Friday, 22 September 2023

The Icon of the Seas.


If your idea of a fun holiday is to board some sort of floating Benidorm, then this if for you!

This cruise ship (to be launched next year) will be the world's biggest. It will have 5,610 passengers, 2,350 crew members, 19 floors, 20 different styles of restaurant, 40 bars, 7 swimming pools, 9 hot tubs, and is 5 times the size of The Titanic. I believe it also has a huge waterfall. What fun people will have.


Just looking at the above photo makes me feel ill. It appears to be a cross between The Costa del Sol, Disney Land, and Barby's bathroom; could it be any worse?

If Gustave Doré's vision of Hell is not Hellish enough for you, just look at the above photo for a while. 

Will I be booking a trip? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

 

Thursday, 21 September 2023

Safe and Found.


It was actually my friend Eve who found the safe; she is the owner of 'Two Balls Bob'. It was tucked behind a gravestone in the graveyard.

I just happened to be passing by as she was looking through the innards in order to find some clue as to ownership.


We found some chequebooks which gave the owners name as a nearby Dental Co, so I popped down to their offices and explained where the safe could be found; it was too heavy to carry down; especially with Billy in tow.

The lady at the Dental Co didn't seem in a rush to retrieve it, but was quite happy to know where it was. I did ask when it had gone missing, and she simply said 'last night'.

You never know what you're going to find around Brighton. Amongst other things I've found a man's holdall with it's wallet missing, a woman's handbag complete with her passport wallet and credit cards, a single credit card, and now a safe. Each one (other than the safe) has been reunited with the owner, but not necessarily with all contents. 

I have no idea if anything was taken from the safe; I have to presume it was.

I noticed this morning that the safe is still in the churchyard. I would have to presume that they couldn't give a damn about its theft.

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

France v UK.


Certain differences are immediately noticeable between France and the UK; the most obvious being the price of wine.

For our everyday throwing wine, I tend to buy it in boxes. There are two main advantages to this, firstly the wine stays fresh for well over a week (if it lasts that long), and secondly I don't end-up with piles of empty glass bottles. The wine itself is also perfectly acceptable.


However, the price is very different on either side of the Channel. In France I buy 5 litre boxes at just under €10 (about £7.30), and here I buy 3 bottle boxes (2.25 Litres) for £13.50.

Yes, 5 litres for £7.30 in France, and 2.25 litres for £13.50 here in the UK. WHY? Less that half the quantity in the UK for around twice the price!

It's exactly the same product, there is no shortage, and its transport is no different to anything else.

Well the answer is very simple; it's tax. In the UK the greedy tax folk take 14.5% tax and another 20% VAT on all wine over 11 degrees. This excessive, and you can guarantee that it will rise again with every budget.

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Another Sunday Pub' Lunch.

 

'The Caxton' is my local. It is a leisurely 200 metre walk away from my front door.

Its interior is exactly what a small Pub' should be like. Scrubbed Pine tables, an assortment of old Pine chairs, an open fire, a creaky wooden floor, attractive barmaids, and a few well-behaved dogs lying by their owners feet. There are plenty of books on the shelves, and a large pile of boxed 'games' for clients to amuse themselves with. The beer is pretty good too.

On Sundays they add a few 'specials' to their usual daily menu. Traditional roasts abound. As with so many Pubs these days, good food is as important as good beer for their long-term financial survival. I plumped for a huge slab of slow roasted Belly Pork, with numerous trimmings.

Last Sunday we went out into the Sussex countryside for our Sunday Lunch, this week we stayed closer to home. Both meals were excellent, and both were surprisingly similar. We shall go again. 

I could get used to this!

Monday, 18 September 2023

Dog Party


Saturday was supposed to have been the last of our warm sunny days for a while (we shall see), so a 'Dog Party' was hurriedly arranged for the early evening.

We don't always have time to chat to the other dog walkers, so it was a very pleasant occasion to get to know some of them a bit better. 


I couldn't get a photo that showed the true number of people who attended, but I would estimate about three or four times the number shown above; plus, of course, their dogs.

Everyone took their own preferred drinks. We took wine, others took beer. It was a very jolly affair; we should do it more often.

They're a very nice bunch of people, and it says a lot about them that they could organise such a gathering in such a short time. All dogs were very well behaved; including Billy. Lady M actually heard about the party from a fellow dog-walker down on the beach after lunch. Word travels very fast amongst the dog-owning community.

 

Sunday, 17 September 2023

A bit of this, and a bit of that.


Saturdays are always my busiest day of the week. I do my main 'out-of-town' shopping for the week, leaving here at 7 am, and returning around 8 am. I take my car.

Yesterday morning the sky was filled with vapour trails mostly going in an East/West-ish direction. It's not normally like that.


Billy had already had his early morning walk, and on the return journey we went through the churchyard. I thought it looked particularly beautiful and quiet; so I took this photo.


Whilst shopping I couldn't resist a Pork Pie for lunch. This particular one is by Dickinson & Morris of Melton Mowbray itself, and was very good. The crust was especially well made.


Later I popped down to The Lanes where one of my favourite shops is based. Yum Yum is an 'Oriental Market', where you can find just about anything that comes from China or The Far East. I am particularly fond of these tinned Pickled Mustard Greens, so invested in several. One was consumed along with the Pork Pie.


We've been back in Brighton for almost two weeks, and I think I'm just about stocked-up with all the goodies I usually have at hand. Even the freezer is well stocked!

This was probably the last warm sunny day for some while, so we tried to make the most of it. There was even an evening 'Dog Party'; but more of that later!


Saturday, 16 September 2023

Rain.


We've had no rain since our return to Brighton on the 4th of this month, in fact we've had nothing but hot sunshine. But now it looks as if we'll have nothing but rain for the next week or so. As you can see below, we are supposed to have storms on Sunday, then rain for as long as the forecaster can predict; at least until the 24th.


I have come prepared this year. I have my 'almost full length' Barbour, my wellies, and an ill-fitting waxed rain hat that I need to replace. I am reasonably well kitted against the elements.

Even so, I don't like rain. As much as I hate snow, I would almost prefer it to rain. Of course I love the sight and sound of pukka torrential rain, especially if accompanied by thunder and lightning, it can be wonderful to watch. But the average light, wetting, relentless, stuff we usually get is tedious to say the least.

Weather forecasters are notoriously wrong most of the time, so all this predicted wet weather is not really guaranteed; we shall soon see!

Friday, 15 September 2023

The Green Lady (no picture)

 

I call her 'The Green Lady' because she dresses head to foot in old faded green.

I know nothing about her other than she's very pleasant, she loves Billy, and she sounds quite 'educated'.

She is totally covered, so I have never seen what she looks like. Not one speck of flesh is showing. She wears a long plastic coat with a peaked hood. Her face is swathed in 'I'm not sure what', and her hands are always gloved.

She has what looks like a protruding stomach, which I think is probably a bag underneath her coat. She also walks with a slight limp.

If I was to guess her age I would say she was around 60, but really I have no idea. 

We meet quite often as her time-keeping is similar to mine, and as dependable. I always stop to chat for a while, and wonder if I'm the only person who does so. I can imagine that many would cross the road when they see her approaching. She does look very strange.

I am fascinated by this woman. Is she disfigured maybe? Is she simply very eccentric? Is she hiding from the world around her?

She wears what looks like an identity tag. Maybe she sells 'The Big Issue' on street corners. I wonder if she actually has her own home?

To most people she would simply look like a 'Bag Lady', but without any bags. But to me she is a person of interest. There is no question that she is educated, very pleasant, and fond of animals, so she ticks all the boxes for the type of person I tend to like.

Of course, she could be an eccentric millionaire who owns half of Brighton, but I expect she's just someone who's had something tragic happen in her life.

I'd love to know more about her, and to see her face, but I'm not going to pry. We'll continue to meet occasionally and chat, and that will be the extent of our 'friendship'. I expect that's how she likes it too.


Thursday, 14 September 2023

Some imagination required!!!

 

I've seen cats who look like Hitler, cut Peppers containing the face of Jesus, but never before have I seen a pavement complete with a repair in the form of an amateur map of Great Britain.

It doesn't get stranger than that!


Well actually it does; blow me down, I then came across this icon of 'Jesus' himself lying by the side of the road. The likeness is staggering.


I was simply amazed that I didn't see a UFO on the way home, or that I wasn't whisked away by aliens.

Whatever next!

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Out with the old, in with the new.


The big double window in our bedroom was old, very heavy, and past its best. We think it was the last of its type in the street; everyone else had already changed theirs.

The men arrived at 9 am, and were finished by midday. We had already warned our neighbours that there would be some noise, but it wasn't too bad.


The previous window was metal, the new one UPVC. Looking at them you really wouldn't see that much difference.

In fact the difference should only be noticeable for us. The new ones are double glazed, draught-proof, and upkeep-free. At the moment we sleep with the window wide open, but in Winter we should be much warmer.


The installation was painless (other than for the wallet), and the men left everything as clean as they possibly could.

A good job lads! We now have no more windows or doors to replace; all done.

 

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

What a difference an arch makes.


I was very disappointed when on the 1st January 2001 (1. 1. 1), no new arches were unveiled hereabouts to welcome the new millennium. 

Arches, if well designed, are simple, not over expensive, and long lasting. They are the perfect structure to commemorate important dates or events, as they always have been. From the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to the Marble Arch in London, they have always been the structure of choice to celebrate major events, whether they be very grand or very simple.

So, what did we get instead? Well, we got Norman Foster's wobbly Millennium bridge in London for a start. I can't think of much else.


This one (beautifully modelled by Billy) is the entrance to The Rest Garden where we go several times a day. It's a beautiful structure, simple yet inviting.


And this is another nearby arch, just over the road, which leads to the children's play garden (no dogs allowed). Even more simple, but it adds so much.

A few bricks, some cut stones, and a decent sized plaque, and you have a memorial that will last for centuries. What a shame that no-one thought to erect a few for the (now not so) new Millennium. 

 

Monday, 11 September 2023

Sunday Lunch


There are many 'notorious' Pubs in England; The Tan Hill Inn in Yorkshire, The Ace of Spades on the A3 in Kingston-upon-Thames, and of course the 14th C Blackboys Inn in the Sussex village of the same name. It was at the latter where we had a surprise lunch yesterday.

In case you were wondering, the name 'Blackboys' comes from the common practice of Charcoal Burning in the area.


The building itself is spectacular, a real old Coaching Inn turned into the most welcoming Pub' you could imagine. The place was packed, but even so we managed to find a secluded spot out of the glaring sunshine. 


Lunch was excellent, and was washed-down with a couple of pints of 'Harvey's' bitter, from nearby Lewes. The girls drank pink wine, and later ate sticky toffee puddings. 

On returning home, Kimbo and Susie went down for a swim. A really lovely day out. 

 

Sunday, 10 September 2023

Four quid!


When we went away it was £3.50; now it's £4.

The only newspaper I buy is The Sunday Times. It consists of a main newspaper, a sport section, a homes section, a financial section, plus usually three separate magazines; one for TV, one for women's fashion, and another for general interest subjects.

The amount of advertising throughout all the sections is unbelievable. The amount of actual 'journalism' is almost nothing in comparison.

Of course I read the actual news pages, and I also read the editorial pages. I read the letters page, and one or two of the better feature writers. The amount I actually read would probably fit on two or three pages of a broadsheet. We also play our weekly game of choosing a house on page 3 of the homes section. The rest, frankly, is of no interest.


With all the advertising, I often feel as if they should be paying me to read their wretched paper. Why should I have to pay to avoid looking at adverts?

So, has there been 50p's worth of improvement over the three months that we've been away? The answer has to be a definite NO.

 

One of my favourite jokes; The Irish Porch.


In the pretty little village of Ticklemedo in County Cork, Ireland, the widow O'Kennedy wanted to have her new porch creosoted.

She telephoned the local man who specialised in such things to ask him for a quote.

Paddy O'Biden made some calculations on the back of his betting-slip, then diligently sent off his estimate to Mrs O'Kennedy. The figure was approved, and he promised to come the following week.


Paddy O'Biden arrived around lunchtime, and after a sandwich, a bottle of Guinness, and a short nap, he immediately set to work.

When all was finished he knocked on the kitchen door where he was offered a cup of tea and a slice of buttered Soda Bread.

"Oh, and before I go" he said to the widow O'Kennedy, as he rose to leave, "that isn't a Porsche you've got there, it's a Volkswagen.

Boom boom.

 

Saturday, 9 September 2023

So many things come in 3's.

 


When I was up at my senior school, my headmaster had an oft'-used mantra that was known as his 3 C's.

He never missed an opportunity to tell us the importance of Christianity, Classics, and Cricket. To him these were the three things that would see us through life on a clear and open path. I always embraced No's 2 and 3, but No 1 never really appealed. Amazingly I had been my intake year's Classics Scholar.

Also at school, my Music Appreciation tutor stressed the importance of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Stockhausen. His 3 S's.

I still think in terms of 3's. When driving to the shops in France, if I have encountered two cars coming my way, I always expect to meet a third, and pay careful attention (our roads are very narrow). It's amazing how often it happens.

I recently wrote of 'Three Memorable Encounters'; another example of how things in 3's just seem to happen naturally. I also have 3 children.

The 'Rule of Three' applies to the planting of trees. It is the number of Cricket stumps. Goldilocks met three Bears. How many coins in a fountain? The 'tricolore'. The Three wise Monkeys. Three French Hens. And finally The Three Graces. 

Three is a very useful, and oft'-used number. It makes an aesthetic 'group'. And it is an important member of my theory that 12 is a far more useful number than 10.

Friday, 8 September 2023

Swimming


I took this photo of our pool gate and the pump house, just before we set off for Blighty recently. It was a lovely morning, and it all looked so beautiful.

For the past 3 months I've been swimming about 300 metres every day. The pool reached just over 30 C for a few days, but mostly stayed around 25 C. Building the pool was one of our more sensible decisions. It is not artificially heated; sun only.


In June of this year a new pool was opened here in Brighton. It's on the beach, it's Olympic size, and they say that the sea water is permanently 'heated' to between 15-19 C which is warmer than the usual sea temperature. I must say that photos of the pool do look very appealing, but the water temperature doesn't.

I had thought that I'd give it a go but my enthusiasm has waned. I wouldn't swim in my own pool at that temperature.

Last night Lady M received an invitation from one of her friends to go swimming in the sea; she accepted. I've just checked the sea water temperature and it's between 18 and 19 C; she might survive.

p.s. Lady M did actually go swimming yesterday afternoon, and loved it. She's going again today!
 

Thursday, 7 September 2023

School of Saatchi on Harry Hill's TV Burp


It's always good to poke fun at the Art World, and here is Harry's view of Contemporary Art.



Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Sleep.


A good night's sleep can depend on many things. Finding exactly the right bed is probably amongst the most important factors.

Personally I like quite a firm bed. I also like to sleep without sheets and blankets; provided that it's warm enough. In Summer I also like to have the windows wide open so that there is always a good flow of fresh air (with Mosquito netting, of course).

In Winter I creep under a thin duvet, but I continue to like the fresh air. 


Unfortunately none of this has yet allowed me to sleep for more than about 4 hours per night. I haven't slept a whole night's sleep for maybe 40 years, and I'm beginning to get a bit miffed. I refuse to take sleeping pills, or follow some mumbo-jumbo magic, but I would like to find a simple formula that would give me just a couple more hours. I'd be quite happy with 6 hours non-interrupted sleep.

In the meantime, I wake very early, listen to a load of political tripe on LBC Radio, then get-up to have my first cup of coffee at 5 am. It is now 5.25 am and I'm up and about.

 

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

A different world.

 


We're back in Brighton. A town (city) of culture, youth, beach-life, hen party crowds, occasional noisy football supporters, students, restaurants, and a wonderful multi-cultural (and diverse) population.

At the cultural centre-point of town is the Royal Pavilion (above). Behind it is Kemp Town, and to the front are gardens where people gather, and the wonderful Theatre Royal. 

I do love the simplicity of life in Southern France, but I also love the buzz of our more fast-paced existence in Southern England. The two locations couldn't be more different. When you have a building such as The Brighton Pavilion as an urban centre point, you just know you're somewhere quite special.

Within easy walking distance we have every convenience imaginable. The train station is only a five minute leisurely walk away, central London being just a 50 min ride. All the best stores are nearby; M & S, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, etc, are all handy, and yet we live in a remarkably quiet street. Billy is catered for with two dog-friendly gardens where he meets his friends on a daily basis.

All locations have their pros and cons, but I can't think of any cons in Brighton; I'm sounding like an Estate Agent.

We'll miss the peace and quiet of the countryside, but we'll embrace the friendliness and buzz of town. Lady M will be reunited with all her 'gin club' friends, Billy will be stroked by numerous people on his way to the park, and I will again be greeted by school children, the strange Green Lady, and every type and age of character in between. 

When I see the vicar from the nearby church, I always hail him with a hearty "Good morning Father", and he replies in a similar fashion. We shall see urban Foxes, the occasional junkie, and a few rough-sleepers. No-one is aggressive, and there is a mutual respect that is adhered-to by all. 

When we drove into Brighton at about midnight last light, it was still buzzing. We saw groups of clantilly dressed barefooted girls (what DO they do with their shoes?), a gang of Drag Queens, lots of people enjoying late night drinking outside bars, and a Fox. It felt very good to be back!


Sunday, 3 September 2023

Goodbye France

 

Our 3 months are up; it'll be another 9 months before we return to our little home in France. In the meantime the fire will stay unlit, the rooms will be cold and lifeless, and the front door will stay securely locked. We have a gardener coming in to keep things tidy, otherwise all will be still.


There'll be no more games around the pool, our Lutyens bench will remain un-sat-upon, and the dull black plastic winter pool cover will hide all vestige of this year's Summer fun.


When we return next June (god willing) there will be a new man living up at the barn. We shall continue to maintain the garden until the 'completion date', then it'll be all his. We're looking forward to meeting him.

Ahead of us is the 700 Km drive North, a stop-over in Orléans, and a 4 hr overnight ferry ride from Dieppe to Newhaven. Billy tolerates the trip quite well, but I know he'll be very happy to get home. I do hope he's not sick!!!

Our phone/internet cables are still lying on the ground. We have the new pole, but no-one has come to connect the wires to it (am I surprised?). Our neighbour's temporary electricity connection is still also lying on the ground behind our house. His six month maximum legal-limit connection has turned into more than FOUR YEARS, with one person lucky not to have been killed after 'mowing' over it. I wonder if it'll take another FOUR YEARS before he has a permanent connection made? No-one seems to give a sh*t. 

I can almost guarantee that both our phone cables, and the neighbour's temporary electricity connections, will still be lying all over the ground next June (watch this space).

So, goodbye France. My fingers are crossed for an uneventful trip. See yer back in Blighty, with all the 
hussle and bussle of Brighton! Gosh, the past three months have gone by so quickly. But we've had a really great time. We should be home on Tuesday morning.

Saturday, 2 September 2023

The Plantation.


Before leaving France there is always one place that I have to visit; my friend José's biggest Chestnut plantation, which is just two hundred metres from our front door. I remember when he planted it, and I've watched it grow ever since.

I went quite early because I wanted to catch the sunrise coming through the trees. I'm afraid my cheap phone camera does not do the scene justice, but it gives an idea. The plantation runs for another 100 metres behind where I took the photo.

José and his daughter are one of the major Chestnut growers in the village, and what he doesn't know about them ain't worth knowing. I imagine that Chestnuts are now his major crop.


The nuts haven't yet started falling, but they won't be far off. I always love to see, and hear, their old machine (the diabolique) gathering the nuts. It makes a very particular sound, which sadly we won't hear this year.


I shall be taking a small jar of ready peeled and cooked local Chestnuts back with me for Christmas. So much more convenient than fresh.

 

Friday, 1 September 2023

One final mow.


We have been instructed by our selling agent that the barn must be handed-over to the new owner with the gardens maintained, and the interior clean. I'm not sure if she though that we would have done anything less, but we did feel as if she was talking-down to a pair of dim-wit four year olds.

So, I have now completed my final mowing. I also swept-out the barn part which is now beautifully clean. Everything is ship-shape, sparkling, and ready to go. If the lawns need more mowing before 'completion date' then the gardener will pop up and give it a trim. As you can see by the sorry state of the grass, it's been very hot and dry. I was kicking-up dust clouds with the mower.


It's been quite an emotional few days. Not only are we returning to our Winter quarters in a couple of day's time (with all the work that that entails), but we are also saying goodbye to a home that I personally spent a couple of years creating; and many more maintaining. It's also hard saying goodbye to the orchard I planted, with all the children's birth-day trees. I cannot imagine how I will feel when we return next year to find a complete stranger living there.

I've been wandering around the now bare interior looking at all the details of my 'hard graft'. The spot where I hit my thumb with a hammer, where I hit my head on a beam and had red stuff gushing down my neck, and where we had a big fluffy black cat hiding under the kitchen cupboards for four days. Lots of memories.


Of course our best memories are of Boo Boo and The Cherub in their Elves suits at Christmas, building huge Lego towers in the garden, and of 'Grumsy' cooking Cheesy Pasta for them at lunch times (their favourite).

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to feel next June, when we return. Only time will tell.

This afternoon I close the pool.
 

Thursday, 31 August 2023

N C Wyeth.


Newell Convers Wyeth was more known as a book illustrator than as a painter. His son Andrew Wyeth is known to most of us, but the father less so.

This painting called 'Nightfall', is possibly one of N C W's best. For me it represents everything that is desirable, and possibly difficult, about country life.

I would love to own it, and have it on my wall.


The farm, I imagine, is Wyeth's own but to my eyes looks very English, other than the brown-coloured Silo. The folds in the landscape could be those of The Cotswolds, as is the colour of the stone from which the buildings are made. It is not at all the view of his son Andrew's barren plains and crumbling wooden homes that he so often painted. 

The painting represents pride, patience, and maybe some concern. I imagine that most farmers would recognise something of their own plight in the picture. One can only wonder what is going on in the mind of the little red-haired child. I suspect she is seeing her whole life ahead of her.

What a beautiful painting.

 

Wednesday, 30 August 2023

More Peaches.


Boo Boo's Peach tree harvest is long over. It produced a very large crop of delicious fruit this year, but sadly we were unable to eat them all. We put quite a lot in the freezer, but now we have two more trees that are over-producing.

These are what's known here as Peches de Vigne, the trees are quite commonly found at the end of vineyard rows; possibly planted to feed the hungry grape pickers. They are a more rustic variety than Boo Boo's, and are reproduced simply by the planting of a Peach stone.

As you can see, they are smaller than the more cultivated Peaches, but they don't lack in flavour, or juiciness. 


Both our trees are loaded. I always advise everyone here to carry a small pocket knife with them and eat a few every time they pass by, they really are delicious; and plentiful.

Our Figs are now also now ripening, and trying to keep-up with everything is impossible. If we were to be here through Winter I would bottle the Figs as I have always done in the past. But I'm not taking preserves back to the UK. There are peaches grapes figs and apples everywhere. The Hornets are already feasting on them instead of us!

The Reine de Renette apples (below) have done really well this year; last year there were none. They are the French equivalent of the English Cox; but nowhere near as good.


Tuesday, 29 August 2023

Rover SD1


This must have been the most dangerously fast car I've ever owned.

The 3.5 litre Rover SDI was a viciously fast sports car in saloon car clothing. You only realised how 'low-slung' they were when they were parked amongst other cars. They were fast, good-looking, and (for me) luxurious.


This is not my actual car, but it was silver and looked much the same.

To my eternal shame I remember one incident that I regret to this day. I was driving alone through France, heading North, on the motorway when I encountered two more SDI's. These were rare cars in France, and to suddenly find yourself in a row of three was very strange. The lead car suddenly started to speed-up, and we two behind followed suite. The speed soon became excessive but we continued; probably to the amazement of the other few road users who witnessed us flying by. I soon realised that it had become extremely dangerous and I backed off. The speeds we were doing were not only way beyond the legal limit, but were such that even the slightest 'blip' and we would probably have crashed and killed ourselves. It was that stupid.

Why I got involved in such a 'race' I don't know. It must have been part bravado, and part bravado! Knowing that you have a car that would do in excess of 130 mph needed testing; and that's what we did.

I'm pleased to say that that short (maybe 10 minute) incident changed my driving attitude for ever. I immediately realised how stupid I'd been, and ever since I've driven at my own choice of speed, and am no longer ever in a hurry.

When I look back to that day, I still feel that I'm lucky to be alive. It could all have ended so badly.

Since then, fast cars no longer interest me. In fact I soon swapped that Rover for a Renault 4, and have continued with a series of average speed utility cars ever since.

I just happened to see the above photo recently, and it brought back the horror of the occasion as if it were yesterday.

p.s. Back in about 1965 I was taken for a ride in a TVR Grantura Griffith 200. My friend who owned the car managed to reach about 150 mph along the Talgarth Road in London, on the way out to the airport. I don't think I've ever been as frightened in my whole life.

Monday, 28 August 2023

Such Massive Talent.


My daughter's Father-in-Law was/is a goldsmith/jeweller. He made exotic, and extremely expensive, items for the rich, royal, and famous. He was also the Vice Chairman of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths Forum.

Below is one small example of his work. Buckets-full of 18 carat gold, a huge 500 carat carved Indian Emerald, Emerald and Diamond stem, and a pair of Peacocks dining on a plate of Diamonds. The whole is just 23 cms tall. His client owned the huge Emerald, and commissioned something to be built around it; as one would!!!


The standard of his work is second to none, and, as you can imagine, he was always in demand to make the most exotic creations.

Such things are not to my personal taste, but the craftsmanship is exemplary. I cannot imagine the process, or the time involved, of making such an object. I would love to show you more of his amazing creations, but without his permission; I'd better not. 

Anyway, well done 'Father Ted'.
 

Saturday, 26 August 2023

Sussex Cottage


Our 'library' here is quite extensive, it contains a good selection of classic novels, poetry, and children's books. It also contains most of our collection of art and reference books.

I have just forced myself to finish reading a very poor novel by Nick Hornby, and desperately needed something to restore my faith in 'literature'. 

I last read Esther Meynell's 'Sussex Cottage' back in the 70's. I have been friends with some of the current Meynell family since my London days, and her book appeals on many levels. I once wrote about the family's stunning old farmhouse home near Amberley which I consider to be one of the most beautiful, and desirable, homes in Sussex. But this book is about an altogether different house.


Being a Surrey/Sussex lad myself, I am fascinated by all the traditions of my county, especially its early domestic architecture. 

This book describes the building of a traditional village home by itemising all the materials, construction methods, the crafts, the craftsmen, the characters, traditions, and the very landscape itself. The cottage is in Ditchling, just outside Brighton.

It isn't a book that would appeal to everyone, but those interested in Sussex life, and it's vernacular architecture, would find it fascinating. Back in the early 50's my father built a lovely house which followed in the tradition of local architecture, with the upper story hung with hand-made tiles, etc. Reading E M's book, I note that her attention to detail seemed very similar.

The book also contains a small chapter dedicated to our old village of West Chiltington.



Friday, 25 August 2023

Not long now!


We now have just over a week left of our stay in France, and we have so much to do. With daytime temperatures of 40 C, working outdoors after about 9 am, and before 8 pm, is almost impossible.

Our guests leave at the weekend, and we've been obliged to shorten our own stay by one day due to our hotel being fully booked for the day on which we wished to travel. This has also meant that we've had to change our channel crossing time. Things are ganging-up on us.

Preparing the house for over-wintering is always stressful. As we shall be away for the next 9 months, nothing must be overlooked. The pool must be closed down correctly, all the excess garden growth cut back, and all the grass cut. Indoors everything needs to be dust-covered, services closed-off, and everything secured. The whole house will also need to be cleaned. The house is never in a better state than on the day we leave! It doesn't sound like much, but it all takes time.


One of my major tasks is to remove a very old, and extensive Vine. Its fruit hangs down in front of our covered terrace, and at this time of year attracts Hornets. Sadly, as beautiful and big as it is, it has to go. It will be replaced by a Wisteria which is already in waiting.

The fridges and freezer need to be emptied and cleaned, and all contents either eaten or disposed of. Nothing must remain that will 'go off' during our absence. All rubbish (and there's plenty of it) must be taken to the bins, and all the recycling taken to special receptacles.

And most importantly, Billy must have his pre-travel pill, and have it confirmed in his passport.

I really hate leaving here. It feels like having a part of me torn off without anaesthetic. It's the home I love the most, and after 50 years of residence in our village (and about 40 in this house) I'm being turfed out because silly people voted to leave the EU (although a part of me doesn't blame them).

What I must do now is make a list of tasks. Nothing must be omitted. Keys will have to be left in a secure spot, windows firmly closed, and outdoor water taps, etc, covered against frost. Everything must be LOCKED.

It's a really horrible feeling, and in many ways I can hardly wait until we hit the road for Blighty. Have it all done and over with!

I shall be very sorry to leave our peaceful little home, but equally excited to return to Busy-Brighton. The contrast is always intoxicating.

Thursday, 24 August 2023

Help required.


I have shown these bowls before, back in 2011. However, I'm still looking for an answer, so I'm asking for your help yet again.

I would love to know what these bowls were made for. I'm sure they had a specific purpose; but what, I have no idea. Maybe you do?

They are quite small (just 17 cms in diameter), very solidly built, with a brown glaze inside, and an embossed yellow star peeping-up from the bottom. On the underneath is the number 163A, plus another small mark that could be a 'u' or an 'n'. They look to me as if they were designed to go into an oven, 


I bought them many years ago at a Boot Sale in the UK, but the seller had no idea what they were.

So, if anyone out there knows what they are, or can make an educated guess, I would love to hear from you.

I'm sure they have an interesting history.


 

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Oh, how I hate having photos taken.


Most of us hate being photographed; and I am no exception. We want photos that flatter, and that rarely happens.

So, who is this old codger? Some man pontificating! It caught me at a particular nanosecond that shows something about me that I suppose is reasonably typical.

If I analyse the photo, I seem half Greek philosopher, and half Victorian Tramp, with a glass of bubbly in hand. Typical of the 21st C bon viveur and wastrel that I am.


Of course, really I'm none of those things. I'm a very simple, fun-loving, gourmet, who lives on a tight budget, and makes the most of what little life offers.

However, I quite like this picture simply because I'm not squinting, I seem reasonably animated, and I'm probably 'holding forth' on some anti-woke subject after a couple of bottles of Canard Duchenne. It caught me off-hand, but in a way that I don't particularly mind. It looks opinionated, pedagogical, and authoritative. I also quite like the accidental composition; none of which can rightly be attributed to me. The only thing I do recognise is my age. The person in the photo certainly looks 77; if not a lot older.


And here (above) is Great Grandfather Magnon, looking not dis-similar to moi. Our genetic link can clearly be seen. I wonder what he thought of his portrait (which he posed for), and I wonder what he would have thought of mine (which wasn't posed for)? I also wonder how old he was when it was taken; my age maybe? He does rather look like a grim bible-thumping 'minister'.

Rarely do we like photos of ourselves, but I'll let this one stay. What I really don't like are posed pictures where the sitter is half-smiling towards the camera, with a silly awkward look on his/her face. 'Photographers' who say "Look at me" have got it wrong; action shots are always best.

Nice Photo of Me © Kimbo Magnon. 

 

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

SOLD!


Some might wonder why I've had to erect a new home for Rory, well here is the answer.

It started off as an old disused Tobacco drying barn, then more recently was used for rearing Geese; up to around the year 2000. It really didn't have a lot going for it. Everything had to be replaced from roof to floor, from the exterior boarding to the interior walls. There was no water or electricity; we had to start from scratch. Only the skeleton was retained.

My planning application went through quite easily, and my design was accepted without any annoying recommendations. It was just a matter of getting down to work. This was back in 2010.


Once the whole roof had been replaced, and a concrete screed laid on the ground floor, I built, plastered, and insulated all the interior walls. I took my time and did what I think was a pretty good job. The usable space was huge and everything came together beautifully.


The lower cross beams were all replaced with good strong timbers, and the upstairs floor laid. A chippy was brought-in to build the staircase, and it soon began to look like a real home.

The kitchen was fitted and a very comprehensive 'eco' heating system installed. Solar panels were fitted to the roof and a wood-fired cooker complimented the system for Winter. With the 'rather excessive' insulation I'd installed behind all the interior walls, the house wasn't difficult to keep warm. The radiators were hardly ever used. Floor tiles were laid downstairs, and eventually all the exterior cladding was removed and replaced, and it looked fabulous.

Once furnished and decorated the house really was lovely. I would happily have lived there myself. There was plenty of land, an orchard, room for a veg' patch, and there was even a Chicken coop. In fact I would say that the house provided just about everything that one could ever have needed (other than a pool), and all in perfectly tranquil countryside. There was even a large area of 'barn' for storage.


So, it's rather sad to see it go, but it has now been sold. Our youngest (to whom we had given the original old Sechoir) has decided that it's not for him. He has just built a fabulous Villa on an island off Thailand, and I can see the appeal over rural France; even though he was born here.

We were going to give him our cottage as well, so that he could have had a holiday rental income for life, but that would now be pointless so we'll probably sell this too in a few years time. We're getting old, and someone else can enjoy it. We'll spend the money on ourselves instead.

One never knows what's around the corner, and one must expect any eventualities. I shall have a lot less mowing and gardening to do in future, but I shall miss knowing that the barn is 'ours'. All that work I did will now belong to someone else, and all I can hope is that the new owner enjoys it as much as we did. I hope he's an experienced gardener too!

I often wonder if I was to start the project again from scratch, would I do anything differently. I don't think I would; I wanted to add a long open 3 section barn/auvent/garage coming at right-angles from the far left hand side, but we never got around to it.

Mostly I'm sorry that Boo Boo and The Cherub will never stay there again. It was so nice having them come down every morning to see 'Grumsy'. She cooked for them, baked with them, and played endless games with them! Ah well.....
 

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