Sunday, 25 July 2021

Favourite Restaurant.


My nearby town has four restaurants. One is quite 'high-end', and serves local specialities. One is rather 'nouvelle cuisine', and is not really my cup of tea. Another tries very hard, but relies on 'water bath' cooking; I once ordered a Lamb knuckle dish there and was told it would take 20 minutes, a real give-away that some bag would be re-heated in a water bath. I want my food to be cooked in the restaurant kitchen, not coming from some boil-in-the-bag food-producing factory in Paris!

But the one we go to regularly serves just really well cooked, good quality, dishes; and the staff are all nice.

That was our table, bottom right below.


The restaurant's location is pretty spectacular too. It is situated under the covered arched walkway of the original 1270 bastide town, which surrounds the main square. 


Looking out from the restaurant, on the other side of the square, is the ancient Halle, which is used as market place, a weekly marché des producteurs, dance floor, and any other outdoor event that requires a roof. Keen-eyed car spotters might also notice the 'Compact Royce'.


We went this last week and had a spectacular meal. We are creatures of habit, and always eat and drink the same things. Entrecote steaks, chips, and salad, with a bottle of local Pécharmant.

Our steaks were simply stunning. Large, very tender, and delicious. Possible the best steak I've ever eaten. It makes me hungry even writing about it. If you are ever passing this way, I recommend it; it's called the 'Café de Commerce'; just say Cro sent you!

 

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Recycling.


Lady Magnon is the Queen of Recycling in this house. She religiously cleans all the tins, bottles, and plastic yoghurt tubs, before putting them in their appropriate boxes, and taking them off to the recycling 'receptacles'.


She also recycles more everyday items, including birthday cards.

This is the fourth year running that I've received the one above, and I'm hoping it won't be the last.

Thank you m'dear!

 

Friday, 23 July 2021

New Camera.




I've just had to replace my old, and well loved, Fujifilm AX280 camera. The centre of the lens had become blurred, and for some reason the SD Card wouldn't stay down in its position.

I'm not a Photo-Phreak, and have no desire for a £1,000 Nikon. The new €80 Chinese-made job (above), with no discernible maker's name on the body or instruction booklet, is all I need; and Amazon supplied within two days.

Considering that it cost a lot less than my week's shopping, it's a remarkable bit of kit. Small, light, and full of gizmos, it really is a miracle of modern technology. It takes very clear pictures, and combined with the laptop on which I'm writing, I can have a good quality photo anywhere in the world within seconds.

I expect most of us remember the days when we took our 35mm film to Boots, waited for a week or more, then threw away about 80% of the snaps that came back. What a difference to today's instant photography.

My Fuji had a more solid feeling (it had a metal casing), and all its actions felt crisper, but the new one is very light (plastic casing), has better quality pictures, and is re-chargeable from my laptop (no more AA batteries). All photos on this page will now be taken with it.


Thursday, 22 July 2021

Villefranche du Périgord - Villages du Périgord


This is a very short film (with annoying music) about our nearby village/town. It doesn't show a lot, but does give some idea of the age of the buildings.

One of our favourite restaurants is beneath the hotel shown at 28 secs, it is situated on the other side of the road from the wonderful stone-pillared covered market place. I'm sure we'll be eating there quite often over the next couple of months. Eating in the shade of its beautiful exterior ancient arches is a delight; and the food's good too. The town was established in 1261.


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Summer


Yet again it's a strange Summer. No children making a racket in the pool, no inflatable Crocodiles left lying around, no clothes shoes or towels strewn on the lawn, and no constantly trying to find things for people to do to keep them busy. It is very quiet.


There are a few tourists about. The converted Pigsty next door has been regularly booked, the Metal Container homes have had one or two visitors, and some of the nearby Gites have just started their bookings. 

We see strangers wandering around the woodland footpaths, there are plenty of NL registered cars in the car parks, and we notice people sitting at bars wearing 'holiday clothes' and sunglasses.

For the moment the temperature is around 30 C, meaning that we may start taking post-lunch siestas before too long.


Talking of 'lunch' we try, as much as possible, to eat from Haddock's and the Orchard. Plenty of green vegs are now available, and Peaches are on the trees (above). My good friend J has offered us as many Tomatoes as we like (mine are hopeless again), and we shall go this evening to pick a few Beans. 

Our oldest nearby farming friends (the one's we've known for 47 years) are wonderful; they are generous, friendly, and always have time for a long chat. If only some of the newcomers were thus!


I like Summer; it's definitely MY season. I was born in July, so it's in the blood.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Apples.





I would suggest that the humble Apple is the National Fruit of England; the Bramley and the Cox being the two main favourites.

Where would we be without Apple pie, Apple turnovers, Apple sauce, or even baked Apples?

Pears and Plums come a close second in the popularity stakes, but, also as a very big Cider drinking country, it has to be the Apple at No 1.

One of the first things I did with both our own house, and the barn, was to plant fruit trees; mostly Apples. There is nothing nicer than walking through an orchard at the bottom of the garden, with the trees full of fruit. 

Back in the UK, at my people's home in Shropshire, they had a 44 tree orchard; mostly of very rare varieties. Sadly, the plonker I sold the house to had racehorses and a helicopter, and the first thing he did was to pull the whole bloody lot out!!!! I wouldn't have sold to him had I known his intentions.

Lady Magnon is a World Champion Tarte Tatin maker (well she would be if they held a competition), so the growing, preserving, and eating of Apples is quite important to us. We have 6 Apple trees, all of different varieties; from the tastiest to the bland. All have their uses, and I wouldn't wish to be without any single of them.

Paté 2021; the verdict.


I wasn't really intending to broach my January batch of Paté until we had family with us, but as this may not happen this year, I couldn't resist.

It contains more foie gras than my usual recipe, which doesn't really show in the photo.


It is very good, but with the same firm texture that all my Patés seem to have; I would like to make some with a more open 'spreadable' texture, but it eludes me. Flavour 10/10, texture 5/10.

I'm not equipped in Brighton for Paté making; and I don't suppose I could buy fresh foie gras anyway, so this could have been my last production for some while. Maybe we'll stay here anyway. 

This (below) was part of the production process in January, showing the ratio between Pork and foie gras.


Monday, 19 July 2021

New Fr Covid-19 regulations.

 

Covid rules change as regularly as clockwork. Today in the UK (July 19th) they are relaxing the rules, whilst South of The Channel some are being strengthened.

Here, they are concentrating on those who are double-vaccinated, and those who are not.

Forget such trivialities as holiday destinations, or forced 10 day isolations, as from July 21st we will need to have proof of having been double-vaccinated in order to enter places of leisure, or any cultural gatherings where there will be more than 50 people.

And from the beginning of August the same rules will apply to Cafés, Restaurants, Shopping centres (does that mean the big supermarkets?), Planes, Trains, Busses, and HOSPITALS.

Anti-vaxxers will not be happy, they will hardly be able to move from their homes. And as for getting ill; no point even thinking of turning-up at hospital without your 'Passport Vaccinal' proof of having been vaxxed. 

Some might think that this is a direct attack against the anti-vaxxer community, and I think they'd be right.


Of course, last Saturday, demonstrations were seen all over France as the muesli-knitting, non-masked, anti-vaxxers made their feelings known, whilst (presumably) doing a good job of spreading the virus amongst themselves. I'm pleased to say that they were, at least, very peaceful.

We are, of course, both double-vaccinated. Lady Magnon has her proof on our phone, whilst mine (being an old codger) is on a piece of paper! 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Old Photos


I've been going through some bags of old photos, and came across these few. However, I couldn't find the ones I was looking for. Maybe I've posted these before; I don't remember.

This elegant man (below) is me, not long after I'd bought my first old Farmhouse in France. I was 25, footloose and fancy free; and as dapper as ever! I haven't changed.


Below is my father with his older brother. Rather than my uncle looking-out for his younger brother, it was always my father who saw to the welfare of his older brother; who was a bit of a playboy. I think one can almost see, from the photo, how it would pan-out.


And this is my mother in what today would be considered a somewhat non-PC photo. In days gone by it was perfectly normal to have one's photo taken with a Chimp' or a Lion cub. Not so today.


I love this picture; smart suit, jaunty hat, leather gloves, and a Chimp'..... she was so taken by the Chimp', that she later had me!..... TROUBLE.

Saturday, 17 July 2021

France: Protesters clash with police in Bastille Day rally against new health regulations.


July 14th was Bastille Day; France's national holiday, which commemorates the storming of The Bastille in 1789, and the end of monarchy.

This year it was celebrated (in traditional style) by some half-hearted dustbin upturning, litter distribution, and general poor quality rioting. They claimed it was against the new regulations concerning certification of vaccination, but any excuse will suffice.

 As from July 21st proof of full double vaccination will be required for entry to places of leisure, and cultural gatherings of more than 50 participants. From the beginning of August similar proof of vaccination will be required to enter Cafés, Restaurants, Shopping Centres, Planes, Trains, Busses, or other places of Mass Gathering.

It is interesting to note, in the video, that many of the 'rioting' anti-vaxxers, seem to be wearing masks. However, I suspect that their mask-wearing has more to do with making themselves unrecognisable, rather than keeping themselves or others, safe from Covid-19.


Friday, 16 July 2021

Is this the end of the traditional British Picnic?

 

New long awaited legislation has just been announced about the carrying of knives, knuckle-dusters, machetes, etc. As of July 14th 2021, miscreants will now be liable up to 6 months in prison, or a fine, or both. 

Something certainly needed to be done about the drug gangs endlessly stabbing and killing each other on the streets of London. The BLM movement wants to stop the police powers of 'Stop and Search', as well as defunding the police. In reality, the police need to extend their powers of 'Stop and Search' (which I imagine they now will), and they also need increased funding. 

It is also in the new legislation that if knives listed in the prohibited list of weapons are found inside someone's home, the owners will be equally guilty as if found outdoors.

I, myself, keep a small No 8 Opinel in the car, I eat with a No 9 Opinel, and, at this time of year I usually have a No 8 (or a specific mushrooming knife) in my pocket. I'm not yet sure how this would be seen in the UK; I may be clapped in irons if caught.

I note that the man in the photo is holding a long knife (with which I imagine he sliced that melon), as from the 14th this is now a crime, and his picnic could cost him 6 months in the slammer. Woe is he!


Thursday, 15 July 2021

Best of fruits.

Mid July is when the first of our Orchard fruits begin to mature, and in particular the Peaches.

What nicer fruit is there to pluck from a tree on a warm summer's day, than a ripe juicy Peach.


The tree above is Boo Boo's birthday tree; planted on the very day he was born. It is the best of our Peach trees, and on a good year (such as this) will provide a huge amount of perfect fruits.

The best, of course, is to eat them whilst passing by; grab one, take a huge bite, and allow the juice to trickle down one's chin. What better way is there to enjoy them.

We never do anything else with them other than to eat them as they come. I've looked online at 'things to do with peaches', but nothing really takes my fancy. 

Our only problem is trying to keep the wretched birds off them; they seem to enjoy them as much as we do!

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Getting away from it all.

 

There are so many reasons why someone should wish to 'get away from it all', but I suppose it was seeing all that hooliganism surrounding Sunday's Football match at Wembley that finally prompted our conversation about where we should escape to. A lot of humanity seems to be out of control, and we need tranquillity.

'Where' was our first concern. We considered most of the world, then eventually plumped for a small Caribbean island. It would need to have about 50 acres, one or two beautiful beaches, a natural safe harbour, and no nasty wildlife. 

We would not be going alone; this would be a collective move. With us would come a carpenter, a farmer, a fisherman, a nurse (with comprehensive first-aid kit), and maybe some sort of 'technician'. All would be experts in their fields, but more importantly they would need to be 'stable'; no hang-ups, phobias, or hidden angry spouses. It's those people that we'd be getting away from.

Ideally our island (called Arcadia Island) would have 'seasons'; nothing below about 10 C in Winter, and not too much above 30 C in Summer. It would be fertile, its surrounding waters filled with easily caught self-sacrificing fish and shellfish, and its interior rich in Wild Boar, Chickens, Goats, and Rabbits. It would also need a fresh water spring.

No electricity would be allowed on Arcadia Island, no radios or TVs, no newspapers or mobile phones, no religions or party politics. There will be no hand sanitiser, face masks, or social distancing; everyone would have been triple-checked for viruses.

No motorised transport of any sort would be allowed, just bicycles on shore, or rowing boats at sea. There will be no money, tokens, IOU's, debentures, or banks.

Even though our mantra would be 'Peace, Love, and Understanding', we would still need to be armed. Any takeover attempt of our island, by nasty, virus-bearing, anti-vaxxer, woke liberals, would be met by very long wooden poles to repel landing. The one thing we would not tolerate would be that which instigated our move.

Applications are now being invited. Name, address, and initial fee of £100k (towards expenses) must be lodged on this page before December 25th.


Tuesday, 13 July 2021

The OTHER Tour de France.


If you are watching The Tour de France on TV, you will not be seeing what is a major part of every day's stage; the Caravane.

Before each days race goes by, there is a huge parade of publicity vehicles. These represent everything from Sweet manufacturers, to Olive oil makers, Insurance Co's, Car makers, and almost everything else you could think of. As their publicity vehicles go by, they throw out free samples of their wares to the roadside public. You come home with so many hats, key rings, and assorted sachets, that you have plenty for years to come. It is Huge Fun.

Then, of course, the real purpose of the day arrives and it's all over in a flash as they speed by, and you return home with all your goodies. This video is a bit long, but it'll give you an idea of what goes on.  If you stand roadside, you see all the razzmatazz for anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, then just a couple seconds of racing. If you watch on TV you can see the whole day's stage, but no razzmatazz. The choice is yours!

Monday, 12 July 2021

Ron Manager: The Modern Game


Well done lads; you did your best.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Andrea Motis feat. by WDR BIG BAND - Brisa


My word; hasn't she grown!

Anyone who has followed the career of Andrea Motis, will probably remember her as being the 'child genius' under the tutorage of Joan Chamorro, and his Sant Andreu Jazz Band in Barcelona. 

The multi-talented Ms Motis is now 26, and goes from strength to strength. This is one of her own compositions called 'Brisa'. 

I don't know the WDR BIG BAND, but they contain some superb musicians.


Saturday, 10 July 2021

Le Séchoir. Then and Now.



Back in 2010, we bought an old, extremely dilapidated, tobacco drying barn. It had an earth floor, asbestos roofing, and the dried dusty skeletal remains of numerous dead Rats, from it's previous post-tobacco days as a Goose rearing barn. Above are Wills and Kellogg thinking "What the hell have they bought?"

It was an interesting project, which has kept us busy on-n-off for quite some while. I took on most of the interior tasks myself; building walls, insulating, plastering, and doing all the design work. 


The roof has been replaced, the interior completely gutted and rebuilt, very eco-friendly solar heating systems etc installed, and now the exterior has also been completely re-boarded. We have just one more bathroom to finish, and a couple of doors to install.

The interior is simple, open-plan, fully-kitted, and comfortable. The outside is laid out as orchard (with Apples, Cherries, Peaches and Figs) and lawns. There are two very large, beautiful, Oak trees. The largest one being 'The Royal Oak, and the slightly smaller one being 'Dangerous Fun'.


It's taken 12 years of unhurried work to arrive at where we are. The transformation has been 'total', and the finished product has become a very comfortable and spacious home. I love it!

I must thank our village Charpentier, Olivier, who has just finished all the exterior cladding. Its warm mahogany colour is much admired, and the finish is perfect. What a change!

Friday, 9 July 2021

Excited Jack Russells.


This is why I so often prefer dogs to humans. Enjoy!


Thursday, 8 July 2021

Half-read books.


Weaver recently recounted that she'd only managed to read 350 pages of a 900 page novel. The book itself was heavy (uncomfortable to hold), and the print was small, requiring a magnifier. The book 'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexandre Dumas had been selected by her group 'book club'. I know exactly how she felt.

My own major problem, when reading, is with names; mostly Russian names.

I've always enjoyed the stark drama of the great Russian novels, and have attempted to read The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, Zhivago, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, etc, but I always manage to get bogged-down by the names. I even used to make my own list of characters so that I could keep up with who was who, but even that failed. The novels I did manage to read through to the end probably skipped through many of the characters, simply because I couldn't be bothered.

Why I should be confused by Semyonov or Plotnikov, and not Rutherford or Braithwaite, I have no idea, but somewhere between my eye and my brain an uncontrollable confusion takes over.

I recently read a novel (about Russia, rather than by a Russian) which I found a total pleasure. Amor Towles uses his characters sparingly, and one can easily keep-up with who's who. I read the book almost like a book of short stories, picking it up for a few chapters at a time, and still the characters remained easily identifiable. 

Having received a 'visual education', one might have thought that I would see names much like pictures, but that doesn't happen. I see Russian names as 'a confusion of letters', often with far too many consonants.

This doesn't happen with other nationality names, only with Russians. 

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

1st Tom.


At last, our first Tomato. We've been having such bad luck with our Toms in recent years; disease, drought, and disaster have meant we've produced almost nothing.

This year my plants are all in large pots, with Mole-hill soil, Horse manure, and home-made Compost to feed them. Even so the plants have not been perfect. At one point I thought I was going to lose them.


Since then, they've had a good dose of Copper Sulphate (the one chemical allowed with Bio growers), and careful control of their watering. 

I can't say my plants are perfect; the fruits are all now forming at the top of very tall, spindly, plants, but this doesn't really worry me as long as the fruits are developing OK. 

What a pleasure it is to have one's own Tomatoes again. The one above renewed my faith in home-grown.



 

Which Vaccine?


If you want to see why the EU is SO ANGRY with the Brits, just look at the chart below. The vaccine developed in Oxford by Prof Sarah Gilbert and Prof Andrew Pollard, is by far the world's most popular, and as far as I believe; effective!

The Vaccine they tried so hard to rubbish (Macron called it 'Quasi-ineffective'), is the most popular word-wide, and even the EU folk themselves are desperate to get hold of more. They even took A-Z to court over it; and LOST. 

As I have said previously; far better that the EU works WITH the UK, rather than AGAINST her, otherwise a lot of egg will be found on a lot of faces; and egg tends to stick!



Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Progress?

 

There is a sense of gaiety in the camaraderie of country folk. Collective effort creates bonds that otherwise would be absent. How many marriages have been initiated by the collective (mixed-sex) heaving of wheat sheaves, or the gathering of grapes. How many small farms have been expanded by the linking of families, and the joining of lands.

But, when the sharing of tasks is no longer there, and neighbours no longer pool their resources to bring in the crops, that feeling of community is lost, and people become insular. They no longer 'hammer-out' their problems; they discuss within families and their accusing fingers always point at others. Feuds can easily split close neighbours, and rivalry takes precedence over where once there was friendship.

The natural urge to help one's neighbours was what helped keep small rural communities together. X helped Y, then in turn Y helped X; it was always thus.

Life was like this 47 years ago when I first moved to my small village. As soon as the hay was baled we all met in the fields, and it was brought inside before nightfall; this could never have been done alone. When the grapes were ripe, we all arrived with our baskets, and without prompt, we got on with the job. Once the juice was all inside the huge oak vats, Madame Farmer provided a generous meal at the end of a hard day's work.

Since those days Tractors have taken over much of the work; where once the was a 'Pony' (top photo), now there is a monster (below). No man with a pitchfork can lift one of today's big round bales onto a trailer.

Tractors naturally increased in size, their costs became exorbitant, and hay is now cut and baled by machines that cost a fortune, rather than by a few neighbours who gathered to do the work amidst laughter and friendship. 

Many fields now remain dormant; occasionally being mowed by those huge tractors for the sake of tidiness. Who needs to grow crops, when they can be delivered from Spain at half the price?

Now I see once busy farmers wandering around their farms, with little to do but check that their 'Single Farm Payment' has arrived from Brussels. The huge tractors remain unused, but still need to be paid for. The more attractive farmhouses become holiday homes for rich Parisians, and the land used for ponies, golf courses, or simply for admiring. The camaraderie has all but gone.

The children of small farmers no longer wish to follow the plough, they were brought-up on a diet of Hollywood films, documentaries from exotic locations, and the promise of urban wealth and glamour. Why would they wish to remain at home and watch all around them deteriorate; big cities beckon, and the arrivals are mostly young, expectant, wide-eyed, country folk.

Life has dealt a serious blow to country people, and country practices. Young 'liberals' are now more likely to discuss the rights of trans-sexuals, than to care about where the wheat is grown for their burger bun. Our priorities seem to have become muddled, and life is no better for it.

I have just been watching my neighbour Claude, down in the valley, driving his long trailer to where his big round hay bales are, unlink the trailer, collect the bales with the two spikes on the front of his tractor, place them all carefully on the trailer, and drive back home again; all done alone. If he'd still had the much smaller rectangular bales, I'd have been down there at once. A very sad sight.


Monday, 5 July 2021

Mushrooms.


We may still be swimming every day, but the weather here otherwise has been very erratic. Perfect for mushrooms.

I think it's been three years since we ate a fresh Cèpe, so to find a few 'edible' ones was a real pleasure. I'd found a few about a week ago, but they were old and rotten.


With both Girolles and a Cèpe in the fridge, I decided to make a mixed omelette. It's the best use for such things. Just add a couple of beaten eggs!


It is not exaggerating to say that mushrooms play a very important part in our local gastronomy. Without mushrooms and La Chasse, people would have nothing to do or talk about.

There are two main varieties of Cèpe; Boletus edulis and Boletus aereus. The latter having almost black caps, and are known as the Tête noire. They are regarded as slightly better in flavour. 

Yesterday we found a large group of Tête noire mushrooms beneath our large Oak tree (The Royal Oak). We have never found them there before, and were quite surprised; they are all now cooked and frozen for future omelettes. 

I have just returned from another sortie, and brought back another full bag of beautiful fresh young mushrooms. Like London buses, you wait for years then suddenly they all turn up at once!


Above: Left Boletus edulis. Right Boletus aereus.

The Cèpes in the top photo are Boletus edulis.

 

Vandalism?


Just a few days ago, on, I believe, July 1st, three statues were toppled in Canada. One of Queen Victoria, another of Queen Elizabeth II, and a third of Captain James Cook.

Between 1860 and 1970, around 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools, in order to educate and assimilate. The scheme was run by both Christian Churches, and the Canadian government; nothing at all to do with UK royalty past or present, or even great navigators. About 600 of these children are thought to have died within these institutions; from what, I have no idea.

No-one would sanction such programmes these days, and there is general consensus that such institutions were ill-advised


There is a trend to topple statues at the moment; almost regardless of why or wherefore. Angry adolescents aim their venom at whatever 'authority' is to hand, rather than looking for the true culprits. 

In this particular case, why were Catholic/Protestant churches not targeted; or why were government buildings not daubed with paint? THEY were the guilty ones! The British monarchy is non-political.

No forces of order seemed to be in attendance whilst the vandalism took place.

I just hope that when these people achieve their aim of anarchy, that they find the result better than what they destroyed. Somehow I think that they'll create a system that is far less liberal, than that which allowed them to destroy.

A very sad day for the reputation of Canada, and even more so for those who wilfully destroyed the three beautiful statues. What on earth are those orange-clad children thinking?

 

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Your Name? | A Bit Of Fry And Laurie


A bit of classic English comedy to help brighten your Sunday! 

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Parties.


The first proper parties I attended were in London in the mid-60's. They were often 'themed'; the most popular being 'Surf Parties', where we all wore surfing gear, carried surf boards, and listened to The Beach Boys. Even in Winter!

Then, predictably, came Art College parties. Lewd, hormonal affairs, where copious amounts of hair was let down.


Later, in the adult world, parties were usually linked to events. Birthdays, New Year, Celebrations of all sorts. These were probably amongst the best. Here are a youthful couple at my Brighton home (where did that picture suddenly appear from?), about to go to a Gangsters and Molls party. I had made the cardboard Tommy Gun and Cigar specially for the occasion. I think Lady M had mistaken our invitation for a Buck House Garden Party. 

My people used to hold good parties. Father being a 'pillar of society', was a very popular man, and his guest list usually involved all the good and the great from the immediate area. Black Sobranie cigarettes were offered (but rarely smoked), 'nibbles' were pierced by tooth-picks and handed around, and alcohol flowed freely. These gatherings often became lively, but I don't recall any drunkenness.

Here in France we have held some memorable parties, one or two of which are still recalled by attendees today; my 50th being a case in point where we roasted a whole Lamb, and fed a cast of thousands (probably about 100). Sadly those days have gone. Real characters are no longer around, and it just ain't the same.

We still talk of holding just one more extravaganza, but we would need Kimbo to be here to help, and, thanks to Matron Merkel & Co, I fear that is now out of the question. We shall probably hold a good bash in Brighton over Christmas (if we go); at least over there, there's never a shortage of interesting guests to chose from.

 

Friday, 2 July 2021

To Mask, or not to Mask?


Government edicts change as regularly as our weather, but I hear today that Boris will lift the UK's obligation to wear Masks as from July 19th. So, will you be lifting your Mask?


For me, personally; probably not. I'm sure it does little to save me from any viral infection, but like wearing belt or braces, it gives one a certain feeling of security.

Masks, and Mask wearing, have become something of a fashion statement. From Rees-Mogg and his Union Flag Mask, to those who barely cover their chins, each has chosen either a style of Mask, or the style in which it is worn.


I am not a follower of fashion, nor am I a social climber, and I'm certainly not a noisy exhibitionist, so I stick with the plain, bog-standard, non-committal, 90 cents for 10, product from China (where else!), and I shall continue to wear these until such time as I feel 'safe' (mine are blue).

Should I return to England for the Winter, I will probably remove my Mask to breathe the sea's ozone-rich air, or, up on The Downs, to fill my lungs with the sweet Sussex breeze. But, in doing so, I shall make sure that I am 'Socially Distanced' by at least the length of a Cricket Pitch.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

What a Day!!!

 

It was like Piccadilly Circus here yesterday. Firstly the man who mows the footpaths, mowed a new neighbour's temporary electrical connection behind our house. His cable, which had been lying on the surface of the path for almost a year (not recommended), was half hidden by the long grass, and the tractor driver drove right over it; tearing the cable from the electrical box connection, and shredding it.

Thank goodness the cable was torn from the connecting box before he chewed it up. He might not be with us now had he mowed from the other direction. I had told the man, who's connection it is, that it would have been better to put the cable up on the bank where it could do no harm, but advice can only be given; not enforced. Hopefully he'll listen next time.

They managed to have the power re-established before evening, so all is now well. And, yes, he's now put the cable where I had originally suggested.

Then I found our nice Water Board man in the paddock, leaning over some buried stopcock, which was issuing forth water. He explained that there was a leak somewhere up by the church, about 2 Kms to the East of us, and he was opening all the stopcocks between us and there; I have no idea why. This time it may not be quite so easy to repair, and the water may be running for some while. Luckily we're not paying for it. It is still running, and it'll be a while before it can be mended (a week?).

Totally unrelated to the water man and his stopcocks, we then found that our own water meter up at the barn was slightly leaking. There was a plumber working nearby, who promised to have a look. He fixed the leak with a couple of turns of a large spanner, and all was done free of charge.

Then, as if all that wasn't enough, our Charpentier turned up for the first time for over a week. He had his second vaccine jab on the same day as us (June 23rd), and has been suffering ever since. We had Astra-Zeneca with no problems; he had Moderna, and felt like death for a week. He should be back at work today; I hope so.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Just like Christmas.


I was at my local Leclerc supermarket yesterday morning, and, as all Tour de France aficionados will know, they are sponsoring the red polka dot 'king of the mountains' jersey this year.

At the checkout I was given a long red spotted box, which proved to contain what you see below; a map of France for colouring in, complete with a small pack of crayons.


I was a little surprised that the map was unrelated to the Tour itself; I would have preferred that it followed the route in some way.

It says on the box that the map was made in China, and is for those above 3 years old. There are 4 colours in the tiny box; green, blue, yellow, and red, all also made in China.


I was also given two scratch cards. The first one was no good, but the second one said that I'd won a Tour de France game, which I will claim next Tuesday.

Don't ever say that life isn't anything but exciting here in France. A surprise around every corner. 

Now, where are those crayons?

Regarding the Tour itself; what an amazing finish yesterday. Well done Cav.

p.s. Well done also to England Footballers. What punishment is being planned by both France and Germany, we shall soon see. Macron and Merkel must be FURIOUS! 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Garden gate.


There are very few things that lift my spirit more than a beautiful English garden.

I think many Englishmen/women have an inbuilt understanding of gardens; I'm sure other nationalities do too, but not in the same way. We seem to have some Jekyll-Juice running through our veins.


Other than in lofty circles, the French seem to have little understanding of garden design. The most common 'design' being an open area, equidistantly dotted with an endless variety of different exotic conifers. It's a strange concept that seems to have been adopted almost throughout France.

Of course the best gardens are 'old' ones; age has a wonderful effect on them. I don't think I've ever seen a modern garden that comes close. What could compare to an ancient brick walled garden; unfortunately very few of us have the pleasure of owning such delights. All we can do is to design our own gardens in such a way that they will age well, and hopefully mature into something like the above.


I remember well, when I was planning to build our 'tower', a local wisenheimer woman (who's own grounds were extremely tedious) telling me that we'd ruin the garden. In fact it's made all the difference, and has become one of its more important features, and (dare I say it) is actually much admired. Give it another 100 years, and it'll look great. 

Our current garden is the first I've designed and built from scratch, so I sincerely hope it matures nicely.

We'll see; or at least someone else will!


Monday, 28 June 2021

Compost Fry-Up.


Haddock's is now producing a reasonable amount of vegs, so perfect time to produce the first of our Summer 'Compost Fry-Ups'.

If you are new to this page; let me explain.

My 'Compost Fry-Up' consists of any vegs found either in the garden, at the back of the fridge, or in the veg aisle at Leclerc supermarket. The main ingredients being spuds, beans, courgettes, peppers, mushrooms, or whatever. All is pre-prepared (according to cooking times), then fried in plenty of garlic butter, and eventually given a generous sprinkling of cumin powder.


The result is wonderful. No need for meat, the overall flavour seems to bypass any desire for a steak or chops.

I must add that when my children were small, they were brought up on this Summery dish, and it became a firm favourite. They still love it today; as do we. 

 

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Count Arthur Strong: Flying Lesson


Count Arthur Strong is a comedian from the ilk of Harry Worth, or even Harry Hill. Not everyone's cup of tea, but occasionally very funny.

An easy mistake to make. Both 'students' think the other is the teacher.....


Saturday, 26 June 2021

Guns.


I'm pretty sure that this Texas family is not typical of gun owners in the USA, but I do believe there are more guns in circulation over there, than there are actual American citizens. This lot below look a tad obsessed!


I am a gun owner, and can boast a tiny collection. My guns are not of the military hardware variety as seen in the above photo, but a low-powered air rifle, and an air pistol.

My very old BSA Cadet Major .177 air rifle was given to me by my father (very surprisingly) as a Christmas present when I was about 10. It was totally out of character for him to give me such a wonderful present, and I've treasured it ever since. 

I also own a very old, and heavy, Webley Premier .22 air pistol (below), that is almost an antique. I bought it at an isolated petrol station in Wales back in about 1970. I was paying the man for my petrol when I noticed a glass case containing about five used Webleys for sale. I bought the best of the lot.


In the past I also owned a single shot .22 pistol, that, sadly, was essential in 'dispatching' both a dying Badger, and a wounded Deer. Not pleasant tasks, but one I couldn't have done without my 'priest'.

Guns have always held a fascination for boys and men. Putting a small hole in the bullseye of a target is a 'rite of passage', and that's as far as it goes in this household. Visiting grandsons always ask for a session or two of target practice, and they love it; as do I.

Also in the past I owned a double barrelled 12 bore shotgun. I'd imagined that out here, in the wilds of Southern France, that 'rough shooting' (Pigeons, Rabbits, Pheasants, etc) would be far better than back in England, but in fact it was almost non-existent due to the reckless use of guns by just about every male over the age of 16; no creature was safe. I eventually sold my gun to a Dutch chef; but never received payment.

I would never shoot 'game' these days. I prefer to look at creatures; not kill them.

No, I'm not a gun-totin' redneck from the backwoods; I'm just an ordinary bloke who enjoys target shooting in the garden.

p.s. I've recently noticed that the going price for my old Webley pistol is about £250... so I might take it back to the UK and sell it.

Friday, 25 June 2021

A Wise Doctor


It's not unusual to read of people who've lived their lives pretending to be something they're not. I think the most popular fantasy is that of being a doctor.


Pretending to be a priest is another favourite, as well as ambulance driver, policeman, or teacher. Usually such choices are based on the 'power and respect' shown to the chosen profession. Very rarely, if ever, would anyone pretend to be a road sweeper or dustman.

Every time I visit my doctor, I end up thinking 'I could have done that'. He asks me how I am, takes my blood pressure, weighs me, then tells me to eat less salt, less charcuterie, take plenty of exercise, and lose some weight. Nothing complicated there.

My prescription is already on his computer, so even that is just a matter of pressing a button.

I presume he does much the same for every patient. I have yet to see anyone in his waiting room bleeding from a stab would, which might take some extra expertise. 

Yes, I reckon I'd make a pretty good fake GP. Dr Magnon will see you now sir.


Thursday, 24 June 2021

Mussel Salad.


At this time of year we eat salads every day at lunchtime.

Finding new ways to present salads, that are basically composed of the same Lettuce, Tomato, and Cucumber, is always a task. 

To the basics, I occasionally add hard boiled eggs, or feta cheese, sardines, ham, etc, to keep things different day by day, but one of our favourite additions is a small can of Mussels in escabeche sauce. The sauce makes an excellent vinaigrette and the mussels themselves add a delicious flavour.


If I'm preaching to the converted, please forgive me. However, if this is something you've never considered; give it a go.

I am presuming that Mussels in escabeche sauce are available everywhere. I don't know.

 

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

What makes good cuisine?

 

It is often claimed that great cuisine comes from times of hardship; people worked hard to make the best of what little they had, and as a result classic dishes were created.

In his book 'A Gentleman in Moscow', Amor Towles writes 'In a period of abundance, any half-wit with a spoon can please a palate. To truly test a chef's ingenuity, one must instead look to a period of want, and what provides better than war'. One wouldn't wish war on anyone, but in terms of cuisine, it had its rewards.

From what I've heard of Russian cooking, they were not the most inventive people; unlike the Italians or French. With flour, water, and a Tomato, the Italians could make a delicious meal; the Russians just 'boiled'. My late Father-in-Law spent several years in Moscow, and only ever ate well at foreign embassies, delegations, etc.

When I first arrived to live in France, in 1972, I was often amazed by the pure skill of local farmer's wives. They produced the most spectacular 'banquets' with whatever grew on the farm. Of course, in those days they still had Pigs, Hens, Ducks, Geese, Vines, large Veg' gardens, plenty of fruit, and the passed-down knowledge of how to turn everything into the most delicious meals imaginable. I can remember well being amazed by my lovely next-door neighbour's Confit de Canard and her Hams and Pâtés. I had never tasted such delicacies. She took such care to make everything perfect. Mostly, these skills have now disappeared; the Supermarkets have made sure of that. 

The combination of Peasant Farming, and Poverty, is responsible for some of the world's classic dishes, but with the rise of moped-delivered fast foods, I suspect that (unless something drastic happens) we have seen an end to poverty-based gastronomy. The world will be a lesser place as a result.

RIP Madame D; one of the last of an era. She taught me so much, I can't thank her enough. She would NEVER have presented me a dish either topped with 'foam', or sprinkled with micro-herbs.



Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Father's Day.


It was Fathers Day recently here in France; something I normally try to ignore.

My oldest sent me this video, in place of a card. I wonder if he was trying to tell me something?

Monday, 21 June 2021

Fellow 'Ratter'.


I'm very pleased to see recent examples of Prince Charles's 'ratting wardrobe'; a man after my own heart.


I've never been one to throw away clothes simply because of holes or shabbiness. My 1970-ish Barbour is certainly showing signs of wear and tear, but as such coats don't come cheap, I shall be hanging onto it.

It looks as if Charles thinks similarly about this rather odd looking coat of his (below).


I have noticed over the years that he often wears a well-worn, slightly 'Orangey' looking overcoat when on official visits. It still looks OK, but he must have owned it since the 60's.

Well done Charlie, a man who believes in sustainability, and hates waste; an example to us all.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Abandoned Project.


About 30 years ago, I kept finding logs in-amongst my wood pile that looked like torsos/legs.  With a small amount of sawing, and a bit of paint, I turned them into what you see below.


I had intended to make them into bedside lamps, but somehow they never got completed and were moved to the back of a shelf.

Lady M recently found them, and brought them out.

As you might see, Woodworm have been enjoying themselves, but I still think I might now finish them. The tiny holes gives them 'character', and we could certainly use some more lamps up at the barn.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Think yourself lucky.


We, here in Europe, often complain about the weather, in fact I would say that we are obsessed by it.

But just imagine that you lived in Texas (below) where 'twisters' are a part of life, or in a part of the world where the snow and ice never melts. Actually, we have it pretty good in Europe; just ask Dorothy Gale or Toto.


When John Gray recently invited his readers to send photos of their views from 'out front', I was amazed to see how many were covered in snow. Frankly I would move!

Here in Southern France we haven't seen temperatures lower than about -5 C for many years, nor have we suffered temperatures above 38 C. For the cold we wear an extra jumper, and light fires; for the heatwaves we stay in the shade, or throw ourselves into lakes, rivers, or pools. 

Our fields are green, our fruits and vegetables flourish (usually), and unlike Miss Gale, we are very rarely swept away by hurricanes.

John Ruskin said "There is no such thing as bad weather, just different types of good weather". In many ways he was right, but please don't send me hurricane-force wind or knee-high snow. No thanks.

 

Friday, 18 June 2021

More 20 Likes.

 

Seeing as I updated my 20 dislikes yesterday, I thought I'd better do the same with my likes.


1. Wandering in the woods, gathering mushrooms

2. Breast of Lamb, roasted with Lemon, Garlic, and ground Cumin

3. The smell of newly mown grass; especially when mixed with wild Mint

4. Picking Vegs from Haddock's

5. Playing with Billy

6. Being at home 

7. Swimming

8. Simple Cabernet Sauvignon red wine

9. Eating with my children/grandchildren

10. Laughter, and plenty of it

11. Mature Cheddar Cheese, and melting Camembert

12. A really comfortable mattress

13. My own home-made Humus

14. Flaubert, Pagnol, and Camus

15. The architecture of S W France

16. Smoked Bacon

17. Good Scottish Single Malt Whisky

18. Chinese take-aways

19. 25 C Sunshine

20. Beautiful women in diaphanous Summer dresses!


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