Sunday 31 January 2021

Paté Making 2021.

I wasn't sure if I'd be making any Paté this year, but I couldn't resist; Lady M would never have forgiven me!

I managed to buy my foie gras yesterday, which I understand is in short supply this year. There was a sign in the shop saying that the shortage was due to Bird flu. I also had to buy the superior quality liver as none of the lesser was available; meaning, of course, that it cost me an arm and two legs (about €20).

Foie gras comes in two qualities; 'extra' which is for frying and eating on toast, etc, and 'TV' (tout venant) which is for adding to Patés, Terrines, etc; and is a bit cheaper.

I made eight 350 gms jars, which should be enough. I still have a couple of jars from 2019. These are opened on special occasions only.

And here is the finished job (below); 8 very nice looking jars of Pork and foie gras Paté. I shall wait a few months before broaching.

And luckily there was a small amount of foie gras left over to have fried on toast later in the day. Yum.

Saturday 30 January 2021

Let there be Light.

I've noticed a lot of people recently, walking around like zombies; looking gloomy. Whether this is to do with the season, or the effects of Covid restrictions, I don't know. I expect it's probably a combination of both.

'Routine' has taken over our lives. We seem to live by the clock. We have become automatons. 

But there is some light. We have discovered the pleasures of afternoon TV, where a daily programme about Farmers Markets has almost become essential viewing (when it's raining). We have also been delving into the depths of the freezer and cupboards to look for hidden delights; and we've found several. And we now have 'regular' Skype chats with family, to keep au fait with what's happening in the outside world.

'Cosiness' has become a serious aim. Without 'cosy', life is hardly worth living, and my regular afternoon fire-lighting is akin to a religious ceremony. 

Books are being consumed by the dozen, music is played every evening (favourites at present are Ink Spots, Earth Wind and Fire, and the Hot Club de Paris), and very occasionally we dance (badly) or sing (badly).

Billy is, of course, our saviour. He demands to play, to be taken on walks, and go visit his friends. Without him our lives would be very dull. We have no cat since our Freddie died, and I miss having one around.

When it's dark, damp, and miserable, we also eat cake, or do some Hoovering, or (after 5pm) drink a glass of red wine; the latter is always preferable.

That's how programmed our life is in late January 2021, but we're not complaining.

Friday 29 January 2021

Dreaming of Autumn.


I'm sure I've mentioned before that 2020 was a rotten year for mushrooms, so we can now but dream of a far better 2021.

We always like to encourage people to eat wild mushrooms, whilst making sure they don't just start 'picking and eating' any old thing.

One of the better wild mushrooms to start eating is the delicious Autumn Parasol Mushroom. It's also one that you can't mistake for any other.

Above are Kellogg and the Cherub with a fine example. As you can see, it is very big and very distinctive. It's almost the size of an umbrella. Don't bother eating the stems.

I just hope that this Autumn we shall still be here to enjoy a few more.

N.B. Just in case you should find some, fry in olive oil, salt only very slightly, and absolutely NO GARLIC.

Thursday 28 January 2021


I don't know what made me think about this, but I wonder how many people remember Eve Boswell, and her big 50's hit 'Pickin' a Chicken'?

I was at school with her son, Michael McIntosh, and I remember her turning-up for Sports Days, etc, in her stunning, then very space-age, Citroen DS Break.

She was a big star for a while, but with the 50's/60's arrived rock-n-roll, and a very different style of music. Poor Eve suddenly sounded very old fashioned. 

Do you remember her?

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Hazards of the Cold etc.


Tuesday is my shopping day. I always set off from home before it's totally light, in order to be at my nearby supermarket (Leclerc) by 8.30 am opening time.

Yesterday morning I didn't notice that an escapee horse from next door had dragged some invisible green plastic coated Sheep wire into the track, which I subsequently drove over and snagged beneath the car. It took me ages to untangle it. Plenty of hoof prints and poo all over the garden, including up at the barn. Luckily only a small amount of damage to our young fruit trees. No word of apology.

Then en route I came across the above; some poor soul had probably hit a patch of black ice and slid into the arms of a roadside Walnut tree. If the tree hadn't been there, he or she would probably have ended up on his or her head.

I had planned to buy foie gras yesterday for my Paté making, but there wasn't any. My big Charcuterie day has therefore had to be put back for a while. More anon.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Trainers (Gym shoes, plimsolls).

When I saw this (below) recently, I nearly fell over backwards!

Needless to say, I wouldn't be seen dead in any of these vulgar, clumpy, over-priced, training shoes.

Who in their right minds would spend over £700 on those ridiculous-looking pink shoes, or over £14,000 on those grey Nike shoes on the bottom row, or £2.7 Million on what I presume are diamond studded ones? And, who the hell dreams-up those prices?

I always thought that women's (and men's) feet should appear small and delicate. If you wish to look like a farmer with multi-coloured-mud-clogged gum boots, there's a far better way of achieving the look without buying any of the above.

Why anyone would want to wear such garishly ugly over-priced clod-hoppers; I really don't know.

Yes, I must be getting old.

Monday 25 January 2021

Away from it all.

When I look outside, and compare it to the photo that my youngest sent me two days ago, there are no prizes for guessing why he and his family are now in Cancun Mexico. This is the view from his hotel balcony. It certainly looks idealistic!

Am I jealous? Of course I am, but frankly I'm happier where I am. It may be cold, wet, and miserable, but I feel safer here, and for me, my health is all important.

We stay home, shop briefly once a week, and occasionally chat with one or two similarly cautious neighbours.  No way would I travel half way round the world.

We shall open the pool at the end of May, our Palm trees will sway, and we'll sip cooling drinks in between swims. And to think; we only have four finger-twiddling months to wait.

Then, to make matters worse, my daughter sent me this photo yesterday of Keppel Island, where she spends many of her weekends. Paradise. Something tells me I might have made a mistake somewhere!

Sunday 24 January 2021

Funnier Times.

I was reminded about this by Pipistrello from 'Flying with Hands'; so thank you. 

Back in the mid-60's I was managing a small Art Gallery in London's Devonshire Street W1.

We specialised in early topographical watercolours, but also sold just about everything else that was pre around 1950. Modern, we didn't do.

My boss, Miklos Vilag, was a rather eccentric man, with a noticeable resemblance to Albert Einstein.

Miklos (known in English as Nicholas) oozed confidence; there was nothing he couldn't achieve, including making a deal with various Fleet Street newspapers to hold an exhibition of (and to sell) works by all the most famous cartoonists of the day.

The work involved was huge. We had to frame about 200 cartoons, totally clear the gallery of all it's regular stock, send out invitations for the Vernissage, and expect to be extremely busy for a period of two weeks.

Sadly, one name was missing from amongst our stable of cartoonists; that of Ronald Searle. Miklos really wanted to include him as he knew he was extremely saleable. He spoke with him over the phone, and RS agreed to sell about 20 works through us. As Searle lived in Paris, I was given the job of going over to see him, select the works, and bring them back. 

A few days before I was due to leave, he phoned us and said he'd decided not to exhibit. I was deprived of both a trip to Paris, and of meeting the great man himself. Frankly I was extremely upset; I'd been telling everyone for weeks that I was going to meet Ronald Searle!

Anyway, amongst those who did exhibit were Vicky, Giles, Steadman, Bill Tidy, Reg Smythe, Thelwell, and many others. A superb bunch of very talented artists, and their work sold very well.

I just know you're dying to ask who sold the most. Well, it was Thelwell; mothers of small pony-riding daughters came from all corners of the earth to buy little Penelope her next birthday present. 

p.s. When my boss Nicholas was on the phone, he used to 'twiddle' with his long greying hair; producing (what looked like) horns on either side of his head. He would then wander around looking like some strange animal for the rest of the day. I never said anything to him, preferring to watch people as they sniggered.

Saturday 23 January 2021


Call me an ageing hippy if you will, but I have been an active burner of incense sticks since the 60's.

Like many, I burn those lovely Nag Champa sticks in the blue pack; probably the world's favourite.

It was -6 C outside this morning, so as soon as I'd returned from my early walk with Dog-Face, I lit one, and allowed its beautiful fragrance to permeate the house. The aroma immediately makes one feel warmer and happier.

If you don't believe me; try it.

Friday 22 January 2021

More Flooding in the UK.

One minute your house looks like this....

The next it looks like this!

How the hell does this happen? This lovely old 1840-ish house, known as Ackhurst Lodge in Chorley Lancashire is now under water.  

One can but wonder how many times the poor building has flooded before. Surely this can't have been a 'first', unless the town planners had only recently got their planning wrong; and that wouldn't surprise me!

I can see a new development above on higher ground. Nature is often unforgiving.

Thursday 21 January 2021

Early Reading, etc.


We all have certain books that we read as youngsters, which have left us with lasting memories.

Whilst I was still pre-reading age, my mother would always read me bedtime stories.  Pookie by Ivy Wallace, and the Ameliaranne books by Margaret Gilmour soon became my real favourites. I adored all these books and would ask for them time and time again.

When a bit older I discovered two books from my parents' bookshelves, that I read several times over. The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl, and The One that Got Away (I can't remember the author).

My other favourites, at Prep' School, when I was still reasonably young were the Bulldog Drummond detective books by Sapper (Herman McNeile). I couldn't get enough of these.

After school I didn't have much time for reading until I went to Art College, where my reading was mostly art related, and curriculum based.

Later I remember reading every one of Hardy's novels, quite a lot of W B Yates, everything by Dylan Thomas, and all of Rick Stein. Otherwise these days I grab whatever's around, Lady M's castoffs, or whatever I'd been given for Christmas.

The only books that are ALWAYS by my side are my big Oxford Etymological Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus, and my big English/Latin dictionary. Yes, I'm a sad old git.

Just for the record, my current reading is the catalogue from the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Just waiting.

I see my life at present as being securely in 'Limbo', that mythical place where Catholic children dwell before their baptism; somewhere in Hell's suburbia.

My life consists of being either awake or asleep, eating or in between eating, dog walking, sawing wood, lighting fires, cooking, listening to music, and laptopping. Frankly, not much else.

It's often quite cold, often rainy, and mostly very quiet. I seem to be constantly waiting for something, but I'm not sure exactly what.

Wills, Kellogg, and the boys, are at present en route for Mexico, so we don't even have the pleasure of their company. After a short holiday in Cancun, they'll go on to Miami where Boo Boo has already been enrolled in a nice private school.

On their final day in France (for a while anyway), we invited Boo Boo and The Cherub to a rather posh pre-departure dinner party, which they absolutely loved (parents were in Toulouse), as did we. Unfortunately, since then it's been very quiet.

There are a few workmen around to give instructions to, or remonstrate with, but my only other human interaction is my once a week, masked, brief, Tuesday morning shopping trip to Leclerc (other, of course, than chatting with Lady M).

I complained last year that I find myself constantly 'waiting'; I desperately want that waiting to be over as soon as possible.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

We Need A Cure!

I hear there's been worldwide panic buying of Placebos, and I also hear that Trump has 'cornered the market'.

Monday 18 January 2021

I bloody despair!

This (above) is my UK home town of Brighton, on England's south coast. The photo was taken on Sunday 17th January 2021; just one day ago.

During one of the world's worst pandemics, and in one of the worst affected corners of the country, I can't see a single mask being worn.

I am well-aware that Brighton has a reputation for being slightly eccentric, raucous, and in all senses liberal, but one really wonders what these people think that 'Lockdown' actually means. Do they never listen to government advice? Of course if the infection rate was to rise again, it will all be Boris's fault; and nothing at all to do with this lot. 

If people continue to behave like these idiots, we'll never get rid of Covid-19. And I'd really thought, this time, that people were abiding by the government's advice. No bloody chance!

That Russell Harty encounter.

The famous Harty interview with the unpredictable Ms Jones, tended to overlook its other two guests.

Lord Lichfield and Walter Poulter watch-on with horror as Jones sets-about the interviewer, who she accuses of turning his back, and ignoring her.

Lichfield was a cousin of The Queen, and a well known photographer. Poulter was also a photographer, as well as a Cosmetologist/Parfumier.

Of the three guests, Poulter was possibly the most interesting. He claimed he could instantly identify over a hundred perfumes, and as part of his work with Yardley, would often test his cosmetics on himself. There are tales of people encountering him taking photographs of wild rocky Yorkshire landscapes whilst wearing lipstick. In the Harty video, he is seen impeccably dressed, holding a pair of kid gloves on his knee.

I'm writing this because I was recently listening to a BBC radio programme about him, and attempted to find-out more. Google hardly mentions him, even though he apparently published several books of landscape photographs, and others of travel guides with hints on mountain climbing routes.  

He is a hard man to trace, but at least Harty thought him worthy of being a guest on what turned-out to be his most memorable programme.

Sunday 17 January 2021

You're a lady

Here is Lars von Trier singing Peter Skellern's classic 'You're a Lady' (I posted the original last year) accompanied by a group of people with learning difficulties. It comes from his controversial 1998 film 'Idiots'.

It's a heart-warming concept and is worth watching, although it's difficult knowing whether to laugh or cry with some of 'The Idiot All Stars' singers obviously having difficulties. Lars sings pretty well  himself, and you have to love his vibrato.

I'm still not sure if this is voyeurism or pure delight.

Saturday 16 January 2021

Living costs.


When I graduated in 1971, I bought a house just inside the Welsh border between N Shropshire and N Wales.

Our nearest market town was Oswestry, and we went once a week (on market day) to buy all our food requirements for the week. Our bill, for a huge variety of vegetables, was a staggering ONE POUND; which supplied far more than we required for our small family (bread, cheese, and meat, was a bit extra). We still often remark about how little it cost.

Many years later here in S W France, my old college friend T moved to a nearby converted barn, and asked about living costs. He had moved from Dubai, and had no idea how much he would need to budget for France. I was able to assure him that for a reasonably gastronomic diet, with wine and petrol, it cost me around €50 per week (house taxes, electricity, water, etc, were extra). He seemed surprised.

Now, we are in 2021, and things are quite different. I am often amazed that when going shopping with a relatively short list; my week's purchases invariably cost over €100, when I'd imagined it would be a max of €50.

Many may think that for two people €100 is actually quite reasonable, but being an old codger, I find it a lot. 

The constant decrease in the 'value of money' is quite worrying. In roughly 1700, Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary the amount of money he paid his maid (I can't remember the sum). 80 years later, another Samuel, Dr Johnson, also mentions his maid's wages, and they were exactly the same. Those 80 years had seen no inflation.

Later this year we will probably move back to England for a few months, so I asked a friend about living costs. She assured me that she rarely spends more than £200 per week on food. I was HORRIFIED. £200 a week seems to me like a bloody fortune; I do hope she was exaggerating. I suspect that much of her expense is wine (or gin)!

I refuse to 'dumb-down' my diet, but can happily live on far fewer of my usual more expensive gourmet French treats or wines. 

We don't normally eat take-aways, other than Indian or Chinese; which I'm sure I shall be unable to resist. Maybe that's where the money goes.

Friday 15 January 2021

Never a Dull Moment?


The expression 'There's never a dull moment' is not always true; we have plenty of dull moments.

It's not every day that I encounter screaming women, people who smash brand new water meters, or even folk who openly steal copyrights. Such goings-on, although not exactly every-day events, do, occasionally, give me something 'interesting' to write about. Otherwise I'm obliged to consider much more mundane subjects, such as Cassoulet, Trugs, and Tree Houses.


So, you can imagine my 'excitement' when I spotted this taped-off area just fifty metres from our cottage. Of course, I was obliged to inspect.

It turned-out to be a mini-sink-hole. It's not particularly deep; I estimated about two metres. But the fact that it suddenly appeared overnight is 'of interest'.

I mentioned it to my neighbour J, and he told me of another one, much bigger, in the woods nearby, that has simply been left as it was found. Not filled-in, but still a large gaping hole. I didn't ask where it was exactly, as I think I'd rather not know. 

I suspect that there are many more in the immediate area; probably caused by constant erosion from underground streams. 

As long as one doesn't suddenly appear in Haddock's; I shall try to ignore them! 

Thursday 14 January 2021

Vulgus Vehementi.

There is no question that many social injustices have been overturned, and corrected, following civil unrest, but to attempt to overturn the results of a Presidential Election by similar means is not only undemocratic, but, frankly, ridiculous. 

However, a regular mélange of anarchists, civil libertarians, Marxists, hooded opportunist tracksuit-wearing rabble-rousers, Fascists, and even CND supporters, see fit to cause trouble for their governments by taking to the streets, and rioting. Personally I can never see this as a 'right'. Peaceful protest OK, but not wanton destruction.

At present on the world's streets are Proud Boys, Rebellion Extinction lovies, BLM activists, every day Anarchists, and MAGA red-necks, amongst a multitude of other groups. Some are peaceful; others are no less than well-armed destructive militia. Those who recently stormed The Capitol are plainly just ill-informed criminal hooligans.

Ex-UK Prime minister, David Cameron, rightly said "No government I lead will ever put those who fight to defend democracy, on the same footing as those who seek to destroy it". Our problem is that the less one does to quell such destruction and violence on our streets, the more it gives encouragement to those those who are out for blood.

No-one wishes to stop peaceful demonstration; it's all part of the democratic process. But overtly violent mobs on our streets should be dealt with swiftly and sharply. When Boris was Mayor of London he bought several water cannons to give such people a good soaking, but the bleeding heart do-gooders claimed it was against their human rights to be drenched, and the cannons were banned and eventually sold for scrap; at a loss to the good folk of London of £300,000.

There's a fine line between lawful and unlawful protest, but when destructive looting takes place, and the police, and government property, attacked, then immediate action should and must be taken, and those who have instigated the violence made to face the law; or even impeachment.

Wednesday 13 January 2021


One of the better known dishes from this part of France is 'Cassoulet'.

Depending on who you talk to, it either originated in Toulouse, or Castelnaudary. Most would go for the latter.

What is certain, however, are the basic ingredients; Beans, Confit de Canard, Toulouse sausage, and time. 

I tend to add a small squirt of Tomato purée, a splash of red wine, and some fresh herbs. Then it's simply a matter of time; a couple of hours very slow cooking on 'George', and it's done.

Perfect winter food. Lovely.

Tuesday 12 January 2021


As a bit of a foodie, I suppose that MasterChef should be amongst my favourite TV programmes; but it isn't.

MasterChef has become a classic over recent years. This UK TV show is now shown, or made, in over 60 countries, and takes various forms.

Anyway, here's a bit from an earlier series.

Monday 11 January 2021

Forward thinking.

We have a Dutch friend, who, having just returned from Holland, very kindly gave us the cheese below.

As you can probably see, it is a Gouda type cheese, flavoured with a hand made Pesto. I suspect it will be totally delicious.

But this is not really about the cheese itself, nor about our generous friend. It is about the piece of paper on which the vacuum-packed cheese is lying.

The cheese itself is a farm produced, hand-made, cheese; vacuum-packed for convenience. But once opened, the accompanying sheet of 'cheese paper' has been specially supplied for you to re-wrap it in, in order that it stays in tip-top condition.

What a bloody marvellous idea. I have never encountered this before. Such pride in their cheese means that they even care about its correct preservation once broached.

The cheese is delicious, by the way. If only all cheesemakers/sellers were as conscientious.

Sunday 10 January 2021

Sunday Special: Jesus On Holiday. A True Story.

It is a well known 'fact' that Jesus went on holiday to England with his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea (above). The why, and wherefores, are less well known.

His Uncle was Jesus's mother's brother who was a tin merchant, so their visit was probably mostly for business.

What they got up to over in Blighty is not sure, other than they visited Glastonbury, possibly for the festival, and Priddy, where they might have attended the Folk Festival and Sheep Fair.  I expect when in the area they would also have visited the ancient site of Stonehenge (as do all).

After Jesus died, his Uncle Joe returned to Glastonbury where, in memory of his nephew, he drove his walking stick into the ground and it took root. The resulting tree, known as the Glastonbury Thorn, was still growing within living memory, and apparently flowered twice a year. It finally died in 1991, and was chopped-down the following February. A few cuttings were cultivated, so its legacy lives on.

Jesus's visit was famously memorialised in England's (and the WI's) favourite Hymn 'Jerusalem', with lyrics by William Blake.

And did those feet in ancient time

walk upon England's mountains green.

And was the Holy Lamb of God (Jesus)

On England's pleasant pastures seen?

The 'did' casts some doubt over his visit, but without need. The story is 100% true, so please don't question its validity. The modern phenomenon of 'Fake News' (Trumpism) wasn't invented until some 2,000 later.

Saturday 9 January 2021

Arthur and Vincent in Toulouse

After all the excessive eating of the Christmas period, you may not want to watch this.

Arthur and Vincent are having the day off. They visit beautiful Toulouse (a bit south of here) to enjoy some lunch, with someone else doing all the work for a change. 

I really must visit this restaurant!

Friday 8 January 2021


Life is filled with things that either please or annoy. I've tended to have more of the latter recently.

I can't exactly claim that this annoyed me, but it certainly disappointed. When I spotted this large can of Confit de Porc (below), the picture looked appealing; it does; doesn't it. It wasn't overly expensive, so I invested. That was about two years ago.

I decided to open the can a couple of days ago. The pork (like duck) had been cooked and preserved in it's own fat (confit-ed), which when melted revealed 4 rectangular, small, unattractive looking, pieces of pork; it appeared very industrial. The meat itself was OK-ish, but I shan't be buying it again; in fact I haven't seen it on sale since. I imagine they were testing the market, and the market said 'No'. I think the market was right

Next, our new iPhone. We had always resisted buying an iPhone, but that resistance was futile. When I turn it on, it asks me to "press 'Home' to open" (see below).

However, I couldn't find anything that said 'Home' to press, so already I was confused. No wonder I hate these bloody things. Honestly; why can't they make something that simply turns on, shows you a 'dialling' keyboard, or a list of contacts. 

Anyway, I had to Skype my son, Kimbo, in England to have basic lessons in 'iPhones for idiots'. I'm getting there; I think. 

I'm having ONE 'words of one syllable' lesson a day. I now know how to make a phone call, use WhatsApp, and measure if my pictures are level. I also now know where the 'Home' button is.

I know, I know, you're going to tell me that I'm a silly old-fogey techno-phobe... and, yes, it's true, I am.

And finally; Sod's Law.

Why is it that gas bottles always run out at the most inconvenient time imaginable?

If I was simply heating some baked beans, I wouldn't worry; but when I am only just managing to keep four balls in the air (metaphorically); it really isn't the moment to misbehave.

I shall say no more.

Thursday 7 January 2021

Fyfe Robertson.

I was recently saying to a friend, how much I'd enjoyed watching Fyfe Robertson's interviews and reports on TV, back in the 60's and 70's.

He had a wonderful presence, and his calm soft Scottish voice gave him an instant air of authority on any subject.

One particular interview I remember extremely well, was with an Irish 'Gypsy' at the annual Appleby Fair. It went something like this...

FR (Scottish accent). Local people tell me that when you're here, you steal their Chickens.

Gypsy (Strong Irish accent). Yes Sir, we do do that.

FR. And the farmers say that you leave a lot of rubbish behind you, when you go.

Gypsy. Yes Sir, I'm afraid we do do that too Sir.

FR. And they also complain that you break down fences, let out their animals, and just park your wagons wherever you fancy.

Gypsy. Well, yes. We do that too.

At this point Robertson was lost for words and simply gave up. It was one of the funniest interviews I've ever seen. It's a shame that there seems to be no record of it.

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Trug making (1963)

I just came across this short little film. As a Surrey/Sussex lad, I was brought up with the humble 'Trug'. They were a part of my everyday life.

Traditionally made in Herstmonceux, near Hailsham, the Trug was no less useful than a fork or spade in the garden. They were in constant use.

My current French Trug is now made of green plastic (I have several), and although just as practical as its Sussex equivalent, it hardly gives the same satisfaction. 

Tuesday 5 January 2021

One Solution to the Cold.


I really don't like the cold weather. I don't like rain, and (heaven forbid) I can't stand snow. Guess what; it's snowing this morning!!!

Looking at my meteo forecast, it looks as if we're stuck with sub-zero mornings for quite a while. I'm not very tolerant of winter; I want to wear shorts, throw myself in a warm pool, eat outdoors.

So, what to do? Firstly each morning, if he's still showing signs of life, I stoke up our kitchen wood-fired cooker (George). He gives a lovely warmth, and, even though his thermostat is eccentric to say the least, he cooks very well too.

Yesterday morning at 5am I emptied the ash pan, chucked in a couple of Oak logs, and within minutes he was up and running again. 

I had already defrosted a couple of Quails overnight, so with them, some bacon, a few button mushrooms, onion, wine and herbs, I knocked up a quick Cailles au Vin, and let it simmer for a few hours. Some spuds in the oven later, and a few Cavolo Nero leaves from Haddock's, completed our evening meal; all cooked on George.

Slow cooked meals may not compensate fully for the cold, but they help. The house smells delightful, the Quails were delicious, and our bedroom just happens to be directly above George. All I have to do is to keep sawing wood.

Coming indoors to George's warmth after an early frosty morning walk, is simply gorgeous.

(George may look rusty, but he isn't)

Monday 4 January 2021

What now for the EU?


Many of us have amusingly predicted the demise of the EU. Much of its decline being the result of Brussels shooting its own foot. The big-wigs have become too controlling, too eager to create a 'United States of Europe', and too led by a power-hungry Germany. People simply won't have it.

At present there seem to be six serious candidates to quit. Italy, Holland, Denmark, Croatia, Finland, and Sweden. Even the Citoyens de France are having their doubts. More so than with the other six, if France was to quit, that would definitely be the end. The European big-wigs cannot be happy.

Of course, how serious these countries are about quitting remains to be seen. I believe all six have been encouraged by Boris's 'deal', and each will follow the UK's progress for a while before holding their own referenda. The EU could look very different by the end of the decade.

It is also amusing to note that, now that the UK is out of Brussels' clutches definitively, English will remain the Official Language of the EU. Maybe this is why Macron is spitting feathers.

Interesting times ahead.

Sunday 3 January 2021



I believe that a pack of 20 cigarettes (in the UK) costs around £10. If you smoke one pack per day, that's £70 per week, and £3,650 per annum. That's a lot of money.

I used to be a smoker myself. I devoted many years to my beloved untipped Gauloises (the blue pack, which you can just see by my side in the above pic), until one morning in around 1998 I decided to quit; and I haven't smoked since.

I really have nothing against people who wish to smoke, but now, finding themselves in such a tiny minority, and with nasty messages written all over the packs, one would have thought that the health message had got through.

Here in France one hardly ever sees people smoking; it is simply unfashionable. The days when Gainsbourg would smoke 24/7 have long gone. It is now regarded as very 'other ranks', and simply 'not done'. Ash trays are hardly ever seen in restaurants; even outdoors.

I'm not really sure if I ever actually 'enjoyed' smoking; it was simply something I did. I still love the smell of Gauloises, but would never take-up smoking again.


Saturday 2 January 2021

R I P's of 2020.


As usual my list is limited to the names I noted in my diary at the time. I know I've omitted many who merited appearing here, but here are a few. 

Kirk Douglas, actor

Diana Rigg, actress

Honor Blackman, actress

Vera Lynn, singer

Olivia de Havilland, actress

Nicholas Parsons, quiz master, etc

Terry Jones, Python

Tim Brooke-Taylor, Goodie

Roy Hudd, comedian

Derek Fowlds, Heartbeat actor

Sean Connery, Bond

Nobby Stiles, hero footballer 

Geoffrey Palmer, actor

Des O'Connor, singer/comedian

John Le Carré, author

And the lovely Barbara Windsor, mini sex-bomb, actress, and National Treasure (above)

Plus; I suppose one cannot forget The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. Although few will be mourning his passing.

However, our most mourned-for loss of the year must be that of the world's 'health and freedom'. I hope that will be returned to us in 2021.

Friday 1 January 2021

Cro's Review of 2020.

What a rubbish year it's been.

The year started with nothing but Brexit on everyone's tongues, and it looks as if it'll end similarly.

The United Kingdom finally became separated from the European Union on February 1st; although you'd hardly have known it. No-one died of starvation, imports and exports continued, and the pound only dropped a small amount. In fact it was all something of a damp squib, as most of us had predicted. However, the 'deal' still needed to be finalised, and we still looked forward to another 12 months of arguing. 

On the weather front, the year started very well. We had no perceptible Winter, with our lowest temperature being around 0 C. We had our fair share of rain, but otherwise it was perfectly tolerable.

However, the first quarter of the year was not without major events elsewhere. Dreadful bushfires across Australia, flooding back in the UK, a couple of minor royals quitting England for a glitzier life abroad, and then in March the wretched COVID-19 arrived; WHICH CHANGED EVERYTHING.

Globally, the virus will have caused nearly two million deaths by the end of the year, including that of my cousin Stella; RIP all. 

For us, the enforced 'lockdown' was really not that different to our normal lives. We stayed at home, only made the occasional shopping trip, and pottered around in the garden; which was basically what we do anyway. 

Work at Haddock's started at the end of April, and took my mind off viruses for a while. Mostly things went well, but yet again my Tomato crop failure dominated my growing year.

The month of May had been like full-on summer, then, almost predictably, 'flaming June' was a wash-out. It became the month of depression, with lockdown continuing, COVID still rampant, and cold and miserable weather, it was a good month to hibernate. Luckily towards the end of the month the sunshine returned just as our visitors arrived. July was mostly OK, as was August and September.

COVID has now affected everything, and dominates our lives. It tells us what we can and can't do, where we can go, who we can see, and what we must wear. We are not particularly gregarious folk, so we were much less affected than many, but this doesn't reduce our concern, both for us, and for others. At the start of October, Trump himself became infected. Many of the 'ugly people' danced for joy and wished him ill. I am not of that ilk, and he, like all others who had become infected, had my sympathy.

Meanwhile Covid-19 comes much closer to home than we'd anticipated. In late October news came of a few cases in our nearby town/village, and on November 1st, my oldest son Kimbo was tested positive; thank goodness he's now back to full health.

For a while it seemed as if we could do no more than sit, twiddle our fingers, and wait. Stay at home, wash our hands regularly, and wear a mask whenever in the proximity of other humans. What a sorry bloody state of affairs.

In November the US election became a farce. Both Trump and Biden declared themselves the winner, Trump threw his toys from his pram, and we all became bored with the whole childish affair. Biden (of course) won! We now await the antics of the change-over in 3 weeks time.

I think I shall mostly remember 2020 for a new movement, that for a while took the world by storm. During the early knee-jerk stage, statues were toppled, monuments defaced, footballers knelt-down on their pitches, streets became re-named, works of Art were removed, and the nation's school curriculum 'de-colonialised'. We were told that Great Britain was a racist hell-hole, founded solely on the proceeds of slavery. Well, I for one found it all rather tedious. 

Immigrants, of course, are still fleeing France for the unparalleled freedom that the UK offers, taking to sea in small boats and even children's inflated paddling pools, in order to reach the UK's shores. If one was to believe what many of the BLM demonstrators say; one would have imagined the flow to be in any direction other than towards the nasty UK.

So, to 2020 I say GOOD RIDDANCE. My Yule log burnt down to ashes again, I remembered to say "white rabbit, white rabbit" this morning after midnight, so let's now hope for a better New Year; and pray that life for all will be considerably healthier in 2021, than it was in 2020. 

A last minute deal has been agreed with the EU, so all is well with the world. Well, almost.

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