I need to work on these titles
Dear Chums and Chumesses,
Ah, the joys of writing a newsletter offline because not all the trains in France have wifi! It’s 2022 – apparently…
As per usual, I have proved myself right in the decision to drop the rash suggestion that this would be a ‘monthly’ newsletter. ‘Occasional’ is a much better description. That said, with everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, I may well write the next one in under a month. I know that the excitement of not knowing keeps everyone refreshing their inboxes on an hourly basis!
Anyway, lots to do so let’s crack on!
In today’s edition…
I give you some numbers to suggest everyone loves an idiot
I tell you a story about a restaurant
I show you some new metro stations
and… what?! A recipe?!
Let’s do this thing!
Discovering Old New Places … or New Old Places
About 32 years ago, I went, with my friend Tim, to a place called Morlaix in Finistère, France. It was just before our A-Levels and we both decided that it might not be an awful idea to go to France so that we could practice our French.
Tim’s a great cricket fan and there was a test match on which, I am told, was required listening so, during the moments where he was engrossed in listening to the thwack of willow on leather, I wandered around this town that I’d never heard of before.
I liked it. A lot.
There were nice people, bars, restaurants, a massive viaduct… it was all good. I can still remember some of the places that we took in. There was a restaurant called Le Chaudron, run by a fantastic matriarch who took care of her customers but also took no shit from people who were rude, the Agadir, a brilliant couscous place, and the tiny Bar de Viarmes, where, one evening, a solo guitarist held court, singing the blues while, like something out of a Disney caricature movie, French people sat at the impossibly cramped bar, smoking Gitanes, drinking pastis, chatting and laughing.
On the ferry back, I told Tim that I would move there one day.
Fast forward 25 years and I moved up the road from there.
The matriarch of Le Chaudron was still ruling the roost, the Viarmes was still tiny and the Agadir still serving up the couscous.
The Chaudron became our haunt. Not because the food was Michelin star stuff – it was really quite ordinary – but because it was proper, no fuss French food and the welcome we got was worth more than its weight in gold – whether the boss was having a good day or not! Her smile and laugh for her regulars was brilliant. But, by the same token, you felt that she had more than earned her retirement. Sometimes we spoke about it and, out of earshot, we hoped that she did not feel trapped in that way that hospitality people so often are – making enough to pay the bills but little else.
Then Covid hit.
Restaurants were forced to stay closed. Tourism dried up. It was a tough time.
By the time we felt happy to venture out, there was only one place to go. We went to Chaudron…
But it was not there.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that we felt sick. There was no way of finding out what had happened other than to ask around.
Fortunately, they had managed to sell up – Covid and the government support available had actually given her the first rest she had in years and, despite keeping it going (including takeaways), the time was right and, unlike many other businesses, she found a buyer. We have since seen her and she looked well – enjoying the grandkids – and nobody could begrudge her that… despite the fact that I miss her welcome and cheer.
So that left us with a problem. Where to eat?
The Agadir had also shut and the Viarmes… well, it was a bar and, while it did food from time to time, I was never quite sure when it did food!
Then one day, we were there. Trying to work out where to eat – in this entirely new environment, with so few familiar faces… what to do?
The Viarmes was open and there was a menu outside. But it looked different.
Yes, it was still tiny. On the outside, at least. But it was no longer a dark smoky bar. It was light. And it seemed to have double inside as an internal wall at the back had been taken out… there were tables... and cutlery… and a bar.
When we entered, there was one other person sitting in the place. I was immediately worried for them. Within 15 minutes, there were 20.
And the food… a tiny menu. Simple things. Steak and chips. A ridiculous burger that could feed about 90 people. Seasonal things like scallops. Big, hand-cut chips – nothing frozen. The choice was reassuringly limited. No massive book explaining all the millions of ingredients that had been languishing in the back of the larder for the last few years, desperately awaiting a customer. (Never trust a big menu)
And the wait… the reassuring wait… because it was actually being cooked!
And the chat at the end… the chat about the Chaudron and how the bar used to be and the work they’d done on it and that trip 32 years ago…
Brexit Keeps On Giving
The troubles at M&S in Paris that are linked to Brexit delivery delays have, we were told, been solved (using the simple solution of closing most of the shops!). For the rest, it seems to still be a mess.
This is M&S at Gare Montparnasse earlier today.
It’s probably time for them to give up.
Mogg Gets Overtaken By A Different Idiot
Some of you may remember the tweet thread in which I told a little story about the odious faux posh Jacob Rees Mogg. If not, here it is…
It went a bit viral at the time and racked up over 1.2m tweet impressions.
This has now been overtaken by this tweet about the idiot’s idiot, Lawrence Fox.
Laurence Fox ✝️ @LozzaFoxI really like my new t shirt. https://t.co/Gov9ifEKrd
At the time of writing, it has chalked up over 2.7m tweet impressions.
Obviously, the trick is to tweet about morons!
Seasons From Home
We live opposite a big producer of tomatoes and buy them directly for 4€ a kilo. They don’t produce during the winter because… well, it’s winter!
This, though, is a sign that it’s not the season for tomatoes…
In other veg related news (put your keyboard down, pedants! I know a tomato is a fruit!), I was on the Paris metro the other day and saw this advert. What makes it particularly weird for me is that those cauliflowers are grown in the field that is literally attached to my garden! Spooky!
I made a cake! I know, right?
In our new (old) house, there are some apple trees. They produce LOTS of apples. This year, I got an apple corer and peeled, cored and froze quite a few. I didn’t really think beyond that!
So, when I went to the freezer the other day, I noticed the apples and thought I’d get a bag out and do something with them… but what?
In the interests of surprising you with this newsletter, here’s the recipe! And I’m going to say this now and again in the recipe - the moisture comes from the apples, so the mixture is more like dough than cake mix. It works!
So, it's sort of a sponge but isn't - because it's heavier. It’s a cake!
The cake ingredients:
170 g salted butter
125 g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
240 g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Dash of lemon
The Fruit Bits:
600 g cored and sliced cooking apples (I used frozen - works well)
40 g sugar
70 g sultanas
Some more cinnamon
1) Oven to 160C for a fan oven... No idea for others - soz!
2) Mix all the stuff in the first list together.
3) It will not make a sponge type mixture - it'll be more like dough. This is normal.
4) Line a tin (about 15x15cm) with greaseproof paper.
5) Dollop about two thirds of the mixture into the tin and make sure it covers the base relatively evenly.
6) Arrange all the fruit bits on top of the mixture in an artistic fashion - where the artist is Jackson Pollock and not Mondrian.
7) Put the rest of the mixture down the sides of the tin and any left over gets dolloped around the top.
8 ) Chuck in oven for 50 minutes.
9) Check cake. It won't be ready. Put alarm on for another 10 minutes.
10) Go back to cake. It still won't be ready.
11) Curse cake.
12) Put alarm on for another 5 minutes.
13) Ignore alarm.
14) Check cake. Decide it's still not ready. Give it another five minutes.
15) Take the cake out of the oven because it's probably ready. The knife test won't work because the apples are everywhere and are wet.
16) Curse knife test.
17) Lift cake out of tin.
18) Put it somewhere to cool.
19) Wait a bit.
20) Eat cake.
Also, I’ve been pondering this a lot, I reckon it’d go great with custard. In which case, don’t wait for it to cool!
Send photos of your version and I’ll stick them in the next newsletter!
New Metro Stations
Meanwhile, over on the Paris metro (line 4, seeing as you asked), there are two new metro stations – Barbara and Bagneux – Lucie Audrac. This is an extension of the line south from Mairie de Montrouge. On the day they opened, I went down there and took some photos for you!
In case you were interested, line 4 now looks like this…
Thanks to those who continue to support me and the stuff I do online by buying coffees!
I broke the rules recently and had a hot chocolate. Apologies to the lovely OrganicBotanic who got me a coffee… which I then went and bought a hot chocolate with!
This is, of course, high-level disrespect but here’s a photo of the hot chocolate anyway!
It was really nice! Although I am never sure why they give you sugar for a hot chocolate…
Coffee makes the world go round… or something! Thanks to everyone who buys me a cup!
Presidential Elections 2022
Macron may not have declared if he is going to be a candidate for re-election this year but his campaign has launched nonetheless. I had the email last week and I saw this in Paris today…
If anyone saw the horrific, unedifying display between the odious Zemmour and the egocentric Melenchon the other day… actually, best not go there! However, also today, it seems someone else has gone there…
It could be a long few months…
Bye Bye, Old Friend
This is my last EVER one.
These little paper tickets are being phased out on the Paris metro (and the rest of the public transport system) in favour of rechargeable contactless cards like this.
This particular card will cost you 2€ and you can charge it from your phone and pass it to your friends.
End of an era.
…although, that last ever one was a replacement for another one that did not work. And the replacement didn’t work either. So I’ve now got to get that changed too! It’s as if it wants to ruin all the good memories!
Bye Bye, Baz
When I heard the news, I said ‘Well, that’s comedy dead, then’. You may not know how important Barry Cryer was to comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there will be other funny people but there will only ever be one Barry Cryer.
One of his first jokes was about a man driving down a country lane who runs over a cockerel.
He goes to the farmhouse and knocks on the door.
A woman opens it and he says: "I appear to have killed your cockerel. I'd like to replace him.'
She replies: "Please yourself, the hens are round the back."
In his final few days, he delighted in telling people what would turn out to be his last joke. I’ve included it below.
If you’ve got a moment, I would really recommend listening to the (sadly few) editions of the podcast he had started to make. Every one is golden. Because, why wouldn’t it be?
RIP Baz. Thanks for the laughter.
Until next time…
That’s all for now. A sad note to end the newsletter on but sometimes that’s how things fall.
Lots of exciting things coming up over the next few months – elections, the appearance of my passport, some work-related stuff (hopefully!) and a load of other things that are currently rattling around in my head.
When I started these newsletters off, way back in the dark ages, I said that I would try and work out what they should look like and what format they would have. I love newsletters that have a reassuring structure to them. They feel comforting and recognisable. Mine seems to be a splurge of stuff. Maybe that’s what it is and I should embrace it?
Take care of yourselves.
Until next time!
PS Barry Cryer’s Final Joke
A man and his wife are out walking one day when they spot a lone fellow on the other side of the road. 'That looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury over there,' says the woman.
'Go and see if it is,' she adds.
The husband was reluctant but, after some coaxing, he agreed.
So, the husband crosses the road and asks the man if he is indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The wife looks across and sees the husband and the man talking for a short while.
Then the husband crosses back to his wife and she asks 'What did he say? Is he the Archbishop of Canterbury?'
'He told me to fuck off,' says the husband
'Oh no,' replies the wife, 'Now we'll never know'.
PPS SPOTTED IN PARIS
This tree has been locked to this lamp-post to stop it from getting away.