Saturday, 4 December 2010

Back in Blighty.

Brighton Pavilion in the snow.

I'm back in England for the second time in a month, having left Lord Magnon home alone in France.

He's given me a huge shopping list that includes Haggis, Green ginger wine, and Horseradish sauce. All things he says he can't live without.

Brighton is beautiful in the snow, but with all the hills and inclines it's also rather dangerous. I've already seen several people on their backs.

So, I'm off Christmas shopping until mid-month. If you see a very thin Lord M begging on a street corner, do give him a mince pie and a kind word. And tell him I'll be back soon.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Cottage life.

I love this time of year. To me there's nothing to compare with sitting around the fire on a cold evening, stretching my legs out on the sofa, and either reading a good book or watching a favourite film on TV. I took the above photo yesterday mid-To Kill a Mockingbird. What a way to spend a cool sunday afternoon.

Lord M installed this Godin wood-burning stove a couple of years back. At first I was a little upset to have lost our old smokey, spark-spitting fire, but the advantages of the new stove are now obvious. It can be easily revived in the morning, easily left burning whilst we are out, and gives off a fabulous heat when required. Winters can be very cold here in southern France, so reliable heating, double glazing, and good insulation are essential. A cottage can still look like an ancient cottage, but the advantages of modern technology need to be embraced.
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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Beast of Burden.

I had an interesting family life, I went to a good school, I studied Fine Art at college, and then I met Lord Magnon.

Now I'm a dogsbody; painting evil smelling wood-preservative onto splinter-filled planks, and creeping about amongst rafters poking itchy insulating material into dark corners.

Where did it all go wrong?
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Monday, 26 April 2010

Lady Magnon Regrets.....

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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Happy Birthday HJ.

These two belong to our oldest son who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. The one doing all the hard work is Harvey J, and the one in the buggy is his brother Ollie. As can be seen, the photo was taken at Leipzig Zoo.

It's Harvey J's 4th birthday tomorrow (April 25th). So, have a very happy birthday, from Grumsy (and Grumpy)!
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Friday, 23 April 2010


I sometimes wonder what nature had in mind when she invented WASPS.

With the hot weather, they are just beginning to re-appear. Usually they make their small nests under the old 'Roman' tiles on the roof, but last year one gang decided to nest amongst the stones on the front of the house, and caused quite a nuisance of themselves.

Lord Magnon did his best with insect sprays, stuffing putty and paper into the holes, and 'rabbit deterrent' (that's another story), but we couldn't eradicate them. I'm keeping a careful eye out for them this year; at the first sign of any going in where they were last year, it'll be 'handbags at dawn'.
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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The rainbow.

I suppose we're never satisfied. Now that we're through the worst of winter, and well into spring, I'm already beginning to miss the rain.

Those sudden showers that brought with them the rainbows will probably not return for months.

I always love looking out due east, towards the church, and seeing these huge bright arches in the sky. Nature comes up with some really great ideas.

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Lord Magnon has just posted a picture of the sort of car we've owned. But I don't want another 2CV or a Renault 4L. I want one of these!

Its got everything I need. A place for my handbag, a boot for when I go shopping, and a passenger seat in case I should come across Lord Magnon with a flat tyre (on his bicycle).

I think I'll have it in British Racing Green, with a black hood, and beige suede interior. Thanks.
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Tuesday, 20 April 2010


At this time of year, when the weather allows, we eat on our open terrace in front of the cottage.

With daytime temperatures at about 22 degrees C, we need shade at mid-day. When not used, our large dark green parasol is always let down and tied up, to avoid a gust of wind whisking it away. The next day, at lunch time, when re-opened there are tiny bats (probably Pipistrelles) nesting between its folds. They don't stay for long as both the heat and the brightness soon become too much for them, and they fly off to find another dark cool spot.

Cute, aren't they!
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Monday, 19 April 2010

No Vapour Trails, just Blue Skies.

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see.

Irving Berlin.
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Sunday, 18 April 2010

The perfect woman?

Lord Magnon sees me as the woman on the poster. He likes the idea of my permanently wearing jodhpurs, whilst dead-heading flowers, weeding his vegetables, or taking a pair of black labradors for a walk.

I think he would like me to change my name to 'Bunty', to bake rhubarb crumbles every day, and to own a large olive plantation in Provence.

Well I'm sorry Lord M, you'll have to take me as I am; in all my glory! You lucky man.
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Saturday, 17 April 2010


Lord M's dress sense may not be quite as bad as the guys above, but it's pretty awful. At home he wears what he calls his 'Ratting Clothes'. These are filled with holes, are constantly used as towels or rags, and have usually been stolen from one or other of our sons (who probably threw them out anyway).

Ever since I've known Lord Magnon, he's also worn a dirty, paint-covered, moth-eaten, black or grey beret (even before we came to live in France!). I think he'd wear it in bed if it would stay on.

I despair at his studio; I despair even more at his clothes. He'll never change (thank goodness).

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Friday, 16 April 2010


Yesterday (April 15th) my neighbours sowed their sunflower crops.

Last year they grew just beyond our pool (above); this year they are down in the slight valley in front of the house, some 200 yards away.

There has always been some confusion about whether sunflowers follow the sun. Let me put this to rest. Before the flower is fully open (i.e. when still green) they DO follow the sun; every morning you will find them facing due East, and every evening due West. Once the flowers are fully open, however, they DON'T, but permanently face due East.

In the picture, the flower head is facing away from our house, looking towards the church. i.e. Facing due east.

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bluebell woods.

Willow, of Willow Manor, recently posted a picture of bluebells. They are such beautiful flowers that I thought I would post another. I wish I could buy a huge sack of seed and establish a wood here.

A bluebell wood in April is one of those things I really miss about England.

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Wednesday, 14 April 2010


The plates, above, come from a small pottery in the south of France called La Poterie Provencale, in Biot.

M Augé-Laribé began his pottery in 1920, and we are lucky to have a few of his early pieces. In 1994 we asked them to make us a set of 10 dinner plates; ours are round (rather than octagonal, above) and are glazed in that same rustic dark green.

I've now decided that I need some small 'side plates' to accompany them, so it looks like another long process awaits us. These guys work at their own speed, whilst we have to twiddle our fingers in anticipation. Still, it'll be worth the wait.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Lady Magnon's Madeleines

Madeleines are one of the un-sung heroes of the patisserie world. They are ideal to make with children, and will disappear as quickly as you make them. You need a special mould, and the following:

125g unsalted butter (melted)
125g plain flour
3 whole eggs
1tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
1tsp grated lemon zest
A splash or two of orange flower water

Sift the baking powder and flour into a large bowl. Place sugar, eggs, and lemon zest in a separate bowl and whisk until pale and thick. Combine the contents of the two bowls until well mixed. Fold in the melted butter and the orange flower water. Leave to cool for 20 mins. To cook, grease your moulds with melted butter, half fill, and bake at 200 degrees for about 20/25 mins.

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Monday, 12 April 2010

Cosy Cottage.

Daytime temperatures have already reached 22 degrees C, but the evenings are still quite cool, hence the wheelbarrow full of logs for the sitting room Godin stove. We light it at about 5pm, fill it just the once, and leave it to burn out. That's usually enough.
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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Carl Larsson.

Carl Larsson has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember; I just love his relaxed view of life. The scene above is much like any farm anywhere. However it reminds me of one farm in particular where instead of chickens all over the place, there are CATS. The last time we visited we counted over 18, but there were plenty more hiding away in the undergrowth!

As it's now spring, there's the scent of kitten-making in the air, and we're expecting a huge pussy population EXPLOSION any minute. So, if anyone wants a sack-full......

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Saturday, 10 April 2010


Tom Stephenson is holding a Champagne-related competition. As it happens, on the very day that he posted the rules and reg's, I happened to be de-frosting our Champagne/beer/tonic fridge. This is only the half of our actual stock (just enough to have ready cooled in case of visitors). In Lord Magnon's studio there are another six bottles. Not a record, but enough, surely, to convince you that we are addicted to the nectar of Epernay; and therefore claim our prize.
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Le Coq Gaulois.

In 1994 two Parisian men arrived in this small bastide town (above), and set up shop as 'antique dealers' in the main street. They also set up home together a little way out of town.

Unfortunately their morning beauty sleep soon became disturbed by the sound of next-door's crowing cockerel; a sound that is perfectly normal in the countryside, anywhere in the world.

They asked the owner of the bird to make it stop; he wouldn't. They threatened him with law suits; he didn't care. Eventually these two 'antique dealers' consulted a lawyer and, as threatened, a process against the farmer was started.

The Judge found himself in a difficult dilemma, and was obliged to find in favour of the two men. He awarded them 1 franc in damages; the closest thing to a good slap in the face that he could summon.

The local population was both outraged and elated, and in celebration of what they saw as a great bucolic victory, they organised a giant day-long fete in the town. Schoolchildren made banners, farmers arrived with a huge assortment of animals, and a damned good time was had by all. The two 'antique dealers' ended up with egg on their faces, and have been shunned by the local population ever since; I have a feeling that they shall remain friendless for ever.

I've always rather liked the cartoon, above, that was drawn to commemorate the event. It hangs in our kitchen.

p.s. The word 'Cocorico' is the French equivalent to 'Cock-a-doodle-do'.

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Friday, 9 April 2010

One man went to mow....

Lord Magnon's been mowing. I think it's just the third time this year. We have three different areas; the lawn around the house (above) which Cro tells me takes 20 mins, the grass around Haddock's which takes 10 mins, and Haddock's Paddock which takes another 20 mins. A staggering 50 mins in all.

For this I have to supply copious amounts of tea (or cold drinks), mop his leaking brow, and continuously praise his gargantuan efforts.

I must say, it does always look very good when he's done. Thank goodness the mower started properly this year, but that's another expletive-filled story.

In case you were wondering, the white flowered climber against the distant 'tower', is a Clematis armandii. An evergreen Clematis with masses of fragrant white flowers in spring.

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Thursday, 8 April 2010


Last year this tree had just TWO flowers, and NO fruit. I've never seen it like this before, just look at it.

Of course a late frost could still wipe out any future crop, but we would still have had this wonderful springtime spectacle.

I have to say, the greengage is not my favourite fruit. Firstly it seems to attract bugs, and secondly it becomes unbelievably SWEET when fully ripe. If one can find a bug-free, slightly under-ripe fruit, it's great.
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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The New Strawberry Patch.


Yesterday I split all our pot-bound strawberry plants and planted them out in rows at Haddock's.

When they were in pots we used to just pick, and eat them, as we passed by, but I now want to produce enough to have a proper meal, or for the grandchildren to pick them into baskets.

Everyone loves strawberries (?), and we have two varieties. One is big and average in flavour, the other smaller but delicious. I've mixed the two varieties together. It just remains to see if my new strawberry patch will be more successful than just having them in pots. It certainly looks good.
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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Nesting time.

Blue Tits must be one of my favourite small garden birds. Like most people with gardens we put up nesting boxes for the small birds, and in winter we make sure they have plenty to eat and drink.

Our cottage is stone built and there are nooks & crannies everywhere for the smaller birds to use for nesting. At the moment we have one Blue Tit nesting in the front wall of the cottage, and others in boxes.

I've never tried to count the number of different varieties of small birds that we have in the garden; there are lots. However, my favourite will always be the sweet little Blue Tits.
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Monday, 5 April 2010

Artist's House.

How many women would put up with THIS!

I recently read a blog that promoted the idea of 'Blogger's House' (Willow, of Willow Manor); one of her readers suggested that it was only really satisfying to clean, if one was able to notice the difference afterwards. I know what she meant.

Others suggested they lived in 'Artist's House', where mess was simply endemic. The above photo doesn't come close to showing the state of Cro's studio. It's probably more cluttered than a municipal rubbish tip. Cro claims that everything is essential, and everything is in it's place. But frankly it's a disgrace.

He has collections of small pieces of used string, of bits of wood, and of plastic bags. He treasures broken garden tools, and has rolls of rusting wire netting. His pile of silly hats is legendary, and his old sweater and T shirt collection spills out from it's ample box. Most of his 'stuff' is a mystery; pots of evil smelling powders, bottles of unknown liquids, and jars of 'goodness-knows-what'. His unpublished books are everywhere, and brushes stick out from jam jars filled with oddly coloured gunge.

I despair.

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