Monday, September 30, 2013
The day of the ' Miss Nut 2013 Pageant ' in the little market town. It pours all day, forcing the wannabe Miss Nuts inside the marquee. The winning Miss Nut is asked to say a few words but overcome by the solemnity of the moment she declines . She rushes offstage , tears cascading down her cheeks, as the manic accordionist launches into a rendition of ' C'est si bon '. The donkey ride from the town hall to the church by the Cofraternity of Nuts is cancelled.
In a break in the clouds ' the font ' goes shopping. Even 'the fonts' unerring ability to find something to buy is tested. We return home with some flat peaches, a variety of pumpkins, a bottle of hazelnut oil and some nut biscuits.
Sophie spends a full half hour staring at a black bag that Loic the gardener has helpfully hung from the front gate. It sways tantalizingly with the breeze. She will not be moved.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
The peculiar peace of a French village Saturday. No trucks, no vans, no cars rushing past on the school run . Down in the valley the rumble of a solitary combine bringing in the last of the sunflowers. The occasional high pitched pipe of an eagle. Four middle aged couples pushing teenage children in wheelchairs . All boys of thirteen or fourteen. Brain injuries ? They walk in silence. A quick stop on their way to the shrine at Lourdes. We nod as they pass the gate . Angus finds himself silently giving thanks for devoted parents like these .
At nightfall a huge electrical storm. The whole horizon from Italy to Spain coloured blue and red by the lightning. Oddly , there's no thunder. Just a quiet growling from somewhere beyond the mountain passes. Bob seems unsettled by the storm. The ozone ? A change in air pressure ? He barks at wraiths, taking an hour to settle down. I sit in the library where he can see me until he falls asleep. Sophie remains completely oblivious to everything and is soon snoring contentedly away.
The quiet routines of France Profonde.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Bob heads off to the cycle track with ' the font ' while Sophie comes with me to observe progress on the billionaires garage. The huge blue crane now towering over the chateau gatehouse. The tunneling equipment in place to start digging out the hillside. How ever did they manage to get planning permission for something this intrusive? Angus suspects there must have been a little ' greasing of the wheels ' somewhere along the line.
Heavy. The cloud trapping in the heat. The two little angels are chased out of the kitchen by a mop wielding Caroline. Through the afternoon the sound of combines hastily trying to get in the sunflower harvest before the rains come. Bob and Sophie take up position by the far gate where they can greet the farmers as they roll by.
Friday, September 27, 2013
The wobbly scaffolding comes down. The powerwasher and his mate in the green corduroy cap have finished. The war memorial gleams as if almost new. They started to repaint the names that had been washed off but have stopped. The paint is working into the pores of the marble. '' It looks like smudged mascara '' says the mayors secretary to the small crowd of locals that have gathered to watch.
In the afternoon an enormous blue crane appears on the village green. It, and an equally large piece of tunnelling equipment, have arrived to work on the German billionaires garage. The truck delivering the crane has reversed and somehow managed to get wedged between the corner of the church wall and the base of the war memorial. There it stays until three pot bellied men with walkie talkie's show up. After much revving of engines and some rather indecorous language the crane is unloaded and the large truck driven off. There is now a metre long chunk of limestone missing from the churchyard wall.
From time to time Sophie let's out a '' should I be supervising ? " yelp. Bob, by contrast, isn't bothered by all this activity. He stands on guard at the front gate. Like all PON's he knows ' You exist in time , but you belong to eternity '.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Eight months old but Bob continues to grow. His weight , finally, a steady twenty two kilos. What is surprising is that his legs continue to sprout upwards. In comparison with his sister he looks as if he's walking on stilts. From these old photographs the similarities with his mother are obvious. Long legs however must come from the fathers side . Maybe he'll stop growing next week .
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Another hot day. Temperatures well into the nineties. Bob dozes in the courtyard while Sophie comes with me to look at the work on the German billionaires garage. Today the workmen are installing huge water pipes . They're bigger and sturdier than anything that grace The Rickety Old Farmhouse.
Late in the morning the white van belonging to the over enthusiastic power washer arrives. He and a colleague in a green corduroy cap get out. The two of them spend the rest of the day erecting some rather wobbly scaffolding around the half cleaned war memorial. On the stroke of four they leave. What , or who, induced them to return so quickly ? How will they repair the names that have been washed off ? French village life is a gift that keeps on giving.
Caroline, the new cleaner, arrives in the afternoon. Bob and Sophie try to terrorize her out of the kitchen but fail. They are sent packing into the garden. The little angels play tug of war until they fall asleep. Thus far we have managed to keep the diligent Caroline and the hyper-critical Madame Bay apart.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
A day for doing nothing. Bob sleeps in the mallow border. Sophie listens to the wind in the trees. A coachload of Slovenian pilgrims in matching red windcheaters come to visit the holy well in the oak grove. Bob and Sophie greet them enthusiastically. The Slovenian pilgrims congregtate in the car park. They seem more interested in visiting the Salle des Fetes rest rooms than in seeing the holy well.
Late evening. A man shows up in a white van and starts to power wash the war memorial. He's a friend of the lady on the council with the Marge Simpson hairdo. Seems he's promised to clean it for '' a very fair price ". The white van man makes a good job of it. Too good a job. The paint on some of the names has been power washed clean away. When this is pointed out to him he abruptly packs up his ladder and goes. The war memorial is left half cleaned. A lesson in the dangers of ' fair pricing '.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Sunday morning. Off to the rugby ground to watch the local farmers amble up one side of the pitch and the visiting farmers saunter down the other. At half time the young fireman tickles Sophie's head. The new gendarme, with a neck thicker than his head, tries to do the same but she gives him a ' don't even think of trying that ! ' look. On our way home we stop to say hello to the old dog at the farmhouse where the chickens and turkeys are forever running out onto the road. Then down through the sunflower fields for a paddle in the little stream.
We're just sitting down to lunch when the bell rings. Two gentlemen in black leather jackets standing at the gate looking rather like ageing nightclub bouncers. '' We'd like to talk to you about God, the devil and online pornography ". As a conversation opener this surely takes the biscuit.Time for the ' I only speak Swedish ' routine. One of the gentleman quickly says to the other " we're wasting our time with this plonker ". Bob and Sophie look on in uncharacteristic silence.
'' Who was that ? " asks ' the font ' when I make it back to the terrace. ' Just two men wanting to talk to me about God, the devil and online pornography ' I reply.
Life in deepest, deepest France profonde.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Bedtime. No sign of Sophie. We look everywhere. Angus in the garden, 'the font' indoors. Sophie's eventually found in the dressing room ( forbidden territory ) sitting peacefully in front of a full length mirror. She's making low pitched conversational noises to the dog that's looking back at her. A sort of gentle canine yoddling. From time to time , for emphasis, she touches her shaggy doppelganger with an outstretched paw. Complete contentment. Some conversations are too important to interrupt. Laughing, we tiptoe away and leave her .
How poor life would be without dogs. There is a hint of heroic deeds and untamed greatness in these small things.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
The German billionaires are building a new garage. The hill scooped out to make room for four hundred square metres of concrete on each of its two levels. Home for their collection of gullwing Mercedes . Sophie wanders down with me to watch the cement being poured . The operator of the cement mixer catches sight of her, stops what he's doing, clambers out of the cab and wanders over . '' Tu es jolie " he says while scratching her behind the ear. Sophie accepts this attention as if it's the most natural thing in the world to be tickled and praised by the operator of a large piece of construction machinery.
Bob spends his afternoon waiting in the courtyard for pilgrims to wander by. This is proving to be an excellent season for pilgrim spotting . A dozen unsuspecting Belgians wander by and are greeted enthusiastically. They pick up their pace as they pass the front gate.
At the honey farm a new addition. A black and white hunting dog. He greets Bob like a long lost cousin.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Bob comes along with me to the barbers. His second trip there. He immediately settles down on the floor under the sickly aspidistra. Within minutes he's asleep. One of the four old farmers, shoehorned onto the sofa, tells me that he had a thirty seven year old Marc de Champagne at his granddaughters wedding. '' Pleasures like that are rare at my age " he says . The other old farmers nod silently. The aged gentleman at the end of the sofa informs us that his wife is saving a bottle of 2005 St.Emilion Grand Cru for his birthday in November. We all agree that a 2005 St.Emilion Grand Cru will be quite something. As we leave they all say ' au revoir Bhub '.
Sophie, who has developed a habit of lunging at bicycles ( where this trait has come from we don't know ) , heads off with ' the font ' to the cycle track that runs round the lake. Time for some acclimatization . They are gone for an hour and a half. Every fifty yards Sophie insists on standing stock still to watch the ducks and listen to the lapping of the waves. They walk the three miles round the lake but there's not a bicycle to be seen.
In the afternoon there are more lost pilgrims for Bob to stand and bark at. Already enormous, he continues to grow.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
It rains heavily for most of the day. To pass the time Bob and Sophie stand barking, on their hind legs, at the front gate. They are delighted when four drenched pilgrims in cagoules stop to ask the way. The pilgrims are of the ' coochee-coo , what sweet little doggies ' variety. The pilgrims animated greetings and arm waving work the little angels into a frenzy .' Sweet ' not a word that I would use to describe the PON duo's demeanour.
In the afternoon Bob eats his new soft toy ( as in tears the limbs off and then swallows it whole ) and Sophie goes excavating ( as in appears in the kitchen covered in soil from head to toe ). There is no sign , yet , of the re-emergence of Bob's toy.
A flock of black and white butterflies in the olive grove. One of them seems to have had a run in with something that's damaged its tail. It flutters off gracefully. There must be a least sixty of them. Bob and Sophie give chase.
This morning by the garish new roundabout a large flat bed truck has appeared. Next to it a sign : '' Monster Truck Racing. America's Favourite Pastime. Garlic Market Car Park. Tonight at eight ! ". Does America know its favourite pastime is Monster Truck racing ?