Coronation Mugs

As I settle into my indefinite retreat from society the minutiae of life and language begin to appear magnified. “I’m sorry, I just haven’t got time to do that” will become a meaningless phrase or, more succinctly, a porky pie because, as many times as we wash our hands, we will still have a surfeit of time left on them during which we must find things to do: pastime metamorphoses into challenge, into obstacle and there’s the problem. We’re doing time.

The cell wall graffiti calendar needs redefining and now, if ever there was a time, is the moment to do it. Carving galleons from bone was a favourite pastime for Napoleonic prisoners of war which art form may well regain its popularity but it will prove difficult for vegetarians: although, with empty shelf syndrome, endemame beans, calcots, kimchi and golden tofu may be liable to substitution. There is an esoteric pleasure in shopping on line ( I speak of France, where we are) in which everything seems to be available. Jenny and I tick this and that and that and this and feel a bit guilty …”Have we bought too much..? ,,,let’s cut something out…too late ….oh, fuck”: and I go to pick up what I’m sure will be a ziggurat of monumental proportions mounted on a metal shopping trolley surrounded by floor markings keeping the gawping crowd at bay. As it turns out the “oh, fuck” of greed was unnecessary and was substituted for an alternative “oh, fuck” as the trolley, with my name on it, contained one disposable brown paper carrier bag with a small and random selection of the order placed and poetic justice had been done. .

Just remember….Sic Transit Gloria…..keep a good 2 metres away from her.

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mistaken identity

I’m starting to sense the feeling of impotence suffered by the aliens in War of the Worlds as the giant metal legs of indestructible technology started to bend at the knee and the ground came rushing upwards. Invisible, deadly adversaries are incomprehensible outside of fiction and their sudden clear presence among us illuminates our fragile mortality and sends us into hiding . A generation unused to confinement and imminent threat is now reduced to listening to broadcasts, reading the news, twittering, tweeting, skyping, FBing, Fting, anyeffingthinging in an attempt to make sense of what is happening; why won’t “they” give us clarity, instructions, answers, help….., never has the analogy of the flock of sheep and shepherd been so apposite. Except there are no shepherds….just others of us that our voices and votes angrily or ecstatically elected and from whom we expected more than they have to give because the difference between them and us is so much less than we needed to believe . The purveyors of Populism have denied the worth of expert opinion and still, even in extremis, are biting their tongues rather than asking as many of them as is possible to come to our aid whilst simultaneously having the sense to firmly sweep the dark legion of their “advisers” out of the back door as so much dust and waste which is all they are.

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Muddlemarch

….or Puddlemarch; the latter would be apposite for the conditions underfoot which stretch back to a point beyond memory; I say this with the confidence of one who has as much confidence in the stretching back ability of his short term memory as he has in the forecasts of the weather forecaster. I have a deep dislike for January and February; not liking particular months is as pointless an exercise as I can imagine but, as I currently find exercise pointless, I confess that I have always had a lasting and unreasonable dislike for the two of them. I have spent 70 years waiting hopefully ( I have omitted the first 6 years of my life as months didn’t mean much to me until I went to boarding school at 7 years old) and occasionally optimistically, for March which, in my earliest memories, heralded the end of the Easter Term and, in my early teens, the end of the freezing misery of rowing on the swirling, brown river Thames in training for the regattas of summer……my position in the boat was bow which means that my back faced the pointy end of the boat beyond which was nothing but cold water and there was a reason for placing me in this position which did not include careful team selection. My size predicated that I should be a cox and I had indeed been given that responsibility at the outset of my time rowing at school and it was a responsibility that was speedily removed from me subsequent to my steering the boat in my charge into the path of an oncoming motor launch which collision surgically removed the front part of the boat I was steering, instantly transforming 9 men in a boat to 9 men in the Thames ; after the sinking I was introduced to several painful traditions, that I’d rather forget, before I was given the bow seat in a new boat, not in the belief that I would add to the power of the boat but in the hope of a similar accident in which I would be the victim of poetic justice: and that does for the March of Time.

Quick March to the present; the waters are rising and a virus is spreading which leaves me little choice but to ignore everything and make meringues. Living in this tiny hamlet with a population of 10 people, and a great many more sheep and cows, we don’t do a great deal of hand shaking or mwah mwahing. Let me be clear, we could not choose to have better neighbours than those we have here as our ideal good neighbour is a kind and thoughtful person to whom we speak rarely yet trust completely and it would appear that our neighbours’ view of neighbourly behaviour is one and the same. Whatever disappointments that each March offers it cannot prevent the arrival of the light….the wondrous lengthening of the day which eventually culminates in those long, hot, sultry evenings which draw themselves out inexorably giving pleasures twelve months forgotten.

And there is Mad March with battling hares in the fields and memories of Masefield “butting down the Channel in the mad March days” along with a determination to avoid the Ides of March….the acronym IDE, Infectious Disease Epidemic, could not be more fitting to the zeitgeist. I was thinking to myself, as I brought in wood from the courtyard behind the house, how these things are suddenly upon us. The buildings around me, as I worked, had seen men in German uniforms who had the power to kill you at the drop of a hat; they would have seen Republican soldiers, as they swept through the Vendée killing everyone in their path, at the end of XVIII Century and still the buildings look down on me in a kindly way. As I worked my neighbour came out, chatted and then loaded his wheelbarrow with a box of apples to take to our neighbour on the other side of the lane. The day could not have been more normal but it’s not and it won’t be for a while; and then it will be.

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The Elusive….you know ….the thing….

Over the last few days I have been trying to remember a word that forever slips my mind. To suggest that it is but one word that forever slips my mind would be an…another word which jostles for space in the lexicon that balances delicately on the very tip of my tongue The irony is that, at the outset, I had, for once, remembered the forgotten word which was to be revealed to the reader in some amusing fashion; but it’s gone. To add a frisson of excitement, and indeed mystery, I had earlier noted down the just remembered word but where I noted it down has since become unclear so I shall move on to mashed potato in the hope that it may reveal itself along the way.

A bowl of lovingly made mashed potato is an iconic dish that, as is the way with icons, so often disappoints. The disappointment can usually be placed directly at the feet of that lack of love, which lack is the downfall of so much cooking, and the lack of a proper potato ricer which, on searching for a reference to illustrate this essential kitchen tool to you, dear reader, I have managed to acquire on line, but 5 real minutes past, a replacement for my old rusty one for the princely sum of 20€, reduced from 137€! I don’t like exclamation marks but I am fucking well exclaiming.* There’s nothing to see here…move along ….to boiling potatoes in chunks, in cold water, and with plenty of sea salt. Pass the cooked potatoes through the ricer and add lumps of unsalted butter, plenty of white pepper, big dollops of creme fraiche and the yoke of a fresh ( freshly laid is ideal ) egg and stir together with a wooden spoon. Such is the potato on top of the “Sheperds Pie” in the photograph which is also a vegetarian “Shepherd’s Pie” using a meat substitute which was as rich and deeply flavoured as any I have eaten and which allows me to look my local lambs in the face without shame ….although looking lambs lovingly in the face could suggest, to those who have spent lonely weeks on a mountain side with lambs’ mothers, something of the sort.

Sadly, that which was lost has not yet been found, although the tip of my tongue is atingle with possible candidates pushing themselves forward …enigma has just offered itself up and the “a” ending is definitely a clue….the search will go on as, like J. Marion Wayne, I set off into the snowy white pages of Roger’s ( as opposed to the mispelled bloke who has his own one) Thesaurus from which I will not return without my errant noun.

* I would mention the site from which I bought the ricer but I don’t want to be responsible for anything going wrong as I haven’t used the site before.

Posted in 2020, Cooking, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

going la la la la la…..

There are times, quite a lot of times, when, whether the kitchen radio is on or off both settings seem very like each other to me, as, for all the information that I absorb it may as well be transmitting the buzzing of insects. The ears are pricked up but the mind is elsewhere. Was it ever thus? …probably. Memories of school recall a distant, menacing voice enquiring “….Stowell, what is your opinion of that..?” with the full knowledge that Stowell was devoid of an opinion on that as he was currently on the field of Agincourt or, less gallantly but more likely, engaged in a near hopeless mental struggle to create an erotic fantasy involving the perambulating gargoyle that was matron which task was taxing his teenage testosterone fuelled mind with a problem beyond the wildest complexities of Euclidian geometry, should there be such a thing. On reflection I was starting as I meant to continue; I was filleting life; discarding the unwanted skin and bones. To précis this long winded passage it may simply be said that I was not paying attention, often do not pay attention and, as likely as not, will, in the the future, often not pay attention which results, resulted and will continue to result in not hearing the words. Thus: ” Good evening Roger, let me introduce you to buzzzzzzzz, and bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” “Hi”. When my turn comes to introduce bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and bzzzzzzzzzzzzz to Jenny I just say “Oh, I must really go and have a piss….introduce yourselves”. It’s depressing for both Jenny and I if there are a lot of introductions as it is quickly assumed that I’m taking a huge amount of cocaine, with no apparent effect, or I should be in hospital undergoing some serious urogenital reconstruction or both. I have a suspicion that all HRH’s hear the same buzzing but have unseen implants that move their speaking parts to produce the noise that most recipients of Royal comments hear as something nice but which I would hear as BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (HRH’s only buzz in capitals) unless there is a faulty implant in which case the HRH would go along the line declaring “I must go and have a piss” to which one should bow or curtsy…depending.

Tomorrow I’m featuring on a Podcast from the United Nations of Photography www.unitednationsofphotography.com buzzing about what photography means to me which gives you a chance to meet me without the difficulty of an introduction. Must go now…..

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getting wood..

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.

Posted in 2020, Art photography, fireplace, Giclée Prints, last of the summer whine, lifestyle, Prints, prints for sale, Uncategorized, Weather, Wood cutting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

just a quiet word in my ear..

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”

“It’s going to be a long year……”

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Appy New Year….

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.

A left over bunch of snowmens’ noses…….make a nice soup as it appens.
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Cave Carnem…..

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.

Posted in Art photography, Bistro, Digital photography, Emotion, Farming, Meat, Photography, Uncategorized, vegetarian, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Garlic Drying ….C-Type…..SPECIAL OFFER

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 .

Posted in 2019, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment