The yellow flowers screamed spring to my frozen, soft focus consciousness. So much so that I set out clad in only a thick fisherman’s sweater, a heavy waterproof working jacket and gloves approved for arctic conditions yet, as the first blast of bitter warmth raked the exposed skin of my unwisely, uncovered face, I felt that I was in shirtsleeve order in one of those cold snow covered places that people visit for fun and I shun.
Getting warm is each day’s mission when living in a stone house. Unlike those who live in glass ones I have no compunction in throwing stones as the proximity of another dwelling and the range of my throw would preclude any collateral damage but that advantage does not afford much compensation for living with a deep and complete understanding of the frigid life of frozen fish fingers; all ten of them, A gift of wood was to arrive that morning; not an airmail package of viagra but a trailer full of logs which is why I had chosen my outdoor look wardrobe to welcome them. The activity of reducing tree trunks into bite size pieces replaces the gymnasium for the diaspora of foreigners of a certain age living in la France profonde. Aided by triple bypasses, vanadium hip and knee joints, trusses and back supports we fell, split and saw as if there was no tomorrow or, more precisely, with every hope that there will be a tomorrow. As we hew and stack the conversation is limited to heavy breathing interspersed with “sorry” “bugger” “is it time for coffee” and ” the fucking thing’s stopped again”; then it is time for coffee and we recover our breath and talk of how impossibly distant will be the arrival of next summer…we are, indeed, the last of the summer whine.
Sometimes I reach the point where I want to scream “Shut the fuck up!”. It’s the eternal banal banter, over the fence chatter and very loud laughter that fills the background of my life; it’s in my office, in the kitchen, in the garden, in the car, in my face. If only I would just shut the fuck up, just for one sweet silent moment, how much calmer, saner, wiser, happier and less annoying to others would be my and their life and lives. The end of my tether is in my hand and I have had it up to here which means a new year resolution must be resolved.
“This has to stop. I firmly resolve to stop talking to my myself henceforth”
“Which means you’ll be talking to who?”
“I will make friends …apart form Molly and me…new friends…people with similar interests…people like me.”
“There are no people like you; should I say me…..not in the car at the moment….there are none but me …and yet..”
” Let me be clear with me, I have not yet given up….I’m in mid resolution….the terms and conditions of the resolution have not yet been carried ….the I’s do not yet have it….although the word is that they will”
“The I’s always have it….you make Onan seem gregarious….when I say you I mean I of course.
“There I go again…me, me, me…..please don’t fucking start singing….me, a name I call myself , far ….a long, long way to run away from my endless chatter but ….I still hear me loudly….more resolve…much more needed”
I saw the news today and, appart from approaching Armageddon, it is apparent that apps and their application to our new year lives will appropriate an appreciable amount of our manual dexterity, will power and, indeed, will to live. Estuary English would appear to be apposite in defining just how much more appy we we are going to be in 2020. Apparently apps will be able to open locks on our doors, tie up our rubbish bags, be our personal trainers, replace thoughts with endless film and music, implant talent in our brain or a plant in the drain and keep the home fires burning or put them out as it appens. If that’s not appiness I don’t know wot is but there’s an app that does so I’m good.
I’ve struggled with an app today as I do on most days and that app appens to be appetite; the appetite for my work which is hindered by apps that crash and malfunction conjoined with the appetite to smash the computer which is increased by my apoplexy at the malfunctioning of those apps which leads me to not being appy at all and it’s all down to the apps….so ere’s oping that things will get happier and less appy.
With regards to posting on this blog, I’ve been remiss of late. My mind has been full of pictures and my fingers appeared to have run out of ink. And yet, there I was staring at the blank white sheet of a monitor screen hoping that intention would turn to fruition which was appearing to be fruitless plan. The blank screen of a monitor is somehow less daunting that a blank sheet of paper as there is a hidden life, a world in fact, buzzing away behind the void and, unannounced, a message from that world popped up on my screen…”wish vegetables tasted as lovely as your photos make them look (veggie phobic)”. I have known the author of the message for many years but, having not seen each other for the last 25 of those many years, our paths have diverged. When he last saw me I might well have been tucking into a marrow bone or enjoying a roast ox heart at the St John ( below is a snippet of today’s menu) …
…which was then, and remains now, one of my favourite restaurants in the world. The difference is that I no longer eat meat. Jenny has not eaten meat for a long time and the meatless diet crept up slowly on me over the last 18 years, during which we have been living deep in the carnivorous countryside of France. However, the seeds of distaste had been sown long before I crossed the Sleeve. I remember thinking that the display in the windows of butchers’ shops looked very much as I imagined would appear the remains of passengers after an aeroplane crash. The concept of raw meat having beauty was not one that sat easily with me as I associated dismembered flesh with nightmare and pain but, conversely, I was deeply attracted to the smell of some meats cooking and by the taste of charcuterie of all kinds. How easy might be the step to cannibalism if we concentrate on cooking aroma, texture and flavour…leaving out the middle man, so to speak, which, unnervingly, he would have done. One of the most glaring differences with “la France profonde” and urban England is the lack of shop fronts displaying anything other than surgical trusses, peculiar shoes or spectacles. It would be apposite to say that it is rare to see a butcher’s shop which means that the majority of meat that Jenny and I see is still in its original packing and mooing, honking or baaing …, en francais, meehhant, groinkant ou beehhant. I have no intention of proselytising as it’s an easy way to lose one’s friends and,indeed, one’s own mind but it explains that the title of the blog is not a misspelling. Below is a still life of the ingredients that I use to make Pommes Boulangere, a dish of which I never tire.
This image of garlic drying in a traditional wooden trough has been so popular, as a giclée print and as a print on canvas, that I’m offering a version as a C-Type print on Fuji Matt paper at the very affordable price of £25 (30€). Have a look on my website http://www.rogerstowellpictures.com and click on Special Offer. The prints are produced by the Print Space in London who are well known for professional photographic and art printing.
As we approach Christmas I’ll be offering a much larger range of affordable C-Types .
……but there is such a thing as very good value. This isn’t a special offer as it’s just telling it like it is. All prints on http://www.rogerstowellpictures.com start at £40.with UK delivery included. …..add £5 for European delivery and £7 for Australia, Canada, USA, NZ and most other countries.
Website prices are in Euros and currency fluctuates
Through the drawn curtains it was clear that dawn had drawn to a close some time ago. Drawing a deep breath, I drew back the duvet, fell out of bed and, drawing on what little remained of my heavily overdrawn will power, I drew myself up to my full 5″ !0″9″8″….whatever, with the full intention of drawing a bath. Drawing water is never easy which is why I opted to draw a bath. Clean draws were in the drawer which I instinctively drew on to avoid drawing eternal shame on the family as a dirty drawed corpse should I unexpectedly be drawn to an early appointment in Samarra under the merciless gaze of Johnny Public who are never backward in drawing conclusions ..which is not easy either.
There’s very little point to this post apart from sharing with you a moment, in that half sleep half waking world, when I was disconsolately contemplating the drawing in of the evenings, which heralds the “w” word, and which simultaneously made me aware of the variety of meanings for the word “draw”. Being badly drawn in times gone by could have resulted in the executioner being sent on a retraining programme or, conversely, Holbein would have ended up being very badly drawn if Henry had felt that he, himself, had not been sufficiently well drawn. Cowboys will hide in draws, a little known fact that might have inspired Brokeback Mtn, to ambush the stagecoach as will 22 men in whites stand in the sun throwing a ball hard at one another until a draw is declared which is the draw of the game. Looking drawn will draw sympathy whereas a crowd is often drawn around someone drawing and so it could go on if I didn’t draw a halt to the proceedings. Just to add some reason to this rambling I would like to mention that I am in the final stages of putting together a new website and shop for my photography, drawing and digital painting which should be on line at the beginning of September. At last, time to draw breath.
I have no argument with this nomenclature save that it should serve as an umbrella title for all forms of ‘metics, ‘matics, ‘metrys and ‘bras. The quantity of water displaced by two fat men in a bath would only be of interest to the people in the apartment below and questions entailing trains bursting out of tunnels are too much for an adolescent mind whose days, and particularly nights, are spent dreaming of the moment when the answer to this sticky problem will be revealed to them and, more importantly, by whom. Would it be x? or would it by y? and why would it be y rather than x …..why not x + y.. or x/y and mental puberty was born.
Cups and spoons are familiar objects in every kitchen and it was this familiarity that concerned me yesterday as I stared in vain and in anger at a recipe defining the precise measurements of ingredients that I would need in cups and spoons. The charm and, above all, practicality of both cups and spoons is that both cups and spoons vary enormously in shape and size. With that in mind it beggars belief that some Pilgrim Mother, bereft of her scales, had an ersatz Eureka moment in which she declared that recipe measurements should henceforth be measured in cups and spoons; more exactly, her personal cup and spoon. Behaviour such as that can, and should be, defined as mental arithmetic. Legend has it that her fellow Pilgrim Mothers hung a large, red letter A around her neck : AVOIRDUPOIDS……
Le pain quotidien….give us this day our daily pain. The spinning signs on the pavements emblazoned with PAIN in fluorescent lettering still bring a smile to my face. It would indeed be a pain to be denied my daily bread and I relish the custom of this country, indeed the law of the land, that bread should always be readily available to its citizens and visitors on each and every day of the year. I’m sure that the same is true of each and every country wealthy enough to undertake such a promise to its inhabitants for which I’m sure we’re all truly grateful. However, my mind’s eye is focused on the customer leaving the boulangerie with a warm, crusty baguette the centre of which is wrapped in a neckerchief of white paper leaving the ends exposed to be be broken off and eaten on the way home. That is the bread for which I am daily grateful for it is more than bread; it is an ideal. Our nearest boulangerie sells bread. It sells four or five different “pains” and a typical range of baguettes, pains longues and ficelles. There is also a gesture of patisserie and, on occasions, good chocolates. The point is that is sells bread and not rows of fucking panini and other cellophane wrapped sterilised lumps of dough filled with whatever the zeitgeist demands. It gives me my daily bread, which I will take home and eat with stuff that I have, like and trust, and not my daily game of listeria Russian roulette.
Which broadside at sandwich shops and their ilk segues neatly into “the day we found we had run out of bread and the shops were shut”. I take great pleasure in baking but I’ve never baked bread. The precision of bread making, which is made to look so imprecise and free style by good bread makers, is what has put me off as well as the fear of making really awful bread. The moment that the lack of bread became real was Damascene. In the dazzling light of the moment there appeared a packet with a strange device “Pain Blanc – Mélange de Farines Boulangeres” and the die was cast. I must have bought this packet of very ordinary supermarket proprietary brand bread flour as some sort of insurance against starvation as I would no more buy artisan bread flour than I would expensive green gumboots.
The recipe was printed on the side of the packet which I followed religiously…..on reflection, quite the opposite of religiously as that would require blind faith which is not recommended as an adjunct to successful baking however well it works for martyrdom. And it worked miraculously well….I hope that salves the wound I have inflicted on the religious among those who might read this.
The recipe is as follows:
500gms flour ( whichever white bread flour you are using)
300ml warm water
2 sachets of bakers yeast
2 soup spoons of sugar which gives colour to the crust .
Mix the salt, the yeast, the sugar and the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the warm water.. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon and then work the dough on a floured board for a good 8 minutes. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 30 mins. Flour the board generously and flatten the dough on the board and form it into a square, with 20cms edges. Fold the four points into the middle and do the same with new 4 points. Turn the dough over and form into a round shape ( a boule). Put the boule on a lightly oiled baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 40 mis. Turn on the oven 15mins before the end of rising and set to 210C. When the rising time has elapsed put the baking tray with the boule in the oven, with as small bowl of water on the baking tray. Leave to cook for 40 -50 mins.
I should point out that I have no idea whether the recipe works with any bread flour or if it has been created specifically for Super U Pain Blanc. I’m averse to writing technical recipes as I’m not a recipe tester but someone who loves cooking. It s also a reason why I feel nothing but sympathy for those who decide to write cookery books as it must be particular circle of hell into which I do not wish to enter.
I was following my list religiously. The washing tabs, washing up liquid and several other household items were in the trolley, their names dutifully ticked off on my list which is less of an aide memoire and more of a memoire replacement. I think I first heard the voices as I was searching for soda crystals: had Joan of Arc heard these voices it would have saved a lot of trouble because they were the voices of American comedians saying “fuck” quite a lot and the voices were coming from the PA system and not from Heaven. Old Britpop and trashy Europop, which I love, are the usual fare for background shopping musak in this supermarché ( I added the accent to work up the French atmosphere) so the change to aggressively funny New York comedians was a surprise. Owing to the current allied invasion of France it is not unusual to hear announcements in English but the manager’s decision to go for an edgy comedy show could be thought of as innovative but history, or his boss, would call it insane and show him the door. My list was long and I can’t remember being conscious of the voices for the full duration of my shopping but each time I heard an expletive followed by canned laughter I was surprised that only I seemed surprised. And then I was pushing my trolley through the car park and unloading it into the boot of the car. As I headed for the trolley parking station my surprise turned to disbelief that any management would decide to pump out what seemed like Richard Pryor on meths in the car park of their establishment as though a cheery “fuck off” would be a excellent bonjour or aurevoir to their regular clients. Sitting in the peace of the car, it being electric there is very little noise, I thought I’d ring Jenny to let her know I was on my way home and it was then that I noticed my phone was talking American to me….loudly. I now know how Podcasts work and I hope everyone at Super U enjoyed the show,