Cooking in France….again!

It had been a long tiring drive from Roscoff to the Val de Loire. OK, I didn’t make it easy by dropping in on friends across Brittany, but the last 180 miles were particularly tedious, especially the Périphérique around Nantes. We arrived at our friend Anne’s vineyard in time for aperitifs. She makes a rather special Coteaux d’Ancenis Malvoisie white wine that is….well….. to die for! It’s light, sweet, but at the same time quite forwardly acidic…all of which makes no sense at all, until you taste it; it’s heaven in a glass.

The road was telling and hurting, I hit the calvados.

Ask me to ride three to four hundred miles on a motorcycle and i’ll say “OK”…ask me to do it in a car and i’ll likely yawn!

Dookes don’t do cars!

Sunday morning dawned bright, sunny and warm.

I was still feeling yesterday’s miles, plus the effects of quite a lot of Calvados the night before!

Mrs Dookes and I wandered into the pretty village of Oudon and it’s Sunday market.

The Château du Oudon.

Un Marché le Dimanche matin is quite unusual in France and although this isn’t a big one it’s a good one. My mate Olivier was there with his olive stall, yeah, I know, “Olivier des Olives”!!!

I wandered over to Olivier as Mrs Dookes disappeared into her favourite patisserie adjacent to the market.

“Ça va Gallois? “Oui, ça va! Et tu?” “Ça va bien.”

Oliver paused to serve an annoying couple who were allowing their young daughter, of perhaps 10, to choose their olives. Maybe these, perhaps those…what do they tase like? Oliver was patient for a while, then just exclaimed “Ills ont tous le goût d’olive!” “They all taste of olive!” Father then decides and they go away happy!

I feel compelled to buy some saucisson from my friend..”Sanglier, noisettes, et bleu d’Auvergne!” Olivier exclaims, he knows me well!

Olivier looks around and produces a small bottle of Calvados, the Normandy apple brandy.

“Un pour la route eh?” One for the road indeed! The Calvados is rough, warm full of apple flavour and awakens my taste buds.

“Ok mon amis, maintenant tu vas cuisiner pour nous, le suis occupé”

“OK my friend go cook for us, i’m busy at the moment.”

“Cuisine une de ces recettes bâtardes de Normandie que tu et Floyd aime tant!”

“Cook a dish from those bastards in Normandy that you and Floyd like so much!”

We smile at each other. It”s been 13 years last Thursday that Floyd toddled off this mortal coil. I miss him dreadfully.

“OK mom amis, pour tu et pour Floyd!”

I scurry around the marché gathering the ingredients. A poulet jaune, fed with corn plump with yellow fat, haricot verts, carrots, a spaghetti squash, juicy pink garlic and as a surprise and only because a lovely lady is selling it, fresh Gnocchi: Floyd would approve. Oh and a rather special vin blanc du Chinon, one of my favourite Val du Loire wines.

Once back at our cottage I set about preparation: Floyd had a view that cooking shouldn’t be about being tied to the cooker and that the process should allow time to relax and enjoy the moment…so after prepping the chicken we went for a petit promenade along the banks of the mighty river Loire before returning to enjoy the meal and a gin and tonic before!

“Pour un Gallois tu cuisines comme d’un Français!” “For a Welshman, you cook like a Frenchman!” Oliver exclaimed. After a lot of wine and Calvados….that’ll do for me!

Et maintenant, le fromage!..cheese!

Oh…. and a bit more Calvados! I love this country and it’s people.

Here’s to you Floyd! I miss you.

Salut!

Dookes

Moor Wandering

Yeah, I know….”Where the heck have you been Dookes?”

When I took on the whole, “I’m retiring” thing, I thought that it would lead to sunlit uplands, keep that thought, time to do things as and when I wanted, lots of “free” time and a general slowing of the pace of life.

Let me tell you, forget that thought, even if you are only mildly toying with the idea of retirement!

When I was a young Dookes, just starting out in my working life, I remember various retired members of staff dropping by to say hello to their former workmates and the common theme always seemed to be “I don”t know how i ever had time to go to work!” Young Dookes thought this was extremely funny and that these old timers had somehow lost the plot with their transition into retirement…little did i know!

Now please don’t misunderstand me, i’m not complaining and yes retirement is great. The hours are certainly good, even if the pay isn’t quite what it was previously, but sunlit upland nirvana and time to do my own things whenever I want it certainly isn’t!

I’m always so bloody busy! I guess thats a direct result of being one of those people that finds it hard to say “No” if someone asks for help! Which kinda explains the lack of blog activity….

Certainly one great advantage of retirement is the ability to do things without much forward planning. A couple of weeks ago, Mrs Dookes decided to take a week off work; yes Mrs D is still working. On the spur of the moment, grabbing a window of nice weather, we decided to head for Dartmoor, only 30 minutes away from Dookes H.Q.

Dartmoor is the highest and biggest upland area in Southern Britain, covering 368 square miles and has been protected as a National Park since 1951. The landscape consists of moorland with many exposed granite hilltops known as Tors. It provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife. It’s hard country, with bogs and cliffs to test the adventurer that sets out to explore, add into the mix classic mountain weather changes and it can be dangerous for the ill prepared.

The highest point is High Willhays, 2037ft above sea level and on a clear day this peak is clearly visible from Dookes H.Q. and is somewhere I had been promising myself to visit for a long time.

High Wilhays.

Parts of the moor have been used as firing ranges since the early 1800’s so whilst the public is granted extensive land access rights on Dartmoor, its always essential to check if the military are going to be active where you plan to wander; fortunately for us they weren’t!

West Mill Tor (Left), Yes Tor (Right).

Dartmoor is known for it’s Tors, high hills topped with outcrops of bedrock granite, which are usually rounded and weathered formations. The Tors are the focus of an annual event known as the Ten Tors Challenge when around 2500 people aged between 14 and 19 hike for distances of 35, 45 or 55 miles between ten tors on varying routes. For our day out we weren’t looking to top Ten Tors, just a couple of the big ones!

On West Mill Tor, looking North East.

Over the past few months the UK has been experiencing abnormally dry weather and the infamous bogs of Dartmoor have certainly dried noticeibly, not good for bog dwelling animals or plants, but it certainly makes the life of a walker a lot easier.

Bog cotton dancing on the breeze.

What a glorious day we had. Starting from Meldon, we skirted the reservoir, with worryingly low water level. We started climbing and headed for West Mill Tor, one of the Northern most peaks, where we paused to take in the view, before turning South West to Yes Tor for a lunch break. After lunch we followed the plateau South to High Wilhays before cutting back across the contours towards the reservoir and our starting point.

Yes Tor

Great to be back on high ground again, good to be writing too, even if this isn’t very good, but hey I’m out of practice…!

Summit Cairn on High Wilhays.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Through Others Eyes (Showing AGMA around)

OK, Dookes is bad…no posts for ages, again!
No excuses, other than life stuff constantly getting in the way…

Over the years, blogging has given me many great experiences and the opportunity to make many “on-line” friends. Some I communicate with on a regular basis, though few as much as the legendary AGMA, that’s “Ageing Gracefully My Ass” in case you were wondering!

It was an absolute delight earlier this year to hear from AGMA and learn that she and husband “Hubs” had decided to come visit Cornwall as part of one of her famous round Europe dashes! Would Dookes be available to show them around his part of Cornwall?
You bet I would!

Regular blogonaughts will know that Dookes lives in the far South West of the United Kingdom in the fair Duchy of Cornwall; a rocky, windswept, at times sunny, but ruggedly always beautiful place to live!

Sometimes though, just to keep things in perspective, you need to look at it through other’s eyes and realise just how lucky you are to live here!

Amongst places that AGMA wanted to visit was Tintagel Castle the world famous legendary birth place of King Arthur; yes him of Round Table fame!

Mrs Dookes and I have a bit of history with Tintagel so it was a pleasure to show AGMA and Hubs around the place and tell them of it’s history and legends.

The medieval ruins of Tintagel Castle

To stand on Tintagel’s island mount and look out at the wild Atlantic Ocean with AGMA made me so very grateful to live here and call this land home.

I’m pleased AGMA and Hubs enjoyed their holiday in Cornwall, we were delighted to meet them, show them around and welcome them, albeit briefly, into our lives.
We hope to see them again before too much longer!

Oh yes, before I forget. AGMA was insistent that she met my beloved Harls…no problem, you weren’t going to leave without saying “Hi” to her!

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Leaning on Gates

I like space.
Space to think, space to breath, space to enjoy life and space to take in the view.
I’ve never been a town or city person, those built-up places make me feel closed in, trapped, suffocated; yes I know that some people thrive on “City Life,” but it’s not for me.

Dookes H.Q. is in the middle of North Cornwall nowhere and recently I’ve begun to appreciate my local field gates.

I lean on them….quite a lot!

The roads and lanes of North Cornwall are delightful, often narrow, frequently bumpy and normally bounded by high banks and hedges. Gates give a glimpse from those roads across wonderful countryside and tantalising views of the sea. The trouble is that when I’m travelling on either two or four wheels I never seem to stop, but when I’m walking things take on a totally different perspective.

Life at Dookes H.Q. is often dictated by Working Cocker Spaniels, wonderfully busy little dogs who live life to their fullest and effervesce with boundless energy….which means walks, lots of walks!

Smudge

That’s where gates come in handy.

They have become places to pause.
Places to welcome the dawn.
Places to see the Moon rise.
Places to contemplate.
Places to be thankful.
Places to feel renewed.

….and also just somewhere for an old geezer to lean on and get his breath back after keeping pace with his four legged friend.

I love gates.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Autumn Musing

There’s an Autumn storm brewing.

The wind is rising and the barometer pressure falling. Leaves are whipping from the trees and swirling like a murmuration of starlings.

Heavy rain is forecast and localised flooding predicted.

I thought it was a good idea to get out for a walk with one of my canine pals before things got really wet and wild. Not a day for heroics on a motorcycle at all.

I feel that one of the nice things that stems from living in the cuds (middle of nowhere) is that it gives me space to think, drink in the silence and concentrate on the joy of life.

Autumn is definitely my favourite season, as the poet John Keats wrote “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.”

Yes, Autumn sees the shortening of days, cooling of temperatures, the first frosts and heavy water-soaked soils. I find beauty everywhere, the colours of the season prevail. The last fruits of the year are gathered. Summer blooms begin to die, but bravely brighten grey days.

Still stubble fields, that only recently stood proud with wheat or barley, now feed wild birds with fallen seed. Cattle savour the last good grass before Spring and on leaden skies the migratory Woodcock returns to the British countryside for Winter.

Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). JJ Harrison

There’s a sweet smell of decay in the air and the tang of beechwood smoke drifts from cottage chimneys.

It all lifts my spirits and I feel like the luckiest man alive.

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë

Catch you soon,

Dookes

It’s Not All Bad!

Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!

Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.

Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!


At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”

It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!

Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!

Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.

Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.


Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.

First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.

Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!

The harbour, Port Isaac.


It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.

Hmm, tight!


There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.

In other words “Get out of the way!”

Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…

Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.

Can you spot Dookes???


A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.

Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

These are Better Days….. Maybe.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.

I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.

Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.

To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.

On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.

I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!

I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!

Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.

It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!

Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!

“These are better days baby 
Yeah there’s better days shining through” 

Catch you soon,

Dookes

The Cycle of Life

When I started this blog, amazingly nine years ago, it was very Motorcycle Travel heavy.

In essence it was a blog diary of my travels around Europe on my Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Well the world has certainly changed a fair bit since 2012 and over the past year my focus has been on just about anything except freely travelling around on a motorcycle.

Almost exactly a year ago Mr Covid paid me a visit and for a few weeks survival became the main goal! This was then followed by months of rehabilitation in a bid to regain some semblance of health.

I’m pleased to say that this was largely achieved on two wheels…man powered two wheels…Dookes powered two wheels!

Hybrid Carerra, utility and good off road.


I have commented previously about my love affair with bicycles, it goes back a long time and was, I suppose, the precursor to my passion for motorcycles.

Since those early days I’ve always had at least a couple of bicycles in the garage and sadly that’s largely where they have stayed. Two years ago I started cycling again, but it was the Covid thing last Spring that really gave me the impetuous to get out there regularly.

Cannondale Synapse. Endurance bike, alloy frame, carbon forks, good on Cornish lanes.


Initially it was my own idea to start cycling and get my lungs working properly, I floated it to the medical staff who were treating me and it turned out that I was in the care of a bunch of cycle mad medics who couldn’t have been happier for me to get pedalling!

Those first post-Covid rides were tough, very tough.

The reward for getting out.


Three miles, that’s one and a half out and one and a half back, were the limit to start off with. Then over time and just by taking it steady things sort of grew and with the lovely countryside around Dookes H.Q. the incentive is always there.

Now?

Well I smashed out a 51miler last Friday, so I guess I’m making a bit of progress, not bad for an old geezer if I do say so myself!

Forme Pro Carbon.
Goes like lightning, only comes out in the dry!


The strange thing is that if I have a few days off cycling, I feel my breathing getting a bit laboured and the old chest tightening up, then its time to get out and work it all again!
It’s nice to give the bikes some serious use too; they are there to be ridden, not just to sit in the garage looking good.

Now, if only I had 20 year old legs again….!

Catch you soon, ride safe.

Dookes

Riding Through It All

It’s been a while since I posted anything.

It’s also been a while since I was out on one of my beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Are the two linked?

I suspect that’s very likely!

Lets face it, 2020 has been a crazy year and I’m quite numb from the constant bombardment of World Politics, Pandemics, Ecomonics and plain stupidity.

Following my somewhat nasty brush with the C19 virus I have been concentrating on getting well and getting fitter and in the usual Dookes way this has been done on two wheels; though this time man-powered two wheels!

Discussing my medical situation with the doctors treating me I came to the conclusion that there were two different paths that could be followed:

1. Sit back and hope that medicine would find a way.
2. Get of my backside and do something about it, make my body work back to health.

Now it just so happened that two of my Medics are pretty mad keen cyclist themselves. One of them is six months older than me and a couple of years ago she cycled up Mont Ventoux for goodness sake! Now I’ve motorcycled up Ventoux and that was tough enough, it’s not known as “The Beast of Provence” for nothing, but cycling, at our age? Do me a favour…

Mont Ventoux


Anyway, from small acorns mighty Oaks do grow. I started out on pedalling on two wheels.

I don’t mind admitting, those first rides were tough, very, very tough. Small gradients stopped me in my tracks, I was gasping for breath and coughing up all kinds of muck. The early rides were low on miles, high in time, but also high on determination…this wasn’t going to beat me.

Gradually, through hospital visits and x-rays, I could sense not only was I getting stronger, but my endurance began to climb.

One day it all seemed to click in place and then after many months it all suddenly got a whole lot better. Though a largely wonderful summer certainly helped.

Now the days are growing colder and shorter my enthusiasm is undiminished. I hate the wind though!

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I fancied a ride out with him.

My wonderful Cannondale.


Now Merv is pretty hardcore when it comes to cycling either on road or mud-plugging on a mountain bike, oh and he loves nothing more than wild swimming in any available cold water,; actually, the colder the better for him. He’s also ten years younger than me!

Anyway out we went, on a none to exciting dull day.

Twenty Eight miles later we were back at Dookes H.Q., 1852feet of elevation gain, average speed of 14.5mph and dealing with 16mph winds. Not bad for an old geezer, declared Merv!

….and the best part of cycling?

When I’m out there pedalling, all the crap in the world disappears!

Sure, I have to have serious conversations with my legs and tell them to stop complaining, but when you have faced the terminal alternative, it’s a small price.

Catch you soon, stay safe.

Dookes

Still Rolling

Hello everyone.

Where has this summer gone?

The world is truly a strange place at the moment. Whilst the human population is being ravaged by a planet-wide pandemic politicians across the Continents seem to display a mixture of greed, incompetence and plain ignorance. In exchange, many of the population appear to live in fear, whilst others carry on in a self-centred bubble of denial!
As the song says,”Two men say they are Jesus, one of them must be wrong.” It sort of sums up how I feel!!!!

For lots of reasons my motorcycle activity has been somewhat limited of late.

It’s partly due to other more pressing matters, such as building work at Dookes H.Q., but also a reflection of how the current global situation makes me feel; I honestly don’t really feel that I can justify pleasure rides on a motorcycle whilst people are both dying and working so hard to contain the C19 virus.

That said, I am lucky to live in a beautiful part of our island country.

I’m only five miles away from one of the most stunning coasts in the world. Ok I’m biased, I admit!

A small shopping trip the other day morphed into an extended loop on some tourist avoiding back roads which was nice.

It really doesn’t matter if I’m on two motorised wheels or two Dookes Pedal-Powered wheels….it doesn’t take very long to go somewhere to really lift the spirits!

Then there’s Dookes H.Q., sitting outside having an evening gin and tonic the view is, frankly, delightful, I’m very lucky.

Stay safe people and I’ll catch you soon.
Dookes