Sunday, 25 July 2021
Saturday, 24 July 2021
Friday, 23 July 2021
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
Wednesday, 21 July 2021
Tuesday, 20 July 2021
Monday, 19 July 2021
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.
Sunday, 18 July 2021
Saturday, 17 July 2021
Friday, 16 July 2021
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
Mid July is when the first of our Orchard fruits begin to mature, and in particular the Peaches.
Wednesday, 14 July 2021
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
Monday, 12 July 2021
Sunday, 11 July 2021
Saturday, 10 July 2021
Friday, 9 July 2021
Thursday, 8 July 2021
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
Tuesday, 6 July 2021
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
Sunday, 4 July 2021
Saturday, 3 July 2021
Friday, 2 July 2021
Thursday, 1 July 2021
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
Tuesday, 29 June 2021
Monday, 28 June 2021
Sunday, 27 June 2021
Saturday, 26 June 2021
Friday, 25 June 2021
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.
Thursday, 24 June 2021
Wednesday, 23 June 2021
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
Monday, 21 June 2021
Sunday, 20 June 2021
Saturday, 19 June 2021
Friday, 18 June 2021
Seeing as I updated my 20 dislikes yesterday, I thought I'd better do the same with my likes.