Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Unparalleled bravery.



This picture (which was originally posted in December of 2010) shows El Cro winter training for the 2011 Bull Fighting season.

The bull in question probably only weighed as much as a London Bus at the time; now he weighs at least as much as two.

His temper hasn't improved with age, and I wouldn't now be quite as foolhardy.

If I was to find him outside our kitchen door these days, I'd run for the bloody hills; not that we have any hills!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Cracking the Whip.



Closing down the pool for winter is always an unpleasant job on many different fronts, but this year I had the added task of re-pointing between the edging stones and the flagstones. For some reason the mortar had weakened over the past 10 years, and it all needed to be chiselled out and replaced.

Even Lady Magnon wanted to have a go (above), and got stuck in like a pro (saving my back for a while).


And this is what it looked like after being brushed down with a wire brush, and left to dry in the sun. 

I'd call that pukka 'Invisible Mending'.

Next job is thorough cleaning, heavy dosing with chlorine, and covering over with black tarpaulin. Then it'll be 'goodbye' for the next 8 months. It's sad when the time comes, but when the water temperature drops to about 20 C we have to accept that the swimming season is finally over. 



Monday, 28 September 2015

The eye of the beholder...



Never let it be said that Cro is racist, sexist, or tranny-ist. I'm a liberal thinking supporter of all life-styles, fashions, and philosophies. I'm an easy-going 'live-n-let-live' fella.

This man (above) has chosen to dress-up as a woman. He now has the frock, the over-sized threepenny bits, the lippy, and the high heels. What he doesn't have is any femininity whatsoever. One might have thought that that was a priority!

If he is seriously trying to say to the world "look at me, I'm all woman", there will no doubt be trillions of women out there shouting "OH NO YOU'RE NOT".

Many transgender people look fine, you'd never know; but I'm sorry, when I saw this guy's picture I just thought how absolutely ridiculous he/she looked. We all make our own choices in life, and this was his. I'm sorry if I sound callous, but I like a woman to look like a woman, even if she was born a man, and not some silly cartoon version...... Perhaps I am tranny-ist after all.

Go on... now you're going to tell me how gorgeous he/she looks!





The Sunday Roast.



Autumn does have its good points; one of which is roasting just about anything that is still hanging-on at Haddock's.

Yesterday's dinner was a case in point. I roasted half a chicken; we're only two, and the other half went to the freezer. The Chicken itself was rubbed with a mixture of spices, and alongside it were some chunks of Butternut, a couple of Aubergines, a few long Peppers, a few Chestnuts, and plenty of garlic. The whole lot was drizzled with Olive Oil, and sprinkled with salt and some Herbes de Provence.

Preparation time; 10 mins. Cooking time (wine sipping time); 60 mins. Expertise required; none. Pleasure; inestimable. 

It looked so nice just before I popped it in the oven that I took its picture 'uncooked'. It looked even nicer when it came out, but I was too hungry to bother with more photography.

Why do people think that preparing a 'Roast Dinner' is so bloody special; the oven does all the work.





Sunday, 27 September 2015

Rêve de Luxe.



When I really have nothing to write about; I become reflective.

Some of my older pictures I enjoy looking at; others not. Mostly anything that doesn't pass muster in the studio never sees the light of day anyway, so paintings of mine that I don't like are usually scrapped before they are seen.

Rêve de Luxe (above) is one that I am never bored with. It's not particularly well painted, the subject matter is not that interesting, but there's something about it that I like.

Occasionally a collector will say 'Do you remember this one?', and I look at it with horror; immediately seeing faults that should have been corrected. I've even been shown old pictures that I had no recollection of at all (very weird).

                                           

This picture entitled 'Small War' is another that I like looking at.... but I'm probably the only one.



Saturday, 26 September 2015

Catherine Tate - the offensive translator


This is a delightfully non-PC clip to get your weekend off to a bad start. Enjoy!




Friday, 25 September 2015

Vin.



I don't keep a lot of wine in the house; there doesn't seem much point. My tiny wine rack is stuffed into a corner of the studio; it holds just 50 bottles.

Back in England I used to buy wines from all over the world; South America, Italy, France, and Australia amongst others. But here I notice that every single bottle in this rack, and elsewhere in the house, is FRENCH.

A minuscule token amount of foreign wines are sold in the supermarkets, but one has the feeling that arms must have been twisted. You'd be hard pressed to find any Frenchman who'd have anything good to say about any wine that wasn't from his own country, or indeed his own area. As strange as it might sound, one of the wines I actually miss not being able to buy, is Greek Retsina. Most people think of it as no more than diluted Turpentine; but I rather like it. It holds memories.

In amongst my 50 bottles are several 'undrinkables'; awful wines that have been brought to the house by dinner guests (who are, of course, now off the dinner party list). I leave them a couple of years, then return them to whence they came. Do we all do that? Some of those bottles must have been offered several times over; a bit like those unwanted Christmas presents!



Thursday, 24 September 2015

Walnut Season.



Regularly once a year, I extol the virtues of the Walnut. To me they are nature's panacea.

The roads and hedgerows are strewn with crushed or half-hidden Walnuts at this time of year. Some farmers gather them; others can't be bothered (they have Chestnuts to deal with) and they just leave them to all-comers.

I always gather about 15 kilos, this sees me through the year; usually with a few left over (they make very efficient fire-lighters). I try to eat half a dozen every day.

Walnuts also make wonderful oil, and I drink two teaspoons every morning. Whether this will assure me the everlasting youth that I'm promised, I'm not sure; but I'm hoping so.

They can also replace Pine Nuts in home-made Pesto.

Wonderful things Walnuts!






Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Pietasters - Don't Wanna Know


This Pietasters number should get you off to a good start today; turn your amp' up to eleven, and I don't want to see anyone not dancing.      

  


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Harvest time.



Far fewer Butternuts than usual this year, I think we have just 12.

To make up for this poor harvest we have three big pumpkins (the one above is the smallest), and quite a good crop of these delicious Delicata Squash (below); again about a dozen.


I really do recommend these small but tasty Squash. If you know someone who grows them; ask for a few seeds.


Otherwise, I'm not quite sure what happened, but we have very few winter 'greens' this year. Most of my sowings failed, and frankly I was too busy with our building project to do much about it. I have just 2 Swiss Chard plants, a few Kale plants, and some Calabrese.

All other stuff is now indoors. Plenty of red onions, a few marrows, apples, pears, tomatoes (whilst they last), as well as all our preserves.

It'll be a strange winter having to BUY Sprouts, and Leeks, etc. A lesson to be learned for next year, when I should have a lot more time on my hands. 

Also for 2016, I'm entering into the realms of 'Raised Beds'; I have a feeling it'll make life easier.



Monday, 21 September 2015

I'm Staying.



I know I do go on about where I live, but I think with good cause.

I came to live here partly because of Philip Oyler's delightful 1950 book 'The Generous Earth'. His description of the way of life, and the general environment, was enough to make me pack my bags and take advantage of what sounded to me like heaven on earth.

His title couldn't have been more apt, and it's at this time of year that it really becomes so poignant.

I arrived in 1972; 22 years after Oyler wrote his book, but nothing much had changed. However in the past 43 years life has dramatically improved for most of the locals. They all now have inside loos, running hot and cold water, and far more efficient farm machinery. People were still ploughing with oxen back in '72; now all that has gone.


The lovely architecture is still here; many of the neglected gems having been sympathetically restored by either English or Dutch ex-pats. On the down side, few farms now have a house Pig, nor do they have farmyards full of Ducks or Geese, and the hectare or so of vines that accompanied most farms have now mostly gone too.

These days farmers concentrate on making life as uncomplicated as possible. Few milk cows, tobacco farming has gone, and new crops such as sunflowers have taken over. Philip Oyler would notice quite some change.

But somehow the place still seems the same. Our friends and neighbours are still charming and generous, the landscape continues to enthral me, and the food is still excellent. I can't see any reason to leave.




Sunday, 20 September 2015

Beautiful but sad.




Finding a Pheasant in one's garden would normally be a pleasure, but for me it's a worry.

Here in France there are no 'wild' Pheasants as such, like there are in England; they are all bred and released for shooting.

The problem is that they are almost tame (the one above hardly moved as I took his picture), and French chasseurs are not against shooting a bird on the ground. In England there are only a few 'cast iron' rules about shooting; one is that to shoot a pheasant 'not in flight' is simply not done; it's almost a hanging offence.

So, yes it was lovely to see this beautiful cock Pheasant in the garden, but I fear for his safety. This weekend will probably be his last.

Later: Bok has just shown me a female sitting on a nest in a hedge. No doubt his 'wife'.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Salesmen.



A cautionary tale.

Yesterday a smart looking red van pulled up at the house, and the fast-talking driver at once engaged me in conversation. "What a beautiful location", " What a friendly dog"; that sort of thing.

Only after a while did he mention that he was visiting the area selling his wonderful Bordeaux grand cru wines; and would I have a couple of minutes to taste them. Like a fool, I said 'yes'.

Well his wine was really excellent; I tried about four different reds, and one in particular stood out as being far superior. When I asked him the price, I nearly fell over backwards.

Now you have to understand that Cro is used to paying €1.10 per litre for his daily sustenance, and being told the price of his stuff had me reeling. But by this time his salesmanship was working its magic, and I foolishly signed-up for a 12 bottle case (with two free bottles thrown in). 

His little visit cost me €150, for which I could have bought 136 litres of my usual wine; instead of 14 bottles of his.

I hardly knew what had hit me. I'm not at all the sort to be bamboozled into buying anything; let alone wine. 

OK, I feel like a bit of a mug, but, hey, what the hell; the wine is wonderful. We had the first bottle last night.

Ch. Haut Meyreau.  Legende D'Autumne 2012. You can look it up.



Friday, 18 September 2015

A Right Bruiser.



When a Quince falls from the tree, like most fruit, it bruises. But unlike other fruits the bruise develops in a very particular way.

Mould grows in concentric circles on the actual bruise, until it looks like the above.

Nice, isn't it.



Today's Confusing Word: 'Achievement'.


                               Image search result for "achievement"

Funny how the word 'achievement' means different things to different people; especially in politics.

To the political left it's a semi-dirty word. Bizarrely it's OK to aspire to achieve, but once one has 'achieved' it isn't. On the way up one is breaking away from those well-hated shackles of class based subservience, serfdom, poverty, etc, but once up there one instantly becomes a capitalist, privileged, toff, and an enemy of the working classes; someone to be derided (and mercilessly taxed).

To the political right achievement simply means 'personal success'. It is synonymous with hard work, aspiration, wealth, job creation, and economic strength, and is something to be lauded and encouraged at all levels of society.

To the slowly disappearing centre (Lib/Dims, Greenies, Ukippers, etc) it's a word that's of no importance as it's irrelevant to their mostly single policy manifestos.

Personally I look upon 'achievement' as recognition of an aim that's been mastered, a step on the path to meritocracy. However I would never look unkindly upon lack of, or disinterest in, achievement; I certainly wouldn't see it as a sign of failure.

Some aspire, some achieve, and some don't.... Simple.



Thursday, 17 September 2015

Blighty treats.



There's only one real disadvantage about being an ex-pat, and that's the availability of certain favourite foods.

Imagine, for example, John Gray relocating to North Korea, and being deprived of his beloved Scotch Eggs. He would be lost!

I'm a bit like that with Pork Pies. 

Luckily Lady Magnon pops off to London occasionally to do a spot of shopping, and she kindly returns with a few treats for 'he who must obey'.

This time she not only returned with a very good Sainsbury's pie, but also with some Pork Scratchings, which were a present from my friend Ms Miller of The Miller Collection (thank you again).

The pie, of course, has to be eaten at once, but I'm saving the scratchings until the desire overcomes me. THEN, they will become nectar of the gods. 



Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Can you keep a secret? So can I.


Image search result for "a secret"

Back in September of 2010 I wrote a piece about how very few 'compliments' I'd received in my life, but recently (having just seen a certain man's photo) I realised that I'd omitted probably the most important one of all. 

In my original posting I recalled someone having said that I had nice hands, and also that I'd been awarded a First Class Hons degree, but that was it. I couldn't remember a single other compliment.

I met DG back in about 1969. He was one of the most pleasant men you could ever hope to encounter. We later taught in the same well known school (I temporarily replaced someone for a year) before I left to settle in France.

I'm not going to divulge what his compliment was, because it would be inappropriate on many levels; but it was something I've never forgotten, and in its way was probably my greatest ever compliment.

This may seem like a very odd enigmatic and secretive posting; but I'm afraid it has to be that way. In fact I don't even know why I've written this; other than in DG's memory.

If anyone is really that interested; Email me. You don't know my Email address? Tough!




Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Oh Dear; Annual Waste.


This pains me, but there's little I can do about it.


There are Pears by the hundreds,


Quinces by the score,


Apples by the bucket load,


And even Marrows by the dozen on the compost.... I could go on!

We eat as much as we can, and we preserve as much as we can. We encourage others to take whatever they want. And we despair as we watch so much good fruit and veg' go to waste.

It's something all us country folk get used to, I know; but it doesn't make over production any easier.



Monday, 14 September 2015

Nature's Cycle.


The older I get, the more I notice how quickly everything comes around again.

It seems like only a short while ago that the Chestnut harvest finished, and here we are again with the very first of this year's crop already on the ground. This week will see the harvest begin in full swing.


This is how the plantations look at the moment. Large sheets of fine netting have been laid on the ground ready for the Chestnuts to drop. They will then be 'Hoovered' up by noisy machines that have now replaced human hands.

We don't eat a lot of Chestnuts. A few at present whilst they're still a novelty, then some at Christmas with the Turkey; which is obligatory. I also freeze a few which we have roasted throughout the year with either Chicken or Pork.

Chestnuts to me means log fires and frosty mornings, yet we're only mid-September. Has mother nature got her timings wrong?




Sunday, 13 September 2015

Great News!


                                            Jeremy Corbyn plots his first days as Labour leader in shorts and t-shirt

Hooray; Jeremy's got the job, and everyone's excited except The Labour Party. So what's going on?

Mr Corbyn (above) has been elected as the new leader of England's Socialist Party, a.k.a. The Labour Party. The Conservatives are happy, the Communists are happy, even little Lucas of The Green Party is happy; so why are your run-of-the-mill-lefties all so upset?

Well it's complicated. Jeremy is one of those old fashioned, Michael Foot, flying picket, everyone out, man of the people, style Commies, and the remainder of Blair's babes and other New Labour has-beens think he's a tad too au fait with Das Kapital for him to lead their party to electoral success. They're afraid that if there's a crazy cause or ideology around, he'll be sure to back it.

Personally I like him. It's been a while since comedy entered British politics (except for Sturgeon, of course). He's down to earth, a little naive, and not ashamed to voice his wonderfully old fashioned ideology.

Interesting times ahead. I can't wait for Wednesday lunchtime's PMQ's.

How long will he last; that's the big question!



Saturday, 12 September 2015

Magic Wand.



If I had a magic wand, I would wave it over Bok (above), and have him speak English for a whole day.

I would be fascinated to hear what he thinks of his world, and the part he plays in it. 

I would also like to know what he thinks of Freddie, our cat; that's been puzzling me for years.

I'd like to know his opinions about the food I give him, the walks we take, and even the bed he sleeps on (usually my sofa).

I want to know what season he prefers; although I think I know this already. I want to know if he has any real dislikes. I'd also like to know why he has this in-built desire to organise other animals into herds.

He could tell me about dog linguistics; if all dogs speak the same basic language. I'd like him to tell me if there is some natural caste system between different species of dogs... i.e. if an Afghan Hound is socially superior to a Terrier Allsorts.

I'd also like to know what memories he has of his old chum Monty, and if he misses him.

Most of all though, I want to know if he loves me as much as I love him.



Friday, 11 September 2015

Offensive?


                                          Mr Carter-Silk said Miss Proudman should ‘win a prize’ for her photograph, adding it was ‘the best I have ever seen’ on the site. She responded saying she was not on LinkedIn ‘to be objectified by sexist men’ (pictured)

I wonder what you think of this (you may have to enlarge it). This story has been grabbing the UK headlines over the last few days.

Carter-Silk is a solicitor and Proudman a feminist human-rights barrister. One would have imagined that they were intelligent, respectable, and courteous members of the legal profession; but maybe not.

On Linkedin, Carter-Silk complemented Proudman on her portrait photo, which was obviously professionally taken; no doubt to make her look as attractive as possible (the tiny one bottom left).

But rather than thank him for his kind words, she harangued him for being sexist, misogynistic, and offensive, and claims that he was objectifying her.

No doubt Carter-Silk and myself attended the same School of Etiquette/Manners, and no doubt like myself he gives up his seat to women on the tube, opens doors for them at M & S, and occasionally makes compliments. It's how we were brought up, and there was never previously any suggestion of our behaviour being sexist; in fact had we done otherwise we would have been accused of being rude or uncouth.

When I saw the above, I wondered what on earth has happened to the western world if a man can't make a small compliment from time to time without being attacked as sexist. Is this yet another case of 'PC gone mad', or is prissy-Proudman just over-reacting?

Looking at the photo in question, it says to me 'Look how gorgeous I am'.... and then the silly woman has the bloody cheek to complain.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

EU Referendum.


                                             UK wants to quit EU according to a new poll as David Cameron prepares to face down Tory

The UK is to have a referendum before the end of 2017 on whether she should stay part of the EU or not. Above is how things stand as of a couple of days ago (please ignore the happy couple... I couldn't cut them out).

The present refugee/migrant crisis is going to have a huge effect on the outcome as you can see by the above. Any other reasons for quitting, or not, probably won't even be discussed, it's become a one issue question.

I have said many times before; of course the UK should take in as many genuine refugees as ask for asylum, maybe starting with women and children. This has always been British policy, and I hope it always will. But daily TV and newspaper reporting of the Calais migrants trying to smash their way into England is not helping with Dave's hopes for a 'remain' vote.

The ins and outs of EU membership are complicated. Most European countries rely on a certain percentage of their trade with wealthy UK, and to lose that would be disastrous for them. One would hope that much of this would continue regardless of our membership, but any existing or new agreements would HAVE to be reciprocal.

If Germany would want to continue selling their VW's, Merc's, Audi's, and BMW's to a non-EC UK, then she would have to take our products in return; there would be no longer be any EU regulations restricting the UK on insisting as much.

If Dave wants to see a 'remain' vote, he'd better start tidying up the mess, or he could be in for a very nasty shock; and a lasting reputation to accompany it. It's all well and good being the only country to live up to its promises to the UN and to foreign aid, but that won't swing the vote if the physical refugee/migrant problem isn't solved.

N.B. No, Cro was NOT consulted in the recent poll, above. It might have been slightly different if I had been.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Wild and Wonderful.


                           

Some time back I mentioned that this wild vine grows in a hedge on one of my morning walk routes. It's a delicious grape but full of pips.

I took a cutting, and this year had my own first, rather poor, crop (above is the wild one).

It's amazing that when these plants are left to grow wild (having been part of an abandoned vineyard) they produce huge amounts of grapes; this one above being a good example.

I wish I could somehow let you taste these beauties, they really have a haunting flavour; imagine those fizzy sour sweets with a hint of ether..... what a shame that they're filled with wretched pips, but I've now learned just to swallow the whole lot. Delicious.

Yes, I know; I'll have vines growing in my stomach.



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Too early, Claude!



The first delivery of Oak arrived yesterday morning; our bigger pile of Chestnut arrives a bit later on.

This summer I (chain)sawed and split all our remaining huge Chestnut tree trunks, and now have a big stack of 33 cm dry logs ready to use. I shan't buy my wood in tree form ever again; far too much work.

Above is about 6 cu metres of Oak, I have another 8 cu metres of Chestnut coming, and the 'ready to use' logs makes up another 3 or 4 cu metres. I think we'll survive.

I'm not thinking about winter just yet .... it's far too early, for gawd's sake!



Monday, 7 September 2015

Apples.



It's that time of year. The kitchen table is covered in windfalls, boxes are slowly becoming filled with the very best of the crops, and the horses are revelling in bucket after bucket of rejects.

I am always confused about the supermarket attitude towards apples. The pile in the middle of my photo is of an apple that I simply know of as a Reinette. It is not quite the same as one I have planted here, which is called Reine de Reinette. 

The ones in the photo are crisp, juicy, sweet, and beautifully flavoured; I would have thought they were the perfect commercial apple. Yet all one finds on supermarket shelves are the standard Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Gala, etc; mostly (not all) uninteresting fruits grown to look nice on the shelves.

The one in the photo is what I thought I was buying when I planted my Reine de Reinette tree, but, frankly, mine is not quite as good. It's a very good apple (see below)  but not in the same league as my neighbour's Reinette.

A few years back I took a cutting of my neighbour's Reinette tree. It grew OK, and is already planted out. It's still only about two feet tall, and it'll be some time before it lets me know if I've wasted my time or not. I'm hoping that sometime in the future my grandsons will have their own supply of this delicious apple.

Supermarkets, please take note.   




N.B. If idiotic Troll-Club members Bitch, Mia, Sara, et al, leave insulting comments, I shall be deleting them as soon as I spot them. In other words, don't bother.



Sunday, 6 September 2015

RIP Rico Rodriguez.


My mate Rico died on Friday, he was one of the greats of Ska.

Born in Cuba, brought up in Jamaica, and worked mostly in London, he was a living legend of Jamaican/London Ska.

Most people know him from The Specials, and Jools Holland's big band, but his portfolio of work was huge.

Here he is back in 2012, looking a little frail, singing with Jools. I shall remember him thus.

RIP Rico... now up at the big Ram Jam Club in the sky. My love to his wife Tracey and the boys; Cro xxx




Saturday, 5 September 2015

Au Revoir to Kimbo and the Boys.



When the clothes-line is filled with swimming towels and boys clothes; I'm happy. It means that a few of my lovely grandsons are with us.


No holiday for the boys is complete without treasure appearing in Grumpy's secret compartment book. Gold was everywhere, and they found it.


And when it finally comes time for them to depart, Harvey J always insists on wearing his crown. Don't ask me why; it's simply become a tradition. We wouldn't dream of trying to stop him, and he wouldn't dream of getting onto a 'plane without it on his head.

A very short visit, but memorable in its way. I've never known the pool have so much use (mostly under-water). It's going to seem very quiet for a while.



Friday, 4 September 2015

Ere, you'll like this one!


                                   Résultat de recherche d'images pour "laughing chinese man"

Apparently one in five of the world's population is now Chinese!

I know that in my own family, neither my mother or father are Chinese, so it must be one of my two brothers.

I don't suppose it's Chueng-li, so it must be my older brother Bill.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Me and Brian.


                           Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Brian Hanrahan"


Yesterday I was reminded by Helsie of an incident that I still find embarrassing to this day.

Just after the Falklands war I was invited (as some type of honoured guest) to a big Shropshire Rotary Club meeting (I was not a member), at which Brian Hanrahan was the guest speaker.

The event was held in a typical large municipal hall (about half the size of a football pitch), and all of the several hundred Rotarians were standing around the sides; gins and tonics in hand, nattering.

Suddenly Hanrahan appeared and walked confidently into the middle of the room. No-one moved; they just stared at him, and he was left standing there like a lemon.

Seeing that we looked almost as uncomfortable as one another, I strode over to where he was standing, shook hands, and dragged him off to the bar.

"You and I have something in common, Brian" I said to him "We're both guests, yet no-one seems fucking bothered to welcome us. Let's get pissed"

Someone did eventually come over, but for a while we were both left feeling strangely uncomfortable (our few drinks together was by far the best bit of the whole evening).

Weird bunch those Rotarians.



Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Sometimes I feel exactly like this.


                                            This absolute nightmare.

Occasionally I have the feeling that the world wasn't designed for people like me. My mind works on logic and not on emotion; I was always thus.

Most folk are gregarious, fun-loving, extroverts; I'm not. I'm probably at my most relaxed when tramping through the woods with the dog, BY MYSELF; analysing complicated situations.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy the company of others; I do, but in small numbers, and only with a select group of very good friends.

There's nothing I enjoy more than an intimate dinner at home for four. A party away from home where I might know just one or two out of numerous guests is a bloody nightmare.

A square peg in a round hole? Yes probably, but with a certain amount of the squareness having been whittled away.



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