Monday, May 29, 2017
Bob gives me his unmistakable ' I is ready for my walk ' look.
His sister would also give me a look but she's been distracted by the collar doves.
Two more election posters appear on the hustings.
There was a commotion in the donkeys barn on Friday night. This morning the reason for the braying becomes apparent. The five donkeys are joined by a sixth. Small and unsteady on its feet it shelters under the shade of the oaks and the watchful eye of its mother. In the life of a village a new donkey is worthy of mention. This new arrival is recorded in the diary alongside a summary of the G7 and NATO meetings. Signs of hope always welcome.
They've gone wild on fruit pavlovas in the bakers. Must be something to do with the heat. We order a chocolate royale. Bob and Sophie get given some croissant crumbs.
Home to find the Wild Child voiturette parked on the drive. Madame Bay is in the kitchen and in one of her ' I'm not one to gossip but ... ' moods. Angus has misunderstood Madame Bays primness over the topless lady in the chateau swimming pool. It is not the display of partial nudity in front of the plumber that has shocked our octogenarian neighbour. Rather, it's the fact that the topless bather is still there. So is the billionaire. The post lady has heard laughter when delivering letters. Conjecture and fact are interchangeable in a small French village.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
6:12 am, Sunday. The rays of the sun filtering through the ripening wheat. The fields glow. Silence, bar a thin pre-dawn bird song chirped by a few ground grubbing blackbirds and larks. As the sun rises above the horizon the noise swells into the full dawn chorus. Jays, starlings, sparrows, finches all singing deafeningly away to an invisible baton. Natures way of saying 'thank you' for a perfect daybreak. The sun warm, the air fresh. Deer and hares scurry into the safety of the shadows as we approach. Bobs ever wagging tail is lit by the sun. His sister is invisible in the long grass that sprouts on the high banks that line the lane. She's living a life of dare devil high adventure. The best day ever. Cicadas make their first appearance. The PONs are intrigued.
Bob sits by my side on the concrete storm drain. He's told, as he is every morning, that this is 'Bobs Country'. Sophie, who is not much given to sitting still, wanders off in search of inedible things to eat. This morning a convoy of melon pickers drives by. Seasonal workers who come from Senegal and Portugal and seem oblivious to the heat. They sit, five in a car, noses pressed against the windows peering at us. Eight vehicles in the convoy. All of them 'old bangers' that have been bought for a song and will be lovingly restored and somehow shipped home. I hold the dogs by their harnesses. The seasonal melon pickers are disdainful of speed limits.
We're back on the village green in time for Bob to chase pigeons and stalk the roosters. High adventure gives way to limitless excitement.
Today Sophie ( who is sporting a summer cut ) will mostly be engaged in generating mischief.
Late May. The time when American college kids head to Scotland and Ireland to discover their 'heritage'. Here's a cheerful group from Michigan who have braved two ferries to make it to Iona and are signing to a group of bemused woolen hatted visitors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Je42yBVyUU
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Summer well and truly here. We head off down the hill. Bob and Sophie run ahead. They scatter the roosters on the village green who crow in annoyance. The little stream is flush to its banks with the last melt waters from the high mountains. The PONs try fishing for minnows by the waterfall. They are unsuccessful. Sophie lets out a 'frustrated' yelp. Bob gets soaked - and having decided this is fun - gets soaked again.
Both PONs are in a happy place. The lustre of Sophie's nose speaks volumes, Bobs smile says the rest.
While the PONs sleep we go to a new restaurant in the market town. It's decorated in a retro chic meets abandoned warehouse style. Angus thinks it would have been trendy in Vancouver twenty years ago. The restaurant has installed one of those electronic systems where the order is entered on an i-pad and sent directly to the kitchen. Quite something for France profonde. There are a few 'glitches' in the process. I get a well done steak, 'The Font' a grilled goats cheese salad. Not what we ordered but good enough. Why wait another half an hour ? All the waiters are tall and thin, have long beards and are averse to smiling. A very Mennonite look. Our waitress by contrast has a tattoo of five dolphins running (leaping ?) from her left eye brow across the bridge of her nose to the end of her right brow. Angus would really like to stare at the tattoo but decides against doing so. Both sexes wear baggy jeans and tee shirts with the motto '' Cloudy beer is for lovers ". Perhaps if you're twenty this means something.
The heavy wooden tables run on casters set into rails along the floor. How practical !
Noticing the practicality of restaurant furniture is further proof I'm turning ( or have turned ) into my father.
Summer morning music : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q31lIDvMhqw
Friday, May 26, 2017
Thursday, May 25, 2017
First light. Sophie finds not one, not two but three dead birds on her early morning garden patrol. A dead Woodpecker, a dead Nuthatch and a dead Swallow. The culprit may be a large bird of prey that's nesting in the field behind The Old Farmers house.
The Woodpecker and the Nuthatch are brought through the house and deposited in the kitchen. The Swallow is taken upstairs to where 'The Font' is showering. An unnatural silence tells me 'The Font' has been presented with it. The woodpecker and the Nuthatch are merely dead. The Swallow was killed a few days ago and is now ( in canine terms ) alluringly pungent.
After the Swallow is disposed of Sophie is told she's a walking advert for cat ownership.
She takes this as a compliment. Her day has started swimmingly.
The notice boards have gone up for the parliamentary elections. Only one poster has so far been pasted up. A former government minister who's brother rented our flat in London for a couple of years after we started our European wanderings. What a small world .
Bob and Sophie are told to sit still while a parade of pre-schoolers are shepherded along the road. The children are going to visit a restaurant to see how food is prepared. God help the chef. There are five teachers and twenty little ones. A group of good children lead the way with another group of four year old angels following on behind. In between are a gaggle of monsters who willfully disobey every command. The noise level is thunderous. Three boys are leaping on and off the kerb into the roadway. Another is pretending to be a flesh eating Zombie while another is refusing point blank to move. One of the teachers has got to the stage where she's considering infanticide as a career option. The little boy who's refusing to move bursts into tears. The story pours out. It seems his elder brother has told him that as part of the restaurant visit he's going to be cut up into little pieces and served as lunch.
Everything will become clear with the passage of time.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
As the sun sets two PONs make a tour of the village. Bob bounces. Sophie saunters. Their owners follow along behind. Goats, frogs, horses and donkeys are inspected with sparkling eyes. The yappy poodle at the crossroads is ignored. Satisfied all is well brother and sister head home. They have a long drink and then fall asleep. Bobs tail wags. Is he dreaming of steak and chervil sauce ? He is certainly as happy as a French summers day is long. Sophie snores. She sleeps deep in the certain knowledge tomorrow is going to be even better.
The rich rhythms of a dogs life.
A reminder that the world has a courteous side : https://twitter.com/EdLlewellynFCO/status/867026537664708609
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Thunder and lightning all through the night. Overhead, cold air from the Atlantic battling it out with warm air from North Africa. I get up and go through to watch the news from Manchester. The bomb attack was just being reported when I headed off to bed last night. Is targeting teenagers a new low ? The PONs join me. This morning the storm has passed through but it's a cloudy and muggy start to the day. The angelic duo head out of the front door and across the garden. Sophie sees the collar doves and gives chase. She howls with delight. The village wakes.
Sophie was groomed yesterday. This morning she manages to look as if she's never seen a brush in her life.
When we return from our morning walk The Old Farmer is checking his post box. He greets Bob formally with a hearty 'Bonjour' and tells Sophie, in an altogether more intimate tone, how beautiful she is. Sophie looks at him spellbound. We laugh. The Old Farmer says our local owls have one ear larger than the other. This helps them triangulate exactly where a rustling vole is. He thinks we have so many on top of the ridge because there are fields on either side ( rather than woodland ) which makes it easier for them to find the small critters they live on. He's counted four nesting pairs on the mile long stretch of lane.
The young Arab couple with the seriously disabled boy walk by and we wave. Both doctors, they work in Toulouse during the week but have rented a house by the crossroads and come into the country from Friday through to Monday lunchtime. It's the Ascension Day holiday on Thursday so they're here all this week. They wheel the boy along the lane - en famille - three times a day. The mother says the peace calms him. I'm left overawed by the simplicity of their devotion. The boy doesn't notice much but he now seems to recognize Sophie and her brother and laughs. The parents smile. Another of the small things that make the world spin.
Events too unimportant for a diary but too much part of life to go completely unrecorded.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Monday morning. Bob finds the one legged Panda in the laurel hedge. Joy of joys !!
There's time for a celebratory game.
Half a dozen throws of the toy soon turns into a dozen and would reach twenty ....
There is an ear shattering 'diva' moment.
Finally, Sophie and her Panda are reunited.
Bob takes the liberation of the toy and the end of his game with brotherly good grace.
A day reunited with a one legged Panda is shaping up to be the best day ever.
May your Monday morning be as blessed as the PONs.
Here are a thousand pipers playing. A rare occurence : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvFuTuloW48
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Through the night the owls that nest in the plane trees have been chatting to one another. Their conversation starts with the pair nesting by the village green and is then passed, baton like, for a mile or so along the lane to the pair at the crossroads. No wonder an owl gathering is known as a parliament. Thankfully, the PONs, being farm dogs are quite untroubled by garrulous owls. Sometimes two or three owls come and sit on the window ledges at The Rickety Old Farmhouse and enjoy a leisurely midnight chat. On nights like that the human occupants of The Rickety Old Farmhouse decide that an apartment on Time Square might be quieter.
We head off for the papers. I point out to Bob that he has yogurt on his beard. He seems unconcerned.
On our return a sudden summer storm blows down from the mountains. The aerodynamic gyrations of the PONs fur a sure indication of which direction the wind is blowing. Bobs right ear flaps in the gale.
The overnight rain has caused the weeds on the drive to shoot up. This afternoon, if its dry, I'll burn them out.
More arrivals at the chateau. A huge Mercedes and two merely large Mercedes. The family fellow stands on his stump seat and monitors the comings and goings.
Sophie's lustrous nose continues to amaze.
'The lightning strikes on every side'. You don't need to be a Presbyterian or religious to know that the Easley choir in South Carolina posted a song for our times when they uploaded this unknown and rather jauntily beautiful piece of modern American music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BWHdPoqIA0
A thank you to a reader in Chicago who sent another version of the song. All Scottish hymns either relate to wolves devouring sheep or boats in gales. This falls into the latter category. This choir rehearsal a reminder that there is a very special place in heaven reserved for those high school teachers who do the impossible and coax music from a 'teenage' choir : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_QerYaG03E
Saturday, May 20, 2017
The heat rising. The PONs are harnessed up and ready for their walk at 6:30. They head off across the garden to bark at the collared doves and make sure there have been no c-a-t incursions.
We return from our walk to discover there's a scandal in the village. It seems the plumber visited the German billionaires chateau, unannounced, to repair a security light. A thirty something woman was swimming 'topless' in the pool. The woman seemed unperturbed by the plumbers arrival. The morose lads were,momentarily, less morose. Madame Bay ( who has heard the story from the good for nothing son-in-law Hugo, the husband of her hairdresser daughter Sandrine ) helps herself to a mug of coffee and a Madeleine and recounts the story to 'The Font' . Madame Bay is of the opinion that '' That sort of things probably alright where they come from ( ie Germany ) but it's not done around here '. She then adds primly '' I suppose it's the modern way '.
So starts an unexpectedly sultry Saturday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.
After Madame Bay goes Sophie is taken for a stroll round the village. This turns into a leisurely 'sniff every flower, bark at every bird' affair.
Bob looks amazed when I tell him Callista Gingrich is to be the new U.S ambassador to the Holy See.
The winds have flattened the rose border.
These are the largest garden fountains in the world - the jets reach 175 feet - and they reopen after a $90 million renovation later this month. https://longwoodgardens.org/
Friday, May 19, 2017
Just as the sun is setting a pilgrim and two donkeys come wandering through the village. Bob stands on his stump seat and watches. Sophie stands on her titanium rear legs and howls. The two donkeys ( or let's hope it's the two donkeys ) trail a pungent odour behind them. It lingers in the air. Bob and Sophie are of the opinion it's the Chanel #5 of odours. Their owners are less sure. The pilgrim continues through the village and sets up a tent in the middle of the traffic island at the 'T' junction where the main road snakes down into the valley. A strange place to choose to spend the night when there are fields and woods all around.
This morning its pouring with rain. Multi layered clouds cast a peculiarly Scottish greyness over our little corner of paradise. After their morning walk the angelic duo are looking a little the worse for wear. They are also ready for a day of indoors fun. No need to worry about irrigating the garden today.
Despite the rain there's much activity at the chateau. A small fleet of black, highly polished Mercedes vans arrive. The German billionaires will soon be here. The local tradesmen will be very happy.
The Dutch have such good taste in political scandals :
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Out for our morning walk. The young garagiste rushes by in his 'boy racer' Ford. The school secretary follows soon after. Then it's the woman with the two six year old boys. She's holding the steering wheel with one hand while trying to brush two hyper-active tousled heads with the other. While Sophie searches for badger poo Bob and his master discuss Mr.Trumps claims that he has been treated more unfairly than any politician in history. Angus tells Bob about the Roman Emperor Valerian who was captured in battle, made a slave, used as a foot-stool, forced to swallow molten gold and then for good measure skinned and stuffed. Bob ponders this tale in silence then looks at me as if to say ' Blimey ! That's unfair ' .
After our morning walk the PONs carefully drag all their toys out of the house and scatter them across the garden.
In the greengrocers two women are rummaging through a pile of cherries. They find ones that are to their liking and pop them in their mouths. The women carefully spit the stones into the palm of their hands and drop them back among the fresh cherries. Angus finds the women's behaviour intensely unhygienic but being a foreigner says nothing. We pass on the cherries.
A quick trip to the bakers. The baker is in one of his uncommunicative moods. No choux pastry crumbs for the PONs.
Back at home the PONs get given some carrot sticks. Bob grabs his and rushes outside. He sees the back of the car is open and leaps in. A place to eat a carrot stick without being bothered by a permanently hungry sister. The face of mischief. The camera on the i-Phone barely quick enough to catch the male PONs look of delight .
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The well in the garden has run dry. It usually runs out of water at the end of June or early July but for the last three weeks the local farmers have had their huge field sprinkler systems running 24/7. The water table has now fallen way below the level of our well shaft. A severe summer drought now looks like a fair bet.
Angus struggles with the dead irrigation system. He switches the supply valve from well water to town water. The PONs look on encouragingly. The mayor arrives to borrow the step ladders. Last week he'd put out the flags on the war memorial for VE Day. He was supposed to take them down after three days but sometimes, in a village of 67 souls, things just get forgotten. '' Better late than never " he says cheerily. For the task he's wearing his dungarees and red tartan pork pie hat.
Bob makes strange facial expressions. I'd worried that his tooth might be hurting him. The vet has looked at the damaged incisor again. The good news is that the nerve has been left covered and unharmed despite him losing a third of his tooth. He is a lucky boy. The strange facial expressions are just that - strange facial expressions.
Finally, after the daily start the day disagreement over who should sit on the right side of the car and who should sit on the left the PONs lapse into silence and we head off. Today is cheese shopping day.
A Banon and a Candourin for 'The Font'. Some Abbaye Citeaux and Cure Nantais for Angus. Overly ripe and very runny Brie de Melun for the PONs. The pretty girl behind the counter laughs as they lick her fingers. Bob gives her his ' I love you. I really love you ' look. Sophie is rendered silent by the glorious taste of the pungent Brie.
A quick detour to the florists for a pepper plant. The florists is dark and mysterious inside. There are buckets of water everywhere. The PONs drink from them. Loudly. Their beards leave a trail of water droplets on the pavement as they go.
So starts our Wednesday morning.