Sunday, 26 March 2017

All change at Haddock's.

Always on the look-out for easier and more productive vegetable gardening, I have now established a simpler, more rotation-friendly, plot.

I've split Haddock's into four equal size sections with a narrow path between them. Of course this means I've lost a small amount of growing area, but I intend to make each section more productive (and in certain cases, less wasteful). The 40 cm wide paths were first covered with a landscaping material, then topped with crushed stone.

Digging over my garden in Spring has always been a pain; literally, because I have a bad back (and my rotovator is buggered). But, now having four much smaller areas to work, the task seems far less daunting. Each section can probably be dug over in about 30 mins (back willing).

Manure and compost will be spread liberally, and I shall try to double-dig where possible. I'm hoping that my 2017 veg' campaign will be seriously productive.

All I now need is a statue of St Fiacre on the intersection of the paths, and abundance will be guaranteed.

Haddock's gets smaller and smaller, but the yields are more and more generous. There's a moral in there somewhere!

Digging looms; as soon as the weather gets better.......

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Taste of Home.

There are always certain foods that, if you live abroad, are almost unattainable. I could travel a long distance to buy them, but frankly it's easier to make my own.

One such treat is Brinjal Pickle; the perfect accompaniment to a good curry.

Luckily I saved the label from my last jar of Patak's, so it was simply a matter of reading the ingredients, and having a go.

I've made it before; the last time I added too much garlic, and rather spoilt it. This time I've followed the ingredients to the letter, and the resulting pickle seems pretty good.

I'll leave it to 'mature' for a few weeks before broaching; then I'll test it with a very simple Rice and Dhal.

I made two 270g jars; the Aubergine cost 55 centimes. Cheap is an understatement.


Ever since Dennis Norden's TV programme 'It'll be alright on the night', one often sees the spelling of 'all right' as Mr Norden's easier and more junior version of 'alright'. 

I now fear for the the spelling of the word 'thoughtful'. 

Anyone who has seen this appalling TV advert' for (I even hate to write it) 'thortful', will probably (like me) be filled with horror at this latest mis-use of the English language.

What IS the point of mis-spelling certain words? They make me want to bloody scream. And as for the idiot with the stupid blue wig..... words fail me!

Luckily I can't actually tell you what they're advertising; I always leave the room whilst furiously tugging at what hair I have left (other than yesterday to take the above photo).

I shall NOT be 'searching' for thortful.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Then he relocated.

I took the above photo about 10 mins before I went off to bed.

About an hour later there was a short period of thunder, lightning, and heavy rain. Bok HATES storms, and came to join me on my bed. Freddie also turned up; but he always does.

So, I ended up with a dog on one side of me, and a cat on the other.

Not the most comfortable way of trying to sleep. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

All good chums.

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Yesterday, politicians of all colours were praising Martin McGuinness as a peacemaker; today they are looking at terrorism very differently.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

It's an Equinox-ish Boy.

The wait is over.... As of today we have 6 grandsons. Kellogg presented us with No 6 at 10.40 am this morning (in Australia). 

I bought his tree just a couple of weeks back. I thought I was cutting it a bit fine, but he kept us waiting!

The hole was previously dug, the tree had been placed by it's side, and as soon as word came through it was positioned. I have to add that it was quite cold out there this morning, and only just properly light.

As with my five other grandchildren, the tree had to be planted on his actual birth day to mark his arrival. 

I wonder if I'll get to plant any more? Each of my three children now has two children (all boys) of their own.

Boo Boo Minor's tree (for that is his provisional name) is a Royal Gala apple. We only have two other apple trees, so more are needed!

Congratulations to Kellogg and Wills, and welcome to Boo Boo Minor; an equinox-ish brother for Boo Boo Major.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

To each his own.

Certain things in nature take my breath away. This plant (above) is one.

I know nothing of flowers or wild plants, so I can't tell you what it is. However, they grow every year, popping up in the most unlikely places. Later in the year they throw up a tall 6 ft tall stem on which there are a rag-bag of insignificant yellow flowers.

It's now, and until they flower, when they are at their best. They just sit there in their symmetrical splendour, making us smile as we pass by.

Many would no doubt call it a weed, but to me it's as beautiful as any other garden plant.

I left the Dandelions in the picture so you can see its size; they get bigger!

Monday, 20 March 2017

A clasp from the past.

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When I was a wee schoolboy, almost every boy I knew held-up his trousers with a belt such as the one above.

I never thought anything about them at the time, but looking back I now see them as rather exotic.

That simple Snake clasp is perfect; I wonder if it wasn't based on some Roman design? It looks as if it should be.

I can see them making a come-back. Surely today's Hipsters will soon recognise their appeal.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Wisdom of the (French) ages.

Yesterday I had a nice long chat with my neighbour Jean-Claude; he from his tractor, me struggling to contain Bok's excitement.

Amongst other topics, we discussed the fact that the Magpies are nesting very high in the trees this year; in fact they can't get much higher (see pic).

Superstition has it that this heralds a very dry and hot Summer.

How Magpies are supposed to know this, I'm not sure. Even our most up to date meteorologists, with all their fancy satellites, etc, often can't predict the same afternoon's weather.

Maybe they should catch a bag-load of Magpies and study their moods, comportment, and reactions. If they really can predict a very dry and hot Summer they'd be worth studying. 

Mind you, I've never known a Summer here that wasn't dry and hot; but that's probably best not mentioned when superstition is afoot.

Saturday, 18 March 2017


Merguez are one of my favourite sausages. Spicy and deep red in colour, they are made from a mix of Beef and Lamb, and are flavoured with Cumin and Pepper.

Originally from the Maghreb, they travelled north with the fleeing Pied-Noir population, after the Franco/Algerian troubles of 1954-62, and have since become a staple in this region of France; especially on Summer BBQ's.

I remember many years ago that I wanted to take a few kilos back to the UK for the freezer. Instead of buying them down here I decided to stop-off at a Supermarket in Calais, and buy them fresher up there. When I came to the meat department there was no sign of any, so I asked an employee where I would find them. He had never heard of Merguez. They had not yet reached that far north. Nowadays I imagine that they can be bought throughout France, and even elsewhere.

If you haven't already done so, I recommend that you try some. Last night I had a few with some Puy Lentils, and the essential squirt of fiery Harissa. Lovely.

Friday, 17 March 2017

New dog on the block.

The latest canine arrival at our tiny hamlet is this Alsatian 'puppy', called Marley.

Bok is already showing him the meaning of 'respect for your elders', and he's learning fast.

Like so many local dogs, he is free to roam around as he pleases; this doesn't worry us, but might some.

He's a nice friendly dog, and obviously likes to run with Bok. He's still at that bouncy spring-lamb stage, but will soon calm.

Another pleasant addition to our local dog population. Welcome Marley.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


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Yesterday, whilst walking with Bok in the woods, I came across two long lines of Processionary Caterpillars. One lot was about three metres long, the other about two.

May I remind everyone (who lives in areas where such creatures exist) that these Caterpillars are extremely dangerous for unwary dogs. Our own late Monty once tried to eat one, and not only became very ill, but eventually lost about a third of his tongue from the poison.

It is worth also remembering that they are dangerous for humans as well. I hate to say it, but they are best squashed when found.

You can't mistake them at this time of year, they walk in long lines across paths, etc.

Be warned!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Nuts in May

Personally I think Candice-Marie was right; 72 chews does seem an awful lot.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


A few trees that caught my eye whilst out walking with Bok yesterday.

No words necessary. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

A Small Heirloom.


My Uncle Reginald (Father's older brother, above) was sent off to The Colonies to grow, and send back, Tea.

He went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where I imagine he did fulfil his remit, although I never heard much about Tea.

What I did hear, however, was of him sending back wooden crates filled with Furs to my father in London, with instructions about who to sell them to, etc.

He also sent back small packages of precious stones, one of which he gave to my father (Uncle R was later repatriated with a nasty dose of Paratyphoid).

The stone he offered was quite a large Ceylon Sapphire which Father had set in gold as a ring. It had finger-like clasps around the stone itself, and was/is a very pleasant piece of jewellery.

In the early 1960's my sister asked her mother if she could borrow it for an upcoming holiday to the Italian Riviera. Somewhere between Paris and the South of France, my sister's suitcase went missing, and we all panicked; simply on account of the ring. The guards were alerted, and a thorough search ensued. Eventually her suitcase was found, untouched, in a guards-van right at the very end of the train. The ring was safe.

Having come to me, sometime after the mid 80's one of the gold 'fingers' broke, and it was taken to a jewellers' for repair and re-polishing. The jeweller also offered a free valuation, which rather surprised us.

The ring is now in Australia, having been given to my daughter Tenpin. I wonder what will happen to it in the future? I hope that a wife of either George or Finn's will wear it, and that it will continue down the line. It's not the most valuable thing in the world, but, rather like our 1735 grandfather clock, it's a pukka heirloom; and we don't have many.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Danger Period.

It's almost mid-March, and we still have another two whole months to go before we can be certain of no more frosts.

An overnight frost now, and it'd be 'curtains' for our Plums (above),

our Peaches (above),

and our Apricots (above).

With our Apples and Pears also about to flower, it's at this point in the year when I really begin to worry.

My fingers are crossed.

Saturday, 11 March 2017


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We have been without internet for a day, so my daily ramblings will resume tomorrow.

Cro xx

Friday, 10 March 2017

Nice one!

My son Wills likes seriously good guitars. He has several, but this one must be his best. It's his latest acquisition.

It's an Ibanez JEM 77FP Steve Vai "Floral Pattern". The design being based on some curtains in Steve Vai's parents home.

The guitar was imported by Wills from the US.

It almost makes me want to start playing again. Where's my Bert Wheedon 'play-in-a-day' book?

Beautiful instrument!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Another new kitchen.

Not long to go for Kellogg, and the new kitchen isn't finished yet.

One would have thought that one new kitchen every 20 years would be enough, but here they are doing it all over again 'down under'.

Like all builders, Aussies promise the moon, and all you get is the promise; for the moon you have to wait.

Still, it all looks very good, and with any luck it'll be finished before the baby arrives (not long now).

It's a small house in an exclusive gated compound. It has a private pool, and a fabulous beach just five minutes walk away, but like all houses it needed a new kitchen and bathroom.

And here's Boo Boo standing amongst all the still-packaged appliances. He's been showing Kellogg how they all work (true).

Meanwhile I'm still working on the other house.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Pecking order.

The boss.

The 'under' boss.

The butler.

Such is life for us humans.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Bucolic life. Power cuts.

Sunday evening. Without warning, the power failed at 7 pm. Some bad hombré was fiddling with the wires, and didn't, or couldn't, re-connect them until 11 pm. 

With no light I couldn't read, I couldn't listen to the radio, and I couldn't even work on my crossword. So I contented myself with a small glass of Single Malt, then went to bed; Freddie joined me.

We seem to be having more than our fair share of cuts (US 'outages') recently; I blame the wind.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Four weddings.

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How do you do; I'm Charles.

Don't be ridiculous, Charles died 20 years ago.

Must be a different Charles.

Are you telling me I don't know my own brother!

No, no.

How's your gorgeous girlfriend?

She's no longer my girlfriend!

Oh dear, I wouldn't get too gloomy about it, rumour had it that she never stopped bonking Toby de Lisle in case you didn't work out.

She is now my wife!

Excellent, congratulations.

It's been raining here. You may have guessed; I've just been watching 'Four Weddings'. Funny film.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Co-ed schooling.

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During my time at school the only 'females' we encountered were either medical staff, or those outside the college grounds.

All this changed in 1970 when, after a thousand years of having been an all boys school, The Queen appeared and announced to the world that girls would finally be admitted.

Almost at once the girls began to out-perform the boys, and female Oxbridge admissions heavily outweighed those of the boys.

Female scholars abounded; even my own Latin Scholarship would no doubt have gone to a girl (had there been any in my day).

I believe things have now settled down, and these days achievements are pretty much 50/50.

I never had the advantage of co-ed schooling, and I'm not sure how I'd have coped. All I can say is that when I see photos (such as the above) of my alma mater's end of year Ball, I'm rather envious.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Toads of Cro Hall.

We cover our pool with black plastic for the winter months; this creates a temporary 'pond', which is the sole area of standing water around for quite some distance (other than my neighbour's similarly covered  pool).

At this time of year the local Toads are desperately looking for water in which to lay their long strings of eggs. Of course, they find me!

So, it's out with the net, and I scoop them up by the kilo and return them to the other side of the wall.

At the moment I fish out about 20 each day.  I suppose I really should dig them their own dedicated 'pond', but I have better things to do. Maybe next year!

Anyone want some Toads?

Friday, 3 March 2017

The 'tank' inspector.

I've just received the official report concerning our fosse septique (Septic tank) which was inspected in April 2016.

The Inspector (I suppose I have to call him that) was a 'still wet behind the ears' spotty youth, who looked as if he'd just been expelled from school.

He asked lots of questions; I answered them. He wanted to see locations; I showed him. He took measurements; I assisted him.

Just a few weeks before his visit we had replaced all the large red plastic perforated soak-away pipes; he was impressed. He sniffed at the air; no pong. He smiled as he took copious notes of what I told him.

Then I receive this report, and frankly it could be for a totally different house.

He did get one or two things right; the home-owner's name, the location, and the date. But other than that, the whole 5 page report is pure fiction. I'm now just grateful that he said all was OK; if he'd been in a bad mood we might well have had to replace the whole bloody lot.

His two most encouraging words were 'acceptable' and 'correct'; other than that you'd have thought that we had a home-made 'earth closet'.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

I kept the home fires burning.


September 2016.


March 1st 2017.

Goodness, we've used a lot of wood this winter, and it ain't over yet.

This was my Chestnut pile. Nice dry wood that burns beautifully; so much so that we've used it almost exclusively since before Christmas.

I've now started to use my pile of Oak, it burns much slower, and I still have plenty.

I have both Oak and Chestnut on order for later-on in the year, I think I'm going to need it!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


My late mother was not a particularly philosophical woman, but she did occasionally pass on bits of advice that have always stood me in good stead.

"Always look after the underdog"

"If you can't be easy, be as easy as you can"

"Everything happens for the better"

"When making friends, look for those who show enthusiasm"

There were many others snippets, but the one that comes to mind most often is the final one. I can't say that I've ever actively gone out looking for enthusiastic people, but they have naturally come my way. Maybe their mothers told them something similar, and they have sought me out. Who knows!

There are few other traits that are more attractive and appealing than enthusiasm. Show me someone who shows no enthusiasm for anything at all, and I'll show you someone that I avoid like the plague!

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