There is a butter shortage in France. Where once was a butter mountain, there is now a butter black hole.
Not a single pack of butter in the shops yesterday!
So, what has happened? Well it seems as if there are two reasons. Firstly, like most of my farming neighbours, none of them can be bothered to produce milk only to make a loss, and secondly it seems as if China has suddenly found a taste for French butter, and the big dairies are cashing-in.
No butter rich croissants at the bakers, Lady Magnon will no longer make crumbles, and even our Christmas cake had been put on hold.
Obviously I blame young Macron, and if things don't change by Monday I shall take matters into my own hands.
I have never understood the desire to go 'Collective Rambling', especially of the type where people carry ski sticks.
Surely a walk in the country should be relaxed, taken at one's own pace, and in reasonable meditational solitude.
This lot above (there were many more behind) passed by our house recently. They all looked miserable as they 'marched' at a military pace, all looking straight ahead as if desperate to reach their destination as quickly as possible. They seemed to take no pleasure from being out in the peace and quiet of the countryside.
I usually go for a couple of walks every day; weather permitting. Bok joins me, and we go where our noses lead us. We take our time, and are as happy to walk 5 kms, as we are to walk 20.
There was a sense of determination about the people above. They were there to take sensible outdoor exercise, and to follow a prescribed route; not to be seen to be enjoying themselves. For them, walking was not for enjoyment, but for achievement. I quite expect they all wore pedometers, stopwatches, and heart monitors. They will no doubt all return to their urban homes to record in their efficient 'log-books' where they went, how far it was, and what rotten bloody sandwiches they ate for lunch. Not one of them will have noticed any fauna or flora, or even what the weather was like.
They might, of course, consider my style of walking as ramshackle and aimless, but that's how I think it should be.
Some things are best decided by the throw of a dice, or the spin of a coin. Personally I prefer my home-made dice.
It can be anything as simple as which route to take for my morning walk, or if I should prepare Pork rather than Chicken for supper. If I can't make my mind up about something; the dice will do it for me.
Last Friday, for example, I was undecided about visiting a particular distant town; between 1 and 3 was 'yes', and between 4 and 6 was 'no'. I threw a 5, so we stayed at home. It was a lovely day, and we took full advantage.
However, yesterday we did go to the town in question, but by determination rather than 'chance'. Each method has its moments.
Both my immediate neighbours are off on their holidays; one lot to London, the others to Marrakech.
I've never bought a Straw Donkey from Spain, nor a foam Stetson from the US, but I have returned home from holidays with some quite interesting stuff.
I once returned from the US with a man in front of me on the 'plane wearing about 10 foam Stetsons piled one on top of the other! What a plonker.
We always used to buy strange, interesting looking, foods. I remember once buying small tins of Thrushes in sauce, which were not terribly nice (or PC), and I also remember my mother getting very excited over the purchase of a big, very decorative, 5 litre can of expensive Greek Olive Oil, which turned out to contain big fat green olives in brine. Her knowledge of Greek was zero; but the tin, and the olives were nice anyway!
These rustic dishes (above) come from the tiny Balearic Island of Formentera. I would have bought more but I didn't trust the baggage handlers. I've now had them for over 40 years, and we still use them daily.
And these Olive wood stacking Egg Cups from the Italian Riviera seemed like a very good idea at the time, but don't get used too often. Even so, they haven't joined all those donkeys and stetsons at the tip, and remain prospectively useful. I wouldn't encourage people to buy tinned Thrushes, but there are plenty of other tinned delights awaiting you.
I've bought Argan and Patchouli Oils in Morocco, strange small 'stamped' metal depictions of ears, noses, and eyes, from Greece, and some wonderful 17th C wood carvings from Palma (which went directly to Sotheby's, and paid for the trip many times over).
Part of the fun of travel is what one brings back.
It's very nice to go trav'ling to Paris London or Rome Bla bla bla But it's so much nicer to come home (with some half-decent souvenirs).
The end-of-year C word seems to have been resurrected recently, so it's time to think of what will accompany our cold Turkey.
There are two main pickles I associate with our winter feasts; onions and red cabbage. As we are now less than 90 days away from the big feasting and fattening season, I have begun the preparations by starting with the pickled onions.
I cannot envisage my Boxing Day slices of cold Turkey without a few pickled onions.
The small onions were peeled (with lachrymose difficulty), put into a light brine for 24 hours, then bottled in spiced wine vinegar with some sugar. I don't bother with weights and measures when it comes to such things; I do it by eye, and memory.
The pickled red cabbage will be prepared about two weeks before the big day, otherwise it loses its freshness colour and crunch.
I'm almost beginning to feel 'festive' (no I'm not).
I've only been to one professional Football match in my life, and that was at Brighton & Hove Albion, back in the 1960's. I can't remember who they played.
The noise was so loud that I had a headache for a week.
On Saturday, Kimbo and Ollie went to watch Spurs playing Bournemouth. I'm not a big Football fan, but I do kinda support both Chelsea and Brighton, because they're the only places I've lived that have decent teams.
Ollie was given the Spurs tickets by his school, and as you can probably see, they were way up in the gods.
The score was Spurs 1 Bournemouth 0. Predictable.
My son-in-law is in the UK at the moment, and no doubt he'll be going to watch Arsenal while he's there. He's a fan-atic! I see that they lost against Watford; so he won't be happy.
My wonderful children (yes they are) continue to surprise me.
Some while back Wills (above) surprised me by speaking fluent, and what sounded like, near perfect German whilst booking an hotel room in Frankfurt. I had no idea that he could speak anything other than just English and French.
Now he has surprised me again by showing a sudden interest in Sailing. Not only is he learning all about how to make boats do what you want them to do, and go where you want them to go, he is also planning world trips in a two masted ketch; which he has yet to buy.
I must say; I thoroughly approve of this new hobby, I just hope he invites me along as crew. Me and Boo Boo could catch and cook the fish.
I also hope he buys himself a yacht with no holes in the hull (seriously!).
On 17th September (not even a month ago) I reported that the nice egg man at our nearby market was now following new EU regulations, and was stamping his eggs with some silly nonsense that told us where they came from, and when they were laid, etc (if we could be bothered to decipher the smudged red writing).
Well, I'm pleased to report that in true French style, the new regulations are already being ignored, and my last Saturday's purchase of eggs (above) were all STAMP FREE!
For a moment I'd imagined the French were becoming lackeys to Brussels' bureaucrats, but my faith has been restored.
Aux armes citoyens, formez vos bataillons. Marchons, marchons. No more red stamping on local free range eggs!
If next Saturday I see him being hauled off to the Guillotine; I'll let you know.
When Lady Magnon bottles her annual supply of Apricot and Strawberry jams, invariably she uses old 'Bonne Maman' pots; I'm sure you know the ones, they have gingham tops (see below).
However, before Bonne Maman cornered the commercial jam market, people used purpose-made jam pots, which were coveted, and used year after year.
In my more esoteric days, I used to buy antique jam pots. I liked the idea of such things having held home-made jams over several generations. I seriously considered the age and aesthetics of such objects could only improve the quality of the contents, and in a way I think I was right.
I used to have quite a lot of them. No doubt they are still around somewhere, but gawd knows where!
Anyway, here are our current Bonne Maman pots.They're not a patch on the old ones which are very chunky and heavy; they had real jam kudos about them.
Suddenly morning temperatures dropped to frost warning levels. I think it was simply a false alarm, and I certainly didn't rush to bring all my Butternuts inside. I'm an optimist.
It isn't light here until around 8 am, so unless I wish to take Bok for his morning walk in the dark, I just have to wait. This is a temporary nuisance, but I expect the clocks will change quite soon.
This view (above) took my breath away yesterday. The low sun was so bright as it flooded along the little path behind the house, that my cheap camera could hardly cope with the brightness.
So, it's cool mornings, clear skies, and warm afternoons. I haven't yet lit an evening fire, but I quite expect Lady Magnon will be complaining before long.
For the moment I'm on top of all my tasks. I'll probably have a Flu' jab at the end of the month. Traps and poison have been laid for Winter-holiday-making rodents, and I have bought extra lots of flour, rice, pasta, and butter in readiness for the Winter siege.
Amongst Lady Magnon's Christmas presents, I usually add a year's subscription to one of her favourite magazines. Typically Elle Deco, Paris Match, or Elle à Table.
Some years back, I noticed in one of her mags an advert for a wine appreciation club called 'Expert Club'. After enlisting they would send you a free gift, then later inform you of their special offers of 'fine wines'; there was no obligation to buy anything. I happily subscribed.
They sent me the above Waiter's Friend as my free gift. I always prefer to use these rather than the standard corkscrews, and this particular one is of extremely good design and quality.
I believe the 'Expert Club' soon went bust (the name was later used by supermarket chain Intermarché), but I still regularly use my free gift. Who ever thought of sending out such 'freebies' by post must have made a very poor financial calculation.
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free corkscrews; yes! I can't think of any other free gift I've received that was nearly as good.
Following on from yesterday's page; I doubt if it will happen, but this man keeps being being touted as a future British PM.
Over the recent Summer months Rees-Mogg has gone from obscure backbencher to front page news. Ever since he named his sixth child 'Sixtus', he has been called both a 'toff from a bygone age', and the 'hope for a Greater Britain'; depending on what colour of newspaper you read.
I'm afraid I know very little of our Jacob. He received an upper 2nd in History from Trinity Oxford, he drives a 1936 3.5 T Series Bentley, and he's a supporter of Somerset Cricket Club. He is also anti same-sex marriage, and anti abortion, which doesn't win him many friends. His superior educational credentials would also rule him out from being admired by anyone to the left of centre.
His first foray into politics was in 1997 when he contested the Scottish constituency of Central Fife, where he carried out his canvassing accompanied by his nanny. It was said at the time that Rees-Mogg couldn't understand a single word of the local broad Scottish accents; nor could they understand him. He was not elected!
A future PM? Probably not, but he'd be a lot of fun as a future Mr Speaker!
When I was a wee lad of just 14, you may be surprised to learn that I became a Latin Scholar. Somehow in my school entrance exam I'd managed to score the highest marks in the Latin paper of my entry year; a staggering 90%.
My Prep' School Classics master was amazed, I was amazed, and just about everyone I knew was amazed.
Attached to the kudos of being a Latin Scholar was an annual bursary of 13 guineas which had to be spent on books. It was also part of the deal that I wrote an annual letter to the bursary committee about which books had been chosen, along with a reasonable critique; about 1000 words was enough.
My Latin studies didn't last for too long. My new teacher was tedious, and made the study of Latin a total bore rather than a pleasure. However my bursary continued for my full 4 years at school.
There was never a question in my mind as to what type of books I would purchase; they HAD to be books about Painting or Sculpture, and the best bet for someone like myself (at that time) were the Thames and Hudson 'World of Art' paperback publications that were very popular, and cheap.
It must be said that the illustrations were very poor, but they gave a general idea.
I have no idea how many books I bought over the four years, but the bookshelf in my study became stuffed with them; friends borrowed them at such a rate that I was obliged to use a Lending Library style system to keep track of who had what.
I only have a dozen or so here in France, the others are in boxes back in England. I still look at them occasionally, although with Google now at my fingertips, referring to them has become rare.
I would never get rid of them. They are like old friends!
I must admit that I was not over enthusiastic about having an Olive tree, but now that it's there, I'm determined to process the fruits.
The tree is young, and the crop small, but I have consulted Signor Google (Olé) and he has given me a simple process to follow. This year is just an experiment, but even so I hope he's right.
Each individual Olive was given a whack with a kitchen hammer to break the skins (I'm sure people in Spain or Greece have a simple machine for this) then I put them all into a jar of cold water. This water must be changed every day for a week, and the glass jar thoroughly cleaned at each change. This, apparently takes away all the bitter juices.
The Olives will then be put into in a brine, consisting of water, salt and vinegar, and stored away somewhere cool.
I will let you know later how things went. Signor Google says it's all very easy; we'll see!
About two months ago I awoke with a nasty pain in my upper right arm, up by my shoulder.
I imagine that I must have pulled or torn a muscle during the night, so I rested said arm for about three weeks, hoping it would heal.
Then our wood arrived, and I helped unload it without any problem; the arm seemed to have healed quite well, although I was still in some pain.
Rather stupidly, after my neighbours had left, I covered the wood with a tarpaulin, and moved a huge lump of tree trunk to hold it down at one end. As I was shifting the lump of wood I suddenly felt the most horrible tearing in my upper arm, and realised at once that I'd just undone the three weeks of healing. I was rightly furious with myself!
At this time of year there's so much that needs to be done. We still need to mow, there are logs to be sawn, the pool needed to be thoroughly cleaned and closed-down, and Haddock's needs to be weeded dug-over and tidied. Everything seems to require the use of strong arms. I felt totally buggered, and seriously wondered if the damage would be permanent; I could hardly lift my arm.
More than a month has now passed, and I have recently managed to start the mower without further damage, and I have also managed to start the chainsaw. I still have considerable pain in my upper arm, but I'm taking things gently, and am hoping that the pain will go in time. I still feel as if someone has given me a really hard punch on my arm.
I've been feeling quite depressed about this simple injury; not being able to complete all those Autumn/Winter tasks would have been disastrous. We rely 99% on sawn logs for our heating, etc.
I'm now feeling more confident, but I'm certainly not being complacent. It's permanently at the back of my mind that the same could easily happen again, and I'm praying that I can get through winter without that happening.
Imagine you are standing outside The World Art Gallery, and in the tradition of Desert Island Discs, you are invited to select just 8 paintings to take to your desert island. Every work of any merit is found inside the gallery; you must select just 8.
Here are a few favourites that come to MY mind.
1. Spencer's Self Portrait.1914
2. Matisse's Red Studio. 1911
3. Kitaj's The Red Banquet. 1960
4. Derain's Bateaux dans le Port, Collioure. 1905
5. Schmidt-Rottluff's Summer. 1913
6. Dors Carrington's Portrait of Strachey 1916
7. Jawlensky's Still Life. 1909
8. Kandinsky's Composition No 2. 1910
Kandinsky claimed to have painted the very first 'abstract' painting in around 1913, and I have decided to chose nothing pre-1900. All the above pictures I would look at (and admire) on a daily basis. Some I would admire simply for their beauty, others would remind me of a life elsewhere.
Every time I visit The Tate, I go directly to look at Spencer's portrait (illustrated).
Now, tell me some of the one's you'd take to your desert island (if indeed any).
I just know that you'll all be going to The Commonwealth Games on the Aussie Gold Coast in April 2018, and you'll be looking for a nice apartment. Rentals will be as scarce as hens' teeth, so best to book well in advance (now).
This sort of thing looks good. Very comfortable, all mod-cons, security, pleasant pool, and just a three minute walk from Broadbeach's fabulous beach.
Perfect for the upcoming Games, visiting Surfer's Paradise, or even for wearing your flares at Byron Bay.
With a leadership crisis possibly looming in the Conservative Party, may I propose Rory as a future replacement.
He may not have 'film star' looks, but he could be a rising star in other respects.
I am putting my reputation on the line, and am placing an imaginary Ten Euro note on Rory Stewart becoming leader of the Conservative Party (and therefore Prime Minister) some time in the future.
His educational credentials are exemplary. Dragon, Eton, Balliol (PPE), 2nd Lieutenant Black Watch, and several post grad' positions with the Foreign Service, including Indonesia, Montenegro, and S Iraq. Somewhere amongst all that, he also found time to write books about Iraq and Afghanistan, and tutor the young princes William and Harry. He is multi-lingual, and a member of The Athenaeum.
An MP since 2010, the 44 year old's present position is as Minister of State for International Development.
The Conservatives are top-heavy with responsible intellectuals, but Rory shines out. It's a pity one can't say the same about those Merry Marxists on the opposition benches; they would absolutely HATE Mr Stewart. His superior intellect and qualifications are everything they fight, and attempt to legislate, against. Never mention 'meritocracy' to a Socialist!
Don't let me down Rory; Ten Euros is a lot of money, even if it is simply in the ether.
In the meantime if an urgent replacement is needed for Mrs May I propose either Sir Michael Fallon, Philip Hammond, or just for fun why not the rebellious Jacob Rees-Mogg; that'll give Rory a few years for some essential extra experience.
The effects of our late Spring frost are now being felt throughout. We have no walnuts, and very few grapes.
Normally this Walnut tree (above) would be dropping nuts by the hundreds, and as no-one gathers them there would usually be a considerable mess of crushed nuts and shells covering the road. This year the road is clear and clean.
Last Saturday I asked my Vigneron what, if any, his harvest would be, and he reckons he will produce about 35% of his usual amount.
Such is life. One never knows what's around the corner; especially in the countryside.
My very favourite 'local band' are Brighton's own Los Albertos. Named after the pub' where they used to drink, and eventually formed the band (The Albert), they are a bunch of wayward, very talented, Brightonians who play great ska, klezmer, and other up-beat music. When I was living in Brighton I would often see them at the infamous Komedia Club; there was never a dull moment.
This should get the blood flowing on a cool autumn morning. Looks like it was recorded at the Komedia too.
I hear that the BBC will no longer be asking for details of 'qualifications' on a job-applicant's CV. The Socialist-heavy corporation has decided that it has too many well qualified, ex-Oxbridge intellectuals, and it needs to dumb-down and diversify.
There is, of course, good argument for employing those who are simply good at their job, but to purposefully exclude those who are also 'well educated' seems to me like cutting off one's own feet.
I have no personal knowledge of the interior workings of the BBC, but I do know that I actively prefer meritocracy to purposeful dumbing-down. Could you imagine the words 'Ivy League alumni need not apply' attached to a top-job advert in the US? Of course not!
The only person I know who worked for 'Aunty' was my old school friend AY. At school he was mostly interested in drama and the plastic arts, then went on to receive a poor degree (a Desmond) in Law from a non-Oxbridge university. He later became the Creative Director of the BBC and presented their 'Arena' arts programme. I am trying to imagine a less knowledgeable (or even a better qualified) person than A doing the job; I can't. He fitted-in into his role perfectly, and his non-Oxbridge education played little part in his obvious success.
However, finding the very best person for any job should always be the aim. Ideally people aspiring to fill the country's top positions will be well educated (at Oxbridge if needs be), have a bucket-full of common sense, and will know his/her subject inside-out.
I hope that never changes. If it does; we're lost.
The old Yorkshire ruse of shouting down a mine shaft, saying that the first eleven men up will be playing cricket for The County on Saturday, may have worked in theory; but best not try it.
As usual on a Saturday morning, yesterday I went to our tiny local market to buy wine, eggs, and bread (I showed the above picture a while back).
On delivery of my half dozen eggs, the nice man explained to me that as from today (yesterday) a new law says that each egg has to be stamped.
As far as I can see it says 1FRdou01. What this means is that they are free range (1), they come from France (FR), they come from this location (dou), and this is the number of the hen house they live in (01, I imagine my man only has one hen house).
It rather saddens me to see these red ink letters all over my free range, locally produced, eggs. Why can't these meddling bloody bureaucrats just leave things alone.
It may be just another minor liberty taken away from the small producer and his client; but the meddling EU 'politicians' (I use the word cautiously) will soon make sure that no-one, and no activity, escapes their bloody clutches.
I love this work, I love the scale, and I love the process.
I feel as if I have a tiny something in common with Ms Mehretu; the calligraphic quality of her work is something I understand, although in my own case I work on a very different scale. It's a tad like speaking the same language. Her painting above measures 27 by 32 feet.
Ms Mehretu is an American of Ethiopian origin. This painting, that she is seen working on above, is one of two that are apparently the worlds largest. I think they're entitled HOWL, eon (1 and 2).
If you happen to be in San Francisco, you can now see both works at the Museum of Modern Art. Otherwise you could consult Google Images; an example below.
The Chestnuts have just started falling. With hardly any rain over the past month or so, I expect the crop will be smaller than usual, but still enough to have a few roasted over the fire on a cold night.
Also in season are the Quinces. This year Lady Magnon has made both Membrillo and Quince Jelly. It remains to be seen if either will be eaten. I bought a Basque version of Manchego cheese, specially so we could experience the classic combination of the cheese with Membrillo. Not bad!
Of course early Autumn wouldn't be complete without plenty of Figs. This is our daily lunchtime quota.
We went with friends to the Scallop festival in Whitianga; a charming
seaside town in the Coromandal District.
Had a great time...5000 people, lots of wine...
4 years ago
The difference between an optimist and a pessimist, is that the optimist enjoys himself whilst waiting for the inevitable! I AM that optimist!
This is a daily, optimistic, 'photos and comments' blog. I make no judgements (only occasionally), just notes. If you wish to comment in any way at all, please feel free. Everything and everyone is very welcome.
I was born just south of London, but for the past 45 years I've lived in S W France. I am a painter by profession, and writer by desire. Lady Magnon and I live in an ancient cottage, in a tiny village, in perfectly tranquil countryside. We have a vegetable garden called 'Haddock's' (this may crop up from time to time), a Border Collie/Black Lab' cross called Bok, a cat called Freddie, plenty of fruit trees, and a view that takes the breath away. I try to treat our planet with respect, and encourage others to do likewise (without preaching).
Contentment is a glass of red, a plate of charcuterie, and a slice of good country bread. Perfect!