Saturday, 25 October 2014

Dragons Past and Present

Above a Central Netted Dragon Ctenophorus nuchalis, blending in to its surroundings.
Below, lizard footprints in the sand.
Fossilised lizard tracks on the escarpment of Kings Canyon, not far from where I took the previous photo.
Me, my brother in law John and sister Kathy, gazing in wonder at the fossilised lizard tracks.
Gough is Gone: Gough Whitlam died on Tuesday. For Australians he is a household name, but I'm not sure how many people outside the country would recall him. For someone my age he is easily the most charismatic and memorable Australian Prime Minister. Enormously tall and patrician, educated in the old style as a classicist, he enlivened the political scene during my teenage years. He is one of a very small number of politicians who had a reforming zeal and actually succeeding in changing things for the better. His judgement and timing sometimes let him down, economics was his weak point, but mostly he was inspiringly energetic, liberal minded, enlightened and forward thinking. 

We are all diminished as citizens when any of us are poor. Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste. Gough Whitlam, 1969.

 His legacy includes:
  • Medibank, the national health insurance scheme.
  • abolition of university fees.
  • independent and specialist schools eligible for state funding.
  • Aboriginal land rights.
  • the first western national leader to visit China and re-establish diplomatic relations with that country.
  • withdrawal from the Vietnam War.
  • the end of conscription.
  • abolition of the death penalty.
  • no fault divorce.
  • the Racial Discrimination Act.
  • protection of the Great Barrier Reef against oil interests.
  • environmental protection legislation.
  • the appointment of women to senior and influential government posts.
  • voting age of 18.
  • legal aid.
  • the Trade Practices Act.
  • unemployment benefit and sole parent pension.
  • contact with South African sports banned due to Apartheid. 

As far as I can tell the current Prime Minister is trying to undo all of these things.
Medical News: I seem to have developed Achenbach Syndrome. I've self diagnosed, as one does these days, on the internet, and I won't be bothering the doctor with it. I emailed my family to see if they had experienced anything like my symptoms and they've all had it for years apparently (Dad, aunt, sister). 

Basically, small veins in my joints (usually the fingers) burst occasionally, causing a burning pain for about half an hour, a bit of swelling and a bruise which reabsorbs within a day or two. Usually it happens when you are not doing anything which might logically provoke it (my lastest episode was when I was opening the microwave). My reading suggests it is a trivial condition which doesn't indicate anything serious (although my aunt complains it's a nuisance when you are playing golf...). It's not connected to wider cardio-vascular diseases for instance. It is often referred to as rare, but rarely reported is closer to the mark is my impression.
From Forest to Frying Pan: Yesterday we went on a long walk in the Forest of Preuilly with friends Tim and Gaynor, Colin and Elizabeth. Along the way we encountered many mushrooms. I took four home, giving me a kilo of ceps which I cooked up that night. We didn't want to eat them last night as I had something else prepared, but I figured it was best to cook them. Wild ceps are notorious for being maggot ridden and leaving them overnight can result in a mass hatching. As it turned out only one of the mushrooms was fly blown and discarded. We'll eat them in omelette and I'll add some to the leftover blanquette de veau.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Célestine in the Autumn

Célestine parked at Chenonceau on Tuesday.
A la cuisine hier: Yesterday was our first time attending the Loire Valley Cake Club, set up by Jean and for this meeting hosted by her in her new home. The theme was autumn cakes and Simon made Jamaican Ginger Cake while I made Medieval Pear and Walnut Cake (using our own pears and walnuts). I particularly liked Liz's Jewish Apple Cake and will be making that myself sometime (just search for recipes on the internet -- there are dozens). Simon's gingerbread was much admired and I notice he has sent the recipe to Nick.

Earlier in the day I made blanquette de veau (slow cooked veal casserole). I bought the veal on special at Auchan. It was €10.95/kg with a 20% discount, so I paid $11.97 for 1.37 kg. It was Label Rouge certified, which tells you it was from calves suckled by their mothers in humane non-industrial surroundings. It also had a geographic protection certificate, and came from beef cattle herds in Aveyron and Ségala.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Villandry in the Autumn

Planting spring bulbs ready for next year.
Multi-coloured chillies.
Pulling out spent annuals.
Preparing for a new planting scheme.
The pumpkin vines have died but the pumpkin fruit is placed on terracotta tiles to continue the display.
All photos taken on Monday of this week.
Does Anyone Know?: We would like to know if any of our readers know anything about stove cement caulk. Simon is thinking it might be something we could use on our stove to seal the joins and stop it sucking too much air.
A la cuisine hier: Salmon cakes, made with the last of our homegrown potatoes and a mixture of canned and smoked salmon.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The House at the Sign of the Field of the Cloth of Gold

 La Maison à l'enseigne du Camp du Drap d'Or (the House at the Sign of the Field of the Cloth of Gold).

This house in Poitiers, as you see it today, is the product of successive transformations. Its unusual character is particularly obvious in its recessed facade and cornice in the Louis XVI style. The sculpted sign above the front door is older though. It represents a splendid canvas marquee, which evokes the meeting on the Field of the Cloth of Gold (near Calais) between François I and Henry VIII in 1520.

The purpose of the sign is above all to indicate the nature of the business within. Undoubtedly, this was once a wealthy cloth merchant's premises, with shop below and residence above.

The building, at 27 rue du Marché Notre Dame, in the bustling heart of the pedestrianised centre of Poitiers, is now occupied by the telecoms company Free. Just like the cloth merchant all those centuries ago, they couldn't have chosen a better spot to do business.
Fungi Foray: The Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte Maure de Touraine has organised a fungi outing to the Forest of Chinon for Sunday 26 October. Meet at the carpark by the church in Saint Benoît la Forêt at 2.00 pm. The fungi gathered will be displayed and identified in the carpark after the outing.