Archive for the ‘other sides to this life’ Category

All these events are free.

If our paths cross, hope you’ll come say hello!


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In New York City:


In Los Angeles:


In Palo Alto:


In Arlington, Virginia (Washington D.C. area):




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May Day! 

Today, in the postbox, a letter from Prime Minister, Theresa May!

I sent her a copy of Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics a few weeks ago.

She has Type 1 Diabetes and I’ve read that she is a keen cook–possessing over a hundred cookbooks!

(We have THAT in common!)

It could greatly benefit the campaign to fight the rise of Diabetes to have such a public figure as the new FEMALE Prime Minister of the UK,  declaring so publicly, that she is Type 1 diabetic.



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On the face of it Ralph Bates and Usain Bolt have little in common.

For one thing Ralph died over 25 years ago and Usain is about to defend his Olympic titles at 100 and 200 metres.

So why on earth are they sharing the title of this post?

Ralph loved sport–but as a spectator. Together we once attended a Barry Macguigan boxing match at Queens Park Rangers Football ground and as a mover I never saw Ralph “bolt”. To the contrary, he swayed elegantly.

Well, he was half-French! The eminent scientist, Louis Pasteur, was his great-great uncle.

It’s a question of attitude.

The interview below reminded me of dear Ralph and his insouciant nature.

With his third Olympic Games coming up, Usain Bolt a.k.a. the Human Arrow–double 100 and 200 metros champion–says the key for him (about performing) is to actively avoid thinking too much.

I’m in good shape and I’ve done all the hard work in training I know I’ll be good.

“When you’re waiting there, minutes before the race starts, it’s easy to end up staring down the track and getting caught up in it all; but when you know you’re in good shape then the performances come. Everything clicks and you just run the perfect race. You don’t need to think too hard, just execute–you are focused and ready to perform.”

As I read this, my mind switched locations to an over-lit corridor outside a BBCTV studio in Birmingham, where we were about to record an episode of the second series of Poldark–circa May 1977.

I was pacing up and down, “actively thinking too much“, worried about the next two-and-half hours of filming.

Ralph, dressed as the suave George Warleggan, spotted me anxiously pacing and quietly tapped me on the shoulder.


“It’s only a play, Robin!”.

He might have added:

“You know you ‘re in good shape, you’ve done all the hard work in rehearsal and you know you’ll be good. You are focused and ready to perform!”

That’s what he meant with his reassuring pat on my shoulder.

Yesterday I learned that the Reverend Dr. Halse–that admirable, upstanding, pillar of the Cornish establishment–would be making another appearance in the third series of Poldark. which starts filming next month.

I’ll try to remember– It’s only a Play!


An unusually insouciant Dr Halse





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I am thrilled to announce that my new cook book,


It comes with 250 beautiful photos of food and life here in SW France,  taken by my in-house photographer–Meredith Wheeler!

Bon Appetit tout le monde!

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This is a reworking of my first cookbook, Delicious Dishes for Diabetics–so if you have that, the recipes will be familiar but the format is completely different.

ALSO The Washington Post just published a recipe from the new book for hazelnut pasta, one of our favorites!


We are doing an American book tour (with a bit of POLDARK mixed in) during the first three weeks of September. Here’s the itinerary so far! Come say hello!



(Details of the NYC event still being worked out!)

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Years ago we had lunch at a traditional brasserie in Toulouse and I chose as a starter a salad that sounded a little different.

It was an assembly of baby gem lettuce (called sucrine here– and they have a sweetness to them) small dollops of tapinade, parmesan shavings and quail eggs.

It looked beautiful: green and black with the yellow of the egg yolks and parmesan lifting it into the sublime.

It tasted good too–and joined my repertoire of Starters.

This version takes that recipe further, adding the smoky edge that a little light grilling gives the lettuce halves.

Grilling lettuce? Sounds odd but these tightly formed little gems keep their shape and and are transformed into the main players on the plate.

It helps to have some tapinade* already made, although a scattering of juicy black olives-chopped would do too.

I use the anchovy vinaigrette–also from my cook book–which goes well with these punchy little lettuces–but you could keep it simple and stick with the vinaigrette of your choice.

For 2


  • 3 baby lettuce hearts–halved lengthwise
  • anchovy dressing* or vinaigrette of choice
  • some tapinade dip (or chopped black oils)
  • parmesan shavings
  • 4 poached eggs
  • a couple of anchovies–halved lengthwise and across (optional!)

Heat a grill pad (the kind that sits on the stove) to hot.

Brush the cut side of the lettuce halves with the dressing and a little more olive oil


Grill for two or three minutes while lightly brushing the other sides of the lettuces with the dressing.

The grilling should take long enough to soften and color the lettuce without burning.

Turn them over and grill for a further two minutes or so….


Plate them up and pour over a little more dressing.

Top with dollops of tapinade and some parmesan shavings.

Finish with thinly slice anchovy fillets (if you’re using them).

Add the eggs to the assembly.


We ate these under the parasol in the courtyard.



* recipe in my new book, Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics and on this blog; it is a handy dip in summer!

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FRIDAY JULY 1st 2016

We spend the day at Thiepval–witnessing the centenary commemoration of the Battle of The Somme.


It is a brilliantly organized event, attended by the great and the good…


and 10,000 of the rest of us, sitting facing the enormous monument designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.


At 7h30 on the the first of July 1916–100 years ago this day–the first soldier went over the top in a battle that would last into November.

Close to 20 thousand British troops were killed that first day.

In all, the Battle of the Somme cost a million Allied and German lives–combined.

Slaughter on that scale–the morass of mud and murder in July 1916–is hard to grasp.

The full horror–the physical nightmare of being there–impossible to experience; viewable, but at once removed, in contemporary photos, in books and museums.

We can only gasp at the sheer scale of it.

Below is a map showing the cemeteries that are located in the area of the conflict–280 of them.

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The vast monument at Thiepval was finished and inaugurated in 1932 in the presence of the previous Prince of Wales–and just seven years before Europe was again engulfed in flames.

The size of this elephantine, enigmatic building–(the finished version was smaller than he had originally envisaged) seems to echo the enormity of the disaster it represents. Was that Sir Edwin’s intention?


It can be seen for miles around beaming out its message of remembrance–“Lest we forget” over the now benign landscape.

On it are inscribed the names of the Allied dead–below, a part of the wall devoted to names of the 72 thousand soldiers missing in action.IMG_5486

As the ceremony came to a close and taking their cue from a heavy shower minutes before, poppy shaped pieces of paper, representing the fallen, rain down from high on the tower.

Blue for France; red for Great Britain.


We added a wreath of poppies to the many at the Memorial Cross.


Our inscription: When will we ever learn?

Inspired by Pete Seeger’s famous song:

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?




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This vote for Brexit has shocked me.

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I’ve been trying to write something about it since Friday.

This blog has been carefully non-political (I’ve been tempted on occasion though!) but I feel I have at least to acknowledge that it has taken place.

Yesterday’s attempt was a bit of a rant–and my in-house editor took a red pencil to it!

It helped though, to have had a bit of a rant–like shouting in the car with the windows up.


I wrote to a friend yesterday:

We are devastated here after the result.

Still in shock–it’s hard to take in, like the death of a friend.
It’s the never-no-more part–the finality of it.
Working out the details will take years, but our withdrawal from the grand project that has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years is shameful and dangerous.
It is already unravelling in terms of delivering what the “leavers” wanted.
Well, it “remains” to be seen how it will play out.
The way people vote often has an element of self interest.
We live in France and are anxious to know how this will affect our situation.
(An added frustration was the fact that we did not have the right to vote–as we have lived abroad for over 15 years.)
This decision was too important to be decided by a simple majority vote!

Simple majority votes are fine for general elections–when the result can be reversed in five years– but this decision is forever.

I may have to get back in the car….




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