Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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

 

walk1

We’ve been busy and–one thing and another–routine such as it is here, day to day, has gone out the window.

There’s something to be said for routine, for a bit of structure.

I managed a walk this morning, the first since we got back from Normandy and it felt good.

Routinely, I try to walk every other day, ideally in the early morning–certainly in summer when it’s too hot by 10am.

I come back, the day’s ahead and a walk’s in the bag–a good feeling.

A bit of routine.

At 11.15–(it was cloudy and the wind was fresh)–I found myself out on the road.

Walking sets more than your legs in motion–the steady rhythm starts the mind turning over, popping stuff into your head–offering up ideas and solutions.

I’d got today’s lunch sorted yesterday–I thought; the left over spinach and rice torte and salad.

Then Meredith came back from the annual vide grenier (attic clearing sale) in Lautrec with scrambled eggs on her mind for breakfast–oh dear, there are four eggs in the torte!

Too bad I thought.

Then after ten minutes on the road, the sun came out and the mussels I bought for lunch yesterday floated into my thoughts.

(I’d forgotten they were in the fridge–I’d changed my mind about them when the weather got cooler.)

I was back home by noon–plenty of time.

The torte’ll keep ’til tomorrow!

Must remember it’s in the fridge though…

walking.gifvv

whoopee–on the road again!

 

 

 

 

 

Normandy (2)

IMG_4374

Meredith and I made two visits to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach before Friday’s D-Day commemoration.

On Wednesday 4th she had arranged to meet an old high school classmate who was in charge of NBC TV’s coverage of the D-Day Ceremony.

IMG_4352

Ex-New Trier classmates re-unite: Meredith with Bob Epstein, Special Events, NBC News

The following day we returned to hear John Morris, a founding member of Magnum photo agencydeliver a short speech at the Memorial to honor of a friend who had been killed soon after the landings. He laid a wreath.

IMG_4558

John, who is 97 and first voted in a presidential election in 1935, also had a D-Day story to tell, which NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported.

The narrow lanes in Normandy link small villages where the damage has been repaired and only gratitude remains.

IMG_4313

IMG_4492

Buildings are restored to former beauty–though the photographs from 70 years ago strategically placed (badges of honor almost) give a “Before and After” idea of the devastation wrought by allied bombing seventy years ago.

IMG_4484

 

IMG_4489

Our journeys through the Normandy countryside are full of surprises.

No fighting troops but troops there are a-plenty–fully kitted out.

IMG_4320

…and driving every conceivable type of vehicle of the era.

IMG_4467

 

IMG_4449

The plucky little guy!

Willys jeeps predominate–the ones we grew familiar with in post war films, usually transporting a cigar-smoking John Wayne or Robert Mitchum at speed.

IMG_4439

Answering a call of nature!?

I had a schoolboy crush on the Willys jeep, seeing myself in the Mitchum role long before I ever imagined I’d be an actor.

These “troops” processing at a more leisurely pace through the tranquil countryside are “re-enactors”, come to Normandy to do just that, re-enact incidents from the past and lend a non-violent “dressing” to the scene.

IMG_4324

IMG_4463

IMG_4630

Italian re-enactors!

After lunch with Bob “backstage” at the American cemetery on Wednesday, we watch a Belgian company of re-enactors paying tribute to the fallen with a full ceremony–including Taps (the Last Post) in front of the American flag.

They attract a crowd, perhaps providing a focus for people visiting this overwhelmingly emotional place.

IMG_4404

“Backstage” is the area where all the TV companies prepare the technical paraphernalia for the big day.

Meredith feels a touch of déjà-vu….

IMG_4370

Transported momentarily back into a previous life as a TV producer and writer with ABC News in New York.

(She was working freelance for NBC when she interviewed me in January 1986…)

IMG_4550

John Morris being interviewed by NBC TV

John Morris is telling the story he has told a thousand times since 7th June 1944.

He was based in London–Photo Editor of LIFE magazine–waiting anxiously for the first images of the invasion to arrive from the legendary photographer, Robert Capa–who was with the initial wave of American soldiers on Omaha Beach.  

The first three rolls of film were ruined when a darkroom technician tried to speed up the development process–but John managed to find a few frames which remain the defining photos of the American D-day landing.

(The story is best told by him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fzmieOlZy0&feature=channel_video_title/)

The backdrop to the interview is the Wall of Remembrance–dedicated to those Missing in Action.

IMG_4566_2

This is one of the eleven surviving images.

10421574_642187362522911_7183130983959278177_n

John Morris points out in another interview that to take the photo, Robert Capa would have to have been on the beachside of the swimmer with his back to the German guns.

Back home now–time to read further and reflect on the events that unfolded from early morning on 6th June 1944…

IMG_4426

in awe at the bravery of those men wading ashore.

IMG_4546

One of the “Brave”–returned.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 989 other followers