Sunday, 22 February 2015


Another week done gone by. Today is positively Spring-like; bright blue skies, sunshine - with warmth in it - and birds fluttering around. I took Golly for a long walk just after noon and disturbed a pair of Ravens busily renovating an old nest high in an ancient Oak tree. And so, even if I might be optimistic, the darn birds are unlikely to get it wrong.

I've listened out in the hope of hearing our old feathered friends The Common Crane passing overhead en-route to Scandinavia on their Spring migration, but have heard nothing. We are quite close to their normal overhead migratory channels, so remain hopeful. In addition, there's a significant lake site nearby which I'd think is perfect for a resting/refuelling overnight spot. I know they have Avocet, Spoonbill and many other species there, so would expect the Cranes, or Grues, as they're known here - Trana, in Sweden - to possibly benefit from the site. It's a nature reserve with hides etc provided, so almost perfect. They used to arrive in numbers, with an incredible cacophony, (genuinely extraordinary noise) in Sweden around us in lateish March/April for the nesting season.

Cranes in field below house, Sweden. (Not a good piccy)

As it's almost March, I'd also expect the old Hoopoe/Hups (here in Froggoland) to arrive in the near future. We have a pair that nest in woodland surrounding the house/garden. Always a pleasure  to hear their call and see them pecking in the garden:

A few evenings ago we were invited out to the local FM Radio station for a pre-blues festival show that was going out live/en direct. The show ran for five hours. We turned up, as suggested, within minutes of it kicking off and were ushered into the studio with a mic in front of us. Everyone was already pretty pissed. A good bottle of Glenmorangie was almost empty and the wine was flowing freely. What could we do? We had to help out with a fair few glasses from a local, Loire Chateau and polish off the Scotch. I found myself suddenly, and for no discernible reason, being asked for my thoughts on a variety of subjects including the previous blues festival of 2014 and to explain the meaning of guitar finger-picking - in French. I managed to largely avoid the questions where possible and restricted myself to single-word responses, even using English on occasion. By the time we left the gang were pretty well smashed and still had hours of live broadcasting ahead of them. We drove home and listened to the show for much of the evening as it steadily became increasingly riotous and raucous.

I started this blogging lark shortly after having a, fortunately minor, stroke. It gave me a routine back then, in Sweden, and J was able to see what was going on as she was working at the time in Midwifery in St Mary's, Paddington, working - as an NHS employee - on the private unit, The Lindo, much favoured by stars/celebs/ royalty: Diana gave birth to he two Princes there and the trend continues with the latest crop from William & whatsername.  Having moved around a fair bit, Spain, Sweden and now France, I find things rather staid and pedestrian (almost normal if you get my drift) here, after Sweden with its extremes. But we have pitched up in a remarkably welcoming and friendly village. With only about 50 souls, there is a genuine warmth to the locals who have been incredibly warm and welcoming to us. Of course, it helps that J is fluent in the lingo, but they try to include me too.

Just before Xmas I was rushed off into a local hospital as an emergency surgical admission. The villagers rallied around J with offers of help etc. Very heartening, to say the least. And when I was discharged after about two weeks as an inpatient, they again were astonishingly considerate etc, calling to visit me and enquiring after my health. Indeed, they still do from time to time. It would be difficult to single out any one person but without doubt our near neighbours, the farming couple who run a large organic farm on the village edge, were and always have been exceptionally warm and friendly. I trundle down to the farm every few days to buy our 'raw'/unpasturised organic milk by the litre as the cows are literally being milked. The charge is a mere 60 centimes a litre. Which can't be bad.

The village from one of the many farm tracks where we walk ourselves and the dogs.

J spent most of today working out in the garden, prepping things for the next round of planting. She had a good day but as the temp is dropping has decided to call it a day. As will I. It is now wine o'clock, after all.

The garden in full bloom - if that's the word - last summer. The bottom wall is festooned with plums, blackberries - always a pest to contain - and vines.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Spring, Printemps......Earthbound.....

Easily the better part of a year since I posted anything on here. Time whizzes by, it seems. Old Jack, our much loved cocker, passed a few days before the end of 2014. He was almost fifteen, near blind, deaf and was having problems generally. We had him to the local vet a fair few times and he'd survived surgery but never fully seemed to recover. No real surprise, I guess. Each time at the vet, we expected he'd reached the end and she'd say 'Non'! And he teetered on. He slipped away lying asleep in front of a roaring open log fire. A fine end, I reckon and one that saved us all the trauma and distress of a veterinary end! We miss him. He was a wonderful old fella.

A few weeks before his end, we collected another young (18 months) cocker anglais from a Froggo refuge. He had been bred by an elevage/breeder as a stud dog but didn't take to the work, it seems. As a result he was left in an outdoor cage for over six months before being released by the refuge. He's still very nervous at times but is steadily improving on a daily basis. His Froggo name was 'Goliath' - a less appropriate moniker would be hard to find. Initially he refused to walk and had to be carried in and out for pees etc. To overcome this problem, we took on yet another similar cocker from another refuge, an eight year old dog known as Benito. Benny soon got Golly (as we've renamed the pair) off his butt and out and about. So things are improving for both dogs.

Charlie, my all-time favourite cat from Sweden has never returned or been found. Although we now have three others, including his old Spanish buddy, Rocky' - and two from another refuge, Sally and Ginge - I still miss him. He was virtually impossible at times but for me he just had something special about him that I loved.

The veg garden/potager proved to be immensely successful last year. We had huge crops of cucumber; melons; peppers; strawberries; broccoli; onions; pots; toms; lettuce; aubergines; courgettes; beans (French and Runner); Cauli; Garlic etc. Over winter we've had, and still have, Sprouts; Cabbage; Brocc; Cauli; Leeks. It's mostly under manure now, and as Spring seems to have just about arrived, will need turned in and prepped for another season. A job for J. I do only grass-cutting. Our freezers are still groaning under the amounts of stuff from last year, but it's all very handy. We have mountains of plums in the bushes/trees surrounding the garden, both Victorias and Greengages, always a favourite, so have loads of jam. The Pear, Apple and Cherry trees planted seem to have survived and in a few years should literally be fruitful. Ditto the Black & Red currants and Rasps. I plan to plant a Peach tree in a few weeks time, when the ground has warmed up a bit more. They grow prolifically hereabouts.

It's an odd thought but having listed this crop I can't help recalling the limits of what could be produced in Sweden: Carrots; Peas; Cucs & Toms ( both of the latter Greenhoused); Apples and Berries of all kinds. Here we seem to have difficulties with Peas - of all things - and have yet to try Carrots, a project for this year perhaps.

Our daughter, LVP, is still having problems over contact etc with her son/the grandsprog, despite the conclusion of proceedings last year. His father remains a total A**hole and is constantly obstructive. J is going over to UK and Wales to see her in early May and hopefully some progress will again be possible. We've suggested Hamish comes out here for a holiday at our expense this summer during school hols but the father is far from supportive of the idea, although Hamish has had many hols with us in Sweden, France and Spain over the years without issue. We will see what can be arranged!

I'm now writing reviews/features etc., for countless music titles across the English speaking areas of three continents from USA; Canada; UK; and some in other tongues) France; Germany; Netherlands; Sweden (of course!); and Australia. I receive literally hundreds of CDs  for review and Passes for events all over the place. I was in Glasgow recently covering a great music festival, Celtic Connections for a couple of titles. A great fest, I hooked up with both friends and family while also meeting-up with a number of performers including a couple of my personal favourites from the Nashville country/Americana machine, Rodney Crowell and Tim O'Brien, the latter always a genuinely lovely, decent, friendly sort of guy. Nest month is a Froggo fest nearby which should also be great followed by another in Denmark, at Tonder, that I've fancied for many years. With Passes arranged for these, and others, it should keep me occupied for a bit.

Well, that's enough for now. Time to get the mutts out for a walk in the sunshine. A bientot.