Monday, January 23, 2017


Sunday morning. Off to Toulouse. If we get there before ten there's no problem parking. Having waited for the statue repairing builder we're running half an hour later than usual. We finally find a parking spot behind the cathedral.

Sunday mornings in French towns strange affairs. As if a neutron bomb has gone off. The streets deserted. 'The Font'
window shops and looks at a sculpture of a herd of bulls. Thankfully, the gallery is closed.

The bread stall doing a roaring business. Now we know why the streets are deserted. The French can all be found in the market buying things for Sunday lunch.

Back in the village a large bus arrives. It's bringing all the special needs children from the home in the small market town to the Salle des Fetes for lunch. The children are taken out somewhere different every Sunday. Angus is once again amazed by the professionalism and love of the young carers. No hint of irritation or annoyance at their charges wild antics. A disco has been set up in the village hall but the children are soon spilling out onto the village green. Organized chaos. Their laughter fills the air.

Over the weekend I heard the words of a eulogy given for a very young and very brave Medecins sans Frontieres doctor who died in Syria. The eulogy given, in glorious and passionate and loving French, by one of Europes finest minds. " There is such a thing in moral philosophy as the aesthetic category of the sublime, as applied to the highest mountains, raging oceans, the night sky, the interiors of some cathedrals, and other things that are superhuman, awesome, limitless. In this case it describes a life of a surgeon, a son, lived in the open. A man less concerned about his own life, and more concerned with others ". These young teachers and carers tend towards that category. Seeing them makes me hopeful.

Sophie is told that she can't go onto the village green and join in the dancing. It would put too much stress on her leg. She clearly disagrees.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The red velvet hat.

First light. It's warmer this morning - no ice on the dog bowl by the front door - but there's a brisk breeze.  Angus, Bob, the mayor, the man with the Yorkie, the Yorkie, the man with the day-glo yellow jacket and the village odd job man are standing on the village green. We're looking up at the crucifix in the churchyard and waiting for an expert to come and quote for repairs. Angus really doesn't want to be here but the mayor has requested his presence. 'The Font' thinks this might be because I can bring some experience to the situation. Angus wonders aloud what experience might prepare him to deal with a three ton swaying Jesus. This question is met with silence.

The statue has already been 'sorted out' by a friend of the man with the Yorkie but the repairs didn't work. The concrete infill between the brick wall and the wooden down post failed to set properly. Fresh action is now required. The expert arrives, ten minutes late, in a brand new Peugeot 4x4 with racy wheel trims and more LED lights than you would think a car could have. He wears a red velvet hat with a black band. This together with his camouflage trousers and leather jacket gives him a slightly menacing 'mafioso capo' air. '' Someone made a dogs dinner of this '' he informs us somewhat nontechnically from the top of his step ladder. The sway has increased. A health and safety official from the region has opined that if it gets much worse it might present a hazard to passing pilgrims. Two options present themselves. 1) Have a decent builder repair it and pay the going rate or 2) rope it off to stop it collapsing and killing someone.

The builder stays for 45 minutes. He jots things down in a note book and goes. '' I'll send on a quote . It won't be cheap " he says in a funerial tone of voice suitable when bidding for remedial work on swaying statues. The village 'technical' committee disperse. After the builder goes Sophie is allowed out onto the village green. She skips and screams with delight.

Bob is walked down the hill to the old Roman road. From here the steeple of the church just visible on the skyline.

When we get home Sophie is impatiently waiting for us .

So starts a quiet Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Ben. A nice name for a dog : 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The little things.

The drooling has gone. So has the lopsidedness. So too the swellings in his throat and neck that alarmed the specialist. 'The Font' continues to express hope about Bobs right eye.

The bakers wife suggests I buy a blue and pink amaretto cake. We opt instead for two coffee eclairs. Bob gets slivers of croissant. His tail does its manic metronome routine.

Hope takes many forms. A family diva walking lost in the moment, head down in the flower borders, is one of them.

Three quarters of the way through January and there are still rose hips in the hedge rows. Despite this weeks cold weather it must rank as one of the mildest winters on record. In the garden outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse red and green woodpeckers - at least eight of them - busy at work on the old oak trees.

A record of those little Saturday morning things that are overshadowed by those 'big' things. Whether its a blinking eye or a wet nose in the flowerbeds mans best hope rests in the little things. They act as a gentle reminder to preserve and defend what's important.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Nothing compares.

'The Font' phones to remind me that I've to go to the town hall to get the passwords for the census forms. Every five years France has a census. This year we receive a letter ( 1st Class postage ) informing us that we can fill the forms in on line. A week later we get a second letter ( 1st Class postage ) telling us that the mayors secretary will come around to fill in the forms for us. A third letter arrives ( 1st class postage ) to say she will be with us on January 20th at 8.00 pm or we can phone her and schedule an appointment to receive the passwords. We are the only people in the village to choose this last option. Angus wonders why she can't just e-mail the codes but this is not the way French bureaucracy does things.

All the villagers are sent these letters. Considering 60% of us live within 100 metres of the town hall door this strikes me as a a rather profligate use of public funds. In France the word 'austerity' has a different meaning.

Bob and his master note that the Joyeuses Fetes sign above the church door has been disconnected from the power supply. At some stage in the next five or six weeks the village odd job man will get round to taking it down.

Today, due to the extreme cold, the mayors secretary is wearing three cardigans and a blue, white and red bobble hat pulled halfway over her ears. She greets me primly, or as primly as someone wearing three cardigans and a bobble hat can. I suspect her cool welcome is in part a suspicion that online form fillers will do her out of a job. '' Will you be here if I have any problems ? " I ask in a manner designed to show that she remains a vital cog in the government machine. ' You shouldn't need my help. The form is self explanatory. In fact it's simple'. As she utters the word 'simple' she looks at me in a way that some folks might find disconcertingly judgemental.

Sophie continues to recover. Four walks round the garden and an extremely noisy and emotional reunion when 'The Font' returns home. There is pickled herring as a treat. For the PONs nothing but nothing compares with pickled herring. It has turned out to be the best day ever.

This cartoon seems timely :

Thursday, January 19, 2017


The PONs are waiting for me in the courtyard. Today, another milestone for Sophie. We are going off en famille for a run in the car.

With a fragile leg there is some uncertainty as to whether Sophie should be lifted in first or whether she should go in after  her brother. We don't want that leg to be sat on. 

We try various permutations of what should be a simple task. Sophie has clear ideas about how she wants to lie. This morning she wants to face left. Her affable big brother does as he's told. Within a minute she's asleep. So much for the excitement of a trip in the car after being housebound for so long.

The morning sun quite spectacular. The sky, red and orange and gold. It's minus eight and the air has that clarity that only frigid air has. In the drawing room the hyacinths that were supposed to bloom for Christmas are only now coming into flower. Better a month late than never.

Sophie has started to skip. This looks delightful but is probably not advisable at this stage. She is encouraged indoors after her morning walk round the garden.

An invite to the annual village gathering. A day when the mayors wife hands out her dried vegetable arrangements to the winners of the most beautiful gardens competition. Every house in the village is entered so there are a lot of dried vegetable arrangements to be handed out. The man with anger management issues has painted his shutters . A new category of improvement to 'facades' has been added just for him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Standards have slipped.

'The Font' is away. Angus was supposed to go but stays behind with the recuperating PONs. Stockholm in January a reminder why early Swedish settlers felt right at home in Minneapolis.

The PONs have already noticed that the culinary standards have slipped.

A bacon sandwich for lunch and a 'Font' prepared Beef Bourgignon for dinner. The beef was supposed to be reheated for 20 minutes but the phone went. By the time we remembered it was in the oven it had passed over into burnt offering territory.

'The Font' returns on Thursday. Sophie's face makes it quite clear that this won't be a moment too soon. Bob will of course eat anything - burnt offerings included.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Duck burgers.

Sophie now getting three walks a day on the village green.

Today she pounces on a mole hill and eats a pile of recently excavated clay.

Mares milk in the greengrocers refrigerated cabinet. Who drinks mares milk ? Angus is thankful that he actually read the labels rather than pick up the first bottle that came to hand.

Bob is transfixed by the sausage counter. He goes very quiet. As in '' I has died and gone to heaven " quiet. The lady behind the counter gives him a tiny sample. He squirms with delight.

On our way back to the car dog and master notice that there's a new addition to the town scape. A duck fast food restaurant.

Duck burgers, Duck Club Sandwich and Duck Hot Dog among the culinary delights on offer. Angus reads out aloud the various options to his furry companion. Passers by glance nervously in our direction . Satisfied that I'm just a harmless foreigner talking to his dog they hurry along. As we head off Bob casts a longing glance back towards duck heaven. Maybe next time we'll pop in and try a Hot-Dog New Yorkais ?