Instagram….a new departure

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I’ve recently started putting pictures on Instagram and it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in seeing some of my pictures without the ranting that accompanies my pictures on this blog. A short time ago I made a foray into Facebook but quickly found that it didn’t agree with me or, in truth, that I didn’t agree with it. When I’m cooking, working, walking or writing there are moments when I see something that I want to share and, even though I have little faith in the phone as a camera, the images that I take with one have an instant appeal in the way that I used to enjoy with the now outdated ( or now very expensive ) Polaroid film. The real pleasure is seeing the images that are being produced  by my friends and acquaintances who work in the business of food and food photography as well as amazing photographers throughout the world. Here are a couple of images that I’ve posted recently and which may give you the taste to have a look at my stuff on Instagram.

Chickens at door3

 

Posted in Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, French countryside | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

burning question…..

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Atavistic memories of the word “incinerator” recently started to shuffle around the corridors of my mind but the events surrounding that word remain in soft focus. There was a point in my childhood when several parts of our family shared a house which had, as I remember, a very extensive garden with alleys and paths that led to various sheds, green houses and lean to’s around which steamed piles of noble and ignoble rot. Somewhere in those nether regions lived the “incinerator”. The often heard recommendation to “put it in the incinerator” seemed to be a cure-all for a surprisingly wide range of household and garden problems yet, as a child, I don’t remember witnessing our incinerator incinerating. In a golden age when a link between “health and safety” had yet to be realised I can only imagine that this exclusion must have been imposed because it was considered “dirty” and “dirty” was quite bad. The adults of our world had just lived through a world war so safety in the garden wasn’t a priority which meant that living one’s childhood in that era was an exciting time full of finding, falling and fear. At that time, the sockets in electric wall plugs were round and of a width to allow the insertion of a small child’s finger, a temptation to which I succumbed on occasion with no lasting effect, although maybe I’m not the best judge of that. Were we more resistant to electricity, I ask myself, or was I just a bad conductor. The latter seems more likely as, let alone conducting, I couldn’t sing a note in tune on account of which, during my years at prep school, I was relegated to emptying the dustbins during choir practice. Dustbins, or the shape of them, bring me back to my new acquaintance with incinerators which I believe will be fruitful and lasting.incinerator2_0010 The incinerator in question, which belongs to our neighbour, is to be found close to his atelier, by a wall against which is stacked a multitude of rusty things that must not ever be thrown away as they may well be the vital components of something that is not yet needed but may well be essential in the not too distant future. This “atelier” is equipped with every sort of tool or machine imaginable providing him with the means to mend the broken or to create the new, which ability is in the remit of all “paysan” farmers who often do not have the wherewithal to pay others for services that they are quite capable of doing for themselves. They are also quite parsimonious, a word which I like very much but which will never be used to describe my own nature by anyone who has more than a fleeting acquaintance with me. Rubbish you may say, and in this case you would be right.Rubbish and its sorting, or triage, is the point of this post. The rubbish collection service here in the Vendée is extremely precise about which sort of rubbish should go where. This precision is sadly not reflected in the printed edicts with which we are supplied and which, with the help of competent graphic artists, illustrate into which sort of collection container should be put each sort of refuse. It appears that manufacturers are creating new sorts of container at a speed up with which the illustrators cannot keep. Should a container of the non illustrated type reveal itself to be in one of the variously coloured semi transparent sacks provided for its particular collection then, the appointed collector, will leave it by the roadside thus brilliantly creating rubbish which is the direct opposite of his mandate. To add a little sharp seasoning to this inconvenience, the collector will attach a sticker to the abandoned sack which states that something in that sack contravenes the list of that which is allowed but, annoyingly, not clearly defining the culprit. This led me into a Kafkaesque charade which involved emptying the contents of the sack on the ground  and, with the illustrated edict in one hand,  trying to decide which morsel of the misshapen crap lying before me could be the offender. So now, with the aid of my new friend, the incinerator, I burn the fuckers.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Bad Habits, Digital photography, Emotion, Farming, France, French countryside, Landscapes, Memory, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

playing it safe….

Living where and how we do acts as a prophylactic, a spiritual condom that shields us from the reality of the ever more imaginative madness of mankind. Growing old in peace is not an unreasonable expectation yet it is becoming an increasingly rare luxury and one that we, here in La Moussiere, are, presently, lucky enough to enjoy. Donald and Boris, both fine examples of the perambulating gargoyle, are currently competing for Buffoon of the Year which competition, being that Daft Donald may soon gain control of the world’s greatest arsenal, may be the last of its kind. But, ignoring the desiccated rhetoric and big swinging dick posturing of Boris and Doris, I shall swiftly segue into the life and death of local marine molluscs which interests me more and which I refuse to spell with a “k”..madness lies that way, Mr Spellchec. Unlike the majority of food stuffs, molluscs retain their good looks right up to the moment when they enter that last great seaway, the alimentary canal, in which they gently transmogrify into that which will most certainly hit the fan if either Boris or Doris have their misguided (Boris) or insane (Doris) way. I mention this concern with appearance as I feel that  lambs, pigs or beef cattle look so much more winsome, charming or handsome when frolicking, mud rolling or grazing than does the dismantled version of those same creatures when bloodily displayed in the car crash that is the butcher’s window. Mussels and clams look as sculpturally beautiful in their habitat as they do in the serving bowl and it may be said crayfish and lobsters most certainly gain in beauty after a bath in boiling water. The same cannot be said of liver or kidneys which clearly benefit from concealment within a handsome hide. However, this is just a matter of opinion as is the need to build a wall to stop Mexicans entering the US or the decision to wave a frayed flag for an even Greater illusion of a Great Britain than already exists in the minds of the far right in the deep South of England. It was interesting to note that, according to Radio 4 this morning, the cartoons in the Sunday newspapers ridiculed the blonde bombshells but there was no sign of any such disrespect to Mr. Murdoch and his fragrant bride.

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Posted in 2016, Digital photography, Farming, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Photographic Prints, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Shell shock…..

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During my lifetime the word “simple”, or should I say its inference, has become the antithesis of that which I originally understood. My schooldays were passed in those halcyon days before society had become so cowed by the pinched face of PC that we lost the joy of speaking freely. I remember being told that conjugating the present subjunctive of βουλεύειν was simple, that algebra was simple, that doing what I was told was simple and if I couldn’t understand that, then it was clear that it was I that was simple. At that point I hadn’t associated”simple” with either “easy” or “stupid” in the same way that I took no offence when the headmaster referred to us boys as perambulating gargoyles as I had no idea what he was talking about and it made us laugh. My memories of those times are joyful as they were a time of innocence in the true sense of the word as we lacked the wherewithal to be anything but innocent; very like happy people before the missionary arrived. I was vulnerable to sticks and stones but immune to subtle insult.Time passes, dull innocence is left crying for “Mummy” and we create about us, like a snail’s shell, an individual armour which we call our personality from which, depending on the strength of the armour, we can bear the brunt of hurled insult and, putting our heads above the parapet, chuck a few back with impunity. But the shells have been impounded by PC and we are revealed as the defenseless, thin skinned beings that we really are.  I ‘m not sure how I got side tracked but it was about shells that I intended to write. As long as I’ve cooked, I’ve made pastry and as long as I’ve made pastry, however good it may have tasted, I’ve always felt that it was a bit too thick. I am going to dismiss from my mind the diatribe that is festering therein on the subject of day time television mainly because, having roundly condemned it, it would then fall to me to explain what in the fuck I was doing looking at it in the first place. Suffice it to say the lapse became an epiphany. The words “roll it out so it is very thin….thin enough to see through” were followed by the presenter holding up the rolled out pastry to the beams of sunlight coming through the window of his kitchen and the pastry was illuminated, as was I. This Pauline conversion happened but a couple of days ago and since then I’ve been cooking and rolling a lot. The tarte fine aux pommes, in the picture above, is a wonderful thing to behold and to eat. The recipe is uncomplicated and the dish created is the epitome of simple food….that’s how I use the word now….and the result makes me very happy.

The recipe for the tart is from Stéphane Reynaud’s wonderful book “Ripailles” but the pastry recipe is taken from the equally wonderful “Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wells. I have to admit that I’ve reached the point where I find that I exclusively use the pastry recipes from that book as they have never, to this point, let me down.

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I’ve added, below, an old picture of me and some friends on holiday before the arrival of PC…and the removal of our shells.

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Posted in 2016, apples, baking, Bistro, Childhood, Childhood memories, Cookery Writers, Cooking, cous cous, Cuisine bourgeoise, desserts, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, harmony, Humour, Pate Brisee, Patricia Wells, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Recipes, Stephane Reynaud, tart, tarte fine aux pommes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Oh no…he’s going to be political!

Oh no, he’s not! There is little point in continuing with the pantomime refrain as any political convictions that I have, have had or might have in the future are invariably based on emotions rather than political nous ( I’m sure that nous should have an “e” on the end but Spellcheck say no..or noo) . I lay the blame for my current political emotions firmly at the doorstep of Digital Radio . We were gifted this window on the world a couple of years ago but it has only been quite recently that I have been able to “enjoy” the proselytising of the multitude of political  commentators employed by commercial radio. The delay in the arrival of this daily joy into our kitchen was due to my belief that a radio would work when it was turned on by pressing/turning the button marked “on”. I pressed or turned each and every one of the multitude of buttons that lay in serried ranks on the sleek black casing, but answer was there none, the radio remained silent, save for an irritating static buzz. I hadn’t read the  manual, and who in their right mind would…the answer to that conundrum is that our son in law would, who is  very much in his right mind and who saw the answer on the first page of the thick manual and passed that answer on to his thick father in law ( I prefer the French “beau pere” or “handsome father” to the more prosaic English version, but I’m beginning to prefer all things French rather than the prosaic English version…except for our RugbyXV…I can’t carry on inside these brackets any longer…it’s like talking behind someone’s back). From a distance it’s true to say that today’s Britain does not appear in any way to be great. The opinions that tumble from the mouths of the presenters and those that “ring in” to agree or disagree with them suggest a giant, hermaphroditic Mrs Bucket ( Bouquet if “yes” prevails) , troubled with the same delusions of grandeur, staring worriedly from the White Cliffs as she/he prepares to repel any one of those greedy Johnny Foreigners who have might get into his/her head the idea of inviting themselves over for one of her candlelit suppers,  a free hysterectomy or to take the food from the mouths of babies as a new age option to bayonetting. As a primarily monoglot society, which glot many Great Britons have reduced to monosyllables, we British have been traditionally uncomfortable “abroad”. That has all changed now thanks to our new mobile society which is able to freely travel  the world demonstrating its singular brand of patronising politeness, lightly seasoned with the wormwood of arrogance, or simply vomiting and fucking whilst spending as much money as possible. J.Foreigner, so impressed with these qualities, has learnt to speak English and having recreated himself in our image, wants to come home to Mummy Britannia for a slice of that delicious cake of wealth, success and liberty about which she so gaily brags about on every available medium. I hope the irony in this last statement is clear as I am a firm believer in a multicultural society and in Britain remaining in Europe.

Here’s a picture of something sweet to take away the bitterness…..only joking….I think .

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Posted in 2016, Bakewell Tart, Baking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Language, Photographic Prints, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Moorituri te salutamus…

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a very nice crumble…

Time ravages that which has lost its use. That slow corruption is felt most keenly by the vain.  Vanity is not a characteristic of nature or the inanimate which allows us to marvel at their slow disintegration.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Digital photography, Film, France, French countryside, harmony, Landscapes, Photographic Prints, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

seeing red…..

Bounty Bar cake – recipe from forkandpixel.com

There are, in my life, two new era defining acronyms to add to the familiar BC and AD, to wit BS and AS, which demarcate those periods in time before and after the advent of the saviour, aka Spellcheck ( interestingly, Spellcheck has just denied the existence of “saviour” which is a bit worrying). In the ancient time of BS I remember being as an immortal in that it seemed impossible for me to incorrectly spell a word in Egnlish…and there it is….. the wax drips from the melting wings of my keyboard as I spiral down into AS, a red slash of a wound waiting to bleed beneath my failure. One click of a mouse on the bloody line and that which was Egnlish is reincarnated as English. The intimate linkage of hand, pen and paper allows a direct flow of knowledge from brain to page without the intervention of another intelligence or the inconvenience of mastering a keyboard. I have minimal hand to eye coordination which defect, at school, determined that I should be banned from the cricket pitch, where I could quite easily be killed by bat or ball, and be resigned to the river where I would become the smallest rower in the history of the school and where, with any luck, I would disappear, hopefully unnoticed, into the murky waters thus avoiding bringing any more shame on the alma mater. I mention this failing as a computer makes similar demands in that it requires my fingers to accurately type on a keyboard, obscured from view, leaving my eyes to judge that the chosen letters are appearing, as chosen, and in the correct order on a screen some distance away from my hands and my person. The tactile intimacy of pen and paper is lost but convenience is gained. Welcome to AS, where convenience outweighs intimacy to such an extent that the computer empowers me to tap out words that will allow me to share intimacy with a complete stranger whilst sparing me the inconvenience and  misunderstandings that may result from a real life encounter, such as being mistaken for a fortune hunter or a white slaver, and, above all, without any misspellings. It was such a double “s”, as in the word ” misspelling”, that led me to begin this diatribe, or, more honestly, the mistaken belief that such a double “s” existed in the word “dessicated”, which of course it doesn’t: but I didn’t know that until SC, red in tooth and claw, slashed its disapproval beneath my attempt and led me to the desiccated light. Had I not decided to make the wonderful Bounty Bar Cake, that I discovered on Fork and Pixel, the packet of desiccated coconut that had lain at the back of my store cupboard since BS, or even longer, might have continued to lay therein for many more years, steadily desiccating to an irredeemable ( I didn’t spot the double “r” in that word until I saw red) dryness when all that would remain would be the plastic bag emblazoned with “Desiccated Coconut” to remind the finder of how to correctly spell that which once lay within. I suppose that’s the point of gravestones.

Posted in 2016, Baking, cake, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Memory, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Still life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Bakewell Crumpet…..*

bakewell_tart_0249Like a latter day Canute I do my best to keep the incoming tide of mortality at bay. Whilst the noble king was demonstrating that he did not have supernatural powers this Canute  has decided that the solution is to bury one’s head in the sand so, in due course, he will be drowned by the implacably advancing tide….but not as yet. As the anniversary of another year of life beckons I find myself well and truly past the allotted number of years suggested by the Bible although why I should take any notice of that particular declaration when I have paid little or no heed to anything  else suggested  in that best seller surprises me which brings me neatly to the subject of this ramble which is the iconic  Joan, now Baroness, Bakewell. Our chance meeting yesterday was a complete surprise. I was rushing around the kitchen making some dishes for supper later in the day when, all of a sudden, there she was on Radio 4, chatting to me about my harvest years which is the most fucking brilliant term for being over the hill that I can remember hearing and I purposely chose the defining profanity as  profadjective as no one was a more convincing and respected advocate of permissiveness than was Joan. I equally purposely used the past tense to qualify her being an advocate of permissiveness as, in 2010, she criticised the side effects of the sexual revolution of the 60’s by declaring ” “I never thought I would hear myself say as much, but I’m with Mrs Whitehouse on this one. The liberal mood back in the ’60s was that sex was pleasurable and wholesome and shouldn’t be seen as dirty and wicked. The Pill allowed women to make choices for themselves. Of course, that meant the risk of making the wrong choice. But we all hoped girls would grow to handle the new freedoms wisely. Then everything came to be about money: so now sex is about money, too. Why else sexualise the clothes of little girls, run TV channels of naked wives, have sex magazines edging out the serious stuff on newsagents’ shelves? It’s money that’s corrupted us and women are being used and are even collaborating.” with which I wholeheartedly agree. The following link will take you to Joan reading the last chapter of her book “Stop the Clocks” which is well worth a listen…..if you’re getting on a bit.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06zhhj0

  • the Bakewell tart image was used as Joan was described by Frank Muir as “the thinking man’s crumpet”, a soubriquet of which she was not enamoured….but like jam, glacé cherries, icing sugar, almond paste or any of the other delicious ingredients of this tart, it stuck.
Posted in 2016, Bakewell Tart, Digital photography, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Sex, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

feeling like a plum in Agen….

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Nothing concentrates my mind more than nothing. After a short time, the nothing of this pale rain distorted image seen through the windscreen as I waited for something yesterday, took me away to another moment in time when I sat waiting and looking at another nothing that in its turn took me on another voyage. I have suffered or, as I now realise, benefited from day dreaming for as long as I can remember, which may or may not be very long at all as when I try to remember anything in particular, after a very short time, I start day dreaming. This time I went back to Agen.

Squinting against the brightness of the sun, out of the corners of my eyes I would, on occasion, catch a glimpse of a chateau perched high up on a wooded hill, but more often it would be the ochre colours of burnt earth  mixed with the blurred shapes of olive groves close to the road’s edge as I drove fast towards Toulouse. I was already thinking of my destination, a beautifully renovated old manoir, where I would be staying for a couple of days, taking pictures and eating and drinking with good friends. Then the engine blew up. If a car’s engine is going to blow up, it’s best that the up blowing should occur as close as possible to a place which specialises in returning engines to their pre up blown condition and such was my luck on that day. After the bang, and a post coital cigarette which was allowed in those days, I and the injured car rolled to a stop in a garage sensibly situated exactly at the point where our gathered momentum finally expired. Amongst the vagaries of French car insurance I had found that the insurer was unwilling to offer a replacement car, in the case of breakdown, but would pay a king’s ransom in other forms of transport to get the insured back to his home or to his proposed destination. Of these two choices I opted for the former which entailed an over generous portion of waiting which, in its turn, offered the exciting prospect of some extended mind travel. Instead of a replacement car the insurance company proposed the following itinerary. I was to wait at the garage for a tow truck to arrive which would transport me and the car to a recognised Jeep dealer in an ironically styled, “nearby”, town where the necessary repairs would be undertaken. Once there, I would be left to my own devices for two hours as it was now midday which is the beginning of the sacred two hour lunch break. I was told by the insurance company’s agent that a taxi would pick me up later. I questioned the “later” and was duly asked why I imagined any sane taxi driver would want to work during those hours when he could be having lunch and what sort of dangerously insane person would be looking for a taxi during that time when he too could be, and jolly well should be, enjoying a lunch of his own. So I had lunch. As I finished my coffee a taxi drew up. Was I being watched or was I day dreaming? Rather than interrupt the flow by answering the question I just got into the dream and the driver of the dream took me Agen station which itself seemed to be part of a pretty weird dream.

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The dark train that towered above me ( I should mention that I was not dressed as a Chinese girl) duly took me, in a first class seat, from Agen to Bordeaux where my dreams changed tracks once again. There I was guided to another train that whisked me a further 3 hours up the line to the town of Niort where a Peugeot Pumpkin, drawn by rats as opposed to Banksy, hied me some 60kms to my home. A week later I would have the pleasure of travelling the same route in reverse to collect my repaired car. I would have liked to have stopped at the restaurant where I had enjoyed lunch the first time around and to have asked them if they would serve me the same meal starting with the coffeee, onto the dessert and so on but sadly I didn’t.

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I’m not well known for my financial acumen but the round trip by first class trains and taxis must have amounted to at least 8 or 900€ whereas a hire car is around 50€ per day….or maybe I’m just dreaming.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Digital photography, Dreams, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Reality, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments