Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Swan over Rocks

Posted by Picasa Too many coincidences to let them just go...
You knew I would call.
You started your poems with the same line;
There are so many things I wanted,
to discover, with you;
I wanted to travel with you;
I wanted to visit galleries with you;
I wanted to wake up next to you;
but most of all,I wanted to discover;
how you made love.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I was working outside the house the other day; clipping the overgrown honeysuckle into a much more abstract line. Thin but lengthy stems reaching up and around the post above the mailbox; without shoots to allow for free growth this spring and hopefully then a decent show of perfumed flowers when summer arrives.

Madame Veuve walking by stopped to say "bonjour monsieur". She walks past most days, often several times each day; she probably has already forgotten the earlier walk that day and she often says as she once again asks me my name that her memory is going, like her knees.

She laughs and we talk briefly about the weather. Spring is almost here I suggest, in the 18 celsius temperatures of the sunny afternoon. She shrugs and disagrees saying it is early days and more snow will probably fall, and besides the wind is still cold. 

"Mais," she says, as she looks along the road and to the mountain line above us,

"Elles sont belles, les montagnes, mais c'est fini maintenant. Trop tard, trop vieille."

I tell her I didn't climb the Dent d'Oche last year, for some reason the opportunity didn't arise but I walked and climbed others.

"Ah", she replied, "la Dont d'Oche, j'ai 17 ans le première fois, 1941 quand j'ai monté la. Nous sommes parti à 2 heures le matin; ma cousine, son mari. C'est dur. Mais après St.Paul c'est beaucoup mieux. Ah, oui."

As she smiles distant memories coming back, she says goodbye and walks on up the road, her faltering aged steps slowly progressing and leaning on her stick as she takes a breather, looking into another garden, I wonder what was a 17 year old girl doing at 2 o'clock in the morning, in the dark climbing up through the woods, or even up along the quiet roads in 1941, in invaded France, with wall-to-wall German armies, up to a mountain which forms part of the French Swiss border, and which was known as an escape route to freedom for Allied troops and downed Airmen.

Was she at that age doing her bit? Was she in the Maquis, the resistance?

Some years ago at the age of 80 she did her first tandem paraglide; her photo published in the local newspaper. At 88, a widow, peacefully shuffling along the road taking the late winter sunshine and fresh air. Quite a lady . Next time she stops hereby I'll ask.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Veal Braised in Chianti

This is a fabulous recipe from Tuscany using a bottle of Chianti in which to very slowly braise Tendron de Veau, which is a perfect cut and which happened to be on offer in our local supermarket. I found a bottle of Chianti Piccini from the co-operative in Castellina-in-Chianti where we stayed some years ago in a wonderful little farm building high in the Tuscan hills.

The slow cooking mellows the amount of freshly ground black pepper included. So, grab the following; and this is for about 3 to 4 persons.

970 gr of veal breast.
half a dozen good cloves of garlic.
1 bottle of Chianti.
2 soup spoons of freshly ground pepper - pepper corns in the coffee grinder!
fresh sea salt, rosemary sprigs and a bay leaf.

Cut up the veal; and with any bones, put them into a heavy based pot like a Le Creuset. Add the other ingredients and pour in the wine - yes, the whole bottle! Bring it to a simmer, cover with a heavy lid making sure the wine covers all the ingredients and place it into a pre-heated oven at 150C... no idea what that is in Gas...

This is the stew just starting to bubble... leave it in the oven for several hours, go and shop, do some work, go for a long walk, and then it will be ready to devour...

I'm going to buy a Romanesco type cauli and do that with some of those funny dark red carrots, and maybe serve with some polenta in separate little pots...

As I type this out and change things about, adding this, editing that, the smell from the oven is just delicious. My mouth is watering so much I have to go out and  play.

I'll let you, my dear reader, know how good it was or even how it was not...

And to drink? Well, I have set aside a Brunello di Montalcino 2002, which is conspicuous by it's absense from Hugh Johnson's 2011 Pocket Wine Book...I hope that won't prove to have been a waste of money in Tuscany several years ago.

Tuesday 20th March...
I ate it again last night. My bum is burning. I had the last portion that couldn't be eaten on Saturday night and which we found, spoiled the wine because it was far too hot. 4 tablespoons of ground black pepper with 2.5 kilos of meat was the recipe's original proposal, and I put 2 soup spoons (slightly less than a tablespoon) into a fraction under 1 kilo of meat, and although it wasn't a vindaloo, it was hotter than the average Italian would want I'm sure. At least we drank most of the wine before we sat down to eat and so only the last mouthful was ruined before we went on to a more robust Côtes du Rhone. 

This must be a misprint in the book.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

On a recent visit to London I went to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace ( ) to see Herbert Ponting's stunning photographs of Scott's ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic 100 years ago. The photographs were simply huge beautiful images of a frozen wasteland, often printed on coloured paper to give an idea of the colour they saw, but were not able under the conditions, to record using photography as a medium.

Towards the end of the exhibition having rushed through the photos of Shackleton's own expedition I saw two watercolour paintings, made on site during Scott's journey and have shown one here.

Unfortunately I did not note who it was that painted this small but equally beautiful image of a vast and colourful landscape. The brush strokes and restrained use of colour were inspiring and showed that what these people saw, often before they were due to die, was simply nature's wonder.

As Capt. Lawrence Oates memorably said, "I am just going outside and maybe some time." His body was never found. The photo he took of himself, with Scott and three others shortly before they did indeed die, was saddening in it's portrayal of their desperation and hopelessness. Giants amongst men.

Monday, 12 March 2012

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade."

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens.

Perfect description for today...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Lugrin, France early Feb., 2012

I Am The Walrus on the beach at Meillerie, on the French shore of Lac Léman...

Boats don't stop here anymore. Not in
this cold... at Lugrin, between Meilerie and Evian-les-Bains.

Like some creature from the War of the Worlds; on ice...