Monday 31 July 2023

I need not have worried.


About a month ago I cut back this 'out of control' Bay tree. It had started life as a small, square-cut, manageable bush, then became something of a monster. There was only one thing to do, and that was to take drastic action. My only reserve was 'would it survive my attack?'. 

Well, I'm very pleased to say that it grown back beautifully, and will soon be back to how it was about 5 years ago.

I don't use a huge amount of Bay, but it's always handy to have nearby. The plant was given to me by a dear friend; and is named 'Jean' after her.

I think it's future is now assured.

Sunday 30 July 2023

Time flies.

It's amazing to think that our sojourn in France is already two thirds over; we have just one month left.

With the barn possibly sold, we have so much to do. We now have to find homes for all those treasures we were happy to lend to the much bigger house.

I have a lot of tree pruning to do, a lot of chasing-up tradesmen, and a lot of entertaining. We have had the calm; now the storm. 

Our new telegraph pole is still awaiting the 'phone people' to attach the wires, but that could be months away. It's possible they will turn-up after we've gone, then simply go away again. When they say 'two weeks' that could mean anything up to two years!

The 'temporary' power cable that comes from the back of the cottage (above), that feeds a neighbour's house is still there after FOUR YEARS, and still presents a danger to passers by, or to those who mow the path. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard the French equivalent of 'None of my business Gov' when asking people to deal with the matter. Why would anyone in their right mind want a temporary cable running for about 200 metres above ground (for FOUR YEARS) to feed their nice modern home with electricity. GET IT FIXED !!! Surely a permanent supply must be better than this.

I don't wish to bore you with all our problems, but I think we may have to have an entire new septic tank system next year, which will involve the removal of a lot of big trees. Nightmare.

The weather has been mixed, from 15 C to over 32 C, with plenty of night-time rain and one spectacular storm; we've had a bit of everything. However, we've managed to swim almost every day.

We were very disappointed to discover that our favourite restaurant has been messed with, and will no longer have our patronage. However, we've been very pleased to reunite ourselves with another nearby farm/restaurant which is superb. 

Whilst writing the above, my lovely neighbour, and very good friend, J, has just turned up with a bucket of Beans and Tomatoes (above), with the additional offer that I can go to his garden whenever I want, and take as much as I like. What a nice guy he is, we've almost grown-up together and I've known FIVE generations of his family. He's almost 80 but you'd find that difficult to believe. He's the nearest thing I have to 'family' here in France.

We had some of the Beans about 30 mins after he'd gone; they were simply gorgeous. One can easily forget what outdoor vegs can taste like. Until you've tasted home grown, sun-kissed, Tomatoes, you haven't lived. Thank you my friend! Our Courgettes are still doing well.

Saturday 29 July 2023


There are two makes of French pocket knives that surpass all others; the Opinel, and the Laguiole.

I am loth to guess how many Opinels I have; possibly a dozen. But I only have a few Laguioles (below). 

The first one I bought was supposed to become my 'car knife', but that position soon became co-opted by a couple of Opinels. They are probably better suited for the job.

I don't use the Laguioles too much. They are heavier than the Opinels, and the blades are inferior. They make better eating knives than for other everyday uses. But even my eating knife is an Opinel.

The Laguiole is known for its Bee and carved/decorated spring (see below), and often comes with a useless bottle opener. I wouldn't use that corkscrew for love nor money.

I really have no idea why I have so many pocket knives. Directly in front of where I'm now typing there are 8, and that's only the start.


Friday 28 July 2023

Ineos Grenadier Production

This rather long video (15 mins) is both fascinating and worrying.

When Land Rover ceased production of their wonderful Defender model back in 2016 (I think), Ineos stepped-in and decided to make their own version.

The story has it that Sir Jim Radcliffe (the boss of Ineos) was having a pint at his favourite Pub' (The Grenadier in Belgravia) when he had the idea of replacing the Defender. It soon became a reality, and production eventually began in July 2022, at a French automotive factory in Hambach. The factory had previously made Smart Cars.

Only a true petrol-head will watch all of the video, but it's worth persevering for a few minutes. The technology is totally fascinating, and the lack of humans totally worrying. This is the future of all manufacturing; seeing all those robots at work is amazing; but at least there are one or two humans around.

If you'd wondered who, or what, the British 'Ineos Grenadier' Tour de France cycling team was named after; well, this is it.

Thursday 27 July 2023

Lords and Ladies

Lords and Ladies, sometimes known as Cuckoo Pint, is an interesting plant. It's bright red berries are presumably there to attract the birds who eat them, then distribute the seeds; usually beneath their perches.

Lady M recently hacked-back some brambles beneath a huge Pear tree, and these (below) have now appeared.

I should add that every part of the plant is poisonous to humans, which doesn't make them any less attractive. I love to see them appearing amongst the undergrowth.

What a great name too. Now is their season.


Wednesday 26 July 2023

Sweep towards you? or away?

I'm sure that many a schoolboy, BBC reporter, or Mother Superior must have thought long and hard about this most important of questions. 'Is it more efficient to sweep towards yourself, or away?'

My own thinking suggests that to sweep towards you somehow manages to collect more detritus (dust, dog hair, or dead leaves) than if one pushes away. I can offer no scientific evidence to back my claim, just some satisfaction in hoping that I'm right. I do quite a lot of sweeping (especially leaves, etc) so an answer to this question might save me hours.

Of course the quality of the brush or broom makes a great difference to sweeping, but given the right kit there should be an optimum method of sweeping. Maybe some Oxford boffin would like to do research into this subject; that is, if they're not too busy removing photos of H M The Queen from halls. 

I have never bought a broom with instructions suggesting an answer to this thorny subject. All brooms SHOULD come with instructions.

Tuesday 25 July 2023


I have never known our Greengage tree to be as full of fruit as it is this year. Branches are bending down, and some have broken under the weight. The fruit is also seriously bug free; when preparing the fruit (below), I found just one that had a 'lodger'. Usually they are the opposite.

I halved the plums to remove the pips, then put them into a bowl of water with Lemon juice to keep them from discolouring. They were then packed into sterilised jars and topped with a syrup of 1 pt water to 8 oz sugar. They were sterilised at a 'rolling boil' for 1 hr.

Here they are after a good clean.

As you can see, they have really shrunk in the jars and lots of juice has come out. Still, I know they'll be delicious; some Greengages and a dollop of thick cream will lift the spirits on a cold Winter's night.

They look a bit bizarre, I'm not sure if I'll bottle any more. I'll just stew them and have them fresh.


Monday 24 July 2023


I mentioned recently that we were to visit a nearby farm restaurant, it is the only one I know of (locally) that continues in the old traditions of local cuisine. We are very lucky to have it just a 10 minute drive away.

This soup, called Tourin is a case in point. It is very much a local South/West dish, and is something I've prepared at home ever since I first discovered it 50 years ago. It is very rare to find it on a restaurant menu. Far too 'common'.

It's basically a good Chicken or Duck stock made with plenty of garlic, to which is added stale Sourdough bread. It cannot be made with sliced 'Mother's Pride'. A sprinkling of grated cheese adds to the delight. The bread becomes gelatinous and silky, and the cheese stringy.

It is such a simple soup, and obviously comes from days of serious poverty in the countryside. It is quite possibly the origin of the famous 'French onion soup', which is a more sophisticated version.

We had a really delicious meal on Saturday. Wine came with the menu, and when the first bottle was consumed, it was instantly replenished. After plenty of Magret and Confit and Pommes de terre Sarladaises, we ate a delicious home baked Clafoutis, then cheese. The whole meal was surprisingly inexpensive, and was a delight from beginning to end. It is now, without question, our favourite local restaurant. 

If only I could say the same about other local eateries!


Sunday 23 July 2023

The future of driving.

I really do wonder what the future of motoring holds in store.

I do quite like the idea of electric cars, but only if the car's exterior was made entirely of solar panels and it recharged itself as it went along. Having a car that's limited to a distance of about 200 miles, then has to be plugged into the mains, seems very inefficient.

Hydrogen fuelled engines must surely be high on the list of upcoming inventions. The person who can create a 'small' machine that can separate Oxygen from Hydrogen, that will fit in the boot of a car, will become the world's richest man/woman. Just imagine filling your car from the outdoor tap. Perfect.

I recently heard a woman talking about taking her driving test in a Hydrogen fuelled car back in the 50's, but I can find no record of such a car at that time. However, I'm sure these things are not new.

I don't see Petrol and Diesel cars dying out quite yet. OK they might be polluting, but they work well and have a proven track record.  My attitude would be to limit their use rather than ban them altogether. If more people worked near to where they lived, it would save a huge amount of pollution.

I don't suppose I'll be around to see what science has in store, but 'need' is the mother of invention, and we are reminded by Mr Micawber that "something is bound to turn-up".


Saturday 22 July 2023

Another milestone.

Today is my birthday. I am 77 years old. I both look it, and feel it.

I used to think that if I made it to the year 2000 I'd be exceeding all expectations. Well, that was 23 years ago, and I'm still here.

Everything still works OK. My Sciatica is slightly troublesome, but if I take a couple of Ibuprofen pills I can mask the pain for a reasonable while.

Mentally I'm still mostly compos mentis (Lady M might contest this), although my short term memory can be a bit wobbly at times.

I still have a good appetite, and I enjoy a bottle of rouge with the best of them. I no longer chase after beautiful women, but I still quite like the idea. And I continue to do a hard day's work without ending up in A & E.

My driving is OK. I'm never in a hurry, but I can put my foot down when required. My reflexes are still very sharp. I should be road-worthy for a few years yet.

I no longer row Eights, play Cricket, or Rugby, but I do swim about 3 hundred metres every day.

I don't sleep very well; I never have. As with Mrs T; 4 hours is plenty (plus a 10 min cat-nap after lunch). 

My only real moan is that my dodgy right knee makes me a tad cautious when walking. I do occasionally use a cane, but that is more for security of balance than anything else. 

That's it. Look for this page next year to see if I'm still here! Oh, and I still have a reasonable sense of humour.

And this link (below) gives an idea of what we shall be eating tonight. It's a lovely nearby farm/restaurant which specialises in Duck and Goose. The kitchen is run by the wife and daughters of the farmer. Everything is home produced, and home cooked! Nothing comes from those giant faceless multi-national Catering Co's that supply most restaurants with boil-in-the-bag meals. We shall be eating outdoors, behind the beautiful old farmhouse.;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=335617080

Friday 21 July 2023

Historic Brighton hotel ravaged by fire

You leave home for a short while, and look what happens!

Yes, they try to burn the place down.

The Royal Albion Hotel is just over the road from Brighton's Palace Pier. It may be described as 'historic' by some, but unkempt might be more appropriate. The hotel has had a chequered history, from being very chic to being very shabby. A friend who stayed there quite recently said it was awful.

It has always been one of Brighton's major hotels along with The Grand and The Metropole, but recently its standards have fallen.

I just hope that the owners take this opportunity to rebuild and revamp the whole place, and return it to how it once was; a landmark property.

Thursday 20 July 2023

Les Petits Chanteurs d'Asnières rendent hommage à Serge Gainsbourg

I mentioned Serge Gainsbourg recently in connection with Jane Birkin. You may, or may not, have heard of him.

French singers tend only be appreciated in France; rarely do they have hit records abroad. Gainsbourg was hugely popular in France, and he did write a few good songs. 

He was mostly known, however, for being an unshaven sex-mad chain-smoker and alcoholic, which the French seemed to love about him. 

Here are a group of schoolchildren paying homage to the great man, by singing one of his songs. They all have five-o-clock shadows, a cigarette, and a glass of Whisky. Gainsbourg himself seems 'tired and emotional'; mostly emotional.

He died in 1991 at the age of 62, unsurprisingly from the effects of all that tobacco and alcohol.

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Drought? What drought?

The pool has been open for about 6 weeks, and not once had we needed to top it up; until now.

It had rained enough, and in such quantities, over the past month and a half that it hadn't been necessary to top-up the level of the water. Now, however, the temperature has risen, and evaporation has started in earnest. You might see, in the photo, the difference between the lighter and darker stripes above the water line. Towards the top of the lighter stripe is where the water level should roughly be.

It's no big deal, I just run a hose pipe to the poolside, and turn on. Luckily no-one has yet mentioned the words 'Hose Pipe Ban'. Actually, if they do we tend to ignore it anyway.

The two holes at the far end are the 'Skimmers', they are responsible for catching any floating leaves, apples, or lizards, that may fall in, and all are collected in a plastic filter tray. The skimmers are there to allow the circulation of water, and send it off to the filtration system. If the level of the water falls below a certain point, the skimmers will start to suck in air instead of water, and this is not a good thing.

We still swim every day. It's warm outside, and the water temperature is around 26-28 C. Lovely-Jubbly.


Tuesday 18 July 2023

RIP Jane Birkin

Very sad to hear that Jane has died. Lady M was at school with her on the Isle of Wight, and she became a 60's icon over here. Jane was ostensibly France's favourite English girl. 

She had been diagnosed with Leukaemia about 10 years ago, and has now sadly succumbed.

Rather than choose one of her better songs, I've decided to offer our bizarrely 'favourite' song; 'Ex fan des sixties'.

With lyrics such as 'Disparus Brian Jones, Jim Morrison....' etc, this has to be one of the most comically bad 'serious' songs ever. We both love it and detest it; but mostly we just laugh at it. It will always be our favourite.

Not surprisingly the dreadful lyrics were written by her smokin-n-drinkin boyfriend Serge Gainsbourg. If you can face reading them, I have offered them in full below; I don't think you need to speak French to understand them. And as for the video.....

We shall really miss knowing she's no longer with us.

Ex-fan des sixties, petite baby dollComme tu dansais bien le rock'n'rollEx-fan des sixties, où sont tes années folles?Que sont devenues toutes tes idoles?
Où est l'ombre des ShadowsDes Byrds, des DoorsDes Animals, des Moody BluesSéparés, McCartneyGeorge HarrisonEt Ringo Starr et John Lennon
Ex-fan des sixties, petite baby dollComme tu dansais bien le rock'n'rollEx-fan des sixties, où sont tes années folles?Que sont devenues toutes tes idoles?
Disparus Brian Jones, Jim MorrisonEddie Cochrane, Buddy HollyIdem Jimi HendrixOtis ReddingJanis Joplin, T.Rex, Elvis
Disparus Brian Jones, Jim MorrisonEddie Cochrane, Buddy HollyIdem Jimi HendrixOtis ReddingJanis Joplin, T.Rex, Elvis

Monday 17 July 2023


Snetterton is a village between Thetford and Norwich in Norfolk. I've never been to the actual village, but I have been to its famous car racing circuit on many occasions. I once even did two laps in a Lotus Formula Junior race car. It frightened me to death!

In the days when I would go reasonably often, there were two characters who regularly raced against each other in the saloon car category. One raced a Ford Anglia, and the other an Austin A40; both small family cars.

The story goes that Chris Craft (above) and Doc Merfield had garages very close to each other, and when one tweeked something on his engine, the other would do the same. As a result when they raced against each other they would always be bumper to bumper, and their battle would be decided on the final bend (so to speak). Watching them race was always the highlight of any meeting. 

There's something fascinating about 'privateers' who race cars. They're not always like James Hunt or Hamilton, they're often very ordinary people with a garage out back and some home-prepared beast of a car that comes out on race days.

I suppose I would quite liked to have been one of them, but unfortunately I know nothing of mechanics. Chris and Doc definitely influenced my interest in car racing (not F1). If they're still with us, I send them my best wishes.

p.s. I've just seen that Christ Craft died in 2021; he drove the Anglia. What happened to Doc Merfield, I have no idea.

Sunday 16 July 2023

The Sunday Chuckle. Harry Hill's TV Burp - Gordon Ramsey

I just know you're going to love this!

I like Harry Hill. I once went to a show of his at The Theatre Royal in Brighton, and it was hilarious. I don't really have an opinion about Mr Ramsey. 

For those who don't know Harry Hill, he used to be a Doctor (and I believe he still is, although he no longer practices).

Saturday 15 July 2023

La Guinguette.

We mostly associate the word Guinguette with the riverside eating and dancing establishments of 1920's Paris, as seen by Renoir or Van Gogh.

But I recently noticed that a lakeside restaurant that we often frequent is now using the word for their establishment. I've never seen dancing there, but the rest of it fits the bill quite well.

It's a pretty rustic joint. Plastic tables and chairs, simple menu, cheap wine, and pretty waitresses who rush around trying to keep on top of everything. Dogs and small children play between the tables, and people come and go in a very relaxed fashion. Some just come to drink at the wooden-shack bar, and others (like us) come for a very good, and inexpensive, meal. The atmosphere is much as I imagine all modern-day Guinguettes to be.

We usually visit on Friday evenings, when Moules/Frites is de rigeur. But this week we went on a Thursday and ate Duck-n-Chips.

The restaurant is considerably bigger than my photo suggests, but it's all rather haphazard and not too photogenic. One thing I did notice was there were a lot of people smoking there. Something one now never sees back in Blighty.

I must say, I do prefer this type of dining rather than the more formal restaurants around.


Friday 14 July 2023

My lovely boys.

Until a couple of years ago, Haddock's was perfectly tended. The grass was mown, the vegetable beds weeded, and the boys graves kept tidy.

But since I've abandoned my veg' growing I've rather let the whole area become overgrown. I still mow with Rory, but it isn't anything like how it used to be. I can't become inspired.

So I've now taken away the circle of stones that surrounded their graves, and brought their 'headstones' back to the house, where they live on the auvent wall. Their graves are now marked with a large outcrop of Globe Artichoke plants, so there's no chance of forgetting where they're buried.

Of course I still go there and talk to them. I tell them about Billy and how much he would have liked to have met and known them. I also tell them about things that have changed around the garden, and what crops are doing well.

If you don't know my boys, they are on my sidebar to the right. I still think of them every day. Dear Monty our Lab', his great friend Bok, and our gorgeous not-terribly-friendly tabby Fred. When you've kept company with such a nice bunch of lads, you never forget them.


Thursday 13 July 2023

Grattons, Fritons, and Rillettes.

If you should be travelling in France this summer, and are looking for new and interesting foods for your picnic lunch, look no further than Grattons, Rillettes, or Fritons.

All are similar to paté, but are produced differently. Provided they come from a reputable maker, they can be totally delicious. Generally they come in jars, but you will probably find Rillettes at a good deli counter under the name of 'Rillettes du Mans', 'Rillettes d'Oie', or 'Rillettes de Canard'; the first of which will be made from Pork. Be warned, these are quite 'fatty'.

Down our way they are generally made with Duck. The Grattons being a mixture of skin and fat that is coarsely ground then slowly cooked in it's own fat. The cooked Grattons are then lifted from the fat, salted slightly, then pressed into jars, bowls, etc. If the Grattons are processed as bigger pieces, they are very similar to the UK's 'scratchings' (which the French name suggests). 

Rillettes are shredded pieces of Duck meat, that are processed in much the same way as the Grattons. When made at home, the finished products would be topped with a layer of the fat to preserve them. 

Fritons are very similar to Grattons, but they are made with bigger cubes of skin fat and some meat, and are processed in a similar fashion; these would be difficult to find commercially, as they are usually only home-made. The jar above is really Grattons; I don't quite know why they've called them 'Fritons'.

Confused? Yes, so am I.

If you haven't tried it, a jar of Rillettes de Canard with your picnic lunch would be perfect, together with some Jambon de Bayonne and some Goat's cheese of course. One cannot live by Rillettes alone.

Wednesday 12 July 2023


It's been just over a month since we got back to France, and a month since I planted a few Courgette and Broccoli plants at Haddock's.

The garden is full of fruit, some of which we will certainly harvest, or are already; but most probably not. We'll definitely be eating Peaches, Figs, and Plums, but most of the Apples and Pears will probably mature after we return to the UK. I have already told the gardener to help himself. 

The first vegetables to be harvested are a couple of Courgettes. These plants will now continue to bear fruit for the rest of our stay.

Next year I was thinking about growing Tomatoes again, but I believe they take over 90 days to produce edible fruits, so it's out of the question.   

Our Peaches are now ripe. We need to eat them quickly as there are so many! We also have a surfeit of small (Bird?) Plums. They are delicious, but have big pips. And our Greengages have to be seen to be believed. One minute there's nothing, the next we're overwhelmed.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Fat Max

We've just bought a new toy.

'Fat Max' is a Karcher in Stanley clothing. It does exactly the same job, but was about 30 centimes cheaper.

We had become perturbed by the ageing of our poolside flagstones, they had begun to look dirty rather than aged, and we decided we wanted them back to almost 'pristine'.

Fat Max does everything we've asked of him. The flags are now cleaned of nearly 20 years of black mould/algae/lichen, and are looking reasonably like new again. Normally I love the signs of ageing, but not around the pool.

The photo below doesn't to justice to his cleaning powers, but once they're swept clean, and dried, they will look wonderful. You can easily see the difference the pressure-cleaning makes.

I really don't know why we didn't buy one before.

Monday 10 July 2023

Most important room in the house.

This is our 'auvent', which I always think of as the 'most important room in the house'. It's where we sit and drink our pre-supper aperitives when it's too hot to be outside, and it's where we eat in the evenings.

As you can see, I didn't bother to tidy-up before I took the photo; this is how messy it usually is.

The outdoor fridge looks after the white and pink wines, the beers, ciders, and usually a few bottles of Elderflower Champagne. I don't know what happened this year, but those bottles in the wicker basket contain what should have been a part of my supply of Elderflower Champagne; but something went wrong. The opaque liquid had no fizz and was thick like syrup. I've never failed before, but this 2023 failure is quite spectacular. All will be thrown away. I think I must have forgotten to add something; probably the white wine vinegar.

We are having plenty of evening storms at the moment, and this is the perfect spot to witness the drama. It's lovely to sit under a watertight roof and admire all the sights and sounds of a really good storm.

If the evening temperature is around 25 C we take our aperitives outside, in the shade of the Quince tree. Billy then shows-off in front of us by running up and down, jumping in the air, and performing spectacular turns. He now does this every night. He is so happy back here in his native country.


Sunday 9 July 2023


We're a week into the Tour de France, and already the men are being separated from the boys.

The main heroes so far have been Podačar, Vingegaard, Simon Yates, and the tireless and heroic Wout Van Aert. I was still waiting for Cavendish to have his day; he came 2nd recently. Sadly he crashed on Day 8, and broke his collarbone. This was to be his final tour, so a very sad end to an amazing career.

I'm expecting either Podačar and Vingegaard to be on the podium in Paris. Some really spectacular cycling this year, which I'm sure will continue all the way to the Champs Elysée.

This short video will give some idea of the excitement. It also shows some of the 'fans' who make idiots of themselves by running alongside the riders, lighting smoke bombs, and throwing confetti at them.

Saturday 8 July 2023

102 not out.

My eldest, Kimbo, has been a player, and follower, of Cricket for as long as I can remember. He even had a trial for Sussex (unsuccessfully).

Rather than play for his old Brighton club, now that he lives back in 'God's own City', he has decided to continue playing for his Bishop's Stortford club, even though it means a long drive every Saturday.

He's always been a good fast bowler, as well as a hard hitting batsman, and last Saturday he scored his first ever century; assuring him a place on the 'Honours Board'.

A knock of 102 against Harlow (not out) won the game last Saturday, and assured his place in the history of the club.

I'm not sure if he's playing again today, but I quite expect he is. 

Well done Kimbo!

Friday 7 July 2023


This house is an OUTDOOR Summer house, as opposed to our Brighton home, which is more of a Winter INDOOR home.

When we're here we live outdoors, either working in the garden, eating our meals, or walking in the woods. We spend very little time indoors; even when it's raining we tend to sit outside on our covered terrace.

In Brighton we have no garden to speak of, just a tiny patio. If we wish to sit outside on a sunny day we huddle around our small patio table or go to one of the nearby parks. We used to have a small bench out front, but it has now disappeared. 

Here it is quiet; you can actually hear the silence. In Brighton there is often a very slight distant hum of activity. We can just about hear the wheels in motion, even if we can't quite see them.

In England we have a good selection of quality stores within easy reach of home; here I need to drive about 20 Kms, which I shall be doing later today. 

I love both locations equally.

Thursday 6 July 2023


How much do you pay for your bread?

Every time I visit my favourite supermarket I grab a couple of Baguettes. Generally I never look at the prices of things I buy, but yesterday I did. My Baguettes cost 39 centimes each, which I think is about 33p in UK money. This does seem remarkably cheap, but I must admit that it's not the best bread in the world.

It's quite a soft Baguette which is perfect for sandwiches, or with paté, and it usually accompanies our lunchtime salads and charcuterie. It serves our purpose well.

They also freeze very well. One always gets cut in half and placed in the freezer, they come out again in perfect condition.

The same type of simple Baguette is over twice the price in a bakery.


Wednesday 5 July 2023

Boo Boo's Peaches.

This is the Peach tree that I planted on the day that Boo Boo took his first breath of fresh air on 20. 4. 2014. It is HIS tree.

When it decides to fruit, it does so in abundance. 2023 is one such year. The tree is covered in slowly swelling fruits, which should be ripe quite soon.

Our only problem will be trying to eat them all.

Sadly Boo Boo won't be here to enjoy any of them himself. He's just moved from Oz to a small island in Thailand, where my youngest has been building a villa. It is now finished, and rather that let it (which was their original intention), they have decided to live there instead.

As it's only recently been completed, it apparently has teething problems. Some of the plumbing is a bit erratic, and the pool is green. Otherwise they're very happy with it. By the look of it, I think they need a gardener too!

Here are Kellogg, Boo Boo, and the Cherub about to Christen the green water.

Tuesday 4 July 2023

Then and Now.

This is my 1996 watercolour of the nearby ruin that I posted just over a week ago.

And this (below) is the same building today. 

It hasn't changed too much since 1996, but more of the roof has fallen in, one of the chimneys is now missing, and the extreme right has become completely covered in Ivy. The wooden structure of the porch has totally disappeared.

It wouldn't take much to bring it back to life. It would make a lovely house again if sympathetically restored. It doesn't have water or electricity, but both are only 50 metres away.


Monday 3 July 2023

The New Address

As advised, I have now screwed our new enamel house number onto our letter box, where it can clearly be seen by anyone who might wish to find us (provided they know our number).

Having previously been reached by our name, and that of our tiny hamlet, we now have both a house number and a street address that should (we are advised) be used at all times.

However, I did notice that on the letter that accompanied the delivery of our new number plaque, that the mayor's office failed to use their own new address, and where the letter had been addressed to us on the envelope, they didn't use our new one either.

I have owned this small house for about 45 of my 50 years residence in France, but I have obviously failed to notice one very important thing. Being number 268, I had failed to notice the other 265 homes further up the road in our tiny 3 house hamlet. Where can they be?

Lord, give me strength. 


Sunday 2 July 2023

Three memorable encounters.

When I quit my job in The City in the mid-60's, I took a very poorly paid post as the Manager of a small independent Art Gallery in Devonshire Street, W1. It was called 'The Fine Art Gallery'.

Living in Central London in the mid-60's was a lot of fun. It was a period of great change (Swinging London, etc) and 'celebs' seemed to be everywhere.

At the Gallery itself I met quite a few interesting people, but there were three who were probably more remarkable than all the others put together.

Firstly dear Brian Sewell (above). Brian was a good friend of my boss Nicholas (Miklos Vilag), and he would come to the Gallery quite often. His plumiest of plummy accents was quite extraordinary; he must have worked hard on it for years. He was both comically pompous, and extremely knowledgeable. I rather liked him.

Secondly someone that almost everyone will have heard of; Paul McCartney. Paul was dating Jane Asher at the time, and she lived just around the corner in Harley Street. He would often spend a while in the Gallery before the allotted hour of his 'date'. I did have my photo taken with him, but my idiot boss Nicholas didn't have any film in his camera. What a plonker; I was furious.

Thirdly was probably the most memorable. My friend Camille Honig phoned and said quite simply "Don't leave the Gallery on any account". I was alone at the Gallery when he turned-up a little while later accompanied by Igor Stravinsky. I chatted with him for about ten minutes; firstly in English, then for no apparent reason in French. I don't recall what we spoke about; I was probably too overawed. Nicholas was furious that he'd been out, and hadn't met him.

I later moved to SW3 where I ran my own antiques business. Chelsea in those days was overflowing with celebs (and probably still is), and one thought nothing of it. But I always felt like shouting out loud "Hey everyone, I've met Stravinsky".

Yes, I know this is terrible 'name dropping', but I don't care. When you've met and talked to someone like Stravinsky, you want to shout it from the roof tops.

Saturday 1 July 2023

So, how are things in France Cro?

Well, much as usual, the French just love taking to the streets. Whether the cause be well-founded or trivial the French youth do love a good riot. Any excuse to lob a few bricks at the cops will see these professional arsonists and looters leave their homes and travel to wherever the pickings are thought to be best.

Here they are, performing their favourite Summer evening activities.

Another nail in the urban coffin.

Regular visitors to this page will know that I had a favourite nearby restaurant, that I've been visiting for 50 years; albeit under several different ownerships.

Last year it was run by the lovely Natalie, and we would visit regularly for their totally superb 'Steak and Chips'; the steaks were always wonderfully generous and tender.

Now, sadly, the Hotel/Restaurant is under new ownership, and we hear that Natalie is heading for one of the French Caribbean islands (Reunion I think).

We went on Thursday evening, and I was very interested to see how it would compare to Natalie's tenure (see new menu above).

Oh dear, oh dear. I chose the Magret, and Lady M the Confit, accompanied by (as it states on the menu) chips, rice, or green beans. You can't really go wrong with magret and confit, but where were the chips?

No chips or salad, instead of which we were both offered a small spoonful of mixed insipid boiled vegetables that had no doubt been re-heated in a hot water bath. The whole effect was abysmal. The bottle of local 'Bergerac' was probably the best bit.

They had even changed the name of the hotel. Previously it was always known as the Hotel du Commerce, but now it's the Eden Auberge. And the restaurant itself has become Aux Multiples Saveurs; how pompous is that!

This is not good news. Our small nearby town goes from bad to worse, and I'm afraid that the dumbing-down of the restaurant is almost a final nail in the coffin. We shall certainly NOT be going again. What were they thinking; if anything they should have tried to improve.

We have one more new nearby restaurant to inspect. It's further away, and I'm hoping that the standards will be higher than the AMS. Otherwise, that's it. In future we shall eat at home; a good steak is less than half the price if I prepare it myself.

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