Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

So why . . .

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

did the 9 year old think it was a good idea to walk on the frozen canal! Lucky for us a responsible adult caught him in the act of thinking.

The properties of ice

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Careful observation has confirmed that a crust of ice measuring 10cm thick and spanning a river of 2m wide can support the weight of a 5 month old kitten but NOT that of a 6 or indeed a 9 year old boy!



French kids pick up litter !

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

All the excitement generated by Pamela Druckerman’s observations on French parenting reminds me of something that I observed this summer at a local lake. As I sat on the man made beach watching the kids as they enjoyed their watery antics, a motorbike (ok scooter!) came screeching to a halt with a menacing skid on the sand. The proud cap clad driver puffed out his chest as he emerged from dust like a cowboy hero. He proceeded to showed off his repetoire of french expletives as he spoke to his Maman on his mobile. I found myself thinking how odd it was to witness such disregard. The chavvy display lasted a good few minutes and for the first time since we moved here I felt a little threatened. Then he got back on his stallion and revved the engine . . . here we go I thought. To my utter surprise he drove his bike all of 5 metres to an old sandwich packet under a tree, picked it up and popped it in the nearest bin. I enjoyed this observation enormously!



A spaceship has landed in our garden

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

I saw my first yurt a few years ago in  Sam’s dads field in Suffolk. It arrived in a trailer and took two guys, two hours to erect. Seemed easy enough, no fuss, no shouting, easy.  So I helped by keeping well out of the way and worked hard at getting  relaxed by a gentle bonfire. The evening warmth had turned to a slight chill so I entered the yurt. My first impression was darkness, really dark. I had to stand still while my eyesight adapted. Faces came into vision and eventually I counted at least twelve people, or maybe it was six, I could have had double dark adapted vision. My second impression was the smell, a warm, hairy, horsey smell with a hint of goat.Not strong, but there in the ether. None of the inhabitants were actual goats or horses, so by a process of elmination I figured it was the yurt. I lay down and gently dozed while the crowd around me chatted and drank and drank and chatted. Fantastic evening.

A few years later and we are about to realise a long held dream, to have a yurt of our own. After much internet research, Lorna found the right yurt at the right price and ordered it. It only took five months to arrive, thanks to an administration slip up by the shipping company. It was too late in the year to put it up so it sat first in the shell of our partly renovated house, then in the back of the garage. There were many pieces to this mongolian jigsaw and they were all large and heavy. Skip forward seven months and we have the warmest spring in Burgundy since the last one and I begin the ground work. I dug a six metre diameter hole next to our mini orchard. Timbers recovered from the house renovation formed the octagonal / star shaped base. But first more digging and building thirteen concrete plinths. Everything was physically demanding and heavy and I thought back to the Telecoms project management job I had left in England and smiled. What would I rather be doing right now, the answer was simple, I was doing it. There were many design and logistical challenges, but all seemed to be solved instinctively. I have never been involved in proper building with grown up materials and tools, but the house renovation had given me the over-confidence to believe that I could do anything. Overall, it was an instinctive and relatively stress free exercise. Everything followed the right order. The sub frame was built, the ground was covered with plastic and then gravel. A minor head spin when I had to then try and fit the floor panels and I realised that two metre square rectangles do not mentally easily convert an octagonal star into a circle. But the arrangement came and the base finished. Bigger than many dance floors I have disgraced in my time, and ample for two small boys to race their remote control cars across for hours on end. I was a very proud man. I had built a big sturdy thing. A mental notch in the ‘life achievements’ belt.

Then after careful tracking the weather forecast, the day arrived. Lorna, myself and Yannick, who led our house build, moved the pieces down to the base and began construction aided only by a fifteen page printout from (thanks guys, it worked). We quickly and methodically attached the trellis walls to the door frame and adjusted the height ready for the crown (tonnoo) and its two supporting posts (baggans), then reinforcements arived. My 22 year old nephew with his mates, still floating on a post exam, end of lycee high. Love was all around. The increased numbers were very handy as we now had 81 rafters (huns) to fit between the trellis and crown. Luckily we could all count to 81 and much hilarity ensued as each of the males in turn attempted to show how he knew how best to tackle the task. Who’d have thought ? It only took an hour or so, nothing got broken and only a few huns fell out. We stood back, drank cold beer in the hot sun and decided we were all doing very well. But it’s not over yet. Next came the cotton liner covering the yurt from crown to base of trellis. The yurts pettycoat. Then the large and heavy woollen roof segments and walls. This was looking very promising. Then the only western addition, a layer of waterproof, breathable building liner. The outer canvas was placed, much easier than I thought with Yannick in the middle of the yurt on stepladders his head and one arm poking out through the crown, guiding and tucking as we went. Finally the three exquisitely plaited horsehair ropes that go right round the yurt and attach to metal rings, each side of the door. The yurt was accessorised with openable top flap and decorative skirt. Stepping inside for the first time brought back that evening in Sam’s dads field again. The warm air, the faint smell animal hair, but light inside. Bloody hell, it looked and felt fantastic. With help from our friends we had built something beautiful that we could all be proud of. It is the most tranquil and calming space you can imagine. Perhaps it’s the first yurt in the Cote d’Or. We wondered about the people who had woven the ropes, stitched the fabrics and hand painted the exquisitely ornate woodwork pieces. Real craft, a thing of beauty. Walking the dogs on the hill today and looking down its as if  a bright white cotton spaceship has landed in the garden. An unusual felt-based object.

In a little while it will be furnished and ready. You can come and stay the night, or even a week, check the rest of the website for details.

Made in Mongolia, built in Burgundy with friends, a lot of laughs and a lot of love.

Genius Idea !

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Just back from a whirlwind trip back to the UK for a family wedding and absolutely brimming with enthusiasm for Premier Inn. We broke the long trip to the West Country  with a night at the Premier Inn, Folkestone. Literally 5 mins drive from the Eurotunnel terminal and 5 mins from some great beach action. This was frankly genius (all my idea of course!). The hotel (in fact all their hotels) is clean, welcoming and comfortable. The staff are absolutely amazing and clearly beautifully trained and the restaurants cater 100% for kids. So rare to find a varied and nutritionally balanced (oh what a yummy mummy) kids menu. The boys absolutely loved their dinner and breakfast experience, complete with activity booklet and ’ Eton Mess’ and their parents got to relax.  Highly recommended !

Playful Cow

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

. . . as Roo gleefully descended the snow covered chateau path on a quest for the season’s best sledging action yet I watched in horror as he was hotly pursued by a loose charolais (cow). Her kicking hooves literally inches from his head. Finally my frantic screams got his attention and he sat up. She stopped in her tracks. Game over !

Monster Courgettes. . .

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

On our return from the uk last night after a 12 hour drive, I lug one very well loved tent into our ‘cave’ (cellar) and am greeted by frankly the longest courgette known to man. In fact it wasn’t the courgette that stunned me but the fact that a neighbour had prepared a veg basket boastfully brimming with all manner of colourful beauties for our return. She had even included some milk – now that’s why we moved!

Silence…et Action !

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

…that was the shout that went around the centre of Flavigny sur Ozerain last Friday, and everyone did go silent, including me. I was an extra for a day on a TV film shoot in the absurdly picturesque hilltop town, where “Chocolat” was also filmed. JMP productions were filming some outside scenes of a France 2 production of “L’affaire Blaireau”. Its a fascinating sight to see a film crew in action. Myself and around 40 other extras arrived at 7am for costumer fitting, hair and make-up dahling. In the meantime a whole market had been constructed in the road next to the church and it really did feel like taking a step back in time to 1898, the time of the story. After a briefing on the story from the assistant director we were given two firm rules, do not speak and never look directly at the camera. Seems easy enough but actually its really hard. This shoot had a camera on a small truck on a track with the cameraman and his assistant perched on stools as part of this contraption. I hard to work very hard to convince myself that I wasn’t at all interested. but as soon as a take had ended I had to go over and have a good look at it. It’s like being a kid all over again in this strange world. I’m 44 and I desperately wanted a ride on the camera truck, but felt that asking might have resulted in a stern gallic glare or swift curtailing of my ‘Extra’ status. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we shot three scenes over the course of 12 hours, all in all about 50+ takes. It was a long but fascinating day, only made uncomfortable by a pair of trousers that were hoisted eye wateringly high with a stout pair of braces. Though I was somewhat better off than the female extras playing bourgoise ladies in their super tight corsets. You could see them holding their sides and dabbing their foreheads as the temperature soared to over 30 degrees in that breeze free alley. Fortunately an army of make up artists and hairdressers fluttered around, powdering, lipsticking and tonging them into perfection every few seconds. It’s a different world.

The director shuffled round in straw hat and slightly ill fitting jeans and I’d like to say that he really looked in charge, but in reality it was his two assistants and the cameraman who got most  of the job done.  Anyway, it’s a great way to spend a day getting a window onto France and french film making, and of course you earn a few euros into the bargain.   Genial !

Jousting fun in Semur en Auxois

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Well what a fantastic sight. Semur en Auxois as it must have been in medieval times and oh how it suits it. All manner of sack cloth and bad teeth to behold. A market oozing rustic treats. A rare chance to enter one of the towns magnificent towers – the tavern for the weekend complete with wenches. BUT the absolute star of the show has to be the collection of medieval games for the kids (and childish adults) set out on the remparts. Where else could you climb into a hobby horse and give jousting a try and how hilarious to strap the entire family to a pair of four footed skis and pathetically attempt to move forward. SUPERB FUN! Off to enjoy La Bague tomorrow (France’s oldest horse race and equivalent of Sienna’s Palio). What a place ! See you soon Lorna x

Ever lazed over a morning coffee . . .

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Ever lazed over a morning coffee with a huge slab of buttered Brioche and strawberry jam?

Ever wanted to recreate this buttery delight but thought it best left to the Boulangere?

The day I baked my first Brioche was a very proud and satisfying day indeed. You’ll be amazed how quick and simple the following recipe is and how fantastic it tastes.

Bon appétit


Ingredients (1 brioche)

·         375g flour

·         20g yeast

·         200g (20 cl) milk

·         65 g sugar

·         65 g  butter (softened and beaten)

·         1/2 dessert spoon salt

·         1 beaten egg and 1 egg for glazing


1.   Mix the yeast with 4 dessert spoons of warm milk and leave to act (froth). (I used dried yeast and it worked fine)

2.   Sieve flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and salt and combine. Make a well in the middle and slowly add the yeast & milk mixture, one egg and the remaining milk..

3.   Beat the dough until it leaves the sides of the bowl. (This is the hardest bit – arm breaking work. I am sure you can probably do this in a mixer – mine’s still in storage – that’s another story !)

4.   Cut the softened butter into pieces and add. Beat the dough again.

5.   Leave to rest for 1hour, the dough should double in size.

6.   Beat the dough again. Cut into quarters and shape into oblongs. Put them side by side in a loaf tin. (If you fancy cutting corners at this point I discovered that just forming the dough into a ring on a baking sheet works and looks great!) Leave to rest for another hour.

7.   Make a deep and angled cut in the centre of each oblong with a knife (or scissors) and glaze the top with the remaining egg (beaten)

8.   Cook in a moderate oven (200 °C) for  35 min


Et voila !


Hope you feel as smug and as I did when you dig in.