Sunday, 23 October 2011

Micky's musings

For those of you who don't know me, I'm the handsome blond chap in the photo. Mum thinks she's the leader of our pack, but we all know that it's really me. It should be Rummy because he's older than me but he's so laid back he doesn't care.

When Mum told us three years ago that we were moving to France, we didn't know what to expect. Would we have to learn French? Would we have to live outside like French dogs? How were we going to get there? Would French food be different? We knew we had to get passports - would we have to balance on a little stool in a booth to have our photos taken?

Passports were easy - no photos, just some nasty injections. Rummy's injections didn't take, so the poor fellow had to have them done again. You should have heard Mum and Dad complain about the cost!

Getting there involved a long, boring journey in the car, then a train through a tunnel under the sea - that was a bit scary but Dad sat in the back with us and we reassured him there was nothing to worry about. Then another long, boring drive through the night. That bit wasn't so bad actually, since Dad, Rummy and I slept whilst Mum drove.

We finally arrived at our new house in time for breakfast. It was slightly bizarre because there was no furniture and Mum and Dad had to eat standing up. We thought it was going to be a strange lifestyle but then some men in a big van arrived - turns out they had all our furniture. Naturally, I had to supervise to make sure everything was put in the right place but then Mum shut me up in the utility room - she said someone was going to break their neck with me constantly under their feet.

All Mum and Dad's French friends think it's very strange that we live in the house - their dogs all live outside. If we're naughty, Mum threatens to turn us into French dogs. She says we've got a perfectly good barn to live in and then she wouldn't have to spend all her time sweeping up dog hair. She usually threatens this after I've found some particularly aromatic fox pooh to roll in!

Everyone in the village knows the handsome English Labradors. We don't understand a word anyone says but they all make a fuss of us. The lady in the bakers thinks we are particularly well-behaved so I think it's a bit unfair of Mum to tell her about the mischief we get into.

We are friends with two donkeys who live nearby. Mum and Dad always take apples for them but they don't give any to us - don't they realise we need a regular supply of food to keep our good looks? And why do they complain when we help ourselves to fruit in the garden? Why do they grow these apples, pears, cherries, plums, gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and strawberries if they don't want us to eat them? A Labrador never knows where his next meal is coming from and has to stock up when he gets the chance!

Well, it's been nice to chatting to you but must go now - it's dinner time!

Rummy's ruminationsThat Micky doesn't half like the sound of his own voice! Me, I don't care whether or not you know who I am, or who the leader of the pack is. All I want is to be fed and walked regularly and have a lap to sit on in the evenings. OK, so I'm 5 stone now but they let me sit on their laps when I was a puppy so I don't understand why they have a problem with it now!


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Jam making

Jam making has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  My Mum made all her own jam and marmalade.  When I was a child, fruit picking expeditions were a regular part of life.  My parents knew where all the wild raspberries and strawberries grew and, later in the year, plums and blackberries and crab apples for jelly.  We always made a day of it, with a picnic, although my brother and I rarely ate much of the picnic as we had been gorging on fruit.  I was never keen on the blackberry picking - they were vicious and fought back, and usually I came off worse!  Plus, your fingers and nails were purple for days afterwards.

When my children were young, we only had rhubarb in the garden but we used to go to a local fruit farm to pick raspberries and straberries for jam.  I remember one occasion when my son ate enough strawberries to make himself sick.  For a heart-stopping moment I thought he was vomiting blood!

When Gerry and I moved to the Forest of Dean, we had rhubarb, gooseberries and blackberries in the garden and a neighbour used to let us pick as many plums as we wanted, so the jam making continued.  Here in France, we have cherries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, blackcurrants, goosberries, apples, pears and plums, so we have a fantastic array of jams to spread on our baguette in the mornings.

I've always loved the ritual of jam making - preparing and weighing the fruit and sugar, the constant stirring to make sure the jam doesn't stick and burn (because once jam has burned to the bottom of the pan, you can't get rid of the taste), warming the jars in the oven, putting a little jam on a cold saucer to see if it wrinkles to show the jam has reached setting point.  This latter is absolutely crucial, because if you take the jam off the heat too soon you could drink it through a straw, leave it a minute too late and you could dance on it!  Nowadays, I use a jam thermometer - not so much fun but much more reliable.

I love pouring the jam into the warm jars and immediately putting a wax circle on top.  Then, when the jam is cool, writing out the labels and sticking one on each jar before screwing on the lids and putting them in my jam cupboard.  Yes, I really do have a jam cupboard and it gives me enormous satisfaction to see my shelves full of jam.  Perhaps I need to get out more?  Today I have made 5lbs of strawberry and 5lbs of apple and strawberry to add to my shelves.

I have a wonderful old brass pan for jam making.  It is so heavy I can barely lift it empty!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Moles & other garden delights

Moles are the bane of my life!  I spend an inordinate amount of time clearing the earth away, finding the tunnels and putting down smoke bombs to kill them (sorry all you animal lovers!).  I wasn't convinced that the smoke bombs actually work but after 12 days holiday recently, I came back to about 40 molehills and there wouldn't normally be that many in 12 days, so I'll just have to persevere.

We also have a lot of mulots, a sort of field mouse.  They're actually quite cute to look at, with reddish brown fur, white bib on the chest, big round ears and shiny black eyes.  However, as well as scurrying around in mouse-like fashion they can jump up to 2 feet vertically, which is most disconcerting.  I've even heard Gerry shriek like a girl when one has jumped up in front of him!  They burrow down into the ground and leave a perfect round hole about an inch in diameter.  There's hardly a square metre of our garden that doesn't have at least one mulot hole in it.

Then there are the toads, which I find quite repulsive.  They too burrow down into the ground and they quite often burrow into the molehills, so when I clear the earth I often find them - that's when I shriek!

With all this burrowing going on (and don't forget the rabbits!), I'm quite convinced I'll walk out there one day and just disappear into a big hole in the ground!  Looks quite peaceful in the photo, doesn't it?  You wouldn't think there was so much hidden activity going on.

On the plus side, we have a stunning array of beautiful butterflies all summer, the herbs and lavender are full of honey bees and ladybirds, there are amazing irridescent blue beetles flying around and of course we have a barn full of swallows from April to September.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


As a child, the only boots I had were wellies and I hated them!  They were cold and flapped against my skinny bare legs - no joke in an Edinburgh winter.  As a teenager in the 60's, I naturally had white PVC knee-length boots teamed with a mini skirt - again no joke in an Edinburgh winter. 

For many years after that, I never wore boots - I had such skinny legs that I could never find boots that fitted properly and when they flapped about it reminded me too much of my childhood wellies.  However, when I acquired a dog about 10 years ago, wellies became a necessity.  I discovered the wonderful Aigle boots - not cheap but supremely comfortable.  In fact, I was dithering one day about shoes to wear for a day out and Gerry said "what are your most comfortable shoes?" and I had to confess it was my wellies!

A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of very cheap ankle boots to wear with jeans and that started my current addiction to boots!  I can't resist trying on boots everywhere I go and I currently own 6 pairs.  My latest acquisition is a pair of dark red ankle boots with stiletto heels and impossibly pointed toes - gorgeous.  Gerry wasn't the slightest bit surprised when he asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said BOOTS!