Saturday, November 18, 2017

A charmer with the ladies.

Bob is happy. There is no surprise in this. Bob is always happy.

Sophie is also happy. Demonstratively so.

The source of the PONs happiness can perhaps be traced to the fact that Loic has shown up to blow leaves. The PONs follow on behind him leaping in and out of the piles as they go. Thanks to the noisy leaf blower Loic is gloriously oblivious to the shrieks of delight emanating from his two canine companions.

Loic is going back into hospital on Monday. The matron of his home will drive him there in her car. '' I must be at the hospital by eight '' he informs me with a serious frown . He'll be there until Friday afternoon for more tests. The French Republic looks after Gods happy ones well. Loic tells me he will have a room to himself. It seems the nurses are kind and they give him ice cream with every meal. '' If they put a tube down me I get extra ice cream ". His mother is in a ward at the same hospital but he doesn't mention this.

Bob and Angus head off to the picture framers. The framer has made a frame for our Roman saint. It is decidedly un-Presbyterian. Bob explores the back of the framers workshop.

On the way back home we see a truck hauling a large catamaran on its trailer. The boat sticks out a good metre on either side. Can it be legal ?

The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived in the supermarket. They have a rose version. This must be a new development. We are not tempted to buy a bottle.

At the cafe Angus gets a croissant which he shares with his furry companion. Bob gets a bowl of water which he slurps. This noise makes the girl behind the counter laugh. She brings him some choux pastry crumbs. I tell him he's a charmer with the ladies. None of the other patrons seem to think it unusual that a foreigner is talking to his dog. Or, if they do, they don't show it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Warmed by otters.

Thursday night. Strange primeval sounds drift across the air. The 8 year old tike and his 10 year old brother have been given trombones. They are not yet proficient. In fact they are still getting to terms with the basics - enthusiastically.  The PONs are intrigued. Angus wonders who in their right mind would give pre-teen boys trombones.

This morning the mercury hovering close to zero as we head out of the gate. Bob and Sophie think it's wonderful weather. The Old Farmer is up early working on the venerable Ford Transit motor home. The cold weather is causing his bad leg to ache. He's decided to get up and keep himself busy in the hope the pain will go away.

Lots of deer everywhere this morning. The angelic duo are put on their leads. Sophie would be keen to give chase. With her metal legs that's just too much of a risk.

Loading the PONs into the back of the car for our journey to the market goes smoothly. Bob remembers to sit on the right hand side and Sophie is able to clamber up into her spot on the left. Sophie , although smaller, somehow manages to take up 60% of the space in the back.

Some pasta from the Italian lady ..

... and some lamb from the butchers. Bob and Sophie do their angel dog routine but to no avail. There are no tit bits of raw meat for them this morning.

A book that I haven't been able to put down. Written for an American audience it explores the changes that have taken place in Britain over the last 70 years. In 1939 there were chauffeurs and nanny's and maids. In 2017 there are cleaning ladies. The % of houses having outside help is the same today as it was then. Plus ca change.

A wonderful programme on television with Rory Stewart exploring the border country.

It's a reminder that the Scots and the Irish seers have always had a special way of communing with animals :  St.Cuthbert the presenter informs us was warmed by otters and fed, so it's claimed, by sea eagles. Nature and man in balance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Less is more.

From the safety of his stump seat Bob watches the little tike and his big brother head off in the school bus. They press their noses against the bus window and make woof woof sounds as they drive by. Bob is unimpressed.

I'm about to close the tail gate on the 'Loonj' and head off for the morning croissant when the PONs notice a cat sauntering across the lawn. They greet it with synchronized - and vocal - horror. PONs are a demonstrative breed.

Cold again this morning. We lit our first fire of the winter last night. The PONs head off through the village. Stop #1) is where we greet the goat in the old widows garden #2) the three race horses in the horse hotel #3) the pregnant cows in the field by the stream and #4) the inhabitants of the horse farm. The inhabitants of the horse farm live in hope that Angus has brought a bag of carrots with him. They saunter over to greet us. 

By the car park the supermarket has erected a rather modernistic Christmas tree. It appears to be a concrete cone with some white lights wrapped around it. The designer is clearly a believer in the 'Less is more' mantra. 'The Font' notices that the little cafe on the corner has gone and the interior gutted. A Starbucks sign is being installed above the door by a group of workmen in red boiler suits. This is the first Starbucks we've seen in France.

While 'The Font' shops Angus explores the supermarkets temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar. An hour flies by. 'The Font' asks if Angus has become bored waiting. He hasn't.

This seems a shame. A dogs power to heal should not be underestimated  :

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Firmly closed.

Sophie has been sleepwalking again. This morning I find her tucked up by the table in the library. She's sound asleep and would remain that way were it not for the arrival of her master and her brother. She keeps her eyes firmly closed and hopes we'll go away. Bob sits on her. Sophie gets up.

After a trip to the cafe for a shared croissant and a bowl of water we return home. We've gone in the big car. Sophie isn't keen on the big car. It has a power tail gate that, with the press of a button, glides silently downwards. What kind of weird stuff is that ? she seems to say.

A walk down to the stream. The ground soft underfoot. The PONs appear then disappear into the landscape.  Angus catches sight of waving tails. For humans the daily routine of walk, cafe, bakers, walk prescribes a small unexciting world. For the PONs it's a universe of roiling high adventure. Today is undoubtedly the best day ever.

A display of brightly coloured 'Old Nick' cocktails in the supermarket. Did the marketing man call them that knowing what it means in English ? Wry humour ?

The ever shrinking English section of the International Foods aisle has Harry Potter jelly beans. Angus can't remember the last time he had a jelly bean. Perhaps as you get older your yearning for them disappears. There again perhaps it might be because the jelly bean is a hard to find exotic substance in deepest France profonde.

Father Christmases have appeared.

A review of a Scottish hotel in Les Echos. Balayees inlassablement par les vents a much more romantic way of saying pounded by the wind.

This was arguably the most 'psychedelic' piece of bagpipe music ever performed :

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tapped with a nose.

Bitterly cold this morning. Sophie deals with the thin later of ice on the water bowl by tapping it with her nose.

The phone man comes - unexpectedly - to repair the Internet line. He's followed down the drive by the electricians - also unexpectedly - who have come to install spotlights in the rafters of the barn. The PONs greet them enthusiastically.

A sure sign winter is here - the hat man has set up his stall outside the newsagents.

Further down the street Bob and Sophie watch as two little dogs greet each other. One dog emits high pitched squealing noises. The other stands on its hind legs and hits the other with its paw - over and over . Bob is amazed. Sophie is hurried along. Bob is not a shrieker. When the spirit moves her Sophie can shriek for France.

The wonderful bakers has closed. The owner and his wife have decided to retire. '' It all goes to the taxman " he says to me with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders. This is sad. The baker with its deeply unfashionable blue and orange and purple creations was a hangover from an earlier age. A collection of chairs from the cafe are piled up outside with a handwritten 'for sale' sign on them.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Sophie reminds the workmen of her presence then savages a fallen oak branch.

Berlin. The British Ambassadors dog. Can diplomacy get any better ?

Monday, November 13, 2017

That Monday morning feeling.

Sophie was up late playing touch rugby. It shows. 

Bob looks at her. His face says it all.

A quick 'good morning' peck on the cheek makes things - somewhat - better.

Finally, the PONs are ready for their trip to the bakers.

After a slow start Monday, November 13th 2017 is shaping up to be the best day ever.

Yesterday was a time for British Ambassadors to meet  and thank brave old friends from all across Europe . This photo from the Warsaw Embassy says it all :

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A privilege to meet.

The Armistice Commemoration is due to start at 11:00. The mayor has mislaid the official speech that all French mayors have to read. After much searching he finds that it’s slipped down the side of the old Renaults passenger seat. As he emerges from the car waving the lost speech in the air a pack of hunting dogs race round the corner of the village hall and go careering through the village. Several minutes later a cortege of white Peugeot vans follow on. It's the neighbouring villages Saturday morning hunt. We finally get underway at 11:16. 

The mayor is in a brown suit with matching brown shirt and tie. For this most sombre of duties he wears his tricolor sash and red checkered pork pie hat. Madame Bay is in funereal black or what might be funereal black were it not enlivened by a pair of turquoise, orange and yellow running shoes. Monsieur Bay and the retired gendarmes are in blazers with medals. They stand ramrod straight. One of the Bay's great grandchildren carries the flag. Great grandfather tells him when to dip it and when to raise it. The little boy positively beams with delight at being entrusted with such a great responsibility. 

The little lady in the purple hat sings the Marseillaise. The villagers mumble along one – or in the case of those villagers with hearing that isn’t what it used to be - two notes behind. The village odd job mans dogs who have been quietly watching proceedings from his balcony decide this is a good time to howl. The old lady at the crossroads lays a wreath of bright orange flowers on the war memorial steps.

The mayor turns his back on the small crowd and reads this years speech from the French President or Defence Minister or possibly both. There is no explanation as to why it's being read or who has written it. The speech appears to  mention every country that took part in WW1 apart from the Brits. There again the mayor mumbles so I might be wrong about being written out of history.  Then the name of the French villagers killed in the fighting are read out. The mayors great uncle first on the list. 37 of them in total. After each name Monsieur Bay and his colleagues shout out 'Mort pour la France'. Each time the great grandson dips and then raises the flag . A minutes silence. The bell in the church tower tolls. This year the mayor becomes quite emotional. It's his first ceremony without his wife in attendance. Madame Bay notices but she hides her feelings by blowing her nose loudly and frequently. There are gentle intimations of mortality in the air.

We stand and chat as the villagers one by one drift home. It seems the mayors wife has had her third hip replacement. They have had to drill into the already brittle bone to make a new socket. This has proven to be a difficult operation for the surgeons and a painful one for the mayors wife. The mayor tells me she is in great pain but tries to keep cheerful. ‘’ Between you and me she’s very depressed “ he adds. With that he looks down for a moment, then smiles and heads off. 

There are some quiet people in life you are just thankful to have had the privilege of meeting.

Bob and Angus take a long late afternoon walk while the rain holds off

The PONs spend their evening watching 'The Font ' prepare Gaufre de pomme de terre, creme de fromage frais et magret fume. Bob and Sophie are uncertain whether they prefer Gaufre, Cream Cheese or Smoked Duck.

This seems a good thought for a Sunday :