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


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!

Thursday 17 June 2021

More 20 Dislikes.


I was doodling in my notepad yesterday evening, trying to think of all the things I really dislike more than pink shorts.  I'd written a reasonable list, when I remembered having written something similar about 6 years previously.

I searched back through my old blogs, and eventually found it. It was interesting to compare the two lists. Basically they were much the same, but there were a few notable differences. In my old list I'd included The colour Orange, ISIS, cold weather, and Jeremy Corbyn & Co. These have now been replaced.

In no particular order (other than my hated No 1), here is my short list of major dislikes.

1. Hypocrisy



4. Laziness

5. Virtue Signalling/Woke-ism

6. Pomposity

7. Angelica; the green bits one occasionally finds in cakes, etc

8. Bread and Butter Pudding

9. Extremes in politics; both left and right

10. Misguided urban 'do-gooder' movements

11. Being expected to give a tip to people who don't deserve them

12. Clothes/Shoes buying

13. Cars/Machines that won't start

14. Wine that tastes like Vinegar

15. Snakes

16. Frogspawn (the dessert, of school lunches fame)

17. Lack of Punctuality

18. Crime/Criminals

19. Inconsiderate neighbours

20. Those awful paintings of wide-eyed Parisian street urchins (Yuk)

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Colour Prejudice?

Q. Guess who put my white 'ratting shorts' in to wash with a cheap red Indian bedspread? 

A. Her initials are L M...... You got it?

She's just addressed me as "Oy, Pinkie!". 

I'd just cut my thumb, and my hand and shorts were covered with blood, so I suggested "Oy, you bloody Pinkie" instead.

My 'pink' shorts are now back in the Laundry Basket, especially after I accidently dropped an oily Artichoke into my lap at lunch yesterday. Maybe they'll return to how they were; but I doubt it.

They are much pinker than they appear in the photo!

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Farmer Cro.


When I bought my original farmhouse here in France, it came with just over 2 acres of good mostly level land, plus a small plantation of Sweet Chestnuts; about 20 very-mature trees.

Dealing with the Chestnuts in Autumn was simply hard graft, tedious nightly sorting into 'large and small', and hazardous selling. The merchants, of course, always tried to knock down the price..... I learnt the hard way.

One of the first actual grown crops that I attempted was Gherkins. These are the small undeveloped fruits of the 'Ridge Cucumber', that are picked when between 2-3 inches long. They were an easy crop to grow, and the merchants came to the house every other day to collect them. I suppose we sold between 5 and 10 kilos at each occasion. They grew like crazy, and required constant picking.  

I soon fancied myself as a proper farmer, and decided that I needed to grow a pukka 'agricultural crop' on my land. My first attempt at 'agriculture' was Maize; one of the easiest crops to grow.

I borrowed my neighbour's small Massey Ferguson 35 tractor, and was given a five minute lesson on ploughing. I must say that my effort was pretty good, and when later rotovated, the field looked as good as anyone's. My crop did well, but on account of my reluctance to spray with herbicides, the final harvested crop came with a lot of unwanted seeds, and went to feeding our, and a friend's, Hens.

The following year I had a go at Wheat. Again I ploughed and harrowed, then hand broadcast the seed in old fashioned style (as in Millet's painting above). In my area, it was normal for growers to exchange their Wheat crop with local bakers for bread. Unfortunately my crop was again full of unwanted wild seeds, and the baker turned it down. Again it was used as Chicken feed; most of the crop being sold to a local organic farmer, who didn't mind a bit of grass seed amongst the grains.

After my second attempt at playing Jolly Farmers, I decided to quit, and I devoted my land to the much easier production of hay, which I was happy to give to my neighbour. 

I left farming to the professionals.

Monday 14 June 2021

Cherry Season.

We have three Cherry trees; two red cherries, and one yellow. Both red ones had no fruit whatsoever, and the yellow one is only just beginning to ripen.

However, my lovely neighbour, José, has plenty of trees, just one of which has fruit this year. His others, like mine, suffered from late frost.

He always offers me some fruit; normally he has plenty, but I was quite surprised when he offered me the above this year. I didn't expect him to have any.

They are totally delicious. Big, plump, dark, and juicy; just as one imagines Cherries to be. How wonderful to have such good neighbours!

My own yellow ones will be ready soon, but they are nowhere near as good as these.

Lunch was a Girolle omelette, a simple salad, and of course, that bowl of Cherries; all washed down with a big glass of cold diluted Lemon juice.

It was 33 C yesterday, and the pool water was 25 C. A real Summer's day.  Rain and storms forecast for mid-week; I'm not surprised.


Cricket Season

Forget Football and the Euros, it's Cricket season; and perfect weather for it too.

My oldest, Kimbo, is a keen Cricketer, and plays for a decent Hertfordshire team. This last weekend he chalked-up his best ever score as an opening batsman. He and his fellow opener scored 112 between them, with Kimbo, at No 1, scoring the highest, by just 4 runs. He was eventually bowled LBW.

I like to think that it was me who encouraged Kimbo's love of Cricket. I would take him to watch Sussex, bowl at him in the nets, and got him a junior trial at Sussex CC (unsuccessful).


So, well done Kimbo. 58 is a pretty good knock;.... one to be proud of!

N.B. He did point out to me that his score was higher than any of the England players v NZ over the weekend; so maybe there'll be an opening for a new England player?

Well done darling! Papa xx

Sunday 13 June 2021

Never a dull moment.

I was busy working away indoors when I heard a distant cry "Cro, Cro, come quickly, I've just seen a black and white Pygmy run under the car".

Well, I've never been one to miss an opportunity, so out I went to confront this timorous Pygmy.

"It's gone over there now" shouted Lady Magnon, pointing at the bank behind the house. "What is?" I asked; "Where's this Pygmy?".

"It's not a Pygmy; it's some sort of multi-coloured hairy creature".

"Have you been drinking?" I asked.

We poked about in the undergrowth of the bank behind our house, then all of a sudden... "There it is!"

Suddenly I could see a small black, white, and tan, creature looking at me; and he was in no mood to be caught.

It took about 15 minutes of chasing the beast from one spot to another, before, with the aid of the children's Butterfly net, and my thick leather gardening gloves, we caught the vicious beast.

Lady M remembered that our lovely neighbour Sara had had Guinea Pigs, so we phoned her Father, and he confirmed that she'd lost them a few days previously. She came a few minutes later to collect it.

It seems that there's still one more out there. Billy had found the one above, maybe he'll find the other one too.


Saturday 12 June 2021

Not Haddock's

At this time of year, my attention is naturally focussed on Haddock's; it's the productive part of the garden. But there are other parts too, and here is a potpourri of some of the other bits. 

And, finally, here's Billy, who's usually either chasing a Tennis Ball, or relaxing under the shade of the Quince tree.; in this case the latter. He's smiling!


Friday 11 June 2021

More Macron Malarkey.

On January 1st 2022, Emmanuel Macron will take over the Presidency of the EU for a 'rotational' six month term in office.

He has announced that his first action will be to change the official language of the EU from the current dreaded English, to French. It's good to know where his priorities lie.

This was attempted once before by Jacques Toubon. Known as the 'Loi Toubon' it was designed to insist that French was used whenever possible (in France). Toubon himself instantly became known as Jack Allgood, and the use of English throughout France seemed to increase dramatically.

People will always veer towards a language that works best in whatever situation. If the use of the word 'Cornflakes' sells your product better than Flocons de Maize, then that is what you will use.

We were amused recently, when stopped at a temporary traffic light, to see that the car in front of us was a Citroen 'Cottage'. Good luck to Macron if he tries to stop future Citroen cars being named 'Bungalow', or 'Apartment over the Chip Shop', etc.

English is the language of Diplomacy, the Air, and the Sea. It is also the world's preferred second language. We all know Dutch, or Danish, or Swedish people who speak English better than most English natives; and they are very proud to do so. 

Today, English is still the world's most spoken language. There are 1 Billion, 348 Million speakers of English as a first language; of French there are just 267 Million.

If 'Teacher's Pet' Macron thinks he's going the change all that; then good luck to him.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Oradour-sur-Glane, et al.

Oradour is back in the news again, via a recent book on the subject; 'Silent Village' by Robert Pike.

I imagine that most people know the appalling story of Oradour-sur-Glane; a village about 2 hrs to the North of where I live. 

Exactly 77 years ago on the 10th of June 1944, soldiers entered the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, ordered all the inhabitants to gather in the village square, then separated the men from the women and children.

The men were all 'machine-gunned', and the women and children forced into the church, and burned alive. The soldiers left the village with not a single building unscathed. All 642 innocent villagers were brutally murdered, and the buildings, etc, in respect, have hardly been touched since (see Wiki). The village apparently had had no resistance workers (Maquis).

It was the Brits who, later joined by the Americans, saved Europe from this type of barbarism, the Concentration Camps, and from semi-compliant occupation. The UK lost 450,000 citizens whilst assuring France's liberty, so one might have imagined that the French would be a tad grateful!

Charles de Gaulle ran from France, and spent much of WW2 safely within the walls of a pleasant home in Hertfordshire, England. Those of us later seeing those photos of him proudly leading his men down the Champs-Elysées on August 24th 1944 (above) to celebrate the end of German occupation, are 'slightly bemused'; to say the least. 

Back in France, on July 4th of 1940, de Gaulle was tried as a 'deserter' and was sentenced to 4 years in prison, in absentia, and his French nationality was withdrawn. Then on August 2nd 1940 he was again tried, and was awarded the death penalty, as well as military degradation, his loss of nationality, and the confiscation of all his property. Four years later he amazingly returned to France as a 'General', and was treated as a hero.

The blood of our ancestors remains on French soil, but now that we've left their expensive and inefficient European club, they wish to ignore all that, and are doing their best to punish us. 

The French will never forget Oradour. RIP.

Wednesday 9 June 2021

The Bear Necessities.

There are certain small gestures that reaffirm one's faith in commercial nature. 

Lady Magnon wears contact lenses, and she buys her cleaning liquids online.

They always arrive with a tiny 10g pack of Jelly Bears tucked into the box.

As Lady M is not keen on such things, she always passes the little packets to me.

She has remained faithful to the same suppliers for many years. I suspect it's not only because their product is good, and the right price, but also because they give her a tiny present every time she buys more.

A clever commercial gesture, that is much appreciated.

N.B. The Spanish 'Ositos de Oro' translates as Golden Bears, but, in fact, some are red, and others are green! Hmmm.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Neither a lender nor a borrower be.

I wish I had taken more notice of Polonius (Act 1, Hamlet). I would not only be richer, but also more at peace with myself, and maybe with others.

I cannot count the amount of times I've lent books, records, objects, and even DIY tools, to 'friends' who have never returned them.

I used to keep a small 'who had what' book, to remind myself of where things were, but I felt rather mean-spirited, and decided to be more trusting; that trust has not been reciprocated.

Some of the books I've lost were real favourites that I'd stupidly recommended to a borrower; very annoying. Several old records, even though I no longer have a machine on which to play them, have never been returned. I once even lent a whole portfolio of drawings to someone for her interview at The Slade. She was accepted; I never got my drawings back! I could go on.

I once sold a Richard Hamilton print (Adonis in Y Fronts) to a 'friend'. I was never paid. That print is now worth around £25,000. But that had nothing to do with 'lending'.

Some while back we reluctantly lent an extra-large old hand made Union Flag to someone; at the same time as 'giving' them some modern Union Flag Bunting, which we were happy to do. The large flag, however, was an heirloom, it had been in my family for yonks and I treasured it; the person involved was told that I wanted it back. When Lady M asked if it could be returned, she was insulted, and told 'not to always blame others'; whatever that was supposed to mean! 

It's a petty matter, and we've now accepted that the person involved will always be this way; and my treasured flag has gone for ever. When certain people know they're in the wrong, they instantly revert to lies and insults; it seems to work!

I'm now very wary about lending anything to anyone; which rather saddens me. Having always been kind to people, it has been their dishonesty which now makes me feel the way I do.

Polonius was right.

Monday 7 June 2021

Lett-us rejoice.

Lady, lady, quite contray-ree.

how does your garden grow?

With Salad plants, and Angels' chants,

And lots of bloody weeds all in a bloody row.

Lady Magnon is fed-up with my lack of Salad production at Haddock's. I tend not to grow them because they all mature at once, and most are wasted. So, she's decided to grow her own.

She's found a vacant plot, sown a mix of red and green salads, and it won't be long before we start to harvest them. This is her first attempt at Salads, and she's rightfully very proud of herself.

We shall start eating them next week. Well done m'dear.

In Production.

It's amazing what a really good downpour will do to veg' production.

We are now well into the second growth of Artichokes, we have perpetual Spinach, Spring Onions, Strawberries, and some small salads. Girolles are plentiful in the woods, and the Blackcurrants are just beginning to ripen.

It is always advised that one should begin eating one's production as soon as possible, and that is even more poignant for us this year as we may not be here to benefit from much of what I've planted. We're eating very young produce.

Anyone who has seen a Rick Stein programme, where he finds himself in a field of Artichokes (Spain?), with the gardener and his wife cooking them, cannot possibly forget the Artichokes and the cooking water turning a bright Emerald Green. When I cooked the above yesterday I noticed that same colour appear in the middle of each heart. I'd never seen this before. Only salt was added to the water.

By the way; as usual they were delicious.

Sunday 6 June 2021

The Aperitif of France.

When I first arrived in France, I was often invited to neighbours' or friends' houses, where invariably out came a bottle of Pastis.

It was taken for granted that all men drank Pastis, much as all men drank coffee. My problem was; I couldn't stand the stuff, so, as this tradition wasn't about to stop, I needed to do something about it. 

I decided to buy myself a litre bottle of Ricard, and I literally trained myself to like it.

It took a while; in fact it took the whole bottle, over a period of several months, but finally I cracked it, and now I have the occasional glass in Summer by choice. It's a very cooling/refreshing drink, and I love it.

I can't imagine many people in GB asking for a Pastis at their local Café or Pub'; it just wouldn't taste right. But a Ricard in Paris, a Sambuca in Venice, an Ouzo in Santorini, or a Raki in Izmir, goes down very well, and suits the occasion.

It's been warm here recently, so an evening glass of Ricard hits the spot (see above).


Saturday 5 June 2021

Birthday Presents?

What do you give a thirteen year old boy for his birthday?

A new pair of gloves? A Waterman Pen and bottle of dark blue Quink? Or maybe a lifetime subscription to The Beano?

These days the choice is endless. Ollie, my younger UK grandson was given a couple of days driving high-powered cars on a track in Yorkshire. Here he is, below, just about to take out one such supercar (I have no idea what it is) with his instructor. I believe he had a go in several different cars.

This is a great idea for kids. Next year it could be flying, scuba diving, or driving a Chieftain tank. The more extreme experiences they have the better!

Here he is at the wheel of a 'prepared' Mustang; a beast of a car. I didn't hear how he got-on, but I did see a video of him driving 'cautiously'. I'm not surprised.

The only car I've ever driven on a track was a Lotus Junior racing car, and I crept around the track at about 30 mph; I was scared stiff of crashing it. I think I did two laps.

In a few years time, I expect he'll be asking his dear Papa for a Porsche or a Lotus.

T'was not thus in my day; we had a birthday cake with candles, and maybe some Walls vanilla ice cream afterwards.


Friday 4 June 2021

First Peonies.

I'm very fond of Peonies; they are the Flamenco Dancers of the floral world.

Lady Magnon planted this one about 3 years ago, and this is its first flowering. Very beautiful.

Peonies always remind me of when English artist Ivon Hitchens invited me to tea at his rather ramshackle home near Petworth, Sussex, in around 1970. 

My two main memories of the afternoon were firstly the fact that his house was overflowing with paintings; one could hardly get from room to room. And secondly, his lovely wife, Mary, gave me a Peony when I left, which sadly fell to bits before I reached home.

The two flowers, above, lasted for just two days.


Thursday 3 June 2021

Little and Large.

I've posted this photo before, but I thought I'd do so again; just for the hell of it. I believe it was taken on 28th June 1954. 

At the time Churchill was Prime minister; Eden (background right) later replaced him in April of 1955. Between the two is Roger Makins (later Lord Sherfield) who was the Ambassador.

Eden's premiership was exemplified by his failure to resolve the Suez crisis; Nasser proving to be the only 'winner' after the conflict. Some international relationships were strengthened (UK-USA, and France-Israel), but Egypt's renewed friendship with Russia became a lingering problem. Eden soon resigned, and has since been seen as a weak PM. In the photo he must have had no idea what his future would hold.

The photo was taken on the steps of the British Embassy in Washington DC, where my late Father-in-Law was a senior diplomat; he's just out of shot.

The small girl sitting at the base of a pillar (bottom left) is a very bored Lady Magnon.

Soon after the photo was taken, Churchill asked the young Lady M if she'd enjoyed his speech. Being from a 'diplomatic family' she replied "yes". She lied!


Wednesday 2 June 2021

Parental guidance.

My late mother had a quiver-full of wise observations that she would drop into conversation unexpectedly. Quite why I remember some of them, I really don't know. This one was a classic....

"You can always tell a drug addict by his dirty finger nails"

On the wisdom of going to a particular cinema on the South Coast, she told me....

"If you go in there, you'll catch Foot and Mouth disease"

Some of her wisdom was quite sound....

"Never do anything that you would later be ashamed of"

Or when I was very small....

"Never do anything you wouldn't do in front of Jesus" (she wasn't religious, but I expect she thought this a more powerful message)

Her most common advice was....

"If you can't be easy, be as easy as you can" (I like this one)

And her most optimistic advice, although I'm not sure it's correct, was....

"Everything happens for the best".

What wise advice did your mother give to you?

Tuesday 1 June 2021


On mainland France, there have been no cases of  Rabies since 1924. The last person to die of Rabies in France was a 10 year old boy who had been bitten by a dog in Sri Lanka; not here.

The UK has been Rabies free since about 1900.

So why am I having to subject poor Billy to a Rabies jab?

For a dog (even Billy) to enter the UK from France, he has to be chipped, have his Rabies jab at least 21 days before travel, have his own passport, and have been given a Tapeworm pill between 1 and 5 days before travel.

We are having him vaccinated now (above, yesterday afternoon) because he needs to be tested afterwards to see if the antibodies are there. If not, it will have to be re-done. This makes sure he is 'protected' well in time.

Seeing that any risk of Rabies is even less than 'minimal', I really find the whole procedure a total waste of time and money; not to mention the stress put onto the dog.

I am perfectly aware that Rabies is a very nasty, often fatal, disease; but seeing that there is no discernible chance of a dog either carrying it, or catching it, either in France or England, I think it's about time someone reassessed these outdated travel regulations. 

I'm pleased to say the Billy didn't try to bite the Vet', nor did he piss all over the floor; he was as good as gold. He also now has a nice new French passport.

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