Saturday, 23 August 2008

Chefs come to dine with us

A few days ago Sweetpea bravely cooked for competent chefs of Le C- - - - - - - ! Captain Sensible prepared the garden and the porch, and acted as Commis Chef, ready to help her make decisions when she began to lose confidence. Fortunately the weather was clement so we could enjoy aperitifs on the upper lawn and then dine under our new porch with fairy lights. Our guests arrived at 19h and departed at 01h, so we judged the evening to have been successful.

However, we did rather panic when they arrived. The extra challenge was to cater for 5 when the table and meal were prepared for 4. Their youngest daughter arrived!

We passed the test and it was surprising how quickly the extra person could be catered for when I had cooked 4 of everything. There were some tartelettes not quite up to presentational standard and extra salmon in the fridge and I had made extra compotes for the next day. The unexpected guest was served and we were saved!

The chefs told us that they were not often invited out to evening dinner. It was a shame that our lighting was not sufficient to see the beautiful colours of the dishes.
Despite that, it was a special evening for us, especially when it was our first wining and dining evening on our new porch.

This was our Menu

Aperitif - Kir avec petit toasts of mousse de foies de volailles

Chicken Liver Patè on Small circles of toasted whole wheat baguette served with Kir

Tartelettes avec Tomates Cerises Jaune

Tartelettes of Poached Yellow Cherry Tomatoes


Saumon en croute de Pesto Basilico avec un sauce de Safran, accompagne avec timbales d'epinards et des carottes et gateaux de rosti.

Salmon in a Saffron Sauce with Basil Pesto on a bed of Rosti served with spinach and carrot timbales

Trois Fromages avec Pain des Olives fait a ma Maison

Cheese board of Navarrais Brebis, Roquefort and Green Donkey Cheese

served with Home Baked Olive Bread

Compôte des Mures et des Pommes avec Crême Fraiche de Lesigny

Compôte of Blackberries and Apple layered in a glass dish and served with Crême Fraiche de Lesigny

Cafe avec des petites Chocolates Noir
Coffee served with Chocolate Squares from Chatellerault

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


When one is young and happily in a 'romantic partnership' and married, one decides after much careful thought and deliberation that an extension to the family would be welcomed. A child is born. Time and energy is devoted to it's welfare. A sibling arrives. A family of 2.2 is created. The hardships of poverty arising from the mother losing her job and the father's partnership folding take their toll and differences between partners arise. Immaturity, insecurity and lack of support or intervention from family and friends, illness, aspirational differences between husband and wife, living in a property that was damp, cold and inhospitable with no finances to make improvements, all conspired to create a recipe for divorce and the damage to all involved especially the children was and still is considerable. Single parenthood was exacting and gruelling without much respite, without friends and family to share the difficulties. When the father took the children for a few weekends the mother had some leisure time but then he withdrew his support and seeing the children because he did not want to change their nappies and it is suspected that he wished to curtail the leisure pursuits of the mother at the weekends. Maybe there were other factors. His story may well read differently. Then the father left his work as an art teacher and disappeared from the country without a bye or leave to his children or wife, not yet divorced! It was several weeks before the mother found out that he had left the country. Eventually the children stayed with him for two weeks in Ireland. People said, "Don't let them go" but they were safe and had an adventure. Later, the court said he needed to only pay £1 per month for each child until they were aged 17 and that there would be no payment to the mother as she would inherit the value of the property in order to find a home for the children, after repayment of a loan to the father's stepfather. The fathers payment per month to the children did not even cover the cost of an ice cream when they were about 14 years of age! The mother did not have sufficient for a mortgage at the time of the divorce. The house became inhabitable when one of the severest winters she had known arrived and the family of three were rehoused. At the time of the divorce the judge had said it would be easier for the mother to find work!! Note that she is a single parent !! Whatever happened to the concept of a mother staying at home to educate the children? But as true as the judge's word, the mother eventually got a job. She had to!! She studied to develop a better opportunity to earn a living and further her career and more importantly to remove herself and her children from the Social Services and DSS register. For 23 years she lived alone. However, she made many mistakes in love and war and received not a penny for herself from the father. Thirty four years later she sometimes receives hurtful comments from her offspring! At other times she is told by each of her children that they love her. Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile the past. There is no manual for parenting and if perhaps if she'd had a better education about LIFE, then maybe some errors would not have been made. She cannot blame others for what she did not learn.
What was it all about? Well..... she has two lovely children who are now quite independent, busily creating their own lifestyles and hopefully learning from some of the mother's and father's errors. She loves them unconditionally and misses them very much!

Autumn seems to be drawing nigh

I have today tried to up date this diary blog of some of the events that are important in the lives of Captain Sensible and his Sweetpea. Life is not always a bowl of cherries so the warts are not entered but they do seem fewer than in days gone by. But always expect the unexpected! Every day there is so much to do and still I / we do not get all of the projects and tasks started or even finished. There are so many ideas for what could be done with our lives and in our daily tasks but "beggars cannot be choosers" and time and money don't seem to appear! So we get on with what we can .... The weather seems increasingly autumnal though today it has been 22°C in our verandah and out of the wind! Shorts still prevail but the chill is beginning! Yet, the sun is very warm if the wind were to stop blowing!

The garden is demanding and needs attention to clear and tidy the vegetable beds for the next stage. We would like to make them into raised beds in order to perhaps save some wear and tear on our backs. Also we think this would help with drainage as the water table is about 10 -15 cm below the ground level. The higher soil would drain more effectively. The problem this year was that the heavy clay soil became saturated for too long and the frosts were insufficient to break down the soil. Waterlogged soil has become like baked clay! Round bricks of solid earth are interspersed with the stones and this year a certain variety of weed has prevailed and caused mayhem!

However, the crop of Charlotte potatoes has been relatively good. We sowed double the quantity of tubers and have harvested from June. I should think we have sufficient potatoes until the end of September. Tomatoes have been iffy but there are some reasonable red ones and loads of yellow / orange cherry tomatoes. Courgettes have barely fruited. We ate one pumpkin whilst it was small thinking it was a round courgette and now there is just one pumpkin, a small variety, growing slowly. The beetroots whilst small have come on well. The leeks that I sowed in March are struggling and we have just bought some more to plant to grow overwinter. The shallots rotted before they could grow. The red onions were abysmal but we've had a few. The garlic has produced very small bulbs but we surely do have enough to see us through the winter. They are now hanging in a nylon holey bag in the woodshed. The carrots are doing well and the 5 parsnips look healthy on top but I suspect have no real root worth eating! The mangetout peas, French haricot and beurre beans were quite successful but finished too early! Radishes started well and then did not get enough water. Summer spinach went to seed before it had produced edible leaves. The best thing was the cut and come again lettuce. Highly recommended.

In the flower department, the sunflowers are still struggling to grow but have now flowered. they are sweet and only about 20 cm tall. The nasturtiums and ipomoea look lovely on the wire fence. The costas did not grow but one of our fuschia bushes has risen like a phoenix and seems content. Sweet William plants appeared from last years scattered seeds! The honesty did not appear. Is it a bi-annual? The white peonies lasted for one week, the yellow Loosestrife and St John's Wort,and the hollyhocks have given much colour. Also a wild form of impatiens (busy lizzie) I transplanted 5 years ago has really seeded and flourished near the gateway. The roses are blossoming. The ancient climbing rose was much affected by the building programme but it seems to be generating more roses and growth. The new "Golden Showers" rose brought from England is also doing well. I bought one of these for my cousin Anne when she moved to Taunton and always admired it. I expect she will like a cutting as she has moved house yet again.

August 23rd and we have finally cleared the potato plot - they are now resting in a wooden box sandwiched between some dry hay and I have weeded what once was the onion section. Once the beetroots, carrots, tomatoes and leeks have been harvested then this section will need to be dug and given some manure. Although, I have just read that the potato plot for next year should not have any manure on it over the winter and I have just read that one should keep some veggie plot without manure for salad crops etc. This needs more research.

Captain S has been strimming the outer edges of the lawn, around the base of the trees and the perimeter fences. He has also helped me to weed the potato plot and indeed did the main digging of the final three rows. As a result he has done too much in one day and is pooped!

The blackberries are in abundance. I like to wash and drain them and poach them in butter, shaking the pan almost continually for about three minutes. I have made a kind of coulis / compôte with them, but today it was blackberry crumble with very little sugar. Delicious!

Our dinner was a portion of salmon value 1.50 euros with a little leftover feta cheese to create a cheese sauce using maize flour and milk, then sliced pre-cooked potatoes on top, baked and then grilled all to make a fish pie served with carrots cooked in honey and courgettes panfried in olive oil, butter and Herbes de Provence. All the vegetables were from our garden and therefore it was a very economical meal served with 1/4 filled bottles of wine left from our dinner with The Chef!

In the Garden

Am I digging potatoes or stones out of the iron hard earth?

The pumpkin struggles.
Some tomatoes have ripened successfully.
Other tomato plants never flourished.
Big Feet waits for small creatures when the hay was collected.

A day in the life

At a local village agricultural event we spotted a very charming neighbour. The Moissoneuses de Battage (Combine Harvesters) were terrific in their speedy competitive race around a circular track!

Friends for a Feast

Melanie, Shaun, Kieron and Chelsea camped in our garden

Garth, Liz, Lily and Anthony also joined our happy throng for an August barbecue.

We ate watermelon, feta and olive salad followed by Barbecued Lamb and Chicken, and from our garden French green beans and Charlotte potatoes. Then a plate of cheeses and salad leaves from our potager, then White Peaches poached in Honey and Cointreau.

It was so warm that we sat until the early hours of the morning and even Big Feet caught her own supper!

Cookery Demonstration and Lunch

We enjoyed a lunch where we were shown how to create a dinner party menu.

Tartelettes of Baby Onions in Balsamic Vinegar on a Tomato Fondue

Escalope of Cod with a Soft Parsley Crust, Mushroom Duxelles, and Crème Legère with Chives

Afterwards we drank coffee in the garden sunshine. An excellent experience which we highly recommend to anyone who is interested in cooking and eating food.

Around the dining table countries represented were UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Germanyand Holland and of course we are in France.

Angles sur L'Anglin - pyromelodique - feu d'artifice

Sitting by myself below the walls of the 12th Century Chateau I was amongst a sea of people sitting by the river, waiting for the explosions of colour, light, sound and smell on the sensory system. It was as stunning as ever.

If you wish to be there then the spêctacle appears to occur in the first weekend of August and cost 6.50 euros.

Wendy Ann 2 will enter the water

I'm not sure that anyone is reading this blog apart from a very few other than myself BUT the good news and excellent news is that Wendy Ann will on September 12th 2008 be lifted from the Saxon Wharf shrouded home of three years where her tired and dilapidated condition has been treated by Seb, Becky and their many friends to manual labour and machines operated by hand to remove the concrete ballast,and repair her steel hull and on September 15th 2008 will be lowered into the water and let us hope and pray and keep fingers and toes crossed that she will be watertight.
So PLEASE read more at the blog where you can read the history of this mammoth venture. However, unless you've been there or unless you see the tug before she enters the water it is my opinion you can NOT fully comprehend and appreciate the enormity of the task that they have achieved.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Angles sur L'Anglin - Fête Mediéval - It Beggars Belief

Oona and Guylaine

Patricia and her daughter
Choral practice avec Tomas
Les Anglais à Angles en train de preparation pour le théatre des rues en Angles sur L'Anglin, July 2008

One Man Wen to Mow A Meadow

One Man Went to Mow A Meadow
One man and his old tractor went to a meadow!
Hay has been mown and we will put this around the hybrid poplar trees which were only planted in March, some of which are now 6 feet tall and growing!

360° Tour of the Meadow Before Mowing

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Sunsets Sunflowers and Markets

August views