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!
Sunday, 31 January 2021
Saturday, 30 January 2021
Friday, 29 January 2021
Thursday, 28 January 2021
Wednesday, 27 January 2021
Tuesday, 26 January 2021
Monday, 25 January 2021
Sunday, 24 January 2021
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
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.
Friday, 22 January 2021
Thursday, 21 January 2021
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
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
Monday, 18 January 2021
Sunday, 17 January 2021
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.
Saturday, 16 January 2021
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
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.
Thursday, 14 January 2021
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
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
Monday, 11 January 2021
Sunday, 10 January 2021
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
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.
Thursday, 7 January 2021
FR (Scottish accent). Local people tell me that when you're here, you steal their Chickens.
Wednesday, 6 January 2021
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
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
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
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
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.
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.