Saturday, 31 August 2013

Bring Back The Stocks.


                                     

There's a lot to be said for a return to simple, cheap, punishment for minor criminals.

Stocks are easy to make, and would cost next to nothing. I would even be prepared to manufacture them myself. 'Stocks-r-us' could be established almost over night.

I propose that small-time criminals (shoplifters, onesie wearers, bankers, etc) be sentenced to just a few weeks incarceration. The Stocks would be delivered to a public place near to the miscreants home, and he/she would just be left to get on with things. It would be the responsibility of the person's family to feed, clean, and look-after the poor fool. Passers-by would, of course, be encouraged to throw eggs, shout insults, and offer Coke bottles filled with vinegar. All good harmless fun.

A test run could begin almost at once, just to see how things go.

I would also reluctantly accept a small 10% commission on all money saved by HM's Prison Service.

So, come on Dave; now that you're no longer going to war, give us some old fashioned fun, save the country even more money, and make me rich!




Friday, 30 August 2013

Mr or Mrs Tiggywinkle.




You never know what you might find in the garden.

Lady Magnon was tidying up our wood pile area, prior to this winter's delivery, when she found the above. The poor frightened thing curled itself into a ball and stayed like that.

We found a nice cosy new spot for him/her, away from danger, and left it in peace.


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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Canine ZZZZZZZZZZ's.




No, it's not a visiting Great Dane, it's Monty having spent the night on Lady Magnon's sofa.

The poor boy has been having back leg problems recently (early hip dysplasia?), so Lady M has been pampering him even more than usual. Tasty bits of steak from her plate, extra treats when she thinks I'm not looking, and forbidden nights spent on her comfy sofa.

He is, of course, her 'baby', so he's having masses of special attention heaped upon him.

Swimming in the lake every day (it's supposed to be good for him), giant Cod liver oil pills (they're supposed to be good for him), and plenty of time spent snoozing on her sofa (she thinks that's definitely good for him).

Oh, and I forgot to mention; Bok sleeps most nights on MY sofa too! Naughty boy.


Whoever coined the phrase 'rules are meant to be broken' was an idiot (and 100% correct).



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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Topsy Turvy Haddock's.




Haddock's is driving me crazy this year. It's August 28th, and above is the first of my pukka tomatoes to ripen. Just one so far, and as you can probably see, still not completely ripe.



On top of which I am having to compost several tons of grapes and far too many courgettes. The grapes because otherwise we become inundated with huge sugar-hungry Hornets, and the courgettes simply because we have too many, as does everyone else.

I am now seriously beginning to wonder if I'll actually get to bottle much ratatouille, or other tomato based preserves this year.

I have lifted the onions, and grubbed-up the beans. We have wonderful carrots, big fat savoy type cabbages, and our Swiss chard is superb. We also have loads of peppers and aubergines. But the tomatoes are infuriating! 

If I can't start preserving soon, we just may have to buy certain vegetables this winter. Quelle horreur!!!


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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Life's occasional blips.


                                    
                                         
I must thank my dear friend Sue in Jo'burg for this photo.

As soon as I saw the above, it rang some strange bells in my brain. For some bizarre reason it made me think of someone I really wanted to PUNCH a few years ago; but, wisely resisted, avoiding a what could have been a complicated situation.

I have always been an 'anything for a quiet life' sort of bloke. I avoid confrontation at all costs.

This not to say that I haven't had my moments. I think I've 'downed' just two people in the last 50 years; both were idiot motorists! I'm quite a big lad; 6 ft 2 ins, and 16 stone, so I'm not to be messed with. Just two on-target punches in 50 years makes me, I reckon, something of a pacifist.

Generally I turn the other cheek, and hope that any adversary is wise enough to do likewise. But the best is always to avoid pugnacious situations..... maybe that's why I now live miles from urban sprawl.

Of course I've also been on the receiving end of violence. Back in the 60's I was taken unawares by two drunken Irishmen, just a few yards from my Bayswater bed-sit. They asked the time, and BANG; I was on the floor having my head kicked-in... they stole my watch, my wallet, and much of my rugby-player's pride.

Whilst playing Rugby one always played against teams of just plain THUGS, who's only intention (other than winning) was to cause as much physical damage as possible; and they did. But in those situations one always had the opportunity of returning the favour a few minutes later; and we did.

There are also times when I've really regretted NOT 'downing' someone, but instinct has always intervened when I've spotted that oikish 'I'll run and tell the cops' look on their face (para 2). I've never fancied seeing the inside of a prison, so certain people have got away with a lot.

I'm not proud of my rare hot-headedness, but nor am I ashamed of it. It's rather like that fallen branch in the photo; something probably best avoided. But in life one sometimes encounters folk who ask to be punched, who need to be punched, or occasionally just have to be punched.


Monday, 26 August 2013

The Local Antiques Fair.




This last weekend, our nearest town held its annual Antiques Fair. There are always wonderful things, and always at wonderful prices.



There are bits-n-pieces of all sorts,



some fabulous carpets (I loved this stripy one above),



and all the usual old pots-n-pans.

We didn't buy anything; in fact I didn't really see anything I coveted (other than the carpet).

Give me a good old 'Boot Sale' any day; from those I rarely come home empty-handed!



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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Holiday Education.




I genuinely believe that travel, being with family, socialising, eating out, visiting world-famous sites, attempting to speak other languages, and generally doing non-academic things, is possibly the best education any child could have.

It didn't seem so at the time, but I'm certain that my own time abroad, as a young person, was far more educational than 1000 Geography lessons.

This may sound strange, but I can clearly remember when about 8, on my first visit abroad, being quite surprised to discover that in France they had classical orchestras; just like we did at home. On reflection, I suppose the only things I'd ever previously learned about our near neighbours were the dates, protagonists, and locations of wars, and I'd ended-up thinking of them as an uncivilised, bellicose, people.

On that same first visit I was taken to a wonderful open-air restaurant (somewhere in Normandy) which boasted a stream running between two distinct sides of the semi-open-air 'building'. Every so often a chef would appear with a giant net, and scoop-up a couple of kilos of wriggling silver 'tiddlers' which were immediately dropped into a huge vat of boiling oil. They were then scooped-out almost at once, lightly salted, and served to the eager diners; including myself. This to me, aged 8ish, was the height of sophistication.

Symphony orchestras, and dining with flourish; why had I never been taught about such things at school? Maybe that was the start of my life-long love of France, but no thanks to my Geography teachers.
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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Cro & Co; Architects to the Rich and Famous!


                                

Before leaving school, I wanted to become an Architect.

I applied to an Architectural School that was connected to The Art College in Brighton; it came highly recommended, and had an excellent reputation.

I was accepted onto the 3 year course, and some time later I received a letter from The Principal asking me to go down to meet him. I organised the three trains required.

After my interview my mother was to pick me up, I'd stay the weekend at my parent's nearby south-coast home, then take the train back to school on the Sunday afternoon. There were still about three weeks of term-time left.

At my interview The Principal suddenly showed a nasty 'chip-on-shoulder' attitude, and began to attack the type of schooling I'd received.

"Don't think you're going to come here, and design bloody great multi-million pound mansions for your old Public School chums in Windsor or Henley-on-Thames" he shouted. "Architecture is all about SEWERS; that's what we'll teach you.... SEWERS, SEWERS".

I don't think I'd ever encountered such overt class-hatred before, and I instantly realised that 3 years spent studying under such an evil inverted-snob would be impossible.

"Well, you can stuff your fucking SEWER course" I told him. "And I shall now consider other non-fucking-SEWER related options". I think I even slammed the door behind me.

My mother was not happy with my having rejected his course (I didn't tell her the exact words I'd employed); she'd been going around telling all her friends that I was going to be a famous Architect (as all mothers would).

So, that's why I became a 'Blue Button' Stockbroker instead. I'm sure he was much happier without me on his fucking SEWER course; although I can't say I was particularly happy in The City. But that's another story.

Am I a frustrated Architect? No, I don't think so, but I'm still fuming about his horrible attitude; hence THIS, all those years later!




Friday, 23 August 2013

Cheap at half the price.


                            

Just under 2000 years ago, during the reign of Nero, a certain 'martyr' named Saint Torpes was beheaded in Italy's Pisa.

His body was placed in a rotten boat along with a Cockerel and a Dog (don't ask me why), and pushed out to sea. His remains were eventually washed-up on a beach on the southern coast of France.

That spot eventually became the small Provençal town that we now know as St Tropez.

I suppose that most people associate St Tropez with Brigitte Bardot, nudist beaches, and outrageous prices.

Back in the late 80's, someone I know extremely well (I won't mention his name for fear of his being arrested) was working just behind St Trop as the 'work experience' part of his university course.

One weekend he visited the infamous town and settled down outside a small attractive café overlooking the bay. He ordered a beer and was stunned to receive a bill of something like £12 (a fortune for a penniless student).

He thought about it for a while, drank his beer, then ordered a second. As soon as the waiter's back was turned, he 'did a runner' (I must say that I thoroughly approved of this action).

I was reminded of this story after reading that 4 Italian tourists were recently charged €120 for 4 coffees, at a café in St Mark's Square, Venice.

Something rotten landed at St Tropez all those years ago; it just surprises me that the headless Saint Torpes wasn't pushed into the sea from Venice! It seems to suit the town's style much more than Pisa's.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

New Pots for Crimbo.




I am reliably informed that if one plants a 'chitted' potato in a pot in September (it's almost September), one will have a crop of new potatoes for Christmas.

Well I had just one sprouting potato sitting, looking lost, in the kitchen, so decided to give it a go. I filled a largish pot with compost and stuck it in. One week later and, voila, it's already sprouted tiny leaves.

There's no reason why we now shouldn't have new potatoes with our cold Turkey; I'll let you know around December 25th. 
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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bramble Jelly Season.




The hedgerows are now filled with Blackberries, and we went on our first serious picking sortie yesterday morning; walking stick, basket, punnets.  We had a reasonable haul, and we shall go again in a couple of days time.


I had just enough for 3 small pots of jelly, plus a wee taster for tomorrow's breakfast.

Anyone who has not tasted proper home-made Bramble Jelly, just ain't lived! 

In my not-so-humble opinion it's the finest tasting fruit jelly/jam in the world.



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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Gibraltar.


                                  

Gibraltar (as some are aware) is where Cro and Lady Magnon agreed to love, honour, and obey each other; apart from which, it's a delightful BRITISH outpost at the delightful mouth of the delightful Mediterranean Sea.

But, what a weak, spineless, pathetic, bunch of yellow-livered, mamby-pamby, Nancy-boy, politicians we have back in the UK; in relation to Gibraltar's continued Britishness.

Those bullfighting, donkey tossing, paella eating, Spaniards are up to their puerile tricks again. Like the Argies before them, just when they can see the bottom of the bottomless pit they try to distract their anxious population with a spot of jingoism.

So Mr Cameron, if they're going to play silly buggers, what are you going to do about it?

May I suggest (for a start) that you now make 3 separate gates at all UK immigration points; EU Nationals, Non-EU Nationals, and Spanish Nationals. And guess how long it might take our Spanish friends to get through? May I suggest at least a week (during which time they would have to surrender their shameful toy-town Spanish passports for very close and painstaking inspection, and submit to a full 'intimate' body search for drugs etc)!

And what about a basic road tax for all incoming Spanish lorries, trucks, and cars as they disembark at Dover (and elsewhere). Maybe £2,000 for lorries, £1,000 for smaller trucks, and £600 for cars (per person, per day, of course).

If that ain't a reasonable enough red rag answer to their posturing bull(shit); then I don't know what is!

So get off the bloody fence Dave. It no use just passing the buck to the EU courts of injustice, pull your bloody finger out NOW.

All that, and I didn't even mention Cueta; damn, I just did!





Monday, 19 August 2013

More Boot Sale Stuff.




Yesterday (Sun 18 Aug) we attended one of the largest and best of our local 'Boot Sales', in the nearby village of Cazals (here they might even refer to it as a 'town').

No-one's mentioned candlesticks for a while, so I've remedied that by buying a pair of antique, black and gold, wooden, 33inch, ecclesiastical-looking, sticks. I also bought a piece of heavy gilded ormolu 'swaggery' which will replace the missing piece atop an antique mirror, and of course I can't resist a dark green rustic plate.   

I'm happy with my haul; especially the sticks which should be perfect for the barn (when it's finished).

The sale at Cazals is HUGE, and we only managed to see about half of it before it became unpleasantly hot, and we headed for the cool of home.

We were tempted by plenty of other things, but wisdom prevented further rash purchases.


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Sunday, 18 August 2013

A very pleasant evening.


 

We had guests last night.

Above is Peanut Minor, whose sister Peanut Major was also in attendance.

It was their lovely mother's birthday, and I've just noticed that we forgot to give her her birthday prezzie. How stupid can one get!

Luckily not everyone walked home on their hands and knees. 

It was a gorgeously warm evening; perfect weather for eating outdoors.

Go on... you're allowed to say aaaaaarh.
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Saturday, 17 August 2013

As Warm as Soggy Toast.




If you can be bothered to enlarge this photo, squint a bit, and use a magnifying glass, you will see that the temperature shows just slightly above 28C.

When we opened the pool just before the beginning of June (and found pure green sludge), the water registered 21C. Almost at once the outdoor temperature rose, and we had a long spell of above average warmth. It wasn't long before the green slime was banished, and the pool temperature rose enough to allow swimming.

This year's long hot summer seems to have been universal, and the water has remained at around 28C almost since our first dip. We do have a 'Solar Cover' which not only preserves the water's temperature over night, but can actually increase the temperature if left on during the day. It certainly seems to have done it's job this year. My neighbour's larger, but permanently uncovered pool, has been at a miserable 21C for weeks; brrrrr.

One of my insistences when swimming is that I exit in warm sunshine. If the water temperature is perfect but there is a cloudy sky, I remain a landlubber. However, if it is hot outside I will even suffer lower water temperatures than I usually otherwise demand.


We've had a really wonderful swimming year so far; one of the best ever.... long may it last.


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Friday, 16 August 2013

Bacon? No, Ham!




Ham can be made from any part of the pig, but traditionally the leg, the shoulder, and the belly.

This, above, could either be called bacon or ham, but it is specially made to be eaten raw; so I shall call it ham.

It is dry-salted for one week (with the addition of some brown sugar and roughly ground black pepper), then hung-up to dry for about a month; during which time it could also be cold smoked.

One could just fry it like bacon, but that subtle flavour of 'Parma' type ham (the delicious fat just melts in your mouth) would be lost. Best to eat it in thin slivers with bread and unsalted butter, and maybe a glass or two of rouge.

It's quite possible that such delights are unavailable where you live, but making it at home is child's-play! Just make sure you find a supplier of really good quality, naturally reared, pork belly; and buy the thinner fatty end.

Hugh Fearnley-Thing's recipe can be found here, or see his 2001 'River Cottage Cookbook'.

N.B. This is not the same 'bacon' that I posted about some time back; that was proper bacon, this is proper ham!


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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Biggest is Best?


                               

It is a well-known and well-documented phenomenon of 'new world' countries, that they compensate for a lack of 'oldest' or 'most exquisite', by substituting 'biggest' or 'tallest' or 'heaviest', etc. This, one imagines, stems from some kind of collective national complex, and they simply want to 'put matters right'.

The greatest exponent of the activity has to be the dear old USA. Who else would have cut a monument as outrageous as Mount Rushmore, created the biggest beefburger (above), or even constructed the biggest ever slice of watermelon.

But I was interested to hear recently that this is not limited to our trans-pond cousins, and that Australia now has it's own range of monstrous monuments, known as Australia's 'BIG THINGS'.

Amongst its extensive range of nonsense it claims to have the biggest banana, lobster, guitar, koala, pineapple, gum boot, paper clip, and.........

                             File:BigAxe Kew.jpg

axe.

If I had to chose between 'oldest' and 'biggest', I still think I'd go for the former.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Anticipation and Reality.




In Spring all our trees were overloaded with flowers, but only now can we see what fruit we'll actually be getting. This was the Bramley in April.



And here it is now. It never fails, and is fully loaded. Otherwise our harvest looks to be much smaller than anticipated.

We have a few Pears, not a bad crop of Apples, but not nearly as many Peaches as we'd hoped. Our Plums are dismal, most of our Greengages are wormy, and our table Grapes rather thin on the vine. The Figs, of course, are abundant (they always are).

I don't want to sound as if I'm moaning; we will have plenty of fruit, just not the huge amount we were expecting.

The worst bit is having to wait another WHOLE YEAR to see if the 2014 crop will do any better.

p.s. Still no ripe Tomatoes!


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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Goodbye Boys; Come Back Soon!




Cousin Camp has come to an end, silence reigns but the memories live-on. The boys will all miss each other, the dogs will only have us to amuse them, and the tree-house will be as quiet as a sunken galleon.

The next time they all meet-up, the 8 year olds will probably both be about 12, and they'll no doubt be sneaking off behind some shed for a cig', or lusting after the local girlies (or both). They will sit around giggling and grunting, and more than likely refuse to join in with the 'childish' games of their 10 year old siblings. Their hands will definitely be glued to an i-something.

In the meantime we'll keep saying how very quiet it is, and we'll return to sleeping in the 'tower'. We'll also return to eating simple pasta dishes and curries, and all those horrible tiny multi-coloured tubs of disgustingly sweet fruitex-flavoured yoghurts will be banished from the fridge. 

We'll smile at the best of the summer's photos, we'll be able to drive off to the shops without crushing much-loved toys, and Lady M will return to watching Eastenders.


With the child-tornado now having moved on (Harvey J and Ollie to Germany for 2 weeks, and GHG and Finn to Brighton for 3 weeks), it seems like the end of something; but I suppose in reality it just heralds the onset of Autumn.



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Monday, 12 August 2013

Arborphilia?

                         
                                    

It's strange the random things you remember from your distant childhood.

We were probably about 12 years old. My friend Michael and myself had gone up to 'the dorm' where we found another 'dorm' member, Coulson, seriously blubbing his eyes out.

Such things were taken seriously at Prep' school, and our immediate concerns were that maybe one of his parents, or even a well-loved pet, had died; so we approached him with considerable sensitivity.

'What's up, Coulson; you pathetic fart?' we asked.

'They've cut down my tree' he replied; now blubbing even more than before.

'What stupid bloody tree?' we asked.

'My favourite climbing tree' he spluttered.

My recollection fails at this point, but I quite expect that we then gave him a kindly good kicking, and told him not to be such an obnoxious little cry-baby.

I've never shed tears at the felling of a tree, but there are certain ones around that would sadden me to see cut down.

Our own huge 'Royal Oak' will hopefully live out its days, and eventually die a respectable oak death. There are also a few enormous pines around, as well as some truly ancient chestnuts, that I would genuinely miss.

I'm not a 'tree hugger' in the Prince Charles sense, but I do give a passing slap on the bottom to certain trees as I pass by. And, yes, I do occasionally wish them a 'good morning'.

p.s. When I checked with Google to see if the word 'arborphilia' actually existed, I discovered a whole new world. Strange bunch we humans!



Sunday, 11 August 2013

Thirsty Horses.




Frankly, I've given-up telling my neighbours that their horses have no bloody water. It's easier just to do what I've always done in the past, and take some down myself. Above, I'd just delivered two buckets-full, and two watering-cans, which they quaffed in an instant.

Of course for my neighbours it's simply a matter of turning on a tap, whereas for me I have to turn on the tap, THEN carry the bloody stuff quite a distance.

It's been so hot, and the poor things need to drink A LOT; the UK's RSPCA suggests 40-50 litres per day per horse, that's more than 4 watering-cans-full each. This is the third time in just a few weeks that they've been without water for more than two days. 

Maybe I should simply connect a hose directly from OUR house, and not let the poor bloody horses have to depend on their owners ever again.

Or maybe I should try to explain the basics of a ballcock system..... Nah, if they can't understand that horses need water, they'd never grasp the principle of a bloody ballcock!



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Saturday, 10 August 2013

Tomless Rat'.


This is the season when I usually begin to bottle all my excess vegetables.



I have courgettes,



I have aubergines,



I have peppers,



but NO RIPE BLOODY TOMATOES.

I refuse to buy-in my tomatoes so I'll just have to wait. I just hope all the courgettes, aubergines, and peppers will wait too!

'Ratatouille', and its derivatives, are my main bottling activities of summer; without a good stock in storage our winter could be dire.


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