Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Christmases Past.


                          
                                       
My earliest memories of Christmas are from our, then, newly built home in my native Lingfield, Surrey.

My father had designed the house (above) on the back of an envelope; this envelope was then passed to our local architect, a Mrs Swann, who straightened all the lines, and re-organised the plumbing so that nothing overflowed into the kitchen sink, etc. The resulting house was attractive, roomy and comfortable. It also came with about half an acre of garden; maybe more.

Like so many houses, it had a large sitting room that was rarely used. We ate, and relaxed, either in the breakfast room or the dining room. However at Christmas the sitting room became the focus of our attention.

For children Christmas is the biggest and best day of the year; bigger even than birthdays. The food, the presents, and the excitement of the big day outdid all others.

My mother loved buying and spending, and she usually overdid the amount of presents we received. I don't think we were 'spoilt', but the pure number of presents was always overwhelming. She loved to see an excessively large pile under the tree. She would even wrap a single pencil.

There was always a proper fresh cut tree, decorated with glass baubles, tinsel, and small lit candles set in clip-on tin holders. The rooms were festooned with paper chains, made at the breakfast room table by my sister and I, licking foul tasting glue on specially bought multi-coloured strips of paper; something that would probably be seen as 'child abuse' today.

My mother's love of excess also ran to her choice of the annual Turkey, they would weigh anything up to 27 lbs; huge monsters that would often have to be trimmed to fit into our average sized cooker. No freezers in those days so everything had to be assembled one or two days before the big event. My enduring memories of those early Christmases are of cooking, cooking, and more cooking. We spent our days watching intently as the essential Mrs Belton and mother prepared all the delicacies.

The days after Christmas were dedicated to eating the left-over Turkey in as many varied ways as possible; the sign of an adventurous and frugal cook. When I hear of people these days who 'bin' the remains of their Turkey after their Christmas Day lunch; I despair.

Letter writing began on the 27th. Every aunt and uncle had to receive an individual letter, thanking them for the awful tie or pair of gloves they'd sent. Extended family never seemed to have an ounce of good taste; so much stuff just got 'put away'.

When our own children were young we always did much as my people had. There was never a shortage of presents, food, or decorations. They now continue the excess with their own broods.

Even here, with just the two of us, I shall make sure that everything is done correctly. There'll be no cutting corners whilst I'm still around, even though our Turkey will only weigh around 4.5 Kilos (I've already ordered it).

My people sold our Lingfield house back in 1960, and moved down to the South coast. I missed it hugely; so many good memories.




Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Turner Prize 2017.


                                        Image associée

This year's Turner Prize has been won by Lubaina Himid, a 63 year old, born in Tanzania.

Frankly the four-person shortlist for this prestigious annual art prize was uninspiring. Ms Himid was possibly the best of a bad lot, although her work looks more (to me) like illustration for cheap novels rather than prize winning painting.

I think The Turner Prize is due for a return to real standards in painting or sculpture.

Above is an example of Ms Himid's work. Make up your own mind!


Monday, 11 December 2017

Hate Crime?


                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "men wolf whistling at women"

I hear that 'Wolf Whistling' is possibly to become a 'hate crime'. I believe it already is in one northern UK town.

I should say here that I have NEVER whistled at a passing girl, nor would I ever do so.

Whistling at attractive girls has been a part of life since Adam first whistled at Eve. It is simply an outward appreciation of feminine beauty.

Young, and older, women spend hours (and a fortune) making themselves beautiful. They paint their faces lips and nails, choose their clothes very carefully, and spray themselves with expensive 'come hither' perfumes. They do their utmost to make themselves look and smell as attractive as possible.

If all that work is then appreciated by a couple of builders leaning over their scaffolding, can that really be seen as 'hatred'?

I have just been listening to a Radio 'phone-in' programme about the subject, and I was pleased to hear that most women were flattered by the attention they provoked, even if they did think it was a bit 'common'.

I fear that the man-hating radical feminist movement have been lobbying again. They really should relax.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Here today, gone tomorrow!


                             

Some time ago I mentioned about rescuing some discarded Blackberry cuttings from a nearby garden. They were of a particularly good thornless variety; but, although they started off well, sadly none of them survived.

The garden from which they came was quite large. The man who worked it comes from a village 7 kms away, and had generously been offered free use of the strip of land by my lovely neighbour L.

He grew a vast amount of produce; far too much for just he and his wife, so I imagine he was selling it.

The garden has now been stripped bare; hardly a single plant remains. The unpleasant man in question was a big supporter of the proposed 'holiday village' (even though he doesn't live in our tiny hamlet), and was exceptionally rude to L (how crazy is that!), to Lady Magnon, and a few others who were against the plan. He has always been a loud-mouthed old fool for whom rudeness and oafishness was a way of life. As a result, he has now been deprived of his free patch of land, and all that it offered. He's now taken out all his winter vegs and perennials, and has departed with his tail between his legs.

His was the second case of such rudeness that we have experienced in the past couple of years, and both perpetrators have lived to regret their silly outbursts; proving, I suppose, that it always pays to be courteous and well behaved.

Some simply have no idea how to behave, others do; boorishness does not distinguish. Good riddance to him.



Saturday, 9 December 2017

Choucroute.


                         

I am not totally convinced by the whole concept of SUPERFOODS; especially of the type 'Berries found only on the northern bank of some Tibetan mountain lake, that can only be reached by a tribe of Arab Pygmies, riding on the backs of female Yaks'. I'm sure you know the hype!

However I do believe in the healing qualities of Oats, Garlic, dark green vegetables, and Choucroute; plus a few others.

Choucroute's qualities rely on that fact that it is fermented; a process that increases its nutritional and health benefits.

It is known to aid digestion, improve the immune system, aid weight loss, and reduce stress.

It is also supposed to reduce the risk of cancer, invigorate the heart, and make stronger bones; but what 'superfood' doesn't? Who knows!

Regardless of all the above, I do love the taste of Choucroute. It is cheap, plentiful, and good for you. To me no winter would be the same without it. We tend to consume ours in the 'Alsace' way, but it's just as good with a pork chop.

The above half kilo of cooked Choucroute cost a mere €1.50. A bargain!



Friday, 8 December 2017

Aesthetes.


                     Image associée

I have always been fascinated by aesthetes. From Regency dandies, via Withnail, to certain present day Arabic squillionaires, their insistence on 'style', and accepting only the very finest or rarest is laudable. They also keep an awful lot of people in work.

Personally I have never been in a financial position to afford the title of 'aesthete', but I have had the pleasure of knowing one particular person who did.

M was at school with me, and he always stood apart from us other mere peasants as never ever accepting the 'norm'. I think it was he who insisted that we only smoked Sobranie cigarettes in our study rather than Woodbines or Player's Weights.

Whereas the rest of us furnished our study with tatty threadbare easy chairs, M purchased an ornately covered antique Chaise Longue. At one time he bought an early Silver Dollar which he sent off to Garrards in Bond Street to have made into a silver money clip. Very chic. On leaving school he bought himself a rather swish Lancia, whereas most of us made do with a bike or the tube.

His first flat was in a Georgian block by Oxford Circus with a uniformed Doorman and a Concierge; he also became a member of a prestigious Gentlemen's Club in St James. Both addresses looked very exclusive on his embossed note paper.

The strange thing is that even if I'd had the money to live such a lifestyle; I wouldn't have. To M it was normal. I think he was much influenced by his mother who drove a lovely old battered Royce, and wore hand-made Crocodile skin shoes. I was the type who just went along with the usual high street Hoi-Polloi; vest and pants from Marks, food from Sainsbury's, and all my aspirations aimed on next month's salary cheque.

M spent his life searching-out the best of everything. He was tall and slim, with longish silver blonde hair; he certainly looked the part. He wasn't at all 'dandyish', but one could tell that everything he wore was expensive. I don't think he was hugely wealthy; just discerning. He never married, nor did he ever have a 'job'. His life's aim was to live as well as he possibly could within his means.

I hadn't heard from M for ages, and I thought he may have died, but he's suddenly contacted me again, and I'm pleased to learn that nothing of his old life style has been sacrificed. These folk are few and far between, and should be preserved (possibly in a Museum!).

I don't know why he bothers with me, he must find me terribly dull.





Thursday, 7 December 2017

Adieu Johnny.


                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "johnny hallyday"

Johnny Hallyday has died aged 74. He was France's biggest 'rock star'; he was the self-styled 'French Elvis'.

His greatest dream was to break through into the US market, but it never happened. My favourite Johnny story was connected to this US dream of his; he booked a huge venue in Las Vegas, and sold all the tickets to his fans back home in France. He just wanted to be able to say that he'd held a sell-out concert in the USA; which he did, but to an all French audience.

                              Résultat de recherche d'images pour "johnny hallyday"

So, goodbye Johnny. You will be missed by millions of fans here in France, but sadly your fame always rested within her bounds .



Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Cro's Banality Awards 2017.


What would you call an eye cleaning product for dogs? VISIOCANIS of course!


And, what would you call a kitchen disinfectant? DESINFEKTO of course!


I'm now waiting for someone to invent a new type of garden spade called a DIG-O-EARTH, or even a new household product amusingly called HOMESHINE.

My Banality award 2017 goes to V.I.Poo (dear oh dear!).



Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Winter Warmth.



Much of my outdoor time is now spent sawing logs. They arrive in metre lengths, and need to be sawn into three pieces in order to fit either in the burner, or the cooker.

My trusty Husqvarna does all the hard work, but there is a certain amount of human effort also involved.

I actually enjoy this daily task. It makes me get outdoors in all but the very worst weather, and it's good exercise. If I had push-button heating, I would soon risk becoming a couch-potato.

I do keep a reasonable amount of ready-cut logs in supply, but it's only for emergencies!

It's the one bit about winter that I actually relish.


Monday, 4 December 2017

Trump.


                            Résultat de recherche d'images pour "trump"

Before, during, and for a short while after the recent US election, I over-generously gave Trump the benefit of my doubt; I couldn't believe that he would continue in his boorish fashion once he had his knees beneath the oval office desk. It would have been in his best interest to become more 'pragmatic and presidential'. How very wrong I was; as we all now know, he refused to become so.

If anything he has become more of an oaf than before. His arrogance has increased, his posturing is more pronounced, and his questionable mental state even more in question.

The man is a laughing stock, as well as being a serious danger to every single one of us. The USA used to be seen as a progressive, modern, country; it is now seen as a 'toxic' world problem. As a respected Washington commentator recently said 'It's like watching a great power committing suicide in front of a global audience'.

I suspect that the orange hooligan wishes to go down in history as the man who destroyed North Korea. Maybe both he and fat boy should be locked away safely before they destroy the whole bloody planet.

If that wasn't enough, he's started to insult Britain. YOU DON'T DO THAT Sunshine. Yet again, I despair.



Sunday, 3 December 2017

Yule Log 2017.




It is said that one must never go out looking for a Yule Log; the Yule Log will look for you.

This has certainly been the case this year. This particular 'log' (under the snow) has been looking up at me every time I passed by for the last few months. I didn't think more about it.

Yesterday it hit me; it was desperately trying to tell me something!

So, I've brought it home, made sure it'll fit in the fire, and I've put it in the dry ready for the big day.

On Christmas Eve it will be dressed in ribbons, ivy, and holly, and, whilst we sip our glasses of Port, will be added to the fire. If on the 25th there remains nothing but ash, it will be a good omen for the coming year.

I have caught my Autumn falling leaf, and found my Yule Log, so that just leaves our Wassailing in Jan' 2018 left to perform. I don't consider these annual acts to be 'superstition', just things that I always do. If I didn't; then I'd begin to worry!



Saturday, 2 December 2017

Winter afternoon/evening.



The woodburner is belting out heat, and it's very slightly snowing. We've just settled down to a mince pie and cup of Lapsang, and Fred is sitting on my lap; purring away.

Bok is lying uncomfortably somewhere underneath (or wrapped around) Lady M, and we are watching a fascinating programme about the English Channel on TV.  Cosiness doesn't get much cosier.


This (above) was the scene outside, an hour or two later. No-one had told us it would snow.

So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! It is -1 C this morning. Things can only get worse before they get better.



Friday, 1 December 2017

Shouldering the burden.


                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "painful shoulder"

Back on October 1st, just two months ago, I spoke of some damage I'd done to my right shoulder.

I consulted Dr Google, and self-diagnosed that it was either my Rotator Cuff, or a Frozen Shoulder. Both present with much the same symptoms.

It seemed that repair could take anywhere from one year to three; and in certain cases never. I was very depressed at the prognosis.

It was amazingly painful, and debilitating; sleeping at night wasn't easy. There were several things that I could no longer do; it was like living with one completely dead arm, and seeing as I am right-handed was a right bugger. Luckily I could still drive, write, and cook; all tasks that can be done with the arm downwards.

My most important task at this time of year is providing logs for the fire. It has to be (chain)sawn and brought inside, and I was simply having to suffer in non-silence to do the necessary. I even considered getting someone in.

Recently I was doing something that involved lifting with my right arm, when there was a 'silent clunk' up by my shoulder, and my arm suddenly became more mobile. I am now thinking that my problem had been a DISLOCATED SHOULDER, and it had unwillingly popped back into place. The permanent pain on the right side of my neck also immediately disappeared.

Strangely, I had considered this diagnosis, as my shoulder bone did seem more pronounced than before, but being me.....

So, it looks as if I'VE BEEN GOING ROUND WITH A DISLOCATED BLOODY SHOULDER FOR THE PAST TWO MONTHS. I'm still not certain that it was this, but I shall continue to rest my arm for a while, and see what happens. I still have the constant bloody pain, but the arm is slightly more mobile.

It's all a bloody nuisance!



Thursday, 30 November 2017

Let them eat Cake.



Stirring the cake mix is an important ritual in the Magnon household. It must be done clockwise, and a wish must be made (nothing too outlandish). 


I know nothing of Cake baking, but the mix was put to cook for several hours at a low-ish temperature. It's bottom will now be anointed with Armagnac for a week or so, then it will be put away until required for Christmas.

As with last year's Cake (which was excellent) it is a Saint Mary Berry recipe. Just how a rich Christmas Cake should be. Can't wait.




Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Rolling Stones - Jumping Jack Flash (Live Hyde Park 1969)


Yes, a much younger Cro was there to see the Butterflies released, the Hells Angels misbehaving, and Mick wearing his bizarre frock. I seem to remember being rather underwhelmed by the whole affair.

Here is a reminder.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Happy Birthday Bok.



7 years old today; doesn't time fly.

OK, you're a tad greyer around the muzzle, and you insist on sharing Lady Magnon's sofa, but all in all I think you can stay.

Your favourite Beef Burgers for supper, and probably a few presents; otherwise it'll be extra walkies, and even more pampering (if that's possible).

Happy birthday Bok. Life wouldn't be the same without you. Love Papa xxx




Monday, 27 November 2017

Luncheon Club (a tale).


                             Résultat de recherche d'images pour "fortnum and mason piccadilly"

When we left school, several of us decided to start a Luncheon Club, simply so we could keep in regular touch.

There were only about 6 of us who intended living and working in central London, so this was not a big affair. Others who would be in town on the prescribed days would have to make their intended attendance known well in advance. Otherwise it was taken for granted that all 6 would attend.

We chose Fortnum's in Piccadilly as our venue, and the first Monday in every month as the day. It worked well for the first few months.

Working in The City at the time, getting to Piccadilly, having lunch, and being back in the office or on the Stock Exchange floor within my allotted hour, wasn't easy, in fact it was a dreadful rush which involved the use of expensive Black Cabs; even so I was always late back. It soon became obvious that we would have to change from a Luncheon Club to a Dinner Club, or risk abandoning the whole idea.

After about 6 months we all agreed that we would meet in the evenings instead. It would be more relaxed, none of us would have to rush off back to work, and we would probably save ourselves quite a lot of money; Fortnum's had been expensive.

I suggested a small restaurant that I regularly frequented in Chelsea.

The restaurant on The King's Road was more fun than gastro'; its walls were amusingly dotted with a thousand clocks, and the food and wine were reasonably priced. We all agreed to the change, said goodbye to Fortnum's, and by the following month we had re-established our illustrious club in Chelsea. We continued to meet on the first Monday of every month.

Including our first few months meeting in Piccadilly, I think we lasted as a dining club for just over a year. Absentees became regular, girlfriends started to attend, and the whole concept soon collapsed. On our final meeting we discussed the problem, and came to a unanimous decision to call it a day.

The only club member with whom I stayed in regular contact, was my good friend Monty. We met up only occasionally, but always exchanged news at Christmas. Now his Email address no longer works, and I don't have his current home address. Looking for him through Google, all I could find was some connection with a Shoe Museum, to which he'd donated some of his late mother's fancy Crocodile skin footwear.

Moral: The good intentions were certainly there, but the staying power was not. I could of course attend our regular Summer Old Boy's meetings in London, but I don't know if anyone of my era would be there, and anyway, it's a very long way to go just for a few glasses of Sherry.

It's now over 50 years since The Sybarite Six first met over lunch at Fortnum's. I know that at least 3 of us are still around, but not so sure about the others. Hmmm. 



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Crumpet rings.



Our new Crumpet rings not only help to make wonderful Crumpets, but they are also extremely adept at making perfectly round fried eggs.

There is something very satisfying about round fried eggs; I shall never again give them their liberty.




Saturday, 25 November 2017

So very annoying!



Imagine how you would feel if you went to your local shop, and suddenly they no longer sold your favourite brand of Baked Beans or Biscuits or Bangers. We come to rely on our shops for certain products, then if they are no longer there, it's a right bloody pain.

Such is the case with a certain Indian pickle that I used to buy from my local Leclerc. I'd been buying and enjoying this particular 'Simtom' brand of 'Pickles Assortis' for several years. It's a hot and sour mixture of pickled vegetables that is perfect with a simple curry.

Suddenly it was no longer on the shelves. I wrote to the management; no luck. I looked at other branches of the same supermarket; nothing.

So, I tried to find some online; it didn't seem to exist. By now I was wondering if the Co had gone bust.

So instead, I ordered a 6-pack of Patak's Mixed Pickle on line. Not at all the same product, but very nice, and I now have enough to last me through till 2020; or beyond.

Thank heaven for Amazon. I can see myself doing this much more often!




Friday, 24 November 2017

The Cure - Friday I'm In Love


I quite liked The Cure, they had just enough style, talent, and lunacy, to appeal to the younger Cro.

Here's Robert Smith and his boys with one of their better songs. I rather like the video too.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Treasure?



On my daily walks around the immediate area, I'm always on the look-out for Stone-Age tools or buried treasure. I check the mounds left by Moles, and I walk across newly ploughed fields. I have found one or two ancient artifacts, but the cache of Roman gold coins still eludes me.

Rather like mushroom hunting, one doesn't look for the object itself, but for colour and form.

Yesterday whilst walking across a harvested Maize field, I came across the above. All I could see was that it was flat thin and round. I was convinced I'd found my first gold coin.

Having given the piece a good wash, I find that it is no more than a One Franc coin from 1941 (it's older than I am; a true antique).

As I do with all such coins, I shall find a crack in one of the ancient house beams, and force it in. Maybe by the time it's found again, it might be worth a few centimes!




Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Lady Magnon's Big Day In.



It's the time of year when Lady Magnon assembles all the ingredients for her Magnificent Mincemeat.

All sorts of different dried fruits, candied peels (no green bits, thank you), suet, apples, citrus fruits, dark brown sugar, and armagnac, are all being bought and stored, ready for the big moment.

The biggest mixing bowl has made its appearance, and the special extra-large wooden spoon has been found and washed.

I try to make a point of being absent when the process begins. Lady M doesn't appreciate an audience (or even helpful advice from onlookers). 

Here is what she ended-up with. I had a stir (clockwise only) and a wish.


I can't wait for that first Mince Pie; I'll have to start thinking what I'll wish for next.




Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Where are they?


Do you know where your children are at all times? No, nor do I, not that mine are really 'children' any more.

My oldest is on business in Singapore. Facebook informs me that he is at Raffles, enjoying a few Gin Slings.

Well, someone has to keep them busy!


Have fun Kimbo!




Monday, 20 November 2017

Paquador vs England


To celebrate that People's Favourite 'Brighton and Hove Albion' are now at No 8 in the Premiership league table (ahem), I am offering this genuine video for all true Football fans to enjoy.

Paquador v England.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Sunday rant.



FORTY-BLOODY-FIVE years I've lived in my tiny hamlet; forty three of which were spent in perfect peace, quiet, and harmony. I've owned two different houses here, (and another a few miles away), but when I started to make our present one livable-in, we were assured by neighbours that our tranquility was GUARANTEED; local by-laws totally forbade anyone from building new homes here.

At the time I had just two lots of neighbours. Immediately next door (100 yards away) were a pair of Parisian, Zen Buddhist, Lesbians, who were a total delight. And the other house (another 100 yards further away) was owned by a man and his elderly mother who spent just a couple of weeks a year here.

Since then all of my original neighbours have died off, and I am left surrounded by those who have arrived since; I feel like the last of an era. I bought, and restored, my ruined cottage for it's simplicity, beauty, and tranquility, but even though we try to live a quiet life, there are always those who try to see that we don't.

Over recent years we have faced some really bizarre behaviour, but now we are facing possibly the worst of the lot. We are to have a holiday village plonked right on our bloody doorstep, and we are supposed to be grateful.

27 (probably rowdy) holidaymakers will soon be disturbing our Summer's peace and quiet; 27 of a type who are prepared to holiday in buried shipping containers, whoever that might be.

In the photo above you might just be able to see the roof of a barn. My youngest son owns the barn next to it (slightly further to the right) so you can imagine his proximity to the holiday camp. The huge mounds of earth show where the old shipping containers will be semi-buried.

The 'newcomer' who wishes to start this holiday camp is surprised (angry even) that all the surrounding residents are against his plans. He doesn't seem to understand that once our treasured tranquility has gone; it will be gone for ever.

We bought our homes for the peaceful bucolic ambiance they afforded; he bought his with the surreptitious intention of bringing in loads of effing holidaymakers. I can hardly explain how bloody mad I am. He arranged an explanatory meeting recently; I couldn't even face seeing him.

The most recent newcomer to our tiny hamlet (a Brit) bought his small converted barn just a year or so ago, and now finds that he is to have a semi-underground trailer park right behind his house. He is understandably furious. No-one had said a word to him about it as he was completing his purchase. I feel more sorry for him than I do for any of the others; including myself.

The would-be holiday camp owner has already fitted several inappropriate fittings to his beautiful ancient home, including an awful 1950's door, and a striped awning; one can only imagine what more horrors are to come. I do wish he would just bugger off, buy himself a more suitable secluded property, and leave us all in the peace that we so covet.

Some people just couldn't give an effing damn about their neighbours! Money is god!




Saturday, 18 November 2017

Mouse Season.


                             

Regularly at this time of year, Lady Magnon becomes obsessed by Mice. She imagines that every Mouse within a 20 Km radius is heading for the house, in order to spend the Winter with us in relative comfort.

I am instructed to set traps, plug holes, and gather gallons of Cat urine to discourage their ambitions.

She had a dream recently about a group of laughing Mice on top of our kitchen cupboards; I was of course blamed for their Morpheus induced incursion.

Freddie catches quite a few, but we've already had one in the house recently; luckily he was soon dispatched.

Mice have the whole of France to play in; be warned, WE DON'T WANT YOU IN THE HOUSE.

Now, where's that Mousetrap and some Peanut Butter? I'm told that Peanut Butter is irresistible to Mice.



Friday, 17 November 2017

Doppelganger No 3,557.



One is a genuine Balenciaga Menswear fashion show; the other isn't.

Can you tell which is which?




Thursday, 16 November 2017

Yesterday in S W France.


Outdoors.


Indoors.


Autumn/Winter has really taken hold, and potatoes are now regularly being baked in the ash pan of the sitting room wood-burner.


For crispy skins they are cooked naked; for soft skins they are wrapped in foil. Both are wonderful; we use a variety called Mona Lisa.



Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Let's get it correct. 'Vaulting'.



I get really pissed-off. I'm constantly hearing people refer to 'Vaulted Ceilings', where they really mean 'Beamed Ceilings'. 

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vault_(architecture)

I first noticed this on a TV country-house finding programme; much loved by Lady Magnon. Every bloody house that had nice old beams was referred to as having 'vaulted ceilings'. It drove me nuts!

I've even heard architects (who OUGHT TO know better) wrongly talking of 'vaulted ceilings'.

So, let's get things right. The above illustration is of a vault; either built in stone, concrete, or brick, they are constructed over a template with considerable weight being added to the top to hold it all together once the template is removed.

A beamed ceiling is constructed of wooden beams that hold either an upper floor, or a roof.

Amazingly, when I was looking for a good illustration, I referred to Google Images and found almost nothing but photos of beamed ceilings. The rot has set-in even further than I'd imagined.

I don't know why this should annoy me as much as it does; the problem is, there are far too many people who claim to be experts, but who obviously aren't. Just look in any Estate Agent's window for proof.






Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Rat's Teeth.



These are pretty much the last of the year's mushrooms. 

Known in the UK as Hedgehog Mushrooms, in these parts they translate as Rat's Teeth, Deer's Feet, or Sheep's Feet. Personally I prefer 'Rat's Teeth' as it describes perfectly the underside of the mushroom.

In past times (40 years ago) I would take a large wooden crate into the woods, which would be filled within an hour or so. I would often return several times during the day. The resulting haul would be sold to merchants who went from farm to farm. I was told at the time that the mushrooms were used in the pharmaceutical industry; but I suspect most went to be eaten. Today's forager would find such quantities almost impossible to collect; the few above took me over an hour to find.

Rat's Teeth are very delicate creatures. They are mostly 'brushed' clean, but they often require rinsing under water. They also break very easily. When cooking, the water used for cleaning floods out, and has to be boiled away before they actually begin to fry. 

So, to the most important thing; what do they taste like?

When eaten alone, they have a delicate mushroom flavour, but when cooked with chicken or lamb they take on the flavour of the meat. Mixed with chicken, not only is the colour much the same, but the quantity of the meat appears to multiply; as if my magic. 

An easy mushroom to identify; those underneath teeth are a give-away. Look in November amongst mixed Pine/Chestnut trees.

Monday, 13 November 2017

How to Make Hummus.


My method of making Hummus is not exactly the same as this, but the ingredients are much the same (I never add curry powder).

I use a free-standing 'dedicated' machine to do the hard work, and add ground Sumac, Olive oil, and a few chick peas, to garnish.

So easy, so delicious, and so satisfying to make. I love it.



And here is my version (below). Even the bowl is similar.


This was eaten yesterday for lunch, accompanied by some delicious Chorizo baguette. 

Does life get any better?




Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Sunday Book. San Michele.


                                                      The Story of San Michele.jpg

I believe that the bible is still one of the world's best selling books, and this must be another. The popularity of both mystify me.

Swede Axel Munthe's book about the island of Capri has been continuously printed for over 7 decades, and must be one of the world's most extraordinary publishing miracles.

In 1874, at the age of 17, Munthe arrived on the island of Capri, and (like so many) walked the long path up to the village of Anacapri (see book illustration). En route he discovered a ruined chapel, and decided at once that he would restore it, and the nearby ruined villa. The book tells of the restoration of the two buildings, and his life as a doctor in Italy and France.

If you have read the book (and many of you must have) you might agree with me that it is decidedly unremarkable. Factually interesting at most, but not a work of great literature; yet it continues to be a great favourite.

I wouldn't buy a copy, but if your local library or charity shop has it, it's worth giving it a go!




Saturday, 11 November 2017

Dried fruit season.



When I was small, Christmas was never complete without Satsumas, Brazil nuts, and (best of all); long decorative boxes of sticky Dates.

The other things I loved were those packs of dried Figs, squashed together into homogeneous blocks.

These above are new to me. They are small, individual, dried 'MINI FIGS', that come from Spain. For some reason, they have a slight dusting of Rice flour.


New products usually spread around the world quite quickly, so wherever you are, I expect these will turn-up on your supermarket's shelves for Christmas.

If you see them; try them. They're delicious, and not too sweet. 



Friday, 10 November 2017

Scrumpalicious.



We've already had one slight frost, so opportunities for scrumping are now very limited.

However, one abandoned nearby ancient tree always produces fruit that stays on the ground well into the new year, mostly without any ill effects.


Our own stored Apples have now either gone soft, are riddled with bugs, or are rotting; none of the better known varieties seem to 'keep' any more.

This particular Apple (above) should be in everyone's orchard. It's sweet, with a very pleasant flavour, and is probably one of the best 'keepers' I know. One can but wonder why it isn't available at garden centres everywhere.

No-one seems to know its name, or why it fell out of fashion. I shall take a few cuttings next year, and see if I can continue its line before it's lost for ever.



Thursday, 9 November 2017

I know, I know, I know.....



Our lovely friend Joan sent the recipe, and Lady M set to work at once.

The mixture bubbled (as it should), and after a couple of hours was set to cook in some (improvised) Crumpet rings.

They took longer to cook than suggested, but that was probably on account of Lady M's fear of too high a temperature.


And here is the very first of her finished products; slathered with butter.

Verdict: 9/10. Very slightly under salted, but otherwise just as they should be. We will certainly be making Crumpets again; in fact I shall buy a set of special rings.

Thanks Joan. Well done Lady M.




Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra "Bangarang" ft Dawn Penn.


Lee Thompson was the Sax player with Madness, and the lovely Dawn Penn is a Jamaican Ska singer from the late 1960's. Driving through London to a bit of Ska; what's not to like?





Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Spot the 'tower'.



Almost hidden from view under its foliage, our little 'tower' is due for a haircut. 

I shan't bother until all the leaves have dropped, but then it'll have some serious pruning. My original intention was to totally clothe it in foliage, but it's gone a little over-the-top. 

It's so covered in Wisteria, that I can hardly see it any more.

Just how I like it!


Monday, 6 November 2017

Cruffins?



I may not have found any Crumpets, but I have found these very nice Muffins.

Not at all the same thing as Crumpets, but they are treated in much the same way.  Ours were halved, toasted, and covered with thick butter and the world's very best Tayberry Jam (my own).

Now, if only I could get M Epid'OR to try his hand at Crumpets; I'd be a very happy Cro.


I shall now not mention Crumpets again; unless, of course, my prayers are answered



Sunday, 5 November 2017

Kickin' leaves.


This was filmed a couple of years ago, but it's just the same today.





Saturday, 4 November 2017

Little Miss Cake.



We share the chores in this house; I cook everything that involves salt and spices, and Lady Magnon cooks everything that involves flour and sugar.

Now that she's 37½ years old, she's managed to achieve that wonderful kitchen confidence where she can make brilliant cakes, almost with her eyes closed. 

She doesn't have a huge armoury of different cake recipes, but her Lemon Drizzle, Chocolate, and Walnut cakes are perfection every time. 

I'm not really supposed to eat such things, but when I smell the aroma of cake-baking, I can't resist a small piece with my afternoon cup of Lapsang.

What I now need, is for her to master the making of Crumpets, Squashed Fly Biscuits, and Battenburg. 

I seem to be thinking a lot about food again recently; it must be the approach of Christmas.




Friday, 3 November 2017

Dancing lessons.


                                  Image may contain: drawing

I never had dancing lessons, we were simply expected to know what to do; but we didn't!

Lady Magnon, on the other hand, did have some instruction.

When we 'rough dance' in the kitchen she often takes the male rôle (as shown above). She attended an all girls school and during her dance lessons half the girls had to pretend to be boys; she was one such.

She never got over it.



Thursday, 2 November 2017

UK, please note!


                      Résultat de recherche d'images pour "crumpets"

There are certain 'National Speciality Foods' that we find regularly in all our supermarkets.

France exports wines, cheese, dried sausages, salt, and expensive water.

Italy sells us pasta, bottled sauces, parma ham, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.

The US sends us their tomato ketchup, cornflakes, peanut butter, orange juice, and Uncle Ben's rice.

Switzerland exports chocolate, more chocolate, and even more chocolate.

Most of these things are to be found the world over.

I would like to suggest just a few things that the UK should be exporting to the whole world; Marmite, Lea and Perrins sauce, and Branston pickle, are probably available in most countries, but PORK PIES, and CRUMPETS are not!

People in the UK don't realise how lucky they are to have permanent access to Pork Pies and Crumpets.

If you are a maker of either really good Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, or Crumpets, would you please have a word with M Leclerc; one of his clients would be extremely grateful.



Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Halloween Bonfire Night.



Last night two of my neighbours Tracey and Karine had the brilliant idea of combining Halloween with Bonfire Night.

I am not really a fan of Halloween, but having been brought-up in the Surrey Village of Lingfield, I'm very much a big Bonfire Night person.

November 5th was, without question, Lingfield's biggest day of the year. We had a huge flaming torchlight procession through the village, an enormous fire was lit, fireworks decorated the sky, and it was our very own gardener, Fuller, who always made the splendid Guy.

Last night's fire was not as big as Lingfield's, and one wouldn't expect it to be so, but the atmosphere was very much the same. There's something very primitive about gathering around a big fire.

I'm now wondering if we couldn't slowly abandon Halloween, and replace it with Bonfire Night; but I doubt if the French would understand.

I'm hoping this will become an annual event; so much better than going from house to house for sweets!



Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Gap Years. Essential?


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 Euros 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 (now my daughter-in-law), 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.

N.B. I originally posted this in 2010.


Posted by Picasa
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...