Thursday 16 February 2017

Raging frogs

    I believe the word 'Rage' comes from the French word 'Orage' - meaning storm - and boy have we ever just had one of those. For 2 days, 80 kph winds raged through the district, fetching down trees, cutting off our power and generally causing havoc. So, perhaps this was not the best day to start lambing, but you can't hold back nature, as 3 little creatures dropped to the deck, only to be half blown away into the neighbour's field. We would have housed them in our polytunnel only it too has headed off towards the Atlantic, never to be seen again.
    Anyway, for now, the sun is shining this week here at Chauffour and yesterday we ate both lunch and dinner al-fresco, the latter in front of the flickering chiminia in the Valentine's moonlight. Being ever the romantic, I prepared a delightful meal using local French ingredients such as snails, tripe and other delicacies. However, to my dismay, after 1000 years of dining on anything they fancy, it appears that the French are no longer allowed to eat frogs' legs. This is not strictly true as you can buy 'farmed' ones in the supermarket, but you are no longer permitted to pop out with your torch and catch your own and then chuck them in the pan with a bulb of garlic and a knob of butter, should you so wish. So let me get this straight, you are allowed to send you rabid dogs into our local wood and flush out the wild boar, let the hounds rip it to pieces, and then sit around and get drunk while your dog goes off to hunt my sheep? But crawling around in the undergrowth to collect a few of those noisy blighters that keep us awake all night with their croaking? Non, monsieur, c'est interdit.  Usual madness prevails.
    You may recall earlier this month we were away skiing in the Alps. As suspected, for the first couple of days my knees were to up to the job but it was also nice to have some down time, catching up with friends over a few gluhweins. We even managed to hold a Burns Supper up the mountain, courtesy of Scottish friends staying with us and a haggis I shot earlier this winter.  However, later in the week I succumbed to yet another cold, my 4th in as many months, and it sure did pee me off. Until last autumn I hadn’t had a cold for 2 years, so am unsure why 'le gripe' seems to be digging its claws into me this year. Are colds like buses, all coming along at once? Will this be my last one for another 2 years? Or should I just hit the drink harder, doctor? Anyway, my absence from the ski slopes was no real issue as something else was also absent for the duration, that of snow itself. It did arrive eventually though on the morning we were due to leave, making our descent back down the mountain something of an arduous task. Having omitted to purchase the obligatory tyre-chains, thankfully we have just replaced our 4x4 and the new one has some very smart gadgetry called hill-descent mode, which basically appoints a robot to take the controls and drive us down the impossibly icy road. Sadly they haven’t invented 'pub-return' mode so it could do the same on a frosty Friday night whilst I have a kip in the back seat! Land-Rover, I hope you are working on it!
    On the subject of drink, my wife and I are quite proud to announce that we achieved a sustained measure of sobriety for the last few weeks, by laying off the sauce completely. It did get punctuated once though on the day that England beat Wales at rugby. Excuses such as that are surely forgiven? Yes, thought so.
    Right, as spring is starting to rear is furrowed brow, it's time to get the clean-up operation underway and at least retrieve some of our furniture from the swimming pool, along with enough leaves to build a giant compost heap ready to underpin the seed potatoes.  Then there are pruning, digging, fencing and other back-breaking jobs to hopefully avoid. The rest of this month is to be spent catching up with writing, as I have 3 projects on the go and another in the pipeline. Hopefully, after nearly a year with the publishers, my last book, 'Calling Papa Charlie' should be on the shelves in the next week or two. Also my TV drama screenplay, entitled 'The Hole', is currently under review by someone at the good old BBC. Based around the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001, it tells a pretty emotional tale from personal experience, although it may be a little too politically sensitive to be aired on mainstream channel.  Fingers, toes and eyes crossed that they like it!

Wednesday 15 February 2017


Continuing on from my book ‘In Bed With Cows’, I am considering collating stories from all cattle stockmen and women, young and old - near and far, into a journal we can all share, to preserve them for eternity. After the recent death of cattleman Bob Powel, it occurred to me that many of these tales are now being lost without trace. I am therefore on the lookout for funny tales and anecdotes from all of you, please. I am not expecting this to be a commercially viable project, so no payment rewards but for those that get included, a free copy of the book and an inclusion in the credits. Anything marginally linked to cattle will be considered but it needs to, at the very least, bring a smile. Please email to – if you know of anyone, especially of the old guard, who you think may be able to contribute material, please sit down with them and canvass their stories. Or pass me a phone number so I can interview them. This may all come to nothing but let’s give it a go and see what happens. We owe it to our grandkids! 

PS.All stories will get re-written and, don’t worry, names will be changed to negate incrimination and liability!!