Sunday, 31 October 2010
I have two questions. Why do these people think it so necessary to go around tagging every wild creature they come across? And secondly, who gives them the effing permission to do so?
Of course I can appreciate the desire to understand certain elements of migration, breeding patterns, and species quantities, but on the principal that wild animals either belong to no-one or to everyone, how come MY or YOUR permission has never been sought for tag-requiring-studies?
Why can't we just leave wild animals alone, it's the human intervention that does them so much harm. Our Zoos seem to be filled with named, tagged, and numbered endangered species; all there for 'conservation purposes'. A few years back some zoo-bred wolves and bears were 're-introduced into the wild', onto the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain (at huge expense). These human-trusting creatures survive by eating sheep, so the local farmers shot them. So much for 'zoological conservation'.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Some dress-up in witch, ghost, or skeleton costumes. Some use it as an opportunity to hone their blackmailing skills (give us some sweets or we'll smash your windows). And some (ahem) try to ignore its very existance, by becoming deaf to the door bell.
Here in France, Toussaint is the time for chrysanthemums. These wretched plants are EVERYWHERE. I'm not even sure if it isn't obligatory to purchase them. Graveyards become carpeted with thousands of potted plants, and their foul smell and horrendous colours invade every supermarket, petrol station forecourt, and roadside lay-by.
Toussaint used to be the time when I quit France for the winter; prefering the much more sedate English celebrations of Guy Fawkes Night (Nov 5). In Sussex, we burn effigies of Guido (Guy Fawkes) himself, The Pope, and usually a most-hated politician or celeb, atop huge bonfires. All accompanied by wonderfully dangerous processions and firework displays.
If Pope burning sounds like your sort of entertainment, you can glean more info about Guy Fawkes Night in Sussex (see picture above) on the web. Google 'Lewes Bonfire Night'. You might be surprised by what we get up to.
Friday, 29 October 2010
Some time back I posted another, quite similar, student-days self portrait (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; 8th June 2010), done when I must have been about 22/23.
This one, which I probably painted just days later, I'd almost forgotten about. It's been sitting on a top shelf in the studio gathering cobwebs and cracking-up for years. I think a twelfth generation of mice are still in residence behind it. I couldn't get it down to take the photo, so that's why the elongation is as such; the blue bit bottom right is a fly spray thingy that just got in the way, nothing to do with the picture.
There must be thousands of such pictures stuffed away in dusty lofts, all painted by ex-young-high-minded-aspiring-student-artists.
I wonder what I was thinking about; what my ambitions were? I do remember what was mostly on my mind in those days, but that's another story....
Thursday, 28 October 2010
I always manage to end up with a blank space when I post anything from You Tube. Just scroll down... It's there, I promise.
I need a little laughter in my life at the moment, so here is some English comedy at it's best. Sir Norman Fry (David Walliams) could be any one of dozens of our 'real-life' politicians. Matt Lucas is perfect in the role of his all-knowing, all-forgiving (ahem), wife.
British politics is such fun; it's filled with characters like Sir Norman Fry, and we just can't wait for the next juicy scandal to come along. Talking of which, there should be another one quite soon!
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
However, Cro is alive and well, and extrememly pleased to be so. OK. I have one or two little niggles that I could do without (a dodgy knee, diabetes, and a spot of sciatica), but the Teeth, Tripes, and Waste Systems (very important), all function as designed.
Maybe my pleasure in being alive is because I live in a place that I love, I'm completely mobile, and my current building project is both fulfilling and going according to plan; proving (I suppose) that the brain also continues to function reasonably well. None of my three children is in jail. None of them is a junkie. And none of them is stupidly over-ambitious for either celebrity, or wealth.
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Monday, 25 October 2010
Lady Magnon has been begging me to show her how to tile a roof. So I've given in and allowed her to get up that ladder.
This picture makes everything look so small; but it certainly doesn't feel like that from the top of the roof. Cementing those ridge tiles is seriously hazardous. Maybe I'll instruct Lady M to do that too!!
Oh no, it's monday! Can't we have two sundays? It poured all day yesterday.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Saturday, 23 October 2010
So, here they are. Our hand-made roof tiles have arrived. 1100 tiles all with the makers distinctive finger prints on the top half. The bottom half (the half that shows) is sprinkled with a gritty sand before firing to give them that delicious 'digestive biscuit' grainy look.
Friday, 22 October 2010
The Gap Year has now become standard, coming of age, practice.
In my day there was really no choice. You either went directly to University, or directly to work; I chose the latter.
These days no self respecting school-leaver would dream of doing either. They're off to India, on to Oz, buy a van, pick some fruit, get arrested, pick more fruit, on to Thailand, phone home for money; and when they realise that 5 years have somehow flitted-by, make one final grasp at freedom by staying in a squat in Paris. Then, and only then, when the centimes have completely run dry (and parents refuse to cough-up any more), will they finally make for home.
All three of my children took time off to travel, and all three returned wiser, more independent, and focused.
Above is Junior Magnon (the last to travel) with his lovely Swedish/Russian girlfriend, Kellogg, photographing themselves somewhere (in their van) in Oz.
I have only one gripe with the Gap Year ethos; it tends to teach children that the only time to contact parents is when you're BROKE.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Give them a bus to burn, a brick to lob, or a trailor-full of manure to dump, and they're as happy as a 'cochon en merde'.
I really couldn't give a fig about the age of retirement in France, most people want to continue working past retirement age anyway. But I do want to be able to buy petrol without a hoard of pimply be-masked yoofs shouting at me in my car and giving me the one-finger salute.
Go on Sarko. Give in now, it'll save you the bother later.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
I'm having a crisis at Haddock's. The wretched deer are slowly munching their way through my winter greens, and I'm having to cover their favourites with ramshakle wire netting. Otherwise they simply jump over fencing, and eat at their leisure. I'm going to have to do something more secure for 2011.
Luckily there are certain things they don't seem to care for, these include Cabbage, Kale, and Sprouts (a bit like a lot of humans I know). The late planted autumn cabbages (above) are amazing. I don't think I've ever grown such beauties. The carrots, to their right, have all had their tops nibbled off, but the carrots beneath, thankfully, are OK.
Monday, 18 October 2010
Unfortunately the weather was against a big turn-out, but who cares. We bought a bottle of freshly squeezed apple juice, and returned to our first proper fire of the season. Perfect for a cold rainy afternoon, there was even a Norman Wisdom film on TV.... Mister GRIMSDALE!!!
Sunday, 17 October 2010
This question has no doubt been asked many times before, but subsequent to Andrew Marr's statement (thank you Tom), who or what are bloggers? There seems to be a number of constants. When I read the 'about me' profiles of different bloggers, several things crop up time after time.
Of course, above all we love writing. We are often involved with 'the arts'. We are outdoor people, gardeners, and nature lovers. I think we probably like animals. We are family conscious. We read. We go to the theatre and the cinema. Hopefully, we are cultured individuals.
We are probably insomniacs, as we always find the time to do things that others don't. We are disciplined folk.
We probably like antiques. We would certainly never drink from, or eat off, plastic. We are also lovers of good food; what we eat, and where it comes from, is important to us.
I think we are 'good' people. We don't steal or act irresponsibly. We are probably how we wish our friends to be.
Do you recognise yourself?
Saturday, 16 October 2010
My oldest son, Kimbo, and his family will be quitting Edinburgh any day now, and moving down south to London; well, just north of London.
He's not decided where he'll be living as yet, but he likes the look of St Albans. Unfortunately so do many others, hence it's one of the most expensive places in England.
St Albans is a fine city with a beautiful cathedral. In Roman times it was the first main town out of London when heading north on Watling Street; originally known as Verulamium.
Last night my son's staff threw a huge party in his honour; which he was attending in full Scottish regalia evening dress. We had a preview via Skype; sporran, sgian dubh, ghillie brogues, et al. Hmmm. Hope he got home all right!
Friday, 15 October 2010
I don't know why, but this year French supermarkets seem to have run out of jars of pickled chillis. Did last year's world-chilli-crop fail? As an addict I find this unacceptable, so I'm having to produce my own.
I buy these biggish, reasonably hot, green chillis from my supermarket at about €2 per kilo. The preparation is child's-play. I do about one kilo at each go.
Cut off the stems, slice halfway down one side, and carefully remove most of the interior seeds with a small spoon. Then when washed and dried, sprinkle with salt (about a serving-spoon full), and cover with a clean cloth. I stir them around about twice each day as they release water. After 4 days wash them thoroughly to remove the salt, pack into a suitably sized jars, and cover with vinager. I also add about 2 tablespoons of sugar. After about 1 or 2 weeks they are ready to eat; but don't keep them too long.
As with all preserves it's wise to keep an exact record of your quantities, then for your second batch you'll know what to add more, or less, of. The same goes for 'Grandma's and Eggs'.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
These are very old grafted trees that produce excellent quality nuts. Unfortunately disease has now claimed many amongst them, and I fear for these two also. Notice where the cows have been rubbing themselves against the delicious swirling and knarled bark.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
I'm sorry to go on about my wretched roof, but there's no doubt about it; I cocked-up big time.
This is what comes of being a rank amateur, and trying to work things out on paper, or in one's head, rather than asking a seasoned professional.
You see the small 'planks' that come out from the longer ones (the ones that end up right on the edge to make the 'sweep'), well they're too long, and will all have to come off and be re-cut.
Part of the whole roof effect involves the final tile of the overhang lifting slightly to create that pert and sexy curve that makes local buildings so special; and I got it wrong.
So, yesterday I took them all off, re-cut them, and re-positioned them. It pained me to do it but it was essential.
The waste of a day? Not really. Hopefully it'll give peace of mind for ever after, and if this is my only major fault, then I guess I should be happy. Only time will tell.
Actually, yesterday went very well. Not only did we do all the above but we also got most of the new waterproof membrane up, Lady Magnon single-handedly installed a thick layer of insulation (horrible job), and I even started nailing up the laths. Dinner last night was eaten with smiles; and very few expletives.
Another hot sunny day is forecast for today, so things should advance well. In a few days time we'll probably be blaming our tile-maker for keeping us inactive (if he does).
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Monday, 11 October 2010
I'm not going to give you the complete recipe; just a hint of the alchemy. If it sounds to your taste, then Google will provide the exact details.
Sussex Pond is classic 'nursery food'. A steamed suet crust pastry, filled with a whole multi-pierced lemon, butter, and sugar, then steam-cooked for 3 or 4 hrs. The stock-photo I've used doesn't really do it justice.
Amazingly (for a good Sussex boy) I've only ever eaten this ONCE. My friend Terry (an honorary Sussex-girl) cooked it for me, almost by cohersion. We all agreed that it was overly SWEET, so if the idea appeals try making it with about HALF the recommended amount of sugar.
N.B. This 'half the sugar' business applies to jam-making and almost everything else you can think of. Everything tastes so much better less sweet! When I was first married, the authoritarian Lady Magnon insisted that I stop lacing my tea and coffee with sugar; I have since been eternally grateful.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Everything has its highs and lows. And yesterday I experienced both.
My saturday project was to finish the 'sweep', and cover the whole structure with a waterproof membrane.
The sweep outwards just above the 'genoise' is (I think) typically French. It may look like a rather sharp change of angle in it's raw state, but when tiled it softens to a more gentle and sexy curve. It changes the look of a roof from being severe and angular, to fairy-tale and welcoming.
Lady Magnon has lost her fear of ladders and heights, and was running up and down like a pro. So we worked very well as a team, and finished the woodwork in no time.
However, the rolls of silver, multi layer, all-dancing, waterproof, insulating stuff, proved to be a complete bloody nightmare. Firstly the layers were not sandwiched together properly, as I'd imagined. They were simply lying on top of each other, rather like seven layers of tissue paper. As soon as a section was cut, it would fall apart. This stuff might be OK for the interior wall of a garage, but for a tall pointed roof; NO THANKS. An expensive purchase that I ripped off the roof again, in total anger and disillusion; it's now been dumped.
I shall wait until monday and revert to my tried and tested reinforced transparent plastic sheeting. If it's still available.
It's a horrible feeling to be so elated one moment, then completely depressed the next, but unfortunately that's how yesterday finished.
As you can probably see from the above photo, the whole place is a mess. I've simply had no time to tidy up, mow grass, gather fallen quinces etc. I think I need floodlighting... then I could probably continue to work at night!
Saturday, 9 October 2010
And this is how we finished the day, with still quite a lot more to do. I don't think I've been more tired after a day's work for yonks. I was exhausted. Lady M, I'm pleased to say, was as fresh as a daisy. Women are so much stronger. She and I did all the work by ourselves, and it was a stinking hot day.
I've just seen that rain is forecast. So if anyone knows of a rain dance that will hold off the possibility of a downpour over the next few days; I'd be extremely grateful. I'm putting the music on now; lots of dancing PLEASE.
Friday, 8 October 2010
I'm still having trouble with blank spaces, but do scroll down for a moment of fun!
Laughter really is the best medicine, so having recently posted a sample of 'Round the Horne', I'm now offering a snippit from another BBC radio comedy show 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'.
I apologise in advance to all our trans-pond cousins, but some of you really must have voted for this guy!!!
The Question Master on the show was Humphrey Lyttleton, the jazz musician. A rare talent, sadly no longer with us; Humph went his way in 2008. They tried, but I'm afraid the programme didn't survive his demise.
Thursday, 7 October 2010
So, I give her a good wash, Hoover the inside, and remove all the old sweet wrappers from under Lady M's seat. I deliver the car, and explain to the mechanic that she's in the rudest of health. Then he kicks the tyres before trying to shake her to bits. If she survives the proscribed shaking time, he kicks the tyres again and gives me a little piece of paper that I have to stick in her front window. That's it for another two years.
Just in case anyone isn't aware, we have NO ROAD TAX in France. So in the front window of all French cars you'll find just two small square bits of paper. Proof of tyre kicking, and proof that she's fully insured. That's it!