cash', one can only imagine that Crypto currencies will play a big part in the future of both personal and national finance. Personally I shall try to pay with paper and metal for as long as possible. I do have a contactless debit card, but I'm very hesitant to use it.

When at The Nag's Head, how does one buy a Pint of Wallop with Bitcoins?

 

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Public Sculpture.


I don't think I would want this in my own garden, but what an amazing piece of work.

I have no idea who it's by, or even where it is. But I do have admiration for its maker. Quite extraordinary.


 

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Dave Brubeck - Take Five


It's difficult to imagine, these days, the influence that 'Take Five' had over the Jazz world, and music in general.

It comes from 1959, and was written by Paul Desmond. The tune was later made famous by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and I can well remember being mesmerised by the unusual beat (a five-beat rhythm) employed by Desmond. 

The supremely talented Paul Desmond is seen here on Alto Sax, accompanied by Brubeck, who can be seen showing his obvious admiration for him.

Four guys in crisp dark suits. A Piano, a Sax, basic Drums, and a Double Bass. Brilliant.

A classic Jazz standard that doesn't age!

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Cold weather.


Summer is over, long trousers will soon be worn again, taking morning coffee by the pool is now just a memory.

I don't like the cold. I want to feel warm sunshine on my face. I occasionally listen to an LBC Radio Presenter who hates sunshine and always holidays in Iceland; I cannot help thinking how strange it must be to actually enjoy the cold, and dislike warmth. 


I was born in July, so my first taste of climate must have been Summery, and it suits me fine. In Spring I can't wait to start wearing shorts again, and I continue to wear them (hopefully) until the end of October.

I don't overly dislike rain; in fact occasionally I quite like it. But frost or snow is for masochists. Human blood, like water, freezes at 0 C, and even though my body does have a heating system, when temperatures drop to sub-zero C I feel as if ice has replaced liquid in my veins. I do not like it.

Unfortunately I now face about 6 months waiting for things to warm-up again. I really should be off to Martinique or Guadeloupe instead of staying in Europe; it would be far more logical. I do hope we don't have one of those really hard Winters; we have enough to cope with without more misery.

I'm crossing my fingers that Gas and Electricity supplies don't get cut-off, and that there'll be some food in the shops; I know prices will rise, but anything is preferable to being COLD.

I was just about to take my yesterday's early morning walk with Billy, when I noticed that the temperature was 4 C. I suppose it wasn't that bad; the worst thing was having the very bright rising sun in my eyes.

 

Monday, 11 October 2021

My first Doctor.

 

The older one gets, the more reflective one becomes. I don't know what made me think of Dr S.

The UK's National Health Service was founded in the Summer of '48; two years after I was born. 

This, of course, means that I was born in the days of private medicine. I took my first breath in a private Nursing Home in Horley Surrey, not far from our home in Lingfield. 

Lingfield only had a District Nurse. Nurse Blunt was a wonderful Margaret Rutherford style woman who travelled both by bicycle and Austin 7 (?), depending on the distance to her next victim. 

Our Doctor was a few miles away in East Grinstead. Dr Somerville was half Grizzly Bear, half man, he looked a little like James Robertson Justice, and bellowed at his patients. He was actually very nice, and very good at his job. He always called me 'Face-ache'.

Also in East Grinstead was our Dentist. Dr White had been a Doctor before becoming a Dentist; goodness knows why. 

Either Sommerville or White (I can't remember which) had a six foot tall automaton drinking Bear in his surgery, which we all loved. Sadly I had a very unfortunate experience with Dr White (involving a broken syringe needle) and it instigated my life-long fear of Dentists.

I can remember when very young, just popping-in to see my Doctor if I felt something wasn't quite right. He was very understanding and patient with me. He probably said a few kind words, then, when I'd gone, phoned my mother to say I'd visited. I actually rather LIKED him.

The only online reference I can find to Dr Sommerville was a wartime tragedy where he was sent to attend a woman who'd been blown out of her home during a bombing raid. The poor woman was found, severely injured, in her garden, and taken to a Nursing Home where Sommerville offered his spare time. Sadly the woman died the following day.


Sunday, 10 October 2021

Chestnut Fair.


Yesterday afternoon we went to nearby St Caprais, to their annual Chestnut Fair. However, being forgetful OAP's, we left our Double Vax passports at home, and we were refused entry.

But all was not lost, we visited the small 12th Century village church instead. The carved reredos behind the altar (below) is spectacular. They don't do things by halves out in the countryside!


I am a great fan, and exponent of, primitive painted marble effects. This (below) was just one example in the church. Beautiful.


I rather liked this carved wooden Dove above the pulpit. Behind it you can just see the feint remains of some medieval frescos. 


Then out into the warm afternoon sunshine, just in time to see a parade of passing classic cars. These two Traction Avant Citroens looked superb together. You can just see the Church door behind the front one.


Every year they invite the local 'Classic Car Club' to attend; I imagine there are prizes for the best washed car, etc. However, in typical French fashion, they never organise parking for them. It was chaos, as it is every year. 

We may have missed the main attraction, but we enjoyed the side-shows.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Western Green Lizard.


I was very pleased to see this little lass yesterday, I had previously seen one scuttling away from my Tomato plants; but otherwise nothing this year.

There are certain creatures that one needs to see every year in order to know that all is OK with nature, and the big Green Lizards are in the list.

Amongst the others are Praying Mantis, Stick insects, Hoopoes, Cranes (arriving and leaving), Pine Martens, and Red Squirrels.


This female Lizard had gone onto the pool cover for a drink. I was only able to take this one shot before she ran away at great speed. She was about 12ins long including her tail.

I like to see our wildlife thriving. With all the herbicides and fertilisers being used all around us, one never knows if they will succumb. I hope she managed to raise a family this year.

 

Friday, 8 October 2021

Ely, Cambridgeshire UK


It's extraordinary how one can live somewhere for years, and still know so very little about the place. 

I spent four years in Ely, but really never ventured much further than a few hundred metres from around the cathedral, apart from visits down to the river for some rowing.

One cannot live in Ely without being overwhelmed by the splendour and size of the cathedral. It dominates the city, and one can but wonder why such a huge and magnificent building was built there. Ely has never been a great metropolis, yet medieval man considered it worthy of an enormous edifice that wouldn't have been out of place in London, Paris or Rome. Medieval Monks were rich and persuasive people.


Most of the magnificent old monastic buildings which you can see to the right of the cathedral in the opening shots pre-date the cathedral. They are no longer used for monastic purposes, and contain some superb examples of early domestic architecture; one particular building being the oldest, continuously lived-in, domestic building in Europe. The buildings presently make up the core of one of the world's oldest schools; officially founded in 970 (but much older).

Ely Cathedral is one of the lesser known of the UK's great cathedrals, but I recommend that anyone visiting the area, or attending the nearby Cambridge colleges, should visit. You will not be disappointed; it's a stunning building.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Elephants


I have a real love of Elephants; they are such amazing and majestic animals.

Could you imagine a world without them? Unlike with the Dinosaurs, if they were to become extinct, the world would be a far sadder place.

Apart from the fact that they look so wonderful, they are also intelligent and caring.

Elephants live to about 70 years old; not unlike humans. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can detect water from 12 miles away, and they drink between 150 and 200 litres per day. The gestation period for an elephant is 2 years.


I would like to think that this photo is of Mum, Dad, and naughty Toddler; but we'll never know. 

What I do know, however, is that it represents total Elephant happiness, and it makes me smile every time I see it; and that can't be bad.

 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Scottish accent baffles British parliamentarian


The perfect example of differing British accents causing a comprehension problem.

Famously when Jacob Rees-Mogg stood as the Conservative candidate for 'Central Fife' (in Scotland) in 1997, it was claimed that the electorate couldn't understand a word of what he was saying; nor could Mogg understand them! Not surprisingly, he failed to be elected.

I can understand some of what this Scottish MP is saying, but he can't resist breaking into an indecipherable accent at the key moment.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Lucky Charms.


I'm not a great believer in lucky charms, but I do always keep a few around me.

On this particular key ring, I have a wild boar tusk that I found in the woods, one of my daughter's earrings from when she was about 14, and JOAN THE WAD (bottom middle).


Joan the Wad is the Cornish Queen of the Piskies (not pixies), and bringer of good luck.

Before embarking on any 'adventure', a light rub of her tummy is ensured to ward off any evil, that might otherwise disrupt you.

She's helped me so far; I'm not getting rid of her!

 

Monday, 4 October 2021

Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band - Michael (1967)


I first saw Geno Washington at The Metropole Hotel in Brighton, in around 1966, when he had Prince Buster as a guest singer. Two greats for the price of one!

The last time I saw him was also in Brighton at The Komedia Club. This video looks as if it was filmed at The Marquee in Wardour Street.

Washington has always been something of an 'also ran'; much appreciated amongst fellow musicians, but never breaking through the fringes of big stardom. Dexy's Midnight Runners wrote a tribute to him called 'Geno', which had some success and brought him temporary fame. He was a superb performer; after one of his concerts you really knew you'd been to something special.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Power cut.


We've had no power since mid-day. I haven't replied to previous comments; sorry.

Sunday lunch with family is a big tradition in France. It is like Christmas every Sunday.

Therefore imagine, just as you're about to put the fatted calf in the oven, the power fails. DISASTER.


I've never been a lunch person; long boozy lunches make me sleepy, and ruin the rest of my day.

Luckily, our electricity returned just before 6 pm, so all alternative dinners were abandoned, and I returned to my planned evening dish of stuffed Piquillo Peppers (stuffed with Brandade). We spent the late afternoon candle-lit.

Occasionally it pays to eat dinner, rather than lunch. I can just imagine thousands of local kitchens with cooks tearing their hair out, and cursing at the EDF.

Here, all ended well.



 

Dogs have no shame.


Many years ago, we were invited to our local Chateau for afternoon Tea. The owner was a very good friend of ours, and she had family visiting who she wanted us to meet.

At one stage in the afternoon I noticed a dog pee on the foot of a woman who was sitting cross-legged on a lounger. She had possibly been Roedean educated, and ever-so-calmly removed her sandal, shook it, and returned to her conversation. No fuss was made,


The photo above reminded me of the situation. It also reminded me of my own dog Hamlet, who came with me once to visit a retired British Doctor who lived nearby. Hamlet walked into their Sitting Room and immediately began to pee on a corner of their sofa. He had never done anything similar before. I was shocked (and extremely embarrassed).


I love this photo of Monty and Bok having just shown their appreciation for a very ugly wall that was built between our lawn at the barn, and a neighbour's pool. The foreground had been a nice mowed lawn before his 'builders' suddenly appeared without any prior notification.

Life's like that occasionally. 

 

Saturday, 2 October 2021

UK and EU problems.


Certain of the UK's current problems can undoubtedly be attributed to Brexit (mostly as a result of revenge from the EU), but not as many as certain hard-core 'remainers' would have you believe. It was always predicted that there would be teething problems, and we are beginning to see where things could (should) be changed. I must declare my interest; I voted to remain.

Overall I think that Brexit will prove to be good for the future of the UK, but there will continue to be a settling-down period for some time.

I would like to suggest to Boris & Co that they look long and hard at where improvements to his leaving 'deal' could be made; not only to make post-Brexit life easier for the UK, but also for the EU who have much more to lose.

There are two major issues; The Single Market, and Freedom of Movement. Both must be addressed as soon as possible. There is no reason why the UK's leaving the EU should have such a punishing effect on both sides; the UK should apply to re-join The Single Market as soon as is possible. 

The Single Market is not dissimilar to The Common Market that the UK joined back in 1973. It guarantees free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. It enabled all citizens to study, live, shop, work, and even retire, in any member country. Nothing nasty about that.

Freedom of Movement within member countries was known as 'The Schengen Agreement', which also included non-member countries such as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.  Most of this is already covered by The Single Market. 

Re-applying to join The Single Market, and to renew European Freedom of movement, would not be seen as backing down, just relaxing rules that are creating difficulties on both sides of the Channel. 

I would like to see Boris opening-up negotiations as soon as possible when the Covid crisis calms. It would be good for everyone, and would not affect the UK's (so-called) 'regained sovereignty'.


Friday, 1 October 2021

Soup Season Again.

 


I'm quite happy to be back to lunchtime soups (not shown). Yesterday (below) Lady M described my delicious soup as 'Sludge'; personally I would have called it 'Cream of Vegetable', but I think her description was probably more accurate; even though its flavour was very good.

Autumn/Winter lunch is never a set meal as such. Soup is essential, but the rest depends on my whim. Fruit always, and hopefully a Tomato salad, otherwise we look to the garden, the charcutier counter, or maybe some shellfish etc. We graze rather than sit down to a one-plate set meal. Evenings, of course, are very different.


At Mid-day Lady M sips water, whilst I drink a litre of unsweetened diluted Lemon juice.

We usually eat a bit earlier than most people. Soup is on the table at about 11.45 am. We eat at our small kitchen table, so things are always a bit crowded. We eat very little bread. Small amounts of cheese are eaten as a small independent amuse bouche.

I like our current lunches, they are always more adventurous than supper. Supper is one main dish, with maybe a slice of Apple pie later. A very different affair.

Yes, I'm quite happy to be back in soup season.

A Case FOR the Death Penalty?

 

I am not pro the death penalty, but there are certain crimes so vile that the perpetrator should willingly accept to surrender his or her life.

The very idea that a Police Officer should ostensibly arrest someone, put them in handcuffs, then drive them 50 miles only to be raped and murdered, is beyond imagination. Such pre-meditated evil should be given the ultimate of sentences, and should be accepted by the guilty party.

This is not a demand to bring back the noose, as crimes such as the above are rare, but just occasionally such people as Wayne Couzens, who murdered 33 year old Sarah Everard, should be 'dispatched' as quickly as possible; and spoken of no more!

Couzens has now been sentenced, and will spend his whole life in prison; no question of parole.

I will not even show his image.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Après la Fete.



My agent wanted a studio shot of me 'hard at work', and this is what he got... without the flash, of course. My photo, below, is a photo of a photo of a photo.

I was working on a job entitled 'Après la Fete'; a rather sad painting of a young lady pulling the petals from a daisy, and musing "He loves me, he loves me not". Also in the picture is a ginger cat that we predictably named Thomas. He visited us daily, slept for most of the day, then went off again. He knew he wasn't our cat, but that didn't bother him. Our cat-flap was an invitation to a pleasant day's relaxation.


Below is the finished job. Again with a nasty flash reflection from my having photographed a photo. Thomas is happily sleeping at her feet.


I loved that studio, but through family pressure (ahem), it later became a Sitting Room (and still is).

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Do the Maths.



Q: If you employ a three person workforce at £10 per hour each, how much do you pay all three for their hour's work?

Q: If you employ just two workers at £15 per hour each, how much do you pay the duo for an hour's work?

Q: If you can only afford to pay £30 per hour for your workforce, how many of your three workers will you need to sack after having jumped their pay from £10 per hour to £15 per hour?

These may sound like very basic Lower 4th Maths exam questions, and most of us would get the answers right. However, some don't seem to grasp the indications. If you increase basic pay by 50%, prices will invariably rise, and unemployment will also rise; of that there is no doubt.

Could someone please explain this to Sir Keir and The Labour Party; or are they simply very happy to be in opposition for the foreseeable future? We all know that The Labour Party is the party of high unemployment, and high taxes; but if they're looking for votes they should be a tad more caring towards those who traditionally vote for them.

I don't wish to knock Dear Angela Rayner (Deputy Leader, and The Shadow Secretary of State for The Future of Work), but she did leave school aged 16 without any qualifications. It's beginning to show! 

Dontcha love 'em?

Fig-Fest.


I love Figs, but like most fruits in the garden, we grow far too many and they go to waste.

This year seems to be exceptional. The trees are covered, and they are ripening well without splitting too much. Too much rain is their only enemy, it makes them swell and split.


At the last count I think we have 9 Fig trees; mostly ordinary ones, except for one white Fig, and one fancy one. The 'ordinary' ones are best.

The picture below is our largest tree, and it's covered. It's not easy taking photos of them as most are hidden.


I used to bottle them in an Armagnac flavoured Syrup, but no-one ate them even though they were delicious. I even find it difficult to get people to eat them fresh off the tree!

I shall encourage Lady M to make a Fig Tatin.

 

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

End of season.


For the past few nights, I have slept UNDER the duvet rather than ON TOP of it. After several months, this was quite a novelty. I've also noticed that the butter in the butter-dish is now no longer semi-melting away; but just perfect for spreading. Change is certainly in the air.

We have still managed to swim most days, but with the water temperature now below 20 C, and not likely to rise, we are closing down earlier than usual. 

We both love swimming, and do so as often as possible; in hot weather several times a day, it's the only way to cool down. My last swim was two days ago in 19C water, and was very brief.

It's a seriously depressing activity, closing the pool, just as opening it in late May is exhilarating. Seeing its Winter cover of black plastic back in place is as bad as it gets. There's a lot to remember when one closes a pool, the cleaning and chemical process takes at least 24 hrs; and it always makes us feel 'glum'. Nothing else gets 'put away' for Winter in quite the same manner.

The water may look appealing in the photo below (that I took yesterday), but it's far too cold.


We have considered subscribing to some Country Club in order to use a heated pool, but frankly I'm not sure if it could ever replace the tranquillity of our own. The sea at Brighton, when I last looked, was at 16 C, which is totally out of the question; I think anyone swimming in that would need several flasks of hot Tea upon their exit. Certain people in Brighton swim every day of the year (without wet-suits), but they are NUTS.

It's possible that we may grab a few short 'Weekend Breaks' to warmer, more exotic, locations, where swimming would be very high on our list of priorities; but otherwise I expect we'll be spending Winter drinking Horlicks, and listening to Mrs Dale's Diary on The BBC's Home Service; whilst dreaming of opening-up again in May 2022. 

Monday, 27 September 2021

Tempted?


I buy Toulouse sausage regularly, but I've never seen it advertised previously as being 'Fabricated in our Laboratory'.

When I showed the 'Leclerc' advert to Lady M, she simply said "YUK".

I shall buy some anyway, because they're the best sausages around; but I shall try to forget that they come from their very own Laboratory.

What a horrible advert for such a wonderful product. Heads should roll.



Tomatoes & Apples.


I suspect that in most countries of the world, the humble Tomato is the most important fruit of Summer.

Where would the Italians be without their beloved Tomato based Pasta sauces, or the Greeks without their salads, or the Brits without their Ketchup?

Life would be unthinkable.


We are now slowly coming to the end of the growing season. Sauces are being bottled, freezers filled, and in warmer climes the sun-drying process well underway. My own crop has yet again been questionable, but, luckily, I have a very good friend who grows huge amounts, and his generosity is legendary.

The lot above I picked yesterday. They demonstrate very well how I like to see them. Not on a perfectly green stem, with six identical, and perfectly flawless fruits. I want to see the scars of having been blown about a bit on the vine. I want to see blemishes caused by the sun. I want to see earth clinging onto their bottoms!


Similarly with Apples, I want to see flaws. We used to have a lovely neighbour who claimed he would never eat an Apple that didn't have a worm inside. He said it was by far the best indicator that the fruit hadn't been sprayed with poison. 

But most importantly, I want everything to taste 'delicious'. Those perfect fruits from the supermarket are simply rubbish in comparison to outdoor, sun-kissed, naturally grown, fruits from the garden.

A Banana will always taste like a Banana, but Tomatoes and Apples need to be good non-commercial varieties, and allowed to grow unhindered.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Insulate Britain.


Firstly I must stipulate that I am very pro-insulation. I spent many happy hours super-insulating our barn, and I can assure you that it pays!

However, I am very against these 'Insulate Britain' protestors who close motorways, and keep policemen from far more important work. The UK's police are not paid to stand around in groups wearing uniforms; they are paid to keep the peace, solve crime, and keep law-abiding citizens safe from idiots who glue themselves to motorways.

One can but wonder if the police are not being massively over-funded. If they can afford to pay dozens of cops to stand about and simply watch protestors as they disrupt daily life, then they should have their funding CUT. They should get on with what they'd paid to do, or maybe find another job. Below is a classic example.


Personally I think it would have been far better for the planet (and their PR image) if these folk spent their train/bus fares on a few rolls of Rock Wool, and offered to insulate the homes of some OAP's, free of charge.

If they did that, I might have some respect for them.

 

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Autumn Mushrooms.


These Cèpes come from our own land. Three Boletus Aereus on plate, and one Boletus Edulis.

Usually I find my mushrooms elsewhere, but this is the first year we've harvested our own Cèpes from beneath our 'Royal Oak'.


And here they are converted into an omelette, which we have now consumed.

Possibly one of the best ever!


Caveat Emptor.


Buying stuff via Amazon, especially if it's sent direct from China, is bound occasionally to be a disappointment.

We needed some Moth Balls to put around the house; not only against Moths etc, but also to deter Mice, who hate the smell.


The shops here seem to find them too old fashioned, so I found a supplier in China who were selling 100 Moth Balls for under €10. I took the plunge and ordered them.


Yesterday a teeny-weeny package arrived by post; it measures 8 by 12 by 4 cms. I could hardly believe my eyes! With the size of Moth Balls I'm used to, I could only have fitted about 6 inside the box; and I had ordered 100. 

They certainly have the smell that I was expecting, but instead of being the size of a large Cherry, they look more like a flattened Aspirin.
 

All I can say is that I HOPE THEY BLOODY WORK. If they don't I won't be happy. 

They do smell pretty evil.


Friday, 24 September 2021

Moving to Europe; then and now


The UK joined The Common Market in January 1973, but this had no easing effect on the complications of our moving to France in September of that same year. 

The difficulties we faced are little known about, simply because so very few people joined my example. In the area where I settled, I was just about the first Englishman since the end of The 100 Years' War.

Since the EU replaced the old Common Market, moving to any mainland European country has been made very easy. You now buy your house, and simply transfer the Euros direct from your bank account back home. No different to buying a home in Blighty. When I bought my first big old farmhouse (below), things were very different. We even had to declare all imports; furniture, car, dog, etc, on which I had to pay an instant import tax.

In 1973 there were still strict 'Exchange Controls' in place. In order to send large sums of money abroad one was obliged to buy 'Investment Dollars' through The Bank of England, then use these to buy French Francs later. Everyone took their percentage. At the same time, holidaymakers going abroad were limited to £60 spending money. It was a period of severe financial restrictions.

It was a long and costly experience; but we pulled-through; eventually signing papers one day before we would have lost our 10% deposit (and the house) after the prescribed 6 months.

I was only 25, and had left behind some good jobs, and business ventures. I had no plans, so I'd made sure I had enough in the bank back home to see me through the first 10 years; I never touched a penny of that money, and by the time I temporarily returned to the UK in 1980, it had doubled.

I started an Artists Painting Centre, which I very soon closed on account of the bizarre people it attracted; I literally feared for my wife and children. Then I worked as a Stone Cutter for a while, and although I enjoyed the creative side of the work, the actual execution was more suited to hefty Neanderthals than present day Humans. Chiselling away at huge lumps of stone, then lifting them into place, was for 'others'. 

Life was not always smooth. My daughter very nearly died of Peritonitis through poor medical diagnosis, my wife had baby No 3, and we had one other medical emergency. As 'foreigners', all hospital care had to be paid for with cash. No free NHS in France.

I'm happy to say that I've never sponged off either the UK or French benefit systems, I've paid all my bills on time, never been in debt, and I've never been in any trouble; I'm not that type. Nothing special about all that, you might say; but you'd be surprised by how many ex-pats cannot say the same!

It's been great fun over the past 48 years. We've had some wonderful neighbours, even though recently some have rather spoiled our peaceful atmosphere. 'Townie' newcomers often have no understanding of the previous calm and gentility of a tiny hamlet, and one has to bite one's lip and despair in silence.

Of course now the UK is no longer a member of the EU, and our status here has changed. Once again we would have to apply for a Carte de Séjour (residency permit) with all that that entails, if we wished to stay in our own home for 12 months of the year. However, with our particular situation it wouldn't be viable. I have always paid my taxes to my native country, and shall continue to do so. I am very much an Englishman. As non-EU members, I believe that all British ex-Pat 'residents' will soon be obliged to pay Taxes in France on all worldwide income, capital gains, inheritances, etc. No thank you!

p.s. I should add that entirely 'by chance' I learned that I had continued to own the 'Investment Dollars' that I'd purchased in 1973, and that they could be sold back to The Bank of England. I filled in the forms in about 1979, and received a very welcomed, and unexpected, £2,000. The value of the Investment Dollars that I'd held had more than doubled in value. A few months later they were abandoned, and I would no longer have received a penny. 

Thursday, 23 September 2021

The Pianist.


In around 1985 (I can't remember exactly when) I was invited to exhibit with a British Gas touring exhibition with a few other British artists.


The painting below, 'The Pianist' (behind my elbow above), was amongst the half dozen works of mine on show.

Strangely, it was the one work that attracted the most interest, and I received several offers for it (even though nothing from the exhibition was actually for sale); I refused all approaches.


It's always good to sell work, especially when unexpected offers are made, but certain paintings don't leave home, and I'm very happy to say that I still have my 'Pianist' today.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Unexpected Gifts


When I read of Brooklyn Sean's delightful gift to Trelawnyd's favourite son John Gray, I hardly expected anything similar turning-up chez Cro.

Monday is my 'adverts' day. Usually a bunch of supermarket, shoe-shop, garden centre, hardware store, etc, advertising bumf, turns-up in my mail box; most of which gets instantly 'sent to ground'.

However, on Monday an exceptionally large package also arrived; I was fascinated but confused. It turned out to be from my good friend Tony, in England, who had previously lived just a few hundred metres away from me before leaving unexpectedly. We were at college together (above Tony right, me left)

The package included several 'collages' that he now makes. Having designed some of Dubai's most iconic buildings, as well as part of its infamous airport, he now confines himself to the art of 'collage' back in Surrey, two of which I've already framed.  

                                      

Sadly, Tony suffers from MS, but this hasn't quelled his desire to 'create', and he now spends his days snipping and pasting. In a recent letter he compared his work in Dubai to what he does today; describing the latter as being 'just as fulfilling'. That pleases me enormously.

I love keeping in contact with old friends. We all know that our time here is limited, and we should make the most of it. Tony and I have a lot in common. We have very similar educational and family backgrounds; and we think in a similar way. Our interests are much the same, and we both refuse to suffer fools gladly. I was pleased to read that he still has an acerbic tongue for those who wronged him.

I don't think he reads this page, but I send him my thanks, and very best wishes. We need more Tonys in the world.


Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Day to Day.


This page (like so many others) is about daily life; often hum-drum, but occasionally dramatic.

I talk about the veg' I grow, our animals, life out in the countryside, our projects, my frustration with the Woke brigade who wish to sweep away the UK's rich and wonderful history, and even about people (who I've only ever been nice to) who shout at me at for no discernible reason. All is here, and open for all to see. I name the good, and always hide the identity of the bad.

Our lives here have been like the proverbial calm flowing stream. We were lucky to have good very neighbours, then unlucky to have a few not so good newcomers. The newcomers not realising what an impact they've had on the charm and tranquillity of such a tiny hamlet. They sadly considered it their right to cause chaos, mess, and noise.

However, living is such a tiny community, we consider it our duty to make things look as nice as possible. We mow our lawns regularly, swathe our buildings in flowering climbers, and our pool is beautifully 'landscaped' into the garden. Our cottage is certainly amongst the prettiest homes in the area, and its surrounding garden is always neat and tidy. Very 'English Home Counties', I suppose.

It is partly this which has prompted our horror at seeing the Water Co happily tearing up our trees, and digging holes in the lawn. It is soul destroying seeing the damage they cause without a care in the world. Had they kept detailed plans of where everything was buried, none of this would have been necessary. 

Unfortunately, we have also recently had several nights of very heavy rain, and this has made matters even worse by washing away much of their in-fill work. Previously the track above was Tarmacked and useable; it's going to take some serious repair work to put everything back as it was. The road will now have to be totally re-Tarmacked to avoid it all being washed away again. They turned-up again yesterday, only to dig more holes. It really is unbelievable.

All this may seem inconsequential to many, but to us it's very important. Gardens do not appear overnight; they evolve slowly, and are treasured. 

We are extremely busy at the moment, and have little time for dealing with mess and incompetence.

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