Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The calendar again

This is the picture She Who Must Be Obeyed chose for February next year. It is the village of Blesle, in the Auvergne,France. It is listed as one of France's most beautiful villages - along with several hundred others making the same claim. Personally, I think it looks a bit run down.
(Pardon my cynicism.)

Monday, 29 August 2016

Fruit salad

I rather think that this week will see the first blackberry ripe enough, in my opinion, for me to pick. There are already some - quite a few- that many folks would consider ripe. But my standards are higher. Granted, it helps that I pick blackberries in our own garden, which means I can leave them until they reach perfection. I suppose I am a bit fussy, but I do like my blackberries. They are possibly the best fruit for baked Alaska - which reminds me, the Old Bat hasn't done that for ages. I must remind her.

I'm not sure which is my favourite fruit. Probably either blackberries or raspberries. I particularly like both of them - but I do wish their pips would keep out of my teeth!

Blackberries and raspberries might be my favourites, but I do like plenty of other fruit as well.  That said, I am a bit choosy. For example, I do not like one particular variety of strawberry, and of course it's the one that the supermarkets prefer, probably as it has a longer shelf life than other varieties. I'm referring to Elsanta, a variety that lacks flavour. I much prefer Favorit or Driscall's and there was another variety beginning with C that I found a year or two ago but haven't seen since. That was particularly good.

I'm fussy about apple varieties as well. My first choice will always be a Cox's Orange Pippin or that newer variety, Braeburn, but I can't stand Golden Delicious and am not keen on Gala or Jazz. I know many apples are grown in France, but the climate/weather in that country is not the best for this fruit. English apples are far superior, although I realise that is just my opinion. Actually, it's not; the Old Bat agrees with me.

I know of no different varieties of banana, although I am sure there are several. They are sold simply as bananas so that is how I think of them. My preference is for fruit just a little on the unripe side, firm and full of flavour. Just a couple of days after buying they tend to be too soft for me.

Oranges, pineapple, grapes - all good by me, but I am not very keen on kiwi fruit or lychees and I actually dislike mangoes which have too slimy a consistency for me. And as for custard apples - they should never be grown!

I have never subscribed to the idea that peaches are great. They're OK, but - and many people will be incredulous at this - the best peaches come out of tins! Tinned sliced peaches with evaporated milk - a special tea-time treat when I was a boy, and still the best way to eat them!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Gone racing

Perhaps I was just a little hasty yesterday when I suggested that summer was coming to an end - the temperature did hit 27 again!

Actually, it wasn't yesterday that I wrote that, it was today - although by the time you read this it will be yesterday, or tomorrow, or last week. I'm starting this post late at night as I plan to go racing tomorrow (or today, or last week). Donkey racing - and pig racing. A nearby Lions club is running a donkey derby and my club is to take our pig racing stall. The weather forecast a few days ago was decidedly iffy but I think it might have changed since then, despite this being a bank holiday weekend.

Summer's going

It certainly seems a little cooler this morning.  We have had something of a heatwave this week - a heatwave for us Brits, anyway, with temperatures peaking at 30 or so.  30 Celsius, that is - mid to upper 80s Fahrenheit.  Even here along the coast where it's generally a little cooler we have reached 27 or 28.  That has felt oppressive with the high humidity and I have taken to walking Fern in the woods after breakfast and then not again until the evening.  Which meant that I had all afternoon free yesterday to order our kitchen calendar for next year.

Which, perhaps, deserves a little explanation.

For the past ten years or so I have had a calendar specially printed using photographs taken by myself. It's not really as extravagant as might be expected and, for the first few years at least, it was a reminder of places we had been to during the previous year. I have been very lax in my photography for the last year and so for our 2017 calendar we have had to trawl through the years.  Well, I had to trawl through the years to produce a selection of a couple of dozen for the Old Bat to choose from. It took me the better part of yesterday afternoon to upload the selection to the printers' web site.

Which reminds me.  Last Monday morning I uploaded the artwork for a poster to be printed A4 size (250 copies) and different artwork for 5,000 flyers in A5 size.  Total price £89.  They were delivered on Thursday, having been printed in Holland!

But back to the calendar.  This was the choice for January's illustration, the farm next door to our French cottage.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Thursday, 25 August 2016

As sure as a couple of eggs

I haven't heard that expression used for ages.  Over 60 years, to be a little more exact.  I wasn't sure then - and I'm not sure even now - quite whether that wording is what the man meant to say or whether he really meant 'as sure as eggs is eggs'. My considered opinion, refined over these past 60+ years, is that he was trying to be clever and paraphrase the well-known saying.  It would have been in character, or as near as I can tell, my pre-teenage self not being into character reading to any great extent.  (I'm not saying that I'm pre-teenage now, you understand, but that I was when I heard those words.)

It was at school, back in the days when the teachers (we called them masters in those days) always wore jackets, ties and GOWNS, although mortar boards had been put aside.  This particular gentleman was the deputy headmaster and was standing in for our regular master (I have a feeling it might have been a history less) who was sick or attending a funeral or something.  Anyway, this deputy headmaster, by name of Parsons, was Welsh.  I'm not sure that his place of birth really has any bearing on the matter, but then again, it might.

Because Mr P was unfamiliar with the names of the boys in my form (we weren't called students back then) he had fallen into the habit of making up names. Well, not so much making up names, as using objects as names.

"You, Tomato," he would say, pointing to a pupil. (Just an example, you understand.)

One of the pupils had what turned out to be the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your sense of humour) name of Gammon.

You, there, Bacon. What's your name?" demanded Mr P.

He took some convincing that the answer was not a leg-pull and threatened the whole class with a visit to the headmaster.  "I'll have you trotting along as sure as a couple of eggs!" he exclaimed.

I've never heard the phrase since, and I can find no trace of it on Google so I think he must have been making it up.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Mad dogs and Englishmen

I have recently re-read a book by possibly the most anglophile American. Although I did from time to time find myself becoming a tad irritated, it did remind me why I am very happy to have been born a native of these islands.  Mr Bryson - for he was the author - waxed lyrical about the whimsical nature of England and Englishmen.  It took an Englishman - Noel Coward - to put us on a par with mad dogs.

That, to Mr B, is one of our endearing traits, the ability always to see ourselves as not as good as other races (or nationalities).  We frequently sell ourselves short.  Mind you, many of us like to see that as eccentricity rather than madness, and eccentricity is something we admire.  It is something we do rather well.  Take place names, for example.  Many of them are pronounced completely differently to the way they are spelled.  Gloucester, Worcester and Leicester are pronounced Gloster, Wooster and Lester.  Belvoir is Beaver and - wait for it! - Woolfardisworthy (an eccentricity if ever I saw one!) is Woolsery.  And in Norfolk there are two neighbouring villages called Tivetshall.  So as to distinguish one from t'other, the names of their parish churches' patron saints are added to give Tivetshall St Mary and Tivetshall St Margaret.  Some names almost invite sniggers, names such as Nether Wallop and Parsons End.  And to think that we consider Kalamazoo odd!

But it's not only place names that are endearingly eccentric.  We have an innate need to apologise. We apologise to people who bump into us because they are not looking where they are going. We apologise when asking for something.  "I'm sorry, could you move your bag off the seat so I can sit down?"  "I'm sorry, can you tell me what time you serve breakfast?" It could be described as a sorry state of affairs.

Our people invent things and we let other nations reap the benefits. Football was 'invented' in this country - and now almost every other country plays it better than we do.  We have won the World Cup once - 50 years ago!  We invented cricket and our national team is frequently beaten by others. Mind you, cricket qualifies as an eccentricity itself!

I mentioned that the names of places are sometimes (often?) not pronounced as written but this quirkiness goes further. We spell the noun for the place where plays are staged the French way - theatre - albeit without the little hat over the 'a' but we say it almost in the American way - theater - although the emphasis is on the first syllable rather than the second. Then there is the habit we have, probably irritating to some, of adding a silent 'w' to words starting with the sound 'r' and sometimes 'h' - write, wring, who. But the 'wh' at the start of whistle, when and where is pronounced as a 'w'!  And perhaps it would be better not to get entangled with the 'ough' ending of words!

Personally, I am quite happy to live in a land of oddities.