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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
So, goodbye Johnny. You will be missed by millions of fans here in France, but sadly your fame always rested within her bounds .
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
I get really pissed-off. I'm constantly hearing people refer to 'Vaulted Ceilings', where they really mean 'Beamed Ceilings'.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I adore David Attenborough, but my love of nature (both above and below the waterline) came long before he arrived on the TV scene.
My introduction to exotic wildlife came from Armand and Michaela Denis (above), their African jungle adventures kept the young Cro totally spellbound for years.
Under water it was Hans and Lotte Hass who introduced us to the strange alien world of aquatic life. Later it was Cousteau and his crew who finally cemented my love of everything sub-aqua.
When I look at the photo above, I see a wonderful couple whose names will be unknown to the majority, but they were pioneers in the field of nature filming. He with his strange guttural Belgian accent, and she with her beauty and elegance; they made it seem perfectly natural to be amongst all those wild animals.
I feel privileged that part of my early education was tutored by these wonderful people, and not by some hand-held toy where you score points for killing imaginary enemies!
The young now know so little of the world around them; bring back Armand and Michaela.
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!