Monday, July 25, 2016


A group of a dozen or so teenagers arrive on the village green around nine at night. They have a picnic. Three of them have guitars. Two have bongo drums. The girls have something of the 'flowers in their hair' look of 60's era Berkeley students. They sing. Then they 'canoodle'. Being French they sing and 'canoodle' all through the night. 

It's darker, if not cooler, in the mornings now. The sun just peeping over the crest of the ridge as Bob and his master set off on their six o'clock walk. At the Y junction we stop and look at the fields of blue corn flowers. Bob is told, as he's told every morning that this is his country. He greets this information with a lick of my ear. We start to discuss Hillary's hacked e-mails but uncertain what to make of the affair we head home.

As we return home we notice that the' young people ' have fallen asleep on the grass.

Bobs sister, who has stayed behind to clean out 'The Fonts' yogurt carton, is loaded into the back of the car. Getting Sophie in the car first prevents any potential ' Bobs in my space' crises .

Seems as if everyone in France is away on holiday. The traffic unusually light as we head towards the bakers. 

Bob and Sophie get a chance to run along the river bank where the pollarded lime trees provide deep shade. They also get croissant crumbs.

The guitar players on the village green bestir themselves in the late afternoon. Another picnic magically appears. Wine bottles are opened. It looks as if they intend spending another noisy night outside our windows. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016


The heat building again. The swimming pool pump, replaced last year at great expense, has stopped working. I have no idea why. The engineer says :  ' I'll be along some time this week .... or maybe next '. Imagine my delight when he shows up, announced, in the late afternoon. When things like this make you happy you KNOW you've become your father.

As readers of the blog will remember The Old Farmer has decided not to take his venerable motor home to Lithuania. Instead he's going in the equally venerable silver Mercedes. '' It's more comfortable ". Angus looks at the drivers seat , which is rapidly losing its foam stuffing where the fabric has worn away, but decides to say nothing. The Old Farmer reckons he can do the journey to Lithuania in two days. '' I'll stop and sleep for four or five hours in a lay by outside Strasbourg and then do Berlin and Warsaw and onto Vilnius in one go . Today he is setting off on a two day journey to Nimes. '' Want to make sure the new brakes bed in properly ".

The authorities have informed the mayor that the village hall, the church, the town hall and the village hall lavatory ( a hole in the ground affair ) must all be made wheel chair accessible. The mayor asked the local mason to come up with a quote for installing concrete ramps. The masons quote was E2,650. The quote was turned down by the Prefecture. The regional bureaucracy informed the mayor that he'll need to have an accredited architect draw up plans. The architects quote for the design is E7,500. Village economies are going to have to be made. It is suggested that the street lights be turned off completely in the summer. Rumblings of discontent are already stirring from the horse farm and the widow with the cottage by the crossroads.

Bob and Sophie have a hectic day. A group of 30 or so Croat pilgrims walk through the village. The PONs bark - the pilgrims ( unaware of the ferocity of the beasts watching them ) sing something Slavic and wave .The special needs children hold a danceathon on the village green. The noise and the approximation to dancing keep the angelic duo mesmerized for an hour. Before dinner the lady who's bought the old Presbytery by the church comes to borrow a screwdriver ( Sophie gets tickled on the head - Bob gets called 'Beau' ). Oh, and of course the pool man requires careful monitoring.

11.00 pm. At the end of a long day Sophie can be found, on her back, in the middle of the hall carpet, snoring happily away.  She's oblivious to the world. I feel like telling her how indecorous this is but sometimes a family diva should be left alone to dream of derring-do.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Welsh Valley Genius.

A day of short, sharp mountain storms. One squall following the other. Flashes of lightning and savage growls of thunder. The PONs get soaked to the skin.

Finally, Bob and Sophie opt to stay indoors. They're not frightened by storms but have a country dogs understanding that there's danger in the air.

Rug surfing , touch rugby and savaging 'Lamb' fill  their day. There is also the occasional nap.

'The Font' has tracked down an early copy of the poem In Parenthesis as a birthday present. Words as music. Penned by David Jones, a poor Welsh Valley boy, gifted with a one in a billion mantle of genius. 

We sit out late. I read aloud. Bob, convinced we're talking to him, lies by the pool - eyes closed - his tail waving. Sophie, ever independent, stares up at the young owls sitting on a high branch of the oak tree. They look bemusedly at her. She glares at their audacity. We laugh.

Here's Richard Burtons daughter talking about her fathers love for the poem.  

Passing villagers on evening strolls quietly wonder at these laughing poetry reading foreigners with their shaggy dogs. 

*** Blogger doesn't not want to behave today. Have had to post as an add on to yesterday. Apolgies for the varying text sizes.

To live like God in France.

A pony follows us on our morning walk through the village. There's no sign of its owner. When we stop, it stops. At the village green it heads off abruptly towards the Holy Well and the Revolutionary oak. The PONs are completely unfazed by its presence.

It's Angus' birthday. The PONs are told they're going to be left alone to guard the house while we go off for lunch. They wear their '' it's a dogs life " expression.

Five tables set under the arches outside the little restaurant. A Belgian couple in a shiny BMW show up without a reservation. They're told that there's ' simply no room '. Commercialism here in France profonde has yet to catch on.

I usually don't photograph food but

A cold tomato mousse with mozarella 'spume'

Coquilette in orange sauce

and two puddings ( The Font having less of a sweet tooth than Angus )

All for less than the price of four beers in Laguna Beach tells you why the Germans have a phrase '' To live like God in France ".

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Laughter at breakfast.

The PONs hear me come downstairs and open the kitchen door. Two seconds later they're out of their beds and making it clear they're ready to start a new day. 

There's something about the PON stare that makes me laugh.

This morning is no exception.

Bob does a high speed tour of the garden with 'Lamb'.

Sophie quietly reflects on the meaning of life with a 'Lamb' stealing brother.

Here in The Rickety Old Farmhouse :

1) The water has been cut off twice. An unsupervised teenage tractor driver using a new plough severs the village water main. He does this in the morning and again in the late afternoon. This being France 24 bottles of drinking water are delivered by the water company to each inhabitant.

2) The repair team sent to mend the water main drive their truck into a telephone pole. This severs the internet connection .

3) The new septic tank system doesn't seem to like a) extreme heat or b) interrupted water supplies. It again trumpets its disapproval in the small hours of the morning.

4) The Old Farmer has been working on his venerable silver Mercedes. He informs me that Poland now requires all vehicles crossing its territory to have daytime running lights. He's paid 75 Euros for a kit . The kit includes strips of lights that go under each of his headlights and matching eighteen inch strips that go on the side of the front doors. This gives the vehicle something of the air of a mobile discotheque. Polish motorists will certainly be aware of his presence.

Two pieces of music from the Orkneys for a hot Thursday morning. The first ( a charming piece written by the man playing the pipes )  I'm betting will be a feature at christenings in the US and New Zealand within a year. Try as I might I cannot work out what tempo he's tapping out with his foot as he plays. 

The second one is strangely out of time and place. The singer, his clothing, his hair and the sound have something of the innocence of the 1920's to them. It's sung with a wonderful and unmistakably Scots burr.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A trumpeting noise.

By six we're out and heading down the path to the little waterfall. Three deer are standing grazing in the middle of the corn field - close enough for me to see their antlers. Usually they'd watch us nervously and bound away when the PONs appear. This morning they just watch and chew. Either the heat has addled their brains or they've decided it's too hot to run.

It's muggy down on the valley floor. The PONs run wild for twenty minutes then splash in the stream. After a long drink and an annoyed bark at the dragon flies we head back up to the top of the ridge.

The aircon in the little Skoda turned up full. Bob and Sophie make it clear they're willing to brave a trip to the bakers in the heat in return for some choux pastry crumbs. The PONs get small slivers of sponge. The manic tail wagging indicates that life just keeps on getting better. 

A morning spent playing in the shade of the garden. 'Lamb' continues to hold the angelic duo's attention .

This photo captures something of Sophie's sense of purpose as she liberates 'Lamb' from her oaf of a brother.

The interrupted water supply ( off for two nights in a row ) has done something to the ecological balance of the new septic tank system. In the small hours it emits a single trumpeting noise not unlike massively amplified flatulence. Angus is instructed to get up to see what the problem is. He reports back to say everything is in order. Twenty minutes later the flatulent trumpet returns. Monsieur Bozo, the sewage engineer who installed it, is on holiday until the end of August. 

So passes a hot summers day in deepest, deepest France profonde. It's amazing how much happens on a day when nothing happens.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The mayor takes down the flags from the war memorial. The period of national mourning is over. On the other side of the lane the Old Farmer is readying the Ford Transit motor home for its annual pilgrimage to his fathers grave in Lithuania. This morning he's adjusting the brakes. He whistles while he hammers. Here at The Rickety Old Farmhouse  the water supply stops at seven thirty in the morning. This happens frequently at this time of year. The combine harvesters squash the conduits as they turn off the road into the fields.

Electronic signs on the motorway usually tell us to maintain a safe distance from the car in front or 'Beware. Errant animal at junction 6'. After the Bastille Day carnage they're preaching those sacred republican virtues :  Liberte - Egalite - Fraternite. Each of the words spelt out in large pixelated letters. Fraternity is in distinctly short supply.

On our way home we slow for a police road block. Four young gendarmes with machine pistols are standing at the crossroads checking the non-existent traffic. They look bored as indeed you might if you were sent out to patrol traffic in the middle of nowhere. We wave. They wave back. Seems Volvo drivers are considered to be unlikely Jihadists. The gendarmes have the air of young men who know that if they were on duty in town they could at least chat up the girls.

Lamb has now had the squeaker definitively removed. This is a blessing. A hole with stuffing poking out of it indicates where Sophie has been at work.

Although it's hot the angelic duo get taken for a second walk . I tell then it's too hot. They stare at me. Either I was going to give in, or they were. They win.

After that it's  a day for doing nothing - in Sophie's case inelegantly. Carrots from the chiller tray are a great treat on a hot day like today. Taking the PONS entirely off wheat based snacks has cured their itchy ears.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Watching in silence.

There's a hint of a breeze which makes our six am walk enjoyable . Down on the valley floor the sunflowers are out in full bloom. The yellow patchwork stretches as far as the eye can see.

The PONs paddle in the stream. At the height of the summer it's not so much a stream as a slow flowing trickle.  Bob takes a long drink from a spot where the water has been backed up into a small lake by fallen branches. Sophie watches him to make sure it's safe, then she noisily joins him. Bob drinks quietly. Sophie makes a sound not unlike a Mississippi paddle steamer. I say aloud, as I do frequently, '' You make me laugh ". Swifts and Swallows and House Martins wheel and dive in the air around us. The male PON tries his hand at catching the small silver minnows that dart in the water. He fails. Bob is oblivious to the birds but Sophie sits, head high and watches them in silence. For a while she's lost to me in her own world of wonder. With the sound of the seven am bell we climb back up the hill towards the chateau and The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

On the ridge the PONs are put on their harnesses and hurried home. Sophie doesn't need to be hurried. The magic word 'breakfast' has her rolling down the road with the enthusiasm of a four year old on a trip to the candy store.

After breakfast Big brother plays with 'Lamb' ....

.... but when his back is turned 'Lamb' reverts to its original owner.

So begins a new week in deepest, deepest France profonde. It promises to be a scorcher.

A record of those things you do with dogs that are too unimportant to go in a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

And for those of you wanting to get far, far away from it all - here's a little Hebridean hotel for sale.