Thursday, 31 July 2008


Dimanche matin:
nous allons au marché.
Tout le monde est arrivé.

Les fromages, les olives et les poulets chauds

Les espadrilles et les souliers en plastique

Le lin, le savon et les herbes

Les serrures pour le château

Et les cerises pour le déjeuner.

~ ~ FIN ~ ~

This represents the limit of MadameM’s French.
It was closely supervised by MonsieurM
because accents grave and acute
are completely alien to MadameM.
MonsieurM gets VERY anxious
when MadameM attempts French.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Orlando Murrin

I am not prone to hero worship
and Orlando Murrin is an unlikely hero.

Orlando was the Editor of Good Food when I was reading it from cover to cover trying to find ways of enjoying the cooking I was doing for my family. He has a fresh and engaging writing style and I began to believe that he had created this wonderful monthly food magazine just for me, subsidising the production by selling it to a million other people.

Five years ago Orlando left Good Food and moved to the south of France with his partner, Peter Steggall, to start a restaurant with rooms attached. Or maybe it should be described as luxurious accommodation with a gastronomic experience attached. I had an extended period of mourning and then I got on with cooking my way through his archive recipes.

Imagine my delight on finding his newest book,
A Table in the Tarn,
hot off the press, in the bookshop on the Rue de Rivoli. I read it on the train south from Paris and realised that we would be driving almost past their front door on our way to Provence.

Le Manoir de Raynaudes
is so secluded that nobody actually drives past the front door.
When we finally arrived in late afternoon
I was aghast at the thought
that we might interrupt the preparations for dinner.
MrM insisted that we should at least look inside.

I stepped into the courtyard and immediately met Orlando.

He introduced himself

“I’m Orlando”.

My reply is etched into my memory
because the words that surfaced from my subconscious
bypassed the normal editing process
which gives a veneer of good manners.

“I know” I gasped “I’m a HUGE fan”.

He did not immediately call the local gendarmerie and ask them to remove me. We were taken on a tour of Le Manoir by Peter, looking at the elegant apartments and the delightful terrace with views across the countryside to the mountains and all the time I was clutching my book which had been autographed.

I am thrilled to have this extraordinary memory
of a soft gold late afternoon
at Le Manoir de Raynaudes
and I am still completely star struck
by the most courteous and unlikely of heroes.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Château de Bessonies

If you drive through the woods of Lot
you will eventually arrive at the Château de Bessonies.

Madame will greet you and show you
to your delightful and comfortable room.

Every surface is covered with charming things
to admire and enjoy.

It seems incredible that in 2001
the Château was a ruin with trees in the salon.

Madame and her son have restored it themselves
and it is impossible to talk to Madame
without being inspired by her restless energy and enthusiasm.

Tonight we will dine in the salle á manger
sitting on the gold chairs.
The dinner will be simple, delicious home-made food.

Tomorrow, the church bells will wake us
and we will linger over freshly baked cake and hot coffee
under the umbrellas on the terrace.

Eventually we must leave
but we promise Madame that we will return.

And so we will,
but I suspect that next time
it will be even more difficult to leave.

Nobody warned us
that it is an enchanted castle in the woods
and that it is very easy to become spell bound.

Monday, 28 July 2008

A High Rise Celebration

MrM has never been up the Eiffel Tower.
Neither has MrsM.

MrM has a bright idea...
there is a private lift
to the Jules Verne restaurant...

MrsM thinks that she will burst into tears
when she sees the view from their table.

She is soon distracted.
The waiters cluster around
and offer the most delicious food:

Amuse Bouche ~ Gazpacho

Pea soup with Spider Crab

Breast of Chicken and Crayfish

Rhum Baba with choice of cognac

Petit Fours

All prepared in the smallest of kitchens.

It was a fabulous birthday treat for MrM

but I think he is worth it.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

MrM - my personal travel assistant

MrM is a good person to go on holiday with.
He organises everything impeccably.
(Admittedly, there was a major security alert
when an illegal penknife was found in his suitcase
but let’s pass over that quickly)

He can speak immaculate French.
(Although, strangely, in shops he becomes very inarticulate)

He does all the driving which is very restful for MrsM
(Unless it is reversing which he doesn’t enjoy.
Please let’s not talk about that)

He can give guided tours to archaeological sites
(Assisted only by his EXTENSIVE selection of guide books.)

He knows how to relax.
(Note the communication strategy...
In Case of Emergency)

He is greeted personally
by the man in charge of the Taxi queue
when we return to St. Pancras late at night.
(An amazing end to a wonderful holiday)

We returned last night from two weeks in France.
After a couple of nights in Paris
we travelled south on the train
and then drove across the heart of France to Avignon
where we had a tiny gite surrounded by water.

It took a little while
before I wanted to start taking photographs again
but I made myself keep pressing the shutter.

I hope that you will enjoy seeing
some of the things that we saw on the way.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

In which we go far...

The company Landrover (which comes with chauffeur)

On Monday I started my new job.
It is a bigger job than my previous one
with lots to learn.
And so my family decided to schedule
a light week of travelling.

to France for 3 days of parties
out Monday
back Thursday
(flight delayed until midnight)

pit stop at hospital
to investigate potential broken wrist
(actually a very bad sprain)

to South Africa for 5 weeks
travelling, working, mingling with friends
out Friday

to South Africa for 6 weeks
attending school in her holidays
- how bad is that? -
out Sunday

to luxurious kennel accommodation
for 2 weeks of peace and quiet
out Saturday
(did I mention the trip to the Vets? No?)

MrM and MrsM
to France
for 2 weeks of recuperation
out Monday.

I hope that I get there
before my head bursts.
Back in 2 weeks

p.s. I will be offline while I am on holiday
and so will not be able to respond to emails.
Please don't do anything exciting
while I am away.

Friday, 11 July 2008

MasterM and the Giraffe Costume

You have all been wonderful friends
over the past two weeks
and as a (dubious) treat
I thought I would share a glimpse
into the life of a teenager.

MasterM was invited to a Circus Party
after his exams finished.
He was told to come as a Giraffe.
So he did.
As you do.

Yesterday I was tidying his room
(don't ask why - just accept that I was)
and guess what I found?
His HOMEMADE Giraffe Costume
- this blog is almost a Craft blog these days! -

He tells me that he went with his friend the Bear
and because they were staying overnight
the Bear just slept in his Bear suit.
MasterM found a cast-off Horse suit
and slept in that with his feet in the head.

No pictures of that - alas!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Did I really say that?

Scene: Italian Restaurant

What is Rigatoni?
It is like Penne
but bigger
and with ridges
Why don't we have them at home?
We used to
but Mummy banned them.
It was after the incident with the peas.

She said that if she wanted us
to learn how to use blowpipes
she would have brought us up
in the Amazonian Rain Forest.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Blue Bowls

Some people treat themselves
by buying handbags or shoes,
nail varnish or perfume.

I buy china.

Last week,
after a long morning of appointments,
I bought these bowls.

I love them.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

MissM is not amused

MissM has expressed disappointment at the choice of colour for the new bathroom towels. MrsM has chosen Spruce instead of Sunshine (now discontinued). MissM knows what she likes and Spruce is not it. MissM does not feel that Spruce towels create the right ambience in the bathroom.

MrsM secretly agrees with MissM.

MrsM asks MrM what he thinks of the new bathroom towels. MrM has not noticed aforementioned towels and is embarrassed. He attempts to cover this faux pas by asking MissM what she would prefer

I don't think it would be very absorbent

MissM is not amused. In the ensuing family scene MrsM realises that Terracotta towels will feature in her future capital expenditure.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Survivors' Photograph

Before MasterM and MissM went away to school
I spent an entire summer sewing labels
onto all their school uniform and home clothes.
I sewed nearly 350 labels
and it drove me to the edge of madness.

This weekend, as we unpacked MasterM's suitcases,
I realised that there were 6 pairs of socks
out of the original 10 pairs.
6 pairs of socks that had survived
the school laundry
and school changing rooms
and exceptionally untidy dormitories.

I wish I could go back in time
and tell that poor woman
sewing day and night
throughout the summer of 2003
that it was worth the effort.


Sunday, 6 July 2008

"These guys know how to party..."

MasterM starts the day at a Champagne breakfast
with his Housemaster and friends.

MasterM and friend discover extra bottle of Champagne;
they drink it.

(11am - Church Service)

MasterM participates in Champagne reception.

MasterM joins his parents for a Champagne picnic.

(2pm - Prizegiving)

MasterM does not attend Headmaster's Garden Party
but goes to pub where he does not drink Champagne.
He drinks something else. Beer?

(7.30pm - Leavers' Ball)

MasterM enchants all the mothers of his friends
by asking them to dance.

MasterM enjoys the availability of wine.
Red and White.

MasterM is completely articulate at midnight
when his parents leave the party.

MasterM negotiates half price entry for himself
and a large number of his friends
who wish to go clubbing
and continues dancing until 4am.

MasterM is up and ready to go
at 11am the next morning.