Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It’s the 14th of July, Bastille Day–La Fête Nationale, celebrating the day the notorious prison La Bastille in Paris, was stormed and destroyed, in July 1789.

00006081 copy

The fall of the Bastille, symbolizes the start of the French Revolution, which led to the killing of the king–Louis the XVI and the end of the ancient regime (old order).

Shortly after, on 4th August, feudalism was abolished and on 26th August 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man was proclaimed.

Momentous stuff–allez les Bleus!

Things were a good deal less momentous here this morning!

The distant whizz-bangs from the fireworks in Lautrec late Saturday evening and the sounds of one side’s ecstatic celebrations in Rio de Janeiro last night have given way to blessed silence.

Just the cooing of a dove and the chirps of birds telling each other about our bird feeder.

The supermarkets are closed (Sundays too–a new edict from the Prefet of the Tarn, our department) and there’s no post.

Visitors are always puzzled, often dismayed and sometimes angered about the eccentricities, as they see it, of commercial opening hours here.

There are four rush hours on normal weekdays as people take off at midday for lunch, chez eux (at home).

The Tour de France–the jauntiness of the logo below belies the task they face today…

tdf-logo

is in the mountains of the Vosges, close to the German border, for a second day–just a few ups and downs!

Capture+d%E2%80%99e%CC%81cran+2014-07-14+a%CC%80+15.03.16-2

A Frenchman hasn’t won the tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985–an astonishing and damning statistic.

Wearing the yellow jersey (maillot jaune) today, which denotes the leader, is Tony Gallopin, a Frenchman.

French pride restored, if only for a day–but the biggest day in the French calendar.

I shall be urging them on from the comfort of the sofa; in awe at another day of agony suffered by the riders in this epic of athletic endurance.

Allez tout le monde!

 

Harry Comes Back!!

Harry–whose mother, the renown Mrs.Tiggy-Winkle, told him not to worry–

“You have a way with you, Harry” she said  “doors will always open for you–you’re a lucky one….’

CAME BACK last night!

IMG_5325

Meredith was in the kitchen, taking a late phone call; I was in bed reading about the causes of the First World War!

We’d closed up for the night–all the doors to the house were shut.

She heard a noise over by the cat bowls. “Someone is having late night snack,” she thought.

Not one of the cats though–the young ones were outside, Pippa up on the bed with me.

“Crunch, crunch…”

She couldn’t quite see the bowl from where she was sitting, so she got up, phone in hand and there–cool as you like–was a hedgehog, tucking into the cat food.

They looked at each other in a shared moment of disbelief–before he dodged round the corner into the larder.

She explained the situation to the friend on the phone:

“You won’t believe this but there’s another hedgehog in the house!”

Then shot upstairs to tell me the tale.

“Where is it now?”

“In the larder–we’ll have to get it out of there!”

“Is it Harry?”

“I’m not sure.”

No escape, I thought, put my book aside and rolled out of bed.

There he was–in the corner–protected by a roasting rack, as far away as he could get.

IMG_5322

Curled up into a tight ball, he looked smaller than Harry.

Was it another member of the intrepid Tiggy-Winkle family, “chancing its arm”?

We cleared the cluttered space and Meredith gently managed to grasp him, protected by a pair of tough gardening gloves.

IMG_5323

Two days ago, while Harry was still in the flying basket, before he scuttled back to Mum, Meredith had dabbed a spot of pink nail varnish on the tip of some of his spikes, to identify him should he return.

“Look, Rob–there’s the pink mark!”

IMG_5324

Hard to see at first but there it was.

We felt like a pair of nature conservationists!

It was Harry–the first hedgehog to fly in the history of the world!

Clearly emboldened by his first adventure and apparently finding that door open again, he may have thought, “Well, the worst that can happen to me is I get to fly a second time. Here goes!”

Meredith gently carried him outside and left him to find his bearings next to a bowl of cat food…and prepare another explanation for a worried Mother Tiggy-Winkle.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.53.36 AM

Now Harry–this has got to stop!

 

 

 

A Tale from Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle of the Tarn

–with apologies to B. Potter!

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.53.36 AM

It was when she was about to iron Harry’s shirt–a day or two ago now, even three–that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle had a thought.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.54.43 AM

“Where is Harry for that matter–haven’t set eyes on him for–well, a day or two now.

He’s always off somewhere–it’s a worry, but he usually comes back by dinner time!”

Harry’s hunger for adventure has its limitations.

What did he say?

“Ma–you know you always say–‘Harry, no need to worry about your future, you have a way with you; doors will always open for you–you’re a lucky one–I feel it in my water, you’ll fall in the butter dish, my boy, mark my words–you will!’

Well, today’s the day, Ma–I’ve spotted a door and it’s open…

And we know that Harry’s was telling the truth about the open door, because a day or two ago–even three, we started finding “EVIDENCE” of an additional presence in the house.

We’d grown accustomed to finding “evidence” these past few weeks to be sure, but always OUTSIDE the house; now this “evidence” was appearing INSIDE!

I found some on the floor of the larder–Meredith found some around the cats’ feeding bowls.

It took a moment for the penny to drop (or tuppence in this case!).

Then we looked at each other…

“There’s a HEDGEHOG in the house!”

But where?

Finding a hedgehog in hiding is only marginally easier than finding a needle in a haystack.

Concealment is their business–they’re professionals and even to a youngster like Harry, it’s second nature.

“I’ll look in the pile of firewood,” says Meredith unconvincingly and heads for the dining room.

No luck–but more “evidence”.

There’s hope though.

A late spring cleaning is seriously underway and tables and chairs are piled high with STUFF, reducing the places of safety for hedgehogs–in search of a quiet nook.

“Rob, Rob come here–QUICK!!”

Meredith’s voice is coming from outside the front door.

There, in a shopping basket that had been parked on the front hall floor, is Harry–just visible under a light cotton shopping bag, his cover blown, his singular adventure at an end–surrounded by “evidence”.  (How LONG has he been in residence??)

Hedgehog in Basket

Meredith thinks to lift him out with a pair of oven gloves.

“No! no!”  I cry, “in the basket–carry him in the basket round the corner, next to the woodpile near where they come from to eat in the evenings.”

A short flight but an historic one, through the gate and round the corner–one can’t be sure but maybe it’s the first recorded flight by a hedgehog in the history of the world!

Meredith gently lands the basket with Ben overseeing the operation.

IMG_5302

…and eating the cat food meant to entice Harry out of his basket home!

IMG_5299

After a deal of sniffing round the rim and peeking over the top Harry finds  a way out and scuttles off back to Mum!

IMG_5296

 

Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle wasn’t far wrong–things fall out well for Harry–he even got to fly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WinstonGraham

Winston garlanded with the twelve books of Poldark

Winston Graham would have been 106 today. Hard to believe he died 11 years ago.

His writing lives on and is again a source of joy as well as–in this case–employment!

The filming of the new series of POLDARK is nearing the halfway point and interest is building.

(I still have a second scene to do and am causing some hilarity in Castres market with my mutton chops and straggly hair.)

He wrote Ross Poldark, the first in the saga, in 1945 when he was 37.

He finished the twelfth and last book, Bella Poldark, in 2002 at the age of 92!

This last tells the story of Ross and Demelza’s youngest child who becomes an actress–and with whom I’m sure Winston fell in love–as he’d done with Demelza, 11 books earlier–history repeating itself!

There is PASSION in the Poldark saga from the first book to the last. He loved and felt a loyalty to his characters–and this he passed on to his readers.

The books will be given another lease of life when the new version is shown next year–and this is just.

He was a supremely talented story teller.

Thanks Winston,  and many happy returns!!

 

 

IMG_5081

When we moved here permanently fifteen years ago this July (is it that long ago?!) friends used to say with a degree of disbelief edged with irritation: “Oh don’t be silly! what’ll  you  do there?

I can’t remember answering: “we are going to rear hedgehogs!“–although I might have felt like saying that.

Now it appears that–is exactly what we are doing.

We have a family of them living in the woodpile–at least that’s the direction from which they come.

As dusk falls–about 9.45pm at present–we can be sitting round the table at the back–often with company–when we sense a presence and turning slowly behold a small creature making its way forward, apparently unaware that he or she is not alone.

Suddenly we come into ear or eyeshot and it stops, frozen, sometimes for more than a minute, before deciding that LATER would be wiser–and scuttling off, keeping close to the wall.

IMG_2883

This excursion isn’t an idle evening stroll–it’s feeding time for hungry hedgehogs–in the know.

There are always an assortment of half empty cat bowls with leftovers, waiting to be polished off.

Some evenings when a bowl is partially hidden we will hear a faint munching sound.

Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph“–feeding time in full swing.

IMG_5094

The cats–well fed by this time–look on with puzzled interest.

IMG_5036

What is it? This spiky ball with its snout in our trough? 

IMG_5078

Leave well alone–don’t go there–live and let live?

IMG_5038

Last year in a BBC poll to find an animal to play the part of National Animal Treasure, the hedgehog was a runaway (scuttle away, more like) winner.

The British love reluctant heroes and Mrs Tiggywinkle (Beatrice Potter’s invention) fits the bill–shunning the limelight and keeping herself to herself.

IMG_5040

Mrs Tiggy snoozing behind a mat masquerading as a hedgehog!

I’m in favor of hedgehogs–the world needs more of them and too many of the poor creatures end up as roadkill.

If we are inadvertently responsible for nurturing a family or two–I reckon that’s a good enough reason to move to France!

IMG_3124

Go Tiggywinkles!

Hints on helping hedgehogs thrive.

 

 

 

Jerome Carayol has a small stand at Lautrec market on Fridays selling garlic, eggs and the odd duck and chicken–his mother supplies the pigeons.

He tells me this morning, picking three garlic bulbs from a small pile as a gift, that he’ll begin lifting his pink garlic  (l’ail rose de Lautrec) tomorrow or Monday.

For the last three weeks, starting early before the sun gets a hold, small teams–mainly youngsters–are employed in the fields working slowly along the rows of garlic, picking the scopes (the stem that develop into a flower) off the top of each plant.

Back-breaking work–but necessary to allow the plant to concentrate its final surge of energy on the bulb.

Now the farmers are beginning the harvest.

IMG_5020

Garlic gath’rers pass,

Leaving the scent in the air;  

It’s that time again.

Judy Bach asked for recipes on Facebook.

Here’s one, adapted from Skye Gyngell’s version in her book,  How I Cook :

New season courgettes, cooked slow with the new garlic and mint–mushily delicious with a little kick from the chili.

This is  for 4 

1 lb courgettes/zucchini--sliced thin

garlic cloves–sliced thin

1 small dried red chili–chopped

a handful of mint (if you have it)-chopped

salt and pepper

1 tblsp olive oil

  • In a medium pan, gently soften the garlic and chili in the oil.

  • Add the sliced courgettes/zucchini and turn them over in the oil to coat them thoroughly.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Turn again to distribute the seasoning.
  • Cover the pan and cook for forty minutes on a very low heat.
  • Uncover and fold in the mint, if you have it–which we have, but I forgot it!
IMG_0787

Looks better with the mint!

 

“Supper?”

“Sorted–it’s in the bag!”

It’s a while since I have cooked salmon this way.

IMG_4995

Can’t think why.

And it’s a cinch for busy people who come home tired from work.

The whoosh of scented steam as the parcel is unwrapped is an added treat–but watch your nose doesn’t get scalded!

The red peppercorns add to the beauty of the dish–are crunchy soft–and disintegrate when bitten into.

IMG_4997

This is adapted from a recipe in Jenny Baker’s comprehensive Simply Fish.

for 2

2 salmon fillets–about 170gms each

2 tsp red peppercorns–optional

1 lemon

fresh herbs such as dill, tarragon, mint

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 large pieces of foil of equal size–large enough to envelop the salmon pieces and leave them enough space to “breath”

Preheat the oven to 200c/400F

  • Lay the two large pieces of foil on a flat surface.
  • Lay a salmon fillet on each piece of foil and season well with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle some olive oil over each fillet.
  • Sprinkle a teaspoonful of the red peppercorns on each fillet.
  • Slice off 4 thin slices from the lemon and place them–two/three–on each fillet.
  • Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon over the fillets and add the herbs you favor.

IMG_4992

I’ve used fresh tarragon and dill here.

  • Wrap up the parcels–leaving that breathing space for the steam to do its work cooking the fillets.

IMG_4994

 

  • Place them on an oven tray and slide into the middle of the oven for about fifteen minutes.
  • The cooking time depends on the size of the fillets–take a peek after 15 minutes.

IMG_5001

 

  • This got a “ding” from Meredith, who liked the taste the red peppercorns.
  • We had brown basmati rice with a sauce of tomato and courgette slices (1 large tomato and 1 courgette) spooned over and  tzatziki sauce (yogurt and cucumber), on the side.
  • IMG_5002
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 973 other followers